The world lives on rice. Well, at least most of it. Rice along with wheat is one of those magical foods that, when properly stored, can last for generations. Even better, just about anyone can do it as long as you follow this long-term rice storage guide.
Rice preserved properly can last up to 25-30 years. This makes it the perfect food to add bulk to your meals and your long-term emergency food plan. Added to your pantry, rice adds calories via carbohydrates.
Rice is also the ultimate chameleon. With the proper recipe, it can be a side dish, the main course, or even dessert.
Most importantly, preserving rice is easy. Let’s look at the ins and outs of storing rice long-term.
Why Long-Term Rice Storage for SHTF?
So, why store rice? There are so many reasons.
Designed for Storage
First, rice is naturally made for storage. Its low moisture and low-fat content make it ideal for a long-term pantry.
Even without special preparation, kept from rodents, a bag of rice will last for years. Using the best way to store rice long-term, you get a shelf life of decades.
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Second, rice is inexpensive. At a little over a dollar per pound, when purchased in large quantities, it is one of the cheapest sources of calories you can stack.
Lot’s of Calories
Finally, rice is rich in calories and carbohydrates.
When the SHTF we will all put in long days of heavy labor. Labor equals calories spent. Every calorie spent must be replaced. Otherwise, you start the long cycle of starvation.
Every pound of dried rice holds about 2,000 calories. That is about one day of calories during normal times. In hard times, a serving of rice will add bulk to any dish.
Conveniently, a 5-gallon bucket stores 30 pounds of rice. The math becomes easy. One bucket stores about a month of calories for a single person.
One bucket per person per month and you will meet the bulk of your calorie needs! All you need to do then is add variety and a few other nutrients.
What Type of Rice to Use
Not all rice types are created equal. Moisture and fat are the enemies of long-term storage.
Manufacturers remove hulls of white rice and dry it to low moisture content. This makes it the best rice for long-term storage.
Much like other dried foods, the low moisture content fosters an environment that is hostile to bacteria growth. You can buy bulk rice at several outlets, including the ubiquitous Amazon, big box stores, Asian, African, and other ethnic stores.
Brown rice is only for short-term storage. The oils left in brown rice, while they add flavor and nutrients, quickly go rancid, ruining your investment. If you choose to store brown rice, only store what you can use in a year.
Finally, there is minute-rice. Also called par-boiled, this variant is pre-cooked and then dried. Rice purists may turn their nose up at minute rice, however, preppers should make use of this viable option. The biggest advantage is in cooking it. Being pre-cooked, minute rice takes much less time and therefore fuel to prepare. When the balloon goes up (i.e. SHTF), fuel will be at a premium.
If your pantry is already near rice capacity. Add a few buckets of minute rice for the lean times, or for when you need to cook in a hurry.
Can You Store Cooked Rice?
The secret to a successful prepper pantry is depth AND breadth. Breadth is variety. This variety often includes stews, meats, and canned fruits. The thing they have in common is that they are all cooked.
Cooked rice is the exception. While it may seem a great way to shortcut a warm meal, there is no safe way to can cooked rice. Canning temperatures achievable at home are insufficient for long-term cooked rice food safety.
Freezing cooked rice is a second option. While freezing will effectively preserve your rice, it only works when the power is on. While this is perfect for short-term storage during normal life, it’s not SHTF material.
How Long Does Rice Last?
A key component of any prepper pantry item is longevity. You want to fill your pantry and then forget it. Well, maybe not forget it, but you don’t want to be cycling it every month.
Rice is a perfect fit for the SHTF pantry. Properly stored (e.g., in food-grade buckets or food-grade plastic containers) rice will last for up to 30-years.
There are a few options on how you store it and each variable will impact shelf life:
Low Moisture Content
First, rice from the store is already in a suitable form for storage. It’s dry. Remove water from the food storage equation and you are a long way to defeating food spoiling bugs.
Second, it’s naturally durable. Rice is a seed. Much like wheat berries, it will naturally store for years.
Bags of rice purchased at the store often comes in plastic or cloth bags. While not perfect, you can simply place these in a plastic tote and they are good for up to 5 years.
Add a layer of protection from light to create a barrier for spoilage and you can get up to 10 years of storage.
Finally, to bring rice to its full potential you need all of the previously mentioned barriers, and the ability to remove oxygen. This is the sweet spot. For preppers, using 5-gallon buckets, mylar bags, and oxygen absorbers will get you 25 years of storage and beyond.
How to Store Rice for the Long-Term
As I stated, the key to storing rice involves removing three variables: light, moisture, and oxygen. You can accomplish this to varying degrees based on your specific needs.
Native Packaging and Rice Storage
The first option is to leave your rice in its store packaging. This has traditionally been a plastic bag or a cloth sack.
While this is ok for short-term storage, you will need a little more protection to keep out bugs and the elements. Expect 5-years or less for a simple bag of rice on the shelf.
