Mylar Bags: Inexpensive Do-It-Yourself Long-Term Food Storage Solution 2

Packing-Party-02Do-it-yourself long-term food storage is not only possible; it’s easy when you use Mylar bags and oxygen absorber packets.  It’s inexpensive, too.  In fact it’s downright cheap if you purchase bulk foods at a restaurant supply store.  No special tools are required; you can use a standard clothing iron to seal the Mylar bags.

You don’t need to buy expensive emergency-food buckets of dry goods such as rice, beans, and pasta.  Shop for these foods at a big-box store or restaurant supply, and then repackage the food yourself in Mylar bags for long-term storage.  Just follow the simple 7-step process which is illustrated below.

Unfortunately, plastic bags, including the thick plastic materials used in expensive vacuum sealing machines, are not adequate for long-term food storage.  Surprisingly, for multiple-year storage, even the thick plastic of a 5-gallon food-grade plastic bucket is not enough.  Plastic alone simply doesn’t work for long-term food storage.  Over time, even the best plastics cannot stop the infiltration of oxygen and moisture.

Mylar bags are the answer.  These are essentially a flexible metal can that you can heat-seal at home.  Though Mylar is not as durable as a metal can, and thin Mylar bags are susceptible to damage, they are still far superior to even heavy plastic when it comes to long-term food storage.  Heavy-duty Mylar bags (7 mil) are an even better choice, especially for large packages, though it takes a bit of practice to seal the heavy-duty bags with your household iron.


???????????????????????????????What You Will Need for Do-It-Yourself  Mylar Packaging and Storage

(Retailers for these products are listed at the end of this article)

1.  Mylar bags.  (Bag size and thickness depends on how they will be stored).

2.  Oxygen Absorber Packets.  (Or, a desiccant for the storage of non-food items)

3.  Clothing Iron and a Carpenter’s Level; or Mylar Bag Sealer.

4.  Storage Container.  (Plastic 5-gallon food-grade bucket, or a new galvanized trash can or used food-grade steel drum)


The “How-To” of Packing and Storing Mylar Bags

Mylar-Packing-Label02Step #1:  Label the Mylar Bag in Two Places

Use a permanent marker, such as a Sharpie, to label the bag.  Use clear packing tape to protect the ink from damage.  After the bag has been filled and sealed, add a paper label protected with clear packing tape.  Using these two forms of labeling is a hedge against a potential failure of one of the labels.  You can use ordinary paper to make your second label, but size it to fit the width of the sealed edge of the bag.  Then use packing tape to attach the paper label.  Wrap the tape around the entire bag, so that it seals on itself.  See photo.

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

Use a dry-measure scoop to ladle food into the bag.  Use care to keep the surface clean which will be sealed.  Keep track of the quantity of food so that the bag can be properly labeled, not just with what food is contained in the bag, but also the quantity.

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

Use the proper size oxygen absorber packet for the air volume of the Mylar bag.  Since your emergency food supply is so important and these packets are so inexpensive, it’s a good idea to add an extra packet to each bag.

Keep you absorbers fresh by storing them in a small jar with a tight lid.  Don’t remove absorbers from the jar until you are ready to use them, and be sure to re-cap the jar immediately.  It is important to remove only the oxygen absorbers you need for the bag you are about to seal.  Oxygen absorbers start working as soon as they are exposed to air, so take care to keep them fresh.  Your food storage efforts will be wasted if you allow your oxygen absorbers to get to work before they are sealed into your food bag.

Mylar-Packing-Seal-Bag-02Step #4:  Seal the Bag

If you don’t have a Mylar bag sealer such as the “Hot Jaws,” a standard household clothing 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.  Be sure to turn-off the iron’s steam feature, as steam will add damaging moisture to your food.

On the side of the bag opposite the iron, use the metal edge of a clean carpenter’s level.  This metal surface will reflect back the iron’s heat, making it possible for you to deliver sealing heat to both sides of the bag at the same time.  (In the following section you’ll find more detailed instructions on how to seal Mylar bags). 

???????????????????????????????Step #5:  Remove Excess Air from the Bag

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 the excess air will also make the bag more stable, and less likely to “pop” if it is exposed to pressure.

The easiest way to remove air from the bag is to seal all but the last couple of inches, and then press the air out of the bag before sealing those last couple of inches.

Several days after the bag has been sealed, the Mylar bag may, or may not, look like it has been vacuum packed.   This is not significant.  This outcome does not indicate that one bag has a better seal than the other, but only that more air (not oxygen) was removed prior to sealing.  These absorbers remove oxygen from the air, they do not remove air.

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

After you have finished sealing the bag, take the time to 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 pinholes and damage to the bag, too.  If the bag has been damaged, it’s better to waste the bag than to store food which may spoil.

???????????????????????????????Step #7:  Store in a Protective Container

Whether you use the lighter-weight (3.5 mil) Mylar food storage bags or the heavy-duty (7 mil) variety, it’s a good idea to store your food bags in another container.  Ideally a container that will make it easy to move or transport the food, and as well as protect the Mylar bags from puncture and wear.

The most popular storage container is an ordinary 5-gallon food-grade plastic bucket, but there are other options.  New galvanized steel trash cans work great, as do used 30-gallon food-grade steel drums.  These steel containers are far superior if you want to also protect your food against rodents.  If you select a “used” container, check to make sure that it was previously used for food, and that it never contained anything hazardous.

Not only can rodents chew through Mylar bags, they can even chew through plastic buckets and plastic food-grade barrels.  So a metal container is your best bet if this is a concern.


???????????????????????????????The “How-To” of Sealing Mylar Bags:

A regular household iron, such as the one you use to iron your clothes, is adequate to seal a standard 3.5 mil Mylar bag.  But before you start filling bags, experiment with different heat settings, and practice your technique.  As long as you monitor the heat setting and results, you can easily do this without any damage to your iron.  If the iron starts sticking to the Mylar bag, your heat setting is too high.

Whether you opt for a thinner Mylar bag (3.5 mil) or one that is thicker, it is important to experiment with the temperature setting on your iron.  You need to identify the optimal heat setting; one which provides a smooth, secure seal to the bag.  It is more difficult to get a good seal on a heavy-weight Mylar bag using a clothes iron, but it is possible.

