Editor’s Note: This guide has been revised and updated for 2018!
How do you choose between the many survival food companies when it comes time to prepare for food availability disruptions?
This article compares the five best survival food brands and discusses their benefits based on non-perishable food ingredients, calories, and cost per serving. While numbered, these brands appear in no particular order as they all offer benefits.
- 1 1. Mountain House— Survival and Casual Prepared Foods
- 2 2. Wise Company — Offers a One-stop-shop for Supplies That Are Helpful for Prepping.
- 3 3. Valley Food Storage (Save 10% w/Code “BDS” at checkout)— Emergency Food and Useful Products for Setting up an Emergency Food Supply for the Whole Family
- 4 4. Legacy Food Storage — A One-stop-shop for Pretty Much Everything Preparedness
- 5 5. Honeyville — Offers a lot of products that fit into emergency food storage and they have a huge selection of freeze-dried foods.
- 6 Honorable Mentions – Other Good Survival Food Companies
- 7 What about the Best Freeze Dried Foods?
- 8 Survival Food For Special Diets
- 9 List Of Foods To Put Back For Cooking For Special Diets
- 10 Final Word on the Best Survival Food
1. Mountain House— Survival and Casual Prepared Foods
Mountain House provides non-perishable food rations with a prolonged shelf life for emergency preparedness and for casual use such as camping, hiking, and backpacking. Their product list includes:
- Pouches — Prepare using hot water and time. These are perfect for casual use, emergency preparedness, or a survival situation, especially if you want to add specific meals to bolster an emergency food kit.
- Serving Size: Available in single serving (small portion) or pouches (large single serving portion).
- Cost: Under $6 for a single serving and under $9 for a pouch.
- Sample Item: Beef Stroganoff
- First three ingredients: Cooked beef, sour cream, and mushrooms.
- Calories per serving: 260
- Total Fat: 11 grams
- Total Carbs: 29 grams
- Total Protein: 11 grams
- Mountain House #10 cans — 30-year shelf life. These are prepared meals in in canned food form that are reconstituted using hot water.
- Serving Size: Approximately 10 servings per #10 Can
- Cost: Under $45 per can plus/minus depending on meal.
- Sample Item: Scrambled Eggs with Ham and Peppers
- First three ingredients: Precooked scrambled eggs, ham, red and green peppers.
- Calories per serving: 190 (2/3 cup)
- Total Fat: 11 grams
- Total Carbs: 7 grams
- Total Protein: 15 grams
Mountain House #10 cans also include staples such as Diced Beef ($77) and Diced Chicken ($53). They have a wide variety of #10 can meals available and per their site information, their #10 cans have a proven 30-year shelf life.
- Pro-Pak — Basically the same as a pouch except that the Pro-Pak packaging features high-altitude stability so that packages do not rupture due to the increased pressure.
- Serving Size: Single Serving
- Cost: $6-$8 per Pro-Pak
- Emergency Meal Kits — Food supplies from 2-14 days
- Serving Size: Available 2-day, 3-day, 4-day, 5-day, and 14-day kits and buckets.
- Cost: Under starts at $42 for a 2-day kit (feeds one person and contains 15 servings) and $285 for the 14-day kit (100 servings). Contains 14 breakfasts, 28 lunch/dinner options. Suitable for one person for 14 days or two people for seven days. These are the perfect prolonged shelf life prepper food to throw in your survival food kits.
Special BDS Discount: We recently received an exclusive coupon offer from the great folks at Mountain House. Click here and use coupon code “MHAFFILIATE20” to save 20% off of your ENTIRE order. Note: this offer is valid thru August 31st, 2017 only.
Mountain House is a 50-year company with a healthy reputation for supplying quality freeze-dried food that reconstitutes using hot or cold water. They also boast the longest (30 year) shelf life of all the brands discussed here. As such, they are a must-have for any survival kit, be it for doomsday preppers or casual hikers.
2. Wise Company — Offers a One-stop-shop for Supplies That Are Helpful for Prepping.
Wise company offers many products for emergency preparedness. They have full emergency food kits, and freeze-dried staples, such as meats, eggs, fruits and veggies. Per information on Wise Company’s site, these meals are good for daily use or for long-term food storage for upwards of 25 years. Food is preserved by freeze drying or dehydration and reconstitutes with water. Their product list includes:
- Emergency Food Kits — These are grab-and-go buckets that ranges by meal type and servings per bucket. Servings-per-bucket range from 40-296.
