Like oil and gas, the United States produces a great deal of its own wheat. Unfortunately, it’s a global market, so that doesn’t help prices much when a global shortage drives up demand. Wheat prices have surged 55 percent since the invasion. There is a wide expectation that the Russian invation of Ukraine will result in a global shortage of wheat. This will continue to drive up prices and possibly leading to food rationing. Food rationing has the potential to lead to food riots.
Just look at the price of bread and crackers in your local store. They’ve gone up in price already. It’s not unusual to see a loaf of bread for $5 or even $7. That was unheard of a couple of years ago. Expect to see other items made from wheat, including pasta, pizza, breakfast cereals, cakes and pastries, pretzels, and stuffing to see price increases as well.
Here’s What You Can Do
Like all processed foods, loaves of sliced, pre-packaged bread, like we eat in the United States, were originally sold as a convenience. People seem to have forgotten that you can bake it yourself.
Baking your own bread is more time-consuming than buying it, but it is far more cost effective. Whether you choose to use a bread machine or knead the dough yourself, you’ll find fresh baked bread tastes great. Best of all, once you have found your own perfect bread recipe, you can use it to make sandwich rolls, buns, and even pizza dough. Your family may never want to go back to store-bought bread.
As you gain experience, you can make dumplings, naan, tortillas, and other bread and bread-like products. You can make Italian bread, sourdough, artisan, etc. You can also make your own pasta, rolling out the dough, cutting it into strips, and hanging it to dry.
There are multiple kinds of flour available: All-purpose flour is a good place to start, but bread bakers may want to get bread flour. You can also get pastry flour, whole wheat flour, unbleached flour and gluten-free flours. Right now, a 25-pound bag of all-purpose flour is available at Sam’s Club for $7.53, but even if you buy a five-pound bag at your local grocer, you’ll come out ahead financially, compared to buying a loaf. Prices I’ve seen for five pounds of wheat are between $1.60 and $4. You can make at least five loads with that.
Pasta can last years when stored correctly. So buy all you want, it should keep. Check the expiration date on things like crackers, breakfast cereals and snack foods. You may be able to stock close to a year’s worth of some products before they go stale.
While you won’t want to stock pre-baked loaves of bread, unless you freeze them, a bag of flour should store a minimum of six months, and more likely a year. If you buy wheat berries, they can store for decades, and you can grind your own flour. , I recommend the NutriMill if you want electric grain mill to grind your own flour. If you prefer a hand-crank model you can use before and after the SHTF, I recommend the Country Living Grain Mill.
In Utah, I understand you can buy buckets of wheat at Costco, but for the rest of us, you need to see if there is a food co-op or gain mill in your area. You can also order them online in bags or buckets. We buy in buckets for long-term storage and in bags for immediate use. Hard red winter wheat is best for yeast breads while soft white wheat is better for pancakes and baked goods. The former usually has more protein, but you can make bread from either.
Stock Other Grains
There are no direct substitutes for wheat, but as the gluten-free crowd has proven, you can make baked goods from other grains. There are many flours on the market, made from everything from rice to ancient grains to almonds; just don’t expect them to be less expensive than wheat.
In our food storage, we stock lots of rice, although we don’t use rice flour for banking. We stock cornmeal because I am partial to cornbread. We also have barley, quinoa, and oatmeal in our long-term food storage.
Other grains, including corn, may also see price increases as people search for substitutes, so don’t wait too long buy them.
Change your Diet
If bread and pasta costs twice as much, consider eating them half as often as you do now. If they become scarce or too steep for your wallet, eat something else.
I’ve done the Atkins diet and tried the ketogenic diet. I lost weight with both, and both eliminated bread and other grains from my diet, in one case for nine months.
Maybe asking you to change your diet sounds mean or unfair, but in tough times, it pays to be flexible. You need to be able to adapt. You can go to a Chinese restaurant and have a full meal without eating bread. Why not at your home?
Besides serving rice, consider the humble potato as a wheat alternative. It will provide starch and ample carbs and calories for your diet. As far as I know, there is no potato shortage. It’s not too late to plant your own, even if you just grow them in a 5-gallon bucket or a wooden box. If you’re planting at home, consider also the yam or sweet potato, turnips, or beets. All can provide needed calories and are far easier for the home-gardener to grow and harvest than wheat or corn.
Tough Times Ahead
The next couple of years will not be easy, but when you look at the families torn apart by the Ukraine invasion, realize you have it easy. You may have to cut back on bread. They may lose their home, everything they own and close family members.
The real danger is not that we all get fewer calories but that the country implodes in violence, causing a collapse of the U.S. dollar. If you’ve read some of my prior posts, you know I don’t think highly of President Biden’s policies and attribute some of our problems to his weakness on the global stage. Nonetheless, I remain patriotic. I still believe this is the best country in which to live, through good times and bad, and I hope better days lie ahead for all of us.
It’s important to remember that our parents and/or grandparents lived through inflation 40 years ago. They lived through wars and protests. They lived through the civil rights movement, Vietnam, Nixon’s criminality, and Ford and Carter’s presidencies. They survived. I expect we will, too.
But to tilt the odds in your favor, you should prep.