Be sure to “turn off” the steam setting.  You want to do what you can to avoid introducing moisture into your bag of stored food, as moisture will cause your food to spoil more quickly.

If you opt for the clothing-iron sealing method, you will also need something like a metal carpenter’s level.  When placed on the other side of the bag (see above photo), opposite from the iron, the edge of the metal carpenter’s level will reflect heat back onto the bag.  This will improve the seal.

Move the hot iron back and forth along the edge to be sealed.  If you hold it in one place too long, you may actually melt the bag and damage your iron, so keep it moving, slowly.  If you don’t have a carpenter’s level, try experimenting 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

Another option is to purchase an electric Mylar-bag heat sealer.  For about $100 you can buy a hand-held “Hot Jaw” heat sealer which produces a professional-looking seal.  There are various brands of Mylar heat sealers, but an expensive professional-grade model isn’t necessary.

For Optimal Health

For optimal health during an emergency situation, augment these dry goods with canned foods, freeze-dried vegetables, and dehydrated or freeze-dry meat-flavored soy protein.  Foods with fats, such as meat and butter, have a much shorter shelf life.  (Usually 2-years in cans, 5-years in freeze-dry form).  Vegetables containing acids, such as tomato products, have a shorter shelf-life than vegetables such as corn or green beans.  For long-term food storage, soy protein, pinto beans, black beans, etc. are a better source of protein than meat due to this spoilage problem.

Even coarse-ground spices have a relatively short shelf-life, but adding savor to food in a protracted emergency situation is important.  Some spices, particularly those which are not yet ground and still in their natural form, have a longer shelf life.  For example, salt can be stored almost indefinitely, but should be packed with a desiccant rather than an oxygen absorber because the long-term storage problem is moisture, not oxygen.

Storing basic food supplies isn’t enough.  You also need to store what you need to make your meals nutritious…  and palatable.  Think about menus and what you will need to make your food taste good.

Don’t just pack food for emergencies.  Bulk foods repackaged and stored in Mylar bags can be your main source of dry goods for your everyday diet.  This rotation of food will keep your emergency supply fresh, and it can dramatically reduce your monthly grocery costs, too.

Oxygen-and-Moisture-2Enemies of Long-Term Food Storage

There are four main enemies to defeat when it comes to long-term food storage:  1) oxygen;2) moisture; 3) light; and 4) contamination by bacteria.  Mylar bags are effective against all four of these hazards.  But even zip-lock style Mylar bags are not adequate for long-term food storage, unless they have also been heat sealed.  An airtight seal is the key.

Heat-sealing of the Mylar bag is essential to create a permanent oxygen, moisture, and bacteria barrier.  The downside of Mylar is that improper packing, sealing, or handling can result in tears.  As with any storage container, even a small pin-hole will defeat the protective barrier.

Thicker bags would therefore seem to be an obvious solution, but for do-it-yourself  food packaging, the thicker bags are more difficult to seal with a clothing iron.  So if you use the lighter-weight bags, it’s best to store your Mylar packaged food inside another, more durable container.  This keeps it easy, and inexpensive.  If you use the thicker bags this isn’t as much of a problem, but it is still a consideration.

Food should be removed from the manufacturer’s packaging before being placed in a Mylar bag.  Do not use the manufacturer’s packaging unless it is necessary to protect the Mylar bag from the sharp edges of the food.  In these situations, make sure that the manufacturer’s wrap is thoroughly punctured.  This makes it possible for the oxygen absorber to work on the food contained in the package.

Ideally, store your food inside your home, or in a storage area which will keep your food cool in the summer and above freezing in the winter.  High heat and freezing temperatures, and temperature fluctuation,  will degrade the quality of your food much more quickly.  If you are able to store your food at room temperature it will likely last 3-times or longer than the expiration date indicated on the manufacturer’s packaging.  Some foods, like rice and beans, can last as long as 20-years if stored properly in Mylar bags.

Mylar Storage of Non-Food Supplies

This same Mylar bag storage method can be used for other important emergency supplies, as well.  This technique is also useful for the storage of infrequently used electronics, optical gear, firearms, and expensive metal tools.  Follow the directions above, but for these non-food items substitute a desiccant packet in place of the oxygen absorber.


Where to start…

Retailers for Mylar Bags, Bag Sealers, and Oxygen Absorbers:

Click on this link Mylar-Bag-Storage-BlogPost-130315 to download a PDF of this article for printing.

TransFarming: A Sustainable Path to Food Self-Sufficiency Reply

DSC_0043-b_edited-1Our times are changing rapidly. This is occurring on many fronts, but few more rapidly than with our food supply.

Examples include the increasing number of national outbreaks of e-coli bacteria in our meat and vegetables, the growing trend towards genetically modified foods (GMO’s), ever present undercurrent of our food being sprayed with chemicals ranging from pesticides and insecticides to herbicides and fungicides, and the nutrient depletion due to modern farming methods.

Along with this are the precarious transportation issues that come with shipping produce from hundreds and thousands of miles from other states and countries. To do this often involves harvesting produce while still unripe and gassing them with bromides to accelerate ripening while still at the processing plant. After the long trip from the farm to the dinner table, much of the nutritional value of the food is depleted.

This all brings us to a personal cross-road. Do we simply continue on this path, or do we take our personal food production and thus supply, into our own hands? The growing trend points to the latter. Non-conventional food sources are cropping up all over the country. A few examples include small “mom and pop” micro-farms, CSA’s (community supported agriculture), food cooperatives, and backyard farms.

By far the most popular of all these endeavors are the backyard farms. These are ordinary backyards that have been transformed into personal farms, sometimes called TransFarms.

TransFarming incorporates the rapidly vanishing wisdom of our recent ancestors, while incorporating modern components and techniques that work in harmony with each other to support the entire growing cycle. Given a deliberate, calculated integration of these specific components and supports, a much higher “rate of return” is realized beyond each component by itself, while providing sustainability.

Backup and Redundancy

The pioneers must have done something right, after all we are here. They figured something out. They understood the importance of backup and redundancy. They used these two approaches to ensure they would have sufficient food in case of unexpected catastrophe. But how would this work in a modern “backyard” setting?

