Have you noticed how we are constantly offered several hundred variations of the same product? What makes it extra difficult for indecisive people like myself is figuring out how to get the best bang for my buck while buying a quality product.
Long-term food storage provides us with a similar scenario. There are hundreds of companies in the emergency food business, all which are marketing their product as being THE BEST. Is that something that can be easily defined? Absolutely not.
Just like we each have an individual opinion on fashion, we each have our own preference in terms of food. The problem is that buying emergency food is a long-term investment, making it a much more difficult decision than buying a pair of shoes.
Determining which company excels in manufacturing the best emergency food is not a black and white type of answer.
Before deciding which one is the best (for you and your family) we must ask ourselves several questions.
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Determining your family's needs
Let’s start with a little brainstorming activity. Imagine your life, in present time, facing a post-disaster emergency situation. What scenario are you looking at?
Our initial response to a post-disaster situation is going to be to take care of our immediate basic needs, as well as those of our family, friends, colleagues, or whoever we’re with at the time. Eventually, hunger is going to take first place among the priorities of our needs, so we must therefore ask ourselves:
- How many people in my household will need to be taken care of?
- What ages are the people in my home?
- Does anyone have a special diet, dietary restriction, or allergy?
Now that we have an idea of what our meals may need to look like, we should ask ourselves:
- Which utilities were severed in my home?
- Do I have access to clean water?
Of course every scenario will look a little different than we anticipate it, but having an idea of what can potentially happen in the future will help us now in deciding what to prepare for. Hold this thought for a minute while we discuss a few more important questions.
How to compare long-term food storage companies
This question is so complex that we will break it down into categories.
- The shelf life of food
- The number of servings versus the number of calories
- How healthy is the food?
- Does the food taste good?
- Cooking time estimates
- Reputation of the company making the food
1. The shelf life of food
While the majority of the companies claim that their food will last well over 20 years, we have to examine how accurate that statement is. Mountain House, for example, states that their food will still taste good for up to 30 years. After the 30 year mark the food will still be edible, however it may change in texture or flavor. Other companies, like Wise Foods, Legacy Premium and Emergency Essentials commit to a 25 year shelf life, so long that the food is stored in ideal locations, which is described as a cool, dark place with a consistent temperature of 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
I don’t know how many food critics will wait 25 years or more to taste their emergency food supply, but hopefully the company experts are being honest.
2. The number of servings Vs. the number of calories
The number of servings advertised on a food bucket are relative to the company. There are no government standard or regulations for serving sizes.
To one company, a single serving could mean one cup, whereas another company’s serving size may be two cups, yet they are both still advertised as 1 serving. To avoid the serving size scam, pay attention to the number of calories per serving. By comparing the amount of calories you typically eat in a day versus the calories per day that is being advertised in the food bucket, you can determine whether or not you’ll be satisfied with what they provide.
Weight is anther important factor when considering which food bucket to purchase. Some servings are advertised as “1/4 of a pouch” or “10 servings per container.” That is irrelevant when you don’t know how much the pouch weighs. Wise Foods sells a 240 serving bucket which weighs 45 pounds and costs just under $500. Legacy Premium sells a 240 serving bucket at $565, yet weighs 64 pounds. Emergency Essentials sells a 1-Month food bucket with 477 servings for only $380, but their bucket weighs 48 pounds. All this to say that weight makes a huge difference in determining how much food you’re getting in each bucket.
The number of calories is relative to the ingredients that make up each food packet. Carefully examine what ingredients are being used in the meals. Think about it this way- half a cup of white granulated sugar contains 387 calories while one medium-sized avocado contains 322 calories. It doesn’t take a genius to determine which one of the two is better for you. Make sure that the majority of the calories in each of the meals are nutritious calories rather than fillers, additives and sugar. Food is fuel and if we don’t feed our bodies nutritious calories, we will have a lower chance of thriving in emergency situations, or any situation for that matter.
3. How healthy the food is
Surviving through an emergency situation can become a challenging time for anyone. What would make it worse is feeling lethargic or sick the whole time because the so-called survival food is highly processed and not providing you with the necessary nutrients for physical energy. Deciding which survival food to purchase is not only a long-term commitment but it’s also a health commitment. It’s vital to check which companies make their food from real indigents and which companies hide genetically modified ingredients. Most companies make their nutritional information easy to find.
Dietary Requirements: If you have any allergies or dietary restrictions, make sure you look for labels that clearly state information on the facility in which the food is processed.
