Archive for the ‘Food Storage’Category

Should Your Mylar Bags Contract?

It’s been a while since I did a too-long post, so this one’s been cooking for a while.  Being more active in Facebook groups has made me start to re-examine every bit of advice I’ve both given and received as ‘conventional wisdom’ over the years.  I’ve put up over a hundred bags of food recently, and I’ve gone back over my thousand+ other bags and it’s made me change my thoughts on one bit of advice I’ve been reading recently. 

The question I’m posing today is an easy one: should your Mylar bags contract when using an oxygen absorber?   The reason I felt the need to write this is to clarify some information I see people giving out on this subject.  Additionally, there was a gentleman in one of my earlier threads that said essentially none of his bags contracted and he thought it was OK because of what people were saying, and that started to worry me.  We (as a community) may have let the contraction issue slide too easily, and here’s why.  One of the most common answers to the question is a variation of : ‘they don’t have to, as air is only 20% oxygen, and that’s all that’d being absorbed.’  While true, that’s not nearly a complete answer.

TL; DR:  My new concise answer to this question is now:  Barring powders, yes, your Mylar bags should contract if using an oxygen absorber.  If they don’t (or haven’t), I suggest you start checking your food.  Of the dozens of food types, both dry goods and freeze dried foods I have stored (a partial listing at the bottom), the only ones where you can’t see some contraction are powders:  mainly flour and eggs.  There are a couple of other food types that show less contraction, such as bread. Food in 7 Mil bags show less contraction than in 5 Mil bags, due to higher tensile strength and less ‘printing’ (This is where you can run your nail down a Mylar bag and see a line).

My concern is that some of the food storage supply companies may be deflecting from the fact that their absorbers are under-weighted (see experiment in a few paragraphs) by saying that its OK for your food to not contract.  And some of the freeze dry and prepper user base has picked up on that and there’s very little concern over bags not contracting.

So I did an experiment with samples I recently purchased from one of the most popular food storage companies.  I’m not going to name names, because I’d rather have folks reproduce this on their own than take my word for it if they feel my methodology has some holes.

Experiment Part A:

1:  2 brands of Oxygen Absorber, Brand A and Brand B; the Brand A oxygen absorbers are rated 300cc, and the Brand B oxygen absorbers are rated 400cc.  Generally speaking, 300cc is considered the right amount to clear a 1 gallon bag filled with food. The 300cc Brand A absorbers weigh approximately .303 ounce per packet; the 400cc Brand B absorbers weigh approximately .094 ounce per unit.

Oxygen Absorbers Oxyfree on Left, Wallaby On right
Oxygen Absorbers – Brand A on Left, Brand B on Right

2:  20 8”x12”x4” 9 Cup 5 Mil (2.25 quart) Mylar Bags; both absorbers should have 0 issues with clearing this size bag, and this experiment should have ended here.

3:  Half the Bags are filled with Macaroni (approx. 2.75 lbs), and half with Quick Oats (approx. 2 lbs, they are way less dense).  Each Brand of Oxygen Absorber was used in 5 bags of Macaroni, and 5 Bags of Quick Oats.

I thought the initial part of the experiment would be a 1 and done.  Either all of the bags would contract or all of the pasta bags would contract (but not the oats, because I’ve heard for 15 years they often won’t, and it’s not something I’ve added to my storage until just recently) and that would be the end of the experiment.  However, when I came in the next day to check, something I didn’t expect had occurred.  All 10 bags of the Brand A oxygen absorbers (the ones I generally use) had fully contracted, all 5 of the brand B pasta bags had contracted, but all 5 brand B oats bags had either not contracted or ran out of capacity before they fully contracted.  A few of the brand B oat bags had the beginning stages of contraction, but not completely.

