What They Don't Tell You About Storable Foods
As I warned in October, one reason to learn how to pack your own storable food is supplier shortages. You can't and shouldn't count on retailers to always provide for your needs. Now this warning has morphed into reality.
Grain prices are escalating due to global grain shortages yet higher demand. Gas prices reflect rising oil costs, which translate into higher hauling costs and therefore increasing grocery prices, and bad weather across the globe is in high gear. As seen yesterday, 18-wheelers were shut down in Canada as roads became impassable. We're not even officially in winter yet... what else is store? Any of these factors can affect suppliers' abilities to get product to customers.
Mountain House, the world's largest storable food producer, is now experiencing the same supply shortages seen in 2008 though for different reasons. Today people are scrambling for food reserves to combat forecasted shortages and inflation fears.
Put for your family's security at the top of your "do" list. Don't put them at risk of supply-and-demand dramas. It looks shaky especially for those who are slow in getting their preparedness plans in place.
Few people like to contemplate these things especially around Christmas, but what better gift can you give your family than peace of mind?
December 15, 2010 update
By Holly Deyo
Today's headlines scream from every sector "get your food NOW!" We are barraged by news of an economic meltdown, natural and manmade disasters and a system that's ready to implode globally. Advertising from survival food retailers impress that if you haven't purchased everything yesterday, you've missed out. As a result, people succumb to the fear factor and buy all kinds of foods they have no idea how to transform from can to pan.
People are getting the message about preparing, but there's more to it than just buying storable foods and shoving them in the closet. How do you prepare them when there's no power or if you're short on water? Did you purchase prepared entrees or plain meats? Are these meals healthy? How can you change that dried chicken from the same boring lump to something soul-warming and comforting?
Without variety "taste fatigue" sets in even when food is in short supply. This is especially evident in older folks who live alone and grow tired of uninspired meals. While still hungry they simply can't choke down another mouthful of the same old food.
Western countries enjoy a pampered palate. There's no reason your taste buds must suffer drastic changes if the world goes off the rails. However, it takes some pre-planning, common sense and a little organization.
Once people woke up to an economy on the skids and increasing natural disasters, everybody jumped on the prep business train. To their credit some companies predate Y2K and are still around today. Storable food companies are here to make money, but in their effort to do so, some get their products to the public yet neglect to remind people of several key things:
1. Reconstituting foods from hockey puck-hard dryness requires water.
2. Most would taste better warmed up.
3. Companies assume the buyer knows what to do with these foods once the cans are in their home. (Need recipes, please.)
4. How to care for these products and protect this investment.
Foods, whether they are fresh off grocery store shelves or purchased from survival companies must be kept from heat, light, air, moisture and pests.
Products bought from food storage companies usually ship in #10 containers the size of one gallon paint cans roughly 5.5"L x 6"W x 7"H (14 cm L x 15.25 cm W x 15.75 cm H). This packaging automatically keeps them away from everything except the single most corrosive element heat.
I can not tell you the number of people who share that they have prepared by purchasing a year's worth of food and stuck it in the garage or attic.
Those foods in which they've invested big bucks will be "dead" within months, instead of 20 years. Fact. Heat absolutely kills nutrition, taste and texture. You'd be as well off eating a cardboard box as the contents of those expensive cans.
A smart person always distributes risk and all have their pros and cons. To cover your bases, a well-supplied pantry should have some of each of the following food types:
1. Canned goods
2. Freeze-dried / dehydrated
Let's examine them in more detail.
If there's no power, canned goods and Meals-Ready-to-Eat are the way to go. MREs are intended for short-term consumption due to high fat content and monstrously-high sodium counts. Especially for seriously overweight people and those suffering hypertension, too much of these ingredients could cause serious problems. Some MRE sodium counts are between 1667 and 2334mg. That's about the recommended amount for an entire day in just a one meal.
Depending on which entree is chosen, fats can make up nearly half of the calorie count. Nutritionists recommend fats account for no more than 20% of a day's total calories and some say to aim lower than this. The USDA puts the OK fat consumption at 30%, but considering we are a nation of obese people, maybe they should rethink this. Or maybe we need to rethink what to eat. For a few days or even a week, it's probably OK to eat MREs, but if you have health issues, check with your doctor before loading up on them. Check the nutrition chart for each selection.
