There are many reasons to store food for later use. Many gardeners will save food by canning and for products that need to be refrigerated a good stand alone freezer will extend the shelf life of many regular foods.
The most important thing to remember when storing food is that you want to keep it air tight and when necessary adding a preservative is a good idea. Even if you are doing your own canning you probably already use some type of preservative such as vinegar or salt.
Prepackaged foods can be used for longer storage if they are prepared by dehydration or freeze drying. If you pick this type of product you will need to follow a method of re-hydration before you can eat your foods. Freeze dried foods may be able to be eaten while dry such as fruit and specialty products but most will need at minimum water and probably heat to make the food ready to eat.
The military uses Freeze Dried foods in their MRE s Meals Ready To Eat. Each food packet comes with a chemical heating method in the packet and you just add water.
Why would you want to buy MREs for storage? Well if you lived in a remote location or at a vacation home or even for emergencies having a box of MREs could make a big difference. You can store them in an out of the way area that is cool and dry and know you have a few days of food no matter what happens. Throwing a couple in your car trunk might not be a bad idea in winter just incase you get stuck someplace and need to wait for help. With an average 20 year shelf life you will probably get rid of the car or vacation home before you have to throw away the emergency food.
Dehydrated vs Freeze-dried
Dehydrated items typically have a shelf-life of 10 – 20 years and they typically require some a longer cooking time (increased fuel requirements too).
Freeze-dried foods typically have a longer shelf-life of 20 – 30 years and require less cooking and fuel. Some are great eating them just straight from the can like our fruits and veggies.
Your food storage will typically come in three different types of packaging: Mylar pouches, #10 cans, or buckets.
Mylar bags. Most meals inside of a mylar bag pouch will last 7 – 15 years. Companies that state that their pouches have a shelf-life of 25 years are making claims without hard evidence or they are expecting you to store them in constant 50 degree temperatures which is not realistic.
#10 cans. Food inside of #10 cans will typically have a shelf-life of 10 – 30 years depending on whether the food is dehydrated or freeze-dried. Make sure that your cans are sealed correctly.
Buckets. When purchasing a bucket of food storage, your best option is to have the food come inside of an air-tight bucket with a Mylar bag inside that bucket.
Oxygen absorbers. It’s important to have an oxygen absorber inside of your bag or can. Make sure that the absorber is high quality and will help preserve your food. Some companies advertise that they will flush the food with nitrogen before they package it. An oxygen absorber will work better.
What the nitrogen flushing companies aren’t telling you is that they include an oxygen absorber because in the end that is what works best. Some companies have dropped nitrogen flushing altogether for 02 absorbers because they get the job done.
Shipping & additional costs
While many companies have comparable prices, don’t forget about the shipping costs. They need to be added into your overall purchase price. Some companies require tax to be paid on all orders.
What NOT to look for when comparing food storage
While there are many things that you should look for in a food storage supply kit, there are also many things you don’t need to worry yourself about. Here are a few examples:
Number of cans
The number of cans in a food storage kit can be misleading. How much do they fill each can? What are the cans full of?
If you’re getting as much nutrition and food out of less cans, then you’re not losing anything.
A lot of companies that skimp on the amount of food in their kits will typically highlight their serving count instead (like we mentioned above). Even when you’re comparing serving counts, be careful. Some servings vary by size (1 cup vs ? cup) or preparation (dry serving vs prepared serving).
Weight of the kit
Freeze-dried foods weigh considerably less than dehydrated foods. A kit that has a lot of dehydrated foods will weigh more but have a shorter shelf-life.
More than anything, supply kit weight should only be considered when determining shipping costs. However, not all companies charge by weight.