A few weeks ago I was interviewed on a radio show about this prepping column, and during the commercials I heard an ad for a specific survival food company that claimed to offer more “calories per dollar” than everyone else. On checking their website, that number is 250 calories per dollar. I have been buying and storing food for over a year now, since my original food article, and all this time I have had a really hard time explaining to people the importance of making the most out of their prepping dollars, and focusing on supermarket food, not survival food. The company itself didn’t impress me, especially after they bailed on sending review food when I explained this article. But then I realized, that’s it! It really is all about calories per dollar! And that claim of 250 calories per dollar may be high when compared to other brands of survival food, but compared to the foods below, all from Walmart, they are embarrassing for the actual food you get. Even expensive name brand Dinty Moore beef stew is 238 calories per dollar. Which would you rather eat? Other foods here are well over 1,000 calories per dollar, and one is over 4,000 calories per dollar.
We of course do need to discuss expiration dates. I don’t know how the survival food companies are allowed to advertise as much as 25 years of shelf life, but there is really no mystery to what foods can be stored long term without spoilage or significant loss. Some non-refrigerated foods expiration dates really matter. Anything with oil in it that is in a plastic bag or plastic bottle will eventually oxidize and will not be fun to eat. That would include actual bottles of oil, except for the olive oil that comes in tin gallon cans. Of all the oils, olive oil and Crisco type hydrogenated oils are the most stable, but if you are storing oils, you should put then in either Mylar bags or plastic buckets with oxygen absorbers, and that will prolong its useable life dramatically. Oxygen absorbers will extend the life of anything packaged in plastic, because oxygen eats plastic too. People joke about the shelf life of a Twinkie, but my guess is that if you put Twinkies in a Mylar bag with oxygen absorbers, they’d be fine ten years later. My recent article on Mylar backs vs. plastic buckets is a must read for basic food storage costs, so please read it.
Canned foods have an almost indefinite shelf life. Many years ago a science lab opened cans of meat from the Civil War that had been soldered closed, and the food was still edible and nutritious. If you visit Key West, which used to be the center of the Sea Turtle Soup industry, there are a number of stores and museums that still have cans of soup from the turn of the last century that have never gone bad and expanded. That isn’t to say that if you open a can of beef ravioli ten years from now it is going to look like ravioli. It won’t, because eventually the liquid will dissolve the pasta into a paste, but it’ll still be edible, and it’ll still taste fine and it will keep you alive. The nice thing about cans is that rodents generally won’t bother them, whereas rats can easily chew through plastic buckets.
There are a number of preserved foods in newer styles of packaging that carry expiration dates of anywhere from six months to two years. I suspect most of these also have fairly indefinite shelf life. Usually you’ll see “best by” instead of “expires on” with these foods, and they include things like blocks of Velveeta cheese, pickled sausage, Mylar bags of soup mix (which are similar to the survival foods), and even some vacuum packed food. As with all plastic, I strongly suggest putting these foods inside a Mylar bag or bucket with oxygen absorbers. All regular plastic leaks air, and eventually the fat in it, if any, will oxidize. The proteins may also break down from light exposure, and overall, it is better to be safe than sorry.
I would also like to talk about just plain old bad advice. Opposite the survival food companies trying to get more than 5 times actual food costs are the old guard survival “experts” trying to convince you that you should learn to eat your survival food now, and rotate it. I don’t know where these people dreamed up the idea that your diet should consist of even partly storable food. We are living in prosperity now. Yes, it is a false prosperity built on debt that we are stealing from the future, but nonetheless, if you don’t live the good days now, you will never live the good days. Dried beans and flour are great long term survival foods, but in my daily life I rarely if ever eat either of them. Their argument is that the shock of sudden off grid living will be so intense that you won’t want to have to adapt to new foods. I think most people will be just fine with a couple weeks of Dinty Moore, Spagettios and Trail Mix, all at a fraction of the price of “survival food” And as they figure out how to get their cooking and preparing rolling, things like rice, pasta, flour, beans and dried milk will become part of the food cycle. Survival food is like term life insurance. Your goal is to not use it and let it go to waste.
Remember the Bible story of Joseph’s dreams? He warned the Egyptians to store up grains for 7 years, because his dreams had prophesied that there would be 7 years of famine. What did the Egyptians store when they were warned? Grains, beans, preserved meat. Expiration dates are a product of our modern and fake society. Take advantage of the fact that you don’t have to be overwhelmed with $3,000 and up “One Year Supply” scams. You can survive on 1,000 calories a day if you have to, kids even less. How much flour, oil, and SPAM is that? Not a lot, and a fraction of those ready made “One Year Supply” packages. Go do it today. I’m thankfully no prophet, but I don’t think you have to be a prophet to see that the world is melting down around us, and the house of cards is going to come down, probably soon.