What is the maximum shelf-life of flour and wheat? That is what you should be asking yourself if you want to be food prepping rockstar.
Wheat flour is convenient because it is available almost anywhere but is it the best fit for your survival?
Wheat berries are harder to find and take a lot more work if you plan on milling flour manually, i.e., post-SHTF or grid down.
That said, there is a clear winner for emergency food storage.
For long-term food storage, wheat kernels are superior to wheat flour. In oxygen-free storage, wheat berries have a shelf-life of 30-plus years and have more uses. Bleached flour has a shelf-life of 10 years, and whole wheat flour, which can’t be stored oxygen-free, has a maximum shelf-life of 12 months.
Read if you want to be a guru on everything wheat storage.
Whole Wheat Flour: Not Ideal
Whole wheat flour has a short shelf-life and is more nutritious than bleached flour, but it is not good for long-term emergency food storage because of its limited shelf-life.
Nutrition and oils are released when the bran in the wheat berry or wheat kernel is cracked during the milling or grinding process to turn the kernel into flour.
The bran and germ contain oils that go rancid quickly.
Regardless of how whole wheat is stored, it starts to decline immediately via oil oxidation, nutritional value, and a decrease in the gluten levels that cause bread to rise.
Whole Wheat Flour has a maximum shelf-life of 12 months in the freezer. *See Chart #1 Shelf-life of Wheat types.
White or Bleached Wheat Flour: Pretty Good
Bleached flour-like All-purpose flour is just the endosperm of the wheat berry. The nutritious bran, germ, and oils are removed in processing.
Removing the bran, germ, and oils from processed flour decreases its nutritional value but gives it a longer shelf-life than whole wheat.
Gluten will degrade during [wheat flour] storage…[it will lose] half its raising power after several years. Gluten can be purchased and added to poor quality flour to produce better quality bread.Brian Nummer, Food Safety Specialist, Utah State University Extension
White processed flour has a maximum shelf-life of 10 years if stored in Oxygen-free storage. *See Chart #1 Shelf-life of Wheat.
Whole Wheat Berries: Warrior-grade
Ding, ding, ding, and the winner is the wheat berry. Whole wheat kernels with the husk removed are perfect for emergency food rations or in the survival pantry. Not only do they store for 30+ years, but they are also more useful.
With the wheat berry, you are getting the best of both worlds, the nutrition of whole wheat, and decades of shelf-life. You can do much more with the whole kernel than with flour.
Wheat Berry Uses
Wheat berries can be milled into flour, popped, cracked, or cooked like porridge. If the wheat is still viable, it can also be sprouted. Sprouting wheat is an excellent tool for your survival arsenal.
Imagine being stuck in your bug-out location with two feet of snow on the ground. You’ve been eating canned spam and rice for days with no fresh produce. You put wheat berries in a ball jar with water and two days later you have a mound of fresh nutrious greens. Sprouting is a survavalist’s secret weapon.Scott, Ready Squirrel
Whole Wheat Berries have a maximum shelf-life of 30 years if stored in Oxygen-free storage. *See Chart #1 Shelf-life of Wheat.
Don’t Pre-mill wheat berries for storage.
If you have the option, store whole wheat berries and not milled flour.
Once the wheat berries are milled, they become “whole wheat flour,” providing the same poor characteristics for food storage.
Once the bran or outer protective coating of the wheat berry is breached, cracked, or broken by the milling process it’s more like perishable produce. In a survival scenario only mill the wheat you need for a day or two. If you are using a manual grain mill to process you won’t have a problem grinding less wheat in one go because it’s hard work.Scott, Ready Squirrel
The protective bran coating is one reason wheat berries have a 30-year shelf life. The other is oxygen-free storage in the proper container.
I will include a video below of me taking a 5.5lb can of hard-white wheat from berries to pasta. It was pioneer-level work.
Warning: Wheat berries, flour, or any other dry good that is low fat should not contain more than 10% moisture for Oxygen-free storage. High moisture increases the chance of Botulism food poisoning.
Learn how to store wheat for the maximum shelf-life, “Storing Wheat to Outlast You.”
The manual mill I have, the Country Living Grain Mill, is well known in the prepper community because it is built like a tank.
