Common sense advice for buying, “survival food”

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Bob from Kansas asked, “A question for you: what is your thought on buying X-Brand 25 year food storage? Is this the way to go to have extra food on hand?”
My answer to Bob’s email was so lengthy that I decided to make a blog post out of it! Here is what I told him:
image by Nick Saltmarsh

Really, no honest company can claim that their food will be good for 25 years. Here’s an example. Honeyville has a retail store about an hour from my house. I’ve been there many times. When they receive food from their main warehouse in Utah, it’s stored in a large area that is not air conditioned. This is in Phoenix. So, that food has been in hot conditions in the truck coming to Phoenix and in the warehouse for, who knows how long. Heat is a serious enemy of food because in a relatively short period of time it affects the food’s level of nutrition, flavor, appearance, and texture.

I’m not picking on just Honeyville here! This is true for every company that produces, ships, and sells food for storage purposes. If that food isn’t continuously stored at 70 degrees or cooler, it has likely started to lose some of its nutritional value.
When a customer buys the food, if they store it in hot, humid conditions, the food will continue to deteriorate. So, in 25 years, who knows what condition the food will be in? No company can say their food will be in the best condition after 25 or even 5 or 10 years. There are too many factors that affect it.
Be picky about where you buy your food if your plan is to store it long term. Ready Reserve Foods, for example, in Idaho uses both an oxygen extraction system AND they flood their food containers with nitrogen, which is the best possible combination for food that will be stored for the long haul.
When I repackage food in PETE containers, mylar bags, and buckets, I use oxygen absorbers because they are so easy to use. Most food storage companies also use this system. It isn’t a bad method at all, but there are several factors that affect how many and what size of absorbers should be used, and if you check out the cans of food from most companies, the size and amount of absorbers are all the same!
Another tip: know if you’re getting TVP (textured vegetable protein) or freeze-dried meat. They are not the same! Personally, I like TVP and use it in recipes from time to time. I may use just a half-cup in a batch of soup, for example, and it contains a lot of protein. However, some people want to stay away from TVP because it’s a soy product. Whatever your preference, make sure you know what you’re getting when you buy packaged freeze dried meals.
I actually recommend that you stay away from the, “just add water” entrees, for the most part. First, you may not like a particular entree. If you don’t, you’re stuck with it anyway because you purchased x-number of those pouches in those buckets! Second, these entrees will contain all sorts of additives and preservatives that you may not want to consume, meal after meal.Some of these meals are great, some are so-so, and some need some serious doctoring up!
Freeze-dried entrees, such as, “lasagna with meat sauce” or “chicken teriyaki,” are good to have on hand in case of an evacuation or for a time when heating up water is all you’re able to do. I recommend having about 15% or so of your total food storage in these FD entrees. Please don’t spend an enormous amount of money on these packaged meals. They have a purpose, yes, but you are MUCH better off buying mostly ingredients — vegetables, grains, freeze-dried cheese and meats, etc.
Ingredients can be combined to make all kinds of meals, insuring that you won’t experience food fatigue. I recommend buying ingredients for soup meals: bouillon, freeeze-dried or dehydrated vegetables, rice, macaroni, freeze-dried chicken/beef (could also use TVP), beans, etc. With just a few ingredients, you could make at least a dozen different types of soup.
I’m a consultant with Shelf Reliance foods and like their Thrive brand a lot. We own quite a bit of it. However, they use only oxygen absorbers. On the other hand, they have a HUGE variety of products.
Freeze-dried and dehydrated food can be expensive, and as you add to your food storage pantry, it can represent quite a large investment. The best thing you can do is become very well informed, read package labels and nutritional information, and make a plan of what you want to buy for yourself and your loved ones. Don’t get in a panic and click the “Buy Now!” button for an expensive product you may not be happy with and may not deliver the quality you expect.
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I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 9 years.

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18 thoughts on “Common sense advice for buying, “survival food””

  1. Thank you! You have answered quite a few questions that I have had about long term storage foods. There was a lot of confusion I had with all of the selections out there, and really I was hesitant about spending thousands of dollars on a pallet of storage food. Like you said, what if I didn’t like what I bought? Your suggestions are well taken.

  2. Just a quick note – Make sure you run the numbers before you click buy. the amount of material you get in Rainyday Foods for instance is significantly greater than Honeyville or Augesson Farms. So while RD is more expensive, it actually costs less per calorie most of the time even with the usual 10% off sale at Honeyville. 20% or more off and it’s harder to figure the savings and it can vary depending on how far you’re having to have it shipped.

