Survival Food Buyer’s Guide
All too often these days, we rely on modern conveniences and technology to survive. Many people would be lost if they had to go off the grid for even just a few days. According to the CDC, nearly half of people in the U.S. don’t have resources such as food and water that would get them through an emergency.
You never know when political upheaval or a natural disaster might strike. What’s more, you may not be able to rely on the local government or nearby neighbors for aid. The best way to keep you and your loved ones safe in any disaster is to ensure that you’re prepared.
In a life-and-death situation, the last thing you want to be worried about is staying fed. Here, we’re going to cover the basics of how to build up a supply of food that will keep you and your family healthy in any emergency.
Types of Survival Food
You can find several different solutions when it comes to survival foods. The types of foods you choose will depend on factors such as storage space, budget, and nutritional needs. If possible, it’s best to stockpile a wide variety of different goods to ensure that you have an appetizing and balanced diet.
Canned and Tinned Goods
Most of us are familiar with canned goods as a long-term form of storage. You can find all sorts of canned goods readily available in just about any grocery store. There are a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and meats that can add some diversity to your diet. You can even find full meals, such as soups or pasta dishes. What’s more, many cans are packed in water, which can come in handy if you’re running low on supplies.
As long as you store them in a dry, room-temperature environment, canned goods can last for years. They’re resistant to pests, mold, and most germs. However, it’s important to note that cans are susceptible to contamination with harmful Clostridium botulinum, the main cause of foodborne botulism. Cans may also contain BPA, a chemical linked to several different health concerns in adults and children.
Grains, Beans, and Legumes
Dry grains, beans, and legumes are also inexpensive and nutritious nonperishables that can store for months or even years in the right conditions. While they don’t contain all essential vitamins and minerals, grains can help you stretch more nutritionally dense foods. They also take up less space than cans, though they tend to come in large 10-gallon buckets or 25-pound feed bags.
Beans and grains are susceptible to damage from pests, mold, and moisture if not stored properly. You should seal them in a dry, airtight container that can’t be chewed open. Brown rice is especially prone to spoiling, as it has a higher oil content than other grains. It’s also important to keep in mind that beans, grains, legumes, and more require heat and water to cook, which can be a challenge when living off the grid.
You can buy bulk grains and beans from companies such as Augason Farms, a company that sells 24-pound pails of dry goods such as Augason Farms White Rice, Augason Farms Lentils, and Augason Farms Black Beans. You can also find convenient variety kits such as the Food Storage Basics Bucket from Ready Project.
Meals ready to eat, more commonly known as MREs, are a quick and convenient way of keeping yourself fed in an emergency situation. Each pack includes everything you need for a balanced meal, including an entree, a side dish, a drink, and dessert. Many MREs even include a chemical heating packet, so you don’t have to rely on electricity to prepare your food.
The U.S. military uses MRE rations to keep soldiers fed, especially on bases and overseas. They use brands such as Ameriqual, Sopakco, and Wornick. There are also plenty of civilian brands, including names such as Meal Kit Supply, MRE Star, and XMRE.
While MREs are convenient, you should keep in mind that they tend to be pricier than other survival food options. MRE packs also often contain high-fat and high-sodium foods as well as chemicals and preservatives that can lead to digestive upset.
Freeze-Dried and Dehydrated Foods
Freeze-dried and dehydrated foods are popular because they’re healthy, lightweight, and don’t take up much storage space. This type of food is prepared by removing most of the water, giving you the option to rehydrate it later during cooking. Freeze-drying removes much more water than just dehydrating by flash freezing the food, exposing it to a vacuum, and vaporizing any liquid.
Companies such as the Wise company sell survival variety packs containing healthy, freeze-dried ingredients with a long shelf life. The Wise Company Meat Variety Pack offers plenty of protein options, while the Wise Freeze Dried Fruit Bucket contains a variety of greens to give you the vitamins and minerals that you need. You can even find full meals available from companies such as Mountain House Classic.
While dehydrated and freeze-dried foods make an ideal addition to any prepper’s pantry, remember that they don’t last as long as options such as canned food or dry grains. You also need to have water available to prepare most freeze-dried meals.
Frozen foods can last for months to years in the right conditions, making them a good choice for survivalists. It’s also easy to find a wide variety of different frozen foods, from raw ingredients to fully cooked meals. Frozen meals are fresher than canned or freeze-dried foods and often much tastier than MRE options. What’s more, fruits and vegetables tend to retain more of their original nutrients.
