Storing grains can be fairly difficult for beginners, most people do not know what kinds of grains are good for long storage or how to actually store them correctly. Luckily for you in this article, you will learn everything you need to know about storing grain for the long term.
You can store grains long term at home by storing them in food grade buckets and at a 60°-70° F temperature. Make sure to add a couple of oxygen absorbers and as these will stop any bugs from hatching. If you want to be extra careful then you should vacuum seal the grains before storing them in a food grade bucket. Do not store your grains in the garage as the fumes from chemicals and fuel will get absorbed by the grains and thus altering how they taste.
If you are planning to store grains in bulk then my personal recommendation is to use a vacuum sealer, which seals the bags with heat Click here to check it out on Amazon.com
Grains are a valuable asset to any prepper, not only you can use them for cooking and growing crops but grains will also be a valuable commodity after a major SHTF event. However, most people make the false assumption that buying a couple of bags of grain and dumping them in the corner of a basement or a garage is adequate long term storage for the grains. Opening up these bags of grains which are not stored correctly after just a few years and most of the grains would be unedible.
You should store grains just as you store any other food types in your food pantry. Some grains are also very sensitive to constant temperature fluctuations, high humidity not to mention the numerous bugs, parasites, and fungus that use them as nourishment. Some people also make the false assumption that keeping the grains in a freezer is a good idea, as not only it kills any bugs and parasites which would be in the sack of gain but it also keeps the grains fresh for a longer period of time.
What these people tend to forget is that in a major SHTF event there is a high possibility that the electricity would be cut off. Without electricity, the grains in the freezer would spoil extremely fast due to water damage from the melting ice. Once you place a sack of grain in the freezer the water in them will form ice crystals, once these are formed they have already done damage to the grain, and there is no possibility to use these grains for growing crops.
Another big disadvantage to keeping your grains in the freezer is that once you take the grains out of the freezer you have to consume them fairly fast. The second they are out of the freezer the ice crystals start melting, this is an ideal condition for parasites and fungus to grow. It doesn’t even take that long for the frozen grains to get spoiled, depending on the ambient temperature and the humidity this could happen as fast as in a few days. In addition to storing grains long term, you should also consider storing canned foods, check out my article on Longest lasting canned foods ( Up to 30+ years ).
Use food grade buckets for long term grain storage
There is nothing special about the normal food grade buckets although some stores might want you to think that these are some high-value items. Usually, these are made of everyday plastic, although if you worried about BPA which causes cancer there are some that are made out of plastic that does not contain any BPA. A food grade bucket is a plastic bucket with an airtight lid on it, the only major difference between them is the thickness of the actual plastic.
In my article How long can you store bottled water? ( In your Home, Garage or Car ) I have come to the conclusion that not all food grade buckets and bottles are created equally, some of them are not well suited for long term storage.
You can get these buckets at any major store, you can reuse old food buckets or you can get them for free. My recommendation is not to use any food grade bucket which was specially designed to hold some kind of sauce like tomato sauce, as these buckets are usually coated in the interior with different agents and sometimes even preservatives. The best food containers are the ones used for containing any type of flour in them.
Before deciding which food grade bucket to get take a look at the bottom of the bucket if the bottom is smooth in such a way that the entirety of the bottom will be in contact with the ground do NOT buy them. These are made not only of cheap plastic which is usually a lot thinner than other food grade buckets but they can also leak after some wear and tear while you are pushing the bucket around on the ground.
Check if they have a handle and if they also have “legs” which is a protruding piece of plastic that limits the contact with the ground to only the plastic ring. Not only these will withstand much more tear and wear but it also insulates the food grade bucket a lot better. The last and most important piece is the actual lid make sure it fits and is airtight, you might get lucky from using the lid of another bucket just make sure it fits correctly without the danger of the lid popping off. There are a lot of methods of storing grains, you do not necessarily need to use food grade buckets, but these are fairly common and cheap.
Get food grade buckets for free
The industry around prepping is a very lucrative one, but like with all industries, they will try to sell you some common item claiming that it has some kind of benefit to buying them. I have seen these “special” food grade buckets on some prepper websites going for $45 which is rather laughable. Generally, they also throw in an oxygen absorbent but even with this includes actual worth is less than $5.
Believe it or not, there are a lot of businesses using food grade buckets and generally, they just throw them away. If you are shy you can get these from their bins although I do not recommend this approach at all, just go to any restaurant or bakery and ask anybody who works there if they have any food grade buckets and if they can give them for free. Keep in mind that food-grade buckets will be thrown out once the content is empty, instead of throwing them out they would be better off giving it to you.
PRO TIP: If you are shy or do not want to be considered rude, just buy some item from the bakery and politely ask about the food grade buckets, do NOT act all entitled that they should give them for you for free as they will throw them out, believe it or not, you are probably not the first person who would ask for free food buckets.
