Emergency foods with an extended shelf life have existed for decades now and have been used by organizations like the military, individuals like survivalists, and a plethora of other people. Able to provide a person with nourishment and energy when other sources are not readily available, these types of food are able to sustain life in the most trying of times.
Though you likely know that emergency food exists, you are probably amongst the many people who would like to learn a little bit more about them. Of all the things you need to know about emergency food, few are more important than how to prepare them. Contrary to popular belief, each type of emergency food is not prepared the same way and can differ dramatically depending on what type of meal it is and the manufacturer.
In the following few sections we will do our best to elaborate on how you prepare emergency food and survival meals along with what is required in order to do exactly that. We’ll be going over how to prepare emergency food, and the tools you’ll need to do so. Read on to learn more about the preparation process.
MREs & Freeze-Dried Food
“Emergency food” is nothing more than a blanket term under which many different types of products fall. Generally, the two main categories of emergency meals are MREs and freeze-dried meals. For so many years people have subscribed to the myth that MREs and freeze-dried foods are identical, but nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, both items require little preparation and are made to provide food when it may otherwise not be available, but apart from that they are very different.
MRE is an abbreviation for “Meals Ready to Eat” and have long been associated with military provisions, but more recently have been utilized by hikers, campers, preppers and survivalists as well. As their name insinuates, MREs are able to be opened and consumed immediately; very little preparation is involved. More recently, MREs have been equipped with warming devices that allow for the food to be warmed up as soon as the individual meal is unpackaged.
Freeze-dried meals are another great option, but the process involved with preparing them is a bit different than it is with MREs. Freeze-dried food can also be referred to as dehydrated meals, and this means that in order to prepare them all you need to do is rehydrate the food that is in the package. Naturally, the process of rehydrating freeze-dried meals involves water, but often times a heat source is needed as well. Though every meal is different, you typically need to bring water to a boil and add it to the meal package.
After a few minutes of boiling, your freeze-dried meal will “cook” and subsequently be ready to eat. Many of these types of meals include directions right on their packaging which can make it a bit easier, especially in stressful times. The only thing you may need are the proper supplies to prepare them. This may include clean water, a heat source and cooking utensils such as a metal cup, forks and knives.
Pros & Cons of MREs and Freeze-Dried Meals
Naturally, the biggest pro derived from the use of survival food is the fact that it can be prepared at times when you will not only need food, but need it quickly and easily without expending much energy. When it comes down to it, both MREs and freeze-dried meals are easy to prepare and can be ready to eat within minutes.
A pro for MREs over freeze-dried foods is the fact that literally no preparation is involved. Other than opening the package and waiting a few minutes, there is nothing you have to do to prepare the meal. Compared to freeze dried meals, these types of survival food are somewhat more bland tasting.
With freeze-dried foods, on the other hand, preparation typically involves boiling water and adding it to the meal package. This is not complicated in the least, but if you do not have access to clean water or a legitimate heat source, boiling water may be out of the question. For this reason, MREs are preferred for people who only need the bare necessities.
Shelf-life is another thing to think about. Both of these emergency meal types last for an extended period of time, but freeze-dried meals have a much longer shelf-life than MREs. If you have similar environments (meaning cool and dry), MREs tend to stay edible for anywhere from 2 to 5 years. That 5 year end of the spectrum is only if the MRE is being stored in absolutely ideal conditions. As soon as they are stored in an environment that is too hot, humid, cold, or wet, the MRE’s shelf-life diminishes dramatically.
Freeze-dried meals, on the other hand, can last for up to 5 or 6 times as long as MREs and can be stored in a wider variety of conditions without quality being sacrificed as significantly. In most cases, you will find that freeze-dried meals stay edible for up to 25 years, and sometimes even longer than that. What’s more, you can quite literally throw freeze-dried meals on a shelf and forget about them for 2 decades and they will still be perfectly edible.
MRE vs Freeze-Dried Food Preparation
Something that is very important to consider is the fact that freeze-dried meals, needing to be heated up with boiling water, presents an entirely different dimension of preparation. If you are going on a hike or other trip into the wilderness and want to bring freeze-dried meals, you need to plan ahead. Planning ahead in terms of freeze-dried meals means planning on having a water source as well as a legitimate heat source.
At a bare minimum, someone looking to utilize freeze-dried emergency meals needs to have a pot within which the water can be brought to a boil. To that end, bringing water to a boil requires a legitimate heat source, such as an open flame fire or portable cooktop.
When it comes down to it, utilizing freeze-dried meals requires a lot more than just the meals alone, while MREs can be ready to eat without much effort at all, and with no additional tools or supplies. The big drawback to MREs, however, is that if you do not plan on using them in the near future, they might need to be replaced within a few years.
There is a lot to consider when comparing MREs to freeze-dried meals, but at the end of the day both have their pros and cons. The biggest thing is to understand these differences so that you can utilize the meals that are best for you and your particular wants/needs. Another major difference is that there is a greater selection of meal types with freeze-dried foods. Most freeze-dried food manufacturers will make varieties such as gluten free survival meals, vegetable-only survival meals, and many other unique types that are not available with MREs.