Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Storing beans and rice in mylar bags and 5 gallon buckets

It's no secret to folks who know us that the Hubster and I store food. In fact, as member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we've been advised by our church leaders to be self-reliant in all ways and that advice includes setting aside a supply of food.

There are many reasons we store food. Job loss, inflation, a year without pay raises, and many more economic stresses and strains top the list these days.

Even though the Hubster's job has been pretty secure there are times when unexpected expenses arise and it's nice to be able to pay cash for those emergencies and rely on our food storage instead of buying groceries.

One way to store food and save money is to buy your dry foods locally and then package them for storage yourself. A major portion of the cost of foods ready for long-term storage is the shipping cost. If you can eliminate shipping costs then you can store food at a lower price.

Here we're going to show you how to prepare dried beans for long-term storage. Dried beans properly packaged can be stored for up to 30 years. Now I personally don't want to keep my beans for 30 years because we rotate our food and use the foods that we store. I'd hate to shock my digestive system by suddenly eating a lot of foods that I hadn't previously eaten!

The system that we use for most of our dried food storage is to first seal the food in a mylar bag with an oxygen absorber sealed inside. The mylar bag is also placed inside a 5 gallon food grade plastic bucket and the bucket is sealed with a lid.

The first step in the process is to assemble your food, tools, and equipment.

Here you see the dried beans and some brown rice in the 5 gallon buckets. The afternoon we took these pictures were were sealing up pinto beans, navy beans, and brown rice. As you can see from the picture these beans were just purchased at a grocery store. We checked unit prices to see which sized bags were the best value. For the pinto beans we found that 8 pound bags were the best value. For the navy beans the one pound bags were the best value.

These are the lids for the 5 gallon buckets. Make sure you're using new lids so you get a good seal.

These are mylar bags. They provide an oxygen barrier when properly sealed. Without oxygen the beans will stay fresh much longer. We buy our bags online from Sorbent Systems.

Here are the oxygen absorbers. We also buy these from Sorbent Systems. When we're not actively using the absorbers we keep them sealed in a vacuum sealed bag.

Here you see the rubber mallet, metal level, and iron. The mallet is used to pound down the lid onto the bucket. The metal level is used to heat the mylar bag and create a seal. And the iron provides the heat to create a seal for the mylar bag. They sell machines to seal bags, but we find that using these inexpensive tools does the job quite nicely at a lower cost. Oh, and don't use your good iron for this job! Pick up a used iron at a thrift store or garage sale that is set aside for sealing bags.

The second step is to place an empty mylar bag inside a 5 gallon food grade bucket. We purchased these buckets at a home improvement store. I wouldn't use these particular buckets for storing food that would touch the plastic sides of the bucket, but since we're sealing the food in mylar bags I consider them safe. For food that we store directly in the buckets (like rice and flour that we use daily), we order food grade buckets with gamma seal lids.

Next you'll open up a bag of beans and pour them into the mylar bag you placed in the bucket. You'll continue to do this until your bag is nearly full. We find that about 33 pounds of dried beans will fit in a mylar bag placed inside a 5 gallon bucket and still leave room to seal the bucket.

Here you see five buckets filled with food. We filled four buckets with beans (2 of navy beans and 2 of pinto beans) and one bucket with brown rice. That's a total of 132 pounds of dried beans and 33 pounds of brown rice.

Once you have your food into the bags (inside the buckets) you'll want to heat up your iron. Set it at the cotton or linen setting as you'll need a very hot iron for the sealing.

Before you begin to seal the bag you'll want to drop in your oxygen absorbers. When working with 5 gallon buckets we use two oxygen absorbers per bag.

Then you'll fold down one side of the top of your mylar bag and straighten it out.

Next you'll place your metal level underneath the folded over edge of the mylar bag.

Then you'll fold that top piece down over the level and hold it tightly against the level.

You could use any flat surface to iron your bags on, but we chose the metal level for two reasons. First, it also heats up a bit and the added heat helps to create a good seal. Second, this level has two surfaces and that allows us to make two seals at once. That gives just a little extra insurance that the bags are well sealed and airtight.

