Anyone who has been researching and studying food storage has undoubtedly heard the term “Mylar bag” mentioned relative to storing bulk foods. So what exactly is a “Mylar bag”? And what do I need to know to begin using Mylar bags for food storage?
As with the ubiquitous oxygen absorber, the mention of Mylar bags brings up as many questions as there are answers. We have all heard that the best way to store dry goods for long term storage is in a Mylar bag but what exactly is a Mylar bag and, more specifically, how are they used?
What is a Mylar bag?
First and foremost, the term “Mylar” is actually one of many trade names for a polyester film called BoPet. For the technically inclined and the curious, that stands for “Biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate”. This film was developed by DuPont in the 1950’s and was first used by NASA.
Since then, many uses for Mylar have been embraced due to its high tensile strength and its moisture, light, gas and aroma barrier properties. Mylar is a also good insulator against electrical disturbances.
For all of these reasons and more, Mylar bags are considered the gold standard when it comes to long term food storage.
Mylar versus Metalized versus Dry-Pack Pouches
Do not be confused if your vendor of choice uses the term “Metallized Storage Bag” or “Dry-Pack Pouch” instead of Mylar. This simply means that the bag is not using the Mylar-branded material. As long as the bag is of food-grade, you are okay. For all intents and purposes, Mylar to a metalized bag is as Kleenex is to facial tissues.
What Size Mylar Bag Should I Use?
The two most commonly used sizes for storing food products are the one gallon size Mylar bag (about 10” x 14”) and the five gallon size (about 20” x 30”). Various other sizes are available but for starters, these are the two best sizes to have on hand.
The gallon sized bags are ideal for grains, dried powdered foods, spices, hard candy, salts, and other baking ingredients. In addition, gallon bags are useful for protecting valuables including ammo and medical supplies. When shopping for gallon sized bags, you should look for a minimum thickness of 3.5 to 4 mil.
The large, 5 gallon-sized bag is typically used to line a 5 or 6 gallon plastic bucket. The bag is first placed inside the bucket and then filled with product. The bag is sealed before closing the bucket with a tight fitting lid. The combination of a Mylar bag inside a plastic bucket makes an unbeatable barrier against the woes and ravages of time, moisture, light and most important, rodents. The bag alone will not keep out the rodents! For that you will need a bucket.
Because of the weight of its contents, the thickness of a 5 gallon Mylar bag should be 4.5 mil or more. And, just so you know, the thicker the bag, the tighter the weave of the polyester – that is what gives it its strength. As a matter of fact, you will find bags that are 7 mil and even thicker but for most uses, 3.5 mil to 5 mil will work just fine.
Tips for Sealing a Mylar bag
Sealing a Mylar bag can be a challenge but with a little practice, you will find the process simple and efficient. The easiest method is to use a hair straightening iron to seal the top of the bag after it is filled with your dry, bulk foods and an oxygen absorber.
I have created a detailed how-to for you in the article How to Seal Food in Mylar Bags.
Here are some additional tips.
Do not overfill the bag. Remember that your oxygen absorber will suck out the oxygen, leaving only nitrogen in the extra space.
Only seal the top inch of your bag. If you need to cut open the bag to remove product, you will have the space to seal the bag back up again. Just don’t forget to add a fresh oxygen absorber.
If you are sealing up a powdery substance such as flour, be sure to wipe the inside edges first so that any residual dust is removed. This will insure a good seal.
Check your newly sealed bags a few days after closing them up. They do not have to be brick-like but they should be noticeably compressed. If not, there is a likelihood that the seal was not good or a hole was poked in the Mylar. Give it another week and if is still is not compressed, cut it open and start over.
When sealing pasta or noodles, feel free to seal them in their original packaging. Cut a little hole in the package first, so that the oxygen absorber can do its job in removing every last bit of oxygen, even from the store packaging.
Remember, heat is your enemy regardless of the packaging. Store you packaged products below 85 degrees and preferably much lower than that.
What about Vacuum Sealed Bags?
Vacuum seal bags, such as those for the FoodSaver are a wonderful convenience and easy to use. But alas, they do not have the thickness nor the strength of Mylar bags and they may start to leak after 3 or 4 years. That said, they are still a great alternative for your short-term and mid-term storage items, especially if you are diligent about rotating foods and using them for your normal meal preparation activities. Just be sure to include an oxygen absorber if you plan to store your vacuum sealed bags for longer than a year.
For tips on using a vacuum sealer for food storage, see How to Use a FoodSaver for Vacuum Canning.
Note the Backdoor Survival “tranquilizers” in the jars waiting to be sealed!