Over the past year, an organization called The Texas Aquaponic and TransFarming Group has embarked on a mission to figure this out. As a result, they have helped develop many different methods of producing clean, healthy food in a backyard setting, while focusing on backup and redundancy.

A possible backyard scenario may include plant cuttings (waste) from an organic garden being used to feed a rabbit. The rabbit’s slightly acidic and enriched litter goes to the berry bushes and gardens as highly fertilized mulch. What the bunny doesn’t eat goes to the egg laying chickens. They do their business on the hay which produces “highly-fertilized hay” which is used for ground cover in the garden. What neither of them eats is destined for the composter where mulch is made for the fruit trees. Nothing is wasted on a Transfarmed yard!

And then there is the Aquaponic system, a great addition to any food growing program. An Aquaponic system can create an unlimited supply of fertilized water for the gardens, an abundant year round produce crop, and great tasting clean fish to harvest. The occasional deceased fish fertilizes the garden also, just like the pilgrims did.

Additional supports for food growing such as worms that grow naturally in the gardens also feed the gardens, chickens, and fish, and are beneficial to an Aquaponic system itself.

Even a domesticated protection pet is part of the equation. A little dog will instinctively patrol the perimeter and keeps out squirrels, cats, possums, other vermin, especially those pesky chicken loving raccoons. Any dog will do, as long as they are smart enough not to dig up your gardens and attack the chickens.

The end of the waste chain for each system is the beginning of the food chain for the others, and ultimately ours!

In a TransFarmed setting, there can be any number of time proven approaches to food production which are integrated with “modern” techniques that take into consideration our times. Some primary components may include Wicking beds, Aquaponics, HugelKultures, Tank gardens, Keyhole gardens, as well as conventional raised bed gardens. Other ancillary supporting components may include composting, water capture, vermiculture (worms), chickens, and rabbits. These all support the primary components. Several of these components are described in further detail below.

There is one factor that is paramount to all this…water.

Water, Water, Water.

At the core of all food production is water. Without it, nothing prospers. TransFarming is about “re-thinking” traditional gardening methods to address regional and environmental challenges such as droughts, water restrictions and disruptions,while keeping in mind techniques for prosperous food production. TransFarming involves growing food in ways that conserve water.

Weather wise, not much has changed from the days of our ancestors, but they used vastly different approaches to dealing with the climate than we do today. They did not worry about watering their lawns. Should we?

TransFarming techniques utilize two approaches to minimize water use – water conservation and water retention.  Water conservation includes housing large amounts of water in a way that uses the minimal amount required to grow food. These may include Wicking beds and Aquaponic systems. Another approach is using the properties of decomposition to conserve water. Decaying organic matter such as logs and branches absorb water and release it, along with nutrients, during dry conditions. This approach may include a HugelKulture, Tank gardens, and Keyhole gardens. At times it may make sense to shade your gardens in the summer to minimize evaporation, or winter to help keep things warm. An inexpensive Monkey hut may be used.

Following are brief descriptions of some TransFarming components often used to minimize water use while growing food in the backyard.


DWicking Beds

Wicking beds have proven to be a viable solution to the Texas heat and water conservation. These simple structures, based on a raised bed garden, incorporate a reservoir underneath the bed to store water. The garden is watered through an exposed pipe which then wicks water upward through the soil to the roots where water is needed the most. There is minimal evaporation. Done correctly, watering is needed about once every three weeks, rather than twice times a day. Wicking beds are relevant in any location.

Aquaponics-b Aquaponics

Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (soil-less plant production). In a backyard Aquaponic system, the nutrient-rich water that results from raising fish in any sized tank provides a source of natural fertilizer for the growing plants. Water is pumped from the fish tank into the plant trough. As the plants consume the nutrients in the water, they help to purify the water which is returned to the fish tank to be re-fertilized. A naturally occurring microbial process keeps both the fish and plants healthy, and helps sustain an environment where everything thrives. Both the plants and fish can be harvested year-round. Aquaponics is relevant in any location.



A HugelKulture is a type of 3-dimentional raised bed garden that utilizes dead organic materials (logs and branches) that are too big to go in the compost. Decomposing wood absorbs water. While the HugelKulture can be planted immediately, over time, that is 3- 5 years, the materials in the bed decompose, and provide a slow release of nutrients for garden plants while creating an incredible mulch. Every year, it just gets better.

Because of its shape, a HugelKulture garden combines the multiple functions of rainwater harvesting, and irrigation using no cistern, pumps, or pvc pipes. Done properly, there may be no need to water all summer!

DTank Gardens

These wonderful structures are perfect for small yards and, like a Hugelkultures and Keyhole gardens, use compost as its method for retaining water while growing great food. The perimeter is simply rolled metal and available at any home improvement store. Since the border is made of metal, it will last for many years, only getting better each year due to the decomposition process.

DKeyhole Gardens

A keyhole garden uses the same principle as a HugelKulture and Tank garden in that decomposing matter is used to absorb and retain water in the soil. Large amounts of “rotting” wood and kitchen scraps are used under the soil which is stacked within layers of cardboard and paper. After completion and planting, composting matter such as kitchen scraps are added to the bed via a foot-wide chute which nourishes the entire system. A wedge is created in the circular rock bed wall to provide easy access the chute, which makes the garden look like a keyhole when viewed from above.

DHoop House/Monkey Huts

One of the major concerns with growing food (and fish) in the winter and summer is the temperature. The wind does not help much either. Greenhouses are expensive, and any constructed structures tend to be somewhat permanent.

Enter the simple Monkey Hut. These structures are by their very nature flexible, and designed to withstand strong wind and rain (dust too). Built correctly, they are easily dis-assembled in the spring, or used to support a shade cloth in the summer.

Raised-Bed-GardeningTraditional Raised Bed Gardening

Traditional raised bed gardening involves selecting the correct structure and materials for a specific outcome base on environmental factors such as shading, sun path, wind direction and desired crop. Additionally, soil composition will play a very large part in crop success.

A simple small hoop house may be desirable to protect from direct sun and winter cold. Simply hammer a metal rod into the ground at the four corners leaving about three inches above ground. Take PVC pipe and place it over the metal rods and bend it over the bed to create a frame. Then cover with plastic. Raised beds are not very water efficient.