Then you'll iron across the top of the level along the edge of the bag. Be sure to remember to leave a small (maybe 3-4 inches) area UNSEALED so you can squeeze out the last bit of air in the bag before the final sealing.

Here you can see where the seal ends and the edge of the bag without a seal.

The next step is to push down on the top of the bag and squeeze out the last bit of air inside.

Then you'll bring up the corner of the bag where you have the unsealed portion.

And once again you'll use the metal level and iron and you'll seal off the unsealed part of the bag.

Next you'll use your rubber mallet to securely attach the lid to the bucket.

Here you can see the rubber gasket inside a lid. When your lid is pounded down tightly onto the bucket this gasket helps to form an airtight seal.

The final step is labeling your bucket. We write the name of product sealed inside and the date we sealed it on the top of our lids.

And then you're done! Find a cool, dark, dry, temperature controlled space to store the buckets and your food will keep nicely for many years. Most families find that basement space is the most convenient location.

You can use this method for sealing any dried food. We've used it for beans, rice, sugar, and flour so far.

When we are ready to use a food we just cut open the bag and then replace the bucket lid with a gamma seal lid for easy opening and closing. You can find gamma seal lids at many online retailers.

What are some of the ways you store food? Do you have a favorite online retailer of dried foods or food storage equipment?

Edited 8/24/2012 -

Lots of folks have inquired about the mylar bags. The size is 20"x30" and they're a 5 mil food grade bag. The product number from Sorbent Systems is 20VF4C30. The case quantity is 150, but they allow purchases in amounts as low as 10. Of course, the price per bag goes down as your order amount increases. If you can, it's a good idea to make a bulk purchase with friends.


  1. What colorful buckets!! I buy mine from Emergency Essentials and they have their logo on them (and their white)--not very pretty!! ;-)

    Great tutorial!!

    I love the wisdom of all the LDS ladies when it comes to homemaking and preparedness!! :-)

  2. This is one of the most helpful posts I have seen concerning storing food in buckets! Thank you for taking the time. A few questions: why mylar bags inside the buckets? I would think you could do one or the other. Why the metal level? Could it be any piece of metal? If I have a family of 5 how do I gauge how much I need? How many "servings" are in a 5 gallon bucket of beans...rice?

    Once again thank you very much.

  3. Neal,

    Thanks for stopping by! We used mylar bags for several reasons. First, these buckets are not made with food grade plastic and we wouldn't be comfortable storing food in them without a barrier. Second, the mylar bags with oxygen absorbers sealed inside provide a low-oxygen to no-oxygen environment. That eliminates problems with most pests and prolongs the life of the food stored inside them.

    We used the metal level because it was handy. :) The metal heats and provides a nice sealing surface when you use an iron. That heat is necessary to seal the mylar bag. I would think any metal would work; we just happened to have the level.

    As for gauging how much you need, that depends upon how often you eat beans. I put together a nutritional handout and you can find it on Scribd as a free download. Visit to read it.

    I haven't taken the time to calculate how many servings are in a 5 gallon bucket, so I'm sorry that I can't answer that one for you.

    Take care!

  4. Hi,

    Why not leave the beans (or rice or whatever) in the original packaging (plastic bag), then put into the mylar bag w/oxygen absorbers? Thanks for the info, very helpful.


  5. Stu,

    I suppose you could, but I personally don't care to store my food in flexible plastics. In fact, with the exception of long-term storage we generally don't use plastics for food storage.

  6. Hi:

    I'm starting to make an emergency food storage for my family and was concern on how to prepare the grains for extended period of time. You had answer so many question I had already with your complete photo tutorial. Its been very helpfull and for that I thank you.

    Do you remember how many pounds (lb) of rice can be store in a 5 galon bucket(The one on your tutorial)?

    Keyla/Puerto Rico

  7. Keyla,

    We don't do anything to the grain prior to storage. We just empty it from the bags we purchase it in into the mylar bags. Sealing it inside the mylar bag with an oxygen absorber helps to remove the oxygen and it's oxygen (and moisture) that degrade grains. If you can keep oxygen and moisture out and keep the foods at a relatively low temperature (it's recommended to store food between 40 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit) they can be quite long-lasting.

