When storing dry goods for long term there are some common requirements regardless of what you’re storing. First, things should be stored cool. Below 75 degrees is best, cooler if possible. Second, food should be stored in the dark. For some foods it won’t matter, but many vitamins and whatnot are sensitive to light and will degrade rapidly if exposed. Third, food should be stored in an oxygen free environment. Oxygen can oxidize containers and allows bugs to grow. Finally, food should be stored in a moisture free environment to prevent rotting, mold, etc.
There are a number of different methods for storing dry food that (more or less) meet these requirements, or at least most of them.
You can use a vacuum attachment for a food saver, etc to vacuum seal regular mason canning jars. Say we want to store a bunch of Mentos. Pour a bunch of Mentos into the jar, drop in a couple desiccant packages and an oxygen absorber packet or two, seal it up using the directions of the food saver. You’re good to go. Two major drawbacks to canning jars are the fact that they don’t protect the contents from light and they break easily.
Rudy’s Tip: Desiccant is a substance that absorbs moisture. You’ve seen them in things like shoe boxes, etc from time to time. Don’t reuse those for food though, buy new ones!
#10 Metal Cans
These are metal cans that look somewhat like older coffee cans. They store great and handle damage well. They are one of the best choices for long term storage. The problem is that they’re expensive and the equipment to seal them up costs even more. About a grand, give or take a hundred bucks or two. Too pricy for my blood. If you really want to use these, you can often rent the sealing equipment from your local LDS family cannery. Similar to vacuum packing canning jars, you want to use desiccant and oxygen absorbing packets when sealing the can. Many of the off the shelf ‘food storage’ products come in #10 cans.
Food Grade Buckets
Buckets can be a good starting point. They’re pretty robust, they stack well, and they are opaque. They are oxygen permeable however, so that can limit the length of time one can safely store food in a bucket. You can get around this by adding a non permeable liner or using a dry ice pack. I’ll write a post about using dry ice later on.
Rudy’s Tip: You can get SQUARE buckets! They are vastly more space effective than the round ones, and are arguably more stable when you start building bucket towers.
Mylar is a ‘space age material’ which means it’s the best thing since sliced bread, right? Well, it truly is a fantastic material. It’s water and airtight, impermeable to light and insects. To use a bag, you fill it with the dry food, add an oxygen absorber packet or two, and seal it with heat. You can use a sealer designed for sealing mylar bags or if you are desperate you can use an iron. Practice sealing bags empty until you have a handle on it, then move onto the real thing.
Rudy’s Tip: Since these things are so fragile store them in a rigid container of some sort. Like the food grade buckets above.
Where Can I Find These Things?
Think local restaurant storage stores for buckets and jars. You can often find them used for free or minimal charge if you ask around at restaurants and the like. Jars can often also be found in second hand stores like Goodwill. Mylar bags can be bought on the internet and you may be able to find local sources at well. I don’t buy empty #10 cans so I can’t really help there!
Rudy’s Tip: Small Mylar bags can be hard to find. In a pinch, you can buy big bags and ‘subdivide’ them easily to get smaller bags. That can be useful for storing things like spices, dried herbs, and that sort of thing.
There are other options for food storage but these are the mainstream choices. Please feel free to ask any questions you might have and I’ll do my best to answer quickly!