Long term storage of food should be high on the list of any prepper’s list of prerogatives. Having food on hand when times get tough and supply lines crumble is a great thing.
But most foods don’t last as long as we would like, and even among the longest-lasting foods the need to constantly inspect and rotate to ensure freshness is a major chore and highly draining in terms of time and resources.
One way that preppers can greatly extend the shelf-life of the foods they typically store, and improve the freshness, is by storing the food in sealing mylar bags.
Mylar is a durable plastic-like material that is a natural oxygen barrier, making it perfect for this use. The bags and the tools needed to create an airtight closure are commonly available and affordable, making this a technology that preppers would be wise to employ.
This article will tell you everything you need to know about using mylar bags for long term food storage.
What Causes our Stored Food to Degrade?
The main reason our stored food goes bad is because of oxygen. Oxygen causes foods to oxidize, which leads to rancidity in fats, and the growth of mold and bacteria. The degradation process is accelerated by heat, light, and moisture.
Mylar bags are an effective way to keep oxygen out, and thus prevent food degradation. No matter what kind of food you are storing, mylar bags can likely help.
What are Mylar Bags?
Mylar bags are an effective way to block out oxygen and keep your food fresh for much longer.
Mylar is a plastic-like material that is made from multiple layers of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) or PE (polyethylene), with aluminum foil sandwiched in between. This combination makes for an effective barrier to both light and oxygen.
They were originally created for the space industry as an ultra-light and reliable way to package food for astronauts because of their ability to block out oxygen and moisture. This same property makes them ideal for long term food storage.
Mylar bags come in a variety of sizes, but the most common size for food storage is gallon size. They are also available in quart and sandwich sizes. Mylar bags can be sealed with a heat sealer or an iron.
Originally a high tech and specialized item, these bags and the systems to handle and seal them are no widely and cheaply available.
How Does Mylar Help?
Mylar bags create an oxygen-free environment inside the bag, which slows down or stops the oxidation process. This means that your food will stay edible for much longer in storage when it is kept in mylar bags.
The aluminum layer on the outside of the mylar film reflects light and helps to keep out UV rays. This is another way that mylar helps to preserve your food.
Mylar bags are also water resistant, which keeps your food dry and they are tough enough to resist compromise due to rough handling or intrusion from most pests. All of these assets together significantly helps toward increasing the storage life of your food!
What Can I Store in Mylar Bags?
Almost any type of food can be stored in mylar bags. Fruits, vegetables, meat, grains, pasta – you name it! The only exceptions are items that are high in water content (like fresh fruits and vegetables), if they are not dehydrated; this is because the water will cause the bag to burst over time.
Mylar bags can also be used to store non-food items, like medications and vitamins. You can also keep clothing, blankets and even documents in mylar bags to protect them from environmental degradation.
Basically anything that would benefit from protection against the elements can be placed in a mylar bag- as long as it fits!
You can find mylar bags online or at some stores that sell canning supplies. Prices vary, but they are generally very affordable. Just be sure to get the right size for your needs!
How Do I Seal a Mylar Bag?
There are a few ways to seal a mylar bag. The most common way is by using a heat sealer. If you don’t have a heat sealer, you can use an iron. Just place the mylar bag on a hard surface and cover it with a cloth.
Then set the iron to medium-high and iron the bag for about 30 seconds. Be careful not to let the iron touch the plastic directly or you will damage the bag! As always, this should be done on a heat-proof and flame resistant work surface.
If you are using a quart or sandwich size mylar bag, you can also use a zip-top bag as long as it is made from food grade plastic.
Just place your food in the zip-top bag and then put that inside of the mylar bag. This creates an extra layer of protection against oxygen and pests.
Once sealed, your mylar bag should retain its protective capability for many decades to come.
My Experience with Mylar Bagging
Storing food continues to be my main priority in gathering survival supplies. Canned goods are the mainstay of much of my stockpile along with some freeze dried. Over the past few months I have added some additional food via storing them in mylar bags.
Mylar packaging has been around for many years. Used for many different products – mylar has a unique ability to present an oxygen barrier and protect food for extended storage.
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So – how do I store food in mylar bags? Typically for preparedness-related food storage – food is placed into the mylar bag, an oxygen absorber is placed in the bag, and then the bag is sealed(using heat). The oxygen absorber will eliminate most all the oxygen in the bag – thus providing a very long shelf life.
In the picture above I have my supplies laid out – mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, some spaghetti, and my iron. I also had some rice as well to store away:
Here I have placed some rice in the Mylar, and added the oxygen absorber. Next the top of the bag needs to be sealed up. Yes – a lot more rice can go in this bag:
Part of the “trick” to sealing the bag is to place it on something – and then run the hot iron over the Mylar sealing it. As much as possible should be removed from the bag prior to sealing:
I generally form a 1-2 inch sealed edge along the top. Once sealed, it is good to try to squeeze the bag to make sure there are no leaks.
