Storing a Variety of Grains in
Your Long Term Storage

Storing Grains

Grains are the foundation of a wide variety of menus and recipes that you feed your family on a daily basis and are considered to be a staple in a long term food storage plan.

Whole wheat is usually the primary grain most associated with food storage supplies.

But to prevent your family from getting bored eating wheat in every possible recipe, try storing grains of other varieties such as oats, brown and white rice, pearled barley, amaranth (an herb often used as a grain), flaxseed, corn, pop corn, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, rye, sorghum, spelt, and triticale. (There may be others I'm unaware of.)

Grains are an excellent food storage product for several reasons:

  • They have high nutritional value and protein levels (organic is more nutritious).
  • Most varieties can be stored for 25+ years if packaged properly and kept in a cool environment.

Why Rotate Grains?

The best reason is to accustom your family to eating them. A sudden change in diet which includes mostly grains will upset their digestive systems. Gather recipes that include grains such as breads, cereals, and muffins.

If you do plan on storing grains to use in your daily or weekly menus, it's best to purchase them in #10 sealed cans. But if you choose to store them in 5-6 gallon buckets, an opened bucket will not store long term. Plan to use it within 6 months to a year and keep it closed tightly in a cool, dark place, such as the pantry or the basement.

Grinding Your Own

Grinding wheat seems to be a major hang-up for most people. Bite the bullet and buy a good grain mill—an electric one AND a hand grinder in case there is no electricity.

Two of my favorites:

WonderMill Junior Hand Mill
WonderMill Junior Hand Mill Deluxe
Easily grind wheat, rice, legumes and beans as large as garbanzos. It can even grind oily seeds, nuts, herbs, and coffee!
WonderMill Wheat Grinder
The WonderMill Electric Wheat Grinder
Grind Buckwheat, Rye, Oats, Millet, Popcorn Kernels, Triticale, Chick Peas, Soybeans, Rice, Pinto Beans, Wheat (Hard and Soft)

Other choices:

Uses, Types and Storage Length of Some Common Grains

Rolled Oats:

  • Uses - Breakfast cereal, granola, cookies, filler in meat loafs or casseroles, thickener for soups/stews.
  • Types - Quick rolled oats or regular rolled oats. Quick oats cook faster but regular oats or steel cut retain flavor and nutrition better.
  • Storage - If unopened, optimum shelf life is up to 30 years. If opened should be used within 1 year. I recommend storing large amounts in an airtight plastic container and pulling out a smaller amount every few months for your actual usage/rotation.


  • Uses - Wheat grass (sprouting), appetizers, desserts, breakfast cereals, crackers, brownies, tortillas, breads, pancakes, muffins, cakes, snacks, in salads, to make vegetarian meat/protein, and any other baking item you would use flour for.
  • Types - Spring or winter, hard or soft, red or white. Hard varieties have higher gluten (protein) and are better for making breads. Soft varieties have lower protein and nutrients but are better for pastries, pastas, and breakfast cereals. Red wheats are typically hard and whites are typically soft. However if you prefer the flavor of one over the other you can find soft red and hard white. Experiment with different varieties in your recipes to find out what works best for you.
  • Storage - If unopened, optimum shelf life is 30 years or more. If opened will last about 3 years. However, once ground into flour, wheat loses most of its nutrients within a few days so only grind small amounts at a time. You can add oxygen absorbers, bay leaves, or dry ice to help keep critters out of your wheat.

Cornmeal or corn:

  • Uses - Grits, cornbread/muffins, mush, johnnycake, hush puppies, breading on fried items.
  • Types - Steel ground or stone ground. Most common is steel ground, it has husk and germ almost all removed. Loses flavor and nutrients but has a long shelf life. This is what you will find at the grocery store. Stone ground retains more of the husk and germ but is more perishable. Cornmeal can be found in white, yellow, red, and blue varieties. Yellow and white are the most common.
  • Storage - If unopened, optimum shelf life is 5 years. If opened will last about 1 year. A better idea, however, is to store dehydrated whole corn and buy a grinder to make your own cornmeal. Whole corn, either freeze-dried or dehydrated, will last as long as wheat - about 25 years.

Enriched White Rice:

  • Uses - Rice pudding, cereal, casseroles, side dishes.
  • Types - Bleached or unbleached. Both have had their bran and germ portions removed and are “enriched” by adding back some of the lost nutrients. Bleached has been chemically bleached while unbleached goes through a natural bleaching process.
  • Storage - If unopened, optimum shelf life is 30 years. If opened, about the same.

Brown Rice:

  • Uses - Brown rice can be used for any dish that you would use white rice. The advantage to brown rice is that it has more flavor (even without adding anything to it), and it's definitely more nutritious.
  • Types - There are not types, except maybe Basmati can be considered a type of brown rice.
  • Storage - Ahhh, here's where there has been a lot of disagreement. Some say 6 months - some say years. The issue, of course, is brown rice can become rancid because it contains natural oils. I have had rancid brown rice. It is not pleasant and rancidity is definitely not good for us. Not all preparedness stores carry brown rice. I have found it at The Ready Store in #10 cans, and now they have it in 30 lb. buckets. Augason Farms also carries brown rice in 26 lb. or 42 lb. buckets. .According to their website, brown rice has a shelf life of 7 years if unopened, 1 year if opened. I would only keep opened brown rice in the freezer if opened, to prevent rancidity.

Pearled Barley:

  • Uses - Thickener in soups and stews, in sides or casseroles similar to how you would use rice.
  • Types - You can buy pot barley which retains more of the nutritious germ and brand, but it has a shorter shelf life. Pearled barley is recommended for long-term food storage.
  • Storage - If unopened, optimum shelf life is about 10 years. If opened, it's good for about 18 months.

Other Grain Varieties

So far I have only mentioned the most common types of grains, but there are many others that you may prefer and actually, may already have included in your daily menus. Here's a list of some grains that are not as well known:


  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulger Wheat
  • Farro
  • Flax Seed — try these muffins-->
  • Job's Tears
  • Kamut Grain
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Rye
  • Sorghum
  • Spelt
  • Teff
  • Triticale
  • Wild Rice

Flax Seed Muffins

1 T. butter
1/4 c. ground flax seeds
1 T chia seeds (optional) (ground or whole)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cocoa (heaping)
1-2 tsp. sugar or sugar substitute
1 egg

Sometimes called MIMs (Muffin In a Mug or Muffin In a Minute), I mix ingredients in a large coffee cup.
Melt butter in microwave. Add all ingredients and mix well. Microwave for 1 minute.

Smother with butter while hot or add your favorite jam or honey. But really they don't need anything but butter. Delicious!

(Don't tell your kids or husband that they are eating a good-for-them supply of fiber.)

What about food alergies?

Yes, many people cannot enjoy any foods containing gluten, or may have other food allergies that prevent them from eating the most ubiquitous grain — wheat.

Michelle, one of our readers, shared this:

My son has food allergies and am wondering if I can preserve the flours I use for him in Mylar with O2 absorbers.

So how do you use and store other flours? If someone in your family has allergies to grains, read the answer to the question HERE.

Storing grains that are so basic to our daily meals is not only a good idea, but they are nutritious, healthful. So basically, most grains store very well in a cool, dry, and dark environment for many, many years. Add the grains that your family likes to your long term food storage.

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