What Is The Best Storable Food?
We've been selling and eating storable food for over 21 years now. During that time, we have eaten many different types of storable food - freeze dried and dehydrated from the different companies that we carry (and a few others).
We've gone further than most - incoporating our food storage as part of our daily diet. Every day, we've eaten something from our own food storage program. This has allowed us to know first-hand what is best, and what we like the most, and even what we haven't liked.
We've also found out from direct experience what foods will actually last many years and retain their key characteristics (taste, texture, flavor and nutrition). Some of our food is over 20 years old now and we've still been able to enjoy it.In a nutshell, the best storable food will have these qualities:
- Retain the best taste and texture over its lifetime (shelf life) without degradation;
- Be easy to prepare;
- Not absorb any off-flavors from the packaging or any additives;
- Be healthy and nutritious;
- Retain its "usefulness", which simply means to actually be something you would enjoy eating!
Not all food storage is worth what you paid for it, even when 'new.' We've found some products simply do not last, or have a bad taste, or they can even be so unique and "different" that you won't much enjoy them regardless.
Manufacturers often try to out-do one another by offering something new to change up their selections. This hasn't always been a good thing in our experience.
What is actually in the food (ingredients) also matters - quite a lot. Over time, if there are any additives or seasonings involved, this can dramatically change the taste, texture and palatability of the food. We've often found that "simple is best" when it comes to the actual ingredients - just the food is what we prefer with nothing else added in.
This is contradictory to what many companies are now doing by offering "complete meals" that contain seasonings, additives and in many cases, preservatives. We have found that this was pretty lousy food to be honest - we did not like it. It has a off-taste that gets gradually worse over time. We prefer foods that are simply food - nothing added. It's more work to prepare a meal from simpler ingredients, but it is worth it in our opinion (and quite a lot cheaper).
Over the past 21 years now, we've stored Alpine Aire, Mountain House, Natural High, Richmoor, Rainy Day, Survival Cave, Augason Farms, Legacy, all kinds of MRE's, and even some foods we purchased in bulk from Costco (thereafter repackaged into airtight containers). Out of this entire list, the best food by far was Rainy Day. The second-best food we found was Mountain House.
The reason Rainy Day came out on top is the food is simple - no additives, so it does not absorb any other flavors. You can prepare these products and season to taste yourself. Their shelf life was also amazing, which made these foods a real bargain when they were finally eaten. By the time they were consumed (over two decades later) the price of those same foods had risen many times.
Mountain House was our top choice for freeze dried food. It has become readily apparent that they take more time to package their food in durable long lasting packages. Whether it was cans or pouches, none of our Mountain House inventory had leaked once; even far past their expiration date - and this is a huge
issue, because oxygen will break down food quality and nutrition. Of any of the other aforementioned brands, we did not find them to last as long. You should plan to eat them before their expiration. Some were so bad even when "new" that we wanted our money back!
The other thing we've found is the taste and texture was considerably better with Mountain House foods. Mountain House only produces freeze dried food (no dehydrated foods) in entrees (prepared meals) and even when opened up past their expiration date, it was still very tasty and enjoyable to eat. This was a hands-down winner. Unfortunately, this was not so with the other brands. After a few bites and finding it mostly inedible with a chemical after-taste, we had to toss the food out.
Not suprising, both Rainy Day and Mountain House have the best shelf life. These are based in real-world examples too (not estimates). We've found that several companies have dishonestly estimated
their shelf life claims (some of them haven't even been in business that long), but in our experience, their food will not last anywhere near the claimed time period before becoming inedible. The reasons are many: improper packaging, poor quality oxygen absorbers (or none at all), cheap packaging ("totes" and pouches), packaging failures (leakage), food additives, food preservatives, or ingredients that simply won't last as long as advertised.
There is a huge amount of hype and propaganda about food storage, particularly about how long it is supposed to last. Well, here's the real deal - most of these claims are false
.There are two issues of importance here: 1) product shelf life, and 2) product servings and calories:
- Shelf life claims in the real world are vastly different than advertised claims;
- Product serving size and calories almost never matched the advertised claims of time (i.e. how long it will actually last you).
In summary, only the companies that have been around long enough to have first-hand experience with the actual shelf life of the food can be deemed reputable. Everyone else is just "guessing" or passing on what they've read elsewhere - or worse, inflating the numbers to make a sale (false advertising at its finest). The storable food industry has had quite a few newcomers within the last few years and we've been unwilling to trust their claims without evidentiary proof.
Unfortunately, this is now a pretty common practice across this industry; advertised claims that do not match up with reality. Ultimately, this reveals the importance of using only time-tested manufacturers with decades of actual, real-world experience.