Mylar Bags: Step-by-Step Instructions for Packing Food and Emergency Supplies

woman_w_mylar_food_bagMylar bag food storage is a convenient, easy, and low-cost do-it-yourself way to extend the shelf-life of dry foods. And, these same metalized bags also provide a great way to safely store all sorts of emergency supplies. The techniques explained here, and these self-packed supplies which they produce can prove to be a godsend during an emergency situation.  Mylar storage is a modern marvel; a dream product for those who are willing to follow these simple do-it-yourself instructions.

In this article, you will find simple to follow, step-by-step guidance on how to use this inexpensive, modern technology to extend the shelf-life of dry foods such as white rice, beans, and other food staples to 25-35 years.  Plus, straightforward ‘how-to’ instructions on ways you can protect emergency supplies from handling, rust and water damage.

Food Storage:  Though Mylar bags are a NASA inspired technology, the concept of food preservation and stockpiling food is age-old and comes with personal responsibility.  Today, Mylar bags are the simplest and most cost-efficient do-it-yourself (D-I-Y) method for obtaining long shelf-life, and for developing a long-term supply of emergency food.  This is Part-4 in a four-article series on food, but the techniques explained here should also be used to store GO-Bag gear and survival kits, emergency supplies, damage-prone valuables, and for the long-term storage of almost anything.

Gear Storage:  Electronics such as emergency radios and batteries, optics like binoculars and scopes, guns packed in survival kits, medicine and medical supplies for GO-Bags and safe-haven retreats, and any pack-able item you want to protect from rust, dust, moisture or liquids, or the damaging effects of light or air, can be protected using Mylar bags and the proper do-it-yourself packing techniques.

 

For the pros and cons of various popular products, or to find our product recommendations and Mylar bag styles and options, read the companion article, Mylar Bags: Selecting the Best Mylar Products to Purchase.

 

Step-by-Step “How-To” Instructions for Mylar Bag Packing and Storage

Mylar-Packing-Label01

Step #1:  Label the Mylar Bag in Two Places

Since handmade labels and adhesive labels can fall off or become unreadable, label each side of the Mylar bag.  Here is an easy method for labeling the smooth surface of Mylar bags that can stand the test of time.

First, before you start filling your bags with food, label the bag.  This is a much easier task if you attach the label to the bag before you fill it with food.

Labeling Methods:  Use a computer printer to make labels, or cut plain paper into labels and use a black-ink ballpoint pen or a permanent-marker pen with archival ink to make a label.  Or, use a black-ink permanent marker such as a Sharpie Pen to write directly on the Mylar bag itself.  Regardless of the method you choose, cover the label with clear packing tape to protect the label. This is an important step for long-term food storage.

Label Location & Contents:  Near the bottom of the bag near its factory-seal, add a label which clearly indicates:  a) what the bag will contain (white rice, Anasazi beans, etc.),  b) the quantity (the number of cups/ml or the weight of the food), and  c) the date it was packed.

By adding the label to the lower edge of the bag it is easier to read the labels on a stack of food bags.  If you add the label to the middle of the bag, which is more typical, the bags must be physically moved to read the label on the bags stacked underneath.

Using a Computer Printer (Optional):  If you want to use your computer printer, Click Here:Label-Mylar_Food_Bag-Front-Blank_Quantity-36READYdotCOM for a fill-in bag label in PDF format.  Or, create your own label label.  Click Here: Label-Mylar_Bag-MS_Word_Template for a label in Microsoft Word format.  You might find this Word document useful as a template, or as an example of the type of information that you might want to include.

Packing Tape:  Then, use a quality, heavy-duty tape such as 3M Packing Tape to protect the label from damage.  Wrap the tape all the way around the bag so that it adheres to itself.  Using adhesive-backed labels alone is not enough, as over time they will fall off.

Double Label (Recommended):  For added protection, add a second label which includes more details, such as when the food was packed, a reminder to remove the oxygen absorber (O2) packets before preparing the food, and other details such as the nutritional value of the food and how to prepare it. Attach this label to the opposite side of the bag.

Since the food you are packing can have a 35+ year shelf-life, these additional details may prove to be invaluable.

Importantly, this double-label process is also a hedge against label damage.  If your bag only has one label, it might become damaged or illegible during many years of storage.

