The Covid-pandemic took the world by surprise – except maybe for survivalists. The possibility of a global event that could shut down governments and economies and threaten entire populations is exactly why preppers devote time and resources to perfecting the science and art of survivalism. Chief of these survival skills is stockpiling or storing food.
Shelf-stable food for storage is either freeze-dried, dehydrated, or canned. They pack benefits, like long shelf life, nutritional retainment, and easy preparation. However, a disadvantage of stored foods is they tend to have high sodium and preservative contents, which can negatively affect health.
This article will take you through the different food preservation methods and discuss the pros and cons of the various methods in more detail. Keep reading to learn which stored foods are best suited to your nutritional needs, and storage capabilities, among other personal considerations.
Freeze-drying is a process in which food is completely frozen and then placed under a vacuum to remove any water or solvents. This process allows the ice to go from a solid state to a vapor. Since the liquid phase is skipped, moisture retention is at the absolute minimum. Removing moisture from food increases its longevity.
The Pros of Freeze-Dried Food
- Freeze-dried food has a long shelf life owing to its low moisture content. While some consumers worry that nutrients are lost during the water removal process, the nutrients remain intact.
- Freeze-drying effectively preserves meat. It is the best way to dry meat, and freeze-dried meat tastes better than dehydrated meat.
- Freeze-dried food is lightweight. It also reconstitutes quickly in water while retaining its original shape and texture. It is not only great for stockpiling food supplies, but it is also an excellent choice for outdoor trips in which food will have to be carried in a backpack.
- They also come packed in single consumer serving sizes. It provides an excellent method for the preservation and consumption of food since you can conveniently thaw only the portion you need.
The Cons of Freeze-Dried Food
- Freeze-drying food can be expensive. Although it’s better than dehydrated food, it is also the most pricey storage option, which, if you have a frugal lifestyle, might be a problem.
- It is not readily edible as it requires water for preparation. While they are great for taking on outdoor trips, they are also bulkier than dehydrated foods and will need to be reconstituted with water before consumption.
I personally store Ready Hour food on top of my home packaged beans, rice and other food items. Their 3 month food supply is one of the better deals out there and it provides a full 2000 calories a day unlike a lot of other manufacturers.
Dehydrated food has been around for a while now. Similar to freeze-drying, the underlying principle of this food preservation method is moisture removal to prolong shelf life. However, this process isn’t as effective as freeze-drying in removing moisture.
The Pros of Dehydrated Food
- It can effectively extend the shelf life of food. While moisture levels are not as minimal as in freeze-dried food, prolonged shelf life is certainly still achieved by this process.
- It is an affordable method of food preservation. A prominent benefit of dehydrated food is that it’s significantly cheaper, and you can even learn to dehydrate your own food using a home dehydrator. This makes your food storage goals more achievable and sustainable.
The Cons of Dehydrated Food
- It takes longer to reconstitute than freeze-dried food. Contrary to freeze-dried food, which retains its original shape and texture when reconstituted, dehydrated food appears unappetizing.
- It loses some of its flavors after reconstitution. While adults may acquire the taste for dehydrated foods, it’s harder for children to take a liking to them. Many children will detest the taste of dehydrated food. If you have children in the family, be sure to consider food options that will appeal to them to encourage adequate food intake even during an emergency.
Commercially-canned food has gone through a sterile process to eliminate organisms that cause spoilage. This is done to ensure a long shelf life without eliminating moisture. Preservatives are also used to increase longevity. Canned food usually has an expiration date of two to five years from manufacture.
The Pros of Commercially Canned Food
- Commercially-canned food is available in a wide variety. It caters to different personal tastes and nutritional needs, making it ideal for families with many members in varied age groups.
- Manufacturers pack canned foods using state-of-the-art facilities and techniques. The packaging of canned food is secure, making it ideal for stockpiling as it’s more resilient against humidity, temperature changes, and other environmental factors.
- Canned food is cheap and easy to find. Inexpensive options are abundant, which makes them great for stockpiling. These are also easily sourced from your local grocery stores.
- It has a very long shelf-life. As mentioned above, the shelf life of canned goods ranges from two to five years, with an average of three years. However, its true shelf life is often much longer than that indicated on your can. It’s widely known that canned goods are usually still safe for consumption even after the declared expiration date has elapsed.
The Cons of Commercially Canned Food
- They are heavy. While commercially-canned food wins in the secure packaging department, that resistant packaging is considered a disadvantage when weight is a consideration. If you’re stockpiling for the long haul, canned goods are great. But if you need to evacuate, it’s probably a good idea to stick to freeze-dried and dehydrated food.
- Canned goods have high sodium and preservative content. Constant consumption of these substances can have health implications. High sodium diets are linked to hypertension which can lead to a host of other health problems.
- Metal cans are prone to rust. While it has been mentioned above that the packaging of canned goods is resilient to humidity and temperature changes, extended exposure to humidity or water can cause rusting, which will eventually impair the integrity of the packaging or even infect the inside of the can. If you plan to stockpile canned foods, make sure to have a cool, dry storage space.
