Self-Reliance in the Pantry – Part Two

Long-Term Food Storage

Packaging rice in jars - Long Term food storage
Packaging Rice

So sticking with growing your pantry, I wanted to talk a little bit about long-term food storage. To me, this includes the food that lasts longer than the average canned food shelf life of 1 or 2 years. Stuff like beans, rice (you know, the classic survival stores), grains, lentils – essentially, dry goods. Properly stored, this stuff can last for years. And then we move onto freeze-dried food. The big #10 cans of this and that, that last 15, 20 or 30 years. Brands like Provident Pantry, Auguston Farms¬†and Mountain House. That’s your REALLY long-term stuff.

So let’s start with the bulk stuff – the rice, beans, lentils and what have you, and how to properly store them. Personally, for long term storage, I prefer three main methods; 2 liter bottles, Mylar packaging and vacuum packing. I also use oxygen (O2) absorbers while packaging with the first two methods. Here’s a tip, make sure you will be packing about the same amount of packages as you have O2 absorbers. So if you have a pack of 20 O2 absorbers, wait on packaging your food until you can pack about 20 packages. This is because once you open the O2 absorber package, they must be used. They start absorbing oxygen as soon as the air hits it, so you can’t save half of them for use next week. Whatever you don’t use will be wasted. They also come in different sizes as well. I use the 300 cc (cubic centimeters) size. The bigger the container or package, the bigger the size you’ll need. Also remember that there is more air space in a package of beans than, say, rice. So the more air, the bigger the O2 absorber you’ll need.

2 Liter Bottles

Though I don’t drink soda myself, I have a good supplier that is pretty constant. Just wash the bottles out with warm water and dish soap, rinse well and let them air dry. Drying them is really important because you really don’t want any moisture in the bottles when you go to fill them with dry food stuffs. Once dry, put a clean funnel in the top and start filling, leaving an inch or two empty at the top. Fill all the bottles first and then open your O2 absorber package. Drop one in the top and put the cap on. Over the next day or two, the O2 absorbers will consume all the oxygen in the containers, which may collapse the bottles just a little but that’s fine.

Mylar Bag Packaging

Rice in Mylar bag - Long term food storage
Rice sealed in a Mylar bag

Packing food in Mylar is pretty cool. It’s a food-grade material that keeps out light and oxygen and can keep your food edible for years and even decades. Another plus, it’s fairly inexpensive. I got mine on Amazon, a pack of 20 one gallon size Mylar bags with 20 O2 absorbers for I think about $13.

Anyway, the method is about the same as with 2 liter bottles. You fill your bags with what you’re storing, drop in an O2 absorber and then seal. To seal these bags, you’ll need a clothes iron (or a flat iron for doing hair. Set the iron on high, press out most of the air from the bag and seal the top inch or two of Mylar. The bag shouldn’t burn, don’t worry. I just double up a towel and lay it on the counter and seal the bags on that. Then, since you cannot see the contents through the Mylar, use a Sharpie to write on the outside the contents, the packaging date and maybe the amount like: 9 dry cups or 3.5 lbs.

Pinto beans in Mylar bags - long term storage
25 Pounds of Pinto Beans

Vacuum Packing

I don’t use this method all that often and I don’t really know why. It’s a great way to package food that you’re not planning on eating for a while. I guess when I think about vacuum sealing food, I think of food going into the freezer. In our house, food doesn’t usually sit in the freezer for more than a couple months so even if we’re splitting up a package of beef, freezer-grade Ziploc bags works fine. Maybe I could make the vacuum sealer more accessible and we’d use it more because it really is much better than plastic bags. There’s really not too much to explain about vacuum sealing. You obviously need a vacuum sealer and vacuum bags. I use the bags that come on a roll. That way you can choose the size you want. But that’s a personal preference, they also come in ready-made size.

Well, I think that pretty well does it for this one. I think I’ll do a write up on the freeze-dried foods soon, the really long long-term stuff. This got a little long just talking about the bulk food storage options. I hope this got you interested in putting up your own food. Whether it’s for the convenience of having food ready that’s already in your home, or losing a job or for true emergency situations like hurricanes, earthquakes or pandemic. If you’re prepared for one of the big ones, you’re definitely prepared for all the small ones.

Until next time,

Stay free.


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