Adhesive Labels (Unnecessary):  Even if adhesive labels are used rather than ordinary paper, the addition of a quality, clear tape such as 3M Packing Tape is an important step. Over years of storage, adhesive labels that are applied without a protective covering layer of tape, will likely become separated from the slick surface of the Mylar bag.

Archival Paper and Ink (Optional):  Archival paper and ink is not necessary, but for those who want to achieve an added level of protection, archival paper and archival ink is available.  These products are what museums and libraries use.

Labeling Caution: Do not use a standard felt-tip pen on paper, as over time, the ink will bleed into the paper making the writing illegible.  And, colored ink will fade, so only use black ink.  While it is true that ink from a standard ballpoint pen will also bleed over time, if the label is protected by a layer of durable clear tape, it can still be read after many years of storage.

 

???????????????????????????????Step #2:  Fill the Bag

Use a measuring cup to ladle food into the Mylar bag.  Extra care should be used to keep the surface which will be sealed, clean and free from dust.  If necessary, a light swipe with a carpentry “tack cloth” or a small dry cotton rag can be used to wipe the bag’s sealing surfaces before heat is applied.  Do not use a damp rag as it can introduce moisture into the air inside the bag.

Keep track of the type and quantity of food so that the bag can be properly labeled.  This sounds obvious, but if you are using an assembly-line process with several helpers, some confusion is inevitable.

Powdered Products:  If you plan to pack a powdered food such as flour or powdered sugar, it will be very difficult to produce an airtight seal on the bag.  So, if you intend to pack any food or product that contains fine particles, extra care must be used to remove any particulates from the mouth of the bag before it is sealed.  Adding additional oxygen absorbers will help, but unless you are meticulous, it will be difficult to achieve a long shelf-life.  Using a funnel to fill the bag may help.

 

Mylar-Packing-Ox-Absorber-01Step #3:  Add ‘Absorber’ Packets

Just before sealing the Mylar bag, add ‘Oxygen Absorber’ packets to bags of food, and for gear and moisture-sensitive foods, add ‘Desiccant.’

Food:  For most foods, use oxygen absorber packets.  They are the best solution for packing dry foods such as white rice, beans, freeze-dried and dehydrated foods.

Gear:  However, for non-food items such as medical supplies, electronics, firearms, optics, books/documents, or any item that is prone to rust, oxidation or mildew, use desiccant. For gear and non-food items, it is generally far more important to remove moisture from the air than it is to remove oxygen.

Oxygen Absorbers

Looking like miniature fabric, plastic or paper pillows, these packets allows air to enter but do not allow the iron-powder they contain to spill out.  Food-grade oxygen absorbers use materials which are safe to use next to food, but should not be eaten.

If accidentally ingested with food, a small packet of iron powder may not produce any noticeable effects to a healthy adult, but this does not mean they shouldn’t be removed before preparing the food.  The same is not true for young children and pets under 15-pounds.  They may experience intestinal difficulties that might become a serious health risk.  So before using your stored food, remove the absorber.  If a packet is accidentally torn or leaks, remove as much of the powered iron from the food as possible.

chart-desiccant_absorbtion_rates-4typesDesiccant

There are four types of desiccant:  Silica Gel (blue in the graph), Clay, Molecular Sieve, and Calcium Sulphate.  They are not all the same.  We recommend Silica Gel for Mylar bag packing.

Food Grade Silica Gel does not contain cobalt chloride.  Use food-grade silica gel for storing medicine and medical supplies, and for food such as spices which can be damaged by moisture.  Though food-grade Silica Gel may be considered nontoxic, it should not be eaten.

When selecting Silica Gel for use in a gun safe or another container that will be opened periodically, we recommend using Silica Gel with ‘Indicator‘, a feature which makes it is easy to see if the packet is still working.  But for long-term storage in Mylar bags, the same protection is achieved using less-expensive packets of Silica Gel which contain the same active ingredient.

Can you use both oxygen absorbers and silica gel together?  “Yes.” Contrary to the conventional ‘wisdom’ found on the Internet and elsewhere, you can use oxygen absorbers and Silica Gel in the same container.  They will not counteract each other.  So if you are not sure which to use, or you want to achieve redundant protection, use both.