  3. Thank you about the Pete containers, I will have to check with a friend who owns a restaurant. If they are tossing them, I can save on their disposal costs. I am cleaning up on my buckets(literally), I have 4 places that I can get them here locally. My one neighbor thinks I am nuts, the way I am using them to store food, but I have a driving motivation, we went hungery in the early 1960’s. That is my driving force behind this so called “madness”.

  4. I have quite a bit of experience with the prepackaged FD meals. We use them on extended hunting and camping trips. I prefer the Mountain house meals and belive they taste better. I like knowing that my little girl will always be happy to eat a Mountain house mac and cheese meal. But I wouldn’t know that if she hasn’t had them at home and in the snow and the rain and the sunshine.

    They are more expensive, but like you said, do serve a purpose. The fuel to prepare this is just as much as it takes to heat water. That is something to also consider. I figure that if my time and energy is being spent in protecting or relocating my family, I want comfort food on demand and this is as close as I have found.

    Store what you eat and eat what you store.

  5. Great advice for what could be your most important investment. I’m not sure most people think about real storage/shelf-life times and just go with what the manufacturer claims. Do you know if anybody has done any real tests? (or if this is even possible?)

  6. I would think good questions one should ask themselves are: How much money do I have? How much time do I have?

    I think if people do not have money but do have time (available to invest in this endeavor). Then it would be best to buy and package one’s own ingredients. Wheat, Cornmeal, Oats, Rice, Beans, Lentils, Pasta, Canned veg, dehydrated veg, spices, etc. etc. etc.

    If one is making 6 or 7 figures and you don’t have the time to spend doing this then go ahead and spend the money on prepared pallets. But make sure you get samples and can tolerate the food.

    Like most things in life you should invest your resources where there will be a payoff. For my family thats a bit of time finding sales and packaging the staples.

    Good Luck.

    1. Agreed. Dried beans are wonderfully multi-purpose. They’re very inexpensive. They’re easy to store. They last for a long time. You can cook them, ferment them or sprout them for food. Or, you can sprout them / plant them to start a garden if survival situation becomes long-term. They’re basically an emergency “garden-in-a-bag”.

  7. Thank you for this article…we started prepping about 2 years ago starting from scratch. We’ve purchased all the must haves when it comes to food storage…wheat, popcorn, rice, etc…
    I have learned so much, but some of my learning has come after having already made the purchases.

    I’ve gotten my food from Emergency Essentials, Honeyville and Augason Farms. I hadn’t thought about how long the food has been in the warehouse, whether or not the food was grown in the U.S. or whether or not it is GMO..as in the case of my popcorn. I questioned Emergency Essentials as to whether or not my popcorn was GMO and was told not certified as non-GMO, but they think so.

    After reading this article, I will be using up my Honeyville stores first and will question the companies I decide to purchase from in the future.

  8. This is why you rotate, rotate, rotate. Buy what you use, and use what you buy. Learn to incorporate your food storage into you everyday useage and then how long it keeps isn’t a problem, plus you won’t be trying to figure out how to use it and what you like and don’t like in an emergency situation that is already stressful.

  9. Late to the game on this one, but….. the nitrogen packed containers might do far better in warm conditions than is expected. It is an inert gas, and doesn’t react with most items when heated. I suspect this will result in better preservation. There was a story two years or so ago about a guy that opened up some of his old Mountain House stores bought almost 30 years ago. He was getting on in years, and was selling it – didn’t see the need for it anymore. Did some whimsical food prep to test it after all that time, and the level of preservation was fine. That doesn’t say anything about preserved nutritional values directly, but the two are linked. His stores were in a garage…..

  10. One of my concerns with purchasing supplies is sizing. Many people recommend # 10 canned food of many kinds. My family consist of just two people, my wife and myself. If we open a number 10 can we would not come near to eating that volume. It would take several days and more than a little food fatgue would set in? What am I missing regarding #10 cans?

    1. Often, but not always, the #10 can prices are lower than if you were to buy the product in smaller packages. Some people buy the large cans and then repackage the food in canning jars (using a vacuum sealer), small mylar jars or Food Saver bags. That adds the expense of those containers, however. One more thing. Most foods in #10 cans will continue to stay fresh for several months if stored in a dark, dry, cool location that is pest-free.

  11. THANK YOU FOR THIS PHRASE!!! “I actually recommend that you stay away from the, “just add water” entrees, for the most part.” I’ve felt like so few of us say this it’s nice to hear you chime in with the same mantra I have!

  12. Pingback: Staying Prepared » 3 Ways Prepping Saves Me Money! Prep Without Going Broke!

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