    We were able to fit 33 pounds of rice in the bucket pictured in this tutorial. In general, when we're storing grains (oats, wheat, rice, spelt, etc) we can fit around 30 pounds in a mylar bag. If you're planning for shorter term storage and aren't using mylar bags, but are just using food grade buckets you can fit a little more in the buckets.

  8. Hi MM
    Great article on packing food. I have a couple of questions. What size and type of Mylar bags did you buy from Sorbent? I am thinking about using my vacuum to get that last bit of air out before sealing the corner. Have you tried that before? Thanks

    1. Mike,

      I can't recall the size of the bags. If memory serves the site indicated which bag was the right size for the 5 gallon volume. We've never tried using the vacuum as the O2 absorbers seem to take care of the excess air problem.

    2. Mike,

      Curiosity got the better of me so I went downstairs and pulled out one of the unused bags. The ones we used measure 20" x 30" on the outside of the bag. Hope that helps!

  9. Thanks MM. I'll give it a try.

  10. Do you have any concerns about the brown rice? I read somewhere that it doesn't keep as long because the fat (not removed like w/ white rice) makes it go rancid faster. How long can brown rice be stored this way? Thank you. Great tutorial.

  11. Do you have any concerns about the brown rice? I read somewhere that it doesn't keep as long because the fat (not removed like w/ white rice) makes it go rancid faster. How long can brown rice be stored this way? Thank you. Great tutorial.

  12. I've read varying opinions on the storage time. It's usually recommended that brown rice stored in the store bags without any additional oxygen removal be used within 6 months of purchase. That said, the packages typically have best-buy dates that extend 2 years beyond the date of packaging. That implies that the packaging company seems to think that 2 years is the window of freshness.

    We eat what we store and store what we eat. I've found that when they're sealed in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers the brown rice is usually fine for at least two years. Other than wheat berries we really don't store anything for longer than 2 years.

  13. Good intructional information. It's kinda funny because I have bought my food storage buckets, mylar bags, and oxygen absorbants. I was looking online before I started just to see the process. I was curious about if you put the absorbants in the mylar bags or outside in the buckets. I do know you can use a flat or curling iron to seal the mylar bags. Just some FYI for those that don't have a contractors metal level. Thanks for the info. It answered all my questions. I have bought a 50 lb bag of white rice and a bunch beans. going to start with this first and then move to some grains and oats. Thanks again, Steve

    1. Stephen, the 02 absorbers need to go in the mylar bags with the food. When you use 02 absorbers they are always WITH the food, so that any oxygen near the food is absorbed. It's that low oxygen environment that slows down oxidation of the food and delays the food becoming rancid.

  14. Is there any way to get a copy of your nutrition handout that you did a while a go without getting on scribd? I just don't want to pay for the site.

  15. I would love to get a copy of the nutritional handout you had a while ago. I don't want to pay for the site its stored on. Scribd I think it was anyway. Just curious. Thanks for the tutorial. I loved it.

    1. If you scroll down to the very bottom of the blog, you'll see a link to my blogger profile. If you go out to my blogger profile you can click on a link to send me an email. Go ahead and send me an email request with your email address and I can send you a copy of the handout in MS Word format.

  16. Gotta luv the self reliance of the LDS ...


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A 40 something mama meandering through life an 8 year old girl (the big girl) who is a ball of lightening and a 5 year old girl (the baby girl) who brightens our lives with her smiles. I'm grounded by my 40 something husband and partner (the hubster) whose quirky mannerisms brighten my days. Our family is rounded out with with an eclectic 21 year old boy-man (the boy) who I hardly ever right about now since he's off starting his own life.

I've been a single mama, married mama, divorced mama, career mama, SAHM, and WAHM. There was a short time of my life when I wasn't a mama, but that was a LONG time ago!

I hold an AA, BS, and MA and most say I'm wasting them by devoting my intellectual capabilities and energy in the nurture of the wee ones that I've been entrusted to raise, but there is nothing else I'd rather be doing these days. :)

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