Often times you can find great deals on bulk food products that would be great for food storage! However, you can’t just stick the giant bags of food you have in the basement and expect them to last for years. Proper packaging and storage are required to extend the life of your food. So what can damage your food storage and how should you package it?
Light – Sunlight helps bacteria grow. Having a container that limits or eliminates the light altogether can extend your shelf life.
Moisture – Majority of the time, the food you purchase for storage is most likely already dried to a sufficient level. If you are drying your own food at home, make sure you have dried out as much moisture as possible and then store it in a dry environment, freeze dried food is always best!
Oxygen – Oxygen deteriorates your food. It also encourages the growth of bacteria. Standard plastic containers actually let oxygen in over time. So plastic packaging such as bags and buckets are not ideal for long term. Use a mylar bag or can to keep oxygen from affecting your shelf life.
Temperature – Food kept at high or even fluctuating temperatures can spoil quicker or shorten your shelf life. Keep food at or below 70 degrees Fahrenheit to extend the life of your food storage. One of the easiest methods of do-it-yourself packaging involves a metalized storage bag or mylar bag and oxygen absorbers. A mylar bag is a piece of plastic that has been laminated to a tin foil type metal. Basically, it’s like a soft can. Mylar storage bags come in all shapes and sizes. Some are simply sheets that you create your own bag, some come pre-made with a zipper and even a gusset, but for all of them to actually be beneficial to your food storage, they must be used with an oxygen absorber and sealed. Oxygen absorbers contain iron powder. When oxygen enters the absorber, the iron powder actually reacts and changes into rust. Don’t worry about the rust, it can’t get out of the pouch. Once all of the iron powder has reacted, it simply doesn’t do anything. The pouch can only absorb as much oxygen as there is iron powder. That means, the more oxygen you have in a container, the more oxygen absorbers you will need. So how do you use them to prolong your food storage? It’s actually a simple process. Mylar can be sealed with a hot clothes iron. You want your iron to be hot enough to melt the layers of the mylar together, without melting through and created a mess of holes. Test the temperature on the corner before you do the whole bag. While your iron is heating, fill your mylar bag with your food product. Oxygen absorbers are active once exposed to the air and generally come in multi-packs. So have all of your mylar bags filled before you open your oxygen absorbers. Once you have prepped the bags, add your oxygen absorbers. The lighter the package, the more oxygen absorbers you’ll need. A 1 Gallon sized bag will need 1 or 2 small 500 cc oxygen absorbers. A larger 5 or 6 Gallon bag would need 1 or 2 Large 1000 cc oxygen absorbers. After you have placed the oxygen absorbers in, do your best to squeeze out any excess air and flatten the edges of the bag to seal. You don’t want wrinkles if you can avoid it. Run your iron across the edges to seal the bag. Double check that it has sealed all the way across before moving on to your next one. For storage, place in a bucket or sturdy box and keep in a cool place. There you have an at home storage solution for long term food storage.