As supply chains get disrupted, diesel fuel costs rise, and wheat-producing countries feel the sting of lost grain crops due to war, conflict, heat, and export restrictions– it’s not that hard to see the writing on the wall.
Countries dependent on grain imports from Russia and Ukraine might be the first to feel the effects of food insecurity caused by shortages.
However, there is some good news: the US is number four in the world in wheat production behind China, Russia, and India.
So we shouldn’t be that worried, right? Well, not exactly. As a significant player in the world market, the bulk of that wheat gets shipped to other places worldwide.
While North Americans probably won’t starve because of this shortage, they will likely see a very steep price increase and fewer baking goods or wheat-based foods in their grocery stores.
Still, since wheat and bread are so fundamentally important to humans, this could cause panic. Additionally, it’s not just wheat that’s at stake here. Many other grains and oil crops such as rye, sunflower, rapeseed, and more also see scarcity and record-high prices.
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Since we all saw what happened with the great toilet paper panic of 2020 – among other strange events – one thing is clear: people tend toward irrationality when faced with scarcity.
For this reason, it would benefit us all to be as personally prepared as possible before it’s too late. Here are just a few ways you can prepare for the looming wheat and grain shortage.
Whole Wheat Flour
Whole wheat flour contains more essential vitamins and minerals than its bleached-white counterpart.
Even though whole wheat boasts high levels of calcium, vitamin D, iron, fiber, and more – it has a shorter shelf life and tends to be more difficult to keep for the long term.
Despite its superior nutrient profile compared to white flour, the downside to keeping whole wheat flour is its shorter shelf life. Under optimal conditions, you can store repackaged wheat flour in a cool, dark, dry place for around 3-6 months and up to a year.
So if you choose to stock up on whole wheat flour, you’ll want to take measures to prevent it from spoiling or use it sooner than your other flours for the best results.
The moisture content of whole wheat flour hovers around 14-15% so keeping it in a mylar bag or a food-safe air-tight container with oxygen absorbers is ideal.
All-purpose flour – otherwise known as refined or bleached white – is arguably the most versatile and widely used type of flour. For this reason, it will probably be easier to find compared to others when shortages or price hikes hit.
However, the process of refining flour means the bran and germ of the wheat kernel have been removed and many of its important vitamins and minerals are destroyed along with it.
Historically, this process has been done to please consumers who prefer the pure-white color.
Flour bleached in its natural state is more of a creamy off-white color. Although the nutrient profile for bleached flour isn’t as impressive as whole wheat flour, the good news is that this type of flour stores very well.
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All-purpose flour can be kept for up to 5-10 years under optimal conditions. It’s important to keep in mind that the original packaging of flour isn’t meant to hold up to long-term storage.
This means that your flour could accumulate dust, insect eggs, moisture, or other contaminants over time if not repackaged. So, when storing any kind of flour for later use, you’ll want to transfer it from its original bag into a container.
For best results, store your flour in an airtight container or mylar bag in a cool and dry place away from direct sunlight and humidity.
Unbleached flour is refined flour that’s been aged naturally over time rather than aged with chemicals like all-purpose or bleached.
Technically, unbleached flour is still “bleached” naturally. But the color of unbleached flour isn’t a pure bright white like bleached flour is.
As far as maintaining the nutrient profile goes, unbleached flour may not contain as many nutrients as you would think. Due to its natural aging and bleaching process, a lot of key nutrients are still lost. In fact, unbleached flour is only slightly more nutrient-rich than bleached flour.
Many people prefer unbleached flour as it has a more natural texture, taste, and hasn’t gone through a chemical wash.
However, if maintaining a good amount of extra nutrients is important to you, look for “enriched” bleached and unbleached flours. Enriching flours is the process by which the stripped nutrients are added back into the final product.
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Both enriched and regular unbleached flour have a shelf life similar to that of white flour. Still, you can lengthen the shelf by keeping optimal storage conditions as you would with all-purpose flour.
Many alternative flours are made from seeds, oil grains, nuts, and other plants. These types of flours can be fun to bake with or mix in with other flours for a more nutritious blend.
However, due to the higher fat content of these flours, they tend to have a shorter shelf life.
For example, almond flour and coconut flour have a shelf life of around 3-6 months before they begin to spoil. The same can be said for nut, root, or plant-based flours.
So, when keeping these types of flour, it’s important to use them before other hardier grains. You can extend the shelf life by practicing good storage habits and keeping them away from sunlight, heat, and humidity.
Buying Wheat Berries In Bulk
When storing grains for an upcoming grain shortage, wheat berries are a great option because of their long shelf life and lower cost by weight.
Wheat berries are the edible grain kernels left over after the outer hulls are removed.
The outer shell part of the remaining kernel is known as the “bran” while the inside is made up of the germ and endosperm. There are several types of wheat berries to choose from.
However, due to their hardiness and consistency in bread making, most people choose hard red wheat, soft white wheat, or some combination of the two.
While you can soak and cook these grains for food, many folks prefer to grind their berries into flour using either a handmill or an electric mill. This allows you to harvest 2 cups of flour from about 1 cup of grains.
Buying whole wheat berries for your stockpile is a smart way to store grains for a very long time. When stored properly, wheat berries can last for 30 years or longer.
How To Store Flour And Grains
Storing your grains and flour properly will help prevent pests and moisture from spoiling your grain stash. When storing flour, there are a few tried-and-true ways of preserving it for the long term.
Of course, there’s the option of freezing it. However, there are far too many SHTF scenarios in which relying on electricity to freeze food might not be ideal.
With that in mind, the best way to store flour for long-term storage is by dry canning it. This will prevent any moisture from disturbing the quality of your flour.
If dry canning flour isn’t an option, storing it in an air-tight food-grade container lined with a mylar bag and enough oxygen absorbers will also keep your flour fresh for years past the normal shelf life.
When storing wheat berries and other whole grains, canning isn’t really necessary. Due to the density of wheat kernels and their low moisture content, the ideal storage for grains is in a 5-gallon food-grade bucket or another similar container. Keeping your grains in a cool, dry, and dark place will ensure they’ll be safe to eat when you need them the most.
Although it seems like this looming grain shortage could affect the world in a big way very soon, it’s always important to remain calm and pragmatic.
It’s good to know that even if this grain shortage doesn’t affect you as you anticipated it would, you can still learn how to stand better prepared for whatever life throws your way.