Flour is used to make bread, biscuits, rolls, pretzels, donuts, bagels, cakes, pies, cookies, crackers and lots of other things. Therefore flour is one of the foods that most people in the United States of America eat nearly every day. For that reason flour will be one of the foods that will be dearly missed by the average person during a long-term hard times event.
Commercially processed flour that you purchase at the grocery store has a relatively short shelf life. It has also had some of its original nutrients removed and replaced by other stuff so it can be called "enriched flour." Many people in the United States have become so accustomed to eating this type of flour that they find the taste of real flour to be unpleasant. In addition, some people have trouble digesting freshly ground flour because they have never eaten it before.
If you are storing food for a long-term hard times event then you will need to make a decision about how you are going to provide bread for your family to eat on a regular basis. This is not a simple decision because it will have a significant impact on the well being and happiness of your entire family. Consequently it would probably be a very good idea to purchase a small quantity of wheat berries during good times and grind them into flour, and then use that flour to make some bread for your family to eat. This will give you the opportunity to determine if this type of "bread made from homemade flour" is acceptable to your family. If it is not then you may be forced to include commercially processed flour (not self-rising) in your food storage plans and rotate or replace that flour at least once every few years.
On the other hand, if your family will accept bread made from freshly ground wheat berries then you will need a practical method for grinding your wheat berries. There are three basic options for grinding wheat and other grains:
A clean flat smooth big solid rock and a clean hammer.
A hand-operated grain grinder.
An electric grain grinder.
Rock and Hammer: It is possible to convert wheat berries into a coarse ground flour using a hard flat surface and a clean hammer. This is slow hard work but it will gradually get the job done. This is the traditional method that is still used today by the less fortunate people in the world.
Old Fashioned Hand-Operated Grain Grinder: The grinder in the picture on the right was purchased in 1975 and it uses two grinding stones. You temporarily attach the grinder to the edge of a solid table or a counter. Then you pour some wheat berries into the metal bowl on top of the grinder and you rotate the grinding wheel by hand. The wheat berries are forced between the two grinding stones in front and flour falls out from between the two stones. The grinding stones on these old-fashioned grinders are not recommended for grinding wheat because the stones contain some aluminum that will gradually wear off and become mixed in with your flour. Aluminum should not be ingested so these old-fashioned grain mills are not recommended.
Most modern grain mills have metal grinding plates or they have grinding stones that do not contain aluminum. Several different modern grain grinders are illustrated below.
The instructions that come with each of the following grain grinder will list the grains that the grinder can grind, and it will also include a list of foods you should not try to grind using that specific grinder. In general, grain grinders are not designed to grind any of the following foods: coffee beans, sunflower seeds, and nuts (including peanuts). Never attempt to grind any of these foods in a grain grinder.
If you try to convert a lot of wheat into flour then your arm will get tired. Therefore this task is usually done by each member of your family for a short period of time to distribute the work load and to prevent anyone from getting a sore arm as a result.
Pictures of Several Different Types of Modern Grain Grinders
Family Grain Mill Wheat Grinder
Family Grain Mill with Flaker Attachment
Wonder Mill Junior Deluxe
Country Living Grain Mill
Family Grain Mill (about $180): This mill is usually sold with a hand crank base that can be clamped to a counter top. This is a good mill for grinding wheat berries and oat groats. You can also purchase a separate flaker attachment for an additional $90 and the flaker attachment can be used to convert oat groats into oak flakes, or to convert soft wheat berries into a flaked cereal. The Family Grain Mill is not designed to grind popcorn or beans.
Wonder Mill Junior Deluxe Set (about $220): The mill can be easily clamped to a counter top and then removed when you are finished using it. The "Junior Deluxe Set" is sold with stone grinding plates and metal grinding plates. The stone grinding plates are for wheat berries. The metal grinding plates are for oats, corn, and beans.
Country Living Grain Mill (About $420): This mill cannot be clamped to a counter top. Instead it is designed to be bolted to the edge of a solid flat surface, such as a counter. This mill is sold with metal grinding plates. The auger that is included is designed for wheat berries. If you wish to grind beans or corn in this mill then you will need to purchase an optional auger that is designed to feed these larger items into the grain mill. I also recommend that you purchase the optional extension that mounts on the outside of the hand wheel to make it easier to rotate the hand mill to grind flour by hand. Until you have actually ground grain by hand then you will probably not appreciate the human energy savings of the optional hand wheel extension. (Note: The metal extension is not shown in the above picture. The above picture only shows the wood cranking handle.)
Automation: The cost to automate the Family Grain Mill is approximately $180. The cost to automate the Country Living Grain Mill is approximately $350. In my opinion, automating either of these grain mills is not a good investment. Instead of automating your hand crank grain mill it would be more practical to purchase an electric grain mill. An electric grain mill will do all the grinding for you and it will also give you the option to easily control how fine or course you want the finished product.
Electric Grain Mill: If you wish to purchase an electric grain mill then I recommend the "Electric Wonder Mill" in the above picture for approximately $240. It will grind wheat, corn, and beans.