OK folks, just to make a sticky with DIY food packing and storage info for folks just getting started. Their is evidently a LOT of junk, misinformation and downright stupidity out there when it comes to DIY food storage.

Years ago, after explaining upteem times how to properly use mylar liners and oxygen absorbers on a couple of forums, we first made a short video for Frugal Squirrels forum. It was impromptu and we didn't really like how it came out so later we put out this video-


But let me back up and give you a short history of where this all came from. In 1986-87 I started storing food. I was a teenager and new survivalist. Their wasn't much out about storing food yourself back then. Some early survival friends told me about storing dry grains, beans, etc. in buckets. Their was no mylar liners back then, nor oxygen absorbers, you couldn't buy those things like you can now a days. So over the course of a year I packed 300 lbs. of white rice by getting used icing buckets from Dunkin Donuts, cleaning them out thoroughly then pouring the rice in, hammering on the lid and sealing the outside of the lid with silicon caulk. A very humble beginning.

Years later I got into the food storage business, getting my first "order" from friends in 1989. I sold Ready Reserve foods, a dehydrated brand that still is around IIRC. A few years later I started a mail order and gunshow Preparedness company in 1992 and sold food commercially through that. For a single guy in my early 20's then I did pretty well and got very familiar with food storage industry methods, the various types of packaging, etc. I continued packing a lot of my own food for my personal and family use during this time also.

In the late 90's the writing was on the wall regarding Y2K and that it was going to be a big time for the industry. However as it usually happens in the preparedness industry, most ramped up too little and far too late. By mid 1998 most of the big food packing houses were telling us to tell customers "20 to 24 weeks" for lead times. That was crazy and was increasingly making it very hard to sell.

Being still a fairly young man with no children yet, I decided to take a major plunge and add a mid size commercial cannery to what we were doing with the preparedness company. As fate would have it, James Stevens had just published his "yellow pages" book of the preparedness industry, and being an advertiser, a complimentary copy arrived right before I flew out to Las Vegas for a trade show.

I absolutely love new ventures, new challenges. During the flight out and the flight back I used about half a fresh notebook making notes, designing the layout for the new cannery of which I had not found a home for yet, pages and pages of figures and calculations on what everything would cost, notes on where we would buy things, etc. Basically wrote an entire business plan on paper and in my head in the air between Jacksonville Florida and Lost Wages Nevada.

We put the plan to work immediately upon returning home and within a very short period of time we were up and running packing #10 cans and Superpails with a full selection of grains, legumes, dehydrated fruits and vegetables, TVP's, mixes and meal blends, complete line of dairy products, etc.

How did we do it? Very simply we copied the method used by the long time established professionals in the industry. Nobody knew who "honeyville" was then, but Walton's, OFD, Blue Chip and others were the standard then as they are now.

We decided against doing a nitrogen "flush" method for several reasons. First and foremost was the fact that a lot of research had been done showing that the LONG TERM results of simple nitrogen flushing showed MUCH HIGHER residual oxygen content than using OXYGEN ABSORBERS. Secondly I didn't want to have to mess with having cylinders of nitrogen around, inspections, potential health hazards, etc.

At the height of our running the cannery, we had about a dozen people working from 7am till sometimes 8 or 9pm at night running 2 canners. I never expected nor planned to keep the cannery open any past 1/1/00 so I did not buy any buildings but leased a building that conveniently had space in the back for the cannery, an office area and space for a walk in store up front.

It's hard to say exactly how much we packed during that time period as so often food wouldn't stay on the shelf more than a couple of days back then, we did receive around 10 truckloads of hard read wheat alone. Each truckload was 22 pallets at 2,000 lbs. per pallet. So in wheat ALONE we packed almost a half million lbs. of food. Of course this was just ONE ITEM out of maybe 40-50 available. We built full year units from single person units to 4 person family units. We were one of the first companies to pioneer an affordable "Basic Year supply" which at the time contained about 600 lbs. of food and sold for sometimes as low as $200. (1998 prices). According to plan, we closed the cannery the weekend before Thanksgiving in 1999 and moved to our Georgia location. Knowing that the food storage part of the business would be dead for a while after 2000, their was no sense in keeping open the cannery. And sure to plan, the food storage industry was dead for several years after 2000.

So just a little background where my information and experience comes from. I've been packing food for myself and for other people since 86-87. As a family we do not pack food, keep it for a couple years and then toss it out or give it to charity. We have this novel idea- we USE the food we store!

End of history lesson, sorry to put you to sleep

The methods we used at our cannery we copied from "the big boys" in the industry. We copied them because they work and they produce a QUALITY product both now and after years in storage.

Not long after we put up the first packing video on youtube, we got all the quasi experts saying all kinds of non sense like "you have to use DE", "you should use handwarmers instead" and other similar guff.

Again, I would retort- "What do the professionals do?"

The professional packing houses do NOT use:

1. Dry ice
2. DE
3. Mylar party balloons
4. Salt as a dessicant/supposed oxygen absorber
5. 2 litre soda pop bottles
6. Idiotic hand warmers in place of oxygen absorbers

The problem is that everyone wants to know "how long" will such and such last, but few people have actually EXPERIENCED "how long" certain things will really last.

So, you get a self professed "food storage expert" that puts up an FAQ and comes with crazy stuff like white rice is only good for six months. What? People like that LOVE CHARTS. This is where you will see things like the famous Nattick labs chart for MRE storage. It has length of time in storage and temperature. It's a great GUIDELINE but you'll find from ACTUAL EXPERIENCE that it is not to be taken as Scripture.

Some time after we got jumped by the "I packed six bucket experts" we defended the methods by producing a series of two videos showing long term food storage RESULTS-

Results video part 1


The arguments and comments from the "six bucket experts" and "chart commandos" came to an end after video proof was shown. It's easy to be overly analytical and stick to what you think will be because of a chart. It's quite another thing to show food that by all the "charts" should be junk because of high heat that was still fine YEARS AFTER the chart commandos and six bucket experts said it would be.

To reiterate- charts on storage life should only be considered a GUIDELINE, never as the "final answer."

We argued that the bigger problem affecting food storage was residual oxygen. Heat was a problem, yes, but not the albatross people thought it was.

This was good news for many people as the six bucket experts had them convinced that they absolutely could not ever ever never put food storage anywhere except a perfectly airconditioned 60 degree year round cooler. Showing 17 year old food storage that was stored in outside metal buildings in Florida and Georgia blew away the concept that you absolutely positively MUST have climate controlled environment for your food storage.

To be clear, no one said your better off storing food in high heat. My point in showing this is that if the choice is to not store any more food, or have to put your storage food in your garage in Florida, by all means store more food. And to many people that was exactly the choice they were facing, but the six bucket experts were telling them not to use their garage for storage.

Starve one day because you didn't have the "perfect" place for your food storage because you listened to some egghead with little experience or accept "less than perfect" storage conditions and not watch your family starve? The choice is clear to me.

Part II coming up soon. If you have any food storage questions post them here.

Robert Henry