So I’ve spoken about this briefly before, but basically my opinion on rotating through a food stockpile has actually changed since I first began prepping.
I used to think that – in an ideal situation – I 100% wanted to rotate through every single item in my prepper food stockpile.
It made sense to me from so many different angles. If you rotated through all your food: your food had less of a chance of expiring, you wouldn’t be wasting as much food compared to if you never rotated through, you would be saving money on buying replacement food for your stockpile, and you could spend that money on other preps that could also help you out in an emergency.
SoPakCo MRE Meal Ready to Eat Sure-Pak – Amazon / eBay
But one day my opinion changed, and hasn’t changed back since, all due to a single comment on our forum by Mike Ash:
I don’t totally agree with the “store what you eat, eat what you store” philosophy guys. It sounds nice, succinct and rolls off the tongue pretty. But a survival food storage goes further than that. It is a good basis yet not overall strategy IMO.
Don’t get me wrong, not saying that you should go out and buy a shit ton of canned spinach and yams if your family hates them. Things that you can rotate is a great goal, but sometimes you will need to store a lot of something that you could never rotate totally with normal eating habits. But if you are thinking survival nutrition then you will just have to store them anyways. And if you think they are going bad, but not bad yet, give them away to families on an eat soon basis or add to compost. It would suck but it may be necessary to be truly prepared.
FIFO is definitely the best way to go but in some cases FI is far as it goes because you barely ever eat that product, but due to nutritional value or supplimental meal filler you should be storing for extended survival situation even of you never get to rotate.
A few examples: dry beans, rice, milk, ramen. I store more of this than anyone (other than an Asian food aficionado) would or could ever rotate or eat in a non survival situation. Im might store powered milk but i ain’t drinking that shit. I’ll get used to it and be happy with the change from smoky water if shtf happens. Although it breaks the rules on store what can eat, it is a nice source of protein, calories, and it is culinarily quite versatile. So I store it. Being dry foods, I’m guessing in my dark, semi-dry, stockpile they will safely last for over a decade with little or no deterioration.
I very rarely eat any of these items but I still store them and here’s why. Not to be preachy but in an extended bugout/bug in situation I receive per serving:
Dry milk: 80 cal, 8g protein, and vitamins and minerals. Not to mention ability to make bugout butter and cheese.
Beans: 70 cal, 8g protein, 22g carb, vitamins and minerals.
Rice: 160 cal, 3g protein, 35g carb, vitamins and minerals.
Ramen: 190 cal, 70 cal from fat, sodium 790mg, 26g carb, 4G protein, vitamins and minerals.
So I hope everyone sees that we can’t prep by just following a pretty statement. I personally feel that “store what you eat; eat what you store” is a great and the most efficient theory for stockpiling, it should be your core philosophy but not not a steadfast rule/law of stockpiling food. Other items should be in consideration to have a well-rounded overall diet and plan for survival.
If shtf happens we could end up eating a lot of things we aren’t used to or even comfortable eating, but that’s why it called surviving not camping. Otherwise I’d be eating steak, shrimp, hamburgers, and hot dogs on a daily basis.
He made so many excellent points in that comment, but what I took away that forever changed my opinion was what should have been obvious to me from the start: your food stockpile should eventually get to the point where you’re stockpiling more than what you could be able to rotate through, and in those cases (definitely not as a beginner prepper who’s just starting out their food stockpile, but later) – it’s important to stockpile food you likely won’t be able to or maybe won’t even want to rotate through.
This lesson sort of echoed when I ended up with a Legacy Food Storage bucket to review.
Legacy Freeze-Dried Emergency Food Bucket – LegacyFoodStorage.com / eBay
Could I use Legacy’s food, eat it on a regular basis, and rotate through it as it neared expiry date? Yes, it’s tasty enough. But would I? No, I probably would not. There’s plenty else I’d rather eat that didn’t include dehydrated foods, but luckily – that no longer bothered me. Actually, having that food bucket gave me a peace of mind I didn’t have when I was convinced it was better to eat through my entire food stockpile, a lot of which has to do with the fact that, left untouched, I couldn’t be miscalculating how much food I had left and depleting my stockpile without even noticing.
After putting together a cheap 1-2 year food stockpile made up of long-shelf life foods from the grocery store (which I have), what I’d want to further increase the length of time I could live on my own stockpile is definitely something that I know I won’t bother to eat through. Past the 1-2 year stockpile mark, what I’ll want are food items that will live a really, really long time, will be easy to to transport in case of an emergency, and will be easy to store out of sight and out of mind, so I don’t have to constantly be fretting about the fact that I don’t have a back up to my 1-2 year food stockpile. And that includes foods like MREs, dehydrated foods, and freeze-dried foods.
