Given the price of food these days, I take proper food storage techniques seriously. That being said, I have learned over the years that practices for storing bulk foods vary widely, with some methods being both cumbersome and confusing. Trust me, I have been there and done that. With only two hands and two arms, there is just so much juggling of bags, buckets, and beans that a gal can do singlehandedly.
Today I am going to demonstrate how I package my own bulk foods and in addition,tell you about some of the best Mylar bags out there. Coupled with a fantastic giveaway from Discount Mylar Bags let me tell you; food storage does not get much better than this!
Mylar Bags and Other Food Storage Accessories
I have written extensively about Mylar bags and O2 absorbers so I won’t repeat that information here. On the other hand, there are some differences in products from different vendors. This is especially true with Mylar bags. You get what you pay for in terms of quality.
Discount Mylar Bags, for example, sells a premium product as well as an “economy” product. In the Mylar bag world, “premium” denotes stronger and thicker as denoted by the thickness of the bag itself. The thicker the bag, the better it will withstand the weight of its contents. This may not be a factor with smaller bags, but definitely plays a role with the 5 gallon and larger bags.
Here is a photo of the items that were in my sample kit. Notice the variety of sizes that are available these days. It was not too long ago that you could purchase 1 gallon and 5 gallon bags and not much else unless you were interested in industrial uses and willing to purchase bags by the gross for commercial use.
The zip-seal bags are especially interesting. They feature a flat bottom so that the bags stand upright for filling. The smaller version is perfect for smaller items such as herbs, spices, and even medications. The nice thing is that once you break the heat seal on these bags, you can still zip them shut to preserve the contents until they are used up.
Also in the photo are oxygen absorbers and a clip you can use to seal the package of O2 absorbers while you are working with them.
One thing I should mention before moving on to my own best practices for using Mylar bags is that while many vendors sell their Mylar bags in kits filled with multiple units of the same-sized bag, at Discount Mylar Bags you can mix and match to your heart’s content. Want to try a five-gallon zip-seal bag without making a huge commitment in dollars? No problem. Add a single bag to your order and give it a try!
My Own Best Practices for Using Mylar Bags
Step 1 – Decide Upon Your Packaging
I like to use 1 gallon bags (measuring about 10 by 14 because they are easy to handle and do not weigh a ton. Have you ever tried lifting a 5 gallon bag of pinto beans? I can do it, but who wants to work that hard?
Another advantage of smaller bags is that in a short term emergency situation, you can use what you need to get you through the crisis without having to open a large bag then reseal it up again after the emergency passes.
On the other hand, for long term storage I often do use the 5 or 6 gallon bags. These are the bulk food items I will turn to if there is a major disruptive event such as an EMP or collapse of some sort. Let us hope that never happens but it is good to be ready none the less.
Step 2 – Organize the Goods and Supplies
I like to organize my packaging activities into sessions. It is far more productive to do beans, rice, and dog food at the same time that to do them hither-nither over a period of time. I won’t go so far as to say that I have a marathon, but sometimes it does seem like it.
In this step I get all of my supplies in order. I get out the bags and buckets, if I plan to use them, as well as my oxygen absorbers. I do not – repeat do not – open the package of O2 absorbers just yet. I also get out my hair straightening iron. This is the tool I will use to seal the Mylar bags although you could also use a clothes iron. Trust me though, the hair iron is a lot easier!
Step 3 – Set Your Mylar Bags Up in an Assembly Line Fashion and Fill Them
This step is self-explanatory. Hint: a canning funnel works great when filling the smaller bags.
Step 4 – Open Your Package of Oxygen Absorbers
Take out the number you will be using for this session and immediately seal up the others. You can seal them in a mason jar (that is what I do) or use the nifty clip available for just a few dollars from Discount Mylar Bags.
Something I learned recently is that each time you open the package of O2 Absorbers, they suck in some oxygen. After many “sessions”, they may start to feel warm and sweaty with moisture even though they have been sealed during the interim period.
Here is what Toby at Discount Mylar Bags had to say in response to a reader inquiry:
Your reader isn’t doing anything wrong per se, and both absorbers getting hot and condensation forming are natural processes associated with the product. (However, we definitely do want to limit moisture forming, more on that later)
The process by which oxygen absorbers remove oxygen is oxidation of iron inside the packet: O2+iron=rust+heat. The absorbers getting hot is a byproduct of the chemical reaction that removes the oxygen and is normal. The moisture is caused by the heat of the absorbers in a cool jar (or the oxygen absorber bag), which causes condensation.
I personally limit the number of times I expose absorbers to air as I work with them. So if I am going to do 5 bags and I have 50 absorbers, I recommend counting out the 5, and putting the remaining 45 into a mason jar. What is occurring is that the excess absorbers are exposed to air multiple times, and so they are getting hot enough to cause condensation.
If you do the method where you only seal the excess absorbers once, they generally will not get hot enough to cause condensation. Moisture in the air can also cause the process to act quicker (or more intensely), so storing on a clear day can also help limit the heating of the absorbers (and by extension the condensation).
As a side note, oxygen indicators (the pink pill or tab) can be unreliable (they are often affected by humidity and temperature and can give both false positives and negatives), so I recommend that as you pull each absorber out of a pack, you pinch it. Generally speaking, absorbers that are soft and powdery inside the packet are good, and they will get hard and crunchy (and sometimes will form a single solid wafer) as they are used up. That’s not 100% either, depending on the mix of elements in the absorber itself, however it holds true for the majority of the brands I’ve tested.
Using this advice, I suggest taking that package of 100 Oxygen Absorbers and separating them into 5 packages of 20 or 10 packages of 10 right from the get go.
