Freeze Dried & Dehydrated Foods & MREs

(Man … my blog titles have gotten so lame and boring since we decided to try and be search engine friendly!)

Michelle and I have a pantry that we keep fully stocked. We do this for a number of reasons. The first of course is the coming zombie apocalypse. I’ve seen enough zombie movies … “World War Z,” “Shawn of the Dead,” “28 Days After” … to know that sooner or later the zombies will come, so I’d better be ready. I guess they might go after our pantry? But I digress.

The real reason is much less sensational, but the simple fact is that we are not the biggest fans of civilization and so the less often we have to venture out into it, the better. By having lots of rice and pasta and canned food in the pantry (along with the food in the root cellar and the freezer) we don’t have to venture out as often to get groceries. We use the “FIFO” system of inventory/pantry management. In other words, the first stuff that we put in to our pantry is the first stuff we take out (First In First Out). This comes in handy especially with things like baking supplies, since inevitably we discover that we need “flax seeds” just as Michelle begins to put together a batch of her granola. So when we open a new package of something we purchase another and put it in the pantry for the next time. It saves me from having to wander around the house waving my hands and ranting about the fact that all I want in life is a simple bowl of granola but because we don’t have any flax seeds my life is ruined, blah blah blah. It’s an ugly scene best avoided.

We have discovered through trial and error that some stuff keeps for long periods of time very well, but others, don’t. Peanut butter is a good example. Try to keep it too long and it acquires a rancid odour and flavour. So we don’t tend to keep a lot of the stuff that we have learned doesn’t store as well. For my book “The Sensible Prepper” I recommend that people might also want to supplement their pantry with some freeze-dried products. Since the moisture has been removed from these products they will last much, much longer. Their labels may suggest that they last “3 years” or some conservative length of time like that, but I would suggest they’re likely to last much longer.

We started using freeze-dried foods years ago on our canoeing/camping trips when our girls were young. They were a convenient way to prepare entire meals by just adding hot water over a fire or on our camp stove. They were incredibly light, space-efficient, convenient and extremely tasty.

Harvest-Foodworks-freeze-dried-food-photo

We bought them from a company that is located here in Eastern Ontario called “Harvest Foodworks.” http://www.harvestfoodworks.com/

They have an awesome selection and their food is delicious. I think it’s a great idea to have some of these around. It means you can have an awesome warm meal anytime, even if the power’s out. They are usually available at camping or backpacking stores.

And the meals they sell are amazing. Alfredo Primavera, Oriental Sweet & Sour, Tandoori Curry, Chocolate Almond Fudge Cake … I’ve got to tell you that if we ever have an emergency and need to use these, Michelle and I will be eating way better than we do on most days!

I know what you’re saying. “Cam, buying food like that is ‘prepping’ and I don’t want to be one of those preppers!” Nope, you’re right. Way better to be cold and hungry. A week before Christmas this year Toronto had a major icestorm and hundreds of thousands of people were without electricity. For some of these people the power outage lasted a week, right through Christmas. So I guess you’ve got to ask yourself, do you want to gamble that you know someone across town who might have power, or do you want to have some amazing food that you can prepare that will warm you up, feed you and cheer you up too! A warm tasty, nutritious meal, a good LED lantern or candles, a good book … tell me again what the problem with a power outage is?

The other option I investigated for my book was MREs or “Meals Ready to Eat.” These were designed by the American military for troops out in the field. You want your soldiers healthy and well fed but in many locations this can be difficult. An MRE is essentially a full meal, ready to eat, hot, wherever you are. It contains not only the food but also the method to cook it. You just put the meal pouch into a packet, which is a water-activated exothermic reaction product that emits heat.

Meal Kit Supply sent me some samples and have more information on their website http://www.mealkitsupply.com/ There’s a neat video on the site explaining how they work.

MRE-photo

Hot, nutritious meals, without a stove! Will wonders never cease? I like it in the video when they say one meal can be up to 1,300 calories. It’s funny that most people watch calories and with a recommended 2,000 calorie a day limit, these MREs sound like diet busters. But remember they’re not designed for regular daily consumption. They’re designed for those days when the jet stream stops that weather front over your part of the world, and you get 2 months worth of rain in 4 hours and that old bridge on the road to town gets washed out and you’re stuck for a few days, or a week, until you can get anywhere. I really think they’re a brilliant idea for anyone.

