Modern Survival Food Options To Stock Your Preparedness Pantry
There are more modern survival food options to stock your preparedness pantry than ever before. This gives us lots of different ways to keep food on the table, even when the lights go out or the delivery trucks stop running. To make planning easier, we are going to break all the options down into different categories, sorted by ease of preparation, and cover the use case for each one. This will let you decide what combination makes the best sense for your family.
The first question that needs to be honestly answered is how much time and effort will be put into creating and maintaining an emergency food supply? If keeping inventory lists, managing expiration dates, and rotating stock is acceptable, then there are plenty of grocery store items that can be used to quickly build up a food reserve. However, for many people planning for the future, grocery store items make up only part of their plan. Let’s take a look at what can options exist beyond eating what is already in the pantry and freezer.
Emergency Ration Bars require absolutely zero preparation making them the least effort long term storage food item. They are basically a soft, crumbly pressed cookie bar. There are a few different companies that make these with the common flavors being coconut, apple cinnamon, vanilla, or lemon. Datrex and UST are two of the easiest to find. Ration bars come in durable packaging and can best be thought of as an easy way to fix hungry people with a five-year shelf life. They have a very compact size and are calorie-dense, but are more of a short-term fix than a long-term solution, due to limited variety and nutrition. Ration bars are good options for a car kit, get-home bag, or the bottom desk drawer at work, but I would not stack cases of them in the hall closet. After a few weeks of just ration bars to eat, someone would likely throw one at you and these things have the heft of a brick.
Ready To Eat Meals are the next small step up the effort ladder. For just a little more work this gives you something that looks a lot more like actual food than a ration bar. “Meals Ready-to-Eat” are the government’s approach to creating an entire 1250 calorie meal in pouches with military style MREs and civilian MRE versions both being available. Do keep in mind that MREs need to keep kept as cool as possible to maximize shelf life and are designed to be good five years from the day they were made. This used to be longer, but has been shortened to allow for more ingredient options while still fitting the needs of the military. Also, unless you are buying just the separate MRE entree pouches, expect to receive cases of mixed meals, with various menus. There are grocery store pouched entree options as well, such as TastyBite Lentils which can be cost effective, but with a shorter shelf life.
The Augason Farms Ready Now kit is a newer option that has everything needed for three simple meals in a single bag with the advantage of a 25 year shelf life. There are Farmhouse, Homestyle and Steakhouse versions, which are all right at 1000 calories and based around variations of an oatmeal, protein shake, potato dish menu. It is a simpler than a MRE, but lasts significantly longer.
72 Hour Kits are an easy short term solution, but originally based on a flawed premise. There was an idea that after a natural disaster, relief personnel will show up to help everyone within three days. But, based on actual response times to natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, etc., this is really overly optimistic. However, these could be good choices for an office drawer, get home bag or when traveling. Common options are the Ready Hour 72 Hour Kit, Augason 72 Hour Be Ready Emergency Meals, 4 Patriots 72 Hour Survival Food Kit and Mountain House 3 Day Emergency Food Supply. These kits usually require a boil water and stir level of cooking. Common food items are potato based soups, oatmeal, as well as rice and pasta dishes. Freeze dried options, such as Mountain House, do start to stand out a bit here as they only require “add boiling water” levels of cooking and have expanded menu choices, but at a higher price tag.
Larger Food Kits are a more realistic starting point for long term food storage at home over the 72 hour “travel” variety. They provide one of the easiest ways to go from zero long term storage to a week or a month’s worth of meals. These are usually boxes or buckets filled with pouched meals. The big advantage here is that a good bit of the thought and planning has already been taken care of during the design phase. The tradeoff is that you are getting the assortment of meals that someone decided made sense for you or your family. However, if you just want to get ready with no more effort than ordering online and then stacking some boxes at the back of the closet, then here you go. As before, look for “freeze dried” to just add boiling water or “dehydrated” for basic heat and stir cooking. Mountain House Essential Meal Bucket, EasyPrep Basic Food Supply Bucket, Ready Hour 4-Week Food Supply, Augason Farms 30 Day Food Storage, and the 4Patriots 4-Week Survival Kit are all common options. If you want to know how some of this stuff tastes, then check out our 15 Food Pouch Taste Test review article. Also, ignore any measurement based on “servings” as this is a meaningless industry term. Wise Company lost a related class action lawsuit a few years ago. Look at calories and ingredients when deciding how much to store away. There is also no rule that says you cannot add some supplemental food to mix up the menu a bit, add calories and keep things interesting.
Cans, Buckets and Pails – Buying large quantities of food is frequently cheaper per meal than individual or boxed pouches. The cans of freeze dried meals are still an easy preparation option, but since these are not pre-measured quantities like the pouches, we can ration larger or smaller sizes. Also, since there is no disposable pouch, a pot is required for cooking, so plan for a little more cleanup. There are also single product cans and pails which can have good snack items such as dried fruit. Potato shreds are also a great “turn into anything” kind of meal backbone that fry up into breakfast hashbrowns or boil down to potato soup. My family likes the Augason Farms Pancake Mix in a can better than the brand from the local grocery store and it also makes waffles or biscuits. Metal cans have a long storage life are are small enough to stash in the corner of pantry until needed. They are a good way to fill the awkward back corners of kitchen cabinet space that otherwise become home to things like that fondue set which was such a great deal at a local yard sale. Plastic buckets usually stack well if you go with the same manufacturer for a few to get a consistent design. They are a good way to get a large quantities of things such as rolled oats for oatmeal.
When stocking up, do not forget seasonings, especially salt. Most pouch meals contain plenty, but it can make all the difference in cooked meals. Also black pepper, red pepper flakes, a few bottles of hot sauce and whatever seasonings your family prefers. This will give you a way to turn sometimes bland storage food into a variety of more interesting meals.