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23 June, 2013

Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide, Part 1

Introduction
Emergencies Are Real

With all the modern conveniences we enjoy, it’s easy to forget how dependent we are on these technological advancements. Most of us have free-flowing water at our fingertips, electrical power that feeds directly into our homes and 24-hour grocery stores filled with endless supplies of fresh food. This is a luxury; without warning one disaster could delay or destroy our entire food supply.

World news tells us how fragile this dependence is. The world has natural disasters that are occurring with increasing frequency and severity; continuous political unrest rages in countries across the globe; economies are failing all around us. We are constantly reminded that our fragile system is not guaranteed from failure. This system is similar to an elaborate structure made out of dominoes: the shifting of one piece can cause the whole thing to come crashing down.

As the world becomes increasingly less stable, more and more people are choosing to become educated on emergency preparedness. Like those of us at Legacy, people are learning that in an emergency situation or other devastating life event (job loss, severe illness or unanticipated disability), we cannot always rely on government or other people to step in and provide for the needs of our families. Should incident occur the only way to assure ourselves that our loved ones will be taken care of is to get prepared on our own.

If we want to take care of our families’ needs in a crisis, having a sufficient store of emergency food is the crucial first step. Food storage options seem endless. Anyone who wants to start a food storage plan may feel overwhelmed by the large amount of conflicting and confusing information on the web regarding what to store, how much you need and how to store it.

In this guide Legacy Foods outlines some basic information to help you make the best choices as you build your family's emergency food storage supply. We will specifically discuss the benefits and disadvantages of different types of food storage, common questions about how much food to store, the importance of storing healthy and tasty food and how best to store what you have. When planning your food storage you have many considerations to make; this guide will help you get started.


Chapter 1
Food Storage Types Compared

With many food storage options, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. When planning your food storage there are many questions to answer: Are cans better? Should I have bulk foods? Are MREs really a feasible food storage option? What’s all the hype about freeze-dried foods? How do I know which is right for my family?

As you navigate your options many factors will weigh in your decision. This includes: nutritional content; ease of storage and transport; cost; shelf life; taste; ease of preparation. All types of storage food have benefits and you should have some of each in your supply. Below is a summary of the different types of food storage options and their relative benefits and drawbacks.

Pantry/Canned Foods

Pantry foods are probably the most familiar type of food storage. Cans are a simple and easy way to start storing food because you can find a wide variety in any grocery store. This group also includes boxed items and other packaged foods. Filling your pantry with foods that you eat every day makes great short-term food storage because these foods are convenient to use and easy to prepare. Weekly sales are a great way to quickly build up your food supply fairly inexpensively. One added benefit of cans is that they do not require cooking and can be eaten cold if needed. These foods are ready to eat with minimal-to-no preparation. Wet-packed cans contain water or juice with the contents of the can making them beneficial if water supplies are low during an emergency situation.

Pantry goods typically have expiration dates from one to five years so they need to be rotated more frequently than other types of food storage. Many pantry foods are not packaged for long-term storage and are more susceptible to bugs and rodents. These are foods that you should eat and rotate on a regular basis; simply put the newer food behind what is already on your pantry shelf. Make sure to check for dents in cans and only buy non-damaged items so the food is not compromised. Make sure to have at least one manual can opener in case of a power outage; it would be a challenge to open canned food without one.

Cans are not a great portable option because they are heavy and bulky, making them difficult to store and pack. Boxed items are lighter but typically require other ingredients to prepare. When buying canned foods make sure to get the appropriate size. Large #10 cans are a common food storage option and seem to be a great value for your money; however, they can be a bad idea because once opened you have to consume the contents within a short amount of time or it will spoil. Choose your #10 cans wisely our you could be eating the same food item for several meals in a row, finding a way to store leftovers or dealing with spoilage. In summary, pantry foods are the first you will use in an emergency because of the easy preparation and limited shelf life.

Bulk Foods

Bulk foods are another conventional way to store food. When properly stored these dried items have a long shelf life; some will virtually last forever. Typical bulk foods are wheat, powdered milk, corn meal, dried potatoes, dry beans, corn, pasta, and white rice. Many people like bulk foods because it can be a do-it-yourself method of storage. Other items available in bulk include vegetable oils, baking powder, coffee, tea, cocoa, salt, sugar, honey, bouillon and vinegar.