This is like an insurance policy that you can buy. The object of an insurance policy is to never have to use it. It’s only really relevant in a crisis. I would love to get an email 5 years from now from a blog reader who is angry because they invested in some MREs or freeze-dried food and they’d never had to use it. That would be wonderful.

During extreme weather events one of the dangers is getting cold. There’s nothing worse than being cold and wet. It impedes your ability to function properly, to think straight, to be rational, just at the time when those qualities are needed the most. Can you imagine being able to take a time out, in your car, in your garage, in your garden shed if that’s all that left, to enjoy a piping hot meal? It would fill you with the energy your brain and body need to take on the monumental task at hand. I rest my case.

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Our next full-day workshop here at Sunflower Farm takes place on Sat. May 3. Click here for more details and to register!

Hands On workshop poster 2014

9 Responses to “Freeze Dried & Dehydrated Foods & MREs”

  • Hi Reyn. Thank you for the suggestion. The workshop is a day long event and it takes place partly in our home and then we wander all over our property to look at the various systems etc. So I am thinking that this might be quite a challenge to webcast or podcast. I will definitely talk it over with Cam though and see if we can make it happen. ~Michelle~

  • Neil B. (Orleans):

    Thanks for the info on Harvest Food Works (and to think they are right here in Eastern Ontario).

  • Janet Schaefer:

    When we moved back from Thailand our packing company said “No Food, even Canned, allowed to Canada”… I ended up giving quite a few boxes of food to the needy…. When we go camping, we bring the MRE’s. They are different and tasty and can be worth two meals, if we stretch it.

  • Great article Cam. Thanks.

    While, like you, we heat with a woodstove and by the nature of that, can heat water and meals whenever the power is out, I hadn’t thought of the MRE’s. We’ll look into that.

    Folks might want to have a 24 pack or so of bottled water as backup too. As a well user, when the power goes out, so does the water. We can usually scrounge water for the toilet, but drinking water is another story. We write the date we put it in the crawl space on the plastic cover over the water package, ensuring that we use it in t a timely manner and we FIFO it too.

    Cheers and thanks,

    Bill

  • bunkie:

    Great post Cam!

    We like this product for the pantry…no GMOs, no MSG, no artificial flavoring, etc…

    http://www.freelegacyfood.com/

  • David Hribar:

    I lived thru Hurricane Andrew in Miami and we were one of the lucky ones that our power was out only 2 and a half weeks. We were also fortunate we could drive two county’s up the coast for gas and groceries. I learned a lot from that experiece, one being I moved to Alaska! Thanks for the information and yes in Alaska I also keep a well stocked pantry.

  • Reyn:

    What is the possibility that you might be able to webcast or podcast the workshop? I would be willing to pay a reasonable cost for recordings of it. (for me podcast probably would work better than webcast because then I could watch on my time schedule.)

    Reyn

  • Susan:

    I love having a stocked pantry and I know it can always be improved. You don’t have to have Zombies at the door or a hurricane or even an economic disaster (which could just be a loss of income)to use and appreciate being able to grab ingredients out and create a meal. I use, rotate, and replace stores continuously shopping the lost leaders every week. My favorite and frequently occurring “disaster” are those days that I spend out in the garden and coming in to realize that honey will be home from work in less than an hour and there is no dinner and I haven’t even had a shower and I am exhausted. I even try to keep pre-made meals in the freezer for that.
    Although I live in the U.S. (Wash. State) I will check out your harvest food-works. Thanks!

  • Connie Murray:

    Having survived the epi-center of Hurricane Sandy down at the Jersey Shore, I learned to be prepared. Although I doubt any zombies will ever come, bad weather does more and more frequently. Not only do we keep canned food/bottled water on hand, we keep gas (outside because even containerized it stinks). Keeps the jenny going until the power goes back on (weeks later). Also I collect candles (not for decoration but for just in case). I have a vegetable garden too but mostly the woodchuck benefits from that!

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Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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