Worm composting is an excellent way to create organic matter for gardens and Aquaponic systems. They can be added directly to gardens and Aquaponic media beds, and also used to feed fish and chickens. Worms are important in the garden because they aerate the soil which helps lock in moisture.

The Bottom Line

As mentioned above, of key importance in any sustainable food growing effort is backup and redundancy. It is highly desirable to have as many different components available in your food growing system in case of stressful conditions or a failure in any one component. These components comprise a food growing “system” which is much more stable and reliable than a simple in the ground garden.

More information on each of these components and how to construct them is available at

The 10 Rookie Food Storage Mistakes to Avoid Reply

Are you new to food storage?  Each experienced prepper began just as you.  Take advantage of their mistakes by learning the 10 Rookie Food Storage Mistakes that should be avoided:

1. Having buckets full of grains, beans or wheat, but have never cooked them before.  Make sure to practice cooking with your food storage.  Also note that if storing wheat berries you will need to have a wheat grinder to make flour.

2. Storing food that your family does not eat.  In a stressful emergency time, it will be such a comfort to serve familiar foods. Make a list of favorite foods then begin storing them.

3. Not rotating food storage.  Even though some foods can go past their expiration dates, you should try to use your oldest food storage first.  A system of putting newer food toward the back of the shelf and rotating the oldest to the front of the shelf will help prevent food waste.

4. Minimal variety of food for a balanced diet.  To prevent food burnout it is best to store a wide variety.  Try storing many varieties of fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, meats, seasonings and staples.  Also keep on hand foods that are freeze dried, canned, dehydrated, MRE’s, and prepared as instant packaged meals.

5. Poor choice of storage containers.  Prevention of pests and rodents invading your food storage is key.  Using the right food storage containers also prolongs shelf life, nutritional value and taste. Food grade plastic containers, Mylar bags, glass canning jars, #10 cans and even buckets all help to maintain a longer shelf life.

6. Never put all your eggs in one basket. Store dehydrated and/or freeze dried foods as well as home canned and “store bought” canned goods.  These varieties will help to balance out your cooking options and even add a variety of textures and flavors.  Another take on this point, is to not store all of your food storage in one location.  Instead of having all of your food storage in one location, it may be wise to have other hiding locations.  False walls, under floor boards, another building on your property, at your emergency bug out location or even a storage facility.

7. Forgetting salt, cooking oil, shortening, baking powder, soda, yeast, and powdered eggs. You can’t cook even the most basic recipes without these items.

8. Not storing water to cook the food.  Many food storage meals require water to rehydrate.  Pasta, beans and soups all need water for cooking.

9. Forgetting to store spices, salt, oil and basic condiments that are needed for your food storage. How will your famous spaghetti sauce taste without Italian seasoning, salt, olive oil and that pinch of sugar? Beans are a great staple to have on hand and can be seasoned in a variety of ways using salt, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, soy sauce, ground red pepper and more.

10. Not having an alternative cooking source if the power goes out.   There are many alternative cooking sources such as the Kelly Kettle, Volcano Oven, Wonder Oven, Propane Camp Stove, Solar Oven and much more.  Research now to see which option is best for your family.

One last tip, don’t forget to store easy to prepare foods to help you get through on difficult days.  Even though they may not be on your list of required food storage foods, you may want to reconsider puddings, juice boxes, instant packaged foods, coffee, candy, muffin mixes, cake mixes, Hershey’s chocolate syrup (lasts a long time without refrigeration), brownie mix and other specialty comfort foods.

– Cindy Castillo, American Preppers Network

Food for Emergencies; a Summary of Your Best Food Options Reply

L-to-R: Grocery store canned goods and foil packaged food; military MRE meal; freeze-dried food; and lifeboat rations.  All of these have a place in a properly stocked emergency food larder.

The internet is full of advice on food for emergencies and long-term food storage, but what is really the best?

This primer on food selection is designed to help you select the best types of food for your emergency food supply.  This article will help you understand the pros and cons of each category of food, so that you can make informed choices.  The topics of how to store these foods, water storage and sanitation, are not part of this summary but are equally important.  This post is just a primer on food; a great place to start planning your food supply for emergency situations.

Getting Started

The simplest way to get started is to increase the quantity of canned food and dried foods (beans, rice, pasta, wheat, etc.) that you maintain in your pantry, making a deliberate effort to store a variety of food.  For those who live on a tight budget, purchase a few extra cans of food each week until you have enough to sustain your family for at least two weeks.  If you can afford it, go to a big-box store like Costco or Sam’s Club, and purchase canned meats and other staples by the case.  It’s less expensive; often better quality than low cost grocery-store brands, and the box or shrink-wrap packaging helps you store it more compactly.

Ideally, purchase the type of foods that you normally eat, so that you can keep your meals during an emergency as normal as possible.  This is especially important for children who might be finicky eaters.  Be sure to give particular attention to storing the foods needed for both variety and a balanced diet.  This will typically include canned foods such as meat, beans (protein), vegetables and fruit, as well as dry goods such as pasta and rice.  Don’t forget the supplementary foods such as sugar, salt, and flour, as well as the condiments and spices you will need to make your food tasty.  There is a tendency to not eat enough during a high-stress emergency situation, so palatable food will help, particularly with children.

Keep in mind that fresh food such as milk, butter, eggs and bread, will likely be unavailable to you in an emergency.  Therefore, it makes no sense to stockpile a food such as breakfast cereal unless you are prepared to eat it with water rather than milk.  Similarly, prepackaged foods which require fresh or frozen ingredients to complete the recipe, are useless.

For those food cans and packages without an obvious “use before” date, use a Sharpie pen to put a date on the lid/package, and rotate these items so that nothing gets old.  Swollen cans, leaking jars, or contents which smell odd, are indications that the food has spoiled and should not be eaten.  Food poisoning is far more serious than being hungry.  An adult can live for nearly a month with almost no food as long as they are able to consume plenty of pure water.  So don’t get panicky just because you are hungry.

Even if you are breast feeding an infant, be sure to stockpile baby formula in case your milk dries up due to stress, or for some other reason.  If you don’t want to use the formula, donate it to a food bank before the expiration date.  If you have pets, be sure to sore food for them, too.

