Ever thought about storing beans long-term? Beans are the primary food I recommend people store up for emergencies.
Beans can be stored for years in mason jars, 5-gallon buckets, and vaccum-packed bags. Most beans are only good for a year in the original packaging but if stored properly, can last 5-20 years without much degradation in nutrition and quality. Well-stored beans will remain bug-free and nutritional.
First, we’ll cover preserving the nutritional aspects of beans and how much of a difference that may make. Next, let’s go over how to keep bugs and rodents out and how much you should have on hand.
Storing Beans for 5+ Years
Beans are high in calories, carbs, protein, and fiber. Those things, as long as you keep the bugs out, will last virtually forever. The Vitamin and natural oils in beans are another story. You may not think about beans as being full of oil, but beans all contain an unsaturated oil.
Soybean oil is the most common crop-based oil in the world, and yes, it’s basically a regular bean of sorts. The unsaturated oil in beans contains a long-chain double bond. That particular set of molecule chains has a highly reactive double bond between two carbon molecules.
This atomic bond is highly reactive to oxygen. That’s what causes oxidation in oils. Oil oxidation leads to rancidity, evaporation, and polymerization (solidifying). That’s why old beans are often hard to cook up nice and soft. They lost at least some of the compounds that would keep them softer.
First off, the oil issue is not such a big deal. Beans have a very small amount of fat/oil in them and if it’s all gone, there’s little difference. The oxidation does not make the beans unedible, but will negatively impact the overall flavor, texture, and some of the nutritional profile.
Half a cup of cooked beans has about 1 gram of fat/oil, which adds about 9 extra calories. The Mayo Clinic recommends 44-77 grams of fat daily in a 2,000-calorie diet. So nutritionally, protecting the small amount of fat is not a big deal.
The bigger concern is the loss of vitamin content. Half a cup of cooked beans contains about a daily dose of Thiamine (vitamin B1). this vitamin is both essential for health and highly reactive (breaks down easily). Thiamine deficiency can quickly lead to neurological, memory, and cardiovascular problems.
Thiamine is highly sensitive to heat, fairly sensitive to sunlight, and also sensitive to oxygen. Pretty much everything. If you want to preserve the nutritional aspects of dry beans, avoid those three things. First off, dry canning is a no-no. I used to love dry canning until I learned how heat destroys so many vitamins.
Second, don’t store beans in anything light can get through, and keep them in a spot where natural sunlight won’t reach. A basement, pantry, or closet works great.
Thirdly, store beans in a container with as little oxygen as possible. Fill bins or buckets to the max so there’s less air. Vacuum pack beans to suck out the air. Use oxygen absorbers to filter out the oxygen. Also, packing in mylar vs plastic will prevent oxygen from passing through the packaging.
What to Store Beans in?
The original packaging of dry beans is meant for little more than to hold beans during shipping. They are not adequate as the sole container for long-term storage. The most common method of storing beans long-term is in a 5-gallon food-grade bucket with a rubber gasket in the lid. That works to a point.
Standard, 70-90 mill plastic buckets will keep the bugs out and will do a great job keeping out mice, chipmunks, and other critters. It’s certainly a decent option. I’ve stored a lot of grains in regular 5-gallon buckets with seals, some in the house and some in the shed.
We have a lot of mice and chipmunks in the shed. They get into everything except what’s in the buckets. The only issue with regular buckets (round 5-gallon with snap-on lids) is that the lids don’t always hold up well to repeated use. most of them are more for storage only.
Now, that may be fine. But, if you plan to rotate your stock often and actually use what’s in the buckets on a regular basis ( I recommend you do) then you should consider another style of bucket. The most popular bucket used by serious preppers is a 5-gallon bucket with a gamma lid.
A gamma lid is a 2-piece lid that seals very well and is designed for things that you will be getting into more frequently. They have an outer ring that snaps on, and a center part that screws into the outer ring.
The type of lids I personally prefer is the LifeLatch buckets and lids from usplastics.com. The LifeLatch is better sealing and easier opening than the gamma-type lids, and is often cheaper. It is a proprietary design, so you’d have to buy both the lids and buckets from them.
I buy all my buckets from usplastics.com. The company has great shipping, awesome service, and outstanding company values. Check them out.
The buckets I mainly use are their economy 4-gallon square buckets. They are much cheaper but don’t have an airtight seal. It still keeps the bugs out fine. Our buckets are rotated through in just under a year, so they don’t really sit long enough to get very stale. Square buckets stack better on shelves.
If you are planning on using what you store and rotating your stock, the cheaper ones are fine, but for set it and forget it storage, I really suggest the LifeLatch buckets.
To increase the storage life, fill buckets all the way up to reduce the amount of oxygen in the container. Also, toss in an oxygen absorber for extended storage time. If filling a larger bucket, it helps to use multiple smaller bags in it versus just filling the whole thing with loose beans.
That way, when you do actually begin using it, every time you open the bucket, you won’t be introducing moisture and oxygen to the entire lot. Mylar bags will keep the oxygen out better than anything. Small amounts of oxygen will get through regular plastic-like ziplock bags.
I mean, ziplocks work fairly well, especially if you double them up. But, the best option here is mylar. For 20+ year storage, use smaller mylar bags that have oxygen absorbers and have been vacuum-sealed, then stack them in a well-sealing plastic bucket.
How Long Can Dry Beans Last in Storage?
In original packaging, dry beans last about a year. Vacuum packed, they last around 3 years. Dry beans that have been vacuum-packed in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers will last over 20 years if undamaged and stored in a cool, dark location.
How Much Beans Should I Store?
15 pounds of dry beans is enough for one person for one month, as long as the beans make up no more than half of your daily meals. 90 pounds is enough for 6 months and 180 pounds is enough for a year per person. That is the largest amount you should consume in a day. A lower ration of beans would be fine.
So, if we figured you were planning on storing mainly beans and rice, a fairly nutritionally full combination, you’d want to plan on something around 50-50 or 25-75 beans and rice. That’s enough protein and calories for you. But remember, you still need other vitamins and minerals.
That’s why I recommend anyone who’s storing up food to also store a basic multivitamin. That could really help keep you strong and healthy if you did have to live on beans and rice for a few months. Of course, it helps to have more than just beans and rice.
An easy and simple food storage plan for one person per month would be: 10 pounds of beans, 10 pounds of rice, 10 pounds of cornmeal or oatmeal, and 10 pounds of dry milk. That’s a bit over 2,000 calories a day of a bit more balanced meal plan, enough for an average working man.
That would be plenty of protein, calories, fiber, and some basic vitamins. Add in those multi-vitamins and you are pretty close to a fairly complete diet. And all of those things can be stored 20 plus years in the manner described above. It also doesn’t take a lot of space. That’s about 4-gallon buckets full per person.
Of course, you’d do well to add some dried fruits and vegetables, some nuts maybe, and a few canned goods. But, start by getting the calories and protein you need, then add other things to your stores as you can. Beans and rice are at the top of the list.