Let’s face it, the majority of food available in grocery stores isn’t packaged to last more than a few months. Start checking out the expiration dates of the food you buy and you’ll see what I’m talking about. The exception being canned goods which can possibly last for years as long as their seals aren’t compromised.
Most modern food processors and manufacturers don’t bother to package food for long term storage because most people don’t stockpile emergency food supplies. But preppers often store enough food to last for years.
When you purchase foods in bulk you will most likely need to repackage most of them. But when stored properly your emergency food supplies will last a long time, even up to 20 years. Proper storage will keep out pests like rodents and insects, damaging micro-organisms, as well as moisture and oxygen. This will help keep food fresh and help retain nutritional value.
What you’ll need to get started…
First, you’ll want to gather the containers to properly store your food long term. These can include:
- Mylar food storage bags (these come in a variety of sizes from 1 quart to 5 gallons)
- Oxygen absorbers
- Five-gallon food grade buckets
The five-gallon buckets are most likely available at your local home improvement center, but the Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers are harder to find so you’ll probably have to order them online. All three of these items are available on Amazon.
You’ll need a vacuum with a hose to remove extra air and a hair curler/straightener or hot iron to create a seal on the mylar bags. A rubber hammer comes in handy for closing the plastic buckets but it’s not necessary.
Fill the bags
For the food to stay fresh in long term storage you’ll need to make sure it is sealed to keep oxygen out. Mylar bags work well for this because you can melt them together by applying heat to form an airtight seal. First, seal the top two inches of each bag leaving a two inch opening at the end.
Remove excess Oxygen
Removing the oxygen before sealing the bags is the most important step in the entire process. Add an oxygen absorber through the 2 inch opening at the end of each bag. Check the directions on the oxygen absorbers you’ve purchased to see what size is best for each bag. You’ll want to work quickly. So once you’ve placed the oxygen absorber in the bag using the vacuum hose to remove as much air as possible.
Sealing the bags
Now that you’ve removed as much air as possible from the bag it’s time to seal it up. Hold the bag closed while sealing the last two inches with your hot iron so no air can get in. Work fast to avoid having the oxygen absorber exposed to the air in the room, making it less effective.
Packing the food
Place your filled and sealed Mylar bags in the buckets. You can choose to store only one type of food in each bucket, or you can fill your buckets with foods that you tend to use together. Organize your buckets in a way that suits your lifestyle best. Check out this useful tip on how to store more than one type of food in your mylar bags on the web site Ed That Matters. To save money on supplies you’ll want to get as much food in each bucket as you can.
Close the bucket
The Mylar bags, if properly sealed, will keep your food fresh but the five-gallon buckets will protect your food from rodents. Fold the flaps of the bags down and place them in the buckets. Then secure the lid of the buckets on top. Force the lid down with your hands or, if you have one, use a rubber hammer to seal the bucket tight.
Label the contents
Be sure to label each bucket with its contents. If you’ve chosen to store more than one type of food in a bucket make note of the quantity of each item. With long term food storage, you most likely cannot rely on your memory to determine the contents of multiple buckets.
Storing your food
Your emergency food supplies need to be kept in a cool dry place. If properly packaged your stockpile is safe from moisture but you’ll want to avoid having mold or mildew growing on your buckets. In addition to that, exposure to heat can have a negative effect on the nutritional value of food. So storing it in a cool place can help keep it fresher, longer.
Most emergency food supplies, when stored properly, should remain usable for up to 20 years or even longer. The combination of the airtight Mylar bags and the 5-gallon buckets to keep insects and rodents at bay can help ensure the safety of your long term food supplies.
But again, the key to this storage system is using Oxygen Absorbers. They not only protect your food from oxidation, but they also protect it from insects and bacteria. Like most living things insects can’t survive without oxygen so even if there were insects, or insect eggs, in your supplies when you sealed them up, they will not survive in the bags/buckets. Follow these tips and your emergency food supplies should be as fresh when you need to use them as they were when they were first packaged.