The world around us has gone a bit crazy and stocking food for emergencies seems like an incredibly wise choice. One way to package dry goods, such as rice and beans, for long term storage is in Mylar bags.
What is a Foil Pouch or Mylar Bag?
Mylar pouches are made from several layers of laminated food-grade plastic and aluminum. Food will not react with aluminum because it is separated by a food-grade plastic lining. Mylar bags provide good light, moisture, and oxygen barrier to protect the food inside the bag. Make sure the pouches you purchase are high quality and designed to store food products
Advantages of Storing Dry Goods in Mylar Bags
Mylar bags effectively protect against light, moisture, and insects. They create a good oxygen barrier which allows the oxygen to be removed and extends the shelf life of the food products.
Bags can be created in a variety of sizes. Some are small enough to seal a package of garden seeds for storage, others are large enough to line a 5-gallon bucket. The Mylar bags are can be washed out and reused after cutting off the original seal.
Dry foods can be easily packaged and sealed at home with a clothes iron or even a hair straightener.
Disadvantages of Storing Dry Goods in Mylar Bags
Pouches are not rodent-proof. The Mylar bags are more fragile than #10 cans or plastic buckets and should be handled carefully. Plan on a slightly shorter shelf-life than items stored in a #10 can.
Another problem is that the Mylar bags don’t stack well. They leave a lot of empty space in a tote or bucket so they take up more room. The best way to save space using a Mylar bag is to use the large 5-gallon bags inside of a bucket. Jonathan would tell you for optimal space conservation to use square buckets.
Good Dry Food Options for Storage in Mylar Pouches
You should only package shelf-stable foods that are low in oil and moisture content. Ideally, long term storage foods should have a moisture content of 10% or less.
Dry goods such as wheat, white rice, beans, pasta, oats, sugar, and flour are examples of foods that store well in a Mylar bag. Freeze-dried foods also store well in the Mylar pouches.
You can package dehydrated fruits and vegetables in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers, as long as the product is completely dry. It should snap and not just bend. Storing moist foods in a low oxygen environment may result in botulism poisoning. Don’t risk it!
Whole grains store longer than grains that have been ground. For instance; wheat (30+ years) stores longer than flour (5 years). Whole corn stores longer than cornmeal. Steel cut oats and rolled oats store longer than oat flour. Dry beans store longer than bean flour.
You can learn more about the shelf life of stored dry goods in these posts.
Foods that Should NOT Be Packaged in Mylar Bag (with an Oxygen Absorber)
Brown rice is high in oil content and has a short shelf life. Foods high in moisture or oil content such as raisins, nuts, granola, chocolate chips, cookies, and crackers are NOT good candidates for long term storage in a Mylar bag.
Selecting the Right Mylar Bag to Store Your Food
There are a wide variety of Mylar bags or pouches available. It is important that you select the right kind if you want your food to last in long term storage. Food storage is an investment worth protecting.
Determining Mylar Bag Quality
Mylar bags can be purchased in several different thicknesses. The higher the mil rating, the thicker and stronger the Mylar bag is. We recommend 5 mil or 7 mil bags for packaging dry goods for long term storage.
You can purchase quality Mylar bags designed for long term storage here.
Mylar Bag Size Options
As you start searching for Mylar bags, you will find that they come in several different sizes. Consider the following as you determine which size, or sizes, will best meet your long term foods storage needs.
One Gallon Mylar Pouch
One gallon Mylar bags are a good size for packaging basic grains and beans for a family. The half-gallon or quart size can be handy to package smaller amounts for one or two people. There are some items such as spices or freeze-dried meat that make sense to package in smaller quantities.
5-Gallon Mylar Bag for Use Inside a Plastic Bucket
A great way to package dry goods for long term storage is with a 5-gallon Mylar bag inside of a plastic bucket. The Mylar creates an oxygen barrier that greatly reduces the transmission of oxygen over time, which can be a problem with plastic buckets. The bucket helps to prevent rodents from nibbling through the Mylar bags. If you are interested in the longest storage life possible, a Mylar bag inside of a plastic bucket is the way to go.
Customize Your Own Mylar Bag Size
You can purchase the one gallon Mylar pouches and then cut them into smaller sizes. The Mylar easily seals when heat is applied. Simply take your iron, hair straightener, or flat iron and seal the edges to make a new pouch, add the dry food, and seal the top shut.