Another issue is taste or rather lack of it known as "delectablity deficit". When we bought replacement MREs two years ago, we gave the spaghetti and meat sauce a test drive. It smelled OK, but that's where the happy factor ended. Since we were about to eat dinner, I plopped the contents into our dog's food bowl. Seismo eats anything, even grapefruit, and has a reputation of inhaling anything not nailed down. When he sniffed his snack and backed away, it was a huge red flag. To be fair, this was only one MRE variety. Overall, compared to canned, frozen or dried foods, MREs are the least palatable.
On the plus side, MREs are ready to eat as the name implies. Though better tasting when heated (don't forget to purchase their individual heating units), MREs come fully cooked and can be consumed straight from the package. They're convenient, easily transported, feather-light in backpacks and need no refrigeration. If it comes down to going hungry, they might start to take on gourmet-like appeal. Their shelf life is 3-5 years providing they're kept in temperatures not above 70ºF (21ºC).
Store only enough MREs for a couple of weeks for each family member.
FREEZE-DRIED / DEHYDRATED FOODS
Dry foods of either process are light years better tasting than MREs and great space savers. As a rule, freeze-dried foods cost more than their dehydrated counterparts owing to the more expensive drying process.
A big taste difference used to exist between dehydrated and freeze-dried selections. Companies that sell only freeze-dried foods still like to say their products are significantly better tasting. Today, drying techniques have greatly improved thereby narrowing the yum factor.
One long-term storable food manufacturer currently airs the most alarmist and sometimes blarney-filled scenarios ever heard. From someone who's been steeped in preparedness and current events for several decades, this says a lot. Due to their near-blanket coverage on radio and the Internet, they must fork over exorbitant advertising fees. Hardly a website espousing preparedness escapes their ads. This is a heads up to proceed with caution. Like MREs, some meals taste better than others. Taste a few selections before sinking your savings into them.
It's also important to pay attention to storable foods labels. There's little point in saving yourself from disaster if you've "killed" yourself in the process. Are you putting something into your stomach just to stop its growling? Or are you giving your body foods that won't have consequences down the line?
Be sure to compare nutritional information. Mountain House readily admits in their FAQ section (Why do you put so much sodium in your product?) that their foods' sodium content is much too high and that they will be reformulating them at some point.
TIP: Some counts look very low because they aren't for a single serving, but for 1/4 cup, which is really, really small. Make sure you're comparing apples to apples.
To compare nutritional information for the two oldest names in storable foods, look at the charts for Mountain House and Alpine Aire. For Alpine Aire, once on their website you'll need to click each product to see individual nutritional breakdowns. EFoods Direct has their nutrition info in a single PDF file.
Prepared entrees such as Beef Stew or Oriental Chicken with Vegetables, like MREs, generally have a higher than desirable amount of salt. However, if you purchase just plain freeze-dried or dehydrated meats like chicken, beef or pork, you'll get just the animal protein without bad additives. However, it's up to the purchaser to add the zest.
TIP: If you are without power and must rehydrate foods with cool or room temperature water, it can take up to two hours and longer.
Stan and I can personally vouch for Freeze Dry Guy though we've bought directly from Mountain House. Freeze Dry Guy is not a world-wide company though he ships anywhere so you get a personal touch. PLUS, he pays for all shipping within the continenal U.S. Try and find that anywhere else. And no, we get no special treatment, but it's a pleasure to pass along the names of reputable, dependable vendors.
Make up about one-third of your food storage items with these choices.
CANNED & JAR FOODS
Frozen and canned foods offer the selections you normally eat. During an emergency it is no time to learn how to prepare unfamiliar dishes or accustom your stomach to new "adventures". This adds to your stress, plus you may have overlooked some required ingredients.
How much simpler can it get? Run a can opener around the lip or unscrew the lid and dig in! Canned foods need no prep, can be enjoyed without heating or adding ingredients, are less expensive than comparable dried products and shelf life is anywhere from 2 to 8 years. For a comprehensive list, check their shelf lives.