Practical Note:  The best value in Mylar bags may be to purchase Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers together as a combination purchase, such as the 3.5 mil Mylar bag package-deal from Discount Mylar Bags.  However, these “deals” rarely include a sufficient quantity of oxygen absorbers to meet our recommended protection level.  So, though these combo deals may still be a cost-saving purchase, you will nevertheless need to purchase additional oxygen absorber packets.

Safety Consideration: All of the brands of oxygen absorbers recommended on this website are food-safe.  Nevertheless, remove them before preparing or eating the food.  Conversely, only some brands/forms of desiccant are food safe, so if you will be using desiccant with your food, select a desiccant product that is safe for use with food.

What size ‘Oxygen Absorber’ or ‘Silica Gel’ packet is needed?

Select the proper-size oxygen absorber or desiccant packet(s) for the volume of the Mylar bag.  Since your emergency food supply and gear is so important and these packets are inexpensive, add an extra packet to each bag.  For most foods, use 600cc of oxygen absorbers per 1-gallon bag.  This can be a combination of six 100cc oxygen absorber packets or two 300cc packets.  For more on these topics, read the companion article, Mylar Bags: Selecting the Best Mylar Products to Purchase.”

For most foods, you can use the same absorber regardless of what type of dry food is packed inside the bag.  For example 600cc of oxygen absorbing capacity is adequate for both rice and spiral pasta.  However, for gear, choosing the appropriate absorber is not as straightforward.

Gear Solution:  Rather than taking measurements and doing calculations, simply choose your absorber based on the maximum capacity of the Mylar bag you will be using.

To remove oxygen from the same size 1-gallon Mylar bag as in the above example, which contains gear rather than food, its a different issue because the food displaces more air than does most gear.  For example, a 1-gallon Mylar bag containing 1-handgun, 5-magazines, and 2-boxes of ammunition, seems to nicely fit into a 1-gallon Mylar bag.  But, this bag will require 3,700cc of oxygen absorber protection rather than 600cc.

Why is this required when the Mylar bag is the same size?  It’s because the Mylar bag containing gear will trap more air (headspace) than the food.  Unlike foods such as rice or beans, these gear items only displace a small amount of air, so more absorbers are needed.

Because of this, protecting non-food ‘gear’ items from oxygen typically requires 8x more oxygen absorbers than what is required for the same-size bag of food. Adding desiccant packets to remove moisture from the Mylar bag is a simpler decision because Silica Gel (desiccant) is sold based on the cubic inch volume it protects.

So, to obtain moisture protection (desiccant) for this same size Mylar bag which contains firearm gear, only requires 13-grams of silica gel whether it is filled with one gun or many.  Importantly, for most gear, it is this moisture protection (not oxygen removal) that is most critical for long-term storage.

Desiccant Quick Reference.  Silica Gel is sold based on the cubic inches each packet/container protects, so use the following information to select the proper product:  1-quart Mylar bag = 58 cu. in; 1-gallon = 231 cu. in.; 1-1/2 gallon = 347 cu. in.; 2-gallon = 462; 5-gallon = 1,155 cu. in.

How to Keep ‘Absorber Packets’ Fresh:  Once you open a container of oxygen absorbers or desiccant, immediately transfer them into a glass canning jar, or multiple smaller canning jars.  Pick a jar size, or jars, that tightly hold the entire package of oxygen absorbers with only a minimal air gap.

It’s better to use multiple small jars than one big one, as the contents of unopened jars will remain fresher than one that is being repeatedly opened.  Make sure the jar lids fit tightly, too, and are screwed tight after each use. This prevents the absorber packets from drawing oxygen or moisture into the closed jar.

Don’t remove absorber packets from the jar until you are ready to use them, and be sure to re-cap the jar immediately.  Only remove the number of absorber packets you need for the bag you are about to seal.

Both oxygen absorbers and desiccant packets start working as soon as they are exposed to air, so take care to keep them fresh.  Your food storage efforts may be wasted if you allow your absorbers to work for more than a few minutes before they are sealed into a Mylar bag.

Once used, oxygen absorbers cannot be refreshed and used again.  Use oxygen absorbers can be disposed of with other garbage.  However, Silica Gel packets can be restored and reused.  This is accomplished by heating a kitchen oven to 300-degrees, then turning it off, opening it only briefly to insert a cookie sheet spread with silica gel packets.  Leave the Silica Gel packets in the closed, “off” oven for 2-1/2 hours.  Before the oven cools completely, remove the packets and seal them in a glass canning jar until needed.

