When stockpiling food, savvy survivalists often advise buying basic ingredients in bulk. Fifty-pound sacks of hard red wheat, rice, pinto beans and other grains and legumes are given as examples of staples that a preparedness-minded individual should invest in. Regardless of what you are preparing for, whether it’s economic disaster, earthquake, pandemic, or the Zombie apocalypse, having a well-stocked larder is important. But don’t neglect to give some thought as to how you will prepare your meals in the midst of a disaster.
In any disaster, electricity is one of the first modern luxuries to be lost. Severe thunderstorms can knock out power for a few hours or days, while earthquakes and hurricanes can leave some areas without electrical utilities for months at a time. This means that most of your food prep appliances will be inoperable. Microwaves and electric ranges are useless in a disaster without a generator, wind, or solar energy to power them. Even natural gas appliances can be rendered useless if gas lines are ruptured and pressure is lost. Propane may be available for a short period of time, but your ability to refill your propane tanks may be curtailed. Any of these problems can make it more difficult to prepare food, especially if all you have is basic staples and unprocessed raw ingredients.
Ease of preparation is also important if you have other concerns, such as performing critical repairs to your house or quickly evacuating the area. In the case of an evacuation or “bug-out” food portability is also important. It’s not very easy to quickly load up a few dozen 5-gallon buckets of flour, pasta, and other bulk ingredients. MREs are one easily portable option that can be quickly prepared, but many people find them to be unpalatable. While they can be safely stored for 20 years or more, depending on the ambient temperature, MREs can actually lose nutritional value over time.
Such is not the case with freeze-dried foods. Freeze-dried foods are normal fully cooked foods that have gone through a cryodesiccation process whereby all of the moisture is completely removed. The process of freeze-drying involves lowering the temperature in a partial vacuum and then applying a small amount of heat which causes the now frozen water to sublimate from ice directly to a vapor. The areas where tiny ice crystals once existed is left porous, an important property that allows water to be quickly reabsorbed when reintroduced to the product.
Many hunters, backpackers and hikers remember Pilot Crackers, at one time one of the only staples that could remain edible over a few days or weeks. Though Mountain House still packages this traditional snack, their menu includes much more gourmet meals such as lasagna with meat sauce and chicken teriyaki with rice When all of the moisture is removed from food it is made much lighter. Freeze-dried foods can be easily transported due to their light weight. Understandably this makes them extremely popular with backpackers and campers alike.
Mountain House packages a number of freeze-dried food products in convenient #10 cans and guarantees a minimum 25-year shelf life. Stored in cool dry conditions, they’ve tested products that were freeze-dried more than 35 years ago and still tastes fresh when rehydrated. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any MREs or rations that can last that long. Even after opening the resealable plastic lid included with each can allows it to be used for up to a week without any loss in taste or nutrition. Unlike other methods of preservation, nutritional value is fully retained in freeze-dried foods.
The only drawback to freeze-dried foods is that they require water. Hot water is preferable, but given a long enough soak even tepid water will rehydrate a freeze-dried meal. For backpackers, hunters, and hikers procuring hot water is not terribly difficult. Water supplies are usually carried along with food and gear with resupply locations planned in advance and filters brought along to ensure its cleanliness. In a survival situation, you may not always have convenient access to water. If you plan to add freeze-dried meals to your list of equipment stored for use in an emergency, make sure to store water along with it. Freeze-dried foods don’t require much water, generally only a cup or two per serving, but having water and the means to heat it is necessary.
If you’re seeking foodstuffs with the longest lasting shelf life, most nutritional value, and best taste, you can’t do much better than freeze-dried foods. Though they require a bit more preparation planning than canned foods or MREs, they make up for it with a shelf life in excess of 30 years and superior taste. Zombie apocalypse? No problem: if you’ve got freeze-dried foods and a bit of water socked away for just such a situation you will dine in style.