When it comes to food storage, there are lots of options. There are canned goods, bulk items, dehydrated meals, MREs and, of course, freeze dried foods. Whatever you decide to choose for yourself and your family is somewhat of a personal choice and given proper storage conditions, there is no reason not to have some of each.
Given the many choices, some will say that freeze dried foods are cost prohibitive but I find that is simply untrue. When compared to packaged foods, fast food and perishable food that spoils while lingering in the refrigerator or on the counter, freeze dried food becomes a viable and cost effective option that is quick, convenient, and with careful selection, healthy. For long term storage, there is nothing simpler, especially if you purchase complete entrée items in a #10 tin or a pouch.
When Mountain House recently approached me asking if I would like to sample their new, Just In Time Breakfast Assortment (available here and here), I jumped at the chance to sample the product and of course, to offer a complete bucket assortment to one lucky Backdoor Survival reader.
I also thought it would fun to put on my journalist hat and ask Kenny Larson, my Mountain House contact, some questions about the company and of course, the food itself. But first, let me describe the MH “Just In Case Breakfast Assortment” and briefly run through my taste test.
The Mountain House “Just In Time” Breakfast Assortment
This newly launched bucket includes a dozen pouches of four Mountain House breakfast favorites, including scrambled eggs mixed with ham, scrambled eggs mixed with bacon, granola with milk and blueberries, and a breakfast skillet entrée. The pouches are packed in a convenient, tote-able bucket with a shelf life of 10 years from the date of manufacture that is stamped on each pouch.
This is what the breakfast skillet looks like before adding water.
For the taste test, I chose the breakfast skillet entrée which is a combination of hash browns and scrambled eggs mixed with pork sausage, peppers and onions. Now to be honest, I am not a breakfast eater so I chose to consume my breakfast-skillet meal for dinner. Being familiar with Mountain House products, I knew that a single pouch would be sufficient for the two of us and I was not disappointed.
As with all MH meal pouches, you add boiling water, zip the pouch up,
let is sit for a few minutes, then eat!
While sometimes advertised as a wrap – and I could certainly see where the breakfast skillet would be suitable for snuggling inside a nice warm tortilla, I ate my meal the regular way: on a plate with a fork. So what did I think? It was a bit salty for my taste but Shelly (the Survival Hubby) thought it was perfect. And he is an expert when it comes to eating breakfast!
For a non-breakfast eater like me, by my favorite MH products are still the Chili Mac and Beef Stroganoff!.
An Interview with Kenny Larson, Oregon Freeze Dry
To get the ball rolling, tell me a little about how Mountain House got started.
Oregon Freeze Dry, the parent company of Mountain House, was incorporated in 1963 in Albany, Oregon. Our original business was freeze-drying strawberries for breakfast cereals.
As the Vietnam War progressed, the Defense Department began looking for a better ration. We presented them food that was lighter and tasted better than what they had been using. That was when we started making the Long Range Patrol Ration*, LRP or “Lurp”.
As the war began to wind down, we had a large warehouse left of these rations so we sold them to local surplus and sporting goods stores. Returning veterans, wanting to use these superior rations to feed them on their outdoor adventures, quickly bought everything they could get their hands on. That’s when we realized that we had an exciting product on our hands and Mountain House was born in 1968.
* Just as a point of interest, our food has been in every theater of combat since Vietnam. We’ve also continued making the LRP since our first contract, now known as the MCW/LRP (Meal Cold Weather/Long Range Patrol). We also have a YouTube video highlighting our history.
In the past few years, I have seen a lot of food storage companies come on line. I have tried samples from many of them and some are great and others? Well, to be polite, not so good. That said, someone once told me that there were only a handful of companies manufacturing freeze-dried food.
So first of all, is that true? And if so, does Oregon Freeze Dry produce brands other than Mountain House?
We are the only company that freeze-dries and cooks our meals before packaging, as opposed to purchasing off-the-shelf components and assembling them just prior to packaging. When we make our meals in the cook room, it smells just like your kitchen does at home. That’s one of our secrets for making our food taste home-cooked. There is no other way to replicate true home-cooked flavor without actually cooking the food.
Our experience also plays a significant factor in why our food tastes better. We’ve been in the freeze drying business for more than 50 years! We know our process and have the controls in place to make sure our food lasts and tastes as good as we claim. Once we receive the raw ingredients we’re in control of the process from receiving, to cooking, to packaging, to shipping it to your favorite retailer. This ensures that when you eat our food you have the premium experience we promise.
Our experience means that we are comfortable saying that our food has the longest proven shelf-life, period. Claiming your food lasts x number of years based on extrapolations from laboratory testing under ideal conditions is one thing. Actually eating delicious and nutritious food that is 25+ years old is quite another. We’re the only company that have subjected our food to real world testing like this.
