Why store wheat? That was always been a question rolling around in my head. After all, I had never eaten raw wheat and to the best of my knowledge, wheat had to be milled, ground, and otherwise processed before it could become usable.
On the other hand, my education in all things preparedness had taught me that wheat – or more specifically wheat berries – were one of the cornerstones to serious long-term food storage. Basically every preparedness author out there recommends the storage of hundreds of pounds of wheat. If all of the pros were recommending it, there had to be something to it.
How to Live on Wheat
The first step in my personal course of Wheat 101 was contacting John Hill, the author of “How to Live on Wheat.” I reached out and asked him if he would be willing to provide me with a review copy of the latest version of his book. (At the time I did not realize that he was almost a neighbor here in Washington State.) What a guy! I had the book in hand a few days later and I was off to the races. I sat out on the porch and read his book cover to cover – an easy read – and then, I got it.
As John relates in his book:
- Wheat is nutritious (typically 13% to 20% protein)
- Wheat is high in gluten – necessary for quality bread making
- Wheat stores well
- Wheat is relatively inexpensive
So What About the Book?
First of all, let me say that the book is the perfect primer for someone who wants to get started in learning about wheat as well as other whole grains and legumes. I learned about the different types of grains and legumes, the nutritional considerations, and the storage requirements. I even learned about anti-nutrients which are compounds that interfere with the absorption of good-guy nutrients.
Did you know that there are both live grains and dead grains and that the storage requirements are different? As John explains in his book, you do not store live grains in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. The live grains need oxygen to sprout.
There was also an extensive section on sprouting. Even if you are not ready to jump in and purchase a grain mill in order to grind your own flour, there are plenty of nutritious and delicious ways to use sprouted wheat (and grains) as raw food or in salads, soups, or other foods. As a matter of fact, sprouting can actually increase the nutritional value of these items and enhances the bioavailability of the nutrients.
Which leads to the recipes. Want to give sourdough a shot? There is a recipe for making your own starter. Cast iron cooking and baking? Yep, a whole section on that. And finally, there is huge section on resources: where to buy, how much to store, and essential tools and supplies.
Wheat as Survival Food
Talk about a powerhouse. Who knew?
I always thought that other than bread, wheat was primarily used in baked goods, the sugary fattening stuff. Of course, since baking my own bread (see Simple Comforts: How and Why You Should Make Your Own Bread), I knew that whole wheat flour could be used for lots of things that are not necessarily bad for you but now the world of wheat berries, wheat sprouts, and other wheat related goodies has been opened up for exploration.
When you bake your own bread, you can even get creative and use up tiny amounts of other foods that you have lying around. It’s a double win: your leftovers do not go to waste and you are adding a new dimension of flavor to your ordinary loaf of bread.
There are many delicious ways to use wheat that don’t include bread, though. You can cook whole wheat berries in basically the same way you cook rice. To cook wheat berries, cook 1 cup of wheat berries in 3 cups of water for approximately 45 minutes, on low-medium heat.
You can use your cooked wheat berries in a multitude of ways. Use them any place you would regularly use rice. For example, ladle a stir fry over them, toss them into soup, or use them in a casserole. For breakfast, warm the berries up in some milk and top them with your favorite hot cereal toppings.
Why Store Wheat Berries Instead of Flour?
You may be wondering if you can skip all the grinding and just store flour. After all, if you plan to bake with it, it seems like a lot of extra work to procure the berries and process them before you can make a loaf of bread.
My pal Ron Brown explains.
The answer is shelf life. You may be able to store flour for a few months or even a few years. But sooner or later it will turn rancid. And in all likelihood it will “get wormy,” as my farm-bred mother phrased it.
In contrast, unground wheat berries (given the right moisture content, protected from insects, etc.) will potentially last for decades if not centuries.
The moment a wheat berry is ground, it begins to lose its nutritional punch. Within 24 hours of being cracked open and ground, 60% of the beneficial nutrients in a kernel of wheat have vanished due to oxidization. Within 3 days, more than 80% of the nutrients are gone.
Not only does flour lose its nutritional value, it begins going comes rancid very quickly, Rancidity occurs within 3-6 months for whole wheat flour and within approximately a year for processed white flour. This happens because the oils begin to oxidize. Foods made from rancid products taste less appealing, but that isn’t the worst of it. The rancidity is actually quite dangerous.
Lipid specialist and University of Massachusetts professor Eric Decker says there are two problems with rancid products. “One is that they lose their vitamins, but they also can develop potentially toxic compounds that have been linked to advanced aging, neurological disorders, heart disease and cancer.”
“They’re carcinogenic, pro-inflammatory and very toxic, says integrative medicine specialist Andrew Weil. They are also widespread in the food chain.” (Source)
Adding Wheat to Your Supplies
Coming up with an action plan for adding wheat to your long term food storage is easy. Get some, store some, and use some, with the emphasis on the USE SOME. As with anything else, having some #10 tins or 5 gallon buckets of wheat will not do you a whole lot of good if you wait until a crisis or TSHTF to learn how to use it. When that happens, you will have too many other problems to deal with to even think about learning to cook or bake with wheat.
There are two types of wheat commonly used for long term storage: hard red and hard white.
In the simplest of terms, red wheat, when used in baking bread, will result in a dark, dense, whole wheat loaf whereas white wheat will be more delicate in both taste and color. Both types are fairly equal nutrition-wise with the exception that red wheat has slightly more protein.