Home-canning food is a process in which food is placed in jars and heated to temperatures that destroy microorganisms while also deactivating enzymes that can cause food to spoil. While being heated, the air is dispelled from the jars and replaced by a vacuum seal.
The Pros of Home-Canned Food
- Home-canned food has a long shelf life like all other food preservation methods. The food is so well-preserved it requires no refrigeration.
- Many recipes for home-canning make for delicious alternatives to the preservative-heavy ones. You can control what goes into your food to ensure that it meets your family’s nutritional needs without compromising the flavor.
- Making home-canned food is a valuable skill. The skill can be developed at home and is quite a satisfying hobby. The experience is essential for survivalists as it can be quite sustainable and enables self-sufficiency, which is the essence of survivalism.
The Cons of Home-Canned Food
- It is time-consuming. While most home-canners love the process, they do caution would-be home-canners that the process takes time, effort, and patience.
- It can be a costly method of food storage. There is also the initial cost of jars and lids that will require a sizable budget.
- Glass jars are also heavy and fragile and take up more storage space. Glass jars are also more fragile than metal cans. Unlike commercially-canned food, home-canned food typically uses glass jars instead of actual tin cans because most homes do not have canning equipment.
Meal Ready To Eat (MRE)
An MRE is an entire meal in one package. The MRE was developed in 1980 and has been the operational food ration for the US Armed Forces since.
The food components in an MRE pack are carefully planned to provide a balanced diet. While the menu changes every year, each MRE typically contains most of the following:
- Side Dish
- Condiments or Seasoning (optional)
Each MRE also contains a Flameless Ration Heater to warm entrees. Also included are eating accessories such as spoons and matches. You’ll also find cream, sugar, salt, and even chewing gum in the package. Toilet paper is also provided.
The Pros of MREs
- It has well-balanced dietary and practical components. More than any of the other food options mentioned in this article, MREs are perhaps the most ideal. After all, they are designed to keep one nourished even in the most challenging circumstances. They also provide the ideal total caloric intake per day.
- MREs are convenient to eat since they require no preparation. It makes a great addition to any survival kit and for taking on outdoor trips or in case of an emergency evacuation. You could even say they are the ultimate survival food.
The Cons of MREs
- MREs have a reputation for not being tasty. Although MREs taste much better than they used to, some people may still find the taste off-putting.
- MREs have a high sodium and preservative content. Like any shelf-stable food, MREs are also not ideal for long-term consumption.
- They are costly. The price of MREs can be too expensive, especially when you consider the content of each MRE. Some people may even find the contents lacking in taste and quality.
- The packaging is not as secure as canned food. Although designed for rough conditions and preferred for being lightweight, their foil pouches are also susceptible to puncture.
Food bars are the go-to energy sources for people living fast-paced lives who usually don’t have the time to sit down for a proper meal. Although not intended to substitute for a decent meal, survivalists may want to include a stash in their stockpile as it makes for a great snack.
You would’ve to ration your freeze-dried, dehydrated, and canned foods in real survival situations. One way of doing this is opting for food bars instead of popping a can of Spam open.
The Pros of Food Bars
- Food bars are pretty cheap. You can stock up on them in large quantities because they are great for tiding over hunger pangs when rationing primary food sources.
- They have a one-year shelf life.
- They take up relatively less storage space.
- Food bars are also calorie-dense.
- Their compact size and portability make it ideal for kits and outdoor trips in which they are a convenient calorie source.
- A wide variety of food bars is available on the market. You can figure out your favorite and stock up on that.
The Cons of Food Bars
- Although food bars are a quick calorie source, they have limited nutritional value, and not everyone enjoys how they taste.
- They are also not ideal for long-term use because of their sugar and preservative content. Besides, when you’re hungry for a meal, a food bar won’t cut it.
Grains & Beans
Grains and beans are basic life-sustaining food staples that some people can’t live without. It should naturally be included in any survivalist’s stockpile or food storage endeavors. Below are grains that are great for storing.
- Hulled Oats
- Rolled Oats
- Pearled Oats
- Durum Wheat
- Hard Red Wheat
- Hard White Wheat
The pros and cons of grains and beans for food storage will be discussed further below.
The Pros of Grains & Beans
- Grains and beans are essentially low-cost, making them great for storing in large quantities.
- They have great nutritional value and provide variety, which actually matters more than we think.
- They can have a long storage life ranging from ten to twelve years if stored properly.
The Cons Grains & Beans
- Grains and beans are meant for storage and definitely not portability. Grains and beans are ideal for survival situations where you do not have to leave your stockpile. Anyone who has ever had to buy rice from the grocery store knows that it can be quite heavy.
- They’re not ideal for short-term emergencies as they require some lengthy preparation. Another downside to grains and beans is the requirement of water and fuel to prepare. As for calories, large quantities will need to be consumed to achieve daily caloric requirements.
- Grains and beans are sensitive to the elements. High humidity can cause mold to grow in your supply.
This pandemic has taught us more than any event in recent human history that preparedness is an essential survival skill. Essential to our survival is food, and knowing the pros and cons of the different food storage methods can help you become more discerning with the foods you decide to stockpile.