Confessions of a Wheat “Hoarder”

I’ve read numerous internet reports in recent days of people around the world hoarding food, particularly rice. My family doesn’t eat much rice. But if we did, I’d have hoarded a supply of it before now. That’s because I’ve been a food hoarder for years.

We hoard all kinds of food. We hoard wheat in plastic pails. We hoard crates of potatoes and net bags of onions. We hoard canning jars of applesauce, green beans, and dried beans. We hoard a freezer full of chickens and beef. If we eat much of something, we probably hoard it to some degree.

But we don’t call it hoarding. And we don’t condider it hoarding. We call it stocking up. It’s nothing new. It’s what rural folk have done for centuries. Traditionally speaking, stocking up just makes sense.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. It has occurred to me that I may be a food “hoarder” because of a childhood experience. When I was maybe eleven years old, my stepfather went into the hospital for surgery. He was in his middle 30s. The industrial laundromat where he had worked for several years, promptly fired him when he got sick. He came home from the hospital after a week and I was shocked to see how feeble he was. He recuperated at home and was out of work for a long time. My mother did not work outside the home. Finances were tight.

During that time, my parents came home one day with rice, powdered milk, cheese, and some other foods that thay had gotten for free from the government. They did this several times until my father got healthy and found work.

I didn’t like the government food. I didn’t like it that we were poor and needed “welfare.” I worried about it then. I worried about my parents finances for years after that.

Later, when I was in high school and had a part time job, I actually bought a supply of canned foods and stored the hoard in boxes under my bed, just in case. I guess I was traumatized for life when I was eleven years old. Maybe I should see a psychiatrist. :-)

When Marlene and I were married, we got involved in a co-op group. Bulk foods would be delivered to a local church and everyone in the co-op got together to divide it up. It was a “community thing” and a fun time. We bought all kinds of food in bulk and stored it in our two-room apartment in town. Some of it we stored in freezers at our parent’s homes. Buying in bulk was cheaper, and it was a good feeling to know we were stocked up, just in case.

When I started a chimney cleaning business, I remember cleaning the chimney of an older man who was a Mormon. He had a small home business making and selling electric grain grinders. I was fascinated. He explained to me that Mormons store grain and other food, just in case. This resonated with me. I knew enough about Mormonism that I felt it was unbiblical and wrong. But the food storage thing struck me as a very practical and wise thing to do.

And so it is that Marlene and I have always stocked up to some degree or another over the years.

Then came Y2k. Do you think we stocked up extra for Y2k? You better believe it! We got real serious about stocking up back then. A lot of people did. It was a practical and wise thing to do, just in case.

One of the things we really stocked up on back then was hard red winter wheat. I think we had over half a ton of it packed away in 5-gallon pails. The pails were stacked to the ceiling in our basement. We did that in 1998.

What does a family do with that much red wheat in the basement? Well, if you have a grain grinder, you can grind the grain into flour and make bread. That’s what Marlene has done for the past ten years. The stack of buckets has dwindled substantially. It is now more than 3/4 gone. Of course, if you have a little home bread baking business (as my wife does) that can use a lot of wheat too.

We haul the wheat, a bucket at a time, up from the basement and Marlene grinds it in an old, electric, Marathon grain mill. The mill was given to my mother by a friend and eventually handed on to us. The Marathon mill looks a lot like the grain mills that old Mormon guy made in his home. It employs stone burrs to do the grinding. The appliance gets a lot of use, has never given any problem, and does a great job. We have a hand-operated grinder for backup.

I’ve been saying to Marlene for over a year that I think we should restock some wheat in the basement. Now we’re finally getting to it. If I had restocked a year ago, I could have saved a lot of money. The current price for a 50 lb bag of “certified chemical free” hard wheat “berries” is $37. Six weeks ago, the same wheat was $26. I don’t recall how much a bag of wheat was in 1989. Probably around $13.

You might wonder about the quality of 10-year-old wheat that has been stored in my basement. Well, we took some pains to properly store the grain, and it is perfectly preserved.

