In a previous article, we looked at how you might be able to stock up on emergency food without breaking the bank.
If you have little time but some money to spare, this post is for you.
Assuming you have taken care of your family’s drinkable water, here are some commercially available emergency food items you can consider.
Emergency Food Bars
Emergency food bars are dense in calorie and great value for money.
They differ from candy because they:
- do not make you as thirsty like candy does,
- usually exceed the daily vitamin and mineral recommendations (read the label),
- are designed to last at least five years.
Here are a few that we have tried and now put in our cars and in our bug out bags:
That said, emergency food bars are the barest minimum. They can tide you over in a pinch, but you should also have something more substantial as well.
Meals (sorta) Ready to Eat
A decade or so ago, some in the army might chuckle when told that MREs were called Meals, Ready to Eat.
Sure, they may be ready to eat out of the package, but how many of us were really ready to eat them?
Early MREs made Tabasco converts out of most grunts, and heating the MREs made for a more palatable experience.
Thankfully, the variety and quality of MREs have improved a lot. Today, MREs are available outside the military and are good items to have in a crisis because:
- they don’t need cooking
- they are filling
- they can be eaten on the go.
That said, I’m still going to hang on to my Tabasco sauce!
Bulk Storage Food
Another way to set aside emergency foods is to buy staple items like wheat, pasta, beans, powdered milk, oats, and rice in bulk and ready for long term storage.
These would be similar to the products you get from the store, but packed to last for at least five years – usually even longer.
Many come in 5-6 gallon pails, but some are sold in smaller 1-gallon boxes too.
The main idea is to isolate the food from oxygen, so if you wish to pack your own bulk food for long term storage, here’s how:
- fill a mylar bag (comes in various sizes) as full as you can to reduce the amount of air (and oxygen) in it. Mylar bags are non-breathable, and do not let any air in,
- drop in an appropriate amount of oxygen absorbers to extract this element from the air,
- seal the mylar bag with a heating element, like an iron,
- store it in a container, like a pail, that will protect the mylar bag from being damaged. Plastic breathes, so they aren’t good for long term storage without a gas barrier like mylar bags.
If you already have your own large pails, and just need the mylar and oxygen absorbers, Amazon has the better deal.
Bulk food is heavy and not very portable, and they need to be cooked like regular food. So this may not be the best emergency food to have if you have to evacuate on foot.
But if you are sheltering in place, it is great knowing you have all these staples to fall back on after your pantry is empty.
Dehydrated vs Freeze-Dried Foods
Some people think that dehydrated and freeze-dried foods are the same. They aren’t.
Compared to dehydrated food, freeze-dried alternatives:
- taste and look better,
- last much longer,
- are much lighter,
- retain nutrients better, except for Vitamin C. Dehydrated foods lose not just Vitamin C, but also Vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin.
- take less time and effort to reconstitute – just add hot or cold water.
That’s why freeze-dried food is the standard choice for the space program. The flipside is that they cost a little more.
That’s not to say that dehydrated foods aren’t a good option for emergency food. You just need to manage your expectations.
Aside from fruit, most dehydrated foods will need to be cooked in hot water. Seasoning is recommended.
In contrast, you can just add water to freeze-dried foods without heating, and the meal will be ready in under 10 minutes.
That is why freeze-dried foods also come in lightweight pouches designed for campers. Just add water, and eat straight out of the pouch while on the go – perfect for bug out bags.
One of my kids’ favorite freeze-dried food is the Beef Stragonoff from Mountain House, which come in a pouch (useful for hiking) or in a 20-oz can (for better value)
There are other brands too, such as Wise Foods and Alpine Foods, and even one from National Geographic.
Do your research first though, and then buy a small batch to see which your family likes before ordering more.
And there you have it – the 4 categories of commercially prepared emergency food you can load up on!