Vacuum Sealable Mylar Bags
Standard Mylar bags require an expensive commercial grade vacuum sealer to vacuum seal them. However, SteelPak Mylar bags can be vacuum sealed with a standard FoodSaver vacuum sealer. These bags are only 4 mil, but are good quality. Vacuum sealing the bags was a little bit tricky but the results were fantastic.
Used Mylar Bags
Another benefit to purchasing high quality Mylar bags is that the bags are reusable. Just cut the top off near the seal and remove the contents. Wash the bag and allow to completely dry. Then you can reuse the bag again. Every time you reuse the bag, it will get a little bit smaller because you need to cut off the sealed portion. However, if you can reuse the bag 3 or 4 times, they turn out to be relatively inexpensive.
Protecting Mylar Bags in Storage
Mylar bags or pouches should be stored in a cool, dry, dark location, and must be protected from rodents. The pouches should not be allowed to come in contact with concrete floors or walls.
Mylar Bags are NOT Rodent Proof!
One of the main drawbacks of using Mylar bags is that they are highly vulnerable to rodents. Mice can chew through a Mylar bag very quickly. Protect them by placing the bags inside of a sturdy tote, plastic bucket, or metal barrel.
We have a friend who packaged her food storage in Mylar bags and stored them in cardboard boxes in the top and backs of closets. She recently pulled them out and discovered that mice had eaten almost all of the food, shredded the bags and boxes, and were thriving on her precious food stores.
How to Package Dry Goods in Mylar Bags for Long Term Storage
Start by purchasing foods that will store well for many years such as wheat, white rice, rolled oats, pasta, dry beans, potato flakes, sugar, and freeze-dried foods. White flour, corn meal, and bean flour have a significantly shorter shelf life, but can be safely packaged in Mylar bags.
Required Tools for Sealing Mylar Bags
A clamshell heat sealer or an impulse sealer are the tools that professionals use to seal Mylar bags. At our house, we use a flat iron or hair straightener. A clothes iron and a block of wood aren’t quite as convenient but will definitely do the job.
Preserve with Oxygen Absorbers
Oxygen absorbers are a simple way to prevent insect infestation and preserve the quality of the food for many years. A 300-500 cc oxygen absorber will work in a one-gallon Mylar bag. You can also use the same oxygen absorbers for smaller bags.
The 5-gallon Mylar bag inside of a bucket requires a 2000-3000 cc oxygen absorber. We used the 2000 cc oxygen absorbers that came with the bags. You can find the Mylar bag and oxygen absorber combo package that we used here. We were very pleased with the quality.
Label the Mylar Bag with Food and Date
It may seem like a no-brainer to label the bag, but you really need to do this before you fill it. After the bag is sealed, it can be difficult to determine exactly what is inside. Labeling it first prevents having “mystery bags” in your food storage.
Fill the Mylar Bags with Dry Foods
It is much easier to fill the bags if you are working together with a buddy. One fills the bag while the other holds it open. Make sure that you leave a little extra room at the top. If you are sealing the bag with an iron, you will need more room than you will with a flat iron. You will get the hang of this after just a few bags.
If you are using SteelPak Mylar bags with a vacuum sealer, you will need to leave more room at the top than you do if you are heat sealing the bags.
Add Oxygen Absorber on Top the Food
Once all of the bags are filled, open the package of oxygen absorbers and place one absorber on the top of the food. Quickly seal the unused absorbers in a small canning jar or vacuum seal them in a bag. I have a special Mylar bag clip that allows me to close the end of the bag. This protects the oxygen absorbers, and allows for easy access.
Seal the Mylar Pouches Shut
It is important to seal the pouches quickly so that the oxygen absorbers can do their job. When we were working at the cannery sealing the bags, they told us not to leave them out longer than 30 minutes. I don’t do more bags than I can seal up in 10 to 15 minutes.
Mylar bags were designed to be sealed with a clamshell heat sealer or an impact heat sealer. Most of us don’t have one of these lying around, so we make do with simple household tools.
Sealing Mylar Bags with a Flat Iron
My preferred method of sealing Mylar bags is with a flat iron or hair straightener. It is easy to do this while the bag is standing up. Simply bring edges together and try to expel any excess air. Then tack the Mylar bag with the flat iron in the center of the top. Next, tack it about the quarter and three-quarter points. This helps to make sure that there are no difficult bubbles trapped in the seal.
Once the top seam is tacked in those three places, simply slide the flat iron across the top until complete sealed. Gently squeeze the bag to see if there are any areas that allow air to escape from the bag. If so, simply apply the flat iron again until it is completely sealed.
