At PreparednessMama, we always like to give our readers the best tips on food storage to be prepared for anything. Today we want to share our advice for how best to store flour.
With the right storage conditions and proper packing, flour can last a quarter century! The first step is to make sure your food storage area (whether it be the basement, the pantry, your friend’s house, etc) is kept between temperatures of 40 and 70 degrees. Once the temperature is right, you can prepare your flour for storage. You will need a few food grade 5-gallon buckets, ziplock bags, oxygen absorbers, and a measuring cup. The flour will be poured in bags, the bags placed in buckets, and the oxygen absorbers added to ensure long-term freshness.
Read on to learn how to maintain long-term flour storage in bulk.
Why is Flour Storage Important?
You might be interested in how to incorporate cooking ingredients into your 3 month food supply plan. Many of our readers want to be as prepared as possible for the next unexpected crisis.
This could be a natural or political disaster that causes a food shortage. Or, like is the case today, a viral pandemic may require us to stay home for weeks or even months.
In cases like these, you want to be able to rely on your own supply of food. These might be frozen goods or cooking ingredients in the pantry. Either way, you want to have enough stock to last you for at least a few months. Flour is an essential component of a whole host of American meals that we know and love.
You don’t want to skimp out on flour, but it’s not necessarily obvious how to store flour properly. How can you ensure that it’s going to last you a long time?
You may have already read our more extreme preparedness guide for food storage. If you’re concerned about the future, or just want to be prepared, even longer storage is important.
For those with the resources available, consider our guide to a 25 year emergency food supply. Most of these foods are freeze dried or vacuum sealed to guarantee such a long shelf life.
Flour is present in many of our comfort foods
Why is flour such an essential ingredient for long term storage? Whether a pantry item to bulk up your 3 month food supply, or part of long term emergency storage, flour is used a lot.
Craving pancakes? Better have enough flour. Plan on baking… anything? You’ll need some flour. How about homemade pasta? Chances are, it’s made with flour. You can even make your own delicious bread with nothing more than flour and water!
Would it surprise you to learn that humans have been using flour for over 8,000 years? It’s true! Archaeologists have found evidence of ancient civilizations using crushed wheat seeds to make food that dates back to 6,000 BC!
Flour is essential for quality baked, fried, and breaded meats or vegetables, like this delicious pork cutlet. Craving some delicious fried mushrooms? Some corn starch is necessary, but don’t forget the flour!
The storage processes that we’ll discuss today mainly apply to wheat based flour. This is the primary type of flour that’s used in the United States, Canada, and most of Europe.
Even when flour is labeled as whole wheat, we’re still dealing with the same basic ingredients as white flour. So, the storing process is essentially identical.
Store flour the right way
Until about a century ago, flour couldn’t stay good for longer than about a year. This is because the part of the seed that reproduces, called the germ, can go bad after a short time.
It’s too hard to separate the germ from the rest of the seed, because it’s so small. So, until not that long ago, flour had a pretty limited shelf life. This changed when people discovered that heat treatment could separate the germ from the rest of the powdered wheat seed. This allowed flour to retain similar nutritional properties but last far longer.
Most store bought flour will last far longer than the basic ground wheat seed stuff. This is because nearly all flour is heat treated and able to withstand spoiling. However, you still need to follow some guidelines for storing if you want it to last for years.
Also be sure exactly what type of flour you’re buying and label it on your storage. This way you won’t forget later on. Remember, this method will allow your flour to last for decades!
The challenge: Storing and moving 50 pounds of flour!
My motivation for this article was born out of necessity. This month I am moving across the country. It has been a long process that is almost finished. I’ve had to move all of my food storage. And, let me tell you, it’s been a chore.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad to have my long term food storage. We will certainly use all of it, but moving it is a pain. About a month ago I decided that I needed to have another 50 pounds of non brominated flour from my favorite whole foods store – Bob’s Red Mill. This means that the flour is more natural, and hasn’t been tainted by unnatural dyes or chemical additives.
I’m not sure what possessed me to purchase 50 more pounds of flour. Especially right as I was preparing to travel 2,300 miles! Today I find myself with a big bag of flour that will not travel well in its current state.
To store 50 pounds of flour:
I will be using this flour fairly soon (I’m planning a bread making challenge) but this quick tip holds true for long term food storage too. Flour will last 20-30 years in food grade buckets if kept at the proper temperatures.
All long term containers for flour should be stored at between 40 and 70 degrees for optimal shelf life and nutrition. Whole wheat flour does even better in colder storage conditions. If you have room in your fridge or freezer, great!