 

???????????????????????????????Step #4:  Partially Seal the Mylar Bag

Mylar bags are constructed of several layers of different food-safe plastic materials and metal foil.  To seal the bag and make it airtight, the inside plastic layers must be melted, to form a solid bond between the two sides of the bag.  This is accomplished using heat.  The amount of heat required varies according to the thickness of the Mylar material, but it is typically 325-425 degrees of direct heat for several seconds.

If you don’t have a Mylar bag sealer such as the “Hot Jaws,” a standard household clothing iron or a hair straightening flat iron can be used to seal your Mylar bags.  (Instructions below).

Whichever sealing method you use, be sure to practice before starting to seal bags filled with food.  A high heat setting will likely work best, but take the time to experiment with different settings on your iron.  Turn off the iron’s steam feature as steam will add damaging moisture to your food.

On the side of the bag opposite the clothing iron, use the metal edge of a clean carpenter’s level.  (Above photo.)  This metal surface will reflect the iron’s heat, making it possible to deliver heat to both sides of the bag at the same time.  This will improve the bonding process.hair_flat_iron-sealing_mylar_bag

If you use a hair straightening flat iron to seal your Mylar bags, you may find that it works best to hold the iron perpendicular or at an angle to the top of the bag, using the top two inches of the iron progressively across the bag’s opening. Each hair-iron is different so you will need to experiment.

 

???????????????????????????????Step #5:  Remove Excess Air from the Bag.  Apply the Final Heat-Seal.

It is not necessary to remove all the air from the bag, but your oxygen absorber packet will be more effective if you remove excess air before you finish sealing the bag.  Removing excess air will also make the bag more stable for stacking, and help keep it from “popping” when packed tightly with other bags in a container such as a steel drum.

The easiest way to remove air from the bag is to seal the entire edge except for the last couple of inches.  Then, press the air out of the bag, insert the oxygen absorber packets, and finish sealing the bag.

Several days after the bag has been heat-sealed, the Mylar bag may, or may not, look like it has been vacuum-packed.  Either way, this effect is not significant.  The appearance of the bag does not indicate that one bag has a better seal than another, but only that more air (not oxygen) was removed prior to sealing.

These absorbers only remove oxygen from the air.  They do not remove air.  Do not expect the bag to look as if it has been vacuum sealed.  After your Mylar bag of food has been heat-sealed, the full oxygen removal process may take as long as a week to finish working.  After this time the bag may or may not look different.

 

???????????????????????????????Step #6:  Inspect the Seal

After you have finished sealing the bag, closely inspect the seal and the bag itself.  If the seal does not look reasonably smooth, run the iron over it again.  If the seal is bunched or deformed, cut the bag open and start over.  Look for small punctures and damage to the bag, too.

If you are reusing a bag, shine a flashlight inside the bag to help you look for punctures.  Then reverse the process, holding the bag up to a light source and looking for pinpricks of light inside the bag.

Not all pinholes are a problem as the foil layer of the bag may have a pinhole, but the plastic layers on either side of it may be intact, so the bag is still serviceable.  When in doubt, it is better to waste the bag than to store food which may spoil.

 

???????????????????????????????Step #7:  Store Filled Mylar Food Bags in a Steel Container (or a safe place).

Whether you use the lighter-weight (3.5 mil) Mylar food storage bags, mid-weight 5 mil or the heavy-duty (7-7.5 mil) variety, we recommend storing your food bags in a steel container.  Ideally, a container that will make it easy to move or transport the food, as well as protect the Mylar bags from puncture and wear — and rodents.

The most popular storage container is an ordinary 5-gallon food-grade plastic bucket, but there are far better storage options.  Though not as easy to transport, a new galvanized steel trash can will hold more in less space.

Though even heavier and harder to move once filled, a 30-55 gallon food-grade steel drums are even more space efficient, especially for storing 1-gallon Mylar food bags.  In our tests, we were able to transfer the contents of 2-1/2 galvanized steel trash cans into just one 55-gallon barrel. This was possible because the drum’s diameter is larger, and therefore more efficient for storing the 1-gallon Mylar food bags we were using.

