Storage Bags: Mylar, Vacuum or Plastic for long term storage. What works best?

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There are so many options for storing food in bags that it’s hard to know what works best on any given day to store food for the short term, which makes long term storage in bags seem even more complicated. You may even be like me and try not to store food in plastic bags at all. When it comes to long term storage there are many options and even less information available. When I talk about long term storage I’m referring to a year to 18 months (30-year food storage is beyond my scope and knowledge…) I rotate my food storage. Eat what you store. Store what you eat.

Plastic Bags: I think the only thing I’ve used plastic bags for in my food storage is salt, and that was really for convenience. Salt does not require much protection in storage. You can read my post on storing salt here. Plastic bags are thin (even the freezer thickness is relatively thin). They break easily, they are not airtight, and they are clear, which lets light in. Air, light and extreme temperatures are the things that do the most damage to your food storage. This is assuming of course that you do not have pests in your food storage.

Vacuum Storage Bags: These are the bags you use with a vacuum packing machine such as the FoodSaver. There are other fancier commercial vacuum packers but they all do the same thing. They take the air out of a plastic bag to keep your food fresh. They are a great investment and I own a FoodSaver myself. However, I do not use it to store food in vacuum packed bags for long term storage. I do use it to store herbs and dehydrated foods in canning jars. The problem with the plastic bags is that they will eventually lose their seal over time. I used to keep my brown rice in these plastic bags in the freezer. I can’t tell you how many times the bags lost their seal which allowed air in (thank goodness they did not rupture). I will say it seems the smaller the bag the longer the seal will last. I have three boys so needless to say I have a lot of any given food item on hand at one time. The bags are also clear so they let in light.

Mylar bags: Mylar is a clear polyester resin attached to aluminum foil. So it’s kinda like a flexible tin can. Mylar is the trade name for these foil bags (It’s like asking for a Coke when you really mean a soda). I found that storing food inside Mylar bags inside five-gallon buckets with an oxygen absorber works best for storing the amount of food required for a family of five. Click here to see what kind of bucket I use, I get them for a steal.

Mylar bags come in a variety of sizes and thicknesses. I liked the idea of buying the one gallon Mylar bags and placing them in a five-gallon bucket then taking them out as I need them. After all, the contents of a one-gallon bag would be about the amount I would put in my pantry. However, since you have to leave what I consider a lot of room for the bag to seal properly I found this to be a waste of bags. When I decided to use Mylar bags I had very high hopes of using my FoodSaver to vacuum pack them. I watched at least five YouTube videos all using different techniques. I tried and tried but could not get them to work for any length of time. Usually what happened is the bag would lose its seal for one reason or another. So I changed my strategy and decided to go with the five-gallon Mylar bags. Watch out for the thickness. It is recommended to go with at least a 4.0 MIL thickness for a five-gallon bag; anything less might compromise your food storage. Anything less than that does not have a high enough puncture strength. I went with 4.5 MIL Mylar bags from Discount Mylar Bags. You might remember me mentioning them here on the blog as they recently provided LifeStraws for a giveaway. The giveaway is over but you can see what I said about them here.

Storing Food For Long Term Storage In Mylar Bags and Five Gallon Buckets:

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 Open the bag and place it in the bucket.

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Fill up your buckets. Here I have wheat and white rice. (Do not store brown rice in a five-gallon bucket unless it is going in the freezer. Brown rice will go rancid after a short time because it contains oil from whole rice seed.)

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Here is a bag of my smaller oxygen absorbers (This is the size you would use in a one gallon Mylar bag). You need to vacuum pack your oxygen absorbers when you’re storing them or they will absorb oxygen while they are not being used. Then when you place them in your food storage they will not absorb oxygen.

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I used 2000 cc oxygen absorbers for my five-gallon buckets. If you want to calculate the exact size of oxygen absorber you need for your container you can go here. It was frankly more calculation than I cared to do so I just went with what Discount Mylar Bags suggested.

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Just throw in the oxygen absorber. I caught the oxygen absorber in mid-air and had to show you….:)

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After you’ve thrown all your oxygen absorbers in you will need to seal the Mylar bag.  The easiest way to do this is to fold the bag to the side and get as much air as you can out of it. Don’t worry if some are left in. The oxygen absorber will take care of the rest.

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I found it easiest to use a crimping iron to seal the bag. You can use a regular iron but it’s a bit trickier. Since I will be opening these bags up, taking what I need out, then sealing them again, I thought it was worth the investment. Also, they are safer for my teenager to handle as he will be helping me. You can find this model on Amazon here.

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Start in the middle and work your way to the sides. This helps keep the air out as you work.

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Almost done.

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This is how the seal looks when it’s done. You can listen for leaks by trying to push the remaining air out. If you hear the air escaping then you need to reseal.

