Keeping food from spoiling is one of the greatest challenges for a prepper and there are many products available to help extend food shelf-life. Canning jars, sealable plastic bags, food-grade buckets…the list goes on. Mylar bags, however, are easily one of the most useful of them all for storing almost any kind of foodstuff. Not only is the material itself good for keeping nasties out and the food inside safe and clean, it also acts as a flexible container that allows for easy storage and transport of supplies! Let’s see what makes these bags so useful and why you need to have a few for your food stockpiles.
Mylar, the Space Age Miracle
Mylar is a trade name for Biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate, a polyester material developed in the 1950′s and used by NASA for a variety of space-faring purposes. Space blankets, for example, are made possible owing to the insulative properties of the mylar they’re made of, and similar material was layered into astronaut suits to keep people from freezing in the harsh depths of space. Once it had proven itself in one of the harshest environments known to man, other ideas were quickly dreamed up for this wondrous new material. Many convenience or ready-to-eat foods are now sealed in mylar packets for safekeeping, including Pop-Tarts.
Mylar for Preservation
Of course it is that last use, protecting food, that preppers find so useful. Mylar has many properties that make it ideal for protecting food from the outside world:
- Impermeability. A big word that just means nothing gets through the material of the bag. Mylar is resistant to entry by bugs and dirt of course, but it is also resistant to things you can’t see such as gasses and moisture which can cause food to rot.
- Food-grade on the cheap. Since you get all the other benefits of mylar, buying food-grade bags just makes sense and it can help save money in the long run. This allows you to put the mylar bags in non-food-grade containers (cheap 5 gallon buckets for example) without exposing your food to potential hazards.
- Durability. Although mylar isn’t invincible (indeed some types are made thin just so you can rip through them, like on a Pop-Tart packet) most food-grade mylar bags you’ll use are more durable since they are less likely to react to their surrounding environment. Mylar doesn’t rot in water like cardboard boxes will, for example, or spread fungal spores or mold. Although it will melt in high temperatures (such as an open flame) when it comes to food storage that isn’t often a major concern.
- Flexibility. Mylar acts more like a plastic bag than a stiff tub or a cardboard box. This means that it can be molded into shape and squeezed to get excess air out of it or to fit it tightly into another container of some kind.
- Easy to seal at home. Basically to seal a mylar bag all you really need is a common household iron, though there are also tools made specifically for the job that make things easier. The fact that you don’t need a special machine like you do for vacuum-sealed bags is a great asset to many.
Using Mylar Bags
Generally speaking, you can throw almost any kind of foodstuff in a mylar bag. For best results, though, it’s recommended that you do more than just toss food in the mylar bags and then seal them up. Typically at least one oxygen absorber should be placed on top of the food in the bag once you’re done filling it in order to drain any excess oxygen left in the bag once it is sealed. This leaves only nitrogen and argon as the primary materials for your food to react with, and since those two elements don’t react to many foods it leaves “neutral air” in the bag, increasing shelf life.
As an additional step, you should also place the bags in a another container that makes it easier to carry the food around without arousing suspicion. 5 gallon buckets are the most common choice since they’re reasonably cheap and durable. I recommend springing for gamma-seal lids if you use the buckets, since they help keep the food inside the bag fresh once you open it. Additionally, you can also place smaller packets of food into the same bucket together in small mylar bags rather than using one large bag so that you aren’t exposing pounds and pounds of food to the air whenever you decide to open it.
Regardless, make sure you place the mylar bags in a place that is away from sunlight, heat, and especially sources of high temperatures such as fire since mylar can melt and damage stored foods. Again, storing them in buckets can be useful for keeping the sun away and reducing the odds of someone accidentally poking the bags or otherwise puncturing them and exposing food to the elements.
Finally, be aware that mylar bags are not rodent proof! Although the mylar will help reduce the smells from the grain or other stored food inside, residual dust and the smell of other foods could encourage a mouse to sample your precious mylar to get to the food within. Mousetraps near the food will…Continue Reading at Prepared For That: Mylar Bags: How to Keep Your Food Clean and Fresh in the Long Term