Here we will discuss how to package long term food storage, what methods are available to you, and how/where to store such foods.

This post isn’t about organization (we will address that at a later time)

Buying the food is only half of the battle. A few other important components are, where you store your food, how you store it, what temperature to store it at and the rotation (again, rotation is addressed in another post.)

The packaging that you can use include,

  • Vacuum sealed bags
  • Mylar bags (with Oxygen absorbers or the dry ice method)
  • Jars
  • Super Pails

So What I did, was research the heck out of the best methods, and I actually use all of these methods, and then some. I will try to touch on all of them though. When I started storing food, the first thing I did, before even buying anything in bulk was to get a dehydrator. So I needed a relatively easy way to store on a regular basis all of the food I was drying.

I started with jars and 100 mm oxygen absorber packets, the larger jars I used several oxygen absorbers.  This is a VERY cheap option that I think is worth considering if you don’t have the money for mylar, especially if you are only planning on storing dehydrated foods for 6-12 months.

Vacuum sealing is along the same lines. I do not recommend foods with sharp points like dried  foods or pasta, no matter how thick the bags, pasta such as spaghetti pokes right through. Its awesome for dried fruits, and nuts that I freeze though. I buy 3-5 pound bags for pine nuts at a time, (I make a lot of my own pesto and I really like using pine nuts in my cooking.) I don’t delude myself into thinking that they are awesome for long term storage but because they will turn rancid quickly, I will break down a larger bag into 2 cup bags and vacuum seal, at that point I will freeze them and pull one out to use at a time. Once I open the previously frozen bags, I keep them in the fridge. They really are a delicate nut.

Now once you move on to the longer term options… Its important for you to realize that its going to cost a pretty penny to store the food you have purchased. The longer term (which is what is going to cost you more to package for storing) foods can last 15-30 years if you package them properly. So if you are going to do this right, consider spending the extra money and doing it correctly to make it as long as the shelf lives promise without having it turn rancid or ruined.

So lets say I have 100 pounds of beans, what I would do, is bring it home, mix, in small batches with D.E. (more on this later) and then I would scoop the beans into a 5 gallon mylar bag that has been placed inside a 5 gallon super pail. Before sealing I would also toss in a 2000 cc oxygen absorber. Obviously 100 pounds will not all fit in 1 super pail.

I do try to buy my hard wheat and rolled oats already packed in 5 gallon pails.

Oxygen Absorbers –  They absorb free oxygen and chemically bind it. By removing that oxygen, it wouldn’t be available for other purposes such as oxidation rancidity or giving the ability for bugs or bacteria to breath. By using these can greatly extend your shelf lives.

* One study shows that 1 300 milliliter packet in an empty #10 can will reduce the oxygen in the can to less than 1/2 of 1%.

Where can you find oxygen absorbers in a lot of places now a days, they have gained such popularity. The first place I ever bought them was online at Amazon.com, I am sure if you don’t want to buy thru them you can look elsewhere online. I know that you can also purchase them at LDS store houses as well as local food storage stores. I do know that in some areas, neither of these places will be available to you. Fortunately for me, there is such a huge population of LDS and those who store food that we have both available here. But you will always be able to find them online, as long as the Internet is available to you.

I’ve already given you an idea of how I use oxygen absorbers, and how you should consider using them. The only other points that need to be made is that there are different sizes that will absorb different amounts of oxygen and you should be aware of the containers you are using so you know how many, or how large an oxygen absorber you would need. Also, when you open the containers, please don’t just pour into the pot or mixing bowl without being sure to catch the oxygen absorber before it comes out with your food.

I need to atleast put a word in here about Desiccants. – What is a desiccant? It is a substance with hygroscopic properties (which absorbs moisture in the air.) The most common desiccant is silica gel.

I have found several articles that gave information on using silica gel packets with food (ie: beef jerky) and they say as long as the silica doesn’t come in contact with the food you should be fine using it. But if you are storing food, I personally wouldn’t be comfortable enough to rely on it for long tern storage. If this is something that you choose to use, “cool” but I firmly recommend doing more research. Because it is not for me, I didn’t go into a huge amount of research on it.

