There are so many options for storing food in bags that it’s hard to know what works best on any given day to store food for the short term, which makes long term storage in bags seem even more complicated. You may even be like me and try not to store food in plastic bags at all. When it comes to long term storage there are many options and even less information available. When I talk about long term storage I’m referring to a year to 18 months (30-year food storage is beyond my scope and knowledge…) I rotate my food storage. Eat what you store. Store what you eat.
Plastic Bags: I think the only thing I’ve used plastic bags for in my food storage is salt, and that was really for convenience. Salt does not require much protection in storage. You can read my post on storing salt here. Plastic bags are thin (even the freezer thickness is relatively thin). They break easily, they are not airtight, and they are clear, which lets light in. Air, light and extreme temperatures are the things that do the most damage to your food storage. This is assuming of course that you do not have pests in your food storage.
Vacuum Storage Bags: These are the bags you use with a vacuum packing machine such as the FoodSaver. There are other fancier commercial vacuum packers but they all do the same thing. They take the air out of a plastic bag to keep your food fresh. They are a great investment and I own a FoodSaver myself. However, I do not use it to store food in vacuum packed bags for long term storage. I do use it to store herbs and dehydrated foods in canning jars. The problem with the plastic bags is that they will eventually lose their seal over time. I used to keep my brown rice in these plastic bags in the freezer. I can’t tell you how many times the bags lost their seal which allowed air in (thank goodness they did not rupture). I will say it seems the smaller the bag the longer the seal will last. I have three boys so needless to say I have a lot of any given food item on hand at one time. The bags are also clear so they let in light.
Mylar bags: Mylar is a clear polyester resin attached to aluminum foil. So it’s kinda like a flexible tin can. Mylar is the trade name for these foil bags (It’s like asking for a Coke when you really mean a soda). I found that storing food inside Mylar bags inside five-gallon buckets with an oxygen absorber works best for storing the amount of food required for a family of five. Click here to see what kind of bucket I use, I get them for a steal.
Mylar bags come in a variety of sizes and thicknesses. I liked the idea of buying the one gallon Mylar bags and placing them in a five-gallon bucket then taking them out as I need them. After all, the contents of a one-gallon bag would be about the amount I would put in my pantry. However, since you have to leave what I consider a lot of room for the bag to seal properly I found this to be a waste of bags. When I decided to use Mylar bags I had very high hopes of using my FoodSaver to vacuum pack them. I watched at least five YouTube videos all using different techniques. I tried and tried but could not get them to work for any length of time. Usually what happened is the bag would lose its seal for one reason or another. So I changed my strategy and decided to go with the five-gallon Mylar bags. Watch out for the thickness. It is recommended to go with at least a 4.0 MIL thickness for a five-gallon bag; anything less might compromise your food storage. Anything less than that does not have a high enough puncture strength. I went with 4.5 MIL Mylar bags from Discount Mylar Bags. You might remember me mentioning them here on the blog as they recently provided LifeStraws for a giveaway. The giveaway is over but you can see what I said about them here.
Storing Food For Long Term Storage In Mylar Bags and Five Gallon Buckets:
Open the bag and place it in the bucket.
Fill up your buckets. Here I have wheat and white rice. (Do not store brown rice in a five-gallon bucket unless it is going in the freezer. Brown rice will go rancid after a short time because it contains oil from whole rice seed.)
Here is a bag of my smaller oxygen absorbers (This is the size you would use in a one gallon Mylar bag). You need to vacuum pack your oxygen absorbers when you’re storing them or they will absorb oxygen while they are not being used. Then when you place them in your food storage they will not absorb oxygen.
I used 2000 cc oxygen absorbers for my five-gallon buckets. If you want to calculate the exact size of oxygen absorber you need for your container you can go here. It was frankly more calculation than I cared to do so I just went with what Discount Mylar Bags suggested.
Just throw in the oxygen absorber. I caught the oxygen absorber in mid-air and had to show you….:)
After you’ve thrown all your oxygen absorbers in you will need to seal the Mylar bag. The easiest way to do this is to fold the bag to the side and get as much air as you can out of it. Don’t worry if some are left in. The oxygen absorber will take care of the rest.
I found it easiest to use a crimping iron to seal the bag. You can use a regular iron but it’s a bit trickier. Since I will be opening these bags up, taking what I need out, then sealing them again, I thought it was worth the investment. Also, they are safer for my teenager to handle as he will be helping me. You can find this model on Amazon here.
Start in the middle and work your way to the sides. This helps keep the air out as you work.
This is how the seal looks when it’s done. You can listen for leaks by trying to push the remaining air out. If you hear the air escaping then you need to reseal.
The oxygen absorbers don’t work right away but they will get the job done in 24 to 72 hours.
I label my buckets on the top.
And on the side. Now, they are ready to be placed in storage.