Below is one of my completed bags. Mark all bags with the date of packaging, contents, and approximate amount:
There are any different sized bags available. I prefer the gallon size:
Once I have several bags done – I place them in a plastic 5 gallon bucket and place the lid on it. I then mark on the outside the date of packaging and I list the contents as well.
Of note I never pack a bucket with only one ingredient. I always mix up the contents – beans, pasta, rice, sugar, salt, etc. Why? In-case I have to pack buckets in a vehicle to “head for the hills” – I want t know that however many buckets I get I will have a variety of food items.
Overall – this method is not too expensive. Also – there are some good videos on YouTube demonstrating this process, such as this one:
When stored under the right conditions certain foods can last a very long time.
Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
Mylar for Long Life and Freshness
Mylar bags are an excellent way to store food for long term storage. They are affordable and easy to use, and they provide a high level of protection against the elements. Be sure to seal your mylar bags properly to ensure that they will last for many years!
Are you thinking about using mylar bags for food storage? Do you have any questions that we can help answer? Let us know in the comments below! And be sure to check out our other articles on food storage for more tips and tricks!
last update 03/21/2022
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32 thoughts on “Sealing Food in Mylar Bags for Long-Term Storage”
I’m glad to see the Home Depot buckets. I use them too. I just hear so many people try to say you need a better bucket. The Home Depot 5 gal. buckets are food grade.
Hi Todd –
I have no issues with the buckets – regardless of the grade – due to the food being protected by the mylar.
Thanks – Rourke
I have spent a lot of time researching Mylar bags, oxygen absorbers and even plastic buckets. One tip I would like to pass on is, that after much trial and error, I have found that a ladies flat iron (also called a hair straightener) is a lot easier to use than a regular iron (the type you use on cloths).
The nice thing about the hair iron is that you do not have to lie the bag of food on its side, risking rice or beans sliding out all over the place. With the flat iron, you can just work your way across the top while the Mylar bag is in stand-up position in a bowl or bucket. A flat iron can be purchased for less than $20. I have a lot more information at my website or, as you suggest, there are lots of videos on YouTube.
If your wife has a flat iron for her hair that works better to seal mylar because its heated on both sides. If she doesn’t have one you can buy one for under $10. It also saves money because any scrap mylar can be used to make another bag.
Patriot One –
Man – great idea. I am going to try that.
Thanks – Rourke
I noticed you were using “Homer” buckets from Home Depot to store your food in. I have read how some bucket producing companies use methods that make their buckets unsafe for food storage. Are the Home Depot buckets safe? Thanks for all you do!
I have no issue with the Home Depot buckets as the food will not come in contact with the bucket and is protected in the mylar bag.
Thanks – Rourke
Rourke, I am just starting this process with my food storage. I am glad that you did this post. It gives me the motivation to get started. I do need to run to the supply store and get more Mylar bags so I have enough to do most of my food though. Great post and a great motivator.
Thanks for the great reminder of how easy and effective this is. The best prices I’ve found have been through my local LDS Cannery. http://www.providentliving.org/content/display/0,11666,8133-1-4352-1,00.html Anyone (regardless of faith) may purchase in any amount through the cannery and can also purchase a variety of additional goods and food storage products. Religion won’t be discussed (unless you specifically bring it up) and the prices can’t be beat.
I have one of those vacum sealer deals that has the see through bags with the machine that sucks the air out – do you think that would work Rorke? For long term storange just like what you are talking about?
From my research those bags will work if you put the ox absorber in it. The only issue from my research is those plastic bags allow UV light in, are not as durable, and – depending on thickness do not keep the air out as well as mylar.
I am looking at using them though and placing in a bucket as well.
Thanks – Rourke
Thanks for the idea of using a wooden dowl under my mylar bags when I am sealing them up. I have been using my daughters straight iron and it works well, but I like multiple ways. I am starting to make small individual servings of various dehydrated meals (my own mixes) that I can put in my BOB for a little variety. To make them easier to open I cut a small notch to tear them open at. Keep up the great posts.
THanks I like this, I will add this multiple package concept to my preps. I have been using the larg mylar bags for my bulk storage in buckets. Aftyer I seal the bag like you did, I snip the corner and remove the remaining air by a using the smallest attachment on my vaccum, pull it out after the bag gets sucked down then iron the corner, let it rest 24 hrs then inspect to see of the seal held, closed the lid.
Good idea Badger359 – Going to try that this weekend.
That was one of the best posts I have read in a long time! Excellent! – Ghost
Thanks Ghost Prepper!
