I wrote this very quickly because a few readers asked for my thoughts on this topic. There are other ways to store food (like wheat in mylar bags), but this is how I went about it. I hope this helps.
Vacuum Sealing Thoughts
Everything on here is either ready to eat or only needs hot water to prepare.
I didn’t put on quantities because those will vary based on your circumstances. But get all you can!
I vacuum seal everything unless I note otherwise (like the 10 lb. pancake mix). A good vacuum sealer, I’ve found, is a Food Saver. I have the non-fancy one (the stainless steel one is the fancy one). Get plenty of extra sealing bags. I get them at WalMart and they’re about $35. You will go through more bags than you think.
I put an oxygen absorber (or two) into each vacuum sealed bag, but they’re not an absolute necessity.
Wash your hands when you’re vacuum sealing and wash them every couple hours. You don’t want to inject germs into the vacuum sealed bags of food. The germs are still oxygen deprived in the bags, but washing your hands is a simple thing to do.
Mark all vacuum sealed bags with the contents (unless it’s obvious) and “best by” or expiration date.
Don’t worry about always getting the absolute largest quantity (like 50 lb.) and saving a few cents per pound. There are sometimes reasons (described below) to get smaller quantities.
Bulk foods to get
Pancake mix – 10 lb. bags. I don’t get the 25 lb. bags because they’re harder to vacuum seal. You need to scoop them into vacuum seal bags. But the 10 lb. bags are pre-sealed and you don’t get pancake mix spilled all over the floor of where you’re sealing good. Rats like that spilled mix.
Beans – 5 lb. or 50 lb. bags. I like the little 5 lb. bags because I can just dump them into a vacuum sealed bag without having to scoop out the beans and spill them. I vacuum seal the 5 lb. bags by putting a bag of beans in a vacuum seal bag, opening the bag of beans a little bit, and then sealing the vacuum seal bag. Opening the bag of beans lets the air out so it can be vacuumed out. Another reason to get 5 lb. bags is that you can get a variety (red beans, kidney beans, etc.) and variety will be pretty important when SHTF. I get the 50 lb. bags too. I get them when I know that I have a helper to hold open the vacuum seal bags when I scoop beans into them. I use a clean cup to scoop them into the vacuum sealed bag. I use a big cup, like a mixing bowl with a handle and pouring lip.
Rice – 5 lb. or 50 lb. bags. I try to get a variety of rices (white, brown, wild, etc.) but typically get lots of white rice because it’s cheap and people are used to it. There are some 2 lb. (I think) bags of pre-flavored rice put out by Uncle Ben’s. They’re more expensive but might be a nice bit of variety.
Biscuit mix – 5 lb. or 10 lb. bags (I forget which). You can get the 25 lb. bags but they need to be scooped and poured into vacuum sealed bags and that can be messy.
Gravy mix – 1 lb. bags. You’ll need fat and salt and flavor. Gravy goes awesome on rice. Get a wide variety of gravy flavors. Gravy is also good with game meat that might need a little bit of moisture and flavor.
Drink mix – 1 lb. bags. Get the sugared mixes. You’ll need the calories. Your water supply might taste odd and sugared drinks are a great way to mask the flavor and get calories. And sugared drinks are actually cheaper than sugar-free ones.
Seasonings – various sizes. This will be key when SHTF. Imagine months of beans and rice without any seasonings. Imagine deer meat for months with no flavoring. Seasonings are ultra cheap. A big (1 lb.?) container of garlic salt or steak seasoning is about $5 if I recall. You can’t go wrong. You can give seasonings to neighbors and you’ll be a hero. Excellent barter material. Remember that in ancient days, explorers went to other continents just to get spices.
Oat meal – 2 lb. (I think) tube. I get this size because I don’t have to scoop and spill when vacuum sealing. I pop the lid slightly and put the 2 lb. tube in a vacuum seal tube. I get the Old Fashioned kind instead of the Quick kind. I find that Old Fashioned cooks great in the microwave for about 2 minutes and tastes better than the Quick, which just needs hot water. I guess it doesn’t mater too much. If there’s no electricity, Old Fashioned would take a little longer to cook on hot water (from a wood stove) than Quick but, again, would taste better.
Hot chocolate mix – 2 lb. (I think). I mix hot cocoa into my oatmeal and get a chocolately goodness with some dairy in it. You need about a fourth as much hot chocolate mix as oatmeal to make this. You might get extra hot chocolate mix because it’s good just to drink, especially when it’s cold. It’s a huge morale boost.
Canned fruit – # 10 tins. I get cans of mandarin oranges and apples for about $6 for a # 10. It’s a great value, stores easily, and fruit might be a huge moral boost.
Spaghetti noodles – smaller (foot long or so) bags. I don’t get shaped pasta but rather straight and flat spaghetti noodles because when you vacuum seal them, they have sharp edges that puncture the bag. Also, I don’t get the 20 lb. bags that have two foot long spaghetti noodles because that requires a very long vacuum seal bag. I get the smaller bags that are about a foot long. I slightly open the bag of spaghetti and then put a vacuum seal bag over it and such the air out and seal.
Spaghetti sauce – # 10 tins. I get a little more spaghetti sauce than the corresponding amount of pasta I’d use because you can use the extra sauce for cooking game meats in.
Mashed potato mix – big carton (not sure the size). I get the flavored kind (usually butter). A zillion calories in a small space and just needs hot water.
Mashed potatoes – individual servings. These are the 1 lb. (?) sealed bags of flavored potatoes like garlic, etc. I get these for flavor variety. They come in a mylar-like bag and don’t need vacuum sealing.
Scalloped and au gratin mix – big carton (not sure the size). The potatoes have some sharp edges so be careful when vacuum sealing so you don’t puncture the bag.
Honey – 1 gal. No need to seal. Honey doesn’t spoil. Store the container right-side-up so it doesn’t leak out of the cap.
Peanut butter. Get lots of it. It doesn’t need to be sealed. You might need to rotate it more often than other things.
Canned beans (refried, BBQ beans) – # 10 tins.
Can openers! Don’t forget putting a can opener in each tub! Get them at a Dollar Store. They’re cheap and don’t work for years, but you only need them to open a few cans.
Vitamins – 300 or 500 (can’t remember) count multi vitamins. Open the container, put it in a vacuum seal bag, and vacuum seal.
Vitamins – 100 count (?) individual packages of several vitamins. These are little sealed envelopes of five or six vitamins. A nice carry-along vitamin pack if you’re in the field.
Oatmeal, individual envelopes of flavored oatmeal – 52 count (or thereabouts). I put about half of them (25 or so) into a vacuum seal bag and seal. The individual envelopes are easy to carry, only require water, and provide a flavor variety. They’re cheap, too.