- Serving Size: Available in buckets ranging from 40-296 servings.
- Cost: $90 for a 52-serving bucket ($1.73/serving) to $245 for a 296-serving bucket ($0.83 per serving.)
- Sample Item: Creamy Pasta with Vegetable Rotini (Included in the 52-Serving Bucket = 16 lunch/entrée servings, 8 breakfast servings, 16 servings of Orange Delight drink, and 12 servings of Whey Milk Alternative.)
- First three ingredients: Pasta, Freeze dried carrots, Peas.
- Calories per serving: 200
- Total Fat: 4 grams
- Total Carbs: 35 grams
- Total Protein: 6 grams
Overall, Wise Company’s Emergency Food Buckets are well-balanced meals. In addition to buckets, they offer emergency food supplies in quantities up to one year for about $1,000.
- Freeze Dried Meats — 15-year shelf life. These are prepared meats-based meals in pouches plus servings of rice that are reconstituted using hot water. Buckets range from 60-servings to 1080 servings. Buckets contain various types of meat, such as chicken and beef.
- Serving Size: Approximately 4 servings per pouch.
- Cost: $145.00 for 60 servings ($2.41 per serving) – $2,100 for 1080 servings ($1.94 per serving.) *price per serving includes added pouches of rice.
- Sample Item: Roasted Chicken
- First three ingredients: Freeze-dried Chicken, Chicken Broth Flavor, and Roasted Chicken Flavor.
- Calories per serving: 50
- Total Fat: Zero grams
- Total Carbs: Zero grams *Nutrition from the included rice, not available.
- Total Protein: 9 grams
In addition, Wise Company offers buckets of dried fruit, dried vegetables, dairy and eggs. What is important here is that they offer emergency food for everyday use and bulk food for long-term emergency preparedness.
The advantage of this system is that the consumer can choose staples or meals and customize their emergency food stores to fit their preparedness style and needs. Best benefit is low cost ($0.83/serving for their big kits and $1.94/serving for meat).
3. Valley Food Storage (Save 10% w/Code “BDS” at checkout)— Emergency Food and Useful Products for Setting up an Emergency Food Supply for the Whole Family
Valley Food Storage offers emergency food kits that feed four people two-three meals per day. They also offer individual buckets so that you can add food in quantities that meet your preparedness plans.
- Combo Kits— Prepare using water. Each kit ranges from a one-month supply to a full year’s worth of food for a family of four. Expect balanced meals with either entrée or breakfast with fruit or vegetable or both. They also offer individual buckets that help to customize an emergency food supply and are optimum for long-term storage. Shelf life is 25-years.
- Serving Size: Available in family sized buckets and large bags that range from two meals per day to three meals per day.
- Cost: Under $529 for 392 servings ($1.35 per serving) in their 1 month kit -$4,998 for 4,412 servings ($1.13 per serving) in their one-year kit both kits offer three meals per day, family of four bucket/kit.
- Sample Item: Italian Wild Risotto:
- First three ingredients: Cooked White Rice, Chicken Broh, Sour Cream Powder.
- Calories per serving: 270
- Total Fat: 4.5 grams
- Total Carbs: 51 grams
- Total Protein: 6 grams
The company often offers sales, so don’t let the sticker price shock you. The benefits of buying food from this company is that they consider larger-sized groups rather than individuals. Per information on their site, they might offer payment plans.
They are a nice “change of pace” form the traditional survival food companies in that they are GMO free, have Gluten Free options, dairy free options, and don’t have a bunch of fillers. This might impact shelf live, but personally it’s worth diversifying a bit because I’d prefer NOT to have fillers. If you use Valley Food Storage Promo Code “BDS” at checkout here, you can get an additional 10% off your entire order!
4. Legacy Food Storage — A One-stop-shop for Pretty Much Everything Preparedness
Legacy offers a wide range of emergency preparedness products including emergency food. Their offerings include a range of sample packets, which are handy for trying before you go all in, single buckets and bulk options for purchasing emergency food stores.
- Bulk Meal Packages — individual meals in Mylar pouches with a shelf life to 25 years. Prepare using hot water. Per information on their site, the average calorie count per serving is 372. Bulk Meal Packages start with a 64-pound 240 serving kit and ends with a 1,107 pound 4,320 serving kits. Their bulk meal packages come with enough options to feed one person three meals per day for an amazing four-year period.
