Apocalypse Chow

Can prepackaged rations make surviving the aftermath of a disaster more palatable?

HOLLY NOTE: The following article illustrates why we encourage everyone to store and rotate the foods you normally eat. A couple of years ago we purchased some MREs – just enough to get us through a short emergency while away from home. 

I slit open a package containing a spaghetti-type dish. How bad could you mess up pasta sauce? Apparently, bad enough. After a quick taste, I passed it to our dog. Seismo, who eats anything not nailed down, took one sniff and gave a baleful look as if to say, "Seriously, do you want me to eat that? Patoui!"

MREs should be considered emergency foods – ones you'll eat under the most extreme circumstances. Not only are they sometimes questionable in the taste department, but they have a very high sodium content. In the short term, bodies can withstand this extra salt, but some people with health concerns need to really monitor their sodium intake.

Before you purchase a ton of freeze-dried and dehydrated foods, understand that processing does alter texture and sometimes flavor. These foods are so far superior to MREs, it's like comparing Neiman Marcus to Walmart. That said, they can't compare to what you have in your own pantry.

Storing foods you normally eat and rotating them into your regular meals is truly your best bet. They're more cost effective, you've already given them a "test drive" and know what you like, and you already familiar with their preparation.

Disasters are tough enough to handle under any circumstances. Why add to your misery by putting icky tasting food on your plate?

April 13, 2010
By Emily Masamitsu
Popular Mechanics

Meals ready-to-eat (MREs) are the military's answer to a long-term, disaster-proof food supply. These vacuum-packed foodstuffs--also available in civilian versions--require little more preparation than activating an included heating pad by adding water, and have all the nutrition necessary to keep you alive. But does the taste inspire the will to survive? To find out, we served up civilian MREs from three different manufacturers to some of PM's hungriest staffers in a flavor face-off. Here's what the end of the world tastes like.

Pasta and vegetables; crackers; peanut butter; fig bar; raisins; shortbread cookie

Price $6 | Calories 1150
Our vegetarian-friendly menu looked the most appetizing of the entrees. It proved to have "a decent tomato sauce, though a touch salty." Unfortunately, it couldn't mask the fact that the noodles were overcooked. The side dishes ranged from "yummy, not overly sweet" (shortbread cookie) to "dry but tasty" (fig bar). The big disappointment: the unnaturally moist raisins, "an insult to grapes everywhere."
Grade: B+

Beef enchilada; bread and grape jelly; strawberry toaster pastry; mixed fruit

Price $7 | Calories 860
The south-of-the-border option was at least shaped like an enchilada, although it lacked un sabor delicioso. The sauce was "too tangy and acidic, completely masking the flavor of the meat." The strawberry pastry was really dry with a "bland but familiar taste." The fruit cocktail proved to be "just as fresh as the canned variety," and the bread, though "a little dense," was nicely complemented by a "smooth and flavorful" jam.
Grade: B-

MRE Star
BBQ chicken with beans; potatoes; dried fruit; nut-raisin mix; vanilla pound cake; sugar cookies

Price $6.50 | Calories 1530
Smothered in "cheap barbecue sauce," the meat in the poultry entree had a consistency that was "indistinguishable from the vegetables." The pound cake, on the other hand, was a standout, deemed to be "the best of all the desserts" in the test. The dried fruit snack tasted "a bit like soap," with too much sugar. Thankfully, the nut mix had a "great, familiar taste," on par with regular trail mix.
Grade: C