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If you have been working on building a stockpile for emergency preparedness (or to save money), you may be finding yourself faced with how to keep things such as rice and pasta for long term storage. The answer to your question is simple; mylar bags. When used properly, mylar bags can help you keep dry goods fresh and safe from rodents and spoilage for years. It can be confusing to get started with mylar bags for your long term food storage, especially given that there are a few different sizes of both the mylar bags themselves and the oxygen absorbers that you will need to go with them. Hopefully though, you’ll feel comfortable using them in your emergency preparedness plans after you read this post.
Before I get to the how, let’s discuss the why. If you’re building up your long term food storage supplies, chances are good that you want the items that you’re storing to last a year or possibly even five years, ten years or longer. However long you want your storage to last is up to you, but that storage life is greatly diminished by six things. They’re known as the six enemies of food storage; oxygen, temperature, moisture, light, time and pests. Every single one of the six or any combination of them can cause food spoilage. Storing your long term food storage in mylar can help keep your food safe from five of the six enemies of food storage which makes it incredibly important to learn how to use mylar bags for food storage.
Emergency Preparedness – How to Use Mylar Bags for Long Term Food Storage
Mylar bags are thin, metallic bags that can be easily sealed with heat and are available in several sizes including (but not limited to) pint, quart, half gallon and gallon sizes. If you have ever seen a Capri Sun juice pouch, you’ve seen a mylar bag. They also come in different thicknesses that are rated in mils. For food storage, you want to go with at least 3.5 mils thick. Anything thinner than that and you will run the risk of light getting through or your bags tearing easier. Keep in mind that even 3.5 mil bags aren’t super thick but they’re sturdy enough to do what you need them to do. For our family, we use gallon sized mylar bags. They’re large enough that I can store more in each bag, but I can also cut the bag and seal the ends if I happen to need a smaller one. In other words, I can buy gallon sized mylar bags and use them in any way that I need to versus paying for different sizes and spending more money.
When you’re using mylar bags for your long term food storage, you’ll also need one of two things depending on what you’re storing; either an oxygen absorber or a desiccant packet. Dessicant packets are those little packets that show up in random things that you buy. They absorb moisture which is super important if you’re storing things like sugar or salt. An oxygen absorber does exactly what it says; it absorbs oxygen from whatever container it is sealed into. O2 absorbers, like mylar bags, also come in different sizes. They run from 100cc to 2,000cc. It is important to know this because using the incorrect size can cause your bag to have oxygen left in it and your food storage to spoil. There is quite a bit of math involved in figuring out the sizes so you can either just use larger than you think you may need or you can check out the oxygen absorber chart that USA Emergency Supplies put together. There is no harm in using a larger one than you might actually need so it really is up to you.
The type of foods that you can store in mylar bags are the ones that you’ll find in your pantry. Dry goods such as flour, rice, coffee, tea, spices, sugars and so on all do very well in mylar. As I said, you’ll want to research which foods need an o2 absorber and which only need a desiccant packet. Sugar and salt only need desiccant packets since they’re natural preservatives whereas pasta and flour need O2 absorbers. If you want to preserve liquid items, you’ll need to learn how to can foods to preserve them.
Once you’ve figured all of that out, the process is fairly simple; fill, add your absorber and heat seal!
To start, you will need three things:
To start, open your mylar bag and add your food. Fill up the bag as best as possible, making sure that you try to smooth out any wrinkles from where the bag may try to fold in on itself. Just be sure to leave enough room at the top opening for you to heat seal it. For the pasta that we were storing in this photo, we got around two and a half boxes in each gallon sized bag once it was shaken down and settled a bit.
Don’t just rip your oxygen absorbers open, add to a bag and call it good. Once you open the sealed package of O2 absorbers, thy will begin to do what they are meat to do; absorb oxygen. This means that if you do one bag at a time, you’re going to have a lot of activated absorbers on your hands that could fail to properly remove O2 when you do seal your bags. Instead, fill several bags and add your absorbers all at once. As you can see in the photo, I’ve also added labels to each bag before I sealed them. Why? They all look the same when sealed. How else would I be able to tell what is in each bag if it isn’t labeled ahead of time. Be sure to include the date that you packed each one too for future reference.
When you’re ready, pop open your oxygen absorbers and add the correct amount to each of your Mylar bags. Work quickly, but work well. The last thing you want to do is waste an O2 absorber or a bag because you were working so quickly that you screwed up. For 1 gallon sized bag, you will use one 500 cc oxygen absorber. Just toss the absorber in on the top of the bag. You can stuff it down a little if you want, but it isn’t needed. Once the bag is sealed, it will do what it needs to do. If you’re using a desiccant packet, this is when you would add it.
Once you’ve got an O2 absorberor desiccant packet into each bag, take your flat iron and run it across the top of each bag to seal it. The heat from it will melt the Mylar and seal it air tight. After you shave sealed it, your O2 absorber will remove all of the oxygen from the bag. Keep in mind that this does not mean it will remove air. Air is made up of more than oxygen which means that – unlike what a lot of other sites say – your bag does not need to be rock hard. Can it and does it happen? Yes, but don’t assume that because your bag has a little fluff to it that it didn’t work.
After you’re sure that your Mylar bag has a good seal and you’re ready, store your Mylar bags in food safe buckets. The buckets are an important step since they will help protect your Mylar and your food from rodents and other critters. Oh and tada! You’re done!
Just a couple of other things real quick:
If you have any oxygen absorbers left over, you can store them in a pint sized mason jar. They will remove all of the oxygen from the jar and give you an air tight seal.
Secondly, before you use your oxygen absorbers, make certain they’re still good. Each packet will come with a pink piece of paper in each package. If your oxygen absorbers are good, this paper will be pink. If they have been exposed to oxygen at all – meaning they’re no longer good – it will turn a dark blue/purple color. Don’t attempt to use them if they’re purple.