Contracted Mylar Bags for Long Term Food Storage
Brand A Contracted Bags

What does this tell us?  My thought is that the Brand B absorbers, which you can tell from the pictures are very small compared to the ones I normally use, had enough capacity to clear the Pasta, but not enough capacity to clear the Oats.  So what does THAT tell us?  A 300cc rated absorber, at exactly its rating, should clear 1.5 liters of air of oxygen.  A 400cc rated absorber, at exactly its rating, should clear 2 liters of air of oxygen.  The 2.25 quart bags I was using = 2.13 liters of air.  Meaning, both absorbers should be able to almost clear the bags with NOTHING IN THEM.  The fact that the 400cc absorber struggled to clear full bags of oats is a strong indication that its given capacity rating is suspect. (and potentially dangerous if people are relying on them in  2 quart+ bags) 

Wallaby Absorbers Uncontracted bags
Brand B, Half the Bags Contracted, Half Didn’t (or didn’t complete)

I don’t know if any math geniuses out there want to help me with this, but even if the full bags of oats had 50% internal airspace, the absorbers would only have had to clear 1.07 liters of air, well below the 2.0 liters 400cc absorbers SHOULD clear.  The pasta bags specific density WAS high enough for them to clear, so we know the actual capacity of those 400cc absorbers is somewhere between the Food Density (my made up word to describe how much internal airspace a particular food has) of Oats x 2.13 liters and the Food Density of Pasta x 2.13 liters.  In any case, I think I can state with certainty that those 400cc absorbers don’t actually rate 400cc. Yes, that sentence is hard to read, but I think it says what I want it to.=)

BUT, this made me need to add an extra step to this process.  Because the Brand B absorbers did work on Pasta, I decided to re-test using 1 gallon bags, the size that both absorbers should be able to clear, assuming a Food Density of 60% or higher (meaning a 300cc is supposed to clear 1.5 liters in a 3.7 liter bag, or about 40%).

Part of me didn’t want to do this test, because I knew the likely result and I hate rebagging food.=)  But its ‘For Science!’  If the Brand B absorbers had trouble clearing a 2.25 quart bag, they weren’t going to clear a 4 quart bag.  And I know the Brand A 300cc absorbers have an actual rating north of 1000cc, or 4.0 liters, which is greater than the size of the bag empty, so I knew it wouldn’t be an issue clearing even a much bigger bag.

Experiment Part B:  I was running out of food to put up and the gallon bags are way bigger, so this is more ad hoc.

1:  Same absorbers as in Part A

2:  12 10”x14” 5 Mil 1 gallon (4 quart, 16 cups) Mylar bags.

3:  The bags are filled with either Flour (another food I’ve always heard won’t contract) or various kinds of pasta (Medium shells, Penne, Macaroni, all of which should have a bit of different Density).

Contracted Oxyfree Absorbers in Mylar Bags
Brand A 1 Gallon Test, all Bags Contracted

Results:  The results were exactly as expected.  All of the Brand A absorber bags were fully contracted, and none of the Brand B absorbers contracted at all.  Note about flour:  flour doesn’t have any ‘kernels’ or anything to contract around and show a nice pattern, but you call tell they contracted based on the little ‘bubble’ of air that sits at the top of the bag.  The Mylar on both sides of the bubble pulled together; its hard to see from the photo, but if you do it yourself you’ll see what I mean.  So yeah, the wisdom that says flour won’t contract seems accurate enough from a visual standpoint; you actually have to feel the bag to know it worked.

Wallaby 400cc not contracting 1 Gallon Mylar Bags
Brand B Absorbers did not contract any of the 1 gallon bags.

So what’s the verdict? 

  1. Almost every food I’ve ever done other than powders (flour and eggs) have visibly contracted.  Some were much milder than others (grilled cheese in small bags, for example)
  2. Even though the Pasta bags for the Brand B absorber contracted, I’m not confident they have enough capacity left to last 30 years to continue removing the very minor bit of oxygen passing through yearly.
  3. The 5 mil bags handled all the kinds of pasta just fine, even though I’d consider some of it ‘pokey’.  Another win for quality 5 mil bags.

I’m updating my documentation and FAQ’s to more clearly represent that in almost all cases, yes, your food should be contracting, with these addendums:

7 mil bags ‘print’ less than 5 mil bags, so your contraction won’t be as deep and noticeable as with 5 mil bags.