In addition to stockpiling food, don’t forget that you will need a liquid-fuel or propane camp stove, along with sufficient fuel. In an emergency, you will probably not have electrical power or natural gas, so you will need a method to cook your food.  Heed warnings about only using the stove in a place with adequate ventilation.  This is essential to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.  Since you will be without refrigeration, food products which will spoil without refrigeration should be purchased in 1-meal size cans or packages.

As you expand your inventory of stored food, purchase airtight, insect and rodent-proof food containers for dry foods, and add other types of food (freeze dried, dehydrated, retort packaged, vacuum packed, etc.) to your larder to store a long-term food supply.  Manny canned goods only have a shelf-life of a year or two, but dry beans, rice, grains, and a few other staples will last more than 30-years if properly stored.

For storm and emergency events which are not severe, it may be best to stay in your home.  However, you need to always have a GO-Bag for each family member, and box(es) of food ready for immediate evacuation.  Be sure to practice fitting your evacuation supplies into your car now, in advance of an emergency situation.  When an emergency situation strikes, you may only have a few minutes (at most) to load your car and flee.  Be ready.

Increasing the quantity of canned goods and foil-packaged grocery store food is your first step in emergency food preparation. You need a minimum of two weeks of canned goods and water stored in your pantry, and a way to cook without using electricity or natural gas.

Canned Foods and Foil-Packed Foods

Pros:  These foods are inexpensive in comparison to MREs and freeze-dried food, and quality canned good tend to taster better.  And, since many of us routinely eat canned food, this makes it possible to keep your diet fairly normal during an emergency situation, which makes it a simple task to keep your stored food fresh.   (As long as you routinely eat the oldest items first).

Cons:  Canned foods which contain acidic items, such as a soup which contains tomatoes, usually have a shorter shelf because the acid interacts with the metal of the can.  Though glass jars are not as durable as a metal can, they are better for storing acidic foods — as long as they are stored upright and the contents are not in contact with the metal lid.  Also, canned prepared foods, such as chili, contain a lot of water.  Keep in mind that prepared foods which include a gravy or sauce will be much heavier than solid-packed foods.  Test the various brands of canned vegetables and fruit, and select those products which have less liquid which you will discard.  If you are including canned food in your GO-Bag or evacuation supplies, this added weight and waste becomes a very important consideration.

Dry Food (Rice, pasta, dry beans, wheat, flour, etc.)

Pros:  When considered by weight and space, dry products generally represent a lot of food per dollar, and they require little space for storage.  When stored in airtight, food-quality, insect-proof and rodent-proof containers, most dry foods have a long shelf-life.  Stored using air-removal techniques and the proper containers, many dry foods can be safely stored for 20-30 years or longer.  Bought in bulk, dry foods can be repackaged at home using food-grade 5-gallon buckets, which you seal with Gamma lids after inserting oxygen-absorbing packets.  This is by far the most economical way to prepare a long-term food supply, but the food alone is uninteresting, so you need to get a cookbook with recipes which are designed to make these bulk-stored foods more palatable.  These recipes use a small quantity of freeze dried meat or vegetables, with a sauce made from dehydrated condiments, to transform a mundane meal into a savory feast.

Cons:  Since these dry foods require water to hydrate and cook, you must increase your water supply accordingly.  Having sufficient water for drinking is more important that using water for food preparation.  Consuming dry foods, including cereal, without first hydrating them will cause health problems.  Once water has been added to dry food it must be eaten soon.  It will spoil quickly without refrigeration, so only prepare what you intend to consume for your meal.  Additionally, most people eat dry foods with a sauce, gravy, or spices to make them palatable, so don’t forget to include these food supplements in your planning.  Some dry foods, such as Raman noodles, provide bulk and quell hunger but have no nutritional value.

Note:  When planning for a food supply designed to last more than a month, additional planning and other dry goods are required.  Whole grains such as wheat, corn and oats will require a hand-crank grain mill.  Baking soda and yeast are important for baking.  Salt has many uses including preserving foods and a number of medical uses, plus it can attract game animals and it’s useful as a commodity for barter, so you should store a large quantity.  Honey and certain spices have medicinal benefits, while a number of other spices meet other needs such as encouraging animals to stay out of your vegetable garden.  Fats and oils are essential to health (annually, 96-pounds, which equates to about 17-gallons per person), yet most freeze-dried and dehydrated foods contain almost no fats or oil, so you need to make provisions for this need.  Medicines for diarrhea, and especially natural laxatives such as Metamucil, are vital dry goods because a change in diet often upsets your body systems.  Vitamin C is useful for healing after an injury.  Comfort foods like coffee, tea, sugar, and chocolate syrup are not technically essential, but nevertheless important.  Aluminum foil has scores of uses.  If you do not know how long the emergency will last, be prepared to plant a garden to augment your food supply.  This will require sprout seeds (short term), and heirloom seeds (long term) and gardening equipment.  And the list goes on and on.  The point is this; long-term food storage requires extra planning.  This article is only an introduction.

Home-Canned Food

Pros:  Same benefits as for manufactured canned foods, but often far less expensive and food can be fresher and spiced prior to canning, making it more palatable as well as more nutritious for you and your family.  More types of food can be stored safely in glass than in a metal can, and glass is a safer canning medium and makes it possible to inspect the food prior to opening.

Cons:  Food cleaning and preparation is time consuming, and sanitation and proper canning methods must be strictly monitored to insure safety and stability.  Home canning is generally accomplished using glass jars, so the food supply is more susceptible to breakage, so proper storage is essential.  Transportation of food canned in glass jars is problematic.  When opened, jars should emit a distinct sound indicating a release of the vacuum seal.  If the jar opens silently, the food may be spoiled.

Retort-Packaged Food

Pros:  For milk which more closely resembles fresh milk in taste, ultrahigh-temperature pasteurized milk stored in retort packaging, is the answer.  Non-fat cow milk stores better than low-fat milk, but rice and soy milks have a longer shelf-life.  Since many grocery stores do not stock these items, they must be purchase from a vendor such as Walton Feed ( or Ready Made Resources (

Cons:  Though the taste of these milk products is better than powdered milk, the taste is nowhere close to its fresh counterpart; so many people will not want to use these products routinely. For most people, these milks will work in recipes, and perhaps cereal, but will not be suitable for drinking.  Unfortunately, the shelf-life is only six-months, but this can be extended slightly if refrigerated.

