Storing Rice for Long Term Food Storage, From Selection to Storage

January 04, 2023 8 min read

storing rice for long term

 

Humans have been growing, consuming, and storing rice for centuries, and for good reason. Rice is dense with nutrients, versatile in its applications, and can be easily stockpiled for long-term food storage, due to its remarkable shelf life. 

If you have been wondering how to store rice long-term as part of your survival planning or because of a growing suspicion that a food shortage is coming, then you have come to the right place. We’ve crafted an article detailing why rice is a reliable staple item and how to store rice for the long run. 

 

Understanding the Shelf Life of Rice

 

storing rice in a container for additional shelf life of rice

 

Rice is well-known for its long-lasting shelf life. Depending on the type of rice and its storage conditions, rice can be kept for upwards of three decades.

  • White rice, such as basmati, jasmine, and your standard grocery store rice, can be kept for four to five years if left alone in its original packaging. If frozen or stored away in tight containers like mylar bags or mason jars, white rice can last for 30 years.
     
  • Wild rice also has an impressive shelf life. It is common for wild rice left in its original packaging to last upwards of 10 years. Similarly, if frozen or stored in an air-tight container, wild rice is good for 30 years.
     
  • Of the varietal rices, brown rice is known to have a shorter shelf life. However, it still lasts a decent chunk of time. If left alone, brown rice is good for up to six months. If frozen, brown rice can last one to two years.  

Ideal Storage Conditions for Rice

To store your rice for the long term, it needs to be kept in optimal conditions.  Depending on your food storage system, some of the following conditions may be difficult to create, but not impossible.
 

  • Like other grains, the prime temperature for storing rice long-term is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Keeping your rice at 70 degrees Fahrenheit or lower is your second-best option if this colder temperature is unattainable.
     
  • When storing rice at warmer temperatures, using oxygen absorbers is vital for increasing the shelf life. This is especially true for rice that is not stored in oxygen-free containers.

  • The combination of cold temperatures (sub 40) and oxygen absorbers in airtight containers is the most effective way to get your rice to last upwards of 30 years and still retain its nutritional value and flavor.


Nutritional Benefits of Rice

Contrary to some people’s beliefs, rice is not entirely empty calories. Even white rice comes with some nutritional value and health benefits. However, of the two types, brown rice is significantly more nutritious.


The secret to brown rice’s superior nutritional value is in the husk. On the other hand, to make up for the nutritional value lost when white rice is refined and polished, some manufacturers enrich white rice to replace some of the vitamins and minerals lost in the processing. 


In terms of nutrition, brown rice is the winner. Nonetheless, white and enriched white rice contain some nutritious vitamins and minerals.


Brown Rice

White Rice

Enriched White Rice

Manganese

42% of daily value

16% of daily value

16% of daily value

Niacin

16% of daily value

3% of daily value

9% of daily value

Thiamin

15% of daily value

2% of daily value

14% of daily value

Selenium

11% of daily value

-

14% of daily value

Magnesium 

9% of daily value

2% of daily value

2% of daily value




Can rice go bad?

Thus far we have only talked about the long-term reliability of rice. In fact, because of its remarkable shelf life, rice is often referred to as a non-perishable food item. However, it is important to mention that rice can go bad. 


Rice can spoil just like any other food item in the pantry. This is particularly true if the rice is subjected to moisture, oxygen, high heat, or unnecessary light.   

 

Selecting the Right Rice for Long-Term Storage

 

selecting right rice before storing rice for long term

 

Of the three types of rice we referenced above—white, wild, and brown rice—white rice is by far the most suitable for long-term food storage. There are three types of white rice:

  1. Long grain – Three times longer than it is wide; firm, fluffy, and not sticky.
  2. Medium grain – Between two and three times longer than it is wide; soft, moist, and sticky in texture.
  3. Short grain – Less than two times longer than it is wide; soft, moist, and very sticky.

Why is brown bad for the long-term? 

Brown rice, also known as whole-grain rice, has a much shorter shelf life than white rice. This is because brown rice has not been milled, meaning it still has its husk or bran layer. Because of the extra oils in the bran layer, brown rice is much more susceptible to spoiling. You can assume the same for black and purple rice variants.  


On the other hand, white rice has been milled and its husk has been removed. Consequently, there are fewer oils in the rice that can spoil and shorten the lifespan.     

Therefore, white rice is typically your best option when it comes to preparing and storing rice for the long term. 

 

Storing Rice for Long-Term Storage

 

storing rice in a food bucket for long term

 

The rice you want to store is only as good as the containers you use to store it. In other words, to take full advantage of the long shelf life of rice, you need to invest the money, time and energy into storing it correctly. You cannot simply buy 30 pounds of rice and leave it to sit in the basement. 

When it comes to storage containers for long-term rice storage, we recommend four options: mason jars, mylar bags, food-grade buckets, or #10 cans. They each come with their own advantages and drawbacks. 


Container type:

Advantages

Drawbacks

Mason Jars

  • Convenient sizes
  • Rodent proof 
  • Doesn’t block light
  • Prone to breaking 
  • Expensive 

Mylar Bags

  • Blocks light 
  • Come in a variety of sizes
  • Flexible
  • Lack of durability
  • Must be vacuum sealed
  • Not rodent-proof 

Food-Grade Buckets

  • Rodent-proof 
  • Blocks light
  • Durable and transportable
  • Expensive 
  • Requires special sealing process

#10 Cans 

  • Rodent-proof
  • Durable 
  • Blocks light 
  • Hard to find 
  • Requires sealing machinery 
  • Can rust in humid environments

Storing Rice with Mylar Bags and Food Buckets

Storing rice for the long haul is an involved process. It’s not as easy as prepping professionally prepared and packaged freeze-dried foods. In the table above, we referenced four different types of containers you can use to store rice. Now, we will talk about what the process looks like to store rice specifically in mylar bags and food buckets. 