You will need:
-2 – 5 gallon food grade buckets
-12 ziplock bags
-10 -300cc oxygen absorbers (5 per bucket)
-Measuring cup or scoop
Why the zip bags you ask? I think it keeps the flour in more manageable portions and it makes packaging and using it cleaner and easier. You won’t have flour getting all over every time you open the bucket. It is also another barrier to pests getting into the food.
When I want to use some, I just remove a bag with 12 cups of flour and seal the bucket back up.
Storing bulk flour in bags inside your buckets
Measure out 12 cups of flour per bag and get as much air out of it as you can. When it comes to long term shelf life, oxygen is not your friend! An airtight container, however, is.
Place the bags inside of your buckets. One bucket will hold 6 plastic bags of flour.
If you are keeping them in storage for long term add 5 – 300cc oxygen absorbers per bucket. Each absorber will remove the oxygen for 1 gallon. If you are going to use the flour within the next year, you can skip this all together.
These oxygen absorbers are very affordable and an essential step for multi-year shelf life.
Ideally, the basement would be a good place to store your multi-gallon buckets. Basements tend to be cooler than the rest of the house, maintaining low temperatures even in the summer months. Even if you live in an area prone to flooding, your flour will be stored in airtight buckets.
No basement? No problem. As long as you keep your storage containers out of the sun, the pantry should do just fine. Be sure to keep an eye on your indoor temperature. The pantry shouldn’t exceed about 70 degrees Fahrenheit in order to keep that flour fresh for years on end.
So no reason to worry about water (or pests) getting in there. These flour-filled buckets are an ideal addition to your 25 year emergency food supply. But, if you do plan on making your flour stay fresh for that long, consider using Mylar instead of ziplock bags.
Mylar is a more durable, longer lasting alternative that will maintain freshness for indefinite periods of time.
Extra Tip! Dry Oven Canning Flour
Dry oven canning is all the rage now. It is a work-intensive method to store dry goods long term without having to worry about bugs and their offspring ruining your precious emergency food supply. Oven canning has another (huge) advantage: the dry goods are stored in mason jars, which means that they’re extra protected from rodents and other vermin.
According to some die-hard preppers, oven canned dry goods, if stored correctly, can last up to 3 decades. I’ve never tried this method of storing flour in bulk for that extra long haul, but I am seriously thinking about giving it shot.
What is dry oven canning? Dry oven canning means placing dry foods such as flour in sterilized jars and heating them for a certain time and a certain temperature with the lids off. The entire process is designed to kill off any larvae or bugs hiding in the food you’re canning to prevent them from spoiling it.
Oven canning works great on flour, rolled oats, rice, beans, cornmeal, and anything with less than 10% moisture. Oven canning is one of the many dry pack canning methods that I’ve covered in my other blog post: Use Dry Pack Canning Methods to Preserve Food.
Since oven canning is not my area of expertise, I’ll let that nice lady from OurHalfAcreHomestead show you how to do it.
Do you have other thoughts on how to best store flour in bulk for the long haul? Please add your comments below!
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Kym W says
Love your site just found it today. I have been storing food for years and have never used oxygen absorbers. however I think i need to learn more on them as a way to help protect my food.
In this post I think I understand you to say that you are putting oxygen absorbers in the bucket and not in the flour its self? Can I ask why?
Thank you and a keep up the awesome job!!
Glad you found us! Either way works, Kym
Flour Storage- Long Term
Flour in zip lock bags without oxygen absorbers in each bag will not work long term because air is in the ziplock bags.. Sealed Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers in each bag are a better choice for long term. Please search the Internet for more information on storing flour long term.
Andrew Yazolino says
Thank you. I will search on but wanted to see what your thoughts are about the need for sterilization concerns with mylar or even ziplocks. And, introducing o2 absorbers directly in contact with flour is ok?
What size ziplock bags are you using?
One gallon bags work best.
I’m so happy to find this info out about storage. When you do the ziplock bags for flour/sugar….. for longer term storage will it work too putting the 6 ziplock bags of 12 cups of Flour/sugar then inside a 5 gallon Mylar bag with oxygen absorbers inside the Mylar bag then sealing the Mylar, then inside a bucket ?
I’ve never tried that. It is a great idea though. Let us know how it went.
I’m planning on storing rice, beans and flour in my garage since this is the only space I have available. I live in California and tge temperature reaches over a hundred degrees in the summer. What will happen to my stored food if the temperature is over 70?
I’ve never tried storing flour above 70. I guess you run the risk of spoilage faster. Plus, the combo of food, high temps, and plastic bags is not that great as nasty chemicals can easily contaminate the food.
