By John Peterson
FEMA recommends that everybody store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food in case of emergencies that disrupt the normal food supply chain. Plenty of foods available at your local supermarket fill the bill: ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, vegetables, milk, and juices, as well as dry cereal, protein or fruit bars, peanut butter, dried fruit and nuts, crackers, and energy bars. Make sure your stock includes food for infants, pets, and family members with special dietary needs. It’s also a good idea to add some "comfort" foods to help keep spirits up. But avoid snacks with a lot of salt; they’ll make you thirsty, which will put a strain on your water consumption.
A BUCKET FULL OF GOODNESS
A number of companies specialize in freeze-dried food that has a very long shelf life, usually 12 to 25 years. Manufacturers like Mountain House have decades of experience making MREs and long-range reconnaissance patrol (LRRP) rations for our military. They come in individually sealed packets that keep the contents untainted, and you can buy them in handy, pre-packed assortments. Simply stock up on the number of meals you need, and the variety is built in.
I really like the Mountain House Just-In-Case Classic Assortment Bucket. It contains more than a week’s worth of food for one person (29 servings) packed in a re-sealable plastic bucket that can be used as a camp stool, water bucket, or storage box when the food is gone.
TASTES GREAT & FILLING
Another benefit of these meals is their ease of preparation. Just open the packet, add water – boiling hot water is best - and stir with a spoon, making sure you mix the contents thoroughly. Seal the bag to help the food heat up, and in 5 minutes, bon appetit!
Freeze-dried food will increase your water consumption and storage needs, so plan accordingly. For example, the Mountain House assortment requires 21 cups of water (about 1.3 gal.) total to cook all of the meals. Not a lot, but depending on the number of people you expect to feed, it can add up.
You might be surprised at how much these meals taste like fresh-made food. Getting the necessary calorie intake is critical for survival; eating food that tastes good helps keep up morale. I first had some of the Mountain House meals during a military contract trip and absolutely loved’em! Over the years, I’ve eaten more of them than I can count, I travel with them, and I "taste tested" a bucket of them as prep for this article and am ready for more!
PROVISIONS FOR STORAGE
When the power goes out, the clock starts ticking on food stored in refrigerators and freezers – bacteria in food grows rapidly when the temperature gets above 40° F. Thawed food can be eaten if it’s still "refrigerator cold", but throw away any food that’s been room temperature more than 2 hours. Cooking and eating utensils must be kept clean to prevent the spread of contaminants, and garbage should be stored in closed containers well away from the food stock.
Emergency provisions need to be stored in containers that protect them from deterioration and contamination, especially if stored in an automobile or a shed where rodents may visit. Nonperishable dry food should be stored in covered, moisture-resistant containers such as the modular, stackable FoodBrick containers of lightweight high-density polyethylene (HDPE). Individual FoodBricks can be detached from the stack and carried elsewhere for use or even stashed in the trunk of a small car.