When stacking Mylar bags in a steel trash can, barrel, or even on shelves, add a layer of cardboard after every three layers of bags.  This technique provides added stability and reduces the likelihood of damage caused by shifting bags and excess weight.  The removal of unnecessary air is helpful to this process, as well, and it will reduce the chance of a bag rupturing due to the weight of other bags stacked on top of it.  Ruptured bags are generally the result of too much air in the bag, not an unreasonable amount of weight.

Pest Warning:  Unfortunately, even food-grade plastic buckets with Omega lids, sold for long-term food storage and survival foods, will not stop knawing rodents.  Even if you have never had a rodent problem, store your food in a steel container.

 

mylar_sealer-shieldpro_fs-305Mylar-Bag Sealing Methods 

Household Iron, Hair Iron, or Mylar Sealer;  Which is Best?

If you plan to pack more than a few Mylar bags, we recommend purchasing a device designed specifically for this purpose such as an impulse sealer (right) or a Hot Jaw.  However, if you are new to this task, or you want to save money, an ordinary clothing iron or hair-straightening flat iron can also be used to seal Mylar bags.

.

Mylar-Packing-Seal-Bag-02Instructions for heat-sealing Mylar with a household iron, and the pros and cons of this method.

With a regular household iron, such as the one you use to iron your clothes, it is easy to heat-seal a standard 3.5 mil Mylar bag.  However, to seal 5 mil or 7 mil bags it may take a little practice before you are able to consistently produce an airtight seal.  So, expect to dedicate a few Mylar bags to this learning process.

Before you start filling bags with food, experiment with different heat settings and practice your technique.  With most irons, the best heat setting is just a little hotter than the iron’s “wool” setting.  As long as you monitor the heat setting and results, this project can be completed without any damage to your iron.  If the iron starts sticking to the Mylar bag, your heat setting is too high.

It is more difficult to get a good seal on a 7.5 mil Mylar bag using a clothes iron, but once you identify the right heat setting and refine your technique, it becomes a simple task.  But if developing this skill impedes moving forward, purchase 5-mil Mylar bags as these are a compromise; nearly as easy as sealing a 3.5 mil bag, but 5 mil bags are far more durable than the thinner bag.

When using a clothing iron, turn “off” the iron’s steam setting and drain any water that might be in the iron.  You don’t want steam, water, or moisture in any form, to be close to the food packing area. Nearby water, damp laundry or towels, or even high humidity, can reduce the shelf-life of the food you are packaging.

???????????????????????????????If you opt to use the clothing iron method to seal your Mylar bags, you will also need something like a metal carpenter’s level.  When placed on the other side of the bag (see photo), opposite from the iron, the edge of the metal carpenter’s level reflects heat back onto the underside of the bag, improving the bond between the two sides of the bag.

Move the hot clothing iron back and forth along the edge to be sealed.  If you hold it in one place too long, the bag can melt, damaging your iron.  Keep it moving, slowly, so the heat can transfer without the iron sticking to the bag.

If you don’t have a carpenter’s level, experiment with steel bar stock or another metal object which has a ½-1-inch edge.  Repeat this process to make at least two sealing bands on each bag.

 

mylar_sealer-hot_jawsMylar Heat-Sealing Tools

Another option is to purchase an electric Mylar-bag heat sealer.  For about $100 you can buy a hand-held “Hot Jaw” heat sealer (left) or an impulse sealer (above) which produce a professional seal.  There are various brands of Mylar heat-sealers, some are relatively inexpensive but these may not last, and more significantly, they may not produce a uniform seal.

The $35 impulse sealer we bought to test, produces a thin but good seal for most of its 12-inch width, but there was a tiny 1/16-inch gap where the seal was incomplete.  A small failure, but a catastrophic one when it comes to protecting food or gear.  A solid, uniform heat-seal is necessary for achieving a long shelf-life.

Another potential problem with inexpensive heat-sealers is that some models are designed for plastic or thin Mylar bags, and are not up to the task of sealing heavy-duty Mylar bags.  So, when shopping for any sealing machine, check buyer reviews and product specs before making your selection.

