Buying in bulk is a good way to save money, but not if you don't use what you buy before it spoils. We'll share how to store flour long term and short term to keep it fresh and your baked goods tasty.
If you're prepping on a budget, buying bulk kitchen staples is more cost effective than buying premade emergency meals. Though it's gotten a bad rap in recent years, wheat flour has fed millions for centuries.
Types of Flour
Flour is made from finely ground grains, roots, nuts, or even dried vegetables. Wheat flour is what most people think of as “flour”, unless otherwise specified.
Other types of flour include: gluten free flour blends, rice flour, almond flour, chestnut flour, corn flour and many others.
Wheat flour is made with different types of wheat and different types of processing for different uses. There's hard wheat with higher protein for bread baking, soft wheat for pastries and more delicate baked goods, durum wheat for pasta, heirloom wheats like Einkorn, and more.
When it comes to long term storage, refined white flour is the preferred option.
I'm not talking about bleached, bromated, and enriched flour, just flour with the wheat germ and bran removed. The germ and bran contain natural oils, and those oils go rancid in storage.
Country Life Natural Foods carries bulk Gold N White flour in 5, 25 and 50 pound bags. You can find the Gold N White flour here, and get 10% off your order using coupon code “COMMONSENSE10” at checkout.
We also like King Arthur flour, and Bob's Red Mill flour. King Arthur is excellent flour. You will notice the difference in your baking. Bob's tends to have a coarser grind, and they focus more on whole grain flours, which don't keep as well. It's good for more rustic baking.
How to Store Flour to Prevent Bugs and Keep it Fresh
First, check the “Best by” date on your flour. In a cool, dry location, flour will keep in it's original packaging for at least a month after its Best by date. If you use your flour promptly, it's okay to keep it in the bag.
That said, if you live in a warm, humid area, or want to store bulk flour, it's best to take some precautions.
Use Airtight Containers
Flour absorbs moisture, oxygen, and odors. It also attracts pest, like weevils. (Sometimes it even comes with pests – more on this in a bit.)
Moist flour is more likely to mold, and no one wants to eat that. Oxygen causes oxidation, where the oils and nutrients in the flour break down and go rancid. Pantry moths and other pests are always looking for a free meal, and a sturdy container will keep them out.
Mylar bags, air tight food grade plastic or glass containers, food grade buckets and glass jars are good to store flour. Vacuum sealing flour by placing the original bag into a large vacuum seal bag protects the flour and keeps it from clogging your sealer.
To Kill Bugs and Prevent Bugs
Given the nature of grains, it's possible your bulk flour may include eggs from weevils or other bugs.
To kill off the bugs and eggs, freeze your flour for 48 hours. Let it come up to room temperature before you transfer the flour to other containers.
To prevent bugs, place bay leaves in your flour storage containers, and seal the flour in airtight containers with O2 absorbers. Bugs need to breathe, too, so no air equals no live bugs.
Can you eat flour that has bugs in it?
Yes, but it may be rancid or spoiled. Freeze the flour for 48 hours to kill the bugs, then do the sniff test. You can sift bugs out, or if you are hungry enough, go ahead and eat them. They won't kill you, they're just gross.
Keep it Cool and Dry
Heat is the enemy of food storage. If possible, store pots and pans closer to the stove, and keep food in the coolest parts of your kitchen. Unheated basements are good for long term storage, because they tend to stay naturally cooler.
See “Preparedness Storage – Finding Room and Keeping it Safe and Sound” for more storage tips.
Storing Flour in the Fridge and Freezer
You want to stick with airtight containers in the refrigerator and freezer, too. Refrigerators are moist, and no one wants their cake flour to taste like onions.
Use glass jars or airtight plastic containers for storage. Thin plastic bags may allow moisture and odors in. Refined flour should last at least a year in the fridge, while whole wheat flour will last 6 to 8 months.
If you have room in the freezer, it's a good place to keep flour. Whole wheat or white flour should both be good for at least 2 years if kept at 0℉ or below. Stick to that airtight container to prevent odors.
Let flour return to room temperature before use to avoid clumping. Cold flour won't rise well for bread baking, either.
I always keep my gluten free flours and whole wheat flour in the freezer for longer storage.
Storing Flour Long Term
If you want to store flour long term, Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers are the way to go. Mylar is made from metalized polyester. It's airtight and bug proof.
Seal the bags inside a five gallon bucket or metal bin, and they are rodent proof, too. A five gallon bucket can hold around 20 to 30 pounds of flour.
For our household, we take five gallon Mylar bags and cut them in half. Each half holds ten pounds of flour, and we put two bags of flour in a bucket. I have an airtight bin in the kitchen that holds 10 pounds of flour.
Gallon sized bags are a good size to use for storage, because it protects the rest of the flour in the bucket. For 1-gallon bags, you should use 1-2 300cc oxygen absorbers.
All you need to do to store flour long term is:
- Pour flour into Mylar bags.
- Add oxygen absorbers.
- Seal the bag with an impulse sealer or hot iron.
- Date and label your bags.
- Place the bags into a five gallon bucket or other sturdy container. Label the container.
Flour packed this way should last for 10 years or more.
How can I tell if flour is bad?
If the smell or texture are off, it is probably spoiled. Fresh flour has a neutral odor. Rancid flour smells bitter, musty, or even metallic. Stale flour may not rise, and will give an “off” flavor to recipes.
Don't Forget Recipes!
Flour storage won't do you much good without reliable recipes. My book, Never Buy Bread Again, covers basic recipes like sandwich bread, potato rolls, and tortillas, plus troubleshooting and storage tips.
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