Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Q&A - What is the Shelf Life of Flour?

Hi Ray & Trayce,
Do  you know what the shelf-life is of flour, and how do you keep it from getting weevils? - Peg

Hello Peg,
This is a great question, specially for folks who are setting up their food storage.
To give you a short answer, it depends on where you store it.
You can store it in your freezer for up to 12 months
You can store it in your refrigerator for up to 6 months
Or you can store it at room temperature (your cupboards / pantry)  for  up to 3 months
Before tackling the question, I want to talk a little bit about food storage. When you store any sort of food, it is oxygen who is the enemy.  The more air you can take out of your food storage containers, the better. One of the greatest investments Tracye and I have made is our FoodSaver. The one we own is the V2420, which I think is outdated. But we love it and it still is chugging right along.  Probably today's equivalent is the FoodSaver V2240. These run about $100.00 and they are worth every penny. You do not know how much leftovers we have saved and not gone to waste because of this. This was one of the first "preparedness" products that we purchased.
I mention this product because with this you can help prevent getting those weevils in your flour and possibly even extend the food items you are storing.
If you do not have a FoodSaver, then you can also use 1 gallon Zip Lock Freezer Bags.
Don’t go cheap and get the regular 1 gallon storage bags, get the thicker freezer bags. They will prevent punctures a lot better instead of the regular bags.
Another item I want to mention are Oxygen Absorbers. These are the little packets you find in vitamin bottles, specialty chips, dried seaweed, basically anything that needs to maintain zero humidity in the package. What these packets do is "absorb" the left over oxygen in the package and helps prevent oxidization of the food product, which makes it stale and then rot.
With the FoodSaver
FoodSaver Vacuum Food Sealer
1 FoodSaver Bag cut to size and sealed on the bottom.
1 Oxygen absorber (optional)
1 Bag of Flour
Without the FoodSaver
1 Gallon Zip Lock Freezer Bag
1 Drink Straw
1 Oxygen absorber
1 Bag of Flour
1. Keep your flour in the packaging. This is yet another barrier to help keep your food safe and bug free.
2. Put your bag of flour into a FoodSaver bag.
3.  Add your oxygen absorber packet
4 Suck the air out and seal the bag
Once you have done this your bag of flour has a pretty dense feel to it because almost all the air has been taken out of the package.
Now that you have this, you can store it in your pantry, refrigerator or freezer.
If you do not have a FoodSaver, you can achieve something close to these results by putting your flour in  the freezer Zip Lock bag and zip it just about all the way.
Put your drink straw into the un-zipped portion of the bag and try to suck out as much air as you can. You can put your fingers around the straw and zipper opening and that will help you keep a better seal.
As you are sucking the air out and once you have gotten to the point where you are ready to seal, you need to pull the straw out while sucking and zip the bag all in one motion.
You may not get this on the first try, so do the best you can.
In today's world I have been telling people to start looking at food as an investment. The  on May 4rd, 2010 the commerce department released its Personal Consumption Expenditures Index  and guess what, food and energy prices have risen 18.7. This is compared to prices in February 2010. How many of you would like to see your mutual funds go up 18.7%? That is a good rate of return for your money.
Well, 18.7% is how much you have lost just by purchasing food in March verses in February. People need to start looking at food as an investment. Money saved is money earned. 
Folks, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the prices are only going to go up further as we progress more into the year and even further as the years progress.
So not only is buying in bulk wise, it is also prudent of you to do so.
1 5-gallon Plastic Storage Container- this needs to be HDPE, which stands for High Density Polyethylene. If you look on the bottom of the bucket you will see the recycle symbol, a triangle of arrows surrounding the number 2.
If the bucket has this, it is food grade.
Now check what was stored in the bucket prior to storing your flour. Often dill pickles are stored in these, if you get them used. To check, just smell the bucket. You can tell what was stored usually by the smell. It might smell like maple syrup, ketchup, mustard, relish, pickles, there are a lot of things. If they smell, you may want to find a different bucket because your flour may absorb some of the smell.
1 5-6-gallon mylar bag
1 2x4 approximately 12- 14 inches long
1 cotton bath towel
4-5 oxygen absorbers
6-7 whole dried bay leaves
A cheap or used standard iron for ironing clothes - if you have a FoodSaver, you can use this as well.
Bag of bulk flour
Take your bucket and make sure it is cleaned out. In the bottom of the bucket put 1 oxygen absorber and 3-4 bay leaves.
Next, open your mylar bag and put it in the bucket. Push it down to the bottom and get a good fit.
Put an oxygen absorber into the mylar bag
Add your flour to half way
Add another oxygen absorber
Fill the rest of the bag to about 3 inches from the rim of the bucket
NOTE: You should have a good amount of bag left.
Put an 1-2 oxygen absorbers on top of the flour, and close up the bag.
Make sure the bag is NOT folded but both sides of the bag can touch each other.
Wrap the 2x4 in the towel and put it across the rim of the bucket
Lay a part of the bag on the 2x4 and with the hot iron, quickly seal the bag.
Depending on how your bag is situated, you can seal 2-3 places.
Cut off any excess mylar bag
Put 1-2 more oxygen absorbers on top of the bag with 4-5 bay leaves.
Put the lid onto your bucket and seal it up tight.
On the lid or on the side tape a label telling you the contents as well as the date you sealed the flour.
If you have the room, store it in your freezer and it will keep up to a year, 6 months in your refrigerator  or 3-6 months in your pantry depending upon the temperature.
Above all, make sure you rotate your stock and eat off of your food stores. In the end you will see your grocery bill start to go down because you are not shopping as much because you have purchased in bulk.
Now you can use this same method in storing dry goods like beans, lentils, rice and wheat. These items will keep for years.
Just to make a point, wheat discovered in King Tut's tomb was still edible and able to make flour from it even after being over a thousand years old.
I hope that this has helped answer some of your food storage questions. If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me at raygano@mail (DOT) com.


  1. Ray, wouldn't it be best to store the whole grain and grind it as you need it? It would be hard to store enough flour that wouldn't go bad before this crisis is over. (I am thinking this crisis will be years long.)

  2. I just ordered a grinder. Should arrive this week :-) NEW TOY, NEW TOY, YAY!!!!

  3. Hi ya Christine,

    It is easier to store whole grain and grind as you need. I will write a follow-up and address storing whole grains as well as talk about wheat grinders.

    Thanks for the input!