U.S. military “Meal, Ready-to-Eat” food, more commonly referred to as MREs, are available in the civilian market.  These quick and easy meals meet the need for a short-term emergency food supply, and the 24+ menus offer variety, however they are bulky and have a limited shelf-life. But with MREs, a hot meal is available in minutes using the water-activated disposable heater.

Military MREs; Meal, Ready-toEat

Pros:  Extensive research has been done by the U.S. military to develop the optimal food for combat troops operating in the field.  Civilian versions of these pre-packaged meals are available from the same manufactures that make these meals for the government.  Each MRE contains approximately 1,200 calories of food which has been fortified with vitamins and other nutrients.  Each MRE is a complete meal, including condiments, desert, powdered drink, and even a hand wipe and bit of toilet paper.  Since these meals are already hydrated and precooked, they can be eaten direct from the package without any food prep.  Disposable flameless-heaters which are water activated (often purchased separately), can be used to quickly heat the meal.  With more than two dozen menu selections, including vegetarian, MREs have become popular for emergency food storage.  MREs is what the U.S. government generally distributes to disaster victims in the country and abroad.

Cons:  The full MRE meal packet is bulky and far heavier than dehydrated or freeze-dried backpacking food, but since they don’t require any food preparation, they remain popular.  Soldiers and civilians seeking to reduce weight and bulk, often separate the entrée and flameless heater from the other contents of the heavy plastic envelope, and carry only the items from the meal which they like.  However, though you can purchase just the entrée and heater on the civilian market, utilizing only part of the meal represents a substantial reduction in calories and nutritional value.  Further, when consuming the entrée only for multiple days, constipation is likely so these entrees need to be augmented by high-fiber food supplements such as high-fiber meal-replacement bars.  Though MRE meals are extremely convenient, they are expensive.  When purchased in a case of 12-meals, average cost is around $7.50 per meal (for true military-specification MREs).  Though an MRE may be safe to eat for 20-years, shelf-life is only listed as 3-years.  Many MREs purchase on “sale” in the civilian marketplace have expired dates.  For more on MREs, search in our database for MRE.

Freeze-dried foods are available in single-serving size (recommended for evacuation and GO-Bags), in #10 cans (recommended), and in 5-gallon buckets (ideal for large families or groups).

Freeze Dried Food

Pros:  Using a process originally designed by NASA for the Apollo space missions, freeze dried foods are flash frozen and then vacuum packed.  These foods do not require refrigeration or special handling, but water does need to be added to rehydrate the food.  Once reconstituted with water and cooked, these foods retain much of the fresh taste, color, and aroma of frozen food.  With nearly 98% of the water removed, the weight of the food is reduced by 90% compared to fresh food.  Since quality manufacturers vacuum pack their food in Mylar or foil packets, or specially designed cans, the oxygen can be removed from the food.  This stabilizes flavor, texture, and nutritional value.  Quality manufacturers such a Mountain House boast a shelf-life of 7-years for their backpacking meals, and 25-years for food which they factory pack in special #10 cans.  Freeze dried food has long been a favorite of wilderness backpackers, so manufacturers such as Mountain House routinely package their foods in small quantities, or as complete meals, which is particularly handy when used in a GO-Bag.  Eggs, and even ice cream, can be freeze dried so this process offers a great deal of food variety.  Five-gallon buckets lined with Mylar bags containing freeze dried food, is also available from vendors such as:   However, once the package is opend the storage life drops quickly.  The freeze drying process coupled with enamel-lined cans, and oxygen removal and nitrogen flushing processes, also retains the nutritional value of the food better than any of the other processes, so the #10 can option is the best for most situations unless the food is being prepared for a large group.

Cons:  Food packages labeled as “Serves 2” are generally only sufficient for one person.  Pound-for pound, freeze-dried prepackaged meals are generally more expense than any of the other emergency foods.  Since hydration and cooking is required, a stove (and time) is required for proper preparation.  Individual meals can often be prepared using the foil packaging of the food, but bulk foods require cookware.  Like MREs, freeze dried foods have a reduced shelf life if exposed to temperature fluctuations and high ambient temperatures.  Single-meal packaging is generally not durable, so when transporting in a Go-Bag the foil packet should be protected by a zip-loc plastic bag.

Dehydrated Food

Pros:  Less costly than freeze-dried foods, and sometimes even cheaper than fresh food, dehydrated foods are a cost-efficient alternative to freeze dried.  Like home-canning in jars, dehydrated foods can also be produced at home with minimal equipment.  When a home-use dehydrating machine is used along with a vacuum-packaging machine, reasonable shelf life can be attained.  However, dehydrated food made by a quality manufacturer, reconstitutes better and more uniformly.  Commercial dehydration works better on some foods than others, so experimentation is advised before you purchase any food item in quantity.  Dehydrated mashed potatoes, puddings, peanut butter, pancake and bread mix, and vegetable and fruits designed to be added to a meal as a supplement, are the most popular dehydrated foods.   Visit Walton Feed ( for more information.

Cons:  Generally a far shorter effective shelf-life than freeze-dried foods.  Only experienced amateurs or professionally manufactures can usually produce dehydrated foods which have a reliable shelf-life.  Homemade dehydrated foods are often snack foods such as apples, bananas, and apricots.  Over time, the nutritional value of dehydrated food declines, textures change, and taste diminishes.  For those dehydrated foods requiring reconstitution with water, some do not fully rehydrate, which makes the food less palatable.  However, dehydrated foods such as potato flakes make savory mashed potatoes after many years if repackaged into suitable airtight containers with oxygen absorbers.

Note Regarding Long-Term Food Storage:  Due to the lower cost, most families will want to store nearly all bulk grains, legumes, peanut butter, honey and other bulk foods in dehydrated form.  These foods should be stored in food-grade buckets with Gamma lids (or at least Mylar bags), and the packer should have used nitrogen to remove the oxygen prior to sealing the container.  This is best accomplished by a reputable supplier who specializes in food for long-term storage.  However, for those who are more budget minded, home methods using food-grade buckets with Gamma lids (or properly sealed Mylar bags), and inserting oxygen-absorbing packets or chips of dry ice before sealing, can be nearly as effective.  To make this stored food more palatable, store a smaller quantity of freeze-dried vegetables, fruits and meats, in addition to spices.  Use these as supplementary foods to make your meals more interesting and nutritious.  Review the recipes in cookbooks designed for these foods for suggestions on what supplemental foods and spices should be included in your larder.   

