Rice is a great emergency food, but it is going up fast in price. Stored properly, it lasts for over 20 years, without refrigeration or freezing.
Historically, a huge part of being a keeper-at-home has been putting up food… for winter months, for lean times, and for various disasters.
White rice is an important long term storage food, but you can’t buy a bag from the store, toss it in the pantry and expect it to keep well. This will cover methods to store rice long term, which type rice to store, and answers to some frequent storage questions.
Especially if purchased in bulk, rice is inexpensive and it incorporates beautifully into many recipes. With the more recent trend towards reduced carb diets, rice has gotten a bum rap, but it’s fed people around the world for at least 6,000 years.
Rice is naturally gluten free and anti-inflammatory; plus, it’s a very low allergen and contains all eight essential amino acids. It has complex carbohydrates, protein and vitamins, including niacin, vitamin B6, manganese, zinc, iron, phosphorus, copper, and magnesium.
Rice and Resistant Starch (which is good for you)
When you cook rice and cool it, it gets higher in resistant starch. Resistant starch can help with weight loss and benefit heart health. It can also improve blood sugar management, insulin sensitivity, and digestive health (1,
Which Types Store Best?
White and wild rice can last (with nutrients intact) over 30 years, if stored correctly.
Black, brown and purple rice have higher levels of nutrients, but will only last 18 months to 2 years before the oil in the hull makes them prone to rancidity. I would keep eating brown rice (presoaked for 7 hours) and store up the white rice for emergency usage when proper storage is critical. White rice does not need presoaking.
Storing Long Term of White Rice
For best storage quality, you need to consider four things:
- Cool temperature
- Oxygen (equals oxidation/spoilage)
- Moisture (can equate to mold under the right conditions)
- Bugs, mainly weevils
Avoid temperature swings and nearby heat sources such as a stove or heater. The cool temperature of a basement or root cellar work well. Avoid a freeze thaw cycle.
- Rice stored at a constant 70℉ (21 ℃) will last at least 10 years, but the best storage temperature is below 40℉ (~5℃ ).
- Vacuum seal rice or use oxygen absorbers. Oxygen = oxidation (spoilage).
- Some say to freeze rice for three days to kill any pests, but better yet (avoid the freeze-thaw cycle) and vacuum seal it in an oxygen-free container. Two weeks without oxygen should kill all bugs and eggs.
- Insect and rodent-proof containers are a must. Rice weevils are the insects of concern.
Storing Rice in Mylar
- Mylar bags that are at between 5mm to 7mm thick (don’t use thin Mylar, which easily punctures or the coating wears off and lets in light)
- Oxygen absorbers
- Sharpie Marker
- 5 food grade buckets with lids, or other rodent proof containers
- Kitchen scale that can measure 20 pounds
- Mylar bag sealer
I’ve read that you can cut a 5-gallon Mylar bag in half and use it to hold ~10 pounds of rice. If you use one 5-gallon bag per bucket, it can hold 30-35 pounds of rice. If you use 1-gallon bags, you will only be able to fit 4 into a 5-gallon bucket.
- Label the Mylar bags and the bucket with the date and contents. I use masking tape on the bucket, and write on the tape.
- Weigh the rice and pour it in the Mylar bag. Add an O2 absorber.
- Squeeze out as much air as you can, then seal the bag. Repeat until all rice is in bags.
- Place the bags of rice into your larger container.
O2 Absorber Requirements
Each Mylar bag needs at least the following:
- 5 gallon Mylar bag = 2000 cc O2 absorber
- 1 gallon Mylar bag = 300 cc O2 absorber
- 1 quart Mylar bag or mason jar = 100 cc O2 absorber
Don’t use less than the recommended amount, or they may not remove all the oxygen.
Purchase O2 absorbers in small packs of 10 or 20! And DO NOT open the package of absorbers until the food is ready to be sealed. Only open what you need, then seal leftover absorbers in an small airtight container.
How to Store Rice in Mason Jars
To store rice long term in Ball or Mason glass jars:
- Place the rice into the jar.
- Vacuum seal the jar OR add an oxygen absorber. Use a 100 cc O2 absorber per quart.
- Screw on the ring for extra protection. Date and label the jar.
If you have an open container of rice in the pantry, you can add bay leaves to the rice to help deter pantry pests.
How much rice should I store?
FEMA recommends a very minimum of 72 hours of food in your home for all family members.
I recommend at least 1 month supply of food due to the current situation, a lot more if you have time and room. A good stock of food will get used and be a blessing.
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Where to Buy in Bulk
Questions and Answers
You can reuse Mylar, but of course the bag will be slightly smaller each time. Mylar is great for camping and travel, and it’s impact resistant.
Rice can absorb moisture and smells. Mylar keeps out light, moisture, and air, ensuring no oxidation.
Why not store it in the freezer?
You can, but rice doesn’t need to be frozen. If it is in a sealed container it will last indefinitely.
How to Cook Rice Without Power
Make sure you have a way to cook it if the power is out. You’ll need clean water to boil or steam the rice.
1 cup dry = 3 cups cooked.
To cook over a campfire or small emergency stove:
- Rinse your rice well in a strainer. Letting water wash through the grains will remove some free starch, dust and dirt.
- Add 2 cups of water for each cup of rice to a pot. Add them at the same time.
- Boil water and rice add a pinch of salt. DO NOT STIR THE RICE or it will get sticky.
- Once it is boiling, turn down to simmer and COVER.
- Let it simmer without stirring or peeking for about 18 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and let it rest another 10 minutes
- Fluff with a fork and serve.
What About Levels of Arsenic in Rice?
Brown rice has more arsenic than white rice – on average, 80% more. This is because the arsenic is concentrated in bran and germ. Since the arsenic is bound to the bran, not much is absorbed into the body.
Rice grown in different places has different arsenic levels. Some of lowest levels are found in:
- White basmati rice from California, India and Pakistan
- Sushi rice grown in the U.S.
That grown in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas (except sushi rice) has some of the highest levels of arsenic. (Source: National Celiac Association.)
Science Direct outlines a method of cooking to reduce arsenic while preserving nutrients: