There are many reasons for needing long term storage of food products. Whether you are buying in bulk to save money or storing food for an apocalyptic scenario, ensuring your food is well-preserved is essential. I have used numerous methods to store foods long term and can tell you the best methods to employ.
How to store rice and beans long term? Storing rice and beans long term requires eliminating heat, light, moisture, and oxygen. In doing so, these essential ingredients will not degrade, nor attract pests or allow the propagation of bacteria during storage. By using a combination of sealed mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, food-grade containers, and low temperature, your rice and beans will last decades.
This article will provide you 4 different long term storage methods depending on your needs.
- Method 1 will allow you to maximize the shelf life of the product. Expect it to last up to 30 years.
- Method 2 and 3 are cheaper “lite” versions of method 1. Expect to obtain a shelf life of up to 10 years.
- Method 4 is included if you constantly rotate your stores and only need them to last for a few years.
It’s possible that you may choose to use 2 or more of these methods to fit various needs. I like to keep a few months worth stored ultra-long term and then a “working supply” of bulk product bought over the short term.
Method #1: “Overkill Method”- Up to 30 years of storage
This is the longest term and best method for storing rice or beans, especially for large quantities of product. For your convenience, I will include links to quality Amazon products that I recommend.
What you will need:
- 5-gallon plastic food container/bucket with gasket sealing
- Mylar storage bags (silver bags/pouches often used in food storage)
- Oxygen absorbers (or scavengers), 2,000 cc capacity. They sometimes come with the bags.
- Sanitizer- Bleach works fine.
- Iron or mylar heat sealer
Step One: Prepare your bucket
It is essential to make sure your food container is in perfect condition. Use a bucket that has never been used for anything other than food to prevent any cross-contamination.
- When choosing a container, opt for a plastic that is Bisphenol A (BPA) free. There is some evidence that BPA can leach out of the plastic over time and cause health issues, including cancer, obesity, immune system malfunction, and impaired reproductive systems.
- Check the vessel for any cracks or damage and, if detected, do not use it.
- The container needs to remain sealed to protect the mylar bags that it will store.
- Sanitize the bucket with your product of choice, e.g., 10% bleach.
Step Two: Fill and seal mylar bags with your rice or beans
Before using a mylar bag, make sure it doesn’t have any scratches or indentations. You want to be confident that the bag is impenetrable for air.
- Fill the bag with rice
- Add in the oxygen absorber. You will need around 2000 cc capacity, so use any combination of absorbers to achieve this. For example, 2 x 1000 cc or 4 x 500 cc oxygen absorbers will work. Either way, this is what you need for 5 gallons of rice or beans.
- Once filled, you need to seal the bag. If you have a specialized mylar bag sealer, use that. Otherwise, a standard household iron will be sufficient to seal the bag.
- Put the bag in the prepared, clean bucket.
Step Three: Labeling and storage
Label the container:
- First, you will want to label the containers with information such as type of product, date, food lot number, etc. Knowing the lot number is wise, so you can crossmatch any food recalls that may occur.
- You will also want to mark the mylar bag as well, just in case the other labeling gets damaged.
- A helpful tip is to stick to the nutrition label to the bucket too. That information can come in handy.
Recent studies have shown that storing rice and beans at 40 degrees Fahrenheit will provide the most extended shelf-life for your food (approximately 30 years for white rice). A root cellar would be perfect for this.
However, storing the buckets at room temperature (70 degrees Fahrenheit) will extend the shelf life up to 20 years. When using room temperature storage, oxygen scavengers are paramount to preserving your food.
Do not let your rice and beans sweat during their lifetime. Even with the oxygen-free environment, this will lead to spoiling of the food. That is because the increase in moisture can create an ideal environment for dormant microbes and bacteria to grow.
Periodically check the exterior of your food containers for signs of wear or damage. The most likely spot for degradation is the o-ring on the bucket gasket. If any is detected, use a new bucket or replace the o-ring.
