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Packaging Food Storage Items

Thursday, 12 July 2012 22:29 Written by 

If you are planning to store foods for long term storage, your food storage items should be located in a cool-dry-dark area, and free of oxygen. Cool temperatures extend the life of your stored foods drastically. Dry, or moisture free areas, keep your food from spoiling. Lastly, dark and oxygen free areas keep bacteria from developing. Most living organisms need light and air, so by keeping your food in a dark-oxygen free place, unwanted growth is less likely to occur.  Do not forget about insects and rodents who are also trying to survive off of your food storage. So if you are new to food storage, how is all of this accomplished?

Grocery Store Packaging

If you are purchasing foods in bulk, through couponing, or purchasing additional items each time you go to the grocery store, I would recommend repackaging your food items. Think about it, most foods that you purchase at the grocery store do not follow the food storage rules of cool, dry, dark, and oxygen free. Why? By insuring these objectives are met, the price of the item rapidly increases. Grocery store packaging is designed to allow us to see the foods, but also follows the just in time ideology. 

The foods at grocery stores are not typically designed for long term food storage, since we are likely to consume the items before they go bad. For instance, you can find a 1lb box of pasta for $.50 to $1 at most grocery stores. While the price is right, the packaging is not ideal for long term storage. Rodents can easily chew through the box. Also, any moisture will be absorbed by the cardboard and food, and it is not oxygen free. 

You can repackage most dry food items, and even fruits and vegetables you dehydrate. All you need is a container or bag, oxygen absorbers, and a way to create an air-tight seal. I use a combination of Mason jars, vacuum bags, and Mylar bags for my food storage items. 

Mason Jars

I use Mason jars to store dry and dehydrated foods that will eventually be used in meal packs. While, the jars do not provide a light free environment, they are moisture and oxygen free. You can use a Mason jar with oxygen absorbers, or if you have a vacuum sealer you can purchase an attachment that will remove the oxygen from the jar, while locking the lid to the jar. Using the vacuum sealer and attachment method is very cost effective if you plan on building meal packs or for intermediate use. By using Mason jars, I do not waste money on excess packaging or oxygen absorbers, and do not have to replace them every time I need a cup of carrots for a specific recipe. I can simply break the seal on the Mason jar, remove the carrots, and use my vacuum sealer and attachment to remove the air from the jar.   

Vacuum Bags

I use my vacuum sealer, to package food for long term storage using vacuum bags. Only purchase vacuum bags that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). When using a vacuum sealer, I take a meal approach, which means I package only the foods required for one meal. Let’s say I dehydrated 10lbs of green beans. I know that my family generally eats 1lb of green beans per meal. Therefore, I will package 10 x 1lb equivalent of dehydrated green beans per vacuum bag. By doing it this way, if one of the packages were to open, I would not spoil all 10lbs of product. Instead, only 1lb of product has the potential to spoil. Sure, I will use more vacuum bags and each bag adds cost, but food security is more important (at least to me). 

If you have used vacuum bags, then you know that all foods do not package equally. For instance, if you try to remove all of the oxygen from a vacuum bag that contains dehydrated broccoli, then you are likely to puncture the bag. Food items such as broccoli can become very sharp after it is dehydrated. I have yet to find a puncture proof vacuum bag. Therefore, I also include an oxygen absorber in every vacuum bag, and depending on the item, I may not remove all of the oxygen using the vacuum sealer. This way, the bag gets a good seal, but there is room for the product to move around and/or crush, and limit puncturing of the vacuum bag. The oxygen absorber will destroy the remaining oxygen left in the bag.

Mylar Bags

I have used hundreds of Mylar bags. Mylar bags provide an oxygen free environment, if used with oxygen absorbers, and are light and moisture resistant. I also believe that Mylar bags deter rodents. I recently had a few mice in my basement, trying to escape the summer heat. For some reason, they decided to nest under a stack of Mylar bags full of dehydrated vegetables, that were waiting to be packed in a bucket. After finding the nest, I conducted a check to see if they ate any of my dehydrated foods. To my surprise, not a single Mylar bag was punctured, even though they decided to live under them. I am not sure why they did not eat through the Mylar, which leads me to believe they could not smell the food inside of the Mylar bag. 

When I first started dehydrating foods, I created supplement packs using 1 gallon Mylar bags. Each pack would contain 4 x 1lb equivalent vegetable vacuum bags (4lbs total), and 1lb of pasta or rice. My thought process was that I can simply open one pack, and supplement my other foods or daily catch with dehydrated vegetables. Again, I wanted to have a system that would allow me to avoid spoiling or losing all food items in one container. I could also use a pack for charity or barter if needed, without having to open a pail of rice, a pail of corn, etc. The last reason was so I can quickly assess how much food I had. I know if I have 30 supplement packs, then I have rice, pasta, and vegetables for 30 days. 

Currently, I have switched to using mostly Mylar bags. I have found an 8x8 Mylar bag that works perfectly with my meal plan, and costs less than a vacuum bag. Additionally, the Mylar bag has a higher mil rating, and is more puncture resistant. I still create my supplement packs, but now using almost exclusively Mylar bags.  

Recommended Products (That I Use)

Excalibur 3900 Deluxe Dehydrator

Vacuum Bag, 6x10

Mylar Bag, 1 Gallon

Mylar Bag Sealer

Food Saver, Game Saver Deluxe

Food Saver Wide Mouth Mason Jar Attachment

Food Saver Normal Mouth Mason Jar Attachment

Conclusion

Packaging your food items is just as important as any other food storage aspect. If you food is not properly packaged, then it will not last as long as it could have. At the time you really need your stored foods; you do not want to discover that by cutting corners you food is no longer edible. So, please invest the time, money, and research to ensure your valuable food storage remains useable. Develop and implement a packaging system. It is never too late. Be Prepared. Get Connected. 

Last modified on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 18:13
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