In the United States, Wheat stored for long-term storage is called wheat berries (wheat kernels with the husk removed.) Removing the husk also removes fats, lipids, and oils that reduce shelf-life. I’ve used hard white Wheat to make homemade bread and pasta, but it has many more uses than that.
Removing the husk doesn’t detract from the whole wheat goodness when the Wheat is milled into flour.
Why store wheat as an emergency food
- Wheat has been a proven survival food-sustaining culture throughout history. First cultivated 12,000 years ago, wheat was eaten by the Egyptians and Romans and pre-dates the bible by 8,600 years.
- Wheat contains protein, fiber, calcium, and iron.
- Wheat makes a full-amino acid when eaten with beans.
- Wheat is a filling comfort food used to make daily staples like leavened and unleavened bread.
- Wheat is a staple like dry beans and white rice and will sustain you when other food isn’t available.
- Use wheat flour and water to make Levain or sourdough bread starters.
- Stored in Oxygen-free containers, wheat has a shelf-life of 30 years.
What are the best types of wheat to store?
If your primary intention is to use Wheat to make bread, you want to store hard red or white Wheat because they contain enough gluten to make bread rise if your goal is to make unleavened bread go with soft Wheat. Lower in gluten.
In my pantry I store hard white wheat because it is the most mild tasting and can be used to make leavened and unleavened bread and pasta. Soft wheat gives a more tender crust for unleavened products but it won’t rise to make leavened breads.Scott, Ready Squirrel
Below are better descriptions of what each type of Wheat is used for.
Check out the Ready Squirrel article “Flour or Wheat Maximum Shelf Life.”
Chart #1 Best wheat for long-term storage
|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+||Yeast Bread, excellent for sprouting, has 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.|
What can you make with wheat?
For most, the barrier to stockpiling wheat is the milling process. I say get over it because wheat is one of the best foods you can stockpile, and it has one of the best shelf lives if properly stored. So what can you make with wheat?
Wheat can be boiled and eaten like porridge, milled to make everyday bread, pastries, and pasta. Also, wheat can be used to sprout for greens or planted in an emergency garden.
As a side note, the truly prepared will learn to make their yeast starter with flour and water and not depend on store-bought yeast. Learn to make levain (yeast starter) in the Ready Squirrel article How to make Yeast: Survival Skill 101.
How long do wheat berries last?
Stored correctly in oxygen-free storage, wheat berries will last 30 years or longer. If Wheat is stored in a sealed container inside a cupboard
Equipment and supplies for storing bulk wheat
I’ve learned from experience you want to have your gear laid out and ready to go before you start repackaging your bulk food, and the process will go a lot smoother.
For each batch of Wheat weighing approximately 36 lbs, you will need one 5-gallon food-grade bucket, one plastic lid, one 18″x28″ Mylar Bag, and 2000 ccs of oxygen absorption. Following is a full list of what I use to stockpile wheat and other dry staple foods.
- One five-gallon bucket per 34 to 37 pounds of wheat to be stored
- One Plastic Lid (It doesn’t have to have a seal, heat sealing the Mylar will take care of sealing the food)
- One 18″x28″ Mylar Bag at least five mils in thickness.
- One Clothes Iron, hair straightening iron, or impulse sealer
- One Permanent Marker
- 2000cc of Oxygen Absorption It doesn’t matter what size you use as long as total absorption adds up to at least 2000 cc. You can’t use too much oxygen absorption, only too little.
- One scrap of Dimensional lumber (I use a scrap piece of 2″x4″)
- One Pair of Scissors
- Optional gallon Mylar Bags for wheat that won’t fit into your buckets,
- Optional 400 CC oxygen absorption per 1-gallon bag of overflow wheat berries.
When you are ready to stockpile for emergencies, check out the Ready Squirrel article, Cheap Survival Food For The Cataclysm
How to store wheat for a long shelf-life (11 easy steps)
The best do-it-yourself method for storing Wheat in long-term storage is using Mylar bags, Food-grade Buckets, and Oxygen absorbers. You can also purchase Wheat in #10 cans which are outstanding for storing dry foods.