And this is one of the reasons that dry pack canning is not a good idea. If storing dry goods above 70 degrees degrades quality, what do you think heating them in the oven will do? It should be mentioned that dry pack canning is NOT an FDA approved/recommended type of canning. What your do in your kitchen is your business, but as a former restauranteur, I’m very strict with food safety and approved canning methods. Please update your site so new canners know the full info.
jennifer parsons says
Hi. I just found this site and I had a question. I have 50lbs of Bread Flour and I wanted to know when I go to store then in the 5 gallon buckets can I use an unscented trash bag to line the bucket or does it have to be a food grade liner?
No need for a liner.
Maddy ? says
Thank you for such an awesome article. I’m happy to share some of the tips I’ve been using to bulk up my long-term flour storage.￼￼
Be sure to thoroughly wipe down any storage containers with an anti-septic such as isopropyl alcohol, a 100:7 ratio bleach and water solution, white vinegar or even Everclear. ￼￼ A spray bottle works better than a cloth as it is sometimes difficult to get into the grooves and formations of plastic buckets and lids. ￼Air dry as opposed to towel drying.￼
Freeze bags of flour for two weeks before transferring to long-term storage packaging and containers.￼ this will kill any pantry moth larva that may be in your flour product or on the packaging.￼
Place a fresh bay leaf inside your flower before storing it away.￼ I’ve never known this to affect the flavor of anything I’ve ended up using the flour for.
Soak cotton balls in bay leaf oil or peppermint oil and tuck them into the corners of each pantry shelf. Nearly any pest that enjoys snacking on pantry items finds these two fragrances completely repellent. I alternate between Bai and peppermint just in case the pests decide to build up a tolerance for one or the other.￼ if larger buckets are being stored in another part of your home such as your basement you can place a cotton ball between stacked containers or lightly scotch tape it to the bucket itself.￼
Use decorative dry erase whiteboard labels for your flour storage.￼￼ sometimes the contents of containers will change and gummy, scratched off labels can accumulate over time. This is not only unattractive but gives bacteria and larva a neat place to embed themselves in. ￼￼ whiteboard labels can simply be a raced with a swipe of the thumb and relabeled. They are also really attractive and make your pantry neat and cheerful.￼
Thank you for the tips
Nathaniel James says
Thanks for spreading the good news about food preparedness but you are misinforming people regarding how to store for long term. Even with the oxygen absorbers air will get through a ziplock bag.
Mylar, food grade bags are the type you want to use. For anything over ten years you need 7mm thickness.
Please research this and update your site.
Crystal McLaughlin says
I was wondering if I could vacuum seal bags of flour then store in buckets with oxygen absorbers would this last long term?
I may have missed this, but do you freeze your flour before packaging it to store? I have read of freezing from 1-2 days up to one week to kill larvae. I just found your site and appreciate you sharing your knowledge.
If you’re using oxygen absorbers you don’t need to freeze the flour. Any bugs should be dead by the two-week mark.
I thank you for your post. I just got 50 lbs of organic flour and was so relieved when I found this post. I got the bucket you suggested and the oxygen things. I just finished packing away 25 lbs and now can’t get that lid to seal. I used a mallet as the directions said and felt like I was whacking it pretty hard. I’ve also left this question on Amazon. I’m just hoping for a hint or suggestion about what I might be doing wrong. If you’ve any advice, I’d love to hear it. Thanks! BTW, the first 25 lbs went into large jars I already had so I only have the one bucket. If I can’t get it to seal, I’ll try getting more jars. But I’d sure love to get that bucket to work. Thanks again.
I have 3000cc oxygen absorbers can we use them in place of the 5 300cc ones or is that too much of an oxygen absorber.
There no such thing as a too much of an oxygen absorber. An oversized oxygen absorber will just shut down when it has run out of oxygen.
Thank you for the information.
Katherine L Smith says
I just opened a #10 can of white flour from my food storage dated 19 years ago. It had a moisture absorber in it and the flour is off white with a tin odor. Is it any good? I’m hesitant.
I have no clue, Kathy. We constantly rotate our bulk inventory so we haven’t had any flour last that long.
I was wondering about putting it in the freezer before storing. Thanks!
Linda Steele says
I remember my mother storing approximately 100 lbs. (for our family of seven) of flour in a huge metal barrel with bay leaves to keep the weevils out. She made three or four loaves of bread every week, seven dozen cookies, pancakes, cinnamon rolls, pies, cakes in addition to cooking a full dinner everyday as my father was a rancher and farmer and I had three hard working, growing brothers. We never had any trouble with the weevils or bad flour.
Would it be OK to just put the flour with the oxygen absorber directly into the 5 gal bucket? I would only plan on storing for up to a few years. I was just wondering if it’s alright to skip the gallon ziplock bag portion? Thanks for your article and help! It’s so nice to have a community of people who love helping others!