- Serving Size: Available in kits based on total servings
- Cost: $565 for 240 servings ($2.35 per serving) or $8,790 for 4,320 servings ($2.03 per serving).
- Sample Item: Stroganoff
- First three ingredients: Pasta, Corn Starch, Onion.
- Calories per serving: 330
- Total Fat: 4.5 grams
- Total Carbs: 61 grams *likely from the corn starch.
- Total Protein: 10 grams
In addition to their bulk meal packages, they offer diary, vegetables, grains, protein, and fruit in bulk and you can buy gluten free products, single buckets and specific meals such as breakfast, lunch or dinner. They offer a variety of drinks and specialty items such as probiotics. While their price per serving is higher than most of the emergency food manufacturers on this list, they do offer meals with high calorie scores. This option is perfect to keep you going when a survival situation takes place and you can no longer get to the grocery store.
The benefit of buying here is that you have many options for how you want to add food to your emergency preparedness plan.
5. Honeyville — Offers a lot of products that fit into emergency food storage and they have a huge selection of freeze-dried foods.
Honeyville offers foods for long-term emergency food storage or for casual everyday use. They sell freeze-dried and dehydrated dairy products like powdered milk, complete meals, freeze-dried fruits, meats, veggies, and plenty of grains, rice and beans. Their emergency freeze-dried meals reconstitute with hot water. Shelf life ranges 10-15 years.
- #10 Cans — Prepare using hot water. Each #10 can holds about 20 servings. You can buy these as a single can or in a case of six #10 cans. These are perfect for casual use or emergency preparedness, especially if you want to add specific meals to bolster an emergency food kit.
- Serving Size: Available in single #10 cans (20 servings) or in cases of six #10 cans (120 servings).
- Cost: Around $34 ($1.70 per serving) depending on the meal for 20 servings and $183 ($1.53 per serving) for a six #10 can case.
- Sample Item: Rotini with Meat Sauce
- First three ingredients: Rotini Noodles, Niacin, Iron.
- Calories per serving: 210
- Total Fat: 3 grams
- Total Carbs: 36 grams
- Total Protein: 9 grams
Overall, the product selection from Honeyville is vast. They offer many opportunities to buy complete meals or staples such as a single #10 can of elbow macaroni or freeze-dried white chicken meat.
The benefit of buying here is that they make it easy for you to find products that fit exactly into your emergency food preparedness plan and you don’t have to buy their food kits. You can simply buy emergency food staples and add to your home food preservation plan. That is a plus for anyone who wants to build meals to hit specific calorie goals or energy packed meals and who want more ready to eat and less of the standard freeze-dried prepared meals.
How much food should you buy? Check out our Emergency Food Buyers Guide
Emergency food supply is no joke, and the cost is a significant barrier to setting up a survival food storage system. However, these are not products you can pick up at the average grocery store. Canned food, such as beans and canned meat, or dried foods like powdered milk, food bars, and dried beans work in a pinch in a survival situation. However, the grocery store selection doesn’t offer the same self life as a prepper food kit. To truly keep a survival kit, you need non-perishable food that will do well in long-term storage.
To build an effective prepper food kit, you need mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, food grade buckets, and a fireless cooker. That isn’t to say that beans, canned meats, powdered milk, and food bars aren’t handy. They just don’t offer the same shelf life as the food kits listed above. You also won’t get the most vitamins and minerals and effective calories as you do with the meals. Most importantly, be sure you have lots of water in storage with which to mix the food and hydrate yourself.
It is important to consider what you need and compare those needs to what you get for the dollars spent. Quality food, good calories, health, and nutrition are just a few of the things that are important considerations.
Honorable Mentions – Other Good Survival Food Companies
There are certainly other reputable brands out there – as readers have reminded us. With this in mind, there are a few worth specifically mentioned below:
Honorable Mention: Emergency Essentials – By popular request, it’s also worth mentioning that Emergency Essentials carries a robust line of survival food. While they aren’t exclusively in the food business, it’s certainly worth noting. You can read a full interview with them here, to learn more about their background.
Honorable Mention: The Ready Store – Similar to EE above, The Ready Store stocks a variety of prepper items, but has a heavy emphasis on survival food. They carry lines like EasyPrep and Saratoga Farms in addition to your standard variety traditional MREs.