Warning: Do not store Wheat or other dry staples in an oxygen-free container unless they are less than 10% moisture and low in fats. Storing high-moisture foods in an oxygen-free container can lead to anaerobic food poisoning botulism.
Step #1: Line a 5-gallon bucket with a Mylar bag
Line your bucket with an 18″x28″ Mylar bag and pour wheat into the bucket and on the floor.
Step #2: Pour wheat into the Mylar bag
Pour Wheat inside the Mylar bag 2 inches from the rim of the food-grade bucket.
If you overfill or mound the Wheat, you’ll have difficulty getting the lid on and creating a dome, making it harder to stack buckets for storage.
I have yet to fill Mylar bags with food and not get it all over the floor, and I’m always doing it by myself. Things will go smoother if you recruit a friend or family member to help.
Step #3: Lift the Mylar bag and tap to compact
If you lift the bag and tap it a couple of times during the filling process, you will be able to get more Wheat into the bucket.
Mylar is pretty tough but be as gentle as you can when handling it.
Step #4 Four: Place 3000 CCs worth of oxygen absorber inside the Mylar bag
Place 2000 ccs worth of oxygen absorbers inside the bag. It doesn’t matter what size you use as long as the total cc count is 2000 or more. If you have to go over the cc amount to reach 2000 ccs, that’s ok.
I try to keep 2000cc, 500cc, and 200cc oxygen absorbers on hand to mix and match different sizes of containers and other food types.
This is a simple process, but if you forget to put oxygen absorbers in the Mylar bag before sealing it, you’ll be starting over and wasting materials. I know from experience.
Step #5: Seal the Mylar bag
Plug your clothes iron in and set it to the highest setting. Once it’s warmed to temperature, start sealing the bag.
Place a piece of scrap board over the top of the bucket, fold the Mylar bag over the board and seal the top of the bag with a household iron on the hottest setting.
I put my iron on setting #7, “linens,” the hottest setting on my iron. You may have different settings, so go for the highest number of the hottest setting.
Be careful where you place the iron when you plug it in, and make sure you have enough cord to get the job done. I burned myself on the leg once, not paying attention.
Please don’t walk away from a hot iron. Unplug it first.
Step #6: Write the date and food type on the Mylar bag
Use the permanent marker to write the date and food type on the mylar bag. I also write this information on the lid if I remember.
This may be overkill, but it keeps you from removing the lid to find out what kind of food is in a bucket.
Step #7: Let the bucket sit until cool
When oxygen absorbers get going, they heat up.
It takes about 4 hours before an oxygen absorber is spent once the Mylar is cool to the touch, move to step #8.
Step #8: Fold the top of the Mylar bag into the bucket
Step #9: Place the plastic lid on the bucket
Step #10: Store the bucket(s)
Store wheat buckets in a cool, dry location up off the floor in a room of 75° Fahrenheit or less but above freezing.
Avoid storing these buckets in a hot shed or garage. High temperatures and significant fluctuations in temperature kill shelf life.
Avoid stacking buckets more than three high. Looking at the buckets stacked four high on the right, you can see that the bottom bucket is starting to buckle. Also, my buckets are on the floor.
It just goes to show you do the best you can with the resources you have. My food storage area is small, so I have to make do.
Step #11: Store wheat that won’t fit in the bucket(s)
When you store beans using the trifecta method, you will have some beans that won’t fit in the bucket unless you are much better at planning than I am.
Use the same method to seal the one-gallon bags you used to seal the 18″x28″ Mylar bags lining the food buckets.
The best method I’ve found for packaging the leftover beans is to use small 1-gallon Mylar bags and 400 ccs worth of oxygen absorbers. Remember, you can’t use too much oxygen absorption, only too little.
Ideally, you would store the one-gallon bags of beans in a lidded plastic tote or container for protection.
