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How to store beans long-term (emergency food)

Learn how to store beans long-term to maximize shelf life by repackaging dry beans like pinto, black, and navy beans into oxygen-free containers. I have stored over 500 pounds of emergency food using this method because it is the most effective and cheapest way to store bulk beans. If I can do it, anyone can.

The best method of storing beans long-term is in a food-grade bucket lined with a Mylar bag and sealed with 3000cc of oxygen absorption.

For the average person, Mylar bags, food-grade buckets, and oxygen absorbers will be the cheapest, most available method of preserving bulk dried goods like dried beans, wheat berries, white rice, and other hard and soft grains.

Warning: The dried beans should contain 10% moisture or less before repackaging. Dry foods packaged in an oxygen-free environment with a moisture content above 10% may form anaerobic bacteria, namely botulism. A rare but deadly food poisoning.

If you are ready to start storing dry pinto, black, and navy beans. Read on.

How to store beans long-term: Tools and Equipment

When you get ready to re-package, your beans, things will go smoother if you stage all of your equipment and tools before you start. Following is a list of tools I use to repackage dried beans and all of my other dried goods. Hopefully, this will help you get set up for a painless session of dried-bean storage. Let’s look at what we need.

  1. 18″x28″ Mylar Bag(s) (This is the size I use) or 20″x30″
  2. 5-gallon food-grade bucket with a cheap lid (when using Mylar, you don’t need a fancy lid with a seal)
  3. 1-gallon Mylar bags for overflow
  4. Standard Clothes Iron to heat-seal the Mylar Bag
  5. Permanent Marker to mark the package with the packing date and food type
  6. 2500cc Oxygen Absorber(s) for 5-gallon bucket line with an 18″x28″ Mylar bag
  7. 500cc Oxygen Absorber(s) for 1-gallon overflow bag(s) for extra beans that won’t fit into your bucket
  8. Wood Board is used to place the top of the bag over when you seal it with the iron
  9. Scissors to cut open the bean bag, scissors make a clean cut, so it’s easier to pour the rice out of the bag

Storage Tip: Dried beans and pasta are less dense when packed together, so they have more air and, therefore, more oxygen in the spaces between each piece. They require more CCs of Oxygen absorption than dried foods like rice and wheat, which are more densely packed and therefore have less air and oxygen between each piece.

Size Of Oxygen Absorber To Preserve Dried Beans

I typically use 500cc oxygen absorbers for 1 gallon of dried beans, and for a 5-gallon bucket, I use 1 2000cc and 500cc Oxygen absorber. Following is a chart showing bag dimensions, container size, and the cc of the oxygen absorber to match.

Chart 1 Dried Beans/Container Size/CC Oxygen Absorber

Container SizeBag DimensionsCC Oxygen Absorber(s) For Dried Beans
1 Quart (1/4 gallon) Mylar Bag6″x10″200cc
1/2 Gallon Mylar Bag8″x12″400cc to 500cc
1 Gallon Mylar Bag10″x14″500cc
1.5 Gallon Mylar Bag12″x18″1000cc to 1200cc
2 Gallon Mylar Bag14″x20″2000cc
5 Gallon Mylar Bag20″x30″ or 18″x28″2500cc
6 Gallon Mylar Bag20″x30″ or 18″x28″3000cc
Information Compliments of USA Emergency Supply. You can mix and match different sizes of Oxygen absorbers to get the minimum cc required to remove oxygen. You cannot use too many Oxygen-absorbers, only too little.

Mylar Bags For Dried Bean Preservation

When preserving dried beans for long-term storage, you want to pay attention to the size of the Mylar bag(s) you choose and the mil or thickness of the bag material. Thickness is important because if you go too thin, the material lets in the light, which is one way to degrade food over time.

The size of the Mylar bag you pick is a balancing act between convenience and the number of beans you expose to oxygen when the package is opened.

Mylar Bag Size: Dried Beans Exposed To Oxygen

Consider the number of beans you want to expose to Oxygen when the oxygen-free container is opened for use. It is less convenient but storing beans in smaller 10″ x 14″ (1-gallon) or 14″x20″(2-gallon) Mylar bags minimizes the number of beans exposed to oxygen. Smaller packages are also lighter and easier to handle.

Bean Storage Tip: Even if you go with 5 or 6-gallon food buckets, you will be using smaller bags for overflow, the extra rice that won’t fit in the 5 or 6-gallon bucket. So plan to purchase two sizes of Mylar bags and the oxygen absorbers to go in them. This is how I do it.

