When it comes to longevity, canned and dehydrated foods are your best friends. But cans are heavy and bulky when it comes time to bug-out. And, no matter who you are, dried apples and bananas are tolerable for only so long, as far as your taste buds and digestive system are concerned. Eventually the time will come when your body craves a real meal and that is when Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) and freeze-dried food become treasures worth more than gold to an experienced prepper.
Why MREs & Freeze-dried food?
There are a number of reasons to seriously consider these prepackaged emergency foods but when all is said and done, it boils down to just two, packability and high returns. This means they are lightweight enough that a week’s worth or more of meals will fit into a bug-out-bag with room to spare. A box of 24 MRE meals can slide easily into a closet shelf. A month’s worth of freeze-dried food for one person or a week’s worth for three can be stored in a 5 gallon bucket. Between these two options you can stock away months worth of these easy to prepare emergency essentials that sufficiently meet your family’s nutritional needs during a disaster into a space the size of a hallway closet.
MREs vs Freeze-dried
So what are the differences? There a several but let’s start with a simple side by side comparison. MREs are fully self-contained meals in a single pouch. Typically each package contains a main course, a side dish, some type of bread or cracker, a dessert, some candy, and a drink mix. With each meal containing an average of 1,250 calories (half the recommended daily intake) they will keep your family healthy enough to weather the stresses of any emergency or disaster situation.
Individually packaged, freeze-dried survival foods tend to only be single entrees. One package may have beef stroganoff or cajun chicken with rice with no side dish or desert. They are also sold in large portions for multiple people. And just as with consuming other types of emergency foods, you would have to calculate daily caloric intakes.
MREs do not require any cooking. All their contents can be eaten as is, right out of the package. But if your body desires a warm meal, authentic MREs – those made only for the US military – include a flameless, water activated, emergency ration heater to heat your food.
Freeze-dried foods are prepared by boiling water in a pot, over a flame (or camp stove) which is poured into the pouch and left to “cook” for a set amount of time before eating.
What’s on the menu?
Left over from the early days when they first made their appearance, MREs have gotten a bad rap in the general public’s consciousness. Horror stories place their quality a step below cardboard, barely edible “food” choked down for the sole purpose of putting something in a soldier’s stomach.
Set those urban myths aside because MRE’s of late have a full menu of 24 different meals changed yearly, ranging anywhere from Mexican-style chicken stew to lemon pepper tuna to sloppy joes.
Freeze-dried foods have enjoyed a healthy surge in demand over the last couple of decades from preppers and those yearning to get outdoors. Backpackers campers and prepper’s have driven business in the camp/survival food industry to the point that there is a wealth of menu options available commercially from breakfast dishes to gourmet-style dinners.
How long they last?
Long term shelf life is the question on so many minds. Will they still be edible after a decade stuffed into the hall closet? The determining factor in many cases is temperature. In the case of MREs, the optimal storage temperature is 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit giving them a shelf life of 4-5 years.
Claims for freeze-dried foods vary greatly with temperature and packaging as the factors for long-term shelf life. Individual pouches are rated for 5-10 years while the industry standard #10 cans last upwards of 25 years. When it comes to storage, follow the tried and true method as with other long-term food in your emergency pantry, store in cool, dry places out of direct sunlight.
How and Where to Buy
There are several different places to look for quality MREs. The first thing to be aware of is the US government restricted the resale of military MREs to the public which has created a few areas of concern when it comes to their purchase. As demand for prepper foods has grown, online sources have followed suit. Because of this, expired or fake MREs are often passed off as genuine military products. It is important to pay close attention to the details. If photos are available, make sure they clearly show the case with packaged dates, as well as the type of meals. The same with auction websites, ask sellers for details and clear photographs before making an offer. Given the uncertainty, the best place to find genuine military MREs just might be your local Army supply store or check out our recommended MRE and Freeze dried food suppliers.
Since meals ready to eat are a great option for hunters, campers, prepper’s, and many other folks in need of bulking up emergency food for the long term, there are now some quality civilian brands available today. It is easier to find these types of MREs online from legitimate sources where you can buy with confidence.
Those seeking to fill their stockpile of emergency food with freeze-dried foods have their choice of suppliers. There are several established companies online retailers that offer a full range of menu items and prices. Products include individual entree packets to bulk cases to stocked 72-hour kits with enough food for three people to 30-day supply kits and all the way up to a full years supply of this emergency essential.
The market for these ready to eat and freeze-dried meals have grown with the demand for lightweight, packable foods for camping, hunting and backpacking. Now preppers and others seeking to build up a stockpile of emergency survival food to live off of for 3 days or 3 months can take advantage of a huge market ready to supply you with anything and everything you need.