To grow a fabulous pantry, you don't have to make special purchases or use the Internet. No shipping costs are involved. Simply add extra items to your weekly shopping when they're on sale. (If your pantry is well-stocked, shopping trips can be cut down to once a month.) There's no online credit card exposure and you buy everything at the best possible price not when panic or need drives up the cost.
TIP: Buy staples as whole grains when possible. They'll be viable longer than in ground form.
I love having canned goods. There's no magic involved and you enjoy all your favorite foods. There's something to be said for eating foods your body is already used to. You eat what you enjoy and there's no adjustment period.
Canned and jar goods cover a wide array from meats to fruit to veggies, butter and cheese, condiments to delicacies, and everything in between. They come in convenient sizes so you're not stuck eating the same food for 15 or 20 meals before they go off. Their biggest drawback is the space required to store them.
Make up roughly two-thirds of your food storage items with these choices.
TANTALYZE YOUR TASTE BUDS
Some people (generally single men) have chosen to store the Mormon 4. It will keep you alive, but that's about it. From a gastronomic point of view, you may wish you weren't. It is THE most basic, boring food storage program available. It is subsistence level food consisting of wheat, powdered milk, sugar and salt. That's it; you're done. My stomach balks at this menu in simply writing the words.
One does not have to be a gourmand to see that this is an extremely limited, unappealing food selection. Furthermore, eating nothing except wheat as your main food usually has significant repercussions in the gastrointestinal track. Translate that to massive flatulence, cramping and diarrhea if you shovel in large amounts of wheat. Everyone will RUN from your presence! Now picture that scenario in a confined shelter. The ugly just got uglier.
DO YOUR OWN PACKING
To keep staples like sugar, flour, beans, rice, dried veggies and even pet food tasting best and viable for the most years, pack them for long-term storage. It's super easy and much less costly than purchasing them already packed.
It's also just clever knowing how to do this yourself. Here's why.
1. Any time a good buy on these foods is available, purchase extra and pack them for long-term storage. This maximizes savings even further.
2. There may come a time when the Internet is "down" and only local grocery suppliers are available to you. (No buying online. Now that's a spooky concept!) Without proper packing these foods will have much shorter shelf lives marked in months, not years.
3. The more skills you acquire, the less you have to rely on others, whether it's the government or your neighbor.
4. Supplier shortages. I really dislike being at the mercy of others. It's an uneasy feeling and there is cause for concern. Supplier shortages hit in July 2008, which lasted into 2009. If you know how to pack your own foods, it makes this problem go away.
To pack your own foods, line a food grade bucket with a mylar bag. Remove the air by one of several methods. Pop in the right number of oxygen scavengers and moisture absorbers for that size container and your elevation above sea level. Seal the bag. Snap on the lid and you're done!
DEMYSTIFYING DATES and SHELF LIVES
Some manufacturers still use secret date codes. For these items, you need to understand how to unravel the expiration dates so you know you're getting the freshest foods. These mystery codes are something you should understand for every day food purchases whether they go into your pantry or on the table.
Besides food items you should also know the shelves lives for medicines and first aid products, as well as household cleaners, toiletries and hygiene items, fuel, and handyman items like paint, glue, motor oil and so on. Dare To Prepare gives you all these and more!
Like most things, there is no one-solution answer. Depending on what emergency is encountered, you'll need different types of storable food. By keeping a variety, you'll be able to sail through most challenges with relative ease.
Now that you have your storable food dilemma sorted out, the best way to keep track of what you've purchased is with the Deyo Food Storage Planner. It's FREE software you can download either in US measurements or in metric. All you need is Excel or a comparable spreadsheet program like OpenOffice. (It's free, too.)
To use the Deyo Food Storage Planner, simply fill in the number of family members and how many weeks you want to store. The worksheet calculates the quantities needed. This handy planner also covers handyman items, pet products and many other non-food items. You can add your own special items and keep track of them too.
Now you have the tools needed to create your own storable food program. Time to get busy!
© Holly Deyo, redistribution is granted providing all links, article and images are fully reproduced.