  • Use 500cc Oxygen Absorbers in a 1-gallon Mylar bag for overflow rice
  • Use 1 2000cc and 1 500cc oxygen absorber for a 5-gallon bucket (lined with Mylar)

Mylar Bag Thickness: Bean Preservation

My go-to Mylar bags are 5 mils. They keep light out and are tough enough when stored in a plastic bucket or a lidded plastic bin.

Mylar thickness over 5 mils is more challenging to seal, and bags that are less than 5 mils are easily damaged and may let light into the package leading to light oxidation of the beans.

Bean Storage Tip When storing beans in smaller Mylar bags, you still want to protect them, so place them inside a lidded bucket or in a lidded plastic bin to protect beans from chewing bugs or rodents and physical damage. My storage space is small, so I move stuff around a lot. It’s pretty easy to damage naked Mylar.

Preservation Of Beans: Food Grade Pails and Buckets

You can use non-food-grade buckets to store rice as long as they are lined with a Mylar bag. You don’t want your rice to directly contact non-food-grade plastic because the chemicals and dies used to manufacture it are toxic. You don’t want your rice absorbing these toxic chemicals.

Why I use Food-grade Buckets Instead of Non-food Grade

I want to have as many options as possible regarding food for long-term storage. The bucket that holds beans today can be repurposed for food-grade uses tomorrow. I may want to make pickles, honey mead, or cider down the road. If the bucket is food-grade, I can use it.

In a truly SHTF situation, you may not have the option of running to Walmart or ordering a food-grade bucket online.

Dry Bean Preservation: Pounds Of Beans Per Container

Each size of Mylar bag or bucket will hold a specific amount, by weight, of dried beans. The following weights are not exact and vary somewhat based on the type of bean stored, but it will give you some ball-park figures to work with as you get your Mylar bags, buckets, and oxygen absorbers together for re-packaging.

Chart 2 Container size and pounds held

Container SizeLBS of Dried Beans Stored
1 Quart Mylar Bag1.75 pounds
1/2-gallon Mylar Bag3.5 pounds
1-gallon Mylar bag7 pounds
2-gallon Mylar bag14 pounds
5-gallon Bucket (lined with an 18″x28″ Mylar Bag)35 to 36 pounds
6-gallon Bucket (lined with an 18″x28″ Mylar Bag)40 to 42 pounds
#10 can5.6 lbs

Dried Beans To Preserve And Store Per Person

The LDS church is the consummate authority regarding long-term food storage. For beans, they recommend: Storing 60 pounds (27KG) of legumes per person for a year’s supply. Legumes include dry beans, split peas, and lentils.

Chart 3: # of containers for 60 Pounds of Dried Beans

Container Type# Of ContainersTotal Pounds of Dried Beans
1 Quart Mylar Bag or Jar3561.25 pounds
1/2-gallon Mylar Bag1863 pounds
1-gallon Mylar bag963 pounds
2 gallon Mylar bag570 pounds
5-gallon Bucket (lined with an 18″x28″ Mylar Bag)270 pounds
6-gallon Bucket (lined with an 18″x28″ Mylar Bag)280 pounds
#10 can1161.6 pounds
Figures may vary depending on the type of beans and bean size.

Bean Preservation: Ideal Storage Environment

When preserving dried beans for maximum shelf-life, pay attention to storage temperature, humidity, Oxygen-free storage containers, bean moisture content before repackaging, and protection from heat and light.

Ideal Storage Temperature For Dried Beans

The ideal storage temperature can be tough to achieve, so do your best. One thing is for sure you want to avoid storing long-term foods, including beans, in areas that aren’t environmentally controlled.

Store Dried Beans and Other Dried foods in a hot garage, and you’ll shave off decades of shelf-life.

The ideal storage temperature for the long-term storage of dried beans is 75° Fahrenheit or less but above freezing.

The Ideal Storage Humidity For Dried Beans

The humidity or amount of moisture in the air in your long-term storage pantry should be as low as possible. Moisture destroys food and packaging. Moisture is also the #1 spoiler of dried beans creating the perfect environment for mold and bacteria growth.

The ideal humidity for preserving dried beans in long-term storage is 15% or less. Consider using a dehumidifier in your food storage pantry if you live in a high-humidity area.

Dried beans and other dry staples like wheat berries and white rice soak moisture from the air like a sponge. This isn’t as much of an issue if you store beans in Mylar and seal it as long as it is 10% moisture or less before repackaging.

