Storing food long-term is Prepping 101 and storing rice long-term is step one. Combined with bean storage, rice is a staple in the list of best foods for long-term storage.
When we make an action convenient – when we eliminate the barriers to a goal being accomplished – we make it that much more likely that the target will end up being met. Even if the barriers are largely imaginary – such as the idea that building up emergency food storage is expensive – eliminating barriers still matters.
This is why rice is a fantastic starting point for those who are new to prepping. Rice can be used to make a family more food-secure in as convenient a manner as possible.
Why Store Rice
If you’re looking for a long-term food storage item, you can’t go wrong with rice. Rice is cheap, readily available, nutritious, and can be stored for a very long time.
Just one cup of uncooked rice contains 716 calories. This means that you can easily store a calorie-dense meal for disaster purposes with minimal effort on your part. As of this writing, you can get a 10-pound bag of white rice from your local Walmart for roughly $4.60. You can buy a 15-pound bag of the popular Royal Basmati Rice on Amazon for under $30.
- GREAT TASTING: Long and fluffy grain, naturally aromatic and aged over 12 months for the perfect non-sticky texture and a delicate, sweet flavor.
- EASY TO COOK: Rice is ready in about 15-20 minutes and is great for curries, pilafs, stir-fries, or as a side on it’s own.
A ten-pound bag will give you 100 servings of rice at 160 calories/serving, meaning that 10 pounds of rice will contain 16,000 calories.
That’s a lot of calories for not much money. Prepping doesn’t have to be expensive, see?!
There are other reasons rice is great for long-term food storage:
- It’s a good source of complex carbohydrates,
- It has an ancient record as a staple food (and still is for many people), and
- It pairs well with other foods.
How Rice Was Stored Historically
You know something is good when it’s stood the test of time, and rice is no exception. It’s been eaten by mankind for millennium, and for good reason! Rice is filling, nutritious, and once more, stores very well! This means rice was a vital means to warding off starvation during times of drought or famine throughout history.
And it’s still an incredibly important food crop worldwide. Currently, it’s responsible for about a fifth of all calories consumed worldwide and is the staple food of more than 3 billion people worldwide.
But just how did people in ancient history store rice? Rice, and other grains, were often “solarized” – laid out in the sun to first kill any insects. Then it was stored in earthenware jars or gourds and combined with diatomaceous earth (source). In this manner they could keep rats, bugs, and moisture out of their precious food so that it was safe to eat at a later date.
How Long Can You Store Rice?
The right rice stored in the right conditions can last for up to 30 years or more! The key is ensuring that your rice is properly protected from heat, moisture, and pests. If you can do that, you’re going to be good to go.
|Rice||Shelf Life when Sealed without Oxygen||Shelf Life in Store Packaging||Shelf Life when Frozen|
(long-grain, jasmin, basmati, etc.)
|30+ years||4-5 years||30 years|
|Brown/Black/Purple||18 months||3-6 months||12-18 months|
|Wild Rice||30+ years||10 years||30 years|
White rice can store for roughly 4-5 years of its own accord. If you can keep your rice oxygen free, however, you’re looking at roughly 30 years that it can stay safe and good to eat.
White rice is by far the best type of rice to store. It is readily available, cheap, and lasts a very long time. Brown and other colored rices typically have their husks (hulls) still on. These husks have natural oils in them that oxidize and cause spoilage sooner than if the husk was not present. Refined white rice doesn’t have this problem, and thus, that’s what you want for strong rice long-term as a prepper.
Unfortunately, white rice is not as healthy as brown. The husk provides higher levels of fiber, magnesium, and other nutrients.
Wild rice looks really good in the chart above, but wild “rice” isn’t really a rice at all. It’s actually a semi-aquatic long-grain grass that grows in shallow waters of lakes, tidal rivers, and bays. The husk is hard and inedible. It’s also very difficult to harvest and process. The University of Minnesota has done extensive research on wild rice. It may have a long shelf life but given its difficult to process (and the fact it isn’t a rice), it’s not something most preppers will opt to store in large quantities.
Storage Containers for Rice
The best way to store your rice for daily use is to put it in some type of airtight container and away from light.
If you’re storing rice for the long haul, then you need containers that can effectively seal out pests and oxygen. If you’re not storing the rice in a dark place, then you also want a container that can block out light. The seal is the most important, however, because without it oxygen absorbers will not work. Air will penetrate the container.
The most common storage containers for rice include Mylar bags, Mason jars, #10 cans designed for food storage (enamel lining), and food grade buckets.
|Mylar Bags||– Come in various sizes|
– Blocks light
– Reasonably priced
|– Must be vacuum sealed|
– Bags can be punctured
– Not rodent proof
|Mason Jars||– Good for meal-sized storage|
– Rodent proof
|– Prone to breaking|
– Does not block light
– Expensive for amount of food held
|#10 Cans||– Rodent proof|
– Blocks light
– Convenient sizing
|– Not readily available|
– Requires sealing equipment
– They can rust in humid environments
|Food Grade Buckets||– Rodent proof|
– Blocks light
– Inexpensive for the amount of food held
|– Requires special sealing lids|
– Not a true moisture/oxygen barrier
How Preppers Store Rice
You will find the vast majority of preppers storing white rice in Mylar bags set in food-grade buckets. That’s what I do. That’s what most people do. You get the vacuum seal effect with Oxygen absorbers sealed in Mylar bags and the rodent-proof, durability that buckets provide.