What we did (and what we plan to do again very shortly) is utilize used plastic buckets (with lids) that we bought for a dollar each from a local dairy (they held ingredients for ice cream). We put a large mylar bag (20” by 30”) in each bucket, filled the bag with wheat, put in an oxygen absorber packet (500cc size), sealed the bag with a household iron, tucked it in, and put the lid on. Nothing could be easier. The oxygen absorber packet will remove the oxygen inside the bag, creating a vacuum. Stored thusly, wheat (and other grains) will keep very well for decades.

Pictures and more detail about the procedure I just explained can be found at this link: Walton Feed Mylar Food Storage Tutorial.

You can purchase mylar bags and oxygen absorbers from Walton Feed in Idaho. But, sorry to say, they have a terrible procedure for ordering. I recently tried ordering some mylar bags and O2 absorbers from them and it was frustrating.

I think Walton Feed might be a Mormon-owned company and Marlene suggested to me that maybe they don’t give good service unless you are a Mormon. I told her that they don’t know if I’m a Mormon or not. All they know is my name and address. But then it occurred to me that maybe they can tap into the massive, underground, nuclear-bomb-proof, Mormon genealogical database, and they actually did find out I’m not one of them...... Nah, on second thought, they probably have a lousy ordering system for everybody. Too bad.

Whatever the case, I’ve found another company. Sorbent Systems looks like it has everything needed and their online ordering system looks like it should be a lot faster and easier (I’ll know for sure very shortly). If someone reading this knows of another source for these items, please post a response here with the information.

Well, there you have the Confessions of a Wheat “Hoarder.” I know I'm not the only one doing this. Like I said, it's something all Mormons do and it's something that most rural people traditionally do. I'll bet most people reading this are food "hoarders."

But maybe you aren't a hoarder. And maybe what I've written here is resonating with you right now. If so, I sure do hope you will stock up, just in case. Aside from going to the store and buying extra food, I hope you’ll put a garden in. Most of what we stock up here is actually food we’ve raised in the growing season. Potatoes, squash, and onions are easy to grow, easy to store, and good food for winter eating. Marlene makes a LOT of meals around potatoes.

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A further thought.....

I had some reservations about publishing this essay. I wondered if it was wise to tell the whole world that we have buckets of wheat in our basement. But, in the end, I concluded that writing this may encourage others to stock up. And if that happens, that's a good thing. At least I think it is. (Then again,, as you all know now, I was mentally "damaged" in my youth.)

Besides that, 99% of those who read this blog do not live anywhere near me. Those that do, and that I know of, are country folks who I suspect are stocked up themselves. And regardless, I’m more than willing to share what I have, as I can, with my neighbors if they are ever in need.

Beyond that, there are, of course, the worst case scenarios. You can read those on some survivalist web sites. I’m not going to entertain such hypotheticals here. That would not be productive.

=========================

And speaking of productive things, in an upcoming essay I will tell you about a couple of easy, tasty ways to prepare and eat stored whole grains (without grinding them into flour). Stay tuned.....

27 comments:

Ginny said...

I have always been a stocker-upper. Way back when we bought our first home (a rundown trailer in a retirement community -- LOL!) I used to buy in bulk when stuff went on sale and find creative ways of storing it. Sometimes I just had to stack it right out in the open. One time, I had a couple of girlfriends over for supper and one of them went to the bathroom. She closed the door and, after a short interval, she shouted, "How much toilet paper do you two NEED!!!" LOL!

I have actually seen people in the store buying one roll of toilet paper at a time! (?)

Anyway, toilet paper is not all I stock up on. I stock up on whatever we use, whenever it is cheap, whenever I have the money.

Good article. Thanks for the encouragement.
:-D

Anonymous said...

Not only am I "guilty", but I have it all inventoried on Excel. With the way things are going, I often wonder if paper and pencil is smarter. Not Mormon, but do agree with the "year's supply", and they have some of the best info out there on preparedness.

Marci said...