Flour will not look contracted when complete, you’ll need to examine the bags closely to know for sure, especially the ‘bubble’ at the top of the bag.

Oats have more internal airspace than macaroni.  This one surprised me considering macaroni is kind of hollow.=)

Smaller bags show contraction less, but it should still be noticeable. 

This is the list of foods I’ve done that have shown contraction, stored in 5x8x3 and larger bags:

Dry Goods: Rice, Beans, Oats, Pasta, Wheat

A small sampling of my Freeze dried foods:  Chili, chicken and rice, turkey pepperoni, shredded cheese, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, turkey kielbasa, turkey sausage, breakfast sausage, hash browns, tater rounds, sliced chicken, chunked chicken, apple fries, lasagna, strawberries, Skittles. And many more. My totes are all stacked and sealed, but looking into them I don’t see ANY that AREN’T contracted other than eggs.

Complete list of foods that don’t look contracted when properly sealed: Eggs (freeze dried), Flour (My assumption is other powders will show the same)

If you have food that’s not a powder you are confident is sealed correctly with a properly sized oxygen absorber and doesn’t show contraction, please let me know and I’ll do some testing.

Finally, and I stress this. These are my results. They have been consistent for these two brands of absorbers every time I’ve tested them (which is often), but that still doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your own testing. If you would like to test the Brand A absorber, this link will let you purchase 1 pack (including shipping) for $6 (basically my cost and shipping, so I’m not making anything here) so you can test for yourself. And then please send me a note with your results!

Please let me know if you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or complaints! Thanks!


06 2024

Updating the Food Storage 1 Year Plan for a New Generation

There are a lot of great preparedness resources out there in a world. There are hundreds of awesome blogs, Youtube channels, Instagram feeds, etc related to prepping. However, I’ve been looking around at the Food Storage Supply ecosystem (the sellers of food storage products), and I realize that even though there are some slick new brands out there, almost all of them are regurgitating products and information that’s been around for years. Some of them have taken information directly from my websites and passed them off as their own. (including one of my own suppliers lol, that was a shock!) A couple have based their entire bag size lines on what we’ve done. They do say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, so I guess we’re doing something right!

No company other than Discount Mylar Bags (us) has really added anything new to the space (Such as SteelPak Bags, foil-packed desiccant, slow-acting oxygen absorbers and heat and serve meal pouches) in years, and it doesn’t look like any of them care to. Sure, they’ve got great photos, beautiful packaging and awesome marketing, but that’s what many of the modern companies are…marketing outfits who picked a product that did well over the past few years. Not 2 decade preppers who really want folks storing food. (I apologize if I sound a little frustrated! I am in fact jealous of their marketing talents!=))

One of the most egregious copy and paste jobs I’ve been examining are the Food Storage Calculators that have popped up on some competitors’ pages. The original source of info, the LDS, put together a recommended food storage list based on their average congregant. So yes, I think its a great starting point for a discussion on food storage, and I based my original food storage on it…in 2007. But almost 20 years prepping now and I recognize that for my average customer, these guides are outdated or unrealistic, recommending foods most folks have never cooked with. I would never make these recommendations to beginning preppers. I also think it’s funny that the folks copying these Food Storage Calculators to their websites have the original mis-spellings that have now been copied for multiple generations.=) These competitors aren’t actually looking at them, its just another widget for their website. However, the main problem is the original guide was intended for a group of people who practice homesteading, farming, and being self-sufficient. In 2024, that’s not most preppers.

Now, if that IS you, that’s amazing! But from the beginning, I have been trying to get anyone and everyone prepping. Urban young adults, rural octagenerians, suburban moms…everyone! A week at a time, a month at a time. Just something so that when something bad happens, you have a little to fall back on. Sure, I still think a full year’s worth of food for each person is the gold standard, but if you have an a 20-lb bag of rice, an 18-pack of Kraft Mac and Cheese and 3 boxes of Pop-Tarts put back, you are literally doing better than most of America.