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The oxygen absorbers don’t work right away but they will get the job done in 24
to 72 hours.

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 I label my buckets on the top.

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 And on the side. Now, they are ready to be placed in storage.

  • Linda Loosli says:

    Hi Jennifer, I just shared your link with one of my readers who was asking about mylar bags. I told him I totally trust your opinion! I hope you don’t mind that I shared the link! Linda

  • Dan says:

    I use the same method. I also store some the veggies we grow in quart canning jars. Just pop in an oxygen absorber and the jar will seal itself. I like using the jars for onions and hot peppers as well as other spices. Even on our wide mouth jars where I can use the vacuum sealer to seal the jar I still put in an oxygen absorber (I know, overkill)

  • Sherri H. says:

    The LDS Store online sells thicker mylar bags – 7 mil. You can get 250 of them for $94.00, which works out to ~ $0.38 each. You’ll have to add in shipping, but from my experience, their shipping costs are very reasonable. They also have some freeze dried food items, and you just cannot beat the prices and shipping.

  • jerry prendergast says:

    I am looking for a short term storage solution for an upcoming 300 mile hike. I would like to take prepared food in a portion control size. If I prepare food will it spoil in 3 or 4 weeks on the trail.?

    Any idea’s. I am not really interested in dehydrating it.

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Hi Jerry,
      If you’re going to carry 3 or 4 weeks worth of food on a hike, you’ll have to have it in dried form whether you buy it or make it yourself. Prepared food is simply too heavy even for the most seasoned hikers.

  • I am doing research on the preservation bags and find it from your site Thank you for share.

  • Stella Pleasant says:

    Hi Jennifer
    I just watched your video on dehydrating shredded potatoes. I have seen a few other videos that shred the potatoes first, by putting them in a colander and placing colander in pan of boiling water and then blanch them in boiling water for 8 minutes, then remove colander with potatoes to sink with a ready pan of Ice water let cool for 15 minutes. Then place on dehydrated trays. Have you tried this and is it easier. Also I have been told that after dehydrating to place on a cookie sheet and place in a 285 degree oven for 10 minutes to make sure no moisture is left. Then place in bags or jars of your choice. I would like to also see a video on dehydrating eggs. Also in your video if you could add how to re-hydrate the product again would be awesome. How much water? Thank you for your wonderful advise. Stella

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Hi Stella,

      No, I’ve never shredded my potatoes first. I have, however, cut my potatoes into fry shapes and spiral shapes before cooking them. Doing that has stopped me from trying the shredding first method, because I found it more difficult to cook those bigger cut pieces and not have them turn mushy on the dehydrator trays. You can place your dehydrated food in the oven if you think moisture is an issue. I’ve never done that and don’t think it’s necessary. I do have a video on how to dehydrate potatoes, eggs and more in the Dehydrating eCourse. You can read more about it here.

  • Abigail Murdock says:

    I never use food with over 18 months of storage. Thanks for sharing great things about Mylar bags.

  • Tom Buividas says:

    Can’t you store food in its original packing in mylar bags? For example I buy a couple pounds of rice. Why do I have to dump them in the Mylar bag? If the original packing just had a few holes poked in there the oxygen would be sucked out of there also. Less mess and less hassle. The original packing has to be food grade anyway. Same with beans and pasta,etc. Then if you utilize the food it is already measured out and instructions are there for use. And you have portion control.

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Hi Tom, you could do this but the thing is that the packaging might not last as long as the food, especially if the conditions you’re storing the food are are less than ideal. The other thing to consider is that the packaging, although food grade might still break down and effect the quality and taste of your food. This would be especially true for plastic bags. Furthermore, just because the inside of the packaging is food grade doesn’t mean the outside is food grade. Think of all the ink and paper used on the outside of a cardboard boxes or plastic bags of rice.

  • Howard Spengler says:

    I recycle Mylar bags (large Costco sized chip bags, any size really) by cutting the remaining seal off, inverting the bag (inside is outside now) washing them and resealing the one end. You can use your FoodSaver machine to vacuum seal what you want to store in the bag. Look around what you have in your house, you’d be surprised the amount of Mylar bags are being used…Hope this idea hits home.

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Hi Howard,

      I love the way you are trying to re-purpose your Mylar bags. However the way you are turning them inside out concerns me. Often companies will use die, paint and ink on their outside packaging that is not food safe. So because of this I would not recommend doing what you’re doing.

  • Lisa G says:

    Hi, I am wondering what lasts the longest for long term storage of freeze dried foods. My sister and I purchased a freeze dry machine and we want to know if glass mason jars last longer or just as long as Mylar bags. If stored in the right atmosphere, which would last longest?

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Hi Lisa,

      They will both last. As long as like you said they are stored in the right environments. There are pros and cons to using each. Glass lets light in but you can see the food. Mylar bags can be tossed around but you can’t see through them, etc….

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