Survival Food 101: Learn & Save Money!
1. The Philosophy of Buying Food Storage.
(If you skip the other sections, read this one)
I promise that I won't waste your time in this tutorial by trying to convince you to buy food storage. You're already here and reading this, which means that you have probably already concluded that it's smart to have some food storage around the house.
However, I do need to "set the stage," so to speak, in order to make my point. Please bear with me ...
There is a certain "mind-set" you should have when approaching the food storage buying decision, and grasping that philosophy is probably the most important aspect to getting your best deal when buying food storage.
Think about this, twenty five years ago a gallon of milk cost 50 cents. Compare that to a gallon of milk today that costs $3.50 or more. Your grandparents could never have imagined spending that much money for a gallon of milk. Much like we have a hard time imagining having to pay $7.00 or more for a gallon of milk twenty five years from today, but it is a reality.
So, if you spend $400 on food storage today, how much will that food be worth in twenty five years? Probably almost twice its value, that is if the food is edible. If the food is inedible, then it's worth nothing.
To a degree, food storage can be generalized into two categories:
The two are easily distinguished. The first being the food storage with the higher price, and the second is the one that makes you ask yourself, "why is this so cheap compared to the other brand?" The rock-gut brands usually advertise their packages slightly over half the price as the better known name brands.
Cheap food storage tastes bland at best, and nasty on average. Imagine Lipton's Cup-O-Soup with less flavor wrapped into mylar bags. Now imagine how that food will taste when it's 25 years old. I'll give you a hint, not good. Yes, it will save you in an emergency, but you will not eat it unless you have to eat it.
For this reason, when I am asked "which food storage company should I buy," I tell people to buy the food that looks and tastes the best to to them, regardless of the price. Well of course I'm going to say that, I'm in the business of selling food storage, right? Fair enough, but follow my reasoning for just a minute.
The fact is: you will (try to) eat your food storage before you die, or you will die before you eat your food storage. This is the foremost thing that should be on your mind when buying food storage.
The vast majority of us buy food storage with the mind-set that it will never be used, which simply isn't true. This thought process has the tendency to have us gravitate towards the cheapest lesser known off-brands.
Ask yourself, if I invest hundreds, or thousands of dollars into food storage today; am I going to simply chunk it into the garbage on year 25? Of course not, you will eat it. That is unless you open it and it's nasty or inedible, or you're dead.
Fast-forward twenty five years from today. The $300 that you spent on the cheap off-brand food will most likely go into the garbage and your $300 is gone. Alternatively, had you spent $400 on quality food, that tastes good, you will have saved over $500. This is because your food storage is now worth an estimated $800, PLUS you can actually eat it as part of your regular diet!
The long-winded lesson being: If you buy food storage that you really want to eat, as opposed to the food storage that you hope you never have to eat, you will not lose one penny. In fact, you will have saved money.
2. Choose Your Packaging First
Seems a little odd to begin with how the food is packaged, but it really is best to decide how you will store and consume your food storage. Food storage, by in large, comes in three types of packaging.
The biggest difference is the convenience and shelf life. Cook in pouch meals typically contain 1.5 - 2 servings per package and are the most convenient way to store food storage. However, they also take up the most room and are the most expensive.
Number 10 cans and mylar bags in buckets are, for all intents and purposes, the same product, in as much as they both keep food for up to 25 years. If you're splitting hairs, # 10 cans get the nod for longevity. These two types of storage containers divide the meals up into 10 - 20 serving packages depending on the serving sizes.
What the 25 year packaging means to you is less packaging, less space to store, less money, and it's also less convenient. Instead of adding water to the package, as you do with "cook and eat" packaging, you pull the amount of food that you want to cook from the master container and add it to boiling water in a pan or container of some sort.
Another thing to consider when considering the larger 25 year food storage containers is that you need to use all of the food in 5-7 days after opening the master container. Food storage stays fresh and edible because it is stored in a zero oxygen environment, one you open the container and air hits the food the clock starts running. You have about the same amount of time to cook opened food storage as you do to eat leftovers from the fridge.
A good food storage buying strategy used by many is to buy the bulk of your food storage in the 25 year variety, cans and buckets, then add a "buffer" element to your preps with the "cook and eat" pouches.
This strategy allows you to have handy food storage for short natural disaster that may only last a few days while keeping the bulk of your food storage socked away for 25 years. The cook and eat pouches will also come in handy for camping and other outdoor activities.
