Rice and beans are inexpensive foods that can be stored for 30 years or more if properly packaged, making them good candidates for emergency preparedness food supply. You can store a mixture of beans or a mixture of different rice types, but you must store rice and beans in separate containers. While simple canisters and plastic bags work well for general use storage, long-term storage requires air-tight containers and moisture prevention to prevent food spoilage.
Wash food-grade buckets and lids thoroughly and sanitize them with a 10-percent solution of bleach which contains one part of bleach and nine parts water. Rinse the buckets well and allow them to dry completely before use. You'll need separate buckets for beans and rice. Look for these types of buckets at restaurants or order them new. The buckets should never have been used to store anything except food. The best food-grade buckets have a rubber gasket around the lid for airtight storage.
Line each bucket with a large mylar bag, the type of bag used to seal military rations.
Fill one mylar bag with beans and a separate bag with rice, leaving about 5 inches of head room to the bucket rim.
Place an oxygen gas absorber in each mylar bag, providing 1,500 to 2,000 cubic centimeters of oxygen absorber for each 5-gallon bucket. Oxygen absorbers come in various sizes, so you might use two 1,000 cc absorbers or four 500 cc absorbers to achieve the correct amount. These packets activate when opened and act to absorb oxygen gas inside after the bag is sealed. If desired, you can also add dessicants to absorb any moisture that might be present.
Close the bag and lay the excess bag flap over a board. Run a clothing iron along the bag several times to seal the mylar bag. You might need to set the bucket on a chair and place the board on a counter in order to do this. Instead of the board, you can simply lay the flap on an ironing board.
Cut off the excess mylar above the sealed point and fold the bag down inside the bucket. Wait a few hours or overnight for the oxygen to absorb and vacuum seal the bags.
Place additional oxygen absorbers inside the bucket, on the outside of the mylar bags to absorb oxygen inside the bucket after it is sealed. Fit the lid on the bucket and tap the edges with a rubber mallet to ensure a tight seal.
Label the lids and sides of the bucket with the contents and date of storage. You might wish to label the mylar bags before sealing the bucket. It's also a good idea to write the brand name from the beans and rice packages, the name of the store where purchased and the date of purchase in the event of a food safety recall.
Store the buckets at a constant temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit to keep the rice and beans for up to 10 years. Store the food at or below 40 F for storage up to 30 years. Rice maintains all of its nutrients and flavor for 30 years; beans lose some of their nutrients and flavor in 30 years but are still acceptable as an emergency food source.
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- Utah State University Extension: White Rice
- Utah State University Extension: Dry Beans
- University of Georgia Cooperative Extension: Preparing an Emergency Food Supply, Long Term Food Storage
- USA Emergency Supply: Oxygen Absorbers and Long-Term Food Storage - An Introduction
- USA Emergency Supply: Storage Life of Dried Foods
- Optimum Preparedness: How To Seal Mylar Oxygen Barrier Bags with an Iron
- Instead of storing the beans in rice in single, large bags inside the buckets, you can purchase smaller mylar bags and store several small bags inside each bucket. Fill the bags, add the oxygen absorber and seal the bags. Label each mylar bag with the contents and other pertinent information before placing them inside the bucket.
- It is possible to store beans and rice in food-grade buckets and similar containers without using a mylar bag, but plastic buckets are slightly porous and allow some oxygen transfer. Mylar bags allow almost no air transfer to greatly increase the shelf-life sometimes indefinitely.
A former cake decorator and competitive horticulturist, Amelia Allonsy is most at home in the kitchen or with her hands in the dirt. She received her Bachelor's degree from West Virginia University. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and on other websites.