Things you need to consider when deciding on survival foods include variety, shelf life, and nutritional value. In addition, you must consider how difficult the foods will be to prepare and serve. Keep in mind during a crisis you may not have access to a heat source or you may have limited/inadequate sources of heat and water.
Types of Foods
Canned foods have a certain amount of variety and they are ideal for short-term emergencies because they require no preparations, and can be literally eaten from the can. Storage space becomes a problem however, if you are trying to stockpile canned goods for an extended period. Each person will need three cans per day, one can each of protein, vegetables and fruit. As you can see, a family of four will need at a minimum 12 cans per day. Storage space will soon be a problem. A 14-day supply for a family of four would be 128 cans.
Dehydrated and freeze-dried foods are considered by most to be the same. The only difference is in how the moisture is extracted from the foods. Freeze dried foods are flash frozen and placed in a chamber where they are vacuum dried. For foods to be considered freeze-dried they cannot have more than four percent moisture content.
Dehydrating foods is probably one of the oldest forms of food preservation. The foods are placed in low temperature ovens that do not cook the foods but allow airflow and minimal heat to dehydrate the foods, in other words remove/evaporate all but about seven percent of the moisture from the foods.
Unlike freeze-dried foods, you can dehydrate your own foods right at home. You can use commercially made dehydrators/food dryers, your oven or backyard smoker.
To dry meats to make them shelf stable up to six months cut the meat into thin strips roughly four to six inches long. Remove all of the fat because fat will not release its moisture and thus provides a breeding ground for bacteria. Place the strips where they do not overlap on a cookie sheet in your oven/grill set at 200ᵒF/93.3ᵒC.
It may take between 8 and 12 hours for the meat to dry. Test the meat by bending it, if it has some give and yet does not break it is ready and at this stage and you expect a six-month shelf life. Once done you can place the meat in an open container in a room with airflow to dry even more to extend the shelf life. Over drying though will result in the meat crumbling/shredding and breaking apart.
You can marinate/season the meat before drying. You can use a salt/sugar or vinegar based brines to soak the meat in prior to drying to add flavor and to enhance the drying process.
Meals Ready to Eat MRE’s are a shelf stable food up to seven years in some cases, and temperature variations while it will not affect the quality higher storage temperatures can reduce the shelf life. MRE’s are packaged so weight is not a problem. Each packaged MRE is a complete meal, roughly 1,200 calories and typically includes snacks, condiments and eating utensils. Each adult will need two MRE’s daily. The meals can be eaten right from the package or immersed in hot water to heat the contents.
Comfort (Psychological) Foods you should have on Hand
During any crisis if you can create a sense of normalcy you can reduce stress and help quell panic in children and adults alike. Meals and meal preparations can be a stress reducer. Everyone looks forward to a good meal with their favorites foods so make sure you have some of the basics on hand.
- Peanut Butter
- Cooking oil/olive oil
- All Purpose Flour
- Dried/ground spices
- Black pepper
- Jellies and jams
- Hard candies
- Hard chocolate bars
- Powdered milk
Things to Consider
When preparing for a disaster you always have to consider the fact you may have to evacuate. Some individuals and families may believe that emergency shelters and disaster relief agencies will provide them with emergency essentials if they have to flee their home or community. This may be true in some cases and it would likely be at least 72-hours or longer before you would receive any emergency supplies however.
You cannot assume any shelter will have provisions so you will have to carry your own. This is where you have to plan carefully. Survival foods have to be such they can be carried in a vehicle and more importantly, carried in a backpack.
Foods canned at home are not ideal foods for carrying in a vehicle or backpack.
The foods will be heavy and in glass jars, which can create a safety hazard. It would be very difficult for any person to carry a three days’ supply of canned foods in their backpack.
Dehydrated and freeze dried foods will require water for reconstitution so stockpile additional water for food preparation in general.