Finally, our main brand is Mountain House but we do freeze-dry ingredients for select white-label applications under our Oregon Freeze Dry brand.
How are your recipes developed and how often are they changed, if ever?
Our process used to involve a Sales Manager and Research Chef, who would come up with a recipe idea, then our R&D department would develop the final product. Once the recipe was finalized, we’d send it to production and the rest was history.
We’ve now modified our approach. Now it looks something like this:
a. Our Marketing Department comes up with a selection of recipe ideas pulled from consumer suggestions and general market research.
b. We test those ideas against panels of consumers.
c. We take the results of those tests to the rest of the company to see which of these are possible and which ones pencil out.
d. Once an idea is approved, our research chefs sets the parameters and hands the recipe to R&D to perfect it.
e. After we finalize the recipe, it goes through large scale testing in our production facilities. Sometimes something that works really well in our smaller scale testing doesn’t work in full-scale production. If a problem crops up, we fix it at this stage.
f. Once it works, we build our inventory and start selling.
Recipes change from time to time. As far as frequency, I can’t say for sure other than it happens on occasion. Whenever we do change a recipe, our number 1 goal is to make sure we still provide the same or better value to the consumer as we did before. We don’t want to “cheap-out” on the trust that we’ve earned over the years.
Does Mountain House carry GMO-free and Gluten-Free products? If so, what type of testing or certification has been done to assure the consumer that these statements are true?
We take the health and welfare of our consumers very seriously. We understand that some individuals have very strict dietary guidelines and we do our best to ensure we provide accurate ingredient information. We follow FDA rules on gluten-free claims which can be found here. The foods we classify as gluten-free are by their very nature, free of gluten.
We do processes gluten-containing grains in our facility; however, we maintain a rigorous sanitation validation program that helps us to demonstrate control of the cleaning and sanitation processes. Tests are used to determine if gluten protein is still present on equipment after cleaning and sanitizing. We use these tests to make sure our cleaning practices are in fact removing these proteins.
I strongly urge your readers to educate themselves on what ingredients are known to contain gluten since gluten labeling is not required in the United States. There are many grains other than wheat that contain it.
Let’s talk about packaging. What are the advantages and disadvantages of pouches versus tins?
The long short of it is that pouches are lighter and easier to pack around. Pouches, including the ones that come in buckets or kits, have a shelf-life of 10+ years. Cans are more durable, hold more food and have a shelf life of 25+ years.
Notice I added the ‘+’ to the end of the rating. That’s because we know that our food is still good to eat after those dates have passed. We say it this way because our food is indistinguishable from new up to the respective 10 or 25 years. After this time period, the food is still tasty and nutritious but we as a company don’t feel right about making claims to our consumers that would mislead them into believing that what they bought 30 years ago will be in exactly the same condition.
Like I said, it’s still nutritious and delicious, just not exactly the same.
It seems as though everyone is on a budget these days. What advice do you have for someone who only has $500 to spend on emergency supplies?
First thing I would say is don’t make freeze-dried food your entire solution. Emergency preparedness is a multifaceted and serious issue. For us to approach it with such a singular answer is short-sighted and misleading to our consumers.
We believe that Mountain House plays an important part in emergency preparedness but it is not the whole solution. Our goal is to help you bridge the gap between the short and long-term phases of your emergency preparedness plan.
For $500 make sure you have the basics for a 72-hour kit covered. Namely, water purification, protection from the elements, medical supplies and food that you like to eat. Have a method for communication for when your family is separated. GMRS radios and extra batteries are a good way to do this (I’m a big fan of hybrid rechargeable batteries).
I would also recommend that your 72-hour kit is packed in a backpack. This will leave your hands free to carry children, pets or important items if you have to evacuate. Where Mountain House fits in, is that it is light, delicious, easy to prepare and full of the calories and protein you need in stressful emergency situations.
The best way to build long-term food storage on a budget it to do it slowly over time. What I do is I buy just a few extra whenever I go to the grocery store. For instance, instead of one can of green beans, I buy two. Same thing with Mountain House or any other part of your emergency preparation. Build up slowly and over time, you will have a stocked pantry that can weather most any storm. As they say, ‘Slow and Steady Wins the Race.’
Just remember to rotate your food! This is one reason to stock Mountain House. Rotation can be a hassle, but with 25+ year shelf life, that is one of the pain-points we alleviate.
Two fun questions: What is your favorite FD product and why? And what is your least favorite?
This one is easy. I love our Chili Mac which just barely beats Noodles and Chicken. As far as my least favorite one? Cottage cheese in any form (freeze-dried or not). People tell me our stuff tastes pretty good but I’ll never try it. Cottage cheese and me have never been friends.
