Wheat is the cornerstone of any long-term food pantry. You just have to decide what form of wheat fills that niche. The majority of my survival wheat is wheat berries (whole wheat kernels), not flour, because they offer superior flexibility, shelf-life, and nutrition.
Wheat berries are superior to flour for long-term storage. Cook them whole, eat them like a porridge, sprout them for greens, or plant them in the garden. Wheat berries are less processed, more nutritious, and have decades more shelf-life than flour.
Flour is a convenient food that should be incorporated and rotated through your food pantry, but it doesn’t fill all the food requirements meant to keep you alive when SHTF. Let’s consider both wheat and flour characteristics to help you decide the best fit for your situation.
Re-packaging Wheat Berries & Flour
For maximum shelf-life in long-term storage, both wheat berries and flour need to be repackaged from store packaging. So it’s a tie when it comes to the hassle of repackaging. Once you learn how to do it, re-packaging food is fun and rewarding.
Tip: You don’t need to repackage foods professionally packaged by LDS or survival food companies. Purchasing your wheat this way is used by many preppers’ to fill food storage systems, but it costs more than D.I.Y., bulk, repackaging.
Why Repackage Wheat For Long-term Storage?
Wheat and flour are repackaged because store-bought packaging doesn’t protect them from food spoilers like oxygen, bugs, and moisture.
The best “Do It Yourself” method for repackaging berries and flour are food-grade buckets lined with Mylar bags and sufficient oxygen absorbers to create an Oxygen-free environment. For a 5-gallon bucket lined with an 18×24 Mylar bag, you want to use 2000cc worth of oxygen absorber(s).
Avoid using just food-grade buckets without Mylar bags because lid seals fail over time, and plastic is not a true oxygen barrier. Also, food-grade plastics can be used down the line for other food-grade purposes like fermenting or carrying water.
If you purchase non-food grade buckets for storing wheat, you don’t want it touching the plastic because of the chemicals used in manufacturing.
In a survival situation, you want the flexibility of having as many food-grade buckets in your arsenal as possible. You may not be able to get them in an SHTF scenario.
Shelf-life Wheat Berries VS Flour
Wheat berries win shelf life by a mile. Properly packaged and stored, wheatberries will last 30 plus years. Wheat flour will only last 5 years. If you are working on your long-term food storage, wheat berries are a better option for the bulk of your rations.
Before repackaging into Mylar or another Oxygen-free storage, container berries should contain 10% or less moisture to avoid anaerobic food poisoning like botulism.
Once the wheat berries are milled into flour, the clock starts ticking, and nutritional value starts to decline. So plan on milling wheat berries as you use them.
White all-purpose flour
All-purpose white flour stored properly in an oxygen-free container will last 5 years.
Before storage, flour should contain no more than 10% moisture content to avoid anaerobic food poisoning like botulism.
Whole grain flour An Oxygen-free container won’t extend the shelf-life, and it will go rancid within 6 months regardless of how it is stored. Rancidity occurs due to natural oils from the bran still in the flour.
Looking to store flour for emergencies? Check out the Ready Squirrel article, “How to Store Flour Long and Short Term.”
Nutritional Value Of Wheat Berries and Flour
The nutritional value of wheat berries is superior to bleached all-purpose flour. Let’s hear it for wheatberries. Again they knock it out of the park. White flour has nutritional value because after it’s processed, manufacturers put nutrients back in.
There is no doubt that milling flour from your own wheat berries is more wholesome than buying bleached flour in the store. A wheat berry or kernel that is cooked whole or ground to flour contains the bran, germ, and endosperm of the wheat berry. That’s where the nutrition lies.
Wheat berries make the most nutritional flour when first ground into flour. This value begins to decrease immediately.
When left un-ground, wheat berries retain 80% of their nutritional value at the 30-year mark as long as the hull of the wheat berry hasn’t been cracked. Wheat berries are so good for storage because the hull protects the nutritional value.
All-purpose white flour is basically non-food. You can bake with it and make confectionary delights and fill your belly to stay full, but when it comes to nutritional value, it’s almost worthless. The processing of white flour sucks all the nutrients out of it. That’s why it lasts longer than whole wheat flour.
Wheat berries are less expensive than flour when you look at all the extra attributes.
In reality, the actual cost of both is a moving target. Cost is going to depend on your local availability and whether you will have to pay shipping costs. Wheat berries are harder to find locally than flour, so this could make them more expensive.
All-purpose flour is available everywhere so if wheat berries aren’t available locally flour is going to be cheaper.
Ease Of Use
I’m not gonna lie. If your using your wheat berries for flour, just purchasing flour is much easier. Milling wheat by hand is a pioneer-level chore. It’s much easier if you use an electric mill when the power is on.
Hand Milling Wheat Berries
Not too long ago, I milled 5.5 lbs of hard white wheat berries to make bread and pasta. I used my Country Living grain mill, and it took 3 hours. I ended up with 18 cups of flour, but I worked for it. Check out the Ready Squirrel video to watch me mill flour and make homemade pasta.
Electric Milling Wheat Berries
Wheat berries are easily milled into flour if you are using an electric mill. When times are good, it’s no problem to plug in a mill and go but if you are in power out scenario having a hand-crank mill is a good idea.