Materials you will need include: 

  • White rice
  • Large mylar bags
  • Food-safe oxygen absorbers
  • 5-gallon buckets, food-grade buckets optional
  • Optional lids, also known as Gamma Seal lids.

The first step is portioning the rice into the mylar bags. Your portions will vary depending on the size of the mylar bag you chose. Ensure not to overfill the bag because you will need enough extra space to seal the container properly. 


Next, you need to add the appropriate oxygen absorber size and quantity into the rice. These will help eliminate any leftover oxygen in the bag after you seal it. Oxygen absorbers come in six sizes:

  1.   50cc
  2. 100cc
  3. 200cc
  4. 1000cc
  5. 2000cc
  6. 3000cc

The amount of oxygen absorber you add to the rice will depend on the type and size of the container you are using—in this case, mylar bags. When using multiple oxygen absorbers, we recommend positioning them throughout the bag, not all in one place. And when in doubt, be liberal with the amount you use.  


Container type

Dense food (i.e., grains)

Less dense food (i.e., legumes, pasta)

Mylar Food Storage Bags

Total Recommended CCs

Total Recommended CCs

¼ gallon bags

100

110-200

½ gallon bags

100-200

200-400

1 gallon bags

300-400

400

1.5 gallon bags

500-800

1,000-1,200

2 gallon bags

1,000

1,500-2,000

4, 5 or 6-gallon bags

2,000

2,500-3,000


After supplementing your mylar bag full of rice with an adequate amount of oxygen absorbers, next it’s time to seal the bag. The most effective way to do this is with a vacuum sealing machine. However, if you prefer a more affordable and versatile option, you can seal mylar bags with a traditional clothes iron set to its hottest setting.

After you seal your bags properly, they are ready to be put in storage. Mylar bags can be stored alone. However, we recommend extra precautions to keep your food safe, especially against rodents. To do so, insert your DIY packaged rice into 5- or 6-gallon buckets. 

Because you’ve used mylar bags, these needn’t be food-grade buckets. Just any old bucket from the hardware store will do. However, food-grade buckets are the best option, because they won’t leach chemicals into your food or make it smell bad.

For added security, we recommend investing in high-quality lids for your bucket. The best lids for buckets are called Gamma lids. Gamma Seal lids are screw-top lids that transform any 3.5 to 7-gallon bucket into pest-proof and resealable food containers.

When all of your rice is properly sealed into mylar bags and stored away in buckets equipped with gamma lids, everything is ready to be stockpiled in your basement, garage, bug-out location, or prepper pantry.

The only thing left to do is monitor your rice storage and rotate through your stockpile if necessary. 

     

Storing, Monitoring, and Rotating Stored Rice

 

additional shelf life of rice stored in a sack

 

After you have prepared your rice for long-term storage, next you want to ensure that you choose wisely the location you keep your rice. Here are some tips to help you make the right decision. 

Rice Storage Tips

  • Your rice will last the longest in a dark, cool, and dry location.
  • Whenever possible, keep your rice in the fridge or freezer.
  • If necessary, take precautions against rodents and other vermin. This is especially true for basements and root cellars.
  • Label your rice with the date, so you know how old it is.
  • Inspect your rice before consuming it. 

Monitoring and Rotating Your Rice

Over time, food kept in long-term storage may diminish in quality and nutritional value. There may be changes in flavor, texture, and color. This is especially true for foods not adequately packaged and sealed ahead of time. 

Therefore, it will be prudent of you to monitor your rice storage routinely and rotate it if necessary. Because white rice is safe to keep for so long, routinely monitoring can mean checking it every six months. However, for other types of rice, you may want to check it more often.

When you check on your rice, you are looking to ensure the packages are still properly sealed and that they haven’t been exposed to insects or rodents. This is especially important for stocks of rice you’ve opened and are periodically eating. 

You may need to rotate through your stockpile and replace it with fresher rice if necessary. Typically, this occurs towards the end of the recommended or expected shelf-life of the particular rice. Depending on when you first put it into storage, eventually, you may have to start cooking and consuming the rice to prevent spoiling. Then you would simply repeat the process from above to replace it with fresh reserves.




Final Thoughts On Long Term Rice Storage

When it comes to long-term storage, not all rice is treated equally. White rice is by far the best option for long-term storage compared to brown rice. However, white rice is significantly less nutritious, especially if it hasn’t been enriched. Therefore, we recommend having a stockpile that includes a variety of different rices.

DIY rice storage is a lot of work. If one of the steps in your process goes wrong, you may end up with spoiled rice. If you are careful enough and have the time, following the steps we outlined above to store rice in mylar bags will improve your rice stock. 

However, investing in professionally prepared and packaged food, like freeze-dried vegetables and meat, is more convenient, reliable, and nutritionally diverse—plus, it’s a great supplement to your rice storage. To start, we recommend a 72-hour emergency kit. After that, you can speak with one of our product experts to continue improving your long-term food storage.