Best form of wheat to store (wheat kernel, wheat berry, flour)
If you are looking for maximum shelf-life and nutritional value, the best way to store wheat long-term is the whole wheat berry or kernel of Wheat.
Why store Wheat as a berry or wheat kernel?
The most nutritious form of Wheat is whole grain or whole grain flour. Whole grain flour stores for nine months max, and it’s kind of like brown rice. Super nutritious and worthless for long-term food storage.
You can store all-purpose flour for up to 10 years (some companies claim a 25-year shelf-life), but you’re getting less nutrition than whole wheat flour.
In comes the wheat berry! A 30-plus year shelf life, milled at any time to provide, you guessed it, whole wheat flour.
Wheat berries and kernels are also the best to store because they can be sprouted for micro-greens, planted in the garden, or cooked and eaten whole as porridge.
Check out the Ready Squirrel article, “Wheat Berries Shelf Life: Long and Short Term Storage.”
Outdated methods of storing wheat in long-term storage
Just food-grade buckets
The plastic in food-grade buckets is porous and allows for oxygen transfer back and forth.
If you are using oxygen absorbers, first, this removes an absorber’s ability to remove oxygen, thereby allowing the oxidation of Wheat.
Second, without an oxygen-free environment in the container, you’re not killing bugs, eggs, and pupae present in the wheat berries. This is a significant drawback as it’s one of the main reasons you repackage dry foods for long-term storage.
It is neither actual oxygen nor a light barrier, allowing oxygen transfer and not killing bugs, eggs, and pupae.
If you are on a serious budget and don’t choose, you can use them, but you will not get a 30-year shelf-life from Wheat stored this way.
Suitable for stores of grain you are using within a limited amount of time but not ideal for long-term storage.
Glass is an excellent oxygen barrier, but it doesn’t do much to stop the light oxidation of food. If you have a bunch of leftover glass lying around, by all means, use them, and keep them in the dark location.
I would not purchase ball jars to package 100 lbs of wheat berries. They are expensive, heavy, break easily, and are painful to store.
If you decide to go with many jars, make sure they are stored on a solid shelf because their weight can stack up quickly.
Treating Wheat For Bugs
Mylar bags, food-grade buckets, and oxygen absorbers create an oxygen-free environment that reduces oxygen content to less than 1%. This kills bugs, eggs, and pupae within two weeks.
Avoid using these methods to eradicate bugs in wheat
You can use other methods to eradicate bugs in Wheat, but Mylar does it, and it’s easy. I can’t imagine using any of these other methods, and there may be something I’m missing.
#1 Vacuum sealing
Vacuum sealing leaves approximately 15% of oxygen in a bag and will not reduce oxygen to a low enough level to eradicate weevil eggs. Also, regular vacuum seal bags are porous plastic and not an actual oxygen barrier.
Freezing wheat increases the moisture content of grain from condensation created when freezing and thawing.
Dry ice is effective but dangerous to work with and costs more than oxygen absorbers.
Heating wheat berries in the oven or microwave kill seed viability, preventing Wheat from sprouting in the garden or as a backup food supply.
Sprouting Wheat is a secret weapon when it comes to long-term survival. Don’t destroy this emergency food option.
#4 Bay Leaves
This may keep bugs out of a jar sitting on a counter. Bay leaves are, at best, a bug deterrent. It will not kill bugs in a sealed container and can’t force them to leave if closed.
Don’t use nails in place of iron oxide in Oxygen absorbers. Oxygen absorbers use an iron powder with a proven oxygen absorption based on cubic centimeters of powder.
Nails have less surface area, and you won’t know how many are enough. This is not a suggested method of removing oxygen from a food container.
Choose wheat berries wisely for maximum protein and usefulness in an emergency scenario. Check out Ready Squirrel’s article, Best Wheat Berries For Long-term Storage
A Guide To Food Storage For Emergencies, Brian Nummer, Food Safety Specialist, Utah State University PDF
Check out the Federal Emergency Management Agencies Site to build a comprehensive emergency plan. Link