For Short or Long Term Storage
Purchasing in bulk is one of my favorite food storage tricks. Bulk purchases are the best way to get a deal on dry goods that you can use as the basis of your food storage plan. We often purchase items in 25-pound bags at Costco or Sam’s Club. This is how I repackage bulk food for optimal freshness.
This packaging process will work for any dry food. The bulk items I most often purchase are:
- Baking Soda & Baking Powder
I also repackage food that I purchase in #10 cans if I know I will not be using them quickly. This is especially helpful for when I purchase Thrive foods in bulk. These have a shelf life on 1 year after opening and I don’t always use butter powder or sour cream powder that quick.
You will need:
- 1 – 5-gallon food grade bucket for each 25-pound bag
- Bucket lids for each bucket
- Mylar Bags (see size ideas below) and/or
- 1-gallon Plastic zip storage bags
- Oxygen absorbers (300 cc’s)
- A level or straight edge (like a 2×4 just longer than your bag length)
For Short Term Food Storage (6 Months or Less) Use the Plastic Zip Bags and Oxygen Absorbers
If you know that you will use the food you just purchased in the next 6 months you can use this method. Divide the rice (or any dry item) into 6 separate packages and get as much air out of each one as possible. Layer them inside a 5-gallon bucket and seal it up with a lid. See how I did it with my flour storage.
There is no need to add oxygen absorbers to the buckets if you will be using the food in the short term.
Separating it into individual bags make it easier to remove a small portion and leave the rest for next time. It will help keep pests out and make it much easier to get into the bucket without making a mess.
If you think you may not use if for up to a year, go ahead and add one 300 cc oxygen absorber to each zip bag when you are closing it.
For Long Term Food Storage (12 Months or More) Use Mylar Bags and Oxygen Absorbers
Many dry food items can be packaged and if done properly, the food will store for many years. Some even more than 10 years. If you are purchasing food in bulk for a year supply and know that your items will be for long term storage, there is another step that needs to be taken for maximum freshness.
Put your food into Mylar bags instead of plastic.
There are many Mylar Bag sizes. The most common are the 5 gallon bags for bulk food storage. These fit easily into 5 gallon buckets. If you plan on using your long term storage regularly you may find that 1 or 2 gallon bags are more convenient and easier to access.
Oxygen Absorbers also come in different sizes depending on the size of your container. Use 1-300-600cc absorber per 1 gallon bag and 1- 2000-3000cc absorber for a 5 gallon bag
These Steps Are From My Favorite Mylar Vendor – Discount Mylar Bags
1) Put Mylar Bag into a bucket. If using a 5 gallon bag in a 5 gallon bucket, you will have a significant amount of material protruding from the bucket. This is normal. All the excess will be folded into the bucket at the end.
2) Heat your iron, setting it on a middle setting if sealing a 3-3.5mil bag, on 3/4 high setting if sealing a 4-5 mil bag, and on high for a 7.5mil bag. (In all cases, test on a corner of a bag to ensure the right setting)
3) Put your oxygen absorber(s) into the Mylar Bag. It does not matter if it is on top or bottom of the food.
4) Fill the Mylar Bag with food, up to about 1 inch from the top of the bucket. A 5 gallon bag will hold around 30-35lbs of wheat and rice, 25lbs of beans, and 15lbs of oats.
5) Place the level or straight edge across the top of the bucket, as close to the center as you can. Fold the bag over the level, keeping the surface as smooth as possible (it’s a little tricky and will take some time to learn).
PreparednessMama’s Note: I found that as long as you make sure the Mylar does not have any creases, it will seal every time. I was concerned at first that I would waste bags, but it really is easy to seal them.
6) Seal the bag by running the iron across the bag where it is lying on top of the straight edge. The bag should seal very quickly if the iron is hot enough, no more than 1-2 seconds of the iron touching the Mylar. (It does not do anything to the bottom of your iron)
7) After your seal has cooled, very lightly squeeze the bag. If you can make small ‘bubbles’ or pockets of air, the bag is sealed correctly. If you notice you can squeeze air out of the bag, it is sealed incorrectly. It is very normal to have problems with bags a high percentage of the time when you are first learning to seal them.
Meals in a Jar
I like to do make ahead meals and store them in mason jars. The jars are not always the right size, so I sometimes use Mylar bags instead. I like the 1 gallon size for my ready made meals.
You really like that you can pick the size that’s right for the job. I purchased a combo kit from Discount Mylar Bags to get started. It had 20 Mylar Bags, 5 Mil 1-Gallon + 50 Oxygen Absorbers 300cc. but there are many other combo kits available.
My tips for sealing the bags:
- Make sure there are no creases. Creases = a way for air to escape
- Put the bag on a solid surface. A towel is too soft.
- Iron right on the metal or wood piece that is just longer than the bag. This got me a seal every time.
- Practice first. Just know that your first one will not turn out!
These tips for storing food in Mylar Bags and 5 gallon buckets will make sure your food storage is safe, secure, and easily accessible when you need it. What other bulk food repackaging ideas do you have to share?
Jerry Broughton says
Great post. You make a super important point, that you need to “make sure there are no creases. Creases = a way for air to escape”. This is probably the biggest reason for a mylar bag to fail to seal. Using a 2×4 on top of the 5 gallon bucket as an ironing board is a great way to avoid those dreaded creases.
DC Worthington says
Where do you find bulk foods at?
Hi DC, try Costco or Sam’s Club and look for bulk bins at your local grocery store. See if a local farmer will see to you directly. Find them at farmer’s markets or on Craigslist.
Cheree Vixie says
Great information for us beginners. Do I need oxygen absorbers when vacuum sealing meals?
You do not need to add an oxygen absorber when you vacuum seal, Cheree. That’s a big money saver in my book!
Beth VanVliet says
Do you have any pictures or youtube videos showing how to do this? And great blog, by the way! I was referred to this article by another blog I was reading throug – Didn’t know you were so famous! I love it! 😀
Tanja Doucet says
Great post. I found your site through Misty Marsh’s site. Really good advice just starting and want to try doing this myself instead of just buying can food.
Darlene Johnson says
I’m wondering if you could seal the 1 gallon mylar bags on your vacuum sealer?
Hi! I tried using a Mylar bag with my vacuum sealer and it just doesn’t work correctly. The sealer does not remove the air from the Mylar bags as it does with vacuum seal bags and, although it appeared to seal the bag, I was able to squeeze air out. So, the answer is that this is not a safe idea. Better to use an clothes iron or, my favorite, a flat iron for your hair to seal the Mylar bags correctly. Don’t forget the 02 absorbers to insure freshness. Hope this helps!
We have a LOT of the prepackaged COMPLEAT meals, Spaghetti and Meatballs, etc. The kids love these when camping. However, my hubby found a sale and bought 40! These packages are showing a use by date of only several months away. If I vacuum seal, or use Mylar bags, can we safely store these for long term? Also, I’m wondering about acidic factory packed foods, such as tomato products, who’s use by dates are approaching. Can these be stored in a way to extend their life for several years? I do know about the whimsy of sell by and use by dates, but I’d like to better prepare these foods for longer term storage if possible. I’ll be grateful, truly, for any guidance you can give me. Thank you!