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Commercial Survival Food

Now, you can't have a discussion about storing food for emergencies without mentioning the true "survival food" that can be purchased for that precise reason.

Freeze Dried Foods

This is one type of storage food that you won't find at the supermarket and will likely have to purchase from an outdoor or survivalist outlet. It can be very costly but a large can of freeze dried food is extremely light and should be useable for 10 to 20 years after you buy it. That durability makes it a great choice if you want to have a food supply that you do not have to use and rotate over the years to keep it fresh.

Another great benefit of freeze-dried foods is that you can oped up a bag or can of them, scoop out a meal's worth and then just close the package back up. It remains shelf-stable as it is. Survival foods that are made up of simply canned (wet) food in larger cans will be a problem to keep fresh once the can is open.

Freeze-dried foods will need to be simmered in water to rehydrate them and make them usable for eating, just like typically dried foods. The process to freeze dry foods is not something that can be done at home, so you shouldn't try to pursue this as a storage option for your own fresh produce.

Complete Packages

We've all seen the tempting ads that offer a 6-month or even a 1-year supply of food already packaged together in one single purchase. The price tag is not that tempting, but the idea of having an entire food storage inventory completed in one step is usually very appealing. Just remember that doing the accumulating yourself will usually save you money and allow you to tailor your food stores to you and your family's personal tastes.

But if you are looking at getting a full package like this, take a good look at what is being offered. Is it freeze-dried, conventionally dried or wet canned food? What kind of variety is there? Really think about what you want to eat for 3, 6 or 12 months. If there are only 6 different main course option, you are going to get very sick of your food quickly.

Of course you can always buy a smaller packaged deal (1 or 3 months worth) as a solid foundation for your storage and then add more canned, frozen or dried foods of your own to round out a better menu for yourself.

Thrive is one company that sells a large line of dehydrated and freeze-dried foods, and they have complete packages as well. To use them as an example, their 1-month enhanced package for 1 person contains the following in number 10 cans (size of a big can of coffee):

  • white rice
  • quick oats
  • macaroni
  • spaghetti
  • pinto beans
  • white sugar
  • powdered milk
  • wheat (3 cans)
  • flour
  • dried potatoes
  • dried peas
  • dried carrots
  • dried strawberries
  • dried blueberries
  • beef TVP

It also includes yeast (1 lb), salt (9oz), coconut oil (500ml), honey (2 lbs) and a manual grain mill to turn the wheat berries into flour.

This includes enough food for 1 month but you can see that the variety is quite limited. This particular package would cost you around $400. The high cost is partly because of the number of freeze-dried item, which will have a shelf life of over 20 years. Packages with wet canned food will be cheaper though more and more companies are offering the dried foods because they have longer storage times.

Meals Ready to Eat

These are more commonly known as MREs, and definitely need a mention. MREs were originally military rations that contained one complete meal in each package. Today you can purchase similar civilian products or authentic military surplus ones. Either way, they work very well for immediate emergency food use but are not that practical for extended storage because they are quite expensive.

Each meal contains several smaller individually-packed portions that include a main dish, bread or crackers, a dessert and a snack. They should also have eating utensils and condiments such as salt, pepper, sugar and a drink powder. The food inside is specially vacuum-packed that only requires heating to eat. Modern MREs have a chemical pack inside that will generate enough heat to make a meal so you can have hot food even if there is no other fuel around.

Having everything packaged together makes these great for on-the-go emergencies where you are not going to be near your regular supplies, or as hot meals for the first few days of an emergency when things may be too hectic for decent cooking.

The menus available will vary by the year of manufacture, and whether or not you are buying true military supplies or not. The 2011 lineup for military MREs include Mediterranean chicken, beef ravioli, vegetable lasagna, Southwest beef and black beans, lemon pepper tuna, and spicy penne pasta. Each with its own extras, such as pound cake, jalapeno cheese spread, nut raisin mix, garlic mashed potatoes, pretzels and cinnamon buns. As you can see, these do offer a tasty variety in foods and could provide some important options without much added cooking effort.

Texturized Vegetable Protein

This is known in preparedness circles as TVP and it often makes up a large portion of anyone's dry goods storage as a source of protein. Because meat can be tricky to store for long periods of time, this is a better alternative. It is a dry product that stores almost forever (much like rice or dry pasta) and it is almost 100% protein made from soy.

It looks like brown gravel and will need to be soaked in water to soften it up. Texture-wise, it is sort of like ground beef but you really won't fool anyone that it is real meat. That's not the point. Plain TVP is basically unflavored and can be blended into many other meals to add protein. You can also buy flavored TVP that has a bit more taste to it. If you are having trouble keeping a decent supply of protein on hand, this is a very good (and cheap) option.

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