How to properly package and store homemade DIY emergency meals

Vacuum sealing vs mylar bags

Picture of vacuum sealed bag and two mylar bags

When I first learned that we could dehydrate food and keep it for long term food storage I was so excited!! I immediately bought an inexpensive, but good, dehydrator. While looking for recipes and such as to what to do with my new dehydrated foods I ran across what are called meals in a jar. I wasn't really looking for meals in a jar because the emergency meals I had were for us to use if we had to "bug out". So, I didn't get too excited about them. That is, until I ran across a YouTube video of what this lady was calling a "meal in a bag". Hmmm. Now that was something I could get interested in!

I already had some military MREs in our food storage, and was aware of emergency foods such as Mountain House and Wise Foods meals. I even had a couple of sample kits of emergency meals. So, I knew that not only would these meals be cheaper to make myself, but they would also be healthier. And, I could make food that my family would actually eat! (I have very picky eaters here.) So, I started looking for other recipes because I like to have a variety of foods and choices. But, recipes were not that easy to find. So, I started experimenting with how I could make up my own recipes. And, that's how I started making my own meals in a bag!

However, upon further research for meals in a bag I became confused. I thought you could store the meals in either a mylar bag or a vacuum sealer bag. Well, actually you can store in either. But, what I discovered along the way is that the mylar bags will last longer than the vacuum sealer bags. I've even done videos and written recipes using and suggesting you could use either mylar bags or vacuum sealer bags to store the meals. And, that's why I decided to write this article to explain the difference as well as the way you should store meals in a bag or jar and other dehydrated/freeze dried foods.

Mylar Bags

Mylar bags are deemed to be by far the best way to store meals in a bag. Apparently mylar bags are made for long term use. I do not personally know how long they will last because I've only been using them for a couple of years. Supposedly, they are good for 25 plus years. And that's what makes them superior to vacuum sealer bags. Although, that does not mean you can't continue to use vacuum sealer bags if that's what you are using. I will explain that in just a bit.

When storing dehydrated or freeze dried food in a mylar bag you will need to place an active oxygen absorber inside the bag before sealing the bag. The oxygen absorber draws all of the oxygen that is in the bag. It usually takes 3-4 hours to do so; however, I've had some take as long as overnight.

Not sure what size oxygen absorbers you need? Since I use either pint or quart size mylar bags for my meals I use 300cc oxygen absorbers. Although, a 100cc size is recommended as a minimum. I've also read that the 300cc is what is recommended for the gallon size. My first mylar bag purchase included the 300cc so that's what I've gone with since.

It is easy to seal mylar bags. They have to be sealed with a high heat. Most vacuum sealers do not have a high enough heat to seal mylar bags properly and it is recommeded that you do not use the sealer on them. But, not to worry. All you have to have to seal mylar bags properly is a flat straightening iron that is used for straightening hair. That's right! Just clamp one half of the top portion of the bag with the straightening iron, hold it there for around 20-30 seconds, turn the bag over and do the same to the other half. Easy and simple! Oh, and vacuum sealers will not draw the air out of a mylar bag propery either. They weren't made for mylar bags and mylar bags were not made for vacuum sealers. You can also use an impulse heat sealer to seal the mylar bags if you prefer and it is within your budget to buy one.

A quick note: The mylar bag above has a zipper at the top. Just so you know, that does NOT mean that you do not have to seal the bag. You just seal it above the zipper. The zipper is so you can open the bag and zip it shut, or re-use it. It does not keep air completely out of the bag like heat sealing it does.

Vacuum Sealer Bags

As stated above, I started out using vacuum sealer bags for my homemade emergency meals. However, upon learning that they will only last for around two to five years before air will start to seep back in through the pores of the plastic, I stopped using them for my meals. They may last longer than said two to five years, but I did not want to take that chance.

The vacuum sealer bags are epecially susceptible to leaking when storing rice or other sharp dehydrated foods in them. So, if you are or did use these you will need to check them once in a while to make sure they are not leaking. One way to help avoid this is to place rice or other sharp foods inside a brown paper bag before placing them into the vacuum sealer bag. I've also used thick paper towels to help protect food from poking through. All it takes is a tiny pin prick size hole to allow enough air in to spoil the food.

As long as you check the bags often and rotate them (cooking the food in the bags and replacing them with new meals in a bag) every couple of years you should be just fine using the vacuum sealer bags. I didn't throw out the ones I have in vacuum sealer bags because I know they will be good for a couple of more years and I just plan on rotating them out.

Canning Jars

Canning jars do not work well for meals in a bag. But then, I'm sure you kinda knew that, lol. But, they are good for preparing meals in a jar that you can store in your long term food storage. All you have to do is multiply the meals in a bag recipes to the number of servings to suit your family and put the ingredients into canning jars instead of mylar bags. Then, vacuum seal the jars using a jar attachment with your vacuum sealer. Or, you could use oxygen absorbers instead of vacuum sealing if you don't have a vacuum sealer. These meals in a jar would work great for when you are hunkering down and standing your ground. Cooking them would not let off any smells for neighbors, intruders, or others to let them know where you are. They've already been cooked and all you have to do is add boiling water! Of course, you would need to be able to boil the water using a method that would not give off odors to alert others!

So, Mylar Bags or Vacuum Sealer Bags?

For long term food storage (10-20 years plus) mylar bags are definitely the best choice! But what it really boils down to is what you can afford, and what is available. Right now, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, both are hard to find.

Vacuum sealer bags are slightly less expensive than mylar bags and you don't have to have oxygen absorbers for them. If that's what you can afford, then use them. You just have to keep a closer eye on them and rotate them more often. Which, I really don't mind because I actually like the meals I make and I eat them instead of the microwave meals I used to buy and eat!

Bonus Info

Just a little bonus info here for those with curious minds. When I dehydrate my vegetables, such as corn, broccoli, mixed vegetables, green beans, etc. to use in my recipes I store the dehydrated food in canning jars, not mylar bags. I vacuum seal the canning jars so the food will be protected from the elements and will last to their full expectancy. When I use the dehydrated food for a recipe, if there are any leftovers in the jar I will reseal it. If there isn't much left, I will put the food into a smaller jar and seal it.

Storing Your Meals

No matter how you package your dehydrated/freeze dried foods or meals in a bag, you need to make sure you store them in a dark, dry, cool place. I put my meals in a bag into plastic tubs with locking lids. Then, they are stored in a room with air conditioning in summer and heat in winter; pretty much same temperature year round. Not only does the plastic tub provide a dark environment, but it also helps to keep pests away; thus avoiding the bags being broken into. I hope.

My other dehydrated and freeze dried foods are stored in canning jars that have been vacuum sealed. Those are kept in the same room as the meals, but they are on a shelf and are covered with kitchen towels to help protect them from the light. We do what we have to do, lol. It is my plan to some day make a heavy curtain to put around the shelf, but the towels will do for now.

I hope this has been helpful to you. If you have any questions or comments please leave them in the comment section below and I will answer as soon as I can.

It is my prayer that you will find a way to properly package and store your meals in a bag (and all of your emergency food) that works best for you!

Until next time...happy prepping, and God bless!

"So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors." 

Matthew 24:33 (KJV)