Diatomaceous Earth – What is Diatomaceous Earth? (hence for to be referred to as D.E.) D.E. is a naturally occurring substance made up of fossilized remains of marine diatoms. These diatoms are microscopic and are covered in sharp tiny spines – this makes them dangerous to insects with exoskeletons. But not animals with internal skeletons. The spines of the diatoms pierce the soft body tissue between their hard exoskeleton plates and they lose their body moisture through these wounds, to the point of desiccation and death.

Those with internal skeletons have means of resisting such damage, and are not harmed. This makes it possible to mix small amounts into your stored grains and beans to control insects without having to remove the dust again before consuming them.

Where do you find D.E.? – Its easily found as a garden insecticide. Organic garden suppliers will carry it – also – We actually found it at the local feed store 2 blocks from our house. There are only two kinds of D.E. so it is okay to buy the type that you purchase in the feed store.

It is very important that you do not purchase the type that is sold as a filtering agent in pool supply stores or the pool supply section in your local stores. This type of D.E. goes through a heat treatment that dramatically increases the silicate, making it unsuitable for use with food.

How do I use D.E. in food storage? To use – mix thoroughly 1 cup of D.E. for every 40 pounds of grain, grain products, or legumes. Be sure you coat every kernel, every bean.

  • Mix in small batches
  • D.E. is a dust, it will cause throat, lung, and eye irritation, take the proper precautions to avoid this irritation.
  • D.E. does not kill insect eggs or pupae – but it will kill adults and pupae that comes in comes in contact with the D.E. once it hatches as an adult.

The reason that I advocate for D.E. is its safe to eat in small amount prescribed and it means that if you take proper precautions and still find that you have eggs in flour or beans or what have you, that you will be stopping an outbreak (or infestation) in its tracks before it ruins your food.

D.E. is very reasonably priced. Its normally sold in bulk (25-50 lbs) but if you ask, especially at feed stores, they normally have a bin that is available for them to sell to you by the pound. It should cost you less than 10 dollars for 5 lbs.  For me it costs about a buck a pound, but I guess it depends on where you live and whats in your area.

Dry Ice - I was going to mention this a moment ago while I was talking about D.E. as a second line of defense but I didn’t want it to be over looked. Before oxygen packages were readily available there are a few things that were very popular and you can still use, to deter insects and keep dry.  bay leaves deter insects (or so I hear, it is not a method I use) Also another method that I haven’t used either but I would because I can see its merritt is putting your packed 5 gallon buckets on a deep freezer for 1-2 weeks to kill any insects.

Dry ice has the same type of affect though, but does not kill the insect eggs.

With dry ice, what you would do is, take about a 1/2 pound of dry ice and place in the middle of your mylar bag that has already been places in your 5 gallon bucket. Seal the mylar, almost completely, let stand for several hours 3-6 and then completely seal. it should have the same affect, or close to the same affect as using oxygen absorbers.

For me personally, I prefer the oxygen absorbers. I know that that is truly is a matter of personal taste and you should know what the options are that are out there.

A bit on where to store and the temp best stored at: A lot of this should be common sense but I have to give mention to it because it is pertinent.

Shelf lives are relative. Seriously, cooler is obviously going to be better for storage and depending on where you live, that may be super chill and totally possible. I live in Arizona, which means that about 75 degrees is normal in the summer and probably in the range of 65 degrees in the winter. My food storage is in the basement of my house. I have to say though, A lot of sources say that the temp should be somewhere in the range of 50-60 degrees year round. I don’t think that is realistic. How many of us actually have a  cold room, a root cellar or a walk in fridge that is big enough to hold a years worth of food? Not to many of us, huh? Thought so.

I also firmly believe that large corporations protect themselves by giving very short shelf lives, that way the chances of anything going bad within that time are slim and the nutritional value is guaranteed. I do not believe that  you should look at an expiration date and swear by it. I’m not going to tell you not to follow expiration dates though. I will not be responsible for you getting food poisoning because you didn’t have common sense and then you want to blame your lack of common sense on the fact that I don’t trust the short shelf lives offered up by big corporations that only want me to buy more of their products.

One other thing that I think is important to mention is that I believe that you should separate your food from the floor. I have restaurant shelving, there is other sturdy shelving that you can use that’s out there too. I just like being able to clear my shelves and adjust the heights. If you jut have a bunch of 5 gallon pails to begin with, at least consider getting a pallet or two so they are off the floor, it helps with air flow, keeps the food away from insects that may be on the floor and it helps to regulate the temp.

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