You can use smaller mylar containers so that when you open the bag, you do not have as much rice or beans to redistribute. Once the staple is being used following storage, an excellent method is to place the rice or beans into airtight glass containers to keep the product as fresh as possible.
Method #2: Vacuum Sealed- Up to 10 years of storage
This method is similar to method 1; however, it does not use oxygen scavengers/absorbers and vacuum seals versus using heat sealing.
What you will need:
Step 1: Fill the mylar pouches
Place your rice or beans inside a mylar pouch.
For this method, about a pound is the right size. It is especially useful if you want to store a variety of rice and beans to add diversity to your meals. You can place the food in its original packing inside the mylar bag, provided you pierce it first so that the vacuum sealing can remove the oxygen.
While doing this, be careful not to damage the mylar bag. Even the smallest knick will put your food at risk.
Step 2: Vacuum sealing
Follow the directions on your mylar food sealer. It will need to be rated for mylar bags, and these models differ slightly from normal vacuum sealers and are far more expensive.
Once you have sealed the rice or beans, use a label or a Sharpie to note the contents.
Step 3: Storage
Use a food-grade, BPA-free, plastic container. Ensure it is clean, sterilized, and dry before use.
- Fill the box with the one-pound sealed mylar pouches.
- Make sure you seal the box when it is full. If you will frequently be going in and out of the storage container for a new bag, then the shelf-life will reduce due to recirculating the oxygen in the air. In this scenario, it is best to use smaller containers to keep the oxygen content surrounding the sealed pouched minimalized.
- Store the plastic containers in a dry, cool environment.
You can place the mylar bags into gasket-seal food containers if you have large quantities of rice or beans to store instead of using a smaller plastic container.
Method #3: Mylar/Vacuum Bag Combo- Up to 10 years
This method uses two different kinds of bags and may be preferable to some for various reasons.
What you will need:
Step 1: Fill the mylar bags
- Place your choice of rice or beans in bags.
- Keep the portion sizes small, as they need to fit inside the vacuum bags you have for the next stage.
- Once filled, use a heat sealer or iron to close the mylar bag.
Importantly, leave a small opening, about half an inch in size, as this will be where the vacuum sealer will evacuate the air through.
Step 2: Vacuum sealing
- Place the almost sealed mylar bag inside a standard food vacuum bag.
- Continue to vacuum seal the food bag as usual.
You will now have your rice or beans in an oxygen-deprived environment, with the mylar protective bag preventing oxygen reabsorption through the packing.
Step 3: Storage
Place these bags in a suitable, clean, sterile, plastic container and label everything appropriately. As these packages are double sealed, air penetration is less of a concern compared to method 2. If possible, store some bags in the fridge or a root cellar to increase their shelf life.
Method #4: “Shorter” Long Term Supply- Up to 5 Years
This method should be used when you want to extend the shelf-life of your rice or beans, but aren’t concerned with the food supply running out. It is also ideal if you like to buy in bulk to save money.
What you will need:
Step 1: Fill vacuum bags
If you buy in bulk, allocate your rice and beans appropriately into the vacuum sealing food bags. Alternatively, place your rice and beans into a vacuum bag in their original packaging. This is useful as no additional labeling is required, as most food bags are transparent. Remember to make a few puncture holes in the packaging first so that the vacuum can remove the air.
Step 2: Vacuum and storage
Once you have vacuum-packed the food staples, place them into a dry, clean plastic container and label if needed. The vessel will prevent insects, rodents, or pests from finding their way into your stored food. Keep the box in a cold, dry environment.
You can add oxygen scavengers into the plastic container to prevent oxygen from penetrating the vacuum seals. This is only worthwhile if your container is airtight. It is wise to replace these scavengers each time you open the box to remove a bag. This will help preserve your food as transparent plastics are far more permeable to air than their mylar counterparts.
What Are and Why Do I Need Mylar Bags?