Over the last 5 years I’ve revamped my food storage to more closely match my very picky, not homesteady family…because that’s who we are. Not folks who are prepared to grind hundreds of pounds of wheat when the power goes out, or folks who are going to forage my 30 acres of miserable scrubland looking for herbs. In other words, we’re #preppernormal, not #prepperhardcore. I respect and honor you if you have a homestead and survival skills, it’s just not something that fits our lifestyle. I have enough on my plate trying to keep several small businesses going, helping to home school 4 kids, and find the time to pursue a couple of my own dreams (writing a book, publishing a board game). And somewhere in there I’m trying to squeeze time in to make videos, write a blog, and read some good books.=) So I prep where I can (which mainly means putting stuff back), but I’ll never be Les Stroud. And I long ago came to the conclusion, that’s OK. It’s possible the world may not end, at least not in the post-apocalyptic manner many talk about. It’s possible we go through a long, slow decline a la many empires, where who’s in charge is less important than making sure our families are fed.

So while I wish more folks were super preppers (including myself in a universe where there are 95 hours in a day), from my conversations with 100’s of preppers over more than a dozen years, most are more like my family. Folks putting stuff aside to give a little leg up in an emergency or grid down situation…but we’re not the folks overhauling our entire lifestyle.

So over the next little bit, I am going to revamp and unveil a new, more up-to-date food storage recommendation guide. Yes, it’ll be a little less healthy than the original LDS guide, it’ll have a bit more focus on long shelf-life processed foods, but for many families, it will match our current diets and lifestyles more. And of course, you should always add or subtract foods that fit your family, but I’ll also have the reasons for recommending each food based on my family and experiences.

Next blog, I will let you know what I am using as my starting point, my criteria for including a product on my storage list, and the specifics of how many calories I’m aiming for.


03 2024

The State of Food Storage at SurvivalClub South

When we moved to the Farm, my wife and I left the bulk of our food storage at SurvivalClub North, just in case we ever needed to go there.  However, now that we will very likely bug-in at the Farm, I’ve been slowly (too slowly for my taste) trying to gather another years worth of food.  In the plus column, I have a dedicated climate-controlled space at the warehouse, with pest control.

Even so, we’ve been fighting the mice recently and lost about $50 worth of short-term food.  Something about the mad heat of Summer pushed them inside, as I haven’t had a problem with them in about a year.  I know Tomcat advertises their bait is better than peanut butter, but they’re full of it.  Of the 2 snapped traps (both missed, but we must have wounded the mouse, as we can smell him dead wherever he crawled away to), both had peanut butter, even though there were several Tomcat baited traps nearby.  Honestly, Tomcat bait isn’t very appealing either, I’d steal the PB any day!

I think they are coming in via the drop sealing.  We used to trap that in our previous home’s basement, and I need to do that here as well.

Although I didn’t open up the blog today to talk about mice!

My brother Tom, his wife and his 5 kids are in town visiting from Deathtrap Island (England).  I had a little heart palpitation when I took a bunch of our short-term snacks and munchies over to our house for when they are in town.  My mind was running to ‘You know, I have quite a bit of food for my wife and family…but not so much when you are looking at a crowd of 7 extra bodies.’

Our current short-term food storage (basically, foodstuffs we eat every day…soups, canned veggies, PB, etc) is currently at around 270,000 calories.  That equates to exactly 30 days for my my wife, Nana, and myself at 2000 calories, and the 3 girls at 1000.  That would mean less than 15 days if something happened when my brother’s family is here. (ugg)  I have another 200lbs of longer term rice and beans; but that might only equate to another 15 days.  Double ugg.  I’m now realizing how woefully low our food supplies are down here, and I will definitely be taking some trips to Walmart over the next 2 weeks to at least double our short term supplies.  My wife probably has another 150,000 calories in the pantry and freezer at home, but in the face of the locust horde of kids currently at our house, that’s not much.