Lifeboat rations are not suitable for long-term use, but they are a valuable addition to your GO-Bag or for storage in a vehicle.

Lifeboat & Emergency Food Rations (Brand must be U.S. Coast Guard Approved)

Pros:  Lightweight and very inexpensive, these are the most compact of all the emergency foods, and yet these food-bar rations are an amazingly complete nutritionally-rich on-the-go meal.  Unlike most sports bars and meal-replacement bars, these rations do not increase thirst.  For many years, these rations have continued to be a standard component in the survival kit packed into the lifeboats of large ships.  These compressed food bricks are vacuum packed in foil, which gives an unopened ration a 5-year shelf-life.  Unlike other emergency foods, these rations retain most of their nutritional value even after exposure to temperature extremes.  The most popular and palatable brands are: “Mainstay” and “Datrex.”  The manufacturer of Mainstay claims a formulation designed for more active, land-based survival needs.  A 9-meal packet of Mainstay costs about $7, yet it is only the size of a paperback book, and weighs only 24-ounces.  Each pre-measured meal cube offers 400 calories of nutrition (for a total of 3,600 calories per packet).  Whichever brand you purchase, make sure it is fresh, and that it has been approved for use by the United States Coast Guard.  (Coast Guard approval is like a Good Housekeeping seal of approval for this type of food ration).  At least one packet of these rations is a prudent addition to every GO-Bag, to be eaten if you’re on the run, or when other provisions have been exhausted.

Cons:  Taste and texture are unappealing, and these bars (or cubes) are not stomach filling, but they do provide short-term emergency sustenance far better than energy-bars or meal-replacement bars.  Per-meal cost is incredibly low.  Though the taste is acceptable, these meal cubes will not make you look forward to your next meal, so you may need to discipline yourself to eat because you must.  If given any other option, these rations are not suitable for long-term use.  True, they have kept many inactive sailors alive after more than a month on the sea, but these rations lack many essential micro-nutrients and fiber which are essential for an active life and robust health.

Each type of emergency food has its place in your emergency food supply.  Some, like canned foods purchased from a grocery store, are easy to use in everyday life, making these a good choice as the first level of emergency food storage.  But MREs and lifeboat rations are clearly better for food-on-the-go as will be needed for traveling by vehicle or on-foot with your GO-Bag.  For long-term food storage, it’s hard to beat the great taste of freeze-dried food, but it is expensive, so augmenting it with bulk-packed 5-gallon buckets of dry food will save you money.  In short, it makes sense to have a combination of all of these types of emergency food in a well-planned emergency food larder.

Emergency Food: Meal, Ready-to-Eat (U.S. Military MRE) Reply

Developed by the U.S. military after extensive nutritional and long-term storage research, the modern MRE has replaced the MCI (Meals, Combat, Individual – 1980s), the lighter LRP (Long Range Patrol) rations used in Vietnam, and the C-Ration (canned) .

Though far from gourmet fare, the current-issue MRE meals are a quick and tasty meal when compared to many other options.  With more than two dozen menu selections ranging from meat (or meat-like) dishes to vegetarian, spicy to mild, there is something which will satisfy most, especially if the diner is hungry.  The 1,200 calories of food in each packet is adequate for most people, but between meal addition of Power Bars and candy bars can be a welcomed addition and extra energy boost during trying times.

Packaged in a heavy plastic bag designed to be sturdy and bug resistant, MRE meals contain an entrée, side dish, dessert, crackers with cheese spread, peanut butter or jelly, a powdered beverage (coffee, tea, sport drink, etc.), chewing gum, condiments (salt, pepper, sugar, creamer, and sometimes Tabasco sauce), plastic spoon, matchbook, hand-wash towelette, and a tiny packet of toilet paper.  A flameless water-activated food heater is sometimes included in the package, or can be purchased separately.

Three MRE disposable heaters (left in photo), and three MRE entrees (brown boxes on right), weigh just over two pounds, and occupy just over 100-cubic inches of space. Not as lightweight or compact as freeze-dried backpacking meals, the “ready to eat” aspect is what makes these a great emergency food.  The “eat on the run” benefit, and not needing to add a cook pot and stove to your GO-Bag, provide a definite advantage when evacuating.

For use in a standard size GO-Bag, the MRE takes too much space, but since the entrée meal and flameless heaters are available separately, carrying six meals becomes practical  (8-1/4″h x 5″ w x 2-1/2″ d).  Obviously, using the entree-only reduces the calorie count, but in combination with high-fiber and Power Bars, it can meet your on-the-go needs of your GO-Bag provisions.

First Strike Rations (FSR) are the U.S. military’s solution to soldiers stripping down their MREs.  Similar to our Go-Bag needs, soldiers often discard the MRE protective bag and items which they consider to be unessential, in an effort to reduce weight and space for field operations. Unfortunately, this newer ration is hard to find in the civilian market. FSR meals consist primarily of a sandwich similar to a Hot-Pocket, plus an energy bar, but they aren’t nearly as tasty as an MRE meal.

First Strike Rations, or FSR,  are the U.S. military’s response to soldiers stripping down their MREs to reduce the weight and bulk.  FSR meals are not as tasty, but they are lighter in weight while increasing the important calorie count (2,900 calories vs. the 1,200 calories of a full MRE).  Since these are a recent development, it’s hard to find the genuine article in the civilian marketplace.  First Strike energy bars are more readily available, but not the entire sandwich (hot-pocket) meal.

As a point of reference, the U.S. military calculates that an active male (age 18 to 30) will burn an average of 4,200 calories a day in a combat situation, but stress often reduces voluntary eating to 2,400 calories.  The result is a negative energy balance, and this is a problem that needs to be avoided.

The effect of a negative energy balance may not be a major problem short-term, such as a three day on foot trek with a GO-Bag.  However, the cumulative effect over time will create a significant reduction in energy, resistance to disease, and seriously impair decision-making ability (acuity).  The consumption of sufficient water (and electrolytes) will minimize this effect short-term, but sufficient water and food are both essential to an individual’s ability to operate and cope during an emergency situation.