Preppers store rice for a long time by:
- buying white rice,
- putting it in Mylar bags,
- adding Oxygen absorbers,
- sealing the bag,
- putting the bag in a food grade bucket, and
- storing the bucket in a cool place a few inches off the floor to promote airflow.
Buy Your Supplies
Assuming you already have your rice, I would now go out and buy some 5-gallon buckets. While food grade buckets are the best, I’m not hesitant to use a Lowe’s bucket, particularly because I’ll be incorporating Mylar bags which will block contact between the rice and the bucket.
The next step would be to invest in some large Mylar bags. Unless you’re using a food-grade 5-gallon bucket, you don’t want your food coming into contact with the plastic.
- 20"x30" Foil lined, 4.3 mil Thick
- Sealable With Hot Iron-Can Reseal After Opening
Chemicals can be absorbed by the rice and you can end up ingesting stuff you don’t want to/having some funky tasting and smelling rice. Rice is incredibly absorbent, so keep that in mind when you’re considering how you’re going to store it.
Now, you’re going to want some food-safe oxygen absorbers. These will eliminate the air in the bucket after you shut the lid from causing long-term damage to your rice storage.
Oxygen absorbers are typically sold in the following sizes (links carry you to Amazon listing).
The following table is a rough guide for how many oxygen absorbers to use. When in doubt, be liberal. You cannot use too many absorbers.
|Container||Dense Food (wheat, flour, grains)||Less Dense Food (pasta, beans)|
|Food Storage Buckets||Total CCs||Total CCs|
|6-Gallon Food Bucket||2000||2500-3000|
|5-Gallon Food Bucket||2000||2500-3000|
|Mylar Food Storage Bags||Total CCs||Total CCs|
|20″ x 30″ (4.25, 5, and 6 gal)||2000||2500-3000|
|18″ x 28″ (4.25, 5, and 6 gal)||2000||2500-3000|
|14″ x 20″ (2 gal)||1000||1500-2000|
|14″ x 18″ x 6″ (2 gal)||1000||1500-2000|
|12″ x 18″ (1.5 gal)||500-800||1000-1200|
|12″ x 16″ x 6″ (1.5 gal)||500-800||1000-1200|
|10″ x 14″ (1 gal)||300-400||400|
|10″ x 14″ x 4″ (1 gal)||300-400||400|
|8″ x 12″ (1/2 gal)||100-200||200-400|
|8″ x 12″ x 4″ (1/2 gal)||100-200||200-400|
|6″ x 10″ (1/4 gal)||100||100-200|
|6″ x 8″ x 2″ (1/4 gal)||100||100-200|
|Mason Jar Size||Total CCs||Total CCs|
Next, purchase gamma seal lids either from Lowe’s or from Amazon. They’re more expensive than standard lids, but for frequent access to the bucket, they’re well worth the extra money. Peeling off a 5-gallon bucket lid is a pain in the butt, and a gamma seal lid makes the process much more enjoyable. Plus, you’re not likely to eat 5-gallons worth of rice in one sitting. You’re going to take a scoop out and then shut your bucket back. A screw-on gamma seal lid makes this whole process convenient and easy.
In addition, a gamma seal lid better seals out moisture from damaging your rice as well. They cost about $10, as of this writing, but they are well worth the peace of mind that they’ll give you should disaster strike.
Put it All Together
Put your rice inside the Mylar bag. Throw in enough food-safe oxygen absorbers, dispersing them between the bottom, middle, and top of the bag.
Seal your Mylar bag with a clothes iron on the hottest setting. The following image, from my article on coffee storage, illustrates how a sealed bag should look after sealed and O2 absorbers are added.
Above, on the right, you see where the bag was sealed with an iron. One day later the oxygen absorbers have sucked what air remained in the bag. Follow the same process when storing rice long-term and you’re good for decades!
Now clamp down your gamma seal lid and screw it on tight.
Voila! You’ve got a long-term solution for rice storage!
A Word About Bugs
Bugs are as big a problem as oxygen when storing rice long-term. Good news is that using oxygen absorbers will starve the bugs of the air needed to survive. If you are storing rice for shorter-term use and want to avoid sealing the rice to kill bugs, freeze the rice for a few days and then put it in an airtight, bug-proof container. The freezing process will kill the bugs and placing it in a tight container will keep new bugs out.
How Much Rice Should You Stock?
According to Utah State University, households should stock 300 pounds of grains/person to end up with a comfortable year’s supply, about 25-60 of which should be rice. This is easily accomplished at a reasonable cost.
With a 50-pound bag per family member (which will set you back $20 per person at Sam’s Club, as of this writing) you’ll be in a better place should a disaster hit your area that leaves you stranded without external help. Most certainly, you’re going to want to have other forms of food available to you as well, but rice is not a bad place to start and can easily serve as the foundation for what you’ll be eating throughout that time.
Rice Wrap Up
Storing rice long-term is the perfect entry point for new preppers to begin building up their emergency food supply. Too many people have the notion that prepping is expensive, and that to build up even a month’s worth of food is financially prohibitive.
If this is the case with your family or friends, use rice to show them an easier way. It’s hard to beat around seven days’ worth of food with just ten pounds for mere dollars. Yet rice can accomplish this, and as such it makes it a perfect “prepper” food. It’s a staple that should be stored with sugar, salt, beans, flour, and other foods.
What are your thoughts on the subject? Are there other tips or techniques you’d like to add to the conversation? Let us know in the comments below!