In our everyday lives storing food for the long term is not a high priority. Even manufacturers don’t put a top priority on producing food that will last a long time.
When you go to the grocery store, most of the food that you buy is only packaged to last a few months, maybe up to a year. Storing food for the long term has its challenges.
Canned goods are the only exception; if the cans remain sealed, they can last for years. Make sure you check the expiration dates on the labels and packages so you’ll know the life expectancy of the food you’re buying.
Packaging food for long term storage is an added expense, so food manufacturers and processors don’t bother with it because most people don’t keep food in their household for very long anyway.
Survivalists, however, are of a different breed, and this doesn’t apply to them. Survivalists and preppers work on storing food for years.
When storing food that will last for years, preppers need to repackage most of the food they purchase. Properly storing food will make them last much longer; some foods may last up to 20 years.
Repackaging your meals for long term storage will keep out insects, rodents, microorganisms, oxygen, and moisture. Above all, it accomplishes your goal of keeping your food tasting fresh and delicious while retaining its nutritional value.
So how do you repackage food for long term storage?
1) Gather Supplies. In addition to the food you are going to store, you’re also going to need containers and other supplies. You’re going to need five-gallon food grade buckets, six-gallon aluminized Mylar bags, and oxygen absorbers.
You want to get 5-gallon food grade buckets. They are of better quality, and the covers usually have a rubber, airtight seal. Ask your local restaurants or takeout food businesses for them.
You might get them for free because they typically have more five-gallon buckets that they can use, and they have to pay someone to throw them away.
If you can’t get any 5-gallon food grade buckets, you can buy five-gallon buckets with covers at your local home improvement store.
However, you’ll most likely have to purchase your Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers online. These are more of a “specialty” item.
2) Gather Equipment. You’ll need a vacuum cleaner with a hose attachment and either a hair straightener or a clothes iron to seal the Mylar bags.
It may also be a good idea to have a rubber mallet handy to close the buckets, although it isn’t necessary if you’re willing to put some extra effort into it.
3) Pack the Food. You’ll want to pack as much food into each bucket as you possibly can to save the most money while storing food for your family. Place the Mylar bags into the buckets and fill them to about an inch from the top with dry food.
Usually, only one type of food goes into each bucket, however, if you have dry foods that you prepare together like flour and sugar, you can put them together in the same bucket.
Keep the items separate by using multiple bags within each bucket.
4) Create a Seal. When you’re storing food to stay fresh for a very long time, the quality of the seal is critical. The Mylar bags are excellent for this because they melt together, forming an air-tight seal when the heat is applied.
After you have packed the food in the Mylar bags, use a hot clothes iron or a hair straightener to melt the top two inches of the bags together. Make sure you leave a two-inch gap at one end; you’ll see why in the upcoming step.
5) Remove Oxygen. Removing oxygen is the most critical step in storing food. Take your time and do it right. Place an oxygen absorber in the Mylar bag through the two-inch gap.
For flour, sugar, dry milk, and other baking essentials, you’ll need a 750 cc oxygen absorber for each bucket. For beans, pasta, and whole grains, you’ll need a 1,000 cc oxygen absorber for each bucket.
These absorb oxygen rather quickly, so you’ll want to move fast from this point. Once you put the oxygen absorber in the bag, suck out as much air as possible with the vacuum hose.
6) Seal the bag. After removing the oxygen, it’s time to seal the bag. Finish sealing the bag: with a hot clothing iron or hair straightener. Make sure you hold the bag closed while sealing it so that air can’t sneak back in.
7) Close the Bucket. The properly sealed bag will keep the food fresh, and the bucket will protect your precious food from rodents. Fold the flap down and make sure all of it is inside the bucket before you put the lid on.
If part of the bag is sticking out, when you secure the cover on your bucket, it could break the seal.
After you have made sure you, the entire flap is in the bucket, put the lid on, and gently tap it down using a rubber mallet or use your hands and forcing it down until it locks.
8) Mark the Contents. Don’t forget to label the bucket with its content. If you placed more than one item in the bucket, be sure to put the quantity of each. Such as 15 lbs. flour and 15 lbs. sugar.
Do not count on you, remembering what is in each bucket. Trust me on this; don’t rely on your memory because you’ll forget. Especially when storing food for several years.
9) Store Your Food. All your food stocks should be kept in a cool, dry place to keep it fresh.
While moisture can’t get inside the bucket and bag combination, you still want to avoid mold and mildew from growing on the outside of the bucket.
You also want to keep it away from sunlight or a hot place because heat can cause the food to lose its nutritional value more quickly.
That’s it; see how simple storing food can be?
Storing food using the above technique should keep it fresh and usable for 20 years or more. The five-gallon food grade buckets are waterproof and keep the rodents from getting at your food.
The Mylar bags are airtight. By using the combination of the two, you almost guarantee that your food will be ready for use when you need it.
Just remember, the secret to storing food are the oxygen absorbers. With the absence of oxygen, food cannot oxidize, insects, and insect eggs that hatch cannot survive, and bacteria cannot survive.
With this technique, your food will be as fresh and delicious as the day you packed it away.
Storing food for the long term is a simple process once you have the proper supplies and equipment. Think about how secure you will feel, knowing that in the event of a disaster or personal tragedy, you will be able to put food on the table.
No matter what happens, your family will not go hungry because you set aside some time and made storing food a high priority in your life.