Does Mountain House have plans for any new products?
Yup. Stay tuned!
Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers at Backdoor Survival?
We want your readers to know that we’re listening. We read the reader comments on Backdoor Survival and are happy when they don’t pull punches. This lets us know what we are doing right and what we need to fix.
Also we as a company want your readers to know they can trust us. I recognize the position your readers are in, reading an interview with a guy from the Marketing Department. That’s why I don’t want them to take our word for it. Take the word of the countless men and women who bravely defend our country and depend on our food to keep them going when things get crazy. Take the word of the countless people who depend on our product in extreme conditions when failure is not an option.
We recently received a nice note from a lady dealing with the terrible chemical spill in West Virginia. With her permission we shared it on our Facebook page. We were so happy to know that we were there to help feed and comfort in time of need.
Our food has powered people on the bottom of the deepest oceans, to the tops of the tallest mountains and all the way to the Moon and back. (We were on every Apollo mission). We’ve been at this longer than just about everyone else and we have the expertise that counts.
Finally, we want you to try before your buy. Call us up and request a sample. The last thing you want when you dip into your emergency food stores is food you or your children don’t want to eat.
Okay – here is the part I know you have been waiting for. To enter the giveaway to win a Mountain House Just In Time Breakfast Assortment, go to the comments area below and answer the question:
What new product or “meal” would you like to suggest to the Mountain House Research and Development team?
Or, if you can’t think of anything, what general question do you have for the Mountain House or Oregon Freeze Dry team?
The deadline for your entry is 6:00 PM Pacific on Thursday, February 27th. A winner will be selected at random and informed by email. In addition, there will be an announcement in the Sunday Survival Buzz on March 2nd. If the winning prize is not claimed within 48 hours, an alternate will be chosen.
Note: If you are reading this article in your email client, you must go to the Backdoor Survival website to enter this giveaway in the comments area at the bottom of the article. As with all BDS giveaways, this giveaway is only open to visitors to the website. Email and Facebook entries do not count.
The Final Word
I learned something new in this interview; namely that FD food that comes in buckets or kits have a shelf-life of “only” 10 plus years while #10 cans have a shelf life of 25 or more years. Good to know. Also, it was good to hear, officially, that the food will still be edible, if not optimal, at the end of its shelf life. As with all food storage, environmental factors definitely play a role in the longevity of any food. (These are described in The Six Enemies of Food Storage).
Everyone knows that when it comes to food storage, I favor bulk foods. That said, there is a definite place for freeze dried meals in your overall food storage strategy. Realistically, can you imagine having 30 minutes to evacuate and carrying 20 pounds of beans and rice with everything else you need? Of course not.
If you have never tried freeze dried meals, I encourage you to visit the Mountain House website page to learn more about their products. And of course, you absolutely must enter the giveaway for a chance at winning a Mountain House Breakfast Bucket for free. Good luck!
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
If you have not done so already, please be sure to like Facebook which is updated every time there is an awesome new article, news byte, or link to a free survival, prepping or homesteading book on Amazon. You can also follow Backdoor Survival on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ and purchase my book, The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage from Amazon.
Bargain Bin: Here are some of my favorite food storage items. Whether you are just getting started or a seasoned pro, here are the items you will need when purchasing food in bulk for long term, SHTF needs. And for help with your food storage questions, my eBook: The Preppers Guide to Food Storage.
Mylar bags & Oxygen Absorbers: What I love about Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers is they protect against every single one of the food storage enemies. Prices do vary but for the most part, they are inexpensive and easy to keep on hand. And while you can seal them up with a FoodSaver, some tubing and a common clothes iron, I find it infinitely easier with a cheap hair straightening iron that you can pick up $20 or less.
60 – 300cc Oxygen Absorbers: This is one area where you want to make sure you are getting a quality product. Currently, a pack of 60 (in three 20 unit packs) is about $11 with free shipping.
Mylar Zip Seal Food Storage Bags: These are the zip seal bags that I used to package up my spices, herbs and butter powder. These are extra heavy, 5 mil bags. I found that the zip feature made packaging extra easy although I still seal the bags with my hair iron.
FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer: As long as the unit has an accessory port (and this one does), and inexpensive FoodSaver will work just as well as the fancier models. That is my two cents, at least.
FoodSaver Wide Mouth Jar Sealer: Already have a FoodSaver? If so, check out this jar sealer which can be used to vacuum seal your Mason jars. This is a great option for short to mid term storage of items such as beans, rice, sugar and salt. Store your jars in a cool, dark place and you are set with the added advantage of removing a small amount for current use without having to disrupt your large Mylar bag or bucket of food. There is also a version for regular sized jars.
A recent Mountain House Order
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