Use a vacuum sealer for long term grain storage
Vacuum sealing your grains is a good idea, while vacuum sealing all the oxygen gets vacuumed out of the container. This prevents any bugs damage the grains and any eggs from hatching as these do need oxygen. Some people in addition to vacuum sealing they also put the grains in the freezer, although this isn’t the best idea as I have already explained above. One of the downsides of vacuum sealing is that most vacuum sealers come with specialized bags and these are rather small.
There are some vacuum sealers that do have larger containers but generally, these containers are a lot more expensive than any other type of food container. Generally, these vacuum sealers are not made for long-time grain storage, rather they are made for every day consumed food items. Vacuum sealers either come with special zip lock bags or with heat sealers, my recommendation is to get ones with a heat sealer.
If the vacuum sealer has also a heat sealer that means you can use any plastic bag for storing your grain, while this does not sound so helpful it actually is when it comes to the matter of size. Preppers usually store grain in bulk, this will be extremely difficult if you have just a limited number of specially designed vacuum sealing zip lock bags, but with a heat sealer there you have no more limitations when it comes to the size of the bag. If you also want to preserve meat then check out my recent article How to preserve meat ( Top 12 Methods ).
Use Mylar bags for long term grain storage
Mylar bags are aluminum bags specially created for long-time food storage and usually, these also come with oxygen absorbers included. Mylar bags are excellent for preserving food for a long time, although they are kind of expensive to bulk store grains in them, but they are still a viable option.
Use oxygen absorbers for long term grain storage
If you are not using vacuum sealing then oxygen absorbers are a must for long term grain storage. Oxygen absorbers absorb the oxygen from the bags and food-grade containers. This is very useful as most grains are contaminated with bugs and parasites, and they can not survive without oxygen. Once the oxygen absorbers get exposed to oxygen they will start working immediately, most of these oxygen absorbers have different colored pills, and once the oxygen absorber is no longer able to absorb any oxygen the color of the pill will change.
The color of the pill will differ from each manufacturer, just read the instructions before you use them. There have been a lot of reports of people eating oxygen absorbers, either by accident or by confusing them with a seasoning packet. In fairness, most oxygen absorbers do look like seasoning packets and if you have never seen an oxygen absorber you might confuse it with a seasoning packet.
Although there has been no test made on the side effects of eating oxygen absorbers as these are not made for consumption. Generally, these contain iron, clay, and salt which are not toxic, but during the manufacturing process, they could get cross-contaminated with other more toxic materials. Before buying any oxygen absorber make sure you do ample research as this is not the case as one size fits them all, some people have larger containers than others and how big should the container be for the oxygen absorber to work correctly will be noted on the oxygen absorbers box. If you want to know how to store powdered milk then check out my recent article How to store powdered milk long term ( Top 7 Ways ).
How to know if the oxygen absorber is still good
As mentioned above most oxygen absorbers have a small colored pill that will change color once the oxygen absorber is not absorbing oxygen. However, there are some oxygen absorbers that do not have this color graded pill, in this case, you have to touch the oxygen absorber, if it feels soft and jelly then it is still functioning correctly, if it feels hard then in most cases it is no longer functioning correctly.
Can you reuse oxygen absorbers?
NO, oxygen absorbers cannot be reused as they rely on the chemical reaction between iron, clay, and salt. Once the iron has been fully oxidized ( rusted ) the oxygen absorbent will no longer work and you have to throw it away.
Use silica gel desiccant for long term grain storage
Silica gel is used to absorb moisture, these are extremely important if your local environment is high in humidity. Some people think that silica gel replaces the oxygen absorber but this is false as one absorbs moisture and the other absorbs oxygen. Silica gel is great especially if you have flour in your food stockpile, as these are very sensitive to high humidity. You can also use silica gel desiccants for your salt, sugar, spices, flours, and any types of powdered food types.
Silica gel dangers
Although most people consider silica gel to be extremely dangerous once ingest, however, silica gel is not chemically active and it is not considered toxic. The problem with silica gel, when put in containers, could be ingested either by accident or by confusing it with some kind of spice packet. Although silica gel is not considered toxic it could still be a potential choking hazard especially for infants and for pets.
Making your own flour will decrease the shelf life of the grains
Flour has a lot lower shelf life than any grain has, usually around 6-9 months. If you want to stretch out for an as long time as possible the shelf life of your grains you should store grains and then make flour from them. There are a lot of specialized tools that grind grains into flour, my personal recommendation is to get a manually operated one as during a major SHTF there are high chances that there will be no electricity.
Rotating grains to increase their shelf life
As with all foods in your Prepper’s pantry you should also rotate your grains in order to prolong the shelf life as much as possible. This way you will always eat the oldest grains once you bring in new grains to the food pantry. If you are storing grains for a long time and do not touch them only when it is necessary, it is still a good idea to rotate them. Simply label each food grade bucket when it was packaged and what it contains.