It's good to note, when storing these products that the #10 cans tend to stack better horizontally, i.e. under a bed, whereas the buckets tend to stack better vertically, i.e. a closet. The pouches can lay flat, or stack vertically if you keep them in the box they're packaged in. Pouches take up approximately twice the the room as cans and buckets.
(If you look to the filters on the left, you can filter by food packaging)
3. Be Skeptical of Time Estimates and Servings.
Serving sizes are probably the biggest problem, other than quality, that you will encounter. Serving sizes are subjective and differ greatly from company to company. Food producers have been playing hard & fast with portion sizes and servings since they figured out how to package and market food products; long-term food producers are no different.
Smaller portions equal lower costs, which means that they can sell their "xxx serving bucket" for less money than their competitors can. Then, all they have to do is market their product by the servings (i.e.1500 Servings for $999) instead the actual contents of the package because the lower priced packages always win in this scenario.
If you buy food storage packages that are advertised by the "serving" you will most likely get too little food and spend too much money. Each food supplier and retailer has a totally different idea about how long their food storage should last the "average person."
If you buy food storage based on the time recommendation (we actually offer this option) you will most likely burn through your supply much sooner than their recommendations unless that company lists calorie counts to prove their claims. If you are looking at food storage that does not list the total calorie count, you are paying too much.
4. Who is This Company?
If you haven't heard of the brand, it's probably for a reason. There are only a handful of true-blue freeze dried food producers. The rest are simply companies that "white label" their chosen brand names through mass dehydrated food producers.
These companies are marketing companies masquerading as a food company. If you read our blog you will see that we are no fan of these types of companies. They buy their ingredients from the cheapest sources, who use overseas suppliers and then have their products assembled in a thin mylar bag and throw in an oxygen absorber.
These companies could care less about the quality of their product or your satisfaction. 98% of all companies selling food storage have been in business for less than 10 years, 95% less than 5 years. So, how do they really know that their product will be edible in 25 years? Will they be in business in 25 years?
If you pick one of these companies, do your homework on who produces their food for them. Seriously, this is a HUGE problem in the industry. Many brands open to sell "cheap food storage" then simply change their name when bad reviews and customer complaints mount.
Here at survivalist 101 we carry a microcosm of all of the different brands that you will find on the market. Wise, Legacy, Mountain House and Alpineaire are representative of ALL the different survival food manufactures you will find on the market today. You may find food storage that is packaged and sold differently, but that's about all.
How often do you eat the recommended servings on the food that you prepare right now? If you're like me, not very often. So, it goes to reason, if you buy your emergency food storage by the serving, should you ever need it, someone is going on a diet, or you are going to burn through your food preps much quicker than you had anticipated.
Think about this, when you buy groceries, do you buy food based on how many servings each product has, or do you buy the amount of food that your family actually eats?
Calories do not lie, marketers do. If you compare the total amount of calories that you are buying in each package you will be able to accurately judge how long your food storage will last and better compare the true cost of the food. Do not buy a food storage package that does not list the total calories for that package! We get into this in detail below.
Once you've established that there are enough calories for your family in an emergency food, the next step is to make sure that the calories are good calories and not just fillers. Some ready made food storage packages are advertised as having 400 calories per serving, but then the majority of the calories come from things like drinks and desserts packed with sugar, or filler foods like shortening and butter.
Cheap fillers like these will not sustain a person or family in an emergency situation. It's better to look for calories that are made from real food that is nutritious and calorie-dense all on its own. One of the reasons we carry the brands we do here at Survivalist 101 is because they offer a good caloric mix in their packages and do not use the the tricks and tactics we just mentioned.
6. TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein) is Not the Same as Meat
A lot, I would say most, long-term food storage suppliers purposely create all of their main entrees to be vegetarian in order to appeal to a larger audience. They then offer freeze dried meats sold separately as add-on packages to supplement the vegetarian food entrees.
In order to give these vegetarian entrees the texture of real meat they use a meat substitute, TVPs (textured vegetable proteins.) I actually don't have a problem with TVP's except, when comparing products.
TVP's cost a lot less than using real meat which means products, like Mountain House, that use real meat in their products will appear to be more expensive than the ones using the meat substitute.
When in fact, If you were to include the cost of adding the meat package add-on to the vegetarian entrees you would see the prices line up to be much closer than it appears. Also, it is important to note: that the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) only inspects food storage companies that use real meat in their meals.