My wife and I are nowhere near being done.
We've started though, and that's meant learning how to do it. We still haven't figured it out, but we're getting better at it. Mostly we're getting better at dealing with food storage because of things we've learned from Simply Living Smart, a website dedicated to food storage. They've got some amazing resources there, so I recommend you check them out.
The biggest question for us has been, how do you store flour? Can you even do it for a year? I've found a lot of conflicting research. Some people say that you can keep white flour for up to six months. Whole wheat flour goes rancid after two. Others say it's much longer than that. My own accidental experience tells me that if you store it properly, you can get away with a full year.
Bingo. One years worth of flour.
Okay, John. What about storage wheat? That was all the craze 'back in the day,' right? You get storage wheat, and a wheat grinder.
If you really want to do that, be my guest. Grinding wheat into flour, electrically or by hand, just doesn't appeal to me. What can I say? I'm still wicked and slothful. (Normally I prefer to think of it as knowing my limits than admitting it's a character flaw.)
So, we've decided to go with flour, instead of grain, for storing wheat.
Keep in mind that we're not talking about getting a years supply of food together and then letting it sit in the basement for a year. We're going to be using it throughout the year, replacing things as we use them and rotating the stock.
There are a few issues with storing flour, including the issue of nutritional value. Grains ground into flour lose some of there nutrients over time. It turns out that wheat flour keeps it's nutritional elements intact a lot longer than was previously thought. If you're still worried about it, take a multivitamin.
The other two major issues are bugs and rancidity. Wheat flour has a small amount of fat in it from the wheat germ. Just like other fats, it can go rancid. All wheat has weevil and other bugs in them. Mostly eggs. Other bugs can get into the paper containers you normally buy the stuff in pretty easily, too.
It turns out that you can take three simple steps to eradicate these little monsters, and keep the fat in the wheat germ from going rancid before you use it.
- Freeze the flour.
- Add dried bay leaves
- Store in an airtight container.
- Keep the containers in a cool, dry, place.
To freeze flour, transfer it into small, zip-lock type plastic freezer bags, and put it in your freezer overnight. The cold should kill any living bugs and muck with most of the eggs. The zip-lock bag is to keep the moisture out.
Adding a few dried bay leaves to the flour can help cut down on bugs, as well. Most of insects don't like it and I've been told it's actually poisonous to weevil larvae. Just make sure you take the bay leaves out of the flour before you cook with it. I learned this lesson after making a wonderful loaf of bay flavored bread in my bread maker one day.
Make sure your storage containers are airtight. This helps avoid rancidity and creates yet another hostile environment for the bugs. Some people even suggest putting oxygen trapping chem packs in with the flour, but I'm not sure it's necessary. We've chosen to use 20 gallon storage buckets with air tight gamma lids.
How many times have you heard the mantra of the pantry, “Keep it in a cool, dry, place?” Same story, here. Light and heat contribute to fat rancidity and stale food. Avoid those as much as possible.
Here comes the disclaimer. Please keep in mind that I'm not a food scientist, nutritionalist, or otherwise licensed food service worker. I've had no formal training in this. All of this is based on the research I've done, mixed with my own experience. Take my advice for what it is, the friendly kind, not the professional kind. Don't sue me if this doesn't work for you.
Picture by Melanie Martinelli