Vacuum Sealers:  Most vacuum sealers are not able to produce enough heat to seal Mylar bags, especially 7 mil bags.  However, if you have access to a professional-grade machine and want to use it, purchase channelized Mylar bags (aka/ textured or embossed-interior Mylar bags) for your packing project.  If the bag does not have channels (groves) molded into the interior surface of the bag, the sealer will be unable to effect a full vacuum.

Mylar bags are far superior for extending the shelf-life of food than any clear or semi-transparent vacuum sealed bag. Mylar bags that have clear plastic “window” are also inadequate.

We have been unable to locate any evidence that food vacuum packed in Mylar produces a longer shelf-life than a Mylar bag sealed using a conventional method.  With all food storage methods, the removal of oxygen from inside the container is a critical component.  Oxygen absorber packets are the simplest and least expensive way to remove oxygen from the air.

Sealing Temperature:  Sealing temperatures between different brands of metalized bags vary, but these temperature settings will provide a place to start.

7-mil Mylar bags: 375-425 degrees

3.5 mil Mylar bags: 325 degrees.

You do not need to melt the metal foil layer to effect an airtight seal.  The goal is to apply sufficient heat to melt the plastic layers that are inside the Mylar bag, to bond both sides together.  The foil and outer plastic layers may become crumpled due to the heat and the melding of the inner plastic layers, but it is the bonding of the inside layers which create the required airtight seal.

Factors Affecting Bag Sealing: 

  1.  The temperature of the iron or sealing tool.
  2.  Dwell time; the amount of time the heat is applied to a portion of the Mylar bag.
  3.  Pressure; the force used to hold the heat-source against the bag.
  4.  The cooling time; leaving the bag undisturbed for a few seconds after the heat has been removed, to let the bond stabilize.

Whether you opt to use a clothing iron or an inexpensive or professional-grade Mylar sealing tool, practice your sealing technique before you start, and inspect the seal of each bag after you have packed and sealed it.

If your device does not produces a heat-sealed band that is at least 3/16 inch (5mm) wide, use multiple edge-to-edge seals to provide redundancy; added assurance that each bag is airtight and won’t “pop” when subjected to pressure.  Practice in advance, and test the seals on your practice bags by applying pressure to bags that only contain air.

 

*** For the pros and cons of various popular products, or to find our product recommendations and Mylar bag styles and options, read the companion article, Mylar Bags: Selecting the Best Mylar Products to Purchase.”

 

mylar_bag_food_storage-bPackaging Grains and Dried Fruit

Rice, beans, cereals, dried fruit, and many grain products can be contaminated with insects or larva that are so small that they are invisible to the naked eye.  If this is a concern, or if you want to increase food safety and achieve maximum shelf-life, freeze these foods before packing them.  If freezing is impractical, use the CO2 (dry ice) method described below.

As a first step, closely examine these products before packaging. This can be accomplished by scanning for infested materials as you slowly pour several gallons of the product into a food-grade plastic bucket. If there is any sign of infestation the food should either not be used for long-term food storage or frozen as per the following chart.

Freezing temperature can be used as a proactive safeguard to kill insects.  In general, lower temperatures require less time to kill pests. The below chart specifies the number of days required at various freezing temperatures.  Cold temperatures above freezing may inhibit the rate of infestation but will not kill these pests.

chart-freezing_grains_to_eliminate_pests

*Adapted by Ric Bessin, Extension Entomologist, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, from “Pests of Stored Grain and Grain Products,” by Richard T. Cotton.

Upon opening, these types of products should be stored in closed, tightly sealed metal, plastic or glass containers to protect the food from infestation.

 

Dry Ice (CO2) O2 and Pest-Elimination Method

If freezing your grains and dried fruit is impractical, dry ice can be used to form a blanket of carbon dioxide gas which can kill many insects hidden in food. This is a simple technique that only adds one additional step to the packing process.

Materials Needed:  1-ounce of dry ice for each 1-gallon Mylar bag.  (1/2 ounce for a 1/2 gallon bag, 5-ounces for a 5-gallon bag, etc.)  Protective eyewear and gloves to protect your hands from the extreme cold of the dry ice.  A tool to chip-off pieces of the dry ice, and a kitchen scale to measure the quantity of dry ice that is needed for this project. The measurement needn’t be exact.  It is okay to use slightly more dry ice than specified, but don’t use a lesser quantity.