I have two comments to make, first about the buckets and second about storing rice in mylar. The Home Depot buckets are good buckets to use. I was using an unnamed cheaper brand of buckets for a while but found that after a couple of years the plastic got brittle and the buckets ended up with cracks. I now use heavier duty buckets like those at Home Depot and Lowes.
My second comment is more of a warning about what went wrong when I stored rice in mylar. Because the rice is sharp it actually poked through the mylar once the air was taken out of the bag. These very small pinholes of course made the bags non airtight. Now I keep the rice in the original packaging and put the original package into the mylar. That just adds an additional layer of protection between the rice and the mylar. I’ve never heard of this happening to anyone else but I’m actually glad it did happen to me. I’d rather find out that this is a possibility before TSHTF than after!
Excellent on the rice and vacuuming out all of the air. I had not thought of that but certainly see how it could happen.
Thanks – Rourke
This happened to me too. Now I’m going to have to reseal everything. Question- When you keep the rice in the original packaging do you poke a hole in it to let the air out?
“I am starting to make small individual servings of various dehydrated meals (my own mixes) that I can put in my BOB for a little variety. ”
Amy, Could you post some of your recipes? I had the same idea but I’m not very creative. Thanks
It is a good idea to put rice, dried beans, peas etc in the freezer for 24 hours before putting the item into long term storage. This will kill any bugs or weevils that may be in the product.
As far a rice goes, I have been told that it will last 20 years if stored in the bag it came in, in a sealed bucket, in a cool dry place. So you may not need the mylar bag for it, however, it does not hurt.
Also I have heard a lot of back and fourth on “food grade buckets.” As I understood it as long as it had a the number 2 in a triangle on the bottom of the bucket and no chemicals were stored in it, it was good to go.
I see that Lowes now sells food grade buckets that are white and twice as much money as their silver 5 gallon buckets. They both have the same markings.
I have food stored in both Home Depot orange buckets and Loews silver buckets with Gamma seal lids.
I do not have mylar bags at this point but all the food is in the plastic bags it came in. I think that I will be OK.
Some stuff I have rotated out and eaten. It was just fine.
Hi Gun Nut –
The number in the triangle represents the polymer used to make the bucket.
I have heard the freezer thing as well – although I want the extra protein from the bugs!!
Thanks – Rourke
Rourke – Thinking about doing Mylar after your suggestion (if nothing else I will for sure do my vacumn bags with buckets but those bags are super expensive so Mylar might be smarter) – anyhow I went back to your pictures to get more direction and it looks like you don’t get all the air out? Am I mistaken? Just looking for direction, I’d hate to do preps wrong.
No – I do not get all the air out. I am going to start clipping the corner as suggested in previous comment – squeezing the air out – then re-seal the corner.
Good idea to get as much out as possible – but I am not overly concerned.
The oxygen absorber should “eat up” all of the oxygen. The air that is left is nitrogen which is not a bad thing. I agree with Rourke that you need not be concerned about any excess air or head space since it should be oxygen free.
for filling bags, canning jars, nearly anything, invest in a ‘canning funnel’ from a megamart – until i got a couple of these for a buck apiece, i never realized how much extra work i was making for myself when filling containers.
another trick i learned from an ex is to stand the bag up inside a mixing bowl, so you don’t need to grow an extra hand, or two.
sorry for the annoying capitalization – my shift key has stopped working – yep- time to get an air-compressor….
Thanks for the suggestions Ken –
Really enjoy the post & comments on the mylar bags….really helpful since none of my co-workers seem to be concerned about preparing.
another thing to consider for shorter-term replaced/rotated items – ‘reynolds handi-vac’ bags – basically zip top bags with a valve and a hand-pump to evacuate – about a buck more than zip-baggies, the pump about 3 bucks. never tried these long term and definitely not as tough as mylar, but every 3 months or so, i rotate out the pound of pipe tobacco from my edc bag, refill with fresh, reseal and suck the air out again. been using the same quart bag for a couple years now, and the tobacco is always fresh, and takes up a lot less room in the bag.
Have you ever tried hand warmers in place of oxygen absorbers? I’ve come across this idea in the past but have never tried it myself. Apparently they’re both iron shavings so they should work the same. I figure if you purchase the had warmers on sale and use them in 5-gallon buckets they might be very cost effective.
FYI: If you have a FireHouse Sub Shop in your area they sell their empty Pickle Buckets for $2 each. They are 5 Gallon with a gasketed lid and are obviously Food Grade. They will smell like pickles forevermore, but if you are sealing in Mylar bags the odor will not penetrate the seal. In addition, they donate the proceeds to local EMS groups to assist in the purchase of lifesaving equipment. Since HD charges, I believe, aboug 5 bucks per, you can more than double your bucket purchasing power while assisting your local EMS team at the same time. A better Twofer you couldn’t find.