Though it's something you might not think about very often, you should. Emergency preparedness has become an increasingly important facet of everyday life for Americans. With climate change and political strife uprooting our environment left and right, being ready for the worst case scenario isn't just for doomsday preppers anymore. Simply put, it never hurt anyone to air on the side of caution.
That said, disasters can be challenging to thoroughly prepare for. Tornadoes, blizzard, hurricanes, earthquakes, and even fires hardly demand the same safety materials. This is why it is important to ensure that, no matter what may happen, your family has access to enough food, water, and emergency medical supplies to weather the storm.
The first step to preparing for catastrophe lies in your approach to storage. Regardless of what food you plan on keeping handy, it means nothing if you haven't stored it in a secure, accessible, and sustainable way. There are many companies that sell pre-packaged food specifically designed to self-regulate in a wide range of temperatures and humidity levels, thus providing one option for long-term food storage.
However, for families with hard-to-accommodate dietary restrictions or those operating on a low budget, these pre-made products may not always be the best option. In this case, you can prepare your own freeze-dried meals at home using oxygen absorbers. Ingredients that are particularly high in nutrients, low in moisture, and have a long shelf life are particularly well suited to stockpiling.
These can include honey, salt, sugar, white rice, whole wheat grains, nut butter, dried corn, baking soda, instant coffee, cocoa powders, tea, powdered milk, bouillon-based foods, dried beans, powdered eggs, pasta, oats, and many kinds of spices.
It is important to consider not just the sustainability of the food you are preparing, but the nutritional benefit as well. In a worst-case scenario disaster, your family may need to be prepared to go weeks without access to healthy food on top of already-dire environmental conditions. In this situation, it is vital that you replenish your body with a balance of proteins, carbs, and fats, in addition to a rainbow of micronutrients to keep your energy up and immune system strong. Experts recommend stocking up on vitamin, mineral and electrolyte-rich foods such as canned soup, beef jerky, walnuts, almonds, dates, and raisins specifically for this purpose.
Calorie-dense dried fruits and nuts, such as walnuts, pecans, and dates, can go a long wawayhen it comes to maintaining a healthy immune system. These foods contain essential nutrients such as riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin E, an antioxidant that benefits the body from the inside out. Consuming these foods helps keep cells healthy and may even aid in stress adaption.
Should you choose to purchase pre-prepared survival foods (rather than going to the trouble of preparing them yourself), deciding which company to purchase your meals from can be overwhelming. As niche of an industry as it may sound, there is actually such a broad range of options to choose from that the average shopper may not know where to start.
Fortunately, there are certain mandatory qualities to look for in any MRE (Meal Ready to Eat), regardless of the brand you purchase it from. These meals originated in the United States military as a way to provide members of the armed forces with hearty meals in a portable, sustainable package. As a general rule of thumb, it is wise to steer towards meals that can be prepared using nothing but water and heat. Anything that doesn't fall into this category would hardly qualify as an MRE.
Packaging is also an important factor to consider when choosing long-lasting foods to fill your pantry with. While cans are historically known for their preservative value, tightly-sealed mylar bags actually serve as the ideal food storage option when it comes to emergency preparation. This is because the material is uniquely excellent for keeping food from being exposed to oxygen and other unwanted substances that may contribute to its premature deterioration.
All of these factors may sound restrictive, but fortunately, there are still many companies out there that make sure to account for all of them. After ensuring that all potential options are nutritious, long-lasting, easily prepared, and sealed in mylar, really the only thing left to consider is which companies sell products that are specifically suited to your family's preferences. Those on a budget can look to Wise Food Storage (the first to use mylar bags), whereas those who prioritize specific dietary concerns have trusted brands such as NuManna and Valley Food Storage to choose from. There are companies that sell a delicious variety of foods (as well as recipes and supplies) to families of all shapes, sizes, and circumstances.
If you would like to diversify your options a bit more, consider buying products in bulk. This would allow you to build a pantry full of satiating meal options that could sustain you and your family for months if need be (and might even come in handy on camping trips or long car rides in the meantime). This way, you wouldn't have to rely on the same few pre-packaged foods every day and in every situation.
If the taste is a factor, it is important to be aware of the fact that many survival meal companies offer products that feature both dehydrated and freeze-dried versions of your favorite foods. They may sound the same, but the difference between dehydrated and freeze-dried snacks is significant. Freeze-dried foods typically offer more nutritional benefits and a less-diluted flavor, though the superior texture of dehydrated foods can sometimes make up for its faults.
If you're still unsure as to what brands you should try, many companies offer free samples that customers can test out before committing to purchasing a bucket of food with a 20-year shelf life. This is definitely an opportunity to take advantage of if you are looking to stock up on emergency survival supplies.
Ultimately, what MREs work best for your family is a matter of preference. That said, using mylar bags, leaning towards freeze-dried over dehydrated, and carefully selecting the foods you choose and the brands you purchase them from can help take any survival kit to the next level.