Process:  Place the Mylar bag you intend to use either on the ground or on a table that will not be damaged by the extreme cold of the dry ice.  Before filling the Mylar bag with food, place the proper quantity of dry ice chips or chunk, in the bottom of the Mylar bag.  This should be accomplished immediately before filling the bag with food.

Avoid breathing the dry ice vapors.  Once the Mylar bag is filled with food, close the bag’s mouth by using several folds or rolling the Mylar.  The objective is a temporary seal.  this serves to hold in the carbon dioxide gas produced by the dissolving dry ice.  Use several large paper-clip clamps to keep the Mylar bag closed, and put the bag aside for 30-60 minutes, or until the bottom of the bag no longer feels icy cold.

The wait time will vary according to the size of the bag and the ambient temperature of the room, but the delay should be sufficient for the dry ice to completely evaporate, infusing the food with carbon dioxide.  This gas will fully dissipate before the food is eaten, so this process is food safe.

Once the bottom of the bag is no longer ice cold, add oxygen absorbers, and seal the bag using your preferred heat-seal method.  Avoid jostling the bag before sealing it.

Since the carbon dioxide gas which remains in the bag is heavier than air, it will remain in the bag and continue to suffocate any insects that might be present.

Though some argue that oxygen absorbers are not needed when this dry ice method is used, we recommend it nevertheless.  It is an inexpensive redundancy.  When used together, this dry ice method combined with the use of oxygen absorbers will produce maximum shelf-life.

 

woman_filling-steel_can_w_mylar_food_bagsHow-to Store Your Mylar Food Bags

Steel containers are far superior to plastic for protecting food against rodents.  In our experience, “rodent proof” plastic containers and barrels are not rodent proof.

If you opt to utilize shelves or a “used” container to store your Mylar bagged food, make sure it is food safe and secure.  Used containers may be fine but they should not have ever contained anything but food.  A food-safe container that has contained something other than food, may not be food-safe.

Even if the container is new, use a plastic barrel liner or trash bag to provide an added layer of moisture protection between the steel container and the Mylar bags.  But once the steel container has been filled with Mylar bags, don’t seal the plastic liner.  If moisture does find its way into the bag you want it to be able to escape, so fold the top of the liner rather than sealing it.

The threat of rodents:  Mylar bags are metalized containers.  Nevertheless, just as with thick plastic buckets and plastic food-grade barrels, rodents can chew through all plastics and all Mylar bags.

Steel Containers:  A robust metal container, such as a galvanized steel trash can or steel drum, is ideal for long-term food storage.  Even if you have never had a rodent problem, we recommend using a stout steel container for food storage.  The steel walls of the container need to be at least as thick as a metal food cans found in a grocery store.  Even if you don’t have a rodent problem today, one can easily develop in the ensuing years that your food is stored.  Don’t put your food supply at risk by inadequate storage.

Transport:  At some point, you may need to move your food supply, so plan for it.  A 35-gallon galvanized steel trash can has handles, and even after it has been filled with several hundred pounds of food, it can be carried or lifted onto a roller dolly.

But a 55-gallon steel drum may need to be stored on top of a roller dolly, or stored with lift straps or a hoist, as once filled, it will likely be too heavy or ungainly for two people to transport.  If these transport tools aren’t available, a steel drum can be emptied and the bags moved individually–if there isn’t any urgency attached to the task.  Fortunately, even a 30-year old bag food packed in Mylar will generally retain its strength and flexibility, so if necessary, the bags can be relocated into a smaller container or transported individually.

 

D-I-Y Faraday Cage:  Extra Protection for Electronics

If you would like to protect your electronics from an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) or a Coronal Mass Ejection (solar flare), in addition to water and moisture, use the following technique.

This is not a military-grade solution, but it is far better than most protective enclosures (Faraday cages) sold in the civilian market which claim to offer military-grade protection.  Most consumer-market bags and containers which claim to offer Faraday Cage protection, are ineffective.  The method described here offers a greater degree of protection than most of the containers which cost hundreds of dollars.

Garbage Can & Mylar D-I-Y ‘Faraday Cage:’  First, wrap each electronic device in at least two layers of corrugated cardboard before placing it in a heavy-duty (7 mil) Mylar bag.  After the bags have been labeled and sealed as described above in Steps 1-7, place them in a new galvanized steel trash can that has been completely lined (bottom, sides, and top) with layers of corrugated cardboard.