As I was counting up the calories, some obvious things popped out at me:

  1.  Peanut Butter might be the very best survival food.  At 6600 calories per jar, it’s space/calorie ratio is among the best available foods (that people would actually want to eat).  It stores well, at least a couple years at the 76 degrees I have my storage room at.  However, this lead me to:
  2. I need to store more crunchies to put it on, and rotate through them.  I’m completely out of Big Cheez-its and Triscuits, which I usually keep about 7 boxes of on-hand.  I can eat peanut butter out of the jar with the best of them, but the girls will want some normalcy!
  3. As mentioned yesterday, green beans blow in terms of actual nutritional/calorie content for the space it takes up.  I’ll check on how many calories cans of spinach or peas have when I next shop.
  4. No surprise, pasta comes in number 2 in terms of caloric density.  With our pool open for the summer, I’m not much worried about the water situation.  I’ve also done some scouting, and found 2 water sources within walking distance of the property.  However, we haven’t gone into drought yet this year, so I’m not convinced they will be there year-round.  Just something for me to keep an eye on.
  5. It’s not for everyone, but I always have some mobile liquids on hand, as you can see in one of the photos.  Gallon jugs of water and apple juice.  Might not be a great use of space, but until I’m actually out of space, its good for my morale!

I had a long conversation with someone looking to start storing some food this week, and like it sometimes does, the conversation got very long-winded about OTR and MVTR properties of bags, and what was the best bag to use, etc.  I finally gave my go-to answer, as I was worried he was overcome by ‘research paralysis’, and I told him to just start storing SOMETHING.  And that’s pretty much my philosophy for any of you out there reading this who don’t have anything stored.  You can see how I’m doing things, I’m not ultra organized.  I just try to be consistent.  Having extra peanut butter, Pop Tarts, and Ramen on hand will never hurt you.  But if you lose your job, or God forbid something truly awful happens, you’ll be glad you did.

Just do it people!


08 2017

ShieldPro SafeCache Bags Now Available

This spring and summer has been a great adventure as we have worked to produce the best material and the best bags available for food storage.  It has finally come to fruition as my wife and I (with her 16 weeks pregnant with twins!) unloaded a full truckload of new ShieldPro bags this weekend.  It took about 4 hot, sweaty hours with my wife running the forklift and me manhandling pallets with a pallet jack.  Our warehouse is now filled to the brim with beautiful, silvery, metally, Mylar-y goodness!

Folks here know we have kept our focus mainly food storage related over the years (and intend to keep it that way, mostly!).  We have dabbled in some different products here and there, but through everything our main focus has been Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers.  Thus, we are very proud to announce a product that fits in one of those categories, but expands nicely in a direction we want to be moving.

We’ve been receiving requests for this type of product for over a year now (over 100 customer comments in my little notebook at least), but finding manufacturing for something this specialized proved a little tricky.  As we worked on the ShieldPro brand, we thought this would be a great addition to our focus of storage, though outside the food niche.  I am very pleased to now offer the ShieldPro SafeCache storage bag.

This bag is awesome.  It is 11″x55″ long, made of the 7.5 Mil SafeCache material, the strongest metalized foil substrate I have found (and I’ve looked at hundreds of materials during this process!).  It is incredibly durable, with amazing barrier properties to moisture and oxygen.  The size will fit most long guns and AR’s (some optics may have to be removed for storage), as well as a ton of different types of equipment you may want to store out of your home.  It can be cut and resealed so that a single bag can fit multiple handguns, cameras, phones, or various electronics.2013-08-26 10.56.42

The challenge with trying to bury most standard gun cases is that water is a pretty amazing infiltrator, and it can and will seep through most everything.  The SafeCache bag fixes all that.  Used in conjunction with desiccant and standard storage procedures, you can bury whatever supplies you choose and know (barring earthquake or something crazy!) your valuables will be safe.

These bags are now available at Discount Mylar Bags.

