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More Than Wheat: Why You Should Store Other Grains

In the past, my emergency food storage consisted of several hundred pounds of wheat and rice, along with other staples, canned goods, and oils. Then I had to live on it for several months. I discovered that, among other things, storing only wheat and rice as staple grains posed a few problems.

First, wheat is a fairly harsh grain and many people have allergies to it, a fact I didn’t realize until we were eating whole-wheat bread several times per day. Additionally, a diet consisting of mostly wheat quickly becomes monotonous. As an adult, I had the self-discipline to eat the boring diet anyway, but kids aren’t always quite so sensible. In the midst of a crisis, the last thing you need is a child who refuses to eat.

Since then, I’ve expanded my repertoire to store other grains, as well. This practice ensures that our family has a well-rounded diet that includes enough variety to keep us happy and give us the nutrients we need. Below you’ll find more information on great grains to store.


Amaranth is not really a grain at all, but the seed of a plant related to cockscomb. It doesn’t contain gluten and won’t produce a raised bread, but it has a pleasant, nutty flavor that works well in cooked cereals or soups. Amaranth is a good source of lysine, an amino acid lacking in wheat and other grains. Eat it cooked, rather than raw, since it contains compounds in the raw form that inhibit nutrient absorption.


Some researchers believe barley was the first grain cultivated by man. Unhulled barley has a very hard shell, while hulled barley, like brown rice, doesn’t store well. Most of the barley sold commercially is pearled barley, which has been stripped of its hull, as well as much of the bran and germ. Although this removes some of the nutritive value, pearled barley can still add variety to your food storage. Add it to soups, stews and cereal, or use the flakes in baking.


This ancient grain is actually the seed of a plant related to rhubarb. The hard, black shell is hulled to reveal light or dark triangular seeds. The seeds are ground into a flour called groat and used in soba noodles, pancakes, or flatbreads. The Middle Eastern dish kasha is simply buckwheat toasted in oil to remove its bitter flavor. Buckwheat does have a unique taste. Some people love it; others have few positive things to say about it. Buy a small amount before you invest in buckwheat for your food storage.


Kamut was first cultivated in Egypt and the Tigris-Euphrates valley. This ancient grain can be substituted for whole wheat and whole-wheat flour, but has up to 40 percent more protein and 65 percent more amino acids. It has a pleasant buttery flavor.


In the United States, millet is used mostly for birdseed, but this mild-tasting little grain is a staple food in China and India. Millet is more digestible than other grains because it’s fairly alkaline. It also swells considerably when wet and provides more servings per pound than any other grain. Use it for hot cereals or combine the flour with other flours to make bread.


Oats, like barley, are hard to hull and are usually sold as groats, old-fashioned flakes, or quick-flakes, which have been par-boiled. Nutritional value is the same, regardless of the processing method. Oats are a good source of fiber and are known for their heart healthy benefits. Keep a supply of them in your storage for making oatmeal, granola, cookies, or granola bars or for thickening soups and meat loafs.


Considered sacred by the ancient Inca, quinoa is one of the most nutritious grains available. It contains eight amino acids, ample amounts of protein, B vitamins, phosphorus, iron, and calcium. It has a mild flavor that blends well with other ingredients in soups and salads, but it can also be used as a hot cereal, served with fresh fruit and milk. Quinoa grows best at altitudes above 12,000 feet above sea level. In the United States, farmers in the Rocky Mountains harvest over 200,000 pounds of quinoa each year. In the past, quinoa was much more expensive than other grains, although prices are coming down as demand grows. You’ll even find large bags of it at warehouse stores. Rinse quinoa well before cooking it to remove the waxy, bitter shell.


Whether you call it spelt, dinkel, or farro, spelt is a nutritionally dense grain worth keeping. It contains eight amino acids, fiber, and a pleasant, nutty taste. In medieval Europe, Saint Hildegard von Bingen described spelt as having healing powers. Spelt is high in gluten and can replace whole-wheat flour in bread recipes.


A cross between rye and durum wheat, triticale is high in protein and similar to wheat. Use the berries in hot cereals, soups, and side dishes or grind it into flour.

Where To Buy Specialty Grains

Many natural food stores sell specialty grains in bulk. Watch for sales and stock up by the bagful to keep the cost down. Another option is online retailers that specialize in emergency preparation foods.

Storing Specialty Grains

Like wheat, hard-shelled grains, including kamut, millet, spelt, triticale, and dry corn keep for a long time unless stripped of their outer shell. When stored in oxygen-free, hermetically sealed containers, these grains last for at least ten to twelve years. At temperatures below 70 degrees, they may list several years longer.

Soft-shelled grains are more perishable because they don’t have the protection of a hard coat. These grains, including barley, oats, quinoa, and rye, remain viable for about eight years if stored in oxygen-free containers. Again, storing them at cool temperatures increases their shelf life.

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