We have stocked up for years as well. We buy in bulk and try to keep a good supply on hand. I have to admit I too thought about you shouting to the world (or at least the world that reads your blog) =) that you stocked up on wheat and then you asked all of us other hoarders to shout it out too. =)

Tabletop Homestead said...

(rising slowly from my chair) My name is Judy. And I'm a hoarder.

Alan said...

Hey Herrick,
We are definetly hoarders too. Maybe a little different though. We actually sell bread making supplies. If you are ever in Indiana we sell 50 lb. bags of chemical free hard wheat for $28.00a bag. Last year at this time it was about $16.00.

Andi said...

Hi Herrick,

Another good post!

One place to get oxygen absorbers and mylar bags is http://www.frugalsquirrels.com/store/index.html. I'm getting ready to order some from there to pack up the wheat I bought a couple of weeks ago. :-)

A great article on preparedness is "Common Sense Preparedness Just Makes Sense" by Jackie Clay at Backwoods Home (www.backwoodshome.com/articles/clay48.html).

Andi

Haymaker said...

I don't fall into the "store by the bucket" category yet, but I'll probably get there soon. I have transitioned into "shopping for the pantry" rather than "shopping for the meal." In other words, I shop to refill what I've used from the pantry as things come on sale instead of running around trying to find specific meals.

My turning point came when I babysat for someone as a teenager. They bought six months worth of food at a crack to save money. Meanwhile my cupboards at home were bare. That planted the seed...

Suzannah said...

I'm going to try this again, I seem to be having some trouble posting. Maybe it's the Mormon filter! Anyway, as a Mormon, please assure your wife that they have no way of tracking her, our implants don't kick in until 2012 (Ha! Ha!) Seriously though, Walton Foods is not owned by the LDS church, although it may be owned by a member, I don't know. I do know, that as a member, I can get wheat and other supplies from the Storehouse at a greatly reduced price. The guy who runs survivor blog (not a Mormon) says that you too can get supplies from the storehouse if you are polite. I do know, that you can go with a Mormon neighbor or family member (as long as you aren't afraid it will rub off). My non-member inlaws have been going with me for years to stock up. I can get wheat in 3 different ways. In #10 cans (5.8lb) for $2.02, In 7lb mylar bags for $1.89 and in 25lb bags (not good for long term storage) for $4.75) These prices are for Hard red wheat. Hard white is a little more. Anyway, Mormon or not, it is always wise to be prepared. You never know when a natural disaster or a personal financial disaster might hit you. I just found your blog a few weeks ago and absolutely love it! It really speaks to my inner agrarian! I appreciate all of the time you put into it, I can tell it's a labor of love!

Anonymous said...

Herrick,
Is there reason that you stock up on Hard Red wheat vs. Hard white? Is it personal preference or does one store better than the other?
Faith

Suzannah said...

I don't know about Herrick, but I can tell you that hard red wheat (HRW) is a little cheaper than (HWW), but, HWW looks more pleasant to some in baked goods and some say it is less bitter. I believe that HRW is easier to find, but I don't believe that there would be any appreciable difference in storage. Both should last over 30 years if stored properly. I think it's really just a personal preference.

Homestead Herbs said...

I'm waiting until next year to buy wheat when it'll be back to $16/50 lb bag. If it doesn't happen, I'm taking a road trip to Herrick's basement! :-)

Herrick Kimball said...

ginny-
I wasn't going to bring up the subject of toilet paper. But since you did.... Prior to y2k, there was a newspaper article about a guy around here who had 10 years of toilet paper hoarded. Personally, we didn't buy any for three years after y2k. We saved a lot of money buying ahead. Prices of everything went up after 2000.

anonymous-
You have your "hoard" inventoried on Excel?!!! Wow. I'm impressed.

Marci-
Maybe I shouldn't have let everyone know. Christina (Homestead Herbs) lives in Texas. Oh no! People from all over the country will be coming here.