Metalized polyester (mylar) bags consist of stretched polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and a metal such as aluminum. The stretched PET is used due to its strength, stability, and is less permeable to gases compared to other plastics.
The metallic layer significantly increases the impermeability of oxygen, which will deteriorate the food inside. This is why mylar bags are commonplace in the food industry, as their use vastly improves the freshness and shelf life of the product contained.
Why Oxygen Degrades Food and How Oxygen Scavengers/Absorbers Work
Oxygen is primarily responsible for degrading food due to oxidative reactions and the breaking down of lipids. Further, some microbes will flourish if the oxygen is not removed from the food’s atmosphere. Deterioration of the food can be easily detected by loss of color, change in texture, and unpleasant aroma. Over time, this process will render the food inedible.
Eliminating oxygen is paramount for long term storage of food products. Most oxygen scavengers use an iron powder combined with sodium chloride. The iron reacts with the oxygen to create iron oxide, and sodium chloride is a catalyst for this reaction.
The formation of iron oxide is an exothermic reaction, meaning a small amount of heat is generated. For this reason, using several smaller absorbers in a larger container might be safer to prevent the rice or beans from sweating.
Note: There are several types of oxygen scavengers available, and sometimes, they also contain activated charcoal to remove organic molecules additionally. If you are planning on keeping your food for decades, use oxygen scavengers with activated charcoal.
Why Store Rice and Beans Anyway?
Rice and beans are the staple components in billions of diets worldwide. There are excellent reasons for this, including abundance, expense, and their nutritional content.
When combined, rice and beans provide the human body with almost everything it needs to function.
- First, white rice is more calorie-dense than maize, boasting 130 calories per 100-gram serving. Significantly though, rice has only trace amounts of fat and sugar. This makes rice a great survival food.
- Beans, such as mung, kidney, and lentil, compliment rice perfectly, providing you with around 25 grams of protein per 100-gram serving. Legumes will also provide you with all the fiber you need, with lentil beans being the densest, giving 30 grams per 100-gram serving. Both foods are also low in salt, which a massive benefit compared to canned or dried foods as each of those storage mechanisms requires salt to preserve the food.
The Stuff Is Really Healthy
Both rice and beans are low in cholesterol, meaning your heart will remain healthy when you consume these foods daily for years on end. Also, when you consume rice and beans, your diet will provide you will all nine essential amino acids (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine).
While all proteins use the twenty amino acids as building blocks, the human body cannot produce any of the essential amino acids itself. Therefore, they must be ingested through diet. Enter rice and beans.
What Rice and Beans Doesn’t Provide
Of particular note is the lack of vitamin C in rice and beans. If you do not ingest vitamin C, you will eventually develop scurvy, high blood pressure, cancer, or gallbladder disease.
However, if you take a multivitamin along with rice and beans, your body will have all the fuel and components it needs to remain healthy. If you don’t take a multivitamin, you will need to supplement your diet with fruits and vegetables.
While the nutritional value of these staples is undeniable, rice and beans are also excellent choices for long term storage. Their footprint is relatively small, and they are an excellent base for many meals.
There are also varieties of rice and beans, adding additional variance to your diet and allowing satiation of your taste buds. Due to their long shelf life (up to 30 years), it is an economically sound investment as there shouldn’t be any waste.
What Are the Best Beans to Store?
There really is not bad bean to store. Really, it all comes down to personal taste. What I will say is that you should keep a variety. If you maximize your stores based on nutrition alone, you will quickly regret your decision once you get into your 2nd month of eating the same dang bean every day.
However, since you asked.. here is a list of some of the most nutritious and nutrient-dense beans you can store:
- Chickpeas- Tons of calories and nutrients. Definitely one of the healthiest beans in the world.
- Black Beans- Really nutritious and compliment a lot of other foods well. This is the favorite bean of a lot of Latin American cultures.
