When you think of emergency food, you usually think of MREs and canned food, right? Be honest. These things aren’t appealing. That’s why so many people out there give you a funny look when you tell them you’re a survivalist. But, there’s a few options out there that break with tradition – offering awesome meals that are also dehydrated and have a long shelf-life. Here’s how to make or buy your own.
Get a Food Dehydrator
With a food dehydrator, you can make just about any food last forever. The favorites are, of course, dried beef. Jerky can sustain you almost indefinitely, but you’ll need a source of calories other than protein. Why? Because too much protein can give you diarrhea!
If you are particularly sensitive to a certain protein type, you may develop protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome. This is where your body is unable to process the protein properly and it results in an immune reaction which expels the food, giving you terrible GI distress.
Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to balance out protein intake. Carbs and fats are great, natural, sources of energy for your body and easily digestible. Nuts are a great source of fats, while dehydrated potato (yes, a kind of potato chip) can serve as an important source of carbohydrates.
If you dehydrate potatoes, all you have to do is rehydrate them and you’ve got yourself a hearty meal.
Another thing you can dehydrate is fruit. Almost any fruit lends itself to dehydration and it’s another excellent source of carbohydrates, along with being an excellent source of vitamins and minerals.
Shopping For Ideal Meals
When shopping for foods to dehydrate, always buy fresh. Frozen and canned foods do not dehydrate well. Plus, there’s way too much moisture in them. You’ll be dehydrating forever. Fresh food, on the other hand, can be naturally preserved through dehydration, will retain the nutrients in the food, and it’s usually cheaper to dehydrate this way (especially when it comes to dehydrating fruits).
With meat, you want to be sure you’re getting prime cuts with little fat. Fat doesn’t dehydrate all that well, and it can contribute to spoilage if there is any water remaining in the fat when the meat is dehydrated. Your best option is lean meat – ideally, 99 percent fat free.
Use Oxygen Depleters
Some foods just don’t take dehydration well. For those foods, you’ll want to use oxygen depleters. These tiny packets are placed inside vacuum-sealed pouches to help keep oxygen out, and food preserved.
Oxygen depleters are ideal for foods with already low moisture content, like nuts and seeds but which might spoil when exposed to oxygen. The oxygen absorber or depleter is filled with iron powder. The iron keeps oxygen from oxidizing the food. It’s a great way to dramatically extend the shelf life of pretty much anything. You can even use it on dehydrated food. Remember, moisture isn’t your only enemy. Oxygen also ruins food.
Buy Your Food
If you’re a hopeless chef, your last hope might be to break down and buy your food from a professional. Companies like 4Patriots sell dehydrated food that you can keep in your basement for 30 or more years.
And, you don’t have to put up with stale or nasty MREs either. Dehydration techniques have improved over the last 20 years, the Army’s MRE program notwithstanding.
Today’s dehydrated food is just like fresh food, except that you have to add water. You can buy a medium-rare steak and potatoes, for example, that is almost indistinguishable from a steak that’s just come off the grill.
A lot of the top tier survival foods are also organic, so you know you’re getting the best quality possible. Of course, there’s a price to pay for all of this quality.
On average, top-quality survival food will cost you 50 percent, sometimes more, than the bottom-of-the-barrel stuff. But, you have to make that trade-off. Do you want higher quality food or low-quality food?
Keep in mind that low-quality food doesn’t just taste bad or bland, it’s also not as healthy, which could become a major issue if you have to live in survival mode for a few weeks. Folate deficiency, for example, can develop within a few short weeks.
Normally, this isn’t a problem because most people eat fortified foods, beans, and legumes. But, if you’re eating jerky and other survivalist foods, you might not be getting the nutrition you think you are. This is a major reason why it’s often a good idea to spend more on quality.
GUEST BLOGGER: Allen Baler is a Partner at 4Patriots LLC, a Tennessee based small business that provides products to help people be more self-reliant and more independent. Allen founded the company in 2008 after 14 years as a corporate executive leading profitable business for the Easton Press and the Danbury Mint. He graduated with honors from Harvard University and resides in Nashville with his wife and 3 daughters.