In this section I’ll cover some of the kind of foods available to store. By this I mean things like: canned foods, dehydrated foods, freeze-dried foods, MRE’s and some others.
What kind of foods should you store?
“Eat what you store, store what you eat” foods.
Even if, as I mentioned in “Food Storage Part One”, it is not feasible to store a sizable amount of food that you eat normally, this is where you should start. The reason this is the best place to start is because these are the foods that will get consumed first and most often.
There are a couple of reasons why you should have some variety in your food storage. Sure, it is all food, but different types of food storage can fill different roles. I can put some Mountain House pouches or MRE’s in a backpack and feed myself for a few days. Feeding myself for the same amount of time with “eat what you store, store what you eat” food might be too bulky and heavy.
Freeze dried and dehydrated foods
These foods can have a shelf life of almost thirty years. This is food that you can buy for a rainy day and not have to worry about again for a very long time.
Also, unless your diet solely consists of staples you probably won’t be able to store more then a few month’s worth of “eat what you store” food; that is where the other types of foods come in.
Freeze dried foods range from single items, such as mashed potatoes, to an entire entree, such as beef stew. As I mentioned earlier, one of the pluses of freeze-dried foods is that they have a 27-30 year shelf life if stored correctly and the can remains closed. Once opened they need to be consumed fairly quickly. These are not foods that you would buy and eat on a normal basis even though you could if you wanted to. They fit nicely as a long-term storage food.
Most freeze dried foods come in #10 cans and have 16-20 servings. The prices will vary depending on the entree.
Mountain House sells a variety of pouches that serve 1-4 and have a shelf life of seven years. These pouches would go well in a BOB. The real value is that they are much cheaper than a #10 can and give you an opportunity to see if you like the food before buying a #10 can or a case of #10 cans.
(Update 5/27/11 Gander Mountain also carries a brand of food in puches called Backpakers Pantry)
We have purchased eight or so. I didn’t mind the taste of any of them and some were actually quite good but not everyone in the family liked all of them. My wife and kids had some texture issues with some of them so not all of them were a go. We did find a few things that everyone liked. This was a convenient and cheap way to try freeze-dried foods. I’m glad it was an option. I would have been bummed to spend $30 to find out that no one but me liked it and have another 12 servings to eat or that go to waste.
Here are names of some of the freeze-dried food companies; Mountain House, Provident Pantry, Thrive, Alpine Aire, Gourmet Reserves, Wise Foods and Food Insurance.
While there are only commercially freeze-dried foods available, dehydrating food is something that anyone can do. There are so many things that can be dehydrated, everything from fruit for a snack to multiple items to make a soup. There’s always jerky! Foods that you dehydrate on your own, if stored correctly, can last at least a year.
I was listening to the Bob Mayne’s “Today’s Survival Show: Episode 93”. In it, Bob was interviewing the President of All In One Preparedness, a company that commercially dehydrates food. When they package the food they replace oxygen with nitrogen. This and some other packaging techniques cause their dehydrated food to have a shelf life on par with freeze-dried food.
I’m only aware of two companies that sell commercially dehydrated food, All In One Preparedness and Wise Food (Wise Food has booth Freeze Dried and Dehydrated).
The dehydrator I own is the Excalibur 9 Tray Dehydrator. I absolutely love it. I looked at a few at an outdoor sports chain and didn’t care for the styles they had. The tray systems always seemed a little clumsy to me with one tray supporting the one on top of it. The Excalibur may be a bit more expensive but I think it’s a much higher quality product.
I am fairly new to dehydrating my own food and I am still learning. Here are some very informative resources that I have found. One tip that I am not sure is mentioned is to be aware that when you’re dehydrating foods, your house will most likely smell like what you’re dehydrating, so doing it in the garage or other area might be a good idea.
Here is a link that will teach you how to build your own Solar Dehydrator.
Here are three sites that have a wealth of information on dehydrating food.
Dehydrate 2 store has many helpful and informative videos on the site and they also have their own youtube channel.
Commercial canned foods
Food Reference.com puts this very well, so I’ll just quote them.
Many canned products now have a “for best quality use by” date stamped on the top or bottom of the can. “Expiration” dates are rarely found on canned food.
Canned food has a shelf life of at least two years from the date of processing. Canned food retains its safety and nutritional value well beyond two years, but it may have some variation in quality, such as a change of color and texture. Canning is a high-heat process that renders the food commercially sterile. Food safety is not an issue in products kept on the shelf or in the pantry for long periods of time. In fact, canned food has an almost indefinite shelf life at moderate temperatures (75° F and below). Canned food as old as 100 years has been found in sunken ships and it is still microbiologically safe! We don’t recommend keeping canned food for 100 years, but if the can is intact, not dented or bulging, it is edible.