Step 4 – Add an Oxygen Absorber to Each Bag
There are a lot of complicated formulas for determining the correct size O2 absorber for each type of food and size of bag. Forget them and keep things simple.
A good rule of thumb is to use one 300 cc oxygen absorber for each gallon of product. For larger containers, you can purchase larger, 2000 cc oxygen absorbers which are ideal for 5 or 6 gallon buckets.
O2 absorbers are cheap so if you want to throw in an extra, no harm no foul.
I like to bury the Oxygen Absorber in the food so that pending the sealing process, it is exposed to air as little as possible.
Step 5 – Seal Your Mylar Bags
I use a cheap hair straightening iron to do this. If you already have straight hair (or no hair) and don’t have one, pick up a cheapie model for $15 or $20. It will work just fine.
Take your iron and run it across the top of the bag in a wide band. Try to squeeze as much air as you can to eliminate head space but honestly? Don’t worry to much if there is some slack. The oxygen absorber will do its job and even though your food package does not become hard and brick-like, the remaining “air” will actually be nitrogen and will not be harmful to your food.
Step 6 – Get Out the Sharpie and Label the Goods.
I like to write the name of product and the current date along the sealed “band” at the top of the bag. Sharpie pens were made for this!
Step 7 – Optional: Store the Bags in a Bucket
Why do this? To keep pests from nibbling through the Mylar and eating your food. It happens, or so I am told. It has never happened to me personally but I do not want to take a chance. My food storage is just too precious to become a gourmet delight to the field mice in our area.
For more information on buckets, read Survival Basics: Buckets, Lids and Gamma Seals
Step 8 – Congratulate Yourself – You are Done!
That’s it. Go have lunch, a coffee drink, or some chocolate. You did good!
Here is the part you have been waiting for. Discount Mylar Bags wants you to practice what you have learned in this article in real time and will be giving two lucky Backdoor Survival readers a $100 gift certificate for use in their online store.
To enter the giveaway, you need to utilize the Rafflecopter form below. Select one or more of the options after signing in using your email account or Facebook, the choice is yours. The best way to start is by clicking on “Free Entry for Everyone”. After that, each option you select represents an additional entry. There are a number of different options so pick and choose or select them all.
The deadline is 6:00 PM Pacific next Tuesday with the winner notified by email and announced on the Rafflecopter in the article. Please note that the winner must claim their prize within 48 hours or an alternate will be selected.
What About Food Saver Bags
The textured bags with what they call ‘channels’ are for Food Savers. You’re right, they most likely won’t work with most of the low end units.
I’ve offered a free case of bags to anyone who can find an easy way to raise the heat level of basic Food Savers so they will in case your readers have any ideas!
Talk about a call to all of you prepping MacGyver’s out there. It you think you know how to do this, let me know and I will try to get a sample bag sent out to you!
About the Company
Discount Mylar Bags is a mom and pop type company and not a big corporate behemoth. Chances are when you give them a call, you might get one of the owners to help you with your order or answer questions. Toby and his wife opened their doors and ran their business from their basement in April 2010, moved to a 3500 square foot warehouse in 2011, and are now designing a new 10,000 square foot facility to accommodate our growth. In his words:
“We strive every day to do business as we hope folks will do business with us: Good Prices, Fast Shipping, and Awesome Customer Service.”
These are good people that are also preppers. It does not get much better than that.
The Final Word
Toby at Discount Mylar Bags is quite the character and over the past couple of months has helped me answer some tough reader questions about Mylar Bags and Oxygen Absorbers. I love his products so much that he will soon be coming on board as a Backdoor Survival sponsor. I am thrilled, and hope to solicit his help with more of those tough questions.
In the meantime, checkout the giveaway and be sure to enter to win a $100 gift card from Discount Mylar Bags!
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
You can also vote for Backdoor Survival daily at Top Prepper Websites!
Bargain Bin: Below you will find links to the items mentioned in today’s article.
Discount Mylar Bags on Amazon: In addition to their online store, you can purchase products from Discount Mylar Bags on Amazon using this link. Notice their almost perfect 5-star rating.
ShieldPro 5 Mil 1 Gallon Gusseted Zip Seal Mylar Bag: These bags with the gusseted bottom are my new favorite. Going forward, this is the only kind I will be using. So easy to fill!
Conair Ceramic Instant Heat 2-Inch Straightener: Any cheap hair iron will work, including this one. In the photos, you will see me using my fancy schmancy hair iron but that is only because I don’t have my el-cheapo iron with me. Put your money into quality Mylar bags instead.
Norpro Extra Wide Plastic Funnel: You don’t need to be a canner to want and use one of these. About $4.
Sharpie Fine Point Permanent Markers, Box of 12: Amazon sells Sharpies at a price less than Costco and less than Staples. I prefer black but they also come in colors. About $6.50 for 12.
FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer: As long as the unit has an accessory port (and this one does), and inexpensive FoodSaver will work just as well as the fancier models. That is my two cents, at least. See Fast Track Tip #4: How to Use a FoodSaver for Vacuum Canning.
FoodSaver Wide Mouth Jar Sealer: Already have a FoodSaver? If so, check out this jar sealer which can be used to vacuum seal your Mason jars. This is a great option for short to mid term storage of items such as beans, rice, sugar and salt. Store your jars in a cool, dark place and you are set with the added advantage of removing a small amount for current use without having to disrupt your large Mylar bag or bucket of food. There is also a version for regular sized jars.
Mason Jar Storage Caps Set of 8: These are fantastic! These plastic lids screw onto a mason jar and are perfect in the pantry or to cap you salves. There is both a regular and a wide mouth version. I watch for sales on these at Amazon and order dozens.
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