To achieve the necessary electrical insulation, there must be 3-4 inches of cardboard or more, on the bottom and the sides of the galvanized steel trash can before placing your electronics into the steel container.  Don’t completely fill the trash can.  Leave room for a 3-4 inch layer of cardboard to add on top of the contents, just before the lid is placed onto the trash can Faraday Cage.

Note:  It is okay if there are gaps between the layers of cardboard.  The objective is to create a 3-4 inch buffer of non-conductive material between the steel garbage can and the contents you want to protect.  Absent this non-conductive gap, such as created by layers of cardboard, the incredible speed of the electrical pulse will produce an electrical arc between the steel trash can and the electronic devices you have stored inside it.  This insulation layer is required to protect electronics (and even modern batteries).

Corrugated cardboard is generally the cheapest and best insulator to use for this project. Bubble-wrap and Styrofoam are not a good choice as they are often conductive.  (If an object produces static it is conductive.)  So if you elect to use something other than ordinary corrugated cardboard, test it to verify that it does not have any conductive properties.

As you place your Mylar bags containing electronics into the steel trash can, add several additional layers of corrugated cardboard between each Mylar bag. This is yet another layer of electrical insulation, and it can also protect your Mylar bags from accidental puncture.

After pressing the tightly fitting lid onto the trash can, move the container to a location that is protected, such as inside a garage.  Do not put wood, rubber, or other insulators under the steel trash can.  The trash can needs to be placed on an unbroken concrete floor, or on the earth so that it is electrically grounded.  The entire base of the trash can needs to be in contact with the ground.

If the lid of the trash can does not fit tightly, use several layers of 6-inch copper foil tape around the entire circumference to make a 360-degree electrical connection between the lid and the steel trash can.  Note:  If there are any holes or gaps in the steel can it will be ineffective for stopping an EMP/CME pulse.  Holes or cracks can be mended with copper foil tape, but an undamaged trash can is a safer choice.

 

empty-grocery-shelvesFinal Thoughts

We are facing a very real potential problem.  Just-in-time inventory methods make the resupply of stores difficult or impossible during emergency situations.  Gone are the days when grocery and other stores restocked their shelves from inventory stored in a warehouse adjacent to the store.

Most retailers now depend on daily resupply.  These goods either come from distant central warehouses or are shipped to them via UPS or FedEx.  Similarly, consumers have become addicted to the convenience of Amazon.com and other online sales outlets.

Unfortunately, this timing-balance for shipping is easily disrupted by inclement weather, natural disasters, strikes, fuel shortages, civil disturbance, as well as an array of minor problems that have the capacity to develop into a major one.  Fortunately, in most developed societies, this upset can be corrected within 2-3 weeks, so our first level of protection is to stockpile 3-weeks of supplies.  Yet, this equilibrium remains precarious.  It is susceptible to a serious systemic failure that can bring long-term consequences for us, and public panic which will make the situation even worse.

Unfortunately, this looming, inevitable supply vulnerability is compounded by a society that has trapped itself with the same just-in-time mentality that infects retailers.  This normalcy bias has grown into expectancy and an unhealthy dependency.

Just as with our retail stores, most families don’t have more than a few days of food on hand.  It’s become so easy to shop on our way home from work, or to order online, that we don’t bother to stockpile a supply of food or anything else.

Think about it.  At some point, we can expect more than a hiccup in this frail process.  When serious disruption occurs, and it will, will we be 100% ready to deal with it?

Personal responsibility dictates proactive action.

Let’s learn from the past.  Stockpiling a long-term food supply is basic; it’s not something new.  It is simply a return to the more stable and reliable method which has historically been the norm.  Our current supply methods are new and inherently unreliable.  A systemic failure will be self-correcting for society, but dangerous for those who are unprepared.

If we fail to do our part to achieve stability in our own food supply, we are being irresponsible.  Yet, this isn’t an endorsement of pessimism, either.  It’s simply a reminder; a call to enthusiastically accept personal responsibility.  It’s about living a lifestyle of readiness and self-sufficiency.  Having a long-term food supply and other emergency supplies is a conduit for enjoying the fruits of independence; resolute, peaceful lives, equipped to help ourselves and others in a time of need.