To get a bit more technical, the terms red and white are used to identify the color of the kernel and not of the flour that is eventually milled from those kernels. Most people do not know this, but hard white wheat was actually developed from hard red wheat by eliminating the genes for bran color while preserving other desirable characteristics of the red wheat.
A major difference between the two types of wheat is flavor. For some, red wheat has bitter taste that does not exist is white wheat. For that reason many people prefer white wheat because reduced bitterness requires less additional sweeteners in the final product.
So what does all of this mean? At the end of the day, the type of wheat you choose for baking (and for long term storage) is really a matter of preference.
Essential Tools for Wheat
When you’re getting started out with wheat, there are a few things you’ll need unless you intend to only consume it in the form of a pilaf or porridge.
Whether you choose an electric grinder or a crank grinder is entirely up to you. There are pros and cons to each. Obviously an electric grinder will not work during a power outage, so you need something that you can use in the event of a long-term down-grid situation. I like the Wondermill Junior for this.
On the other hand, grinding wheat by hand is a lot of work, so an electric grinder is very nice to have for good times. Do NOT try to use your blender. You’ll burn out the motor unless your blender is one of the high-powered Vitamix types with an attachment for that.
A Sprouting System
While you can sprout kernels in a Mason jar, if you plan to use sprouts as a major part of your diet, a sprouting system will make it far easier. This one by Vittorio gets excellent reviews.
Note that a sprouting system is superior to the kitchen table methods because it helps to create the optimal environment for your seeds. This prevents unhealthy mold from growing along with your sprouts.
Sprouting wheat turns it from a grain into fresh greens in a matter of days. In a situation where fresh produce could be hard to come by, the ability to quickly grow greens inside your house will help keep your family much healthier. Wheat only takes about 3 days to reach harvest time when you sprout it, and the flavor is sweeter and milder than many other types of sprouts.
A Good Book on Wheat
Here is a link to John’s book: How to Live on Wheat.
A Wheat Recipe
And as a bonus, here is a recipe for wheat berry pilaf, provided by my friend Daisy Luther of The Organic Prepper.
Wheat Berry Pilaf
- 2 cups of uncooked wheat berries
- 6 cups of broth
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tsp. of olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. of garlic powder (or 1 tsp. of fresh minced garlic)
- 1/4 cup of whole-berry cranberry sauce or 1/8 cup of dried cranberries
- 1 tbsp finely chopped green onion
- Combine wheat berries, broth, salt, pepper, garlic and oil in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Cook, covered for approximately 45 minutes or until the wheat berries are still firm, but tender.
- Drain the remaining cooking liquid. (This can be saved for a nutritious addition to a soup.)
- Stir in cranberry sauce and heat, stirring constantly, until warm all the way through.
- Top with green onions and serve.
The Final Word
Wheat has a vital place in most food storage stockpiles. It lasts for a very long time when stored correctly, is a pantry multi-tasker, and is very reasonably priced. But the key, like with any other prep, is to actually use it so you are comfortable with it in an emergency. For that reason, I typically will not recommend that food storage newbies add wheat to their starter stockpile. That comes later, with a bit of experience and time to practice using it day-to-day.
Do you store wheat? Do you cook with it often? What is your favorite way to use wheat berries? Curious minds want to know!
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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Bargain Bin: Today I feature items that will get you started using wheat and baking bread as well as milling your own flour with the WonderMill.
How to Live on Wheat: Everything you need to know about wheat. This is the book that started it all for me!
WonderMill Grain Mill: The WonderMill is the quietest and fastest flour mill available. You can create super fine flour or coarse flour at temperatures that preserve nutrients, ensuring that you will always have the perfect flour for your food. The WonderMill will not only grind wheat, rice and other small grains, but will also grind legumes and beans as large as garbanzos. It is extremely easy to use – simply fill the hopper and you’ll get flour.
Wonder Junior Deluxe Hand Grain / Flour Mill by Wondermill: I struggled with the decision whether to go manual or electric. Now I have both. The advantage of the Wonder Junior Deluxe is that it does not need power. In addition, because the grinding mechanism can be cleaned, you can use it to grind nuts, coffee and a variety of seeds (as well as wheat and legumes, of course).
VICTORIO Four-Tray Kitchen Crop Sprouter: Using a sprouter is the safest way to create fresh, healthy organic sprouts at home in just 3-5 days. The unique growing tray design uses water surface tension to keep the correct amount of water in each tray for all stages of the growing process.
Silicone Bread and Loaf Pan Set of 2: I now use these exclusively instead of metal loaf pans. Warning: you will become hooked. These are extremely easy to use and cleanup is a snap. I own 4 – two sets of 2.
Danish Dough Whisk: I like to use this whisk when mixing bread dough although a spoon will work fine too. This gizmo makes mixing up the dough a lot – and I mean a lot – easier.
Mylar bags & Oxygen Absorbers: What I love about Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers is they protect against every single one of the food storage enemies. Prices do vary but for the most part, they are inexpensive and easy to keep on hand. And while you can seal them up with a FoodSaver, some tubing and a common clothes iron, I find it infinitely easier with a cheap hair straightening iron that you can pick up $20 or less.
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter: The LifeStraw is considered the most advanced, compact, ultra light personal water filter available. It contains no chemicals or iodinated resin, no batteries and no moving parts to break or wear out. It weighs only 2oz. making it perfect for the prepper. For more information, see my LifeStraw review.
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