Sodium: This is something that can easily be overlooked in labels. Too much sodium can cause high blood pressure and fluid retention, which means your heart has to work that much harder. (Eventually this can cause a stroke or heart attack.) Mountain House, Emergency Essentials and Wise Foods have a reputation for containing a lot of sodium per serving, whereas Legacy Premium prides themselves in providing a low sodium option for all their meals.
Look for These Labels:
- No MSG
- No Artificial Flavors
- No Caramel Color
- No Hydrogenated Oil
- No Trans Fat
- No HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup)
4. The taste of the food
I don't know about you, but children are not the only picky eaters in my family. When I’m hungry and my ONLY option is a freeze dried meal, I will be happy and satisfied with it. However, emergency food is an expense regardless, so why not go for something that will actually be enjoyable. Taste testing emergency food is an option I recommend to anyone. Before making a “1 Year Supply” purchase for instance, try a few sample pouches. Have your family try it too and get a general consensus.
Many companies offer comfort foods, which is a great idea to have in your emergency food reserve. In the midst of hardship, a comfort meal might make all the difference.
* Continue reading to the end to see my first experience trying emergency food!
5. Cooking time estimates
Cooking without access to power can be tricky. Make sure that the food you’re buying can be easily prepared with water, whether or not it’s boiling. Most companies have designed their meals to cook in under 15 minutes with boiling water. Typically those meals can be prepared with room temperature water too but the cooking time will be longer.
MRE’s: Meals Ready To Eat can be especially handy in backpacking or mountaineering adventures and sometimes take less time to cook than the typical meal in a mylar bag. In the name of convenience, it’s good to experiment with both.
6. The reputation of the company that makes the food
Most survival food companies do not make their own food. For instance, Legacy Premium meals are manufactured by Honeyville, Inc, Wise Foods meals are made by Cottonwood Manufacturing, LLC, and Mountain House by ODF Foods. Each manufacturer carries its own long-standing reputation. It’s up to you to choose which company to trust for your emergency preparedness food.
And now, for the official taste test..!
For my first emergency food taste test, I chose to go with Legacy Premium. Their commitment to quality and quantity really impressed me. Now a days, it’s hard to find pre-packaged food that is made with no MSG, with no high fructose corn syrup, non-GMO, low sodium, low fat, low cholesterol and no trans fat. By description alone, I can tell you that this product is a winner. (Spoiler alert: in flavor, it takes first place too!)
The meals I tried were the Hawaiian Style Pasta and the Enchilada Beans and Rice. I was immediately impressed by the size of the packages. Each package weighed almost a pound dry. When cooked, it was more than enough food for the four servings it advertises.
In this taste-test, I made a whole bag of Enchilada Beans and Rice, and half a bag of the Hawaiian Pasta. My family of four ate until we were full and still had leftovers.
The meal preparation is extra simple and quick. Simply boil the amount of water that is stated on the package and whisk in the food. Let it cook at medium heat for 12 to 15 minutes, and voila, you’re ready to eat. I wish meal prep was that easy every night.
As far as flavor goes, the Enchilada Beans and Rice was the clear winner in my home. The flavors exceeded the expectations of my entire family. The added bonus was the aroma in the kitchen while I was cooking.
The Hawaiian Style pasta is pasta with a smooth sweet and sour sauce. My family and I found the flavors to be well balanced and while I preferred mine with a little extra salt, it was a nice variation to the traditional rotini pasta.
Everyone was pleased with dinner tonight. (Update: Unfortunately Legacy discontinued the Hawaiian Pasta, but the Enchilada Beans and Rice is still available, yay!)
My family and I were very impressed with the quality and freshness of these two meals. The best part is that Legacy has many more meal options to choose from, meaning that I’ll be doing more taste tests!
Each meal comes sealed in a thick plastic mylar bag that includes a freshness packet to preserve the flavors. I’m confident that if I had to make this in 15 or 25 years it would taste just as good…but let’s be real, I don’t think I could wait that long to eat them!
In purchasing Legacy Premium meals, I can assure you that you’re receiving real food with quality that you can taste. But don’t just take my word for it, try some meals out yourself!!
When it comes to long-term survival food, you should always be looking for real ingredients with a long-lasting quality. Emergency food should always provide you with nutrient-dense and hearty servings. Don’t be mislead by comments like “low price guaranteed”. Instead, follow the steps outlined above to determine which company has the best quality food for your family. Let it be food that you enjoy and can easily be prepared, especially if your resources are cut short.
Have you ever taste-tested long-term emergency food? Tell me your experience in the comments below!
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