You can check out the Country Living mill on my Amazon affiliate link. I get money for beans and bullets at no additional cost if you purchase anything.” Country Living Mill
Chart #1 Shelf-life of Wheat
|Wheat Type||Unrefrigerated||Refrigerated||Freezer||Oxygen-free Storage |
Mylar Bag and O2 Absorber or #10 Can
|Whole Wheat Flour||1 to 3 months |
(cool and dry)
|8 months||12 months||Not Recommended|
|All-Purpose, Bleached White, Self Rising||6 to 8 months||12 months||24|
|Red or White Wheat Berries |
(Wheat kernels with the husk removed)
|5+ Years if kept dry, bugs are the problem.||Not |
|Not recommended||30+ Years|
Wheat Storage: Oxygen-free
Oxygen-free food storage increases flour’s shelf-life by years and wheat berries by decades. If you want to store food like a prepping warrior, you don’t have a choice. Oxygen-free storage is where it’s at.
A solid DIY method of doing this at home is with Mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, and food-grade buckets with cheap lids.
If you want to purchase wheat berries or flour already packaged for long-term storage, I suggest the bulk #10 cans from the LDS cannery online or Survival food stores.
Repackaging wheat and flour for long-term storage is a must. You don’t have an option if you want maximum shelf life. That said, it’s pretty easy to do.
Freezing wheat or flour before storage is no longer necessary if you use oxygen-free storage and containers that provide an oxygen barrier.
Bugs, eggs, and pupae will die within two weeks because they cannot survive in an oxygen-free environment.
The other thing you need to be aware of is moisture.
When packaging wheat and other dry foods oxygen-free, they should be low in oil and less than 10% in moisture. The superstars of long-term storage: white rice, wheat, dry beans, and oats can all be stored this way and provide a 30-year shelf-life.
To learn more about why you shouldn’t freeze wheat before storage, check out the Ready Squirrel article, “Don’t Freeze Wheat Before Long-term Storage.”
The first thing to consider when planning oxygen-free storage is the container itself. A container should provide a barrier against moisture, light, and oxygen and be stored in a cool, dry climate.
You can control high temperatures by storing wheat in a cool, dry location, up off the floor, and away from appliances that put off heat.
The container and treatment provide the other necessities of storing wheat.
- Food Treatment (oxygen-free storage)
- Container that provides an oxygen and moisture barrier and blocks light.
The two best containers for Oxygen-free storage are the #10 industrial-sized cans usually purchased and the best DIY method, Mylar bags.
The premium long-term storage container for DIY food storage of wheat is hands-down Mylar bags that are 5 mils or thicker in combination with oxygen absorbers, a food-grade bucket, and a cheap lid.
I suggest you purchase the food-grade plastic buckets and lids at Walmart in the paint section. If you are looking for Mylar bags and Oxygen absorbers, click the Amazon link. I get money for beans and bullets at no cost to you if you do any shopping via Amazon. Mylar Bags and Oxygen Absorbers
Chart#2 Type of Wheat For Bread
|Wheat Berry Variety||Protein %||Best Uses|
|Hard Red Spring, Hard red winter, and Hard White Spring||11% to 15%||Leavened Bread (high gluten)|
|Mild red winter, Soft white winter, & Soft white spring||9 to 12%||Unleavened bread, pasta, cake biscuits, crackers, and pastries (low gluten)|
Chart #3 Types of Wheat
|Types of Wheat||Shelf-life||Primary Use When Cooking|
|Spelt||30 +||Yeast Bread, Pasta, Biscuits, and Crackers (said to make excellent tasting bread)|
|Durum||30 +||Pasta and Unleavened Bread, ground for semolina flour, thick sticky gluten, high protein|
|Hard Red Spring||30 +||Classic Whole Wheat Bread, best in yeast or sourdough bread, highest protein|
|Hard Red Winter||30+||Red Wheat is excellent for sprouting, and contains the highest protein|
|Hard White||30 +||Leavened Bread, excellent tasting white bread, Beer making, Medium protein|
|Emmer||30 +||Pasta, Unleavened Flat Bread|
|Einkorn||30+||Leavened and Unleavened bread|
|Kamut||30+||Leavened Bread, Pasta (organic Khorasan wheat)|
|Soft Red||30+||Bread and Beer Making, Medium Protein|
|Soft White||30+||Primarily used to make batters: cakes, cookies, waffles, pancakes, and as a soup thickener, low protein.|
To learn more about wheat berries and their use, check out the Ready Squirrel article, “The Best Wheat Berries For Long-Term Storage.”