HELLO JUDY.
Thanks for sharing.

alan-
Great price. Wish you were closer.

andi-
Thanks for the mylar bag & O2 absorber link. And I'll check out the Backwoods Home article. I recently subscribed to that magazine and have a year of back issues. What a great publication.

haymaker-
Shopping for the pantry instead of shopping for meals is a great concept. Thanks!

suzannah-
I'm glad you tried posting again. There is no Mormon filter here. I did some remodeling work for a fellow who lived across from a Mormon church. He told me they had a "cannery" in the church and were, as you say, very willing to help non-Mormons stock up. That is admirable. I wish more churches did that. I will say that the Baptist church I attend organized and did a lot to help a lot of people get stocked up prior to y2k.

anonymous-
When we stocked up on the red wheat, I don't think we knew about hard white wheat. But we got a bag of that kind of wheat a couple months ago. Marlene tried it and liked it. We are putting some of that away.

Christina-
I hope you are right and the price of wheat goes down in a year as you expect. But if not, I consider you a "neighbor" even though you live in Texas.

Anonymous said...

Hey Herrick - Just checking in as one of the 1% who actually live near you (a few miles outside of Syracuse) and have been reading your blog for over a year now. You are truly an encouragement to us, we love your blog. We are now into our 2nd season of successfully growing garlic...thanks to your advice, and the chickens are on their way. Must run and check e-bay for a grain grinder now:) -An aspiring agrarian brother and sister in Christ!

Michael Bunker said...

Hey Herrick,

My family began seriously stocking up in 1997, a year or so before we even heard about Y2K. Y2K did serve as a validation though, of what we already believed. Well, in 2000 I started traveling and speaking and our income was basically zilch for a year or two. Had we not stocked up and had a very nice amount of storage, we would not have been able to continue in the ministry during the leanest of years. Now, as you know, we live a preparedness lifestyle and try to grow and store most of our food ourselves.

I had an article published in Countryside magazine several years ago, that your readers might find helpful:

Be Prepared and Save Money by Buying More"

Thanks for all you do,

Michael Bunker

Anonymous said...

Herrick-

Yeah, it's turned into another "hobby". One day I went through my whole kitchen and wrote down what I had, and how many (cans, lbs., whichever fit best) I then went to Excel and started a spreadsheet inventory- categories, then the items in each category down the left, colums like "goal", "quantity on hand", "location", "notes", and "date item put in use" across the top. When I open or put an item in use, I make a note in the "notes" column on the appropriate line, then once a week or so I update everything on the computer, making my shopping lists at the same time.

I also make use of color coding-any items I have used throughout the year I turn "green", when I reach a goal, the quantity on hand turns "blue, etc.

There's more, but you all probably already think I'm nuts!

It has really helped me to see what is happening. At the end of the "year" (June) I will analyze it all and decide what to cull or buy more of.

Like I said, it's another hobby, but its been fun, too. And important, I believe.

Note to Suzannah-
Thank you for your sense of humor. I had a smile on reading your post, and although people may not agree on every little thing, we are all brothers and sisters.

Anonymous person #1 (4-28-08)

Anonymous said...

Well, we have acquired three freezers this past year and they are all full! We are buying out Costco as fast as we can. All the canned and paper stuff is in a pile in the basement at the moment. We will get organized when we finish cleaning the storage room (an old coal room that was full of depression era scrap wood!). The garden is in and this year we plan on growing succession crops rather than the one planting that we usually do. The neighborhood dogs found our layers and destroyed the flock in one night so we are going to try again, this time with some electric wire to boot! The broilers will start coming again after my husband is done with some traveling. Our family thinks we are nuts. Oh, well!

I really enjoy your blog, thanks.
Heather

Anonymous said...

Speaking of wheat, my family has to go out of state for some months, for the buisiness that we are currently in, and my brother,who stays home during this time called up one day to say that he was planning a surprise. When we all got home, he took us for a walk and showed us 1 1/2 acres of wheat that he had planted! As we are not really farmers, its very exciting to see our own little path of wheat growing. However, now we need an education in harvesting and so forth. In a past essay that you wrote, I think you mentioned a book about raising wheat... I sifted through a bunch, but am not coming up with what I thought that you wrote. I think you mentioned something about how you noticed that old copies of it were selling for a lot on Ebay... Is there a possibility that you might have an idea what I am refering to? Angela

Herrick Kimball said...