Honorable Mention: Augason farms also offers emergency food storage options, with over 40 years of experience in prepper food kits.
A Word on the Best Emergency Canned Meat
Most survival food companies offer meat as part of their packages. While it can be tasty, it’s usually not the same as having a quality canned meat.
Recently, BDS contributor David was able to try out and review Wertz Canned Meats. Suffice it to say, Wertz is now a BDS FAVORITE if you are looking specifically for canned meats. What’s better, they are family owned and operated, offering Non-GMO products. It’s definitely worth adding to your pantry by checking out their variety packs and bulk orders here.
What about the Best Freeze Dried Foods?
Some of the brands previously mentioned above are specifically freeze dried offerings, but not all of them. This might seem like a subtle difference, but it’s important.
For the purposes of this guide, I would specifically recommend the freeze dried offerings from the following:
- Mountain House: They have many dehydrated options, but their freeze dried food is ALSO premium quality (and doesn’t taste like gruel). Because they also serve the hiking / backpacking community, their meals necessarily have to taste better than the standard food storage brand that will sit on a shelf for 30 years…
Freeze Dried vs Dehydrated Food
These terms are often used interchangeably to describe long term food storage products. Of course, there IS a difference and it CAN be significant.
In general, dehydration removes about 90 to 95% of the moisture. On the other hand, freeze drying removes about 98-99% of moisture (if done in a commercial kitchen / setting).
The main point this affects is shelf life. Freeze dried foods will have a significantly longer shelf life. Again speaking generally, you can expect 25-30 years shelf life for freeze drying and 15-20 years shelf life for dehydrated foods.
So why would anyone buy dehydrated survival food? Well, mainly for nutritional content. Dehydrated foods tend to retain more vitamins and minerals. Specifically, Niacin, Riboflavins, Thiamine, and Vitamin C and A. BOTH processes generally decrease these nutrients, but the effects are more pronounced in freeze dried food.
All that being said, waiting a full 30 years to rotate your survival food stash is probably not materially significant to most people, so in many cases dehydrated foods will suffice.
Additional Resources: You can check out some good supplemental reading here…
- Should You Freeze Dry Your Own Food?
- The Best Freeze Dryers for Drying Food at Home
- Unraveling the Mystery of Freeze Dried Food
Survival Food For Special Diets
For those that are on a restricted diet or that are prepping for those that are, it can be a challenge to find foods that are already packaged and ready for storage. When designing a survival food stash for those on a restricted diet here are a few things to keep in mind.
Less Salt Or Preservatives= Shorter Shelf Life
One reason salt is so pervasive in survival foods is that it is one of the cheapest ways to increase the shelf life. It is important to remember that although shelf life is a big factor in creating a long term survival plan, you don’t necessarily need a 20 year shelf life on your preps. 5-10 years is still pretty good and if you rotate some of your food supply, you can always have a stash that will last a long time.
Putting your own vacuum or mylar sealed foods back may be more cost effective and easier to budget and source.
You can compound your own convenience meals in bags and store them. This gives you amazing versatility when it comes to what recipes you can have on hand and you have ultimate control over ingredients. You can also just put back various foods and open up a few bags of this or that to cook meals over the course of a week or two. You might have a bag of cheese powder open and a 2 lb bag of macaroni along with a #10 can of freeze dried meat. Remember that you can vacuum seal portions however you like! That means you can have a pouch that has just enough powdered milk for a few cups for cooking or you can have it portioned out to last for a whole week.
Out of the food buckets I have reviewed and various company sites I have looked at, it appears that a lot of survival foods leave out a lot of sugar which can be helpful for those that are diabetic and concerned about getting too much. At the same time those with blood sugar issues should have some higher sugar foods put back in case they need to stabilize their blood sugar levels quickly. Freeze dried fruits are a good choice but something like a few bags of hard candy or similar are less expensive and may be easier to use since they just dissolve.
Salt is necessary up to a point. Don’t eliminate it all.
A no salt diet is not good. Sodium restricted does not mean no salt at all. During hard times you may find that you need more because you are working harder and sweating. Vacuum seal some salt and use as needed. Don’t make the mistake of not putting back enough salt to get you through some tough times. If you have extra then rest assured that it will not go bad as long as it is kept dry. Salt is also an excellent trade item and could be worth more than you ever thought possible if a long emergency happens and there are major supply disruptions.