Check out Ready Squirrel’s Article on Milling flour from wheat berries and baking bread.
Wheat berries are definitely more flexible than flour in long-term food storage. Wheat can also be cooked whole and eaten like porridge, sprouted for fresh greens, planted for wheatgrass, or seeded in the garden to grow wheat.
Cooked Whole Wheat Berries
You can incorporate cooked wheat berries into many dishes. For example, eat them as a breakfast porridge with honey or add to soups, stews, or salads to amp up nutrition and protein or substitute for rice in risotto dishes.
Flexibility and Variety
There are thousands of wheat types you can experiment with. You are not stuck with one type of flour. You can also mix different types of wheat kernels to come up with your own recipes.
Check out the list below for the most common varieties of wheat berry and how they are used. Some are better for leavened or unleavened bread, some for brewing, some for pasta making, and some for lightly leavened baked goods.
12 Most Flexible Wheat Berries For Long Term Storage
|1||Types of Wheat||Shelf-life||Primary Use When Cooking|
|2||Spelt||30 +||Yeast Bread, Pasta, Biscuits, and Crackers (said to make excellent tasting bread)|
|3||Durum||30 +||Pasta and Unleavened Bread, ground for semolinna flour, thick sticky gluten, high protein|
|4||Hard Red Spring||30 +||Classic Whole Wheat Bread, best in yeast or sourdough bread, highest protein|
|5||Hard Red Winter||30+||Yeast Bread, excellent for sprouting, highest protein|
|6||Hard White||30 +||Leavened Bread, excellent tasting white bread, Beer making, Medium protein|
|7||Emmer||30 +||Pasta, Unleavened Flat Bread|
|8||Einkorn||30+||Leavened and Unleavened bread|
|9||Kamut||30+||Leavened Bread, Pasta (organic Khorasan wheat)|
|11||Soft Red||30+||Bread and Beer Making, Medium Protein|
|12||Soft White||30+||Primarily used to make batters: cakes, cookies, waffles, pancakes, and as a soup thickener, low protein|
Interesting Fact: Wheat can be a cornerstone for a long-term survival skill or specialization in an SHTF situation. Bread-making, brewing, and fermenting are interconnected. In an SHTF situation, wheat berries can be the engine for your personal barter system.
As a bread maker, make levain (sourdough starter)from just flour and water instead of stored yeast. To bake bread, use it to trade for other items you need. Trade yeast to a beer brewer, use it to ferment different foods or brew and ferment yourself and then barter those items.
Flour can be used to make the same types of baked goods made with flour milled from wheat berries.
Freshly milled flour is exponentially better tasting than store-bought bleached flour.
You can purchase artisan flours that are high quality and have excellent flavor, but no flour can compete with freshly milled stuff. The only way I can prove this is if you try it.
Wheat Berries VS Flour: Moisture Content
Wheat berries or whole grains are still intact, meaning they have a protective outer layer that makes them less susceptible to soaking up moisture than flour.
That said, all forms of wheat are spoiled by moisture. Wheat has been found in ancient Egyptian tombs that are still edible after thousands of years. This is probably because it is such a dry location.
If you are storing wheat or flour in an area with high humidity, you’ll want to ensure that moisture doesn’t move in.
Warning: If you plan on storing wheat berries or flour in an oxygen-free container, they must be 10% or less in moisture content before storage. It’s a must because anaerobic bacteria like botulism could form. It’s rare, but it’s deadly.
Wheat Berries VS Flour: Bugs
This is a tie. Both berries and whole wheat grains may be infested with various bugs or bug eggs when you purchase them. This is one reason you must repackage dry goods before long-term, oxygen-free storage.
You may not be able to see eggs or pupae but they may be there, hidden and waiting to destroy your wheat.
How Do You Get Rid of Bugs In Wheat And Flour
When wheat, flour, or any other dry good is placed in an oxygen-free container, adult bugs, pupae, and eggs are killed within 2 weeks.
Avoid freezing bulk wheat berries and flour unless you have to because it increases moisture content and isn’t very effective at killing all species. It’s an outdated technique.
Wheat Berries VS Flour: Oxidation
Wheat berries and flour both need to be protected from oxygen. Oxygen spoils food through a process called oxidation. This is one reason dried goods like wheat berries and flour are repackaged.
Dry foods packaged in an oxygen-free container are not degraded by oxidization. With the proper CC of oxygen absorber (2000cc for a 5-gallon bucket), all that’s left in the container is nitrogen which doesn’t spoil food.
Wheat Berries VS Flour: Light
Both wheat berries and flour are susceptible to oxidation by light, so it’s another tie. You’ll want to re-package both in an oxygen-free container that blocks light. Mylar bags and food-grade buckets both get the job done.
Tip: If you are store wheat in clear glass or plastic containers cover containers or store in a dark pantry.
Wheat Berries VS Flour: Heat
Heat will deteriorate just about anything, including flour and wheat berries. But neither product is as susceptible to heat as they are to moisture. You could experiment with storing these in a shed or garage if you don’t have severe fluctuations in temperature.
When I lived in Phoenix, my garage would get up to 130 ° F. I kept all my SCUBA diving gear in the garage, and it literally disintegrated. The same thing will happen to your wheat berries and flour if temperatures fluctuate too much.