Learn how to store wheat flour long term so you can benefit from this key ingredient now, in 2 years, or in 30 years.
How to Store Grains Long-Term
If you’re planning for long-term food storage, you should find comfort that grains can last up to 30 years when properly stored. The shelf life depends on the type of grain, but generally speaking, dried grains are some of the longest-lasting food products.
When storing grains, your goal is to reduce their exposure to oxygen, heat, moisture, and pests. So the most effective tools for storing grains are grains in 5-gallon buckets with mylar bags and oxygen absorbers.
We have previously written about the best grains for long-term food storage and the items you will need for DIY food storage, but in this article, we will cover how to store grains long-term.
Before we talk about proper grain storage, let’s quickly cover the shelf life of different types of grains.
Shelf life of Grains
Below is the maximum shelf life of grains when stored properly with oxygen absorbers.
Type of Grain Original Packaging (Years) Mylar Bags (Years) 5-Gallon Bucket (Years)
Barley 3-5 10-15 25+
Brown Rice 1-2 2-3 5
Cornmeal 3-5 10-15 25+
Durum 3-5 15+ 30+
Einkorn 3-5 15+ 30+
Emmer 3-5 15+ 30+
Farro 3-5 15+ 30+
Kamut 3-5 15+ 30+
Khorasan 3-5 15+ 30+
Millet 3-5 15+ 30+
Oats 3-5 10-15 30+
Spelt 3-5 15+ 30+
Wheat 3-5 15+ 30+
White Rice 3-5 20+ 30+
A Step-by-Step Guide to Storing Grains in 5-Gallon Buckets
Food-grade buckets are one of the best tools for long-term food storage. They not only protect your grains from moisture, light, and air exposure, but they are also effective for keeping out pests.
Here’s how you can store grains long-term in seven simple steps:
1. Get the Right Food-Grade Bucket
While it would be convenient to just grab any container and get started, not every 5-gallon bucket will work for food storage.
You will need dedicated food-grade buckets that are made from food-safe plastic material. In most cases, something with HDPE will be good enough with a suitable liner.
Using a non-food grade plastic bucket could contaminate your grains with harmful chemicals. Spoiling your food and making it inedible. So to make sure your efforts are not wasted, make sure to use a food-grade bucket for long-term storage.
As you begin to package your food, it might be better to move the bucket to the storage room and fill it up there since it could be too heavy to lift later on. You should expect the grain-filled bucket to be about 25-30 pounds.
Related Article: How to store food in 5-gallon buckets
2. Use Mylar Bags for Lining
Mylar bags are made from metallic sheets that limit exposure to environmental aggressors like heat, air, and moisture.
You can either use a large mylar bag to line your bucket or small bags. Small bags make it easier to take out the grains you need without exposing all the grains to environmental aggressors.
If you are using a large mylar bag, you’ll want the bag to be a tad bit larger than the bucket. This way, you’ll have more length at the top to seal and cut the extra trimmings.
While the food bucket will protect the grains from pests, the mylar bags are the most effective tool for preventing light, moisture, or air from getting into contact with the grains.
Related Article: How to Store Food in Mylar Bags: A Guide for Beginners
3. Pour the Grains
With your mylar bags inside the bucket, lift the original sack and pour in the grains gradually. It could help to have a funnel or get someone to give you a hand and make sure that the mylar bag is wide open.
After pouring, you might want to wait a bit for the “dust” to settle so you’ll have better visibility. Then you can gauge if you need to pour in some more grains.
Remember that you want to leave some room (at least an inch below the rim) to add the oxygen absorber packets and seal the bag.
4. Throw in Some Oxygen Absorbers
Oxygen absorbers are a helpful tool that removes the air from the inside of a mylar bag. O2 absorbers help extend the shelf life of grains significantly by preventing them from going rancid and killing any insect eggs that were in the original packaging. To prevent rancidity, make sure you have oxygen absorbers at hand.