Storing bulk foods is not an ideal food storage option because it takes more preparation and creative cooking to produce a variety of meals. On the other hand, bulk foods are a fantastic way to stretch out any meal and will allow you to make things from scratch. Adding rice, pasta or beans to a meal can bulk up the meal and stretch your food dollar. With wheat, yeast and salt you can make a loaf of bread. The downside to bulk food is that you will need to have an alternative cooking should you lose power or gas. You won’t be able to make much from these food items without the ability to cook, bake, boil or simmer.

Bulk foods can be difficult to store because they come in large, heavy packages or containers, some of which might need to be repackaged for long shelf life. This is not the type of food you want to carry with you if you need to evacuate your home. The biggest disadvantage of bulk food storage is that you will need to cook mostly from scratch. Keep in mind that though bulk foods may provide more food per pound, they also require longer planning and preparation in order to have a wide variety of meals.

A significant drawback to having only bulk foods in your food storage is that you are unable to make a quick meal. During the immediate aftermath of a disaster you won't have time to stop and cook for 3 hours; you will be focusing on other things and will need something you can quickly eat with little preparation.

MREs

Meals, Ready-To-Eat (MREs) are military rations. The name says it all; these full-course meals have everything in one package: entree, side dish, dessert, drink and condiments; these often include a small heating device. MREs do not require water and are the most convenient food storage option. Some people like the taste but others do not. This is what our military uses because of their high calorie content and because they are shelf stable. MREs also include a spoon, toilet paper, wet nap and salt with every meal. Because of the high calories they are an excellent choice for a bug out or evacuation situation.

Though they can be on the heavy side, MREs are a good option because they are very portable. They are the perfect food to put in your evacuation bag. MREs a great short-term, zero-preparation food to live on until you are able to get to a more secure location. The shelf life of MREs can be 5 to 10 years if stored well; after that, palatability can be affected. The greatest disadvantage of MREs is that they are very expensive and have a limited variety. They are best reserved for short timeframes.

Dehydrated or Freeze-dried /Long-Term Storage 10-25+ Shelf Life

Another emergency food option is freeze-dried and/or dehydrated foods. This type of food storage is convenient because it is delivered already packaged for long-term storage. Some foods are better preserved using the freeze-drying process; others are better dehydrated. Some companies may stick to one method while others use a combination of both in their prepackaged food storage options.

Dehydration is a long-standing method of preserving food. During this process foods are put through a low temperature chamber where up to 98% of the moisture is taken out and then the food is packaged. This dehydration process reduces both the size and weight of the food while maintaining flavor. Tests have shown that texture and color can be affected with this process. Some experts believe that nutrients are reduced during the dehydration process but others do not agree.

Dehydrated foods are lightweight and can be ideal for quick mobility in the event of an evacuation. These foods are typically not full meals but are the foods you use to make meals such as: fruits, vegetables, jerky, eggs, pancake mix, butter, tomato and cheese powder.

Dehydrating can be done at home but can be very time-consuming; storage life will be shorter without the right packaging. Dehydrating food at home can be a cost-effective way of adding to your food storage if you incorporate these foods into your everyday cooking. Professionally dehydrated foods are properly packaged and can store for a much longer time.

Freeze drying is a process of preserving food that requires high-end equipment that flash freezes fresh or cooked food. The food is then put in a vacuum chamber that remains as cold as -50° F. Minimal heat is applied and the ice evaporates without ever going back into the liquid phase. This removes almost all of the moisture from the food. Freeze dried foods make for better tasting meals because the process preserves the color, flavor, shape and texture of the original food. Because water has been removed it weighs less, making it a great portable option. One downside is the slightly higher cost than dehydrated food. Another is that since it retains the shape of the food it is also slightly bulkier to store.

Both dehydrated and freeze-dried meals have many advantages over other food storage options. Overall they are easier to store, are light-weight, take up little space and do not require refrigeration. They do require water for reconstitution so you will need to increase your water storage accordingly. These foods are properly packaged for long-term storage and easier mobility. These foods save you time because they are quick and easy to prepare. They are also nutritious and great tasting.

The main disadvantage of these types of foods is the cost. Due to the intense processes these foods undergo as well as being pre-packaged for long-term storage, the cost is higher.

SUMMARY: Study these options and decide which types can fit into your plan. Each level of food storage has advantages and disadvantages. Because of this many people choose to have a combination of the food storage types for the most comprehensive plan. Consider all the factors and store what is right for your family.

To Be Continued...

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