Mylar, that shiny film space-blankets are made from, is a versatile material that has been used around the world for decades. How long a particular food will last in mylar bags depends on several factors.
Food stored in mylar bags can last for several months or years if stored correctly at the ideal temperature and air pressure for that particular item. Shelf life depends on several factors:
- Storage temperature
- Air pressure
In this article, I’ll cover the many factors that influence the length of time food will remain edible in mylar bags.
How Long Will Foods Stay Fresh in Mylar Storage Bags
Mylar makes it possible to store food for long periods, but not all food can be stored for the same amount of time. Below is a helpful chart that illustrates the different lengths of time you can store specific types of food:
The chart above lists many items which belong to broader categories of food. You can find more extensive charts here, or you can consult the Food and Drug Administration web page for more information.
Overall, the general rule of “less moisture, more time” holds true. Dried goods will last quite a long time, and things like honey, which is hydrophobic, will last an indefinite period of time in almost any semi-sealed container.
Dating Food Stores
One of the most important aspects of long-term food storage that is often overlooked by people who are new to the practice is the simple expiration date. Everything you intend to store yourself, if it hasn’t been pre-packaged, should have a clearly defined expiration date on the container.
If not, an expiration date is printed on the package; you should have some method of identifying which foods were stored when without having to open the container to smell it. This will save you time and headaches in the long run.
Before they are filled with items, Mylar bags are incredibly easy to write on with a felt-tip pen or marker. Write clearly and in bold letters for the best results. You should be able to identify the date quickly if you have to.
How Long Will Flour Last in Mylar Bags?
All-purpose flour, whole-wheat, or white flour, will store for up to 20 years in ideal conditions. Other types of flour, such as cake flour, will not keep this long, but if you freeze it, this will extend the shelf life by a considerable degree. Also include oxygen absorbers to maximize shelf life.
Though more labor-intensive, some experts and food-preppers recommend storing whole grains of wheat, which you would then unpackage and grind into flour yourself for use in bread and cakes.
Pro Tip: Wheat flour is generally considered a staple food for storage, and the one that I recommend for health and nutrional reasons. In a crisis or apocalypose, are you more worried about taste or living a long time?
How Long Will Oats Last in Mylar Bags?
According to studies, properly stored, dry steel-cut oats can last as an edible staple for more than 15 years. Of the variety of oats you could store in mylar bags, steel-cut oats, and instant oats will last the longest by far.
With the proper absorbency technology, such as iron packets or some other safe-store moisture preventative, rolled and instant oats will last almost as long as their steel cut counterparts.
Other types of oats include:
- Raw Oats
- Whole Oats
- Scottish Oatmeal
You can find all of these oats in their “meal” forms as well. This means they have been ground and packaged as meals.
How Long Will Sugar Last in Mylar?
Plain, granulated sugar and brown sugar, properly stored away from insects and mold, will last indefinitely. In an air-tight container like a mylar bag, sugar is known as a forever food and will not go bad.
There are a few types of sugar you can store:
- Granulated sugar
- Brown sugar
- Powdered sugar
- Demerara sugar
- Turbinado sugar
Pro Tip: The best kind of sugar to store for the longest period of time is “table” sugar. It contains no additives like some of the other sugars and does not need to be moisture controlled, only stored in an air-tight container.
Unlike other items in this article, most sugar types do not need to be stored in oxygen-deprived environments. In fact, sugar can become completely unusable if too much oxygen is removed from the container in which it is stored.
How Long Will Beans Last in Mylar?
Coming in at a close second in storage longevity, kidney beans, limas, and lentils can last an incredibly long time.
Because of their relatively low moisture content, many beans have a natural advantage over other dried goods. They are remarkably resistant to moisture accumulation as well and, though not compressible, store easily.
If stored properly, experts say that most types of dried beans will last between 20 and 30 years in mylar bags.
How Long will Pasta Last in Mylar Bags?
Most dried pasta will last upwards of 20 to 30 years in mylar bags. The type of pasta also makes little difference when it comes to longevity. However, many kinds of pasta are highly prone to infestation by certain insects, making it especially important to store it in air-tight containers.
As with many other foods, you should refrain from cooking the pasta before storing it. Many choose to keep it in the refrigerator after cooking, but it will not last as long under these conditions.
How Long Does Rice Last in Mylar?
There are two primary types of rice; white and brown rice.
White rice will store in mylar bags much longer than its brown counterpart, lasting up to 30 years. Brown rice is higher in moisture and lasts only a fraction of the time, less than one year, in fact.
How Long Does Powdered Milk Last in Mylar Bags?
Powdered milk might surprise you with its longevity.
Full-fat powdered milk will last for nearly five years in the proper conditions. This is because it is mostly flat, and even dehydration can’t change the chemical composition.
