Food Storage in Buckets with Mylar Bags

The other night I was sealing some food stuffs in mylar bags and mentioned it to a friend of mine via email. His first question was: “Why bags and not buckets?” I quickly whipped off the reply that the food would last longer in mylar bags, and that they were going in buckets shortly as well.

MylarBagsOxygenAbsorbers

Why not just use food grade buckets?

FoodStorageBucketActually, I do use just food grade buckets for our short term storage of bulk rice, beans, lentils, and the like. With Gamma Lids they’re easy for everyone to access, which means we keep smaller containers of frequently used bulk foods in our pantry, and then refill them from the store room when necessary. It’s quite simply easier to just dump a 25 lb bag of rice in a food grade bucket, pop a Gamma Lid on the bucket, toss some Diatomaceous Earth in there to keep insects away, and know that it will be good for the next 6-9 months it’s going to exist before it ends up in our bellies.

Why use both mylar bags and buckets?

I have a couple of reasons for doing this. First, mylar bags do a superb job of keeping out air, moisture, and light – all things that are detrimental to long term food storage. Second, the plastic buckets will then both keep critters out of the bags as well as provide for an easy way to stack and organize our food storage.

How to use mylar bags with buckets for long term food storage

Gather your supplies:

  • 5 Gallon Buckets
  • Gamma Lid – These are optional, but I prefer them over regular bucket lids.
  • Mylar Bags – I prefer putting 5 of the 1 gallon bags in a bucket, but they also come in the 5 gallon size if you’d prefer to fill one bag per bucket.
  • Oxygen Absorbers – For 1 gallon bags, I use a single 300cc oxygen absorber. Increase that if you’re using 5 gallon bags.
  • Diatomaceous Earth – A tablespoon per 1 gallon bag has always done a great job of keeping insects away in my experience. Again, increase that if you’re using 5 gallon bags.
  • Steel or Wood – You’ll want this approximately 2″ wide and at least 2 inches longer than the width of the bags you’re sealing. I use a steel bar my father obtained for me.
  • Clothing Iron – I use my wife’s craft iron at her request, but I’ve never seen any mylar come off on it and wouldn’t hesitate to use our daily use iron if I needed to.
  • Straw or Vinyl Tube – Used to suck as much air out as possible before the final sealing of the mylar bags.
  • Canning Jar with Lid – Optional, but I like to empty the package of oxygen absorbers into it while I’m working on the final seal of the bags.

After that it’s quite simple. I’ll be taking pictures of the process the next time I seal some bags up for storage and will write a post about that. In the meantime here are the steps:

  1. Prepare your workspace
    You’ll want a clear space that you can easily work in. I usually use the kitchen table, which provides plenty of space.
  2. Heat up your iron
    On the iron I normally use, the Rayon setting seals the bags nicely without melting them.
  3. Start filling your bags
    This is not a one person job if you’ve purchased 25 lb bags of whatever you’re sealing. My oldest daughter helped me last time without issue; she poured from the 25 lb bags while I steadied the mylar bag and added the diatomaceous earth.
  4. Partially seal the bags and set aside
    After the bag is approximately 2/3 filled, lay the open end of the bag over the metal bar or wood that you’re using, and run the iron across it two to three times, leaving approximately two inches unsealed. You’ll later use this opening to insert an oxygen absorber and suck out as much air as you can.
  5. Prepare your oxygen absorbers
    The important thing to remember here is that oxygen absorbers have a finite life, which starts to end as soon as they’re exposed to air. Once I open a package, I dump them all in a canning jar and tightly seal the lid, taking out one at a time to put in a bag.
  6. Clear the air from the bags
    Working one bag at a time, first drop an oxygen absorber in the bag, then push it down into the food with one finger. Next, place your straw in the bag and suck out as much air as possible. When you’ve sucked out as much as you can, remove the straw and quickly pinch the bag closed. You’re not going to get all the air out by any means, but trying to minimize it is a good idea.
  7. Complete the bag seal
    Lay the open end of the bag on the bar or piece of wood again, then run your hot iron over it two to three times to form a nice seal.
  8. Label and place in buckets
    We label our bags with a sharpie, including the type of food as well as the month and year of sealing. This allows you to adopt a First In, First Out rotation to ensure your food storage is never wasted. For example, “Barley – 10/14” is what we would write on a bag of Barley we sealed in October of 2014.Once the bags are labeled place them in your bucket, screw on the gamma lid, and store in a cool dark place. I find that I have no problem fitting five, one gallon mylar bags filled with 25 lbs of grains or legumes in a 5 gallon bucket.

OxygenAbsorbers

What are the Oxygen Absorbers for?

As I said above, air is
one of the most detrimental factors for long term food storage. Placing oxygen absorbers in the bags prior to sealing them will remove most of the oxygen, which will increase the shelf life of your food storage.

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