Shelf life varies, depending on the storage conditions and the food. You will usually see a range indicated for shelf life. For example, rice is listed as 15-30 years, and some sources estimate 10-15 years. Here are 19 more foods that will last for decades. Usually, this difference in keeping time is an indicator of the food’s nutritional value. For example, after 10 to 15 years the nutrients in rice will begin to break down. The rice is still safe to eat for 30 or more years under the right conditions, but it may have lost most of it’s nutrition.
Dry foods will keep long past their expiration date if they are packed dry and oxygen is excluded from the package. This means repackaging foods in sealed cans or mylar bags and using oxygen absorbers or a vacuum pump to exclude all oxygen. Many people use their foodsaver type vacuum machines to remove the air, sealing the food in a vacuum tight bag, then placing the bags into a larger Mylar bag with oxygen absorbers.
Once vacuum sealed, the food will keep until you have enough to fill your Mylar bag. This is a good method to use when buying small amounts at a time, but packing in Mylar with an oxygen absorber is best. We will discuss the sealing process later.
When sealing food in large Mylar bags, such as the 3-6 gallon sizes, place the bag in a bucket or other appropriate food safe container before filling. The bag will need the support of the sides for filling and storing.
How To Use Oxygen Absorbers The Right Way
Oxygen absorbers can be used with Mylar bags, glass jars with a sealing gasket on the lid, and PETE plastic bottles with gasket type lids. The container must seal completely for the oxygen absorbers to do their job.
Oxygen absorbers are better at removing oxygen than most vacuum devices, but may not provide the visual proof that many people expect. This is because air is only 20% oxygen, so the nitrogen and other components remain after the oxygen is absorbed. Many times you will see the Mylar bag contract around the food after a few hours, but do not be alarmed if it doesn’t. As long as the container is sealed, the oxygen absorbers will do their job.
Wait to open the oxygen absorber package until the food is packed and you are ready to seal it. After opening, remove the number that you will use within the next 30 minutes, then seal the remaining oxygen absorbers in a glass jar or a vacuum sealed bag. DO NOT OPEN the individual foil packed absorber!
Packing Dry Foods In Mylar Bags With Oxygen Absorbers
Follow these steps to safely pack dry foods:
- Pack foods well within their useful life, before their expiration date. Make sure they are completely dry.
- Choose the size of Mylar storage bag you will use. If you are using bags larger than 1 gallon, place them in a bucket for support.
- Clip a tiny corner or slit into the food packaging, or remove it. This allows oxygen to be pulled from inside the packaging.
- Place the food in the bag. Do not overfill. Leave room for sealing.
- Check the inside lip of the bag for small food particles that can interfere with the seal. Clean the inside of the bag with a dry cloth, if needed.
- Add oxygen absorbers on the top of the food in the Mylar bag. DO NOT OPEN the individual foil packed absorber, the contents are not edible.
- Seal the Mylar with an impulse sealer for best results. If you are using an iron, check the seal thoroughly to be sure it is completely sealed. Label the bags with the contents, date sealed and a use by date.
- If using buckets, seal the bucket with a lid and gasket. Store the sealed bags or buckets in a cool, dark and dry place. Place them off the floor, elevated on a shelf to allow air circulation around and under the buckets or bags.
- Rotate foods, using within their storage shelf life.
Suitable Foods for Drying and Long Term Storage
Almost every food can be stored under the right conditions. Meats and vegetables can be canned, dried, freeze dried, pickled, or cured. Here are 10 long shelf-life canned foods every prepper should consider stockpiling.
Here is a list of foods suitable for dry storage, along with how long they will keep sealed in Mylar with oxygen absorbers and stored under good conditions:
- Whole hard grains such as Buckwheat, Dry Corn, Kamut, Hard Red Wheat, Soft White Wheat, Millet, Durum wheat, and Spelt keep for 10 years or more.
- Soft grains such as oats, barley, quinoa, and rye. Stored whole, these grains will last 8 years or more.
- White Rice keeps for 10 – 30 years stored under proper conditions. Use brown rice within 2-5 years. Brown rice contains oils which can go rancid.
- Corn keeps for up to 30 years or longer when stored whole. Cornmeal is good for 5 to 10 years
- Dried potato slices, dices and flakes keep for up to 30 years, but may yellow a bit over time.
- Professionally dehydrated vegetables keep for 10 to 20 years, and freeze dried fruits and vegetables for up to 25 years. Use home dehydrated foods within 2 to 5 years. Moist fruits such as raisins are not suitable for sealing.
- Sugar keeps indefinitely without an oxygen absorber or vacuum. Keep it dry, however or you’ll have a hard lump.
- Pasta keeps for 20 to 30 years.
- Powdered milk keeps for up to 20 years
- Dried beans such as pinto beans, kidney beans, lentils, black eye peas, lima beans, and other dried beans keep for 10 to 30 years or more. Beans keep well, but require longer to cook as they age. Older dried beans cook well in a pressure cooker.
- Flour, cornmeal, and baking mixes, 5 to 10 years
How Many Oxygen Absorbers To Use? What Size?
Oxygen absorbers come in different sizes, indicated by the number of CC’s of oxygen that they will absorb. Once again size recommendations come in ranges, because some foods have more spaces around them to contain oxygen. Densely packed rice will harbor less oxygen than pasta that packs loosely and has holes running through it. Use the recommended cc’s for your bag size, adding the maximum for porous and loosely packed foods.
For 1 to 2 quart glass jars and mylar bags, use 100 to 300 cc’s, depending on the food density. Gallon containers need 300 to 500 cc’s. For 5 to 6 gallon buckets, lined with Mylar, use 1500 to 2000 cc’s.
If the recommendation is for 1000 cc’s of oxygen absorbers, you can use one 1000 cc absorber, two 500 cc absorbers, four 300 cc absorbers or any combination that adds up to 1000 or more. Notice that when using 300 cc absorbers, three would only give you 900 cc, so you need to add a fourth, even though you go over the minimum recommended amount.
Related: 10 Foods Not to Store
So What Are The Right Conditions? Storage Life Depends On Four Variables:
- Temperature: Heat is your enemy. Foods break down faster at higher temperatures. Store your long-term food products below 75°F/24°C whenever possible. If you must store foods at higher temperatures, rotate them more often to ensure nutritional quality.
- Moisture: Foods must be completely dry before packing and don’t package them on extremely humid or rainy days. If moisture levels exceed 10% inside the air-tight packaging, foods can spoil.
- Light: Mylar bags do an excellent job of keeping out light, but foods stored in clear PETE bottles or glass jars need to be stored in a dark room or cupboard.
- Insects and Rodents: Freezing products for a day or two then allowing them to warm again before sealing kills insects and eggs that may be present. Whenever possible, store sealed packages in rodent proof containers such as food safe metal cans. Empty popcorn tins do a good job of excluding rodents. Watch your storage areas for signs of rodent droppings and act quickly if you suspect an infestation.
Signs of Spoilage
Always check foods for signs of spoilage before and after opening. Before opening, look for bloated bags or cans. If a Mylar bag has blown up like a balloon, discard it without opening. This can be caused by too much moisture in the food before sealing.
After opening, look for signs of mold or spoilage of any kind. Some foods, such as rice, dried potatoes and grains can yellow slightly over time and are still safe to eat. Dramatic changes in color may indicate spoilage. Also give food the sniff test. An off odor is also an indication of spoilage.
One of the most important rules of long term food storage is to know the shelf life of your foods and rotate them so that you always have a fresh supply. This doesn’t mean that you should waste food, but rather rotate your oldest food stores into current use and package new purchases for long term storage.
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