Mixing grains lowers the grains shelf life
Never ever mix grains, neither different kinds of grains or the same types of grains with new grains. Different kinds of grains are contaminated by different kinds of bacteria, parasites, and bugs, mixing all of them together would cross-contaminate them. In the case of mixing the same types of grains together but with new grains, there is still a big probability of contamination, and as grains do have a shelf life once the oldest one gets spoiled so will the new grains also get spoiled.
Using labels to identify what types of grains you are storing
Make sure that you have adequate labels on your food grade buckets, this should contain the date when it was packaged and what type of grain it contains. In addition to this add a note if these were fresh grains or dehydrated grains as the shelf life of both of them is different.
Storing grains in your basement
People who have access to a basement generally store the grains there, although you should constantly keep an eye out for the humidity as some older houses could form black mold in the basement. If you notice this you need to clean that asap as it will contaminate your grains eventually. Never ever store fuel or other chemicals in the same space where you store your grains, these create dangerous fumes and the chemical particles can penetrate most plastic food grade buckets eventually and making the grains taste bad.
Grain storage ideal temperature and humidity levels for long shelf life
As mentioned above grain is very sensitive to temperature changes and to high humidity. Generally speaking the ideal temperature for long-term grain storage is between 60°-70° F, anything below or above that could damage the seeds. If the temperature is too low you might end up with condensation on the grains, which eventually will lead to other problems that will destroy the grains.
Generally speaking, if the temperature is higher than usual, the grains should be fine as long as the humidity levels are ideal. The ideal humidity level for long term storage of grains should be below 13%, anything above could kickstart the seeds germinating process as it absorbs moisture from the surrounding air. If you want to freeze your grains then you have to avoid freezer burn, for more information check out my recent article How to prevent freezer burn ( In 8 Easy Steps ).
Types of grains for long term storage
There are basically two types of grains, soft grains, and hard grains. Generally speaking, hard grains have a lot longer shelf life than soft grains but you can extend the shelf life of both hard grains and soft grains for a lot longer by storing them adequately. If you are buying your grains in bulk in large sacks these can have a lot of contaminants in them, from other types of grains to bugs, unhatched eggs, parasites, and even fungus. This is why it is extremely important to store them adequately no matter if you choose hard grains or soft grains.
Soft grains can be stored for around 8 years
These are grains that do not have a strong outer shell that protects the actual seed. Soft grains are extremely sensitive to high humidity and water, while this is natural for most grains as the seeds will germinate if they can absorb enough water to kickstart the process. This is why soft grains also absorb water from the air if the humidity is high enough, this way they kickstart the germination process.
Although this is all fine and dandy from an evolutionary stand of a point but when it comes to long term storage you want to stop the seeds from germinating at all costs. Once the seed germinates the seed is virtually gone due to the forming of the plant, this is one of the most sensitive periods of a plant which is the initial growing phase. Usually, most basements and garages used for storing grains long term do have enough humidity to kickstart this process although the plants usually do not survive beyond the first few days.
In addition to being very sensitive to humidity, these can also be easily consumed by bugs as they do not have the outer hard shell as the hard grains do. One of the best grains for long term storage is oats, due to their long shelf life.
List of soft grains
- White Wheat
Hard grains can be stored for around 12 years
These are grains that have a thick outer shell that protects the actual seed, generally speaking, these are the best types of grains for long term storage as they are not so sensitive. Provided these are kept in a dry environment the seed will not have the ability to absorb moisture from the surrounding air and start the germinating process. The thick outer shell also comes in handy regarding bugs, as most of the bugs can not penetrate the hard outer shell to get to the seed.
Hard grains are also safer to keep in a freezer than soft grains as these have little to no water in them provided they are not fresh and stored adequately. However, if the hard grains are fresh they are not safe to freeze as the frozen water in them will damage the seed. Make sure that your hard grains are as dry as possible, once they are there should be no reason to freeze them other than to kill the parasites and bugs living in the bag.
List of hard grains
- Dry Rice
- Dry Corn
- Durum Wheat
- Hard Red Wheat
- Durum wheat
- Hard White Wheat
- Soft Wheat
- Special Bake Wheat
Brown rice can be stored for around 6-12 months
Although brown rice is more nutritious than its white counterpart, however its shelf life is extremely limited only around 3-6 months. Brown rice contains oils that will start to break down extremely fast, once they do the brown rice has already gone bad. The most obvious sign of brown rice going bad is that they have a rancid smell.
Storing grains long term takes some work, it is not enough to buy a sack of grains and just dump it in the basement. You need the proper containers with oxygen absorbers and silica gel, this way the container will have no oxygen and very little moisture, this will prolong the shelf life of the grains by a lot. Provided the grains are stored in a dark cool environment without much temperature fluctuations you could stretch out the shelf life of the grains virtually indefinitely.