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.
- A 40 something mama meandering through life with an eclectic 21 year old boy-man (the boy), an 8 year old girl (big girl) who is a ball of lightening, and a 4 year old girl (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.
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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