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Updated Oct 27, 2022 4:49 PM
Survival food isn’t something anyone particularly wants to eat on a regular day, but if you ever need to, this guide will help you make the best choice. Along with your basic non-perishable pantry foods, there are some must-haves you should add to your survival food shopping list (that aren’t MREs) to help you be ready for anything.
Regardless of your reasons for stocking up on emergency survival food, it’s important that your rations last as long as you need them to — without sacrificing too much taste in the process. Here are my picks for the best survival foods on the market.
Why It Made the Cut
This food is fantastic for feeding multiple people (four servings per pack of food), and is easy to cook. The kit contains two packages of oatmeal and one of cheesy macaroni, teriyaki rice, tortilla soup, and powdered milk. Just add the meals into boiling water, and not only do you have a nutrient-dense meal, but also one that tastes good, too.
- Shelf life: 25 years
- Packaging: Four servings per food package, 12 per powdered milk package
- Preparation: Add food into boiling water (approximately 17-minute total cooking time)
- Tastes great
- Well-rounded meal variety
- 25 year shelf life
- Multiple servings per sealed package (difficult to measure a single serving)
This best all-around survival food kit contains eight servings of brown sugar and maple multigrain oatmeal, 12 servings of whey milk alternative, and four servings each of cheesy macaroni, teriyaki rice, and hearty tortilla soup. The instructions on the back of each pouch are for preparing the whole thing at once, so it’s great for groups, families, or one large individual meal.
What sets ReadyWise apart from its survival food competitors is that it truly tastes like real food. Each serving of oatmeal, macaroni, and rice contains an average of 260 calories, 6g of protein, and 20 percent of your daily carbohydrates.
If you’re ever in the position to need survival food, it is likely very comforting to eat a hot meal that you could’ve cooked in a normal situation. I, for one, will be ordering this again to take camping because it’s easy to cook and share. If you are thinking about — or already are — compiling survival resources, ReadyWise should definitely be on your shelf.
Why It Made the Cut
Ideally, even in an emergency situation, a meal still consists of some variety in food groups, but that’s not always going to be the reality. For when you need sheer calories in the form of a food bar, the coconut SOS Food Labs Emergency bar is a great option to keep, just in case.
- Shelf life: U.S. Coast Guard approved for 5-year shelf life
- Serving size: 410 calories per bar, nine bars per package
- Preparation: Just unwrap and eat
- High, dense calorie count
- 5-year shelf life
- Sweeter than other survival food
- High in sugar
- Very grainy, hard to eat the whole bar without water
These very dense and heavy survival food bars come in vacuum-sealed packaging. Each SOS Food Labs Emergency Food Bar is individually wrapped, so you can open one serving at a time, and you can store your bars individually across your bags, car, and home. They are coconut flavored with a cookie-like texture, and have enough density to keep you going throughout the day. These bars, however, do not have the same nutrient density as some meals on this list, so I recommend you keep them as high-calorie snacks, rather than a meal replacement.
There are survival foods out there with more calories, less sugar, and more vitamins, sure, but who doesn’t love dessert? Or, at least, some high-calorie semblance of dessert in an emergency situation. Don’t try to survive on just these bars, but you should keep each of the nine bars in a pack tucked away in various places, and you’ll worry a little less about when you’ll need one.
Why It Made the Cut
There’s only so many dehydrated meals you can eat. That’s why it’s important to stock up on staple ingredients with a long lasting shelf life, too.
- Shelf life: 25 years unopened, one year after opening
- Can size: 1lb 1oz of dried potato
- Preparation: Pour warm water over potatoes, cover for 15-30mins
- Great for cooking with or adding to meals
- Only hot water needed to prepare
- Potatoes are versatile and nutritious
- A lot of the potato slices were broken and crumbling upon opening
- The slides are peeled (a lot of nutrients come from the skin)
Augason Farms prepare a wide variety of freeze-dried vegetables and survival food kits. Their potatoes stand out as a versatile and tasty snack or meal ingredient. They’re a good source of energy, and there are many ways you can prepare them. One can of these dehydrated potatoes contains 18 servings, with easy recipes on the back that are easy to modify depending on what food you have available. And with a shelf life of 25 years (and of one year after they’re opened), these potatoes will never go to waste.