Put Back Staples Rather Than Whole Meals
A lot of the survival food companies in this post sell buckets and cans of basic foods that you can combine to create meals as needed. If you don’t want to buy and seal your own stuff, this is the way to go. Regardless of if you choose to buy shelf stable pantry staples from places like Augeson Farms or Valley Food Storage, the list below can get you started on thinking about what to put back to get by during hard times if you have diet restrictions.
List Of Foods To Put Back For Cooking For Special Diets
- Powdered dairy. Choose cultured products like powdered cheese, butter, yogurt, buttermilk, or sour cream if you are lactose intolerant.
- Flours and Grains. There are plenty of flours and grains that can be put back for baking and cooking even if you have sensitivities to some.
- Beans. All beans are high in protein and keep very well. Dried beans take a lot of time to cook. You can get powdered dried bean flakes that can be ready in minutes by just adding boiling water.
- Dried Vegetables. While these don’t add a lot of calories, they do add some vitamins and texture to dishes. 10 lbs of dried veggies can help make a lot of soup especially if you throw in some pasta and a little meat if you have it.
- Canned fish and other meats that are low in salt. You can get sardines that are canned in just water or olive oil that are lower in salt than a lot of other meats.
- Pasta. Different types of grains can be used to make pastas so even if you don’t eat wheat, you can get rice or vegetable pastas to use in meals.
- Spices. I did a post awhile back on the spices that preppers should consider putting back. Spices are essential for making bland foods taste good and for putting together meals from basic prepper pantry staples.
So what about fat content in prepper foods?
If you have been told by your doctor to cut down on fats then you probably should but at the same time you should realize that there is a big difference between good fats and bad. Over the years we have been told that fat is generally bad and that it will make you overweight. While it is true that fat is calorie dense, it is not all bad for you and it doesn’t necessarily make you gain weight. What makes you gain weight is not burning as many calories as you are consuming. There is no shortcut to weight loss.
Fats from grass fed animals are better for you than highly refined fats and oils. To learn more about how to put back your own quality fats and oils for cooking, check out the posts below.
Your calorie needs are going to vary based on a lot of factors. The number of calories you need during good times may vary greatly from what you need to maintain weight and condition during a survival situation. Chores and physical activity levels may go through the roof if you bug out or find that you have to do a lot of things the hard way rather than with a machine.
A lot of prepackaged convenience foods are very calorie dense. I recently reviewed some food buckets that allowed for as much as 3,000 calories per day per person! That is far more calories than most people need. An active working man may need 2,000 while women and younger kids need less. If you are watching calories you need to make sure to measure out portions correctly. If your weight drops too much during a survival situation then increase the amount you are eating.
Some people may benefit from some weight loss and increased physical fitness during a long emergency but it is important to not let it go too far in that direction. Weight loss of more than a few pounds a week can start to take its toll on your body and energy levels. When you hear from people that are on diets and they say they lost 7 lbs in a week it is important to remember that the first few weeks of weight loss can include a significant amount of retained water. This is why some people get so disappointed that although they are sticking to a diet, their weight loss per week goes down a lot after that first few weeks of dieting.
Food Allergies During SHTF
I feel for those that have food allergies during an emergency. I remember getting emergency meals from the Red Cross when I was a kid and there was a once every 100 year flood that destroyed a lot of the town I grew up in on the Skagit River. Let’s just say those meals are full of wheat and dairy! There is also a lot of peanut butter served during times like that.
I bring this up because those with food allergies need to be extremely careful. Just because a dried food says that it doesn’t have something in it doesn’t mean it wasn’t manufactured or packaged using equipment that was previously used for something you are allergic to. A lot of manufacturers go the extra mile and have a statement that says that they share equipment that is used to process dairy, nuts, eggs, etc. Dealing with an emergency allergic reaction can be a lot harder in a survival situation. Make sure you have the right foods to meet your needs. Getting food from others can be risky if you have a severe food allergy.
If you can manage it keep an Epi Pen, injectable epinephrine ( I don’t care if it says animal use only, not dying of an allergic reaction is more important, and Benadryl and other allergy medications on hand in all your medical kits.
Organic and GMO Free
Although I try to eat mostly organic and GMO free foods, