Flour is one of the trickiest items to store as a prepper. Although it’s considered non-perishable, it does not have a long shelf life when compared to other non-perishable items, like salt and sugar. I’ll never forget the times that I pulled my bin of flour out of the pantry only to find itty bitty but very unappetizing bugs living inside. So I figured this was not a good way to store flour, and there had to be some better methods available.
Flour can be stored short-term in the packages that you purchase it in. However, if you want to store flour for long periods of time, the best method is to freeze it to kill off any insects and then package it in mylar bags, cans, or 5 gallon buckets, with oxygen absorbers. Keep in mind that there are other methods to store your flour, as well.
In this article, we’re going to talk about how to store flour long-term. We’ll give you the best ways to store your flour, an alternative to storing flour, and tell you how long it will last. But first, let’s talk about whether or not flour goes bad and what makes that happen.
Does Flour Go Bad?
Although flour is considered a non-perishable item, it can actually go bad. The type of flour you are storing and the way it is stored will drastically affect its shelf life. Storing flour the right way can extend its shelf life, but in order to store it well, you need to know what makes it go bad.
What Makes Flour Go Bad?
There are several reasons your flour might go bad.
- Oxidation. A chemical reaction occurs when flour is exposed to air, and the oxygen can break down the nutrients. The natural oils in the flour will turn rancid, which makes the flour taste and smell bad.
- Mold. Humidity in the air can cause your flour to absorb moisture and grow mold. If your flour smells moldy, you shouldn’t use it.
- Bugs. Often, your flour will be infested with grain bugs, such as weevils, before you even bring it home from the grocery store. You won’t see the eggs when you first open the flour, but in a few months, they can hatch, and you’ll suddenly notice your flour is infested with bugs.
- Odors. Odors in your pantry or kitchen can be absorbed by your flour. When this happens, it can affect the smell and taste of the food you make. Never store cleaning products near your pantry to prevent your flour and other non-perishables from absorbing the chemical odors.
How Long Does Flour Last?
The type of flour affects its shelf life. For example, all-purpose white flour will typically last up to one year in your pantry and up to two years in your freezer, whether you open it or not. Alternative flours, such as coconut flour or oat flour, have a much shorter shelf life. They may only last three months in your pantry and up to a year in your freezer.
The fat content in white flour is much less than in other types, which is the main reason it has a longer shelf life. Most of the time, flour will come with a ‘best by’ date stamped on the packaging. This is for the manufacturer to say that the flour will be at peak quality until that date. However, your flour won’t automatically go bad if that date passes – as long as it is ‘still good’ – you can still use it.
How Long Does Flour Last?
|Type of Flour||Pantry Storage||Freezer Storage|
|All-Purpose Flour||1 year||2 years|
|Alternative Flours||3 months||Up to 1 year|
|Whole Wheat Flour||1 – 3 months||Up to 1 year|
The way the flour is processed affects its shelf life. For example, white flour, which is typically used for baked goods and cookies, has the longest shelf life. It is the most refined of the types of flour, and when it is processed, the bran and germ are stripped away. The starchy endosperm is all that is left, so there is less fat in this type of flour to go rancid. It also makes a lighter, fluffier, whiter baked good
Whole wheat, which many consider a healthier option to white flour, is less processed. It contains all three parts of the grain, so you’ll find it has the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. The bran and germ have much more oil than the endosperm, which is why whole-wheat flour will spoil faster.
Gluten-free and alternative flours are typically higher in oil and moisture, which makes them more susceptible to mold and rancidity.
How to Tell If Your Flour Has Gone Bad
There are some tell-tale signs that your flour has gone bad.
- The smell. Flour has very little natural odor. Some flours have a slightly sweet or even nutty smell. However, if the flour is bad, it will have a sour or musty odor. You may also smell mold, in which case, the flour should be disposed of.
- You see bugs. While weevils are said to be harmless, they aren’t very appetizing. You can kill the bugs by freezing your flour for several days. The flour is still usable after you have killed the bugs. Then, if desired, you can sift the flour the remove the bugs.
Methods of Storing Flour
There are several methods of storing flour, based on how long you want to store your flour.
Store flour in its original packaging in your pantry.
Most flour comes from the grocery store in paper packaging. If you just put that package right into your pantry, it may last up to a year.
Store flour in its original packaging in the freezer.
This will keep your flour good for up to two years. However, it may absorb moisture from the freezer, which can make it go bad more quickly. Storing flour in the freezer will kill any weevil eggs that may be present but unseen.
Vacuum sealing will extend the shelf life of your flour up to 1 to 2 years. However, you may want to freeze your flour for several days before vacuum sealing to kill any insect eggs. Also, you need to keep the flour in the original container so that the vacuum sealer doesn’t suck up the individual particles of flour. Just place your sealed flour bag into a vacuum sealer bag and follow the manufacturer’s directions on your vacuum sealer.
In a sealed container with oxygen absorbers.
Oxidation occurs when the flour is exposed to air and can make your flour go rancid. You can add oxygen absorbers into your sealed flour container to prevent this. You’ll want to use air-tight containers, such as canning jars or buckets with gasket lids. Add your oxygen absorbers based on the size of the container. They will absorb the oxygen that cause your flour to go bad, extending the shelf life to five or more years.
Mylar Bags with Oxygen Absorbers
The best method for storing flour long-term is in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. When stored correctly, this can extend the shelf life of your flour to ten years or more. Mylar bags prevent light, moisture, and oxygen from getting inside. When you add oxygen absorbers, the air left in the container also gets absorbed. This means that insect eggs can’t hatch, and the flour can’t grow mold or go rancid.
Keep in mind that once you open the mylar bag, air and moisture can get to your flour, and you’ll need to use it up within six months to a year. But if you keep your mylar bags sealed, your flour should last for years.
A Flour Alternative If You Can’t Store Flour
If storing flour this way feels like a lot of work, that’s because it is. However, if that is your goal, you can purchase bulk containers of wheat berries that are packaged for long-term storage. Wheat berries have a shelf life of many years when stored properly. According to Utah State University, wheat berries that were stored in No. 10 cans at the correct temperature were still usable after 32 years!
Keep in mind, however, that if you store wheat berries, you will also need a grain mill to turn the berries into a usable flour.
Final Thoughts on Storing Flour Long Term
The best way to store flour long-term is to package it into mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. Then, keep it in a cool, dark, and dry place where it isn’t susceptible to rodents, heat, light, or moisture.
Can expired flour make you sick?
Flour that is past its best by date isn’t necessarily bad since the best by date usually represents peak quality, not expiration. However, you’ll want to make sure that what you consume is still good. If the flour smells bad, it is no longer safe to eat.
Flour that is moldy can make you sick.
Can you dry can flour?
No. Dry canning, or oven canning, is not a safe long-term method of storing food. It can cause bacteria and mold to grow. In addition, dry canning can cause your flour to deteriorate more quickly. In some cases, dry canning can even cause jars to explode.