It's getting hard to keep track of all the anonymous hoarders who are posting here. =-)

Michael-
Thanks for the link. I will read the article.

Angela-
The Logsdon book about Small Scale Grain raising was mentioned in the comments to my esay titled Peak Grain.

You can purchase used copies of the book at amazon.com. Click Here For The Book's Amazon Page.

Or, as one responder noted, you can read the book free online HERE (click on "personal sovereignty library").

JunkMale said...

Herrick,

You closed with this paragraph:
And speaking of productive things, in an upcoming essay I will tell you about a couple of easy, tasty ways to prepare and eat stored whole grains (without grinding them into flour). Stay tuned.....

I don't know if you've forgotten about this or if I have missed it, but I would just like you to know that I have been waiting for this essay ever since I saw this blog entry ;)

North Idaho said...

A question for other food storage hoarders. Recently I bought 600 pounds of hard red wheat in food grade 5 gallon buckets. There was a demand for food storage in an LDS stake, so the church leaders ordered two truck loads, and dumped it out on tarps. People placed orders, wheat was scooped up into the buckets and then lids were pounded on (the buckets had seals). My problem is that no oxygen absorbers were used. Lots of people bought wheat, in the hundreds. Is an oxygen absorber necessary to store this wheat?

Herrick Kimball said...

North Idaho-
People have been storing wheat long-term for centuries without oxygen absorbers. If the wheat is dry and the bucket well sealde, the wheat will keep quite well. But an extra measure of shelf life comes with the O2 absorbers and mylar bags. BTW, if you use oxygen absorbers, you can't just put them in a bucket without a bag because they will collapse the bucket, or so the O2 absorber people say. The plastic pail serves to give some protection to the bag, and it's easier to carry a bucket than it is a bag.

Herrick Kimball said...

junkmale-
I have not forgotten and hope to be posting that essay soon.

McDonald's - Life as WE Know IT! said...

http://simplylivingsmart.com/

I have posted a great website that has an online excel spreadsheet to use for calculating your food storage based on months that you want as well as lots of helpful hints on using wheat in a variety of ways, so instead of hoarders we are users (of mass quantity! I have five kids who can't live without homemade bread!) I love it! It also has great tips on shopping and storing food, so that you are shopping from your pantry instead of the store, only buying when it is on sale and you have coupons and not depending on the store for your next meal.

I also love your blog and have had more then a few laughs from it and wanted to share just a little of what I have found out in the blogoshpere world. Keep up the great work, I have become a dedicated reader.

A country bumpkin Utah Mormon

Greg said...

On April 29th, someone named Alan left a message on this blog saying that they sell bags of wheat in Indiana. I'm in Indiana and I'm trying to find someone that sells bags of wheat to make bread. Alan, if you frequent this enough and happen to read my request, please let me know how to contact you. You can contact me at the regular at Yahoo dot com address with my name, esabens. If anyone else knows how I can purchase wheat to make bread in Indiana, please let me know.

Thanks!
esabens

Anonymous said...

I live in Indiana as well, and am also interested in the message left by Alan about the bags of wheat.

If anyone here has a good source for wheat in Indiana, please send me an e-mail. The address is fortriede at verizon dot net. Thanks.

Julie said...

Does anyone have suggestions on how to acquire or where to buy good food-quality buckets?

jefe066 said...

Hey Ya'll. And thanks Herrick! I live in the middle of Austin, Texas and have been working my rented 60x120 lot.I've got a 15x25 greenhouse and 10x50 garden. Hoping soon to buy some land out of Austin so I can do this right.
I've been collecting for a rainy day myself and would like to start canning. What I wanted to chime in about is the hoarding thing. I think being prepared is our responsibility, and the word hoarding only applies to people who stash away supplies when there is a shortage and to the detriment of their fellow man. Nothing wrong with stocking up for hard times and nobody here should feel sheepish about doing so.
Anyway, thanks again for this fantastic resource. I know I will spend many hours here!