Plastic Totes and Buckets for Rice Storage
The next option is to add a layer of protection to the native packaging.
Here you may keep the rice in the original bag or pour it out into a new container. Storing it in a tote or bucket will provide a layer of protection against insects and light but will do little to combat oxygen and moisture.
If the buckets (e.g., a new 5-gallon bucket with a new seal) are air-tight, you won’t remove oxygen, but you will keep out any new oxygen from getting in.
As an added precaution, I recommend freezing your rice for 3-5 days before storage. This will kill both insects and their eggs that may hide in the rice.
Once packaged, store your buckets or totes at or below room temperature. This is 70 degrees Fahrenheit or less. The cooler the better. Cool temperatures slow chemical reactions (e.g., spoilage). With this combination, your rice will be good for up to 10 years.
But wait. There’s more!
Mylar and 5-Gallon Buckets
The pinnacle of long-term rice storage is mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, and 5-gallon buckets. This combination locks out moisture, removes all oxygen, and blocks light.
Any clean food-grade bucket can be used as long as you follow a few simple rules:
- Never use a bucket that has stored anything other than food.
- Always use a food-grade bucket as identified by their labeling.
- #1, #2, #4, #5 are generally safe–assuming they’ve only stored food.
- PETE, HDPE, LDPE, and PP are generally safe – again, assuming they’ve only stored food.
You can get buckets from Home Depot, Lowes (although I don’t like their lids), or even the local bakery. My bakery gives away their empty icing buckets for free. I just need to give them a good wash.
Before using any 5-gallon bucket, wash, rinse, and dry it well.
Mylar bags are the next requirement for long-term rice storage. Basically, they are thick plastic (polyethylene terephthalate film (“PET”)) bags.
Often, mylar bags are purchased with a vaporized metallic coating. The combination of PET plastic and coating creates a durable, sealable, and light-blocking package for long-term food storage.
The last ingredient is oxygen absorbers. These small sachets of powdered iron chemically react with and bind to oxygen. They are identical to hand warmers, where the warmth comes from the chemical reaction.
Manufacturers sell oxygen absorbers based on the amount of oxygen, in cubic centimeters (“cc”), they neutralize.
A 5-gallon bucket of rice will require 2000cc of absorbers. If you purchase 500cc absorbers, you will need 4. If you purchase 100cc absorbers, you will need 20. Simply do the math on how many you will need per bucket.
Packaging food in mylar is a common enough practice that sets of mylar bags with oxygen absorbers included are readily available.
Once you open your bag of absorbers, put the leftover ones in a sealed quart jar.
Long-Term Storage of Rice in Mylar and 5-Gallon Buckets
Storing rice in mylar and buckets is exceptionally easy.
- Place the mylar bag in the bucket and fill it halfway with rice.
- Add half of the recommended oxygen absorbers (1000cc).
- Add the remaining rice…
- and finally the rest of the oxygen absorbers.
Each bucket will hold approximately 33 pounds of rice. I usually purchase 100 pounds and then fill 3 buckets.
Sealing Your Mylar Bags
Next, you must seal the bag. While you can purchase an impulse sealer made specifically for mylar, you can do the same job with a dowel (or square piece of wood) and an iron.
Press as much air out of the bag as possible, then fold the mylar over the dowel. Run the iron over the mylar with slight pressure. You will notice a slight change to the mylar when you have properly melted and welded the bag shut.
I recommend practicing on a few scrap pieces of mylar first.
Make your first seal at the top of the bag. You want to leave room in case you need to open the bag and re-seal it. Place 2-3 seals in the bag’s top for redundancy, then set the bag and bucket aside for a few days.
If you have created a vacuum seal with your iron, the O2 absorbers will remove the oxygen and the bag will pull in on itself.
If the bag does not seal up like this, you can simply open it up, add a few more O2 absorbers and re-seal it below the cut.
Once the bag has sealed up, pop on the lid and store it somewhere safe.
Always inspect your long-term storage rice once a year to make sure the seals are intact and that rodents haven’t found your stash.
Your rice is now ready for the generations to come!
Packing Up Rice Storage for the Long-Term
Rice isn’t just nice, it’s an essential component of your long-term food storage. You can purchase large quantities of it for very little money. You can store it for decades with only minimal equipment. It keeps bellies filled, all while stretching other ingredients.
As a prepper, storing food is a necessity. For short-term disasters, you must only bridge the gap between the event and the restoration of services. A few scoops of rice in every meal can aid in keeping the family full. With the endless possibilities of cooking rice, you will keep the family happy.
Long-term disasters, including grid-down events, may put the restoration of services out months or years. If managing these situations is on your threat matrix, then a mountain of rice is in your future.
Regardless of the threats you see happening over the horizon, storing rice is inexpensive, easy to do, and it’s in your best interest to start now. Rice will never be cheaper than it is today. Secure your food future by filling up your pantry with the staple that will outlast you!
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