While frozen foods are delicious and convenient, many preppers don’t consider them a good long-term solution. Frozen foods are more of a challenge to store, as they have to be kept in subzero temperatures. Most people are limited on freezer space, though it’s possible to get a second freezer dedicated to food storage. However, keep in mind that if the grid goes down, the frozen food stores you have will spoil quickly.
When stockpiling food, it can be easy to forget the basics. In addition to essentials such as fruit, veggies, meats, and grains, you also need certain items to round out your pantry. These can help you expand your meal possibilities and keep things exciting, even with a limited number of ingredients available.
It’s best to keep a supply of baking items such as flour and baking soda on hand to make bread, casseroles, and more. You should also make sure to have plenty of sweeteners and spices, as well as salt and pepper. A full spice rack can make a world of difference when you’re on your third month of eating free-dried beef.
How Much Food Do I Need?
Experts at the CDC recommend that all U.S. families have at least three days’ worth of food and water stockpiled at any given time. This would be enough to keep most families going in the time it took for emergency services to respond to a disaster.
The amount of food a family needs per day can vary from household to household. While it can be tempting to go by advertised serving size, many survival food brands minimize portions so that they can list a cheap cost-per-serving. Often, a given serving size isn’t equivalent to an adult meal.
The best way to figure out how much you should have stockpiled per day will depend on the caloric intake of all your household members. You should figure out how many calories each person needs per day and ensure you have enough stored to meet these daily requirements.
Calorie consumption differs based on factors such as age and gender. A sedentary adult man needs around 2000 to 2400 calories per day, while a woman needs between 1600 and 2000. Children typically need fewer, though teens can be similar to adults in caloric requirements.
Keep in mind that these figures assume that you’re not exerting any energy during the day. In an emergency scenario, you and your family will likely be burning more calories as you try to stay afloat. It’s a good idea to account for this by assuming each person will use around 400 to 600 more calories per day than expected.
The number of calories per serving isn’t the only consideration when buying survival stores. Whatever type of food you choose to get, from canned veggies to MRE packs, you should check the ingredients to make sure that the calories are healthy ones. This means avoiding foods with fillers such as processed sugars or saturated fats. While these will keep you feeling full for a short while, they don’t power you through the day the same way that lean proteins and healthy fats will.
Once you have three day’s worth of calories stockpiled, you can start working on building up your food stores. Most preppers spend months or even years slowly accumulating goods. It’s a good idea to begin with a one-month supply before expanding to a six-month or even year-long stockpile.
The easiest way to do this is by simply picking up some extra nonperishables each time you go shopping and adding them to your stores. Just remember to rotate through the food regularly to ensure nothing goes bad.
Ingredients to Avoid
It’s important to include a wide variety of different foods in your emergency stores to ensure that you and your family have access to all of the vitamins and minerals that you need. However, there are certain common ingredients that you should try to steer clear of when it comes to survival food.
Salt has long been used as a preservative. It helps to remove moisture from food and discourage bacterial growth, keeping it safe to eat for longer. While a little bit of sodium is good for your health, too much can lead to long-term health complications such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
Carbohydrates can be a great source of energy, but many processed foods contain what are known as “empty calories.” This means that, while filling, these carbohydrates have very little to offer in the way of nutritional value. They may fill you up temporarily, but they won’t keep you energized throughout the day. Eating too many empty calories may even lead to obesity and other health problems.
Instead, try to stick to healthy whole grains when possible instead of processed carbs such as white bread. You can also find healthy carbohydrates in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes. These foods deliver energy, vitamins, and minerals efficiently and without causing digestive upset.
Additives and Preservatives
These days, it’s hard to find survival food that’s not packed with preservatives. While these chemicals may extend the shelf life of a meal, they can also harm your health. The same goes for artificial flavors, colors, and other unnatural ingredients.
It’s best to avoid any survival foods where you can’t read the ingredient label as a basic rule of thumb. You should be able to easily recognize most, if not all, of the ingredients used. Preferably, you should stick to meals that contain just a few select items. These types of meals are easier on the digestive system and tend to have more nutritional value than other options.
Many of us take for granted that we have running water, working electricity, and a fully stocked grocery store right around the corner. It’s important to remember that you never know when disaster might strike. The only way to ensure the safety of you and your loved ones is by being prepared.
There are plenty of different options to choose from when it comes to survival food. Over time, you can build up your stockpile to include canned goods, MREs, freeze-dried meals, and more. If you’re diligent in your efforts, you can rest easy knowing that your family has the supplies that they need to weather any storm.