The Long term Bug Free Storage of Dry Foods

I see posts on the internet about preventing the growth of bugs in grains and other dry food storage.  One method that is widely mentioned is freezing your products for several days prior to canning.  I have been storing foods for over 45 years without bug problems, I have never used freezing to kill bugs. I have used bay leaves, CO2 and oxygen absorbers.  The other thing that I watch very closely is the moisture level in my dry products.  Moisture levels should be below 10%.  See the following post to learn how to determine moisture levels.

Freezing dry goods can be an effective means of killing insects.  The problem is that there are  questions about whether or not freezing kills the eggs of all the different types of insects that can infest grain.  Remember insect eggs survive outdoors in cold snowy parts of the country.  So if you use this method, it would be a good idea to watch your products to see if insects do show up.

Personally, I like oxygen absorbers, but even with them, you have to be careful.  Studies conducted by BYU show that oxygen deprivation is an effective method of disinfestations, when the oxygen content is held below 1% for at least 12 days.  The thing you have to be careful of is the type of container you use. 

Number 10 steel cans are an effective and reliable container.  Polyethylene terephthalate (PETE) has also proven to be an effective container to be used with oxygen absorber packets for disinfestation  (Broderick and others 2010), but for long term storage the buckets will breathe.  High-density polyethylene (HDPE) 5 gal buckets are very popular storage containers for dry foods.  Tests show that oxygen absorbers will not reliably keep the oxygen levels below 1% for 12 days unless you use Mylar bags.

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Personally, I use Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers for any dry products I store in plastic buckets other than sugar or salt.  This is the best method to store your foods for long term storage and maintain peak nutrition.  I know it adds a small amount of cost, but when you need your storage it will be worth it.

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17 thoughts on “The Long term Bug Free Storage of Dry Foods”

    1. We add a little food-grade diatomaceous earth when storing grains and rice. Kills bugs dead and does not harm the food.
      BTW, we also dust it on our dogs. No more fleas or ticks. Seriously.

  1. You said “I use Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers for any dry products I store in plastic buckets other than sugar or salt.” Why not sugar or salt? How do you store those?

    1. I store sugar and salt in plastic buckets, but they do not require the Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers. They store well long term as long as they are protected from moisture. Howard

  2. When you say you use Myler bags, do you seal the product in the myler bags first, or just lime with Myler bags? How would that work for if you for example wanted to fill up a 56 gallon drum with rice? I’m new to this and wanted to start a drum of rice (Right now in New York rice is sold out in a lot of places, and there’s a limit of one bag per family in a lot of supermarkets where do you end up finding them.) right now in New York rice is sold out in a lot of places, and there’s a limit of one bag per family in a lot of supermarkets where do you end up finding them.

    1. The combination of a mylar bag inside a plastic bucket is best for food storage but as long as the bucket is made of food-grade plastic and sealed tightly, the bag isn’t necessary. Having said that and in answer to your question, line the bucket with the mylar bag and fill it with food. Add oxygen absorbers to prolong the shelf life and to kill off insect eggs that might be present. You can use a hot iron or a flatiron (used to straighten hair) to seal the mylar bag. However, I HIGHLY recommend you do not use a 56 gallon drum for food storage!! First, to my knowledge, there is no mylar bag that large (could be wrong, but I’ve never seen them). You’re much better off storing rice in much smaller containers. You can rotate through them more quickly and the rice will be much more accessible.

      As far as finding rice, you’ll have to keep an eye on your local grocery stores. They typically stock shelves overnight. If there continues to be a limit on how much you can buy at one time, you’ll have to make more frequent shopping trips.

      My suggestion is to figure out how much rice you will use per person, per day. If you want to have 30 days worth of rice and you’ll use 1 cup of cooked rice per person per day, you’ll need 1/3 cup of dry rice per person per day. For one person, 15 pounds of rice will give you a little more than a month’s worth. Hope this helps.

      1. I’m new to long term storage…I am filling 1 gallon mylar bags with oxygen absorbers with plans to put them in 5 gallon buckets. Do I need to actually vacuum seal the mylar bags before sealing? I tried to suction air out with a household vacuum and seal with hot iron but I’m not convinced the seals are completely tight – is this a problem?

        1. Minimizing the amount of oxygen in the mylar bags will help your food stay fresher and maintain the highest level of nutrients possible. If you can buy oxygen absorbers, those are a really easy way to remove oxygen. Put 1 or 2 in a bag with the food, press out as much air as possible, and then seal. The absorbers will continue to remove oxygen, and you should see the bag slowly become more and more compressed during the process. If you aren’t able to get oxygen absorbers, they’re pretty cheap on Amazon, then just do what you’re doing. The shelf life wont’ be as long but at least you’ll have stored food.

  3. For the oxygen absorbers how do you store the unused ones once the package is opened? Also have a big supply of individually wrapped 1 lb. packages of dried beans. Is it ok, also, to stick each 1 lb. package pf beans with the wrapper in a mylar bag with an oxygen absorber?

    1. Those absorbers will begin absorbing oxygen once the original packaging is open. Here’s what I do. I count how many jars/containers I am going to fill, get them ready filled with food (beans, rice etc.) and then open the oxy absorber package. I quickly count out how many I need and then put the remaining absorbers in a canning jar. Add one absorber to each food-filled container, seal it, and they’re good to go. The extra absorbers will have absorbed a bit of oxygen but not enough to render them useless. Regarding those beans, pour them into the mylar bags directly, add the absorber and seal. You want that absorber to absorb all the oxygen in and among food particles, and if the food is in a separate bag, that won’t happen. Hope this helps.

        1. A rule of thumb to follow is 500cc for 5 gallon bucket, in the case of 1 lb bag of beans 300cc is overdoing it. 300cc is ok but you could also get away with 100cc or 200cc.

  4. So you do not need to freeze rice or beans. First as long as your using either oxygen absorbers and either canning jars of Mylar bags sealed to store the food in correct please help. Thank you .

    1. If you use the correct amount of oxygen absorbers and tightly seal the food container it can help get rid of microscopic eggs. You only have to freeze rice, and beans for a week to help get rid of the said microscopic eggs. After that they’re all good to store normally.

  5. What about dry canning rice and dried legumes in half gallon glass Mason jars. How long will contents stay bug free and edible?

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