Sealing Mylar Bags with an Iron
A standard clothes iron can be used to seal the Mylar bags. I find this to be a bit more difficult because you have to keep the bag vertical so you don’t spill the contents. Alternately, you can put less food in the pouch to get the job done.
Take a board, or solid heat-resistance surface, and place the top of the bag where you want the seam to be. Flatten the seam and tack the Mylar in the center. Then at the quarter and three-quarters mark. This helps prevent bubbles in your seam. Next, run the iron along the edge of the top seam until it is completely sealed. Check it by gently squeezing the bag and watching for air to escape. Reseal if needed.
Vacuum Sealing Mylar Bags
Most household vacuum sealers will not seal the standard Mylar bags. You can purchase a commercial vacuum sealer that can, but they tend to be cost-prohibitive for many of us.
SteelPak Mylar bags are designed to be used with a FoodSaver type vacuum sealer. We have had great success with these bags. It can be just a little tricky, but after a few bags we had the system down.
Store Filled Mylar Bags Inside of a Rodent-Proof Container
Once the bags are filled and sealed, it takes about 4 hours to reach maximum absorption of the oxygen. You will notice the sides of the Mylar pouch sucking in and can see the indentations of the food products inside.
It is best to package them in the rodent-proof container before this occurs. When first packaged, the bags are pliable and can be fit together rather easily. After 4 hours, they are rigid little bricks that are a bit more difficult to snug in together in a tote or bucket.
A 5-gallon Mylar bag packaged inside of a plastic bucket is a great way to go. This combination takes the best advantage of the space inside of the plastic bucket with very little wasted space.
Creative Prepper Uses for Mylar Bags
Mylar bags provide effective moisture, light, and oxygen barrier. They are great at protecting your food supply but can be valuable in other applications.
You may want to include a desiccant packet depending on what you are storing inside the bag. Desiccant protects against moisture. You can purchase desiccant packets here.
Get creative and explore how Mylar pouches might be quite useful in your emergency preparedness efforts. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
• Depending on the location of your survival cache or emergency shelter, valuable tools may be at risk from high levels of moisture in the air. Mylar bags are a great way to protect items that you might want to store in a survival cache from moisture, light, and air.
• Firearms, and other weapons, can be protected from salt, humidity, and environmental conditions inside of a Mylar bag with a desiccant packet inside to control internal moisture. This may reduce the risk of rust. You can find a SafeCache Gun Storage Bag Kit here. The kit comes with the desiccant pack and oxygen absorbers.
• Protect critical documents from moisture in Mylar bags. It is always a good idea to organize critical documents and to keep a copy in a secure location. You could seal the copies in a Mylar bag and tuck it away in an obscure location. No one would suspect. Learn more about organizing your critical documents at; How to Organize Critical Documents for Emergency Evacuation.
• Mylar bags are a good way to seal up documents, photos, cash, and valuables to place inside of your survival kit. It may also discourage the pilfering of cash from the kits.
• A couple of good can openers, scissors, a sturdy bucket opener, and a good knife might be quite valuable during a crisis. Package them in a Mylar bag with a desiccant packet and put them with your long term survival food supply.
• Mylar bags provide an ideal long term storage environment for seeds. DO NOT use oxygen absorbers or vacuum seal. Seeds are alive. The Mylar bags protect the little seeds from light, moisture, and air. You can seal seeds, either directly, or in paper envelopes inside the bag.
Use your imagination and I’m sure you can come up with a variety of ways to use Mylar bags in your prepping.
It’s Time to Stock Up and Build Your Long Term Food Supply!
Our goal is to have a supply of basic, life-sustaining foods tucked away for a rainy day. We store basic staples such as wheat, rice, oats, pasta, beans, sugar, salt, and potato flakes. When correctly packaged and stored, these items have a shelf life of 25-30 years. Mylar bags can be an effective way to package foods for long term storage.
You may want to check out these posts to learn more:
- Long Term Food Storage: Creative Solutions to Build a Critical Asset
- Long Term Food Storage: Best Containers and Treatment Methods
There is great security in having a pantry full of basic staples. You purchase all kinds of insurance policies; auto, life, home, even travel insurance. However, the most important insurance you may ever buy is hunger insurance. A well-stocked pantry is a great way to insure that your family never goes hungry.
Thanks for being part of the solution!Jonathan and Kylene Jones