Storing Filled Mylar Bags
For long-term storage, it is a good idea to store your filled Mylar bags in buckets or tins. Why? Primarily to keep out bugs and rodents that can chew through the Mylar. Also, as has happened to me, one of my 5 gallon Mylar bags split (accidentally) when I dragged a carton box over it. I had a 40 pound rice mess. It is funny now but it wasn’t at the time.
For More Information
There are many articles on Backdoor Survival that can help you manage your food storage. Here are a few to get you started:
For a more detailed and comprehensive handbook on food storage, be sure to check out my book, The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage, that can be purchased on Amazon. The e-book is only 99 cents and the print version is $5.99.
The Final Word
Packaging your own bulk foods for emergency use is a great way to save money. Wal-Mart, Costco, and LDS Home Storage Centers sell bulk foods at reasonable prices and with a little bit of work on your part, can provide you and your family plenty to eat when the grocery store shelves are bare.
Not only that, the money you save will go a long way towards helping you fund the extra flashlights, water filters, and other items you need to keep you secure and safe when the stuff hits the fan.
Until next time, keep on prepping!
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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Bargain Bin: Here are some of my favorite food storage items. Whether you are just getting started or a seasoned pro, here are the items you will need when purchasing food in bulk for long term, SHTF needs. And for help with your food storage questions, get my eBook: The Preppers Guide to Food Storage
Mylar bags & Oxygen Absorbers: What I love about Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers is they protect against every single one of the food storage enemies. Prices do vary but for the most part, they are inexpensive and easy to keep on hand. And while you can seal them up with a FoodSaver, some tubing and a common clothes iron, I find it infinitely easier with a cheap hair straightening iron that you can pick up $20 or less.
60 – 300cc Oxygen Absorbers: This is one area where you want to make sure you are getting a quality product. Currently, a pack of 60 (in three 20 unit packs) is about $11 with free shipping.
Ball Regular & Wide Mouth Jar Storage Caps: I must have 30 or 40 of these. I love to use mason jars for panty storage and for those items I go through quickly, I see no need to use the vacuum seal gizmo that goes with my FoodSaver.
FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer: As long as the unit has an accessory port (and this one does), an in expensive FoodSaver will work just as well as the fancier models. That is my two cents, at least.
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. See Fast Track Tip #4: How to Use a FoodSaver for Vacuum Canning.
Conair Ceramic Instant Heat 2″ Straightener: An inexpensive hair iron such as this one is perfect for sealing Mylar bags. It can also be used on your hair so it can serve a dual purpose. For an even cheaper alternative, consider this one that works equally well but has smaller blades.
Mylar Zip Seal Food Storage Bags: These are the zip seal bags that I used to package up my spices, herbs and butter powder. These are extra heavy, 5 mil bags. I found that the zip feature made packaging extra easy although I still seal the bags with my hair iron.
Shop the Emergency Essentials Monthly Specials: The monthly specials at Emergency Essentials feature discounts of up to 35% off sometimes a bit more.
A good value is the Do It Yourself SuperPail Combo which includes 8 x 6-Gallon Buckets with Lids, 8 x Metallized Storage Bags and a 10-Pack of Large Oxygen Absorbers.
Don’t forget that you do not need fancy equipment to seal the metalized bag. A cheap hair iron will do the job. Forget about a hose and a vacuum sealer. A $20 hair iron works great – just be sure to get one with 2” plates.
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When most people start thinking about family preparedness, they focus on food. Not shelter, gear, sanitation, power, self-defense or the myriad of other concerns that need to be addressed following an emergency or disaster situation. Quite simply, food is the number one concern people have second only to their concern for having an adequate supply of water. The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage is a book about food: What to store, how to store it and best practices. It is a roadmap for showing ordinary citizens that long-term food storage is not something that will overwhelm or burden the family budget. This book is based upon my own tried and true personal experience as someone who has learned to live the preparedness lifestyle by approaching emergency preparedness and planning in a systematic, step-by-step manner.
A Practical Guide to Storing Food For the Long Term
When most people start thinking about family preparedness, they focus on food. Not shelter, gear, sanitation, power, self-defense or the myriad of other concerns that need to be addressed following an emergency or disaster situation. Quite simply, food is the number one concern people have second only to their concern for having an adequate supply of water.
The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage is a book about food: What to store, how to store it and best practices. It is a roadmap for showing ordinary citizens that long-term food storage is not something that will overwhelm or burden the family budget.
This book is based upon my own tried and true personal experience as someone who has learned to live the preparedness lifestyle by approaching emergency preparedness and planning in a systematic, step-by-step manner.