Monday, 25 July 2016

09:05 – Barbara just left to head down to Winston to run errands. As usual, Colin deeply resents being left at home with me. He’s going to help me build a bunch of boxes for biology kits and burn the DVDs that go into them.

Email from Brittany. They had a food repackaging party over the weekend. They didn’t finish everything, but they got a lot done: they filled, sealed, and labeled about 100 of the LDS 1-gallon foil/Mylar bags with bulk staples, about 500 pounds total. Her husband hadn’t finished building the shelves in the basement, so they have stacks of filled bags all over the place for now.

Brittany said there’s a real learning curve involved. When they filled their first bag, for example, they quickly realized that they had no way to seal it because if they laid it on its side to seal it most of the food would spill out of the open end. They quickly solved that problem by building a stack of bricks high enough to lean the filled bags against while they folded the tops of the bags over a steel ruler and used an old clothes iron set on high to seal all but the last inch or so of the top, leaving space to stick an oxygen absorber in before sealing the final small gap.

It wasn’t until they’d filled several bags with beans that they realized that the filled bags were going to be kind of lumpy, so it might be better to label the bags before they filled them. So they ran enough half-page labels to label enough bags for the rest of the beans and used them to pre-label bean bags before filling them. They ended up with a partial bag’s worth of beans left over, which Brittany put in a labeled ziplock bag for immediate use.

They then opened a bag of oxygen absorbers, went back and squeezed as much of the air as possible out of the filled bean bags, dropped an oxygen absorber in each, and sealed the final small gap. They then squeezed each bag to make sure it was sealed completely, put the unused oxygen absorbers in a half-pint Mason jar, and set the sealed bags aside. When they looked at them several hours later, Brittany was surprised to see that the oxygen absorbers had already had a visible effect on the bags, which were now all shrunken in on themselves and lumpy. Thinking ahead, they’d sealed the bags at the very top edge. As Brittany says, by opening them carefully, they’ll be able to re-use the empty bags for more beans, albeit not quite as many in each succeeding pass as they got into the bags on the first pass.

After beans, they repeated the process to bag rice, oats, cornmeal, pasta, salt, and (finally) flour. All except the flour went well, because all of those other foods are reasonably granular. But, like most people who’ve bagged bulk staples, Brittany quickly came to hate repackaging flour. As a light, fluffy powder, flour tends to go everywhere but where you want it. Brittany’s kitchen ended up with a light dusting of flour on the counters, cabinet doors, floors, and every other surface. Her husband grabbed a new tack cloth from his workbench, which they used to remove flour dust from the mouths of the flour bags before they heat-sealed them.

They ended up with about 150 of the LDS foil/Mylar bags unused from the original case of 250, and several sacks of bulk staples that they hadn’t had time to transfer. They intend to buy more sacks of bulk staples this week, and fill foil/Mylar bags again this coming weekend.