However, for our food storers, please don’t despair!=)  We will have several new bags for y’all showing up at the store later this week.  We will be replacing 2 items permanently with a brand new ShieldPro product.  Our standard 5 gallon bag and 5 gallon zip bags, (both of which are still fabulous!), will be upgraded to the new ShieldPro 5 mil substrate (material).  Even better is that our pricing on both items will remain exactly the same ($1.27 for the 5 gallon and $1.79 for the 5 gallon zip).  We will be running clearance pricing on the 4.5 mil bags these are replacing.  ($.99 or less for the 5 gallon and $1.09 or less for the 5 gallon zip in bulk), and as mentioned in the last post, this is the lowest price offered on the ‘Net for these bags.  Please note there is nothing wrong with the 4.5 mil products, and they have been a staple with us for 3 years now and we have sold millions of them!  However, with our improved buying power, we have been able to work much closer with manufacturing to increase the quality of our products without increasing any costs to our customers, which is a great win for everyone!

Please note that while it has been a very busy summer, we’re not done yet!  We will be going back to manufacturing to figure out what other sizes and styles of bags folks might be needing.  If you have any thoughts, please drop a comment or email!  We don’t do any of this without input from our customers, as you are the most important thing in the world to us!


08 2013

Summer Updates: ShieldPro, Twins, Affiliate Program, and a HUGE Sale!

Hey everyone, I hope y’all are having a great summer!  We are having an awesome one, so I wanted to put up some updates.

First, we are very proud to start carrying the trademarked ShieldPro Brand Mylar Bags.  These bags are specifically designed for long-term food storage.  Not only are they beautiful, they offer absolutely awesome protection for your foods, with stellar oxygen and moisture barrier properties.  If you listen to one of the prepper podcasts you might have heard our first radio commercial.  We did it on the cheap, but I like the way it came out!  Take a listen if you’re interested.  We have one official ShieldPro bag currently available (a 1 gallon gusseted stand up bag), and we are currently scheduled to take delivery of a full truckload more on August 13-14 or so, so look for additional sizes then!

To help clear out some space in our warehouse, we are going to be putting up some awesome deals at the website.  For example, for 5-gallon bags, we will be offering 30-packs for $29.70 and 50-packs for $49.50, or $.99 a bag, shipping included!  If you’d like a larger quantity than that, we will go as low as $.89/each for 500 or more (email me!).  We’ll also have on sale 2-gallon bags and 5-gallon zip seal bags starting tomorrow.  Those who have read the blog often know I’m not prone to exaggeration, so I mean it when I say these prices may be the lowest you ever see for shipped bags.

Third on the agenda is the announcement of the Discount Mylar Bags Affiliate Program.  This will not be applicable to most folks, and is intended more for bloggers or folks who run websites.  Over the years I’ve had dozens of folks ask us if we run an affiliate program.  Until now, we didn’t!  But now we have one (Being run by Share-a-Sale) and will be offering a flat 10% for all orders referred to us through your affiliate link.  If you’re interested you can sign up here, or email me at admin@discountmylarbags.com for more info.

Our final big announcement is personal in nature, which I don’t normally do, so skip this part if I offend!  My wife and I have been together over 8 years now and married more than 5, and we always thought she couldn’t have kids.  She tried treatments and things in her first marriage, and they didn’t work.  I wasn’t about to fork out a whole lot of money to repeat the process, so we were content to spend our time together with each other and our dogs, and work on our own business and interests.  Well, the Good Lord Almighty decided that His timing was Now.  My wife is blessedly pregnant…with twins!!!  I’m a little worried about being 60 when my kids are 18, but I am doing my best to get back into good shape so I can try to be a good dad and be around for them as long as I can.  She is at 13 weeks now, we just had a 3d ultrasound done yesterday and all looks well so far, though they won’t be able to determine the sex of them until next time.  All Prayers are very welcome, as we know we’re in a higher-risk age bracket (my wife is 38 and I am 42), plus twins are always a little more complicated.

It also means figuring out how to store 2 more years worth of food, this time for kids!  Anyone with any advice on that and what you do for your younger kids, I’d love to hear it!

Thank you and have a great summer!


07 2013