Semi-skimmed or reduced-fat powdered milk will last longer, however, and this is a common, easily obtained form of the food. Incidentally, I wrote an article on how to make milk powder, if you want to check it out. It highlights three easy methods of doing it.
As long as you store it in a cool, dry place and you remember to reseal the container, you can enjoy skimmed powdered milk for up to 10 years.
How Long Does Cereal Last in Mylar Bags?
For grain-based cereals, the shelf life in vacuum-sealed mylar bags is 10 or even longer, when stored in ideal conditions. The high-sugar, less nutritionally dense cereals last longer because of the high sugar content.
Granola, on the other hand, which some might consider a cereal type, will last much longer than other milled cereals. Pure granola can last nearly ten years if it is dried and stored correctly. This is again due to a decreased moisture affinity.
Cereal grains, on the other hand, last much longer than “cereals” in the U.S. Below is a list of cereal grains:
These grains can easily be overlooked, but sorghum, maize, and other cereals will last up to 10 years in mylar bags. The diversity of applications for these cereals is wide as well. They can be prepared in many different ways and combined with honey or sugar, which are forever foods.
How Long Does Pancake Mix Last in Mylar Bags?
You may be tempted to think of pancake mixes as a “dried good,” which are often incredibly stable over time. But Pancakes mixes are a bit different.
Mixes from brands like Bisquick can last months or years in a sealed, refrigerated container. But many experts suggest it is best not to store pancake mixes long-term because of the variation in additives from manufacturer to manufacturer. Higher oil content mixes will not only go bad; they will go rancid.
The easy solution is to simply separately store the ingredients for pancakes separate from one another and make them from scratch if desired.
How Long Does Dehydrated Food Last in Mylar Bags?
Many foods can last 25 years or longer when properly stored in mylar. While dozens of foods can be dehydrated and stored at home for the long term, dry goods do not have a uniform shelf-life. Below is a list of dehydrated foods that will last the longest in mylar.
- Dehydrated Carrots
- Dried or instant coffee
- Dehydrated fruits (select, see below)
- Dehydrated Vegetables
All these items have the longest shelf lives, not including items in this article that are simply “dried goods” like grains and legumes. Below are dehydrated foods that won’t last as long as the above items.
- Dried or cured meats
These foods will store, but not as long as other dehydrated foods. This is for various reasons, but primarily it is due to moisture content and fat content. The higher the moisture or fat, the shorter its shelf life.
When it comes to long-term storage, mylar bags are a great choice. Mylar is known for high tensile strength, impermeability to gas, and ease of storage. Although mylar is more easily punctured than cans or plastic tubs, it is lightweight and reusable.
Pro Tip: Consider storing mylar bags that you have filled with food inside another type of container for safekeeping. Mylar bags placed in a more durable plastic bin can be stacked and stored in a more organized fashion than just piling the bags on a shelf. I wrote an article on storing rice and beans that highlights the method of “double” storage with two containers. Check it out here.
What Makes Mylar Bags Good for Storage?
What makes mylar so effective in food-storage applications is its resistance to gas migration. This essentially means that mylar effectively keeps things like oxygen out of a storage area and locks other things in, such as smells and food particles.
If appropriately used, mylar food storage bags for private use can also contain the liquids that are occasionally present in certain foods.
Although foods with a certain moisture content will not store as long as dried goods (which we will discuss below), mylar is still effective for storing a wide range of food types.
Why Use Mylar Food-Storage
Because of mylar’s many qualities, it is an ideal material for long-term food storage. The U.S. military uses mylar for their specially designed MRE meal kits, and many of the pre-packaged food you buy from the store use a mylar layer to seal in freshness.
Not only this, but mylar is exceptionally lightweight compared to aluminum cans or large plastic containers. Mylar bags come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, making it easy to select a size that is suited to a specific need.
Though all food-storage methods require specific environmental guidelines to be followed, such as moisture and temperature regulation, mylar is less susceptible to certain elements, such as ambient light and pressure changes.
Foods to Avoid Storing in Mylar (Or Anywhere)
Before you consider using mylar for food storage, take note of the type of foods to avoid storing altogether.
If you were thinking about these foods before, you might want to research an alternative method better suited to that item.
- High-fat, high-moisture foods
- Meat, either dried or raw
- Vegetables, fresh or dried
Many companies, manufacturers, and experts recommend avoiding foods with a relatively high and/or fat content. The more moisture a food contains, the quicker it will spoil.
You can refrigerate certain foods stored in mylar, but this will not halt the putrefaction process indefinitely. Although mylar bags will significantly increase the longevity of food, the food will still go bad eventually.
When used correctly, mylar is an amazing material and makes storing things long term so much more effective. I hope this article has shed some light on the shelf life of certain foods when sealed in this space age wonder.
Thanks for reading!
For more, check out What Does a Freeze Dryer Cost? (Purchase Price and Annual Costs).
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