- Pinto Beans- You can do a lot with pinto beans. They taste great and can be eaten fried, mashed, or whole. My personal favorite “end of the world” food.
- Lentils- There’s no denying how good these are for you. If you want to make a lot of soups or stews, you gotta have lentils.
If you stuck to just these 4 beans, you should be able to make such an endless variety of dishes to stay happy.
What Are the Downsides to Storing Rice or Beans Long Term?
If stored correctly, then there are few risks involved in storing rice and beans for decades. However, these items need space and a refrigerated environment (40 degrees Fahrenheit) to last 30 years. Cooling costs will accumulate quickly and barring a human catastrophe, it is squandered energy and finances.
However, to reduce energy waste, you can store these products for up to 20 years at room temperature. Financially though, you must consider if you want the expense of buying supplies and the outlay for the food. Note, the price of rice and beans can fluctuate, and it may turn out to be a poor investment if you buy at the wrong time.
Improper storage will likely lead to the loss of the product through either insects, rodents, pests, or bacteria. Pests are especially attracted to rice as it is a grain from the fields. They will be further attracted if your rice sweats. Any crack in the seal will allow rodents to fest on your staples, while the oxygen from the air will lead to spoilage.
Preserving your rice and beans is straightforward, however. Do not package them together; keep them separate. There are many variations to keep these staples oxygen-deprived, dry, cold, and sealed. Listed below are three tried and tested methods that will keep your product fresh for decades.
Rice and beans are essential food staples when considering what to store long term. Knowing what these ingredients offer the human diet and understanding the basic science of food deterioration will assist you in learning how to store rice and beans long term.
Regardless of why you want to store rice and beans for an extended period, it is not a difficult thing to do. Understand that the food is best kept at a constant temperature, the colder, the better. You want to eliminate air (specifically, oxygen) and protect the food from pests, animals, and moisture. If you follow these simple guidelines in your storage technique, your food will last decades.
Useful Food Storage Products
I took the time to list some things you might need to store foods long term. Here are a few Amazon products that you may find helpful:
- 5-Gallon Gasket Sealed Plastic Buckets– The perfect size for my long-term storage needs.
- 5-Gallon Mylar Storage Bags– Fill these bags, seal, then put in the bucket for ultra long-term storage. Mylar Heat Sealer- Bag sealing option #1.
- Large Vacuum Sealed Bags– For a vacuum-sealed alternative.
- Portion-Sized Mylar Bags (Ziplockable)
- Vacuum Sealer– Bag sealing option #2.
- Airtight Storage Containers– For short or mid-term use.
- Oxygen Absorbers– These help keep the moisture content down.
- Storage Labels– Logging the date and contents is important.
Ready-Made for Storage
If you want to save yourself the hassle, a really good (and surprisingly affordable) option is to just buy rice and beans pre-packaged for the long term. I highly recommend the products at mypatriotsupply.com.
Other than rice and beans, what other products are suitable for long term storage? If you are preparing a pantry for survival purposes, then there a few foods which have long shelf lives. Canned foods will last years due to the preservation techniques involved. It is wise to include canned vegetables, soups, fruit, and meat. Protein bars will also complement your supply well, as they are lightweight and can contain everything needed for survival.
Are there any foods that never expire, if stored correctly? Yes, there are. Honey was recently discovered that was thousands of years old and tasted the same as fresh honey, a great survival food to have on hand. Other examples include salt, soy sauce, sugar, and powdered milk. These foods are so inhospitable to fungi and bacteria that nothing can grow or spoil them. Ensure that you keep these foods in airtight containers and away from water, and they’ll last years.
Can water go bad? Water is a stable compound and, therefore, does not degrade. Storing water, however, is a little more complicated. Plastics are known for leaching chemicals into the water, as are metals. This is of particular concern with stagnant water. By using a water-safe material, your stored water may not taste “spring fresh” after a while, but it should not be harmful. If in doubt, filter and purify your stored water before use.
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