Here is a helpful chart to help you decide how many o2 absorbers you will need for your bags
CCs Needed Size of Container
100 cc 32 oz Mason Jar
300 cc 1 Gallon Container
1500 cc 5 gallon Bucket
Related Article: Oxygen Absorbers vs. Silica Gel Packets
5. Seal the Mylar with Heat
Once the O2 absorbers are in the bag, fold the top a couple of times after pushing out as much air as possible. Then lay it on a flat surface to run over it a few times with a regular clothing iron on the highest setting. If you don’t have an iron, a hair straighter could work too.
Make sure you don’t seal too close to the actual stock. Instead, you want to have a few inches between the seal and the surface of the grains so you can cut the bag open later without risking spillage.
6. Wait Before Closing the Lid
Since oxygen absorbers might take a while to kick in, try to leave the bucket open for a while until you see significant shrinkage in the mylar bag.
We suggest using a gamma seal lid to close the bucket because they are easy to unseal. However, you can use a regular lid and a rubber mallet after pushing it into place. A lid would keep the airflow to a minimum.
7. Label the Bucket
Once you’re all done, don’t forget to label your bucket with the grain type and packing date. Make sure the sticker doesn’t peel off easily and the marker won’t bleed or fade with time.
The last thing you want is to have to open up all the containers when you’re looking for a specific stock!
Some people just opt to stick a piece of the original packing on the bucket with tape. This is convenient, but you’ll still need to add the date yourself.
Other Storage Methods
The 5-gallon bucket method is the most effective way to store grains for long-term storage. However, there are a couple of container alternatives that could work, provided that you control the temperature and light.
It’s possible to ditch the buckets and solely use a mylar bag. However, these might not offer the same protection against pests and air. Large pests, such as rodents, are known to bite through mylar bags. Plus, air can leak into the bag over time, making the contents go rancid sooner than in food buckets.
If you intend to use mylar bags without the food buckets, know that the shelf life will be shorter (up to 15 years), and store the bag in a hard-to-reach place for rodents.
In addition to food buckets, glass jars are effective for storing grains. However, they are more effective for medium and short-term storage since the containers are smaller and not as durable.
Grains stored in mason jars are good for 3-5 years.
Relevant Article: Long-term Food Storage in Mason Jars
Why Do Grains Go Bad?
Although grains contain carbohydrates and protein, the main reason they go bad is that the fat content goes rancid. Rancidity, at its core, is just an oxidation reaction that’s accelerated with air, light, humidity, and heat.
That’s why some grains could last more than others, depending on their fat content. For instance, oats might be more susceptible than barley or wheat. Similarly, whole grains won’t last as long as processed grains.
However, it’s also possible for other culprits to spoil grains, such as bacteria, mold growth due to moisture, and pests.
Prolonged exposure to heat and light may also dull the flavor of the food and cause it to go rancid sooner.
How to Tell if Grains Have Gone Bad?
Grains are nonperishable, so they might be good to use beyond the “best by” dates listed on the package.
However, if they do get rancid or spoiled, eating them can be quite unpleasant and even potentially dangerous.
Look for Signs of Contamination
The last thing you want is to find out that the bucket is riddled with insects when you’re already halfway through the stock.
So, before you start using it, look at the packaging for signs of damage or tears. If it looks fine, then scoop samples from the surface and a bit deeper into the bucket. Then, you can lay it all on a piece of paper and look for the following:
- Molded grains
- Rodent droppings
- Insects or larvae
- Clumped-up grains (indicate excess moisture)
Smell the Grains
When fats get oxidized, their scent changes. Some people might be able to pick on the subtle shift, while others won’t.
If you’re unsure what rancidity smells like, you can expect something akin to varnish.
Keeping grains in your emergency food storage location is a smart decision as it has a shelf life of 30 years. Grains are a great source of carbohydrates, proteins, and nutrition, so it is important to have them available.
If you are looking to store it and forget about it until it’s needed, we suggest using the 5-gallon bucket storage method. This is the best way to store grains long-term and protect the contents from environmental aggressors like heat, light, air, moisture, and pests.
Grains can be stored for 30+ years; just make sure to check the conditions in the storage room to keep the grains viable for as long as possible.
If you found this article helpful, you may also like our past articles on:
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