Benefits as I see them are:
- Freeze dried foods, dehydrated foods, MRE packs, etc. are easy to transport (throw into a backpack, the trunk of a car, etc.)
- They’re much easier to store, and much easier to protect from rodents and insects than grocery store stockpiles.
- They have an incredible shelf life.
- There is a mental separation between them and your day-to-day food stockpile rotation – so if you slack a little on your 1-2 year food stockpile calculations and your replacement the items you’ve eaten through, you’re still okay because you have an untouched long-term stockpile made up of MREs and freeze dried foods as a replacement.
- They take zero time and effort to put together (which can be hugely beneficial for preppers who have a shortage of time on their hands).
Obviously, the enormous downside is:
- They’re expensive. Especially when you consider cost per calorie.
My conclusion is that if you can afford them, if the upfront cost is not really an issue for you, and you have that 1-2 year food stockpile put together from grocery store foods, it makes sense to invest in these.
Valley Food Storage Mango Habanero Chili Packet – Amazon / Valley Food Storage
VFS’s Website Coupon Code: morethanjustsurviving10 (10% off – enter at checkout)
But I could really be missing something here, and obviously, I’d love to hear your opinions.
What do you think about dehydrated foods, MREs, freeze-dried food and the like? Have you ever bought any? Do you prefer one type over others? Do you think they’re worth investing in even though they can be fairly expensive? At what point would you consider stockpiling them? Are there any upsides or downsides that I’ve missed?
Let me know in the comments section down below.
Rev. Ramsey says
I personally have found that something called “Complete meals” are great for prepping and they will keep for up to about 3years or so. Their inexpensive and easy to find inn just about any grocery store. You can also eat them cold if needed. They are alot better hot. I rotate them often and keep enough to last me at least 8-10months. I call them a poor man’s MRE. Between $2-3.50 a piece. Depends on where you buy them. Just wanted to mention it for others to consider.
I forgot to throw another item into the equation.
I have lived at the same address for almost 40 years. The average American moves about every 5 years. The blog owners moved to Canada and then back to Great Britain.
So, you have to think about what you are storing, its portability and what you will be doing when you move.
Some options are straight forward. I regard a food supply as being in the category of paying an insurance premium. After 30 years, the TVP items and dried milk were donated. If I wanted to replace some stored food items, I simply gave them to charity and took a receipt.
If you are like me, over time you purchased cheap food that you don’t regularly eat. Or, you bought stuff on sale that will take a long time to use up. (PLEASE NOTICE that I am not efficient like the guys who proclaim that they mark and rigidly rotate what they have). So, I take inventory and resist the impulse to buy on the basis of price and have stopped buying a number of items.
So, take your supply of food for shtf. imagine that you are going to move in 5 years and plan on using things up.
Thomas Xavier says
Actually Elise was in Canada her whole life, I moved to that frozen wasteland to be with her. I stole her to the UK in mid 2016 and in 2 months, we will be in another country once again (I will make a long and maybe divisive post on why we are moving).
As for the meat of your comment, it’s super interesting and very very true. Elise and I have moved maybe a dozen times since we have been together- we got used to the upheaval that is involved in this and we have it down to a fine art at this stage, Whilst its easy to view portability as a huge issue, the reality is that moving across countries is both inexpensive and for the most part automated.
Moving from the UK to our next country is going to cost us around £1000 total, which includes the moving of furniture, appliances etc. So much competition these days means the prices are rock bottom in most populated areas for the contracting of “2 men and a van”.
When it comes to food stockpiles, Elise and I keep them in sealed “buckets”. It both protects the food, makes it easy to relocate and helps with organization. I think we will do a post on that subject to explore it in length.