If dried beans sit in high humidity without protective packaging, they will mold, mildew, and acquire off-odors and flavors.

6 Storage Containers Options For Dried Bean Preservation

Following are 6 storage containers to preserve dried beans in long-term storage. Some are better than others, but I wanted you to see the most common options so you can choose the container that fits your situation and budget.

Storage Tip: To preserve dried beans for long-term storage, use Oxygen absorbers in these containers to create an oxygen-free environment.

#1 Ball Jars

They have an excellent oxygen barrier, but they break easily, and they don’t protect beans from light oxidation.

#2 Sterilized Soda Bottles/PETE

Some people swear by soda bottles, but I’ve never used them.

If you re-use soda bottles to repackage dried beans, make sure you sterilize the bottle and the cap before packaging. And make sure they are super dry. If you put beans in wet bottles, the beans will head south in a hurry.

The reason I’m not too fond of soda bottles for bean storage: The bottle plastic isn’t that tough and degrades, it’s not a true oxygen barrier, and soda bottles don’t protect beans from light. If you decide to re-use bottles like this, avoid bottles that have been used to store dairy products.

Scott, Ready Squirrel

#3 Food-grade Bucket Without A Mylar Bag

The problem I see with just using buckets, plastic isn’t a true oxygen barrier, and even the best lid seals are known to fail over the long haul.

When it comes to protecting food from physical damage buckets are excellent and they have many other uses in an SHTF situation like moving water, fermentation or pickling.

#4 #10 Cans

If you keep moisture down in your storage area, #10 cans are the best storage containers for dried beans and other dry foods. They are super tough and keep an excellent seal. High humidity will rust the cans.

Some drawbacks to #10 cans. The biggest drawback is that most of us don’t have the equipment necessary to store beans this way. You can purchase professionally packaged beans and other dried goods, but this costs more than re-packaging bulk foods.

Another minor issue is that the cans may impart a tinny flavor to the beans in them. This issue has mostly been remedied because modern cans have a food-safe lining of acrylic or R enamel, creating a barrier between the metal and food.

#5 Mylar Bags:

Mylar bags are hands down the best “do it yourself option” for repackaging beans for long-term storage. Most of us can do it relatively inexpensively. Mylar is excellent because it keeps oxygen and moisture out and protects beans from light oxidation.

The downside of Mylar Bags is they are relatively weak and easily damaged compared to food-grade buckets.

Mylar is also extremely susceptible to damage by rodents.

#6 Food Grade Buck, A Mylar Bag & Oxygen Absorber

This is the perfect trifecta for dry bean storage.

The Mylar bag is the best DIY oxygen barrier, the bucket and lid are excellent armor for the Mylar, and the Oxygen absorber removes oxygen leaving just nitrogen behind.

Moisture Content Of Beans Before Preservation

Dry Beans and other dried foods like wheat, white rice, and other grains should contain 10% moisture or less before repackaging for long-term oxygen-free preservation.

When storing grains with high moisture levels in an oxygen-free container, you’ve created the prime environment for anaerobic bacteria like botulism to form. It’s a rare type of food poisoning, but it’s deadly.

Bean Preservation: Protection From Heat And Light

Light oxidizes dried beans, so avoid clear containers unless you plan on covering them or storing them in a dark cupboard or pantry.

Heat degrades food, so avoid storing beans near heat sources like a stovetop, wood stove, or any appliance that gives off heat.

5 Things to Avoid When Picking Dried Beans For Storage

  1. Beans are broken or discolored
  2. Fresh, dried beans don’t have much of a smell
  3. Dust or refuse may be a sign that insects are present
  4. Musty, moldy, rancid, or off smells are signs of a bad or fermenting bean
  5. When in Doubt, Throw them Out or don’t Buy them for storage


Dried vs. Canned Beans For Prepping: Why I Store Mostly Dried Beans, Ready Squirrel, Link

How Long Beans Last: 16 Top-tier Survival Beans, Ready Squirrel

Oxygen Absorbers and Food Storage, Scott Foster, Readysquirrel.com

Mylar Bags: The Secret Weapon of Food Storage, Scott Foster, Readysquirrel.com

Top 6 D.I.Y. Containers For Long-term Food Storage, Scott Foster, Readysquirrel.com

Food Stockpile: One Person For Three Months, Scott Foster, Readysquirrel.com

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