MREs are ideal as a temporary meal solution, but we recommend that you augment these meals with high-fiber energy bars.  Including some freeze-dried backpacking food is a worthy addition, too, but these foods require hydration and cooking, so a backpacking stove and fuel will need to be added to your kit.

For use in your at-home disaster supplies, MREs are a good way to augment what you have in your pantry, but they should be stored inside your home rather than exposing them to the temperature fluctuations and potential rodent problems of garage or shed storage.  Plus, these cases can be quickly thrown into a car for emergency evacuation, they pack well, and they take less space, are lighter, and more nutritionally complete than most canned food meals.

The downside of eating MREs while bivouacked or at home, is that these meals were designed for active combat, so they are high in fat and salt.  Since the meals are low in fiber content, this can be desirable during a few day cross-country trek or during combat, but this leads to constipation, particularly if not active.  So, if consumed during a sedentary period, augment the MRE meal with other foods which are low-fat, low-salt, and high in fiber.

The food from an MRE is not necessarily the most attractive, but it is nutritious.

Unfortunately, shelf-life of MREs is listed as three years under optimal storage conditions, but this low expectation is likely a defense against litigation rather than a literal limit.  In our experience, as long as the foil packets within the MRE bag are intact and not bloated, they taste okay, and they have been stored properly, the meal will probably be eatable for 10-years or more if it has been stored at 70-degrees.  However, though the meal may remain nutritious and reasonably tasty, the primary effect of age will be a decline in vitamins, so plan accordingly.

Date codes on MREs are often hard to decipher.  Sometimes you will find it plainly etched on the case, such as “05/10/12” which you know to mean May 10, 2012 when used by an American manufacturer.  However, some manufacturers will use a different form such as “1068”. In this case, the first number “1” stands for the year (2001) and the next three numbers indicate which day of the year (365 days in a year) it was packed. So “068” would be day #68 of the year 2001…or March 9, 2001.  So if a case is more than 10-years old, the date can be deceptive.  Often the condition of the case, plus the date code, is the only way to differentiate between old and new product.

If you are looking for emergency food supplies suitable for long-term storage, freeze dried or inert-gas packed foods are a better choice.  Even ordinary grocery stored foods, such as dried beans and rice, can last more than 30-years if stored in airless food containers.  This is a different purpose than the need that the MRE was designed to fill.

MRE Flameless heaters are lightweight, water activated, and disposable.

Unlike freeze-dried and dehydrated foods, MRE’s are, as the name implies, ready to eat.  If you are on the go in an emergency situation, you probably won’t want to engage in food preparation.  Yet, a warm meal is a huge boost to the psyche, and the important attitude adjustment which comes from a little rest and a hot meal.  MREs are pre-cooked so they can be eaten cold, but the ultra-lightweight disposable heater designed for them, makes preparing a hot meal a snap.  You just place your MRE entrée into the plastic bag of the heater envelope, and add water to activate.  Within a couple minutes you have a fully hydrated, healthy, fairly-good tasting meal.

MREs can be purchased from many retailers, but we recommend only buying them from reputable sources such as those listed at the bottom of this post.  Many MREs which are sold on eBay and Craig’s List are old and absconded from the military or Katrina disaster stores.  Also, new MREs should be labeled with the date of manufacture, and checking this date is essential, even when purchased from a usually reliable source.  Be aware, MREs sold on “sale” are often old inventory.

Meal, Ready-to-Eat entrees and heaters can be purchased separately, or as a complete MRE.  Civilian packaging varies, but the peel-to-open impervious plastic-bag container is necessary for durability.

Reputable manufacturers of genuine MREs are: Wornick Eversafe (illustrated in above photos) and Sopakco Sure-Pak (Highest rated in taste test and quality review); followed by Ameriqual A-Pack and MRE Star (Mediocre rating); and Menu-C MREs (Unrated).  Expect to pay around $7.50 per meal when purchase by the case (12).  You may pay slightly more when you purchase a case of assorted meals rather than a case containing the same menu.

For more about MREs, visit:

How long can you store bottled water? Reply

Fuji Bottled WaterHow long can I store bottled water?

Unopened bottled water products can often be safely stored for years, provided the bottles are kept in the proper environment, and the plastic material of the bottle is BPA-free.  When in doubt, discard or treat bottled water which is more than 6-months old.

Water is also available in aluminum cans and foil pouches, but since these products cannot be inspected prior to purchase or use, there is little opportunity to evaluate the contents.  For water stored in these containers, it is essential that you know the water is from a reputable source, and that it has been properly transported and stored.  If the container does not have a “bottled-on” date or “use-by” date, the contents should be purified before use.

Water provided by a government agency, or well-known relief organization, which is contained in a soft drink (soda) can (Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Sprite, etc.) may be totally acceptable, as these large soft drink distributors are often called upon to can water during times of disaster or other emergencies.

Always store bottled water away from chemicals, such as cleaning compounds, paints, or gasoline.  And, keep the bottles on pallets or shelves, and off of concrete or other flooring which might leach chemicals into the bottles.  Don’t store bottled water in a garage, storage shed, or other location which will expose the water to temperature extremes.  Don’t store bottled water in direct sunlight for an extended period of time.

Bottles which have been exposed to very high or low temperatures (freezing) will likely lose their structural integrity, and may leak or become contaminated.  If you suspect any of your stored bottled water has become contaminated (smells funny, has a plastic taste, shows signs of algae growth, fogging, leaking, particulate matter floating in the water, etc.), discard or boil it for 5-minutes before using it, even in an emergency.  Becoming sick from water-born contaminants will make your situation much worse.  Don’t take chances.

Many experts tout Fuji bottled water as the best, but regardless of whether or not it deserves this high distinction, the square-ish shape of the Fuji bottles makes storage and transport easy, as the bottles pack tighter.  A less expensive option includes brands such as Dasani bottled water, a company which uses plastic bottles which are much stronger than the budget brands.  The added bottle strength is significant for emergency use and transport.  The 24-bottle packages of Dasani are also wrapped in heavy plastic wrap, a factor which makes transport and handling easier, as the packages are less likely to break-open and dump the bottles.

For a list of NSF Certified bottled water brands, visit: