What They Don’t Tell You About Storable Foods


By Holly Deyo

Today’s headlines scream from every sector “get your food NOW!” We are barraged by news of an economic meltdown, natural and manmade disasters and a system that’s ready to implode globally. Advertising from survival food retailers impress that if you haven’t purchased everything yesterday, you’ve missed out. As a result, people succumb to the fear factor and buy all kinds of foods they have no idea how to transform from can to pan.

People are getting the message about preparing, but there’s more to it than just buying storable foods and shoving them in the closet. How do you prepare them when there’s no power or if you’re short on water? Did you purchase prepared entrees or plain meats? Are these meals healthy? How can you change that dried chicken from the same boring lump to something soul-warming and comforting?

Without variety “taste fatigue” sets in – even when food is in short supply. This is especially evident in older folks who live alone and grow tired of uninspired meals. While still hungry they simply can’t choke down another mouthful of the same old food.

Western countries enjoy a pampered palate. There’s no reason your taste buds must suffer drastic changes if the world goes off the rails. However, it takes some pre-planning, common sense and a little organization.


Once people woke up to an economy on the skids and increasing natural disasters, everybody jumped on the prep business train. To their credit some companies predate Y2K and are still around today. Storable food companies are here to make money, but in their effort to do so, some get their products to the public yet neglect to remind people of several key things:

1. Reconstituting foods from hockey puck-hard dryness requires water.
2. Most would taste better warmed up.
3. Companies assume the buyer knows what to do with these foods once the cans are in their home. (Need recipes, please.)
4. How to care for these products and protect this investment.

Foods, whether they are fresh off grocery store shelves or purchased from survival companies must be kept from heat, light, air, moisture and pests.

Products bought from food storage companies usually ship in #10 containers – the size of one gallon paint cans – roughly 5.5″L x 6″W x 7″H (14 cm L x 15.25 cm W x 15.75 cm H). This packaging automatically keeps them away from everything except the single most corrosive element – heat.

I can not tell you the number of people who share that they have prepared by purchasing a year’s worth of food and stuck it in the garage or attic.

Those foods in which they’ve invested big bucks will be “dead” within months, instead of 20 years. Fact. Heat absolutely kills nutrition, taste and texture. You’d be as well off eating a cardboard box as the contents of those expensive cans.

A smart person always distributes risk and all have their pros and cons. To cover your bases, a well-supplied pantry should have some of each of the following food types:

1. Canned goods
2. Freeze-dried / dehydrated
3. Frozen
4. MREs

Let’s examine them in more detail.


If there’s no power, canned goods and Meals-Ready-to-Eat are the way to go. MREs are intended for short-term consumption due to high fat content and monstrously-high sodium counts. Especially for seriously overweight people and those suffering hypertension, too much of these ingredients could cause serious problems. Some MRE sodium counts are between 1667 and 2334mg. That’s about the recommended amount for an entire day in just a one meal.

Depending on which entree is chosen, fats can make up nearly half of the calorie count. Nutritionists recommend fats account for no more than 20% of a day’s total calories and some say to aim lower than this. The USDA puts the OK fat consumption at 30%, but considering we are a nation of obese people, maybe they should rethink this. Or maybe we need to rethink what to eat. For a few days or even a week, it’s probably OK to eat MREs, but if you have health issues, check with your doctor before loading up on them. Check the nutrition chart for each selection.

Another issue is taste – or rather lack of it – known as “delectablity deficit”. When we bought replacement MREs two years ago, we gave the spaghetti and meat sauce a test drive. It smelled OK, but that’s where the happy factor ended. Since we were about to eat dinner, I plopped the contents into our dog’s food bowl. Seismo eats anything, even grapefruit, and has a reputation of inhaling anything not nailed down. When he sniffed his snack and backed away, it was a huge red flag. To be fair, this was only one MRE variety. Overall, compared to canned, frozen or dried foods, MREs are the least palatable.

On the plus side, MREs are ready to eat as the name implies. Though better tasting when heated (don’t forget to purchase their individual heating units), MREs come fully cooked and can be consumed straight from the package. They’re convenient, easily transported, feather-light in backpacks and need no refrigeration. If it comes down to going hungry, they might start to take on gourmet-like appeal. Their shelf life is 3-5 years providing they’re kept in temperatures not above 70ºF (21ºC).

Store only enough MREs for a couple of weeks for each family member.


Dry foods of either process are light years better tasting than MREs and great space savers. As a rule, freeze-dried foods cost more than their dehydrated counterparts owing to the more expensive drying process.

A big taste difference used to exist between dehydrated and freeze-dried selections. Companies that sell only freeze-dried foods still like to say their products are significantly better tasting. Today, drying techniques have greatly improved thereby narrowing the yum factor.

One long-term storable food manufacturer currently airs the most alarmist and sometimes blarney-filled scenarios ever heard. From someone who’s been steeped in preparedness and current events for several decades, this says a lot. Due to their near-blanket coverage on radio and the Internet, they must fork over exorbitant advertising fees. Hardly a website espousing preparedness escapes their ads. This is a heads up to proceed with caution. Like MREs, some meals taste better than others. Taste a few selections before sinking your savings into them.

It’s also important to pay attention to storable foods labels. There’s little point in saving yourself from disaster if you’ve “killed” yourself in the process. Are you putting something into your stomach just to stop its growling? Or are you giving your body foods that won’t have consequences down the line?

Be sure to compare nutritional information. Mountain House readily admits in their FAQ that their foods’ sodium content is much too high and that they will be reformulating them at some point.

TIP: Some counts look very low because they aren’t for a single serving, but for 1/4 cup, which is really, really small. Make sure your comparing apples to apples.

To compare nutritional information for the two oldest names in storable foods, look at the charts for Mountain House and Alpine Aire. For Alpine Aire, once on their website you’ll need to click each product to see individual nutritional breakdowns. EFoods Direct has their nutrition info in a single PDF file.

Prepared entrees such as Beef Stew or Oriental Chicken with Vegetables, like MREs, generally have a higher than desirable amount of salt. However, if you purchase just plain freeze-dried or dehydrated meats like chicken, beef or pork, you’ll get just the animal protein without bad additives. However, it’s up to the purchaser to add the zest.

TIP: If you are without power and must rehydrate foods with cool or room temperature water, it can take up to two hours – and longer.

Make up about one-third of your food storage items with these choices.


Frozen and canned foods offer the selections you normally eat. During an emergency it is no time to learn how to prepare unfamiliar dishes or accustom your stomach to new “adventures”. This adds to your stress, plus you may have overlooked some required ingredients.

How much simpler can it get? Run a can opener around the lip or unscrew the lid and dig in! Canned foods need no prep, can be enjoyed without heating or adding ingredients, are less expensive than comparable dried products and shelf life is anywhere from 2 to 8 years. For a comprehensive list, check their shelf lives.

To grow a fabulous pantry, you don’t have to make special purchases or use the Internet. No shipping costs are involved. Simply add extra items to your weekly shopping when they’re on sale. (If your pantry is well-stocked, shopping trips can be cut down to once a month.) There’s no online credit card exposure and you buy everything at the best possible price – not when panic or need drives up the cost.

TIP: Buy staples as whole grains when possible. They’ll be viable longer than in ground form.

I love having canned goods. There’s no magic involved and you enjoy all your favorite foods. There’s something to be said for eating foods your body is already used to. You eat what you enjoy and there’s no adjustment period.

Canned and jar goods cover a wide array from meats to fruit to veggies, butter and cheese, condiments to delicacies, and everything in between. They come in convenient sizes so you’re not stuck eating the same food for 15 or 20 meals before they go off. Their biggest drawback is the space required to store them.

Make up roughly two-thirds of your food storage items with these choices.


Some people (generally single men) have chosen to store the Mormon 4. It will keep you alive, but that’s about it. From a gastronomic point of view, you may wish you weren’t. It is THE most basic, boring food storage program available. It is subsistence level food consisting of wheat, powdered milk, sugar and salt. That’s it; you’re done. My stomach balks at this menu in simply writing the words.

One does not have to be a gourmand to see that this is an extremely limited, unappealing food selection. Furthermore, eating nothing except wheat as your main food usually has significant repercussions in the gastrointestinal track. Translate that to massive flatulence, cramping and diarrhea if you shovel in large amounts of wheat. Everyone will RUN from your presence! Now picture that scenario in a confined shelter. The ugly just got uglier.

Without question the best cookbook I’ve seen for storable foods is The Everyday Gourmet. It uses only foods you’d be storing to make absolutely delightful meals.


To keep staples like sugar, flour, beans, rice, dried veggies – and even pet food – tasting best and viable for the most years, pack them for long-term storage. It’s super easy and much less costly than purchasing them already packed.

It’s also just clever knowing how to do this yourself. Here’s why.

1. Any time a good buy is available on these foods, purchase extra and pack them for long-term storage. This maximizes savings even further.
2. There may come a time when the Internet is “down” and only local grocery suppliers are available to you. (No buying online. Now that’s a spooky concept!) Without proper packing these foods will have much shorter shelf lives marked in months, not years.
3. The more skills you acquire, the less you have to rely on others, whether it’s the government or your neighbor.

To pack your own foods, line a food grade bucket with a mylar bag. Remove the air by one of several methods. ADD URL. Pop in the right number of oxygen scavengers and moisture absorbers for that size container and your elevation above sea level. Seal the bag. Snap on the lid and you’re done!


Some manufacturers still use secret date codes. For these items, you need to understand how to unravel the expiration dates so you know you’re getting the freshest foods. These mystery codes are something you should understand for every day food purchases whether they go into your pantry or on the table.

Besides food items you should also know the shelves lives for medicines and first aid products, as well as household cleaners, toiletries and hygiene items, fuel, and handyman items like paint, glue, motor oil and so on. Dare To Prepare gives you all these and more!


Like most things, there is no one-solution answer. Depending on what emergency is encountered, you’ll need different types of storable food. By keeping a variety, you’ll be able to sail through most challenges with relative ease.

Now that you have your storable food dilemma sorted out, the best way to keep track of what you’ve purchased is with the Deyo Food Storage Planner. It’s FREE software you can download either in US measurements or in metric. All you need is Excel or a comparable spreadsheet program like OpenOffice. (It’s free, too.)

To use the Deyo Food Storage Planner, simply fill in the number of family members and how many weeks you want to store. The worksheet calculates the quantities needed. This handy planner also covers handyman items, pet products and many other non-food items. You can add your own special items and keep track of them too.

Now you have the tools needed to create your own storable food program. Time to get busy!

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6 Responses

  1. Foodface says:

    eating fat doesn’t make you fat.

  2. Serf says:

    There’s a lot of work for preppers to do but unless the location is good the preparation and storage of food, non food and medical supplies may become compromised or at worst ineffective due to environmental.factors, society and infrastructure breakdown.

    Vitamins and other supplements will also need storing such as vitamins C and D3. Vitamin C will be essential when treating (but not curing) Ebola.


  3. lovely says:

    Truly when someone doesn’t know afterward its up to other
    people that they will help, so here it occurs.

  4. expert speler says:

    Holly, it’s tract, not track (digestive tract)

  5. telena says:

    you left out dbeans rice lentils etc etc cheap and easily stored at least it will gfive one trime to meditae before straving death

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