It’s nice to have ingredients in your emergency food stockpile, rather than just prepared meals. Bring Augason Farms’ dehydrated onions, carrots, and chicken into the mix, and you have a nutrient-rich meal full of vegetables and protein. Emergency situations don’t always mean you have to sacrifice variety (or your culinary integrity).
Why It Made the Cut
These pocket-sized meals are easy, compact, and have a ton of nutritional value. The Southwestern Medley is my favorite Nutrient Survival has to offer, and for a meal you can just put in a pocket, backpack, car, or anywhere else—and just add water—it’s a must-have emergency food.
- Shelf life: 15 years
- Serving size: One serving per packet
- Preparation: ½ cup of boiling water
- Easy to make and carry
- Full of nutrients
- Food is dense to eat for just 280 calories
- Needs to cook for longer than 3-5 minutes for beans to be softer
Nutrient Survival loads each packet of Southwestern Medley with 14 vitamins, 13 minerals, 9 amino acids with 12g of protein, 346mg of Omega 3, 789mg of Omega 6, and 6g of fiber. That’s a lot of nutritional benefit for only needing to add ½ cup of water for 3-5 minutes (although you should let it sit for slightly longer). The meal itself is vegetarian, tastes good, and has enough jalapeno and paprika to stay interesting.
For only slightly more effort and resources than a survival bar, this compact pouch will give you everything you need in a survival meal. While Nutrient Survival sells 10-serving cans of their survival foods, I think there is a benefit to being able to carry or store these tiny packages anywhere.
Why It Made the Cut
While many of Mountain House’s products are advertised as hiking or camping foods, their Granola with Milk & Berries is a high-calorie, delicious, and the best survival breakfast in a survival situation. Just add a small amount of water, and you have a great, sweet meal that will keep you full all morning.
- Shelf life: 30 years
- Serving size: Two 255 servings per packet
- Preparation: ¼ cup of water
Pros & Cons
- Easy to prepare
- 510 calories per bag keeps you full
- Long shelf life with great taste
- Pricier alternative to instant oats
- High in sugar
This bag of granola, powdered milk, and freeze-dried fruit is made with no preservatives. While the bag instructs you to add ¼ cup of cold water, I also tried adding hot water to mimic an oatmeal over a cereal. For how good this meal tastes and keeps you full, its 30-year shelf life is an added bonus.
Mountain House has made an objectively good breakfast food, and it is a solid addition to a strong survival food stockpile. Along with the two-serving pouches, I’d recommend ordering two 20-serving cans, one for camping, and one to be there for 30 years if you need it.
There’s a wide range of potential emergencies to prepare for, so I’ve gathered a list of foods to apply to a variety of survival situations. I evaluated these survival foods based on the following criteria:
- Calorie count and nutrient density
- Shelf life
- Preparation time/water required
- Variety of meals/flavor options
Additionally, all of the survival foods on this list passed my “fullness” test, meaning they kept me completely full until my next mealtime, or approximately six hours. It was important to me that I felt I could sustain energy during my daily life on these meals, not just enjoy trying them.
Things to Consider Before Buying Survival Food
The first thing to consider before buying survival food is what you’re anticipating having to survive. Where you live, what kind of storage space you have, and why you’re buying food with a long shelf life are all things you need to consider. Your intention could be having enough meals to go two weeks without leaving your house, or you could be anticipating a natural disaster. When you start to consider curating an emergency food stockpile, do your research and make a list of what you can see yourself needing given any emergency situation (before you start shopping).
The next things to consider when shopping for survival food.
Q: What food can you survive on forever?
Short answer, don’t try. We need 20 amino acids to survive, as well as a variety of vitamins and minerals. But there are some single survival foods, like potatoes, that will get you by for longer than others in a survival situation. So, to avoid needing to ask this question, check your supply of emergency food, and be honest about how much variety you have. Your body and taste buds will thank you if you make an effort to mix things up.
Q: Can food last 25 years?
While shelf life ultimately depends on the environment/temperature, storage, and whether your food’s seal is broken, yes, food can last for 25 years. In fact, most of the products I highlighted have an estimated shelf life of 25 or more years.
Q: What do I do about water in an emergency situation?
There are many things you can do now to prepare for being in an emergency situation away from a water source, or in one where you have lost running water. Storing multiple sealed jugs of water with your emergency food and stocking up on water purification tablets are great ways to start. Another source of emergency water could be these emergency drinking water packets. When it comes to both drinking and cooking water, you can never over prepare.
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