Gary Gough says
Someplace between fresh food and “dwarf bread” ( I classify generic luncheon meat as lasts forever because I will never eat it willingly, so meets Terry Pratchett’s definition, and it might well be improved if the cat p*ssed on it. ) very long term doesn’t have to be inedible. A pressure canner, or pressure cooker, is a great tool. I’ve had home canned fish that got misplaced for a decade and was as good as the day it was stored ( behind canned beans ). Maybe a bit of segregated storage. Stuff that will last a decade can be labeled “don’t open till X + 7 years” at storage, sealed in waxed cardboard boxes ( great tinder BTW ) and stacked behind the more active stuff. Salt, sugar, baking soda, well given several million years it might break down. White flour is better fresh but is still food in a pinch after a quarter century. Dried pasta has a huge storage span, again if you aren’t being picky, and is dirt cheap. Rehydration salts also keep for ages, ( 1 part salt, 1 part Potassium Chloride, 1 part Baking Soda, 10 parts sugar ) , about 70 ml / litre of water. Add flavour if wanted ( really “drink the kool aid” ) Basically a “sports drink” for pennies and good to have if you have sick people, or just stressed hard working ones. People can live for a long time on rice, beans and corn ( all the amino acids in that mix ) so while more variety is great, a few 50Kg sacks as a fall back isn’t going to break anyone, ( if the beans are lentils, maybe keep some ketchup too, really needs something ) . Ascorbic acid keeps well, don’t go overboard on it, but it’s a little flavour variety and prevents scurvy if you are faced with too many months of rice, beans and corn.
Thomas Xavier says
The only way I like Luncheon meat is when pan fried and added to noodles. ;) Thanks for your comment, interesting energy drink recipe.
I completely agree with the concept that you can’t use FIFO as a basis for your food storage. While I do rotate some canned goods and condiments I store a lot more than that. So if I have a year supply of beans,rice,pasta, ect for 4 people the only way to rotate that would be to eat nothing but this for a year. ( I do eat these thing on a regular basis )That’s just not going to happen. Canned goods are anther example. While I have cases of canned veggies stored I am really not a fan of them as I much prefer veggies that are crisp and firm not overcooked. Would I eat the canned ones? Of course I would, but given a choice I will take the fresh every time. The end result is I am NOT going to start eating a SHTF diet till the SHTF happens. And yes I do have buckets and # 10 cans of freeze dried stored up also. The only one of these I eat on a regular basis it the Augason Farms shredded potatoes as they are easier (to me) to use for breakfast than making hash browns every day or so.
Thomas Xavier says
Makes sense, never heard of freeze-dried shredded potatoes, do they keep their texture?
so my “prepping” food storage is in the “pre” stage n that I haven’t really begun prepping in the true extent of the term. I keep a full pantry, fridge and freezer which for 2 people is 2 to 3 months of food. In the mix therre are items that would last much longer, such as flour, dried beans, Ramen etc. But, my actual prepping plan is in very early stages. So, with that in mind, I read your article and found it very interesting, and a little releaving, too!
It’s true that we don’t need to “live off what we store” in order to keep a full rotation. I actually see 3 sort of “columns” in the list. 1) every day food items that we use – regular gorceries (fresh, frozen and canned etc) that we make our daily meals from, and support with regular visits to the grocery store 2) long term storage items that we woud include as part of our daily meals/regular diet – this can be dried beans, flour etc as well as canned goods and 3) those long term “prepping” items that have longterm expiry dates (as in many years) that we wouldnt normally eat. This is the freeze dried & MRE meals, along with items like dried milk, which another commenter pointed out is definitely NOT sh!t I’m going to eat every day lol.
I keep currently keep about a 3 month version of column 1, some column 2 items, and I have a few column 3 items, as I actually carry these things with me as emergency rations on my regular trips into the backcountry (2 to 3 days of food minimum). As result of that, I also do sometimes rotate column 3, such as the freeze dried Chili Mac I ate on my last trip, because I actually enjoy it!
Thanks for the column as it was definitely informative and made me stop and think a bit ab out my approach. I think this little change in thinking actually makes the whole idea of building the stockpile easier to tackle. I don’t need to be completely hardcore about it, I just need to add a few things in column 2 and 3 on a regular basis as I continue to rotate through column 1.
Keep in mind, that if you NEED your food supplies, there is a good chance you won’t have electricity. And without electricity, the food in your fridge and freezer won’t last 2 to 3 months.
I’m with John on most of his comments. I haven’t tried MRE’s yet, I guess I’ll have to get ahold of some and give them a shot. I’ve heard both good and bad things about them; most of the bad from ex-service folks who had to live on them for extended periods of time.
I keep some freeze dried foods in my larder; mostly Mountain House, even my picky grand daughters like the taste but they do seem a little light in the calories department. Over an extended period I think I’d want to supplement them with something else, maybe some MRE’s which have high calorie content. I know that boiling water to prepare meals can be a pain but in a long term survival situation I’m going to be boiling water every day just to get clean drinking water.
I’m big on canned foods. I try to buy stuff that I actually eat and buy in quantity when I find it on sale. I pretty much ignore the use by dates. As an 18 year old I spent nineteen months in Southeast Asia living almost entirely on military C-rations. Those boxes had packing date stamps on them and most of what we got was packed before I was born. If the cans don’t show any damage and it doesn’t smell like an open sewer when you pop the lid it’s probably safe to eat; especially in a survival situation.