Home canned foods
This is something that my wife and I did for the first time last season. Our garden didn’t produce enough to can our own, so we purchased some produce at a farmers market. This is a skill that you will want to know how to do, before you need to. I may cover canning in more detail later (hopefully with a guest writer who knows more then I).
According to the Ball jar companies Frequently Asked Questions Fresh Preserving & Canning Questions
How long can home canned food be stored?
“Food that has been properly canned using an up-to-date tested recipe and that has a vacuum seal will keep indefinitely; however, over an extended period of time changes do occur. These changes may affect the flavor, color, texture and nutritional value of the product. For the highest quality, use home canned food within one year.”
How do I know if a jar of home canned food is spoiled?
“When up-to-date guidelines, such as those outlined on this site, are followed exactly, there should be little concern about the quality and safety of your home canned foods. As with commercial packaged foods, it is always wise to examine any food before using it. When you take it from the shelf, check each jar to see that it has retained a vacuum seal and that no visible changes have taken place during storage.”
You can also can entire meals, then just reheat and eat. Dinner Is In The Jar is a book that has 30 recipes for meals cooked in a jar.
Canning Recipes.com has a huge amount of canning recipes.
MRE stands for Meal Ready to Eat, a complete meal or at least an attempt to be that is packed air tight for long-term storage. They were a part of my diet when I was in the Navy; I actually liked a couple of them. They come with a water activated heating element so you can have a hot meal with little preparation. I think MRE’s are a great item for BOB’s or a hunter’s day kit. There are many civilian varieties available, often you can choose your entree, most have a shelf life of 3-5 years.
Emergency Ration Bars
These are usually smaller bars, each usually containing a few hundred calories, then combined into a larger bar equaling 2400-3600 calories. There are a few varieties available, of which I have only tried one. It wasn’t very good, but it is called an emergency ration and in an emergency I would imagine I could choke down just about anything.
When things get rough, a sweet treat can do wonders to improve ones mood. There are many types of goodies that store well long term; some that we have are cocoa mix, plain Hershey’s chocolate bars, some plain chocolate chips and some hard candy. Candy bars that have nuts or other things in them can go rancid. Plain chocolate might turn a bit tan or white, this is called blooming.
Here is what Hershey’s has to say about blooming.
Q. My chocolate sometimes turns tan or white. What causes this?
A. Chocolate contains cocoa butter, a vegetable fat that is sensitive to heat and humidity. Temperatures above 75°F will cause chocolate to melt. The cocoa butter can rise to the surface and form a discoloration called “cocoa butter bloom.” Condensation on milk or semi-sweet chocolate may cause the sugar to dissolve and rise to the surface as “sugar bloom.” Chocolate that has “bloomed” is certainly safe to use, but flavor loss and texture changes may be noticed.
Here is what Hershey’s has to say about how to store chocolate.
Q. How should I store chocolate?
A. Solid chocolate products will maintain their quality if well wrapped and stored in a cool, dry place (55-60°F). While refrigerated chocolate is certainly safe to use, we don’t recommend it. Chocolate kept in the refrigerator may “sweat” when brought to room temperature and may not melt properly. Cocoa is considered a non-perishable item which should maintain quality if stored at room temperature in a tightly sealed container.
Even if the taste or texture changes some, it could be used for baking.
Big Box Store purchased “Emergency Food”
Costco sells a 5-gallon bucket of Emergency Food, they claim it is 275 servings of vegetarian food for around $90. Costco was sued in 2006, you can read the details of the suit here. In short it claimed that Costco was claiming the food was a 3-month supply of food for one person, yet the caloric intake was 455 calories. The average adult should consume roughly 2000 calories per day. I recently checked their website and Costco still sells this product, but the explanation of it and marketing is different.
I’m not saying that this product is bad or should even be avoided. I am saying that it should be supplemental and not the main part of your food storage.
There is one more type of food that you can make part of your long-term storage and that is staples, things like wheat, salt, sugar and others.
This article is already a bit long and that topic is going to be quite lengthy, so I’ll cover it separately.
Here are the links to the other food storage articles.
Food Storage Part One: Why Store Food And The Rules For It.
Food Storage Part Two: The Kind Of Foods That You Can Store
Food Storage Part Three: Shelf Life of Staples.
Food Storage Part Four: The Process and Enemies of Food Storage.
Food Storage Part Five: How much food should you store and where should you put it all?
Food Storage Part Six: Tips On Stocking Up and Affording it all.
Food Storage Part Seven: Food Boredom to Survival Cooking .