Wheat. The cornerstone of life. The centerpiece of any long term food storage solution and something that should be included in everyone’s plans. But do you know how to take care of it, to properly store it, to keep it safe and ready to be consumed?
I’ll assume that you’ve read some of the earlier fundamental articles I’ve written regarding food storage, storing principles, and guidelines and understand some of the basic terminology. If not, check out the Articles list at the top of the page and read up a bit!
You mean to say there’s different kinds of wheat?
Yes. There’s several different kinds of wheat. The most common types are red and white wheat which are broken down into sub varieties: hard red spring, hard red winter, hard white winter, soft white spring, and soft white winter. Sounds a bit overwhelming. This is what you need to know about the main varieties (Yes, there’s more…):
Hard Red Wheat: Strong gluten content, which makes it great for bread or to extend meat. It’s the most commonly available wheat variety. The kernels are hard, small, and red! This is going to generally be the backbone of your storage.
Hard White Wheat: Similar to hard red, but more delicate and can be used for things like fluffy breads, rolls, and other similar baked goods.
Soft White Wheat: These kernels are larger and fatter, softer than red wheat with weaker gluten. This is what you’d use for pie crusts, pastries, cereal, etc. You wouldn’t use this for bread.
How much of each should I store?
Well, if you recall from my long term food storage planning article you need about 25 pounds of grain per person per month. I’d suggest that about fifteen pounds of that is wheat with the rest as corn, oats, and the like. You will probably want to store a mix of wheat varieties with the lions share of it being hard red wheat.
What should I store it in?
Well, my absolute favorite way to store wheat is in sealed plastic bags with about ten or fifteen pounds of wheat per bag. Then get four gallon square buckets and drop the bags into the bucket. You can probably get two or three bags into the bucket depending on how well you pack the bags.
Before you treat the bags you should treat the wheat against spoilage and insect infestation. There are a variety of ways to do that which I’ll go into momentarily. Once treated and closed up, seal the bags into your bucket and store the buckets in a cool dry location.
Rudy’s Tip: Use clear poly-ethylene bags for this. It lets you inspect the contents without opening it up and you can readily detect insect infestation, mold, etc without worrying about cross contamination. One of the reasons for the bags is to reduce the potential of cross contamination by compartmentalizing your wheat. It would suck to lose a months worth of wheat due to contamination!
As with most food items you lose nutritional value if you subject the wheat to too much heat for too long. Try to keep storage temperatures under 60 degrees if possible and don’t expose the buckets to direct sunlight.
How do I prepare wheat for storage?
If you bought dirty wheat, which is generally what you get if you buy directly from a farm, you need to clean it.
Steps for cleaning wheat:
- First, fan the wheat.
- Set up a household fan blowing horizontally across the mouth of a large cardboard box or a bucket.
- Drop the wheat slowly through the airstream into the container.
- Most contaminants are light enough that they will blow away and won’t drop into the bucket.
- Repeat this a few times until you’re satisfied.
- Second, hand-sift through the wheat to remove any large and obvious contaminants
- Third, sieve or screen the wheat. You can get custom made wheat sieves that have holes the right size. If you plan to buy dirty wheat, I recommend you invest in a couple.
Once you have clean wheat, or if you bought wheat that was already cleaned, you want to pour it into your clear poly bags (8″ x 4″ x 21″ is a good size) and treat against insects.
How do I protect wheat from insects?
There are a number of different ways.
The Deep Freeze
Drop your bags into the deep freeze for several days. Leave the frozen wheat in a warm room for a while until thawed and there is no visible condensation. Wait a few days, and repeat. Do this three or four times. You must repeat this because insect eggs don’t die when frozen so you have to let them hatch and then kill them that way.
Use vacuum sealing bags instead of polyethylene bags. Seal your wheat according to the instructions of your sealer. Drop the sealed bags into the bucket and seal it up!
Instead of using bags, pour three or four inches of wheat into the bottom of your bucket directly. Add a couple ounces of crushed dry ice and finish filling the bucket with wheat. Put the lid on LOOSELY. After about half an hour or so the dry ice will have sublimated and forced all of the oxygen out of the bucket. Seal up the bucket.
If you recall, the freezing doesn’t affect eggs, but the insects need oxygen to breathe and since there’s none in the bucket they die right when they hatch. No problem!
Drop a small oxygen absorbing pouch into each plastic bag, squeeze out as much air as possible, and seal up the bag. Put the bag in another bag and seal up the second bag. Drop into the bucket and enjoy.
Rudy’s Note: Dry ice and oxygen absorbers depend on the absence of oxygen to kill larval insects. Buckets and poly ethylene bags allow oxygen to flow through very slowly.
I’m not worried about that myself because I figure that by the time oxygen flows through the eggs are all hatched and dead. If you’re worried about it, use mylar bags or bucket liners.
Vacuum sealing also kills insects by suffocating them but the bags don’t leech oxygen so you’re good there.
Diatomaceous earth is the remains of a fossilized algae called diatoms. Sounds nice, eh? It works because it basically dehydrates the exoskeleton of insects, killing them. Nice stuff, eh? This is something that is certainly considered a natural method of killing bugs, but it is also a serious inhalation hazard. If you choose to use DE, be careful and use a mask.
I don’t know exactly how much DE you would use since I don’t use it. I’ve been told that a cup to a cup and a half per five gallon bucket, mixed through the grain, works well. I’ve also heard that as little as a tablespoon would work.
How long does this stuff store for?
Thirty years or so, give or take. I’d keep several years worth on hand and rotate through it continuously. You really should adopt the ‘food storage pantry’ approach and shop from your storage for your regular meals. The advantages of that approach are too numerous to talk about here but most of them should be pretty clear.
Wrapping it up
I’ll write soon about how to use your stored wheat. But above all, don’t forget to start using it right away. It’s important that your body is used to eating it on a regular basis to avoid potential health problems.