For long term survival needs, dried foods are great but they do take up more room and require a lot more preparation time. Beans, rice pasta, Raman and the like all have a place in my larder but their not at the top of my list for short term or bug out situations.
MREs and freeze dried food have different purposes. neither of which is part of your normal diet.
MREs can be eaten as is, or heated with a chemical heat pack. They are “complete”. This means that they are excellent when no cooking is available. In my opinion, they are for when you need to “pack” or distribute something “ready to eat”. The downside of them is because they contain water, they are bigger and heavier than other options, and don’t have that long of a shelf life (5 years or so). I like to have a small number of these, and they need to be rotated.
Freeze dried food is usually tastier, much lighter, somewhat smaller and often can go for 25 years in storage. The downside is you “need” to add water and cook it (I have not tried eating it “out of the bag”). As for cooking, there are two types. One you boil water, add the food, and continue to boil it for a while. The other (better since it needs less fuel, little cleaning and provides less “evidence” to attract unwanted scavengers) is the one where you boil water, pour it into the bag, close the top and let it sit for a specified period of time. This is my preference, limited only by the amount which can be afforded. It does not make economic sense to rotate these.
Canned food has a “best by” date which is fairly short, but this is a CYA thing. As long as the can is not swollen, punctured, rusted or otherwise compromised, the contents should be at least edible. Some things are problematical; fruits seem to start leaking after a while. Canned food can be cheap (particularly on sale), require minimal or even no cooking and some of it can even be tasty. These should be rotated as part of your normal diet. I particularly like the soups and some of the “meals” (like chili or beef stew). I don’t like the vegetables, or cleaning up the leaked fruits.
1. Response to trite expression of rotate what you eat:
a. my daily diet is fresh vegetables, fresh meat, fresh breads, fresh candies. There is absolutely no way to rotate fresh other than going to the store.
2. Response to simply rotate the canned goods:
a. an assumption that I have equal physical access to be able to move/rotate/store canned goods in a spic and span pantry/spic and span garage/spic and span kitchen is misplaced. I have trouble cleaning up what the dog tracks in/keeping up with painting the fence and gates/dumping the trash.
3. Response to assertions that eating your way through your MRE’s/#10 cans of nitrogen stored foods/”year’s supply” is inexpensive – the concept is rubbish.
a. add up the cost of eating a balanced diet at a fast food place for a day (it can be done if you also purchase the salads,etc.) Your cost of getting the same calories/nutrition/protein through the purchased survival foods is much higher.
4. Take a balanced approach in your food preparations:
a. plan the sources of food based upon 3 days, a couple of months without the grocery store; and then long term.
b. plan the sources of food so that you do not generate extra work in food preparation – like going out to get buckets of water for cooking/cleaning; going out and collecting firewood.
c. plan the sources of food so that you don’t waste time in food preparation/clean up/and generating food smells that attract attention from scroungers/neighbors
5. Think about storage space. Here is a game to play. Take a can of vegetables, a can of tuna fish or sardines, and a can of fruit or fruit cocktail. Those items last indefinitely in storage, do not need water for cooking or clean up or wood gathering. So, you say ok. That yields only 90 cans that you have to store for each person in your household. If you have 4 people, then you have 360 cans. But something is missing! Look at the total calories. They are at a starvation diet level. So now you have to find calories and dream that, as an overweight person about to engage in expenditure of physical activity to survive, you are happy to have three little cans of food. The unthinking response is to buy 50 pound bags of rice – which requires water and a lot of heat. Well, homemade hardtack (the staple of sailors and soldiers) has at least 3 times the amount of calories for the same weight and requires only warm water. I store 30 pounds of homemade hardtack for each person, a month’s supply.
When you consider #10 cans, MREs , Coast Guard rations, they have a place. I have them for after 30 days.
a. it is now winter. you are going to heat the kitchen or the house anyway. so, you run hardtack in the oven for 4 hours. the heat is doing double duty.
b. your monitoring of the cooking process can be haphazard and not jeopardize the result.
c. a doggie is capable of eating hardtack. it helps the teething process while preserving the family furniture.
d. you can package it in zip lock bags and plastic containers without concern for special packaging/dry ice/freezing/desiccant bags.
e. The US Army took barrels of hardtack made in the Civil War and used them in the Spanish-American War 33 years later. There wasn’t desiccant bags/dry ice/refrigeration/food sealers from Costco in those days.