February 1st - Answering Your Questions
We have had a few questions in the comment section, and it seems a good idea to have a time and place to answer those in a bigger way than just an answer to a comment. Our plan is to devote the first Wednesday each month to answering questions. Please message us or post your questions in the comment section of any post.
Our question today was about storing grains for long term. While it has long been recommended to store wheat as a long term staple it may not be the best choice for everyone. A little history lesson first.
Wheat has long been the staple grain in much of the world. It has a long shelf life before grinding making it perfect for keeping over long winters when it became the mainstay of survival. Storing fruits and vegetables was difficult without refrigeration. It was expensive to purchase the items necessary to properly can. Root cellars were a good alternative for preservation but were limited in their ability to keep foods safe and largely dependent on weather to be reliable. Wheat contained life sustaining nutrients, was good for making breads, as a cereal, a substitute for a main dish dinner by adding spices, and could even be sprouted for a good source of vitamins especially vitamin c. And it was readily available and inexpensive. The question posed mentioned church leaders. When an organization that is worldwide makes recommendations, they must base them on things available in most areas of the world. Wheat is one of those foods. This does not mandate storing wheat it is just a suggestion that can be understood in throughout the world.
But..it is now 2023. Our eating habits have dramatically changed and our ability to preserve foods has greatly increased. Unfortunately, we have also failed to teach the skills necessary for using wheat to its greatest advantage. We now consume many more grains on a daily basis than wheat.
Grains are important in a long-term storage plan because they will sustain life and will be filling helping to avoid the whining of “I’m hungry”. Because of this they are also perfect to share with those who may not have prepared.
As a family determine which grains your family enjoys eating and you know how to prepare. For example, if you do not have a wheat grinder and do not know how to cook with wheat it is a waste of money to store it. For those living in places where wheat is plentiful, cheap and they use it then wheat is an obvious choice.
The other choices to consider:
Rice. White rice stores well for at least 12-15 years. If you normally eat brown rice, it has a very short storage life due to the oils in it. For long term storage purposes only store white rice.
Pasta: Although you may not think of this as a grain it will serve the goal of a grain. It will provide nutrients if purchasing enriched, provide fiber, stores for 12-15 years, is inexpensive and will fill you up.
Oats: Oats are great for long term storage and have many uses other than as a breakfast food. Rolled oats stored properly will last 10 years, steel cut oats 12-15 years. Instant oatmeal packets are good for your three-month storage that you rotate but not long term.
Popcorn: As with dried beans these will become hard and of little use over time. It will store well for 10 years or longer. Why popcorn? It is a great snack when living in a stressful situation, provides nutrients, is inexpensive and can be ground for use as cornmeal.
Barley: I love this grain as a side dish cooked in chicken or beef broth and in soups. It stores for 10 years and meets all the other requirements for great long-term storage. It is inexpensive, provides lots of nutrients, has many uses and will fill you up.
Farro, spelt and rye have a long shelf life but are used much less frequently. If you don’t know how to use something learn or don’t store it!
There are many more less popular grains you can store but most have a shorter shelf life and/or are less often consumed by most of us. Brown rice, wild rice, should never be used for long term storage.
As for storage—All foods should be stored in a cool, dark, dry environment or the storage time will be greatly reduced. All whole grains may be stored in the freezer without damaging them. Sealing with a vacuum sealer is a good option but vacuum sealed bags should be placed in a five-gallon bucket or other container that will block the light. Mylar bags are also a good option when used with on oxygen absorber. Vacuum sealed bags and mylar bags are perfect storage methods for rodents, they love getting into these so store them in rodent proof containers not just on a shelf.
I know this is a long post but one last reminder….do not store anything you do not have the equipment or knowledge to prepare or that you do not like to eat. There are several great options so choose the ones best suited to your family. Your emergency may be a job loss or medical bills and not a natural disaster. Would you want shelves full of grains you could not use, or would it be better to have foods you already love?