Storing flour long term is an important part of emergency preparedness. Storage for grains can last for years if you do it correctly. Learn how to store flour and other grains.
In The Long Winter, a book in the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the family ends up in dire straits, trapped in a tiny new town with very few food stores, and no trains until spring. There’s a terrible blizzard about every 2-3 days that lasts 3 days, and no one can go anywhere to get food. They run out of everything except a bag of wheat.
Using a hand coffee grinder a half cup at a time, the girls grind wheat all day long to make a loaf of bread twice a day, and that sustains the six Ingalls for months. Months.
Storing Grains Long Term
Wheat may be hybridized differently now and demonized as a gluten attacker of the gut – my husband may be one of the millions affected by gluten intolerance – but you can’t argue with the fact that grains are the perfect long-term storage emergency food option.
Remember, you’ll need to store water to use any of it though.
Whole wheat and other uncracked grain kernels store for years without losing much nutrition and without too much fancy preparation.
Grains have carbs for energy, some protein, and some healthy fat.
The downside, however, is you do need water and heat in order to be able to eat them, and a grain mill would be helpful for recognizable foods (bread, crackers, biscuits, etc.) But – you don’t need too many other ingredients to make bread, especially if you know how to keep a sourdough starter (like Ma did in the Little House books! Have you ever noticed how much traditional food you can learn about in that series?).
Even though you do need heat, an oven wouldn’t be absolutely necessary. If you had a gas grill and a pan, you could easily make pancakes, tortillas, pitas, or English muffins. Even a cast iron over a fire would work.
The Best Storage Grains
Let’s start with some of the gluten-free grain options for long term storage and emergency preparedness.
Choose brown rice over white rice
White rice is missing the fats and proteins that brown rice has. And you’d still need water to cook it.
However, brown rice isn’t quite as shelf-stable as other grains. It’s about 6 months; I’d guess a bit longer when unopened.
I used to keep my open bags in the fridge, but now that I buy in 5-pound bags, I just don’t have space. Here’s hoping we’re not eating rancid rice! 🙁
If your family is gluten-free or even grain-free, quinoa is a great high protein option.
In addition to cooking it in water, quinoa can be sprouted and eaten raw if you don’t have access to heat or fire.
Oats (especially if you buy them gluten-free) are a great emergency option. You can make overnight oats without access to fire or water. We go through rolled oats regularly so I just buy a bag ahead so there’s always at least one bag on the shelf.
How to Store Flour Long Term
Storing bulk flour would negate the need for a new large appliance, but it’s a trickier situation.
While white refined flour has an incredible shelf life, there’s a reason for that. Most of the nutritional goodness of white flour has been stripped away with the bran and germ.
However, the bran and germ, once cracked (ground into flour) are going to cause whole wheat flour to go rancid rather quickly. That’s why it’s recommended to store whole wheat flour in the freezer.
The cash it would take to run a freezer to keep a substantial amount of whole wheat flour on hand would probably pay for a grain mill in a few years, so I kind of think it’s a wash.
Doesn’t hurt to keep an extra 5-pound bag on hand for a brief emergency, but if you want to be ready to hunker down and wait out a month-long problem (or longer), you’re going to need to rely on whole, uncracked grains.
Bonus: you can also sprout whole grain for living nutrition if you don’t have any fresh produce available.
RELATED: Can’t buy flour? Here’s what to do!
Storage for Grains
Whole grains don’t really need any special storage – I’ve heard of people getting wheat to sprout after it’s been tucked in a bag in the basement for 1-2 decades.
However, you do want to keep the insects and critters away, so it’s wise to consider storage in plastic buckets.
You can also use mylar bags and even oxygen absorbers, but if you’re eating what you store and rotating it through, I don’t know that those would be necessary. Here’s my creative (and free) solution.
For example, my strategy for storing wheat is to simply make sure that I order backup bags when I crack into a new bag, instead of ordering more when I’m getting down to the end. That way I should always have at least a few months or more worth of wheat, rice, etc. on hand, but I’m always going through it, so no particular batch should have to be “stored” for more than a year.
Here are some more storage resources:
- How to Store Bulk Foods (all)
- Good Containers for Long-term Storage
- Super Long-Term – On the safety of storing in mylar bags: here and here
- The LDS church requires members to have a year’s worth of food stored, a factoid I learned while reading the marvelous 11 Heaven blog. They are experts on food storage.
Milling the Stored Whole Grains
It’s all well and good to have 100 pounds of grain on hand, but without a grain mill, it won’t be all that fun to eat.
If you want to be able to grind a wider variety of options like whole chickpeas and spices, a Mockmill is your best bet.
However, if your electricity goes out, there are grain mills that work without electricity. Wondermill is the brand I always hear about. It can grind into flour and flax seeds, which are too oily for the mechanisms in the fancy electric mill.
To make your bread recipes, often you’ll need salt, baking soda, and even eggs. Storing extra salt is easy – just buy it in bulk and it will last forever. Be sure to get healthy, unrefined salt! Baking soda and powder only have about a year’s shelf life before they starts losing potency, soda is so cheap that you can let a box expire and not break the bank. Just use old stuff for cleaning and keep fresh on hand.
If you do have a manual grain mill, keeping a large bag of whole flax seeds would be a wonderful idea. You can grind them and use 1 Tbs. flax meal with 3 Tbs. warm water as a substitute for an egg in baking recipes. Pancake problem solved! Here are more detailed instructions for the flax egg substitute.