Food Storage Container Types
The most popular type of container to protect your dry storage food in North America is a mylar bag. Mylar bags create a barrier between the food placed inside and the environment outside the bag. Mylar is actually a trade name that was coined by DuPont Chemical Company in the 50’s. It is basically a polyester film. They are made from polyethylene and then coated with a thin layer of metal like foil. The polyethylene is transparent and the metalized foil is used to cut down on the oxygen transfer through the bag material. By adding this foil, you can effectively cut the oxygen transfer to nil. It also blocks all light from transferring through the bag.
They are strong enough to securely hold your food but also light enough to conform to the shape of the food. There are many types of mylar bags used for all sorts of things both food related and also product related. You can even have mylar bags designed to hold liquid, but for the sake of this article lets focus on food grade mylar bags. All of the mylar bags that we carry are FDA approved for food contact and storage. The main difference between them is the size of the bag, the type of the bag and the thickness of the material.
The size of the bag is obviously subjective to each users’ needs. If you are trying to fill a 5-gallon bucket with a food item, you are going to want to use a 20” x 30” mylar bag. If you want to fill that same bucket with multiple smaller mylar bags, a half gallon or 1-gallon sized mylar bag is the perfect choice to do so. You can fit several of these inside a food grade 5-gallon bucket. This is very advantageous because you are able to then only remove 1 bag at a time and open it without affecting the other food items stored in the same bucket.
You ask why do I need a food grade 5-gallon bucket? Although mylar bags are very durable, they offer very little protection against rodents and being punctured by a heavy item if struck by accident. Therefore, it is best practice to put your individual mylar bags inside the protective covering of a food grade 5 or 6-gallon bucket that we offer for sale in our store.
Your next consideration is the thickness of the mylar that the bag is made with. The thicker the mylar bag the better protection your food has. The main benefit is that the oxygen permeation through the bag will go down as you increase the thickness of the bag. Although you can get a host of different thicknesses of mylar bags. We do not recommend anything less than 4.3 mil thick. 4.3 mil, 4.5 mil and 5.0 mil thick mylar bags are very common. Our mylar bags are 5.0 mil thick and above. Our half gal and 1-gallon mylar bags are a full 7 mil thick. These are the thickest you will find in the industry. Remember….oxygen reduces the longevity and freshness of food so having a thicker mylar bag significantly lowers the amount of oxygen that gets into the bag where your food is located.
Another thing to consider is the type of bag that you require. Some bags are what is called a stand-up bag. These are made with a pouch built into the bottom that expands as you put product in your bag. This allows your bag to stand up when you set it on a flat surface. The most common bag type is a 3-sided bag that has one end left open where you put your food in and then seal the opening when it is full. These bags can have a ziplock closure which allows you to reseal the bag temporarily once the bag is opened and to keep the food fresh in the future. Or they can just have a tear notch to make it easier to open when the time comes. These types of bags don’t have the ability to be resealed once they are open (no ziplock).
No matter what bag you choose to use, you should always adhere to the recommendation of using at least a 4.3 mil thick mylar bag to store your food in. they provide the most durability and barrier against oxygen transfer.
The last thing to consider is your method to seal the mylar bag. We sell impulse sealers and hotjaw sealer that are very effective and easy to operate to seal your mylar bags. If you do not want to spend money on them, you can use an iron or a flat iron/curling iron to seal the bag. There is always a little trial and error to this method, but once you get the hang of it they can be just as effective in producing the results you need.
GLASS JARS or CANNING JARS
Glass jars can make a great storage container for food storage. You do need to remember a couple of things that must be taken into consideration when choosing to use them for dry storage food storage. Mainly I would consider jars to be a shorter-term solution to storing food - approximately 1 – 2 years. The main drawback to glass jars is light penetration. If exposed to sunlight, the jar cannot prevent the light from entering the jar and degrading the contents inside. They are also bulky and heavy and therefore harder to move and transport. In addition, because they are glass – they tend to be fairly fragile. If bumped with any force they could break, whereas a mylar bag can be bumped without affecting the integrity of the bag. One additional step – jars must be sterilized before you put your dry long storage food into them.
When using a canning jar, use an oxygen absorber in a jar just the same you would a mylar bag. You just have to make sure you size your oxygen absorber according to the volume of your container. We use jars all the time to temporarily store food items from our freeze dryer while we are building enough volume to fill a mylar bag. We take the food from our freeze dryer and place it into a jar, put an oxygen absorber in and seal the jar until we have aggregated enough food to properly fill the mylar bag chosen for that particular food item. It is also a great way to keep the left-over freeze-dried food from taking on moisture after opening a mylar bag or a #10 can of freeze dried food. You can use up what you need and then the left overs can be placed into a jar with an oxygen absorber and sealed. This will keep the food fresh until the next time you want to use it.
Food grade buckets are an excellent method of storing dry food. Buckets protect the food from all kinds of environmental forces that other food containers do not. They mainly protection against rodents and other vermin. When you combine them with mylar bags, you create the ultimate storage solution. There are food grade buckets that have a gasket built into the lids that effectively seal the food contained within from the outside environment. This is frequently done in the food storage industry.
You still need to use oxygen absorbers in your buckets just like you would in any other storage container. You also have to make sure the size of the oxygen absorber matches the capacity of the bucket. Now, if you want the ultimate solution for storing your dry food, using mylar bags inside a food grade bucket is the way to get the job done. There is simply no better method that is cost effective, to protect your dry storage food outside of mylar bags contained within a food grade bucket. Please note: be sure to check that it is a food grade bucket and the lid has a gasket seal in it.
CLEAR VACUUM SEALER BAGS
Vacuum sealer bags that are hyped all over the internet and on TV should not be considered for long term food storage. The materials they are made of allow a great deal of oxygen to pass through to the food inside. They also let light in. This should only be considered as a short-term solution. They are not very durable and are often easy to puncture due to the relatively thin material. We do not recommend using this method of storage.
There you have it! We have covered the main long-term storage options that are readily available. You will need to determine what works best for you and your particular needs. Packaging your own dry food can significantly reduce the overall cost of your emergency food storage plan. It takes a little work, but the benefit includes saving of up to half the cost of your storage food.
No matter what your situation, the important thing is to get started and set aside some emergency food - just in case something happens that’s outside your control and prevents you from going to the store to get the food you need.
Stay tuned for my next blog post that is going to talk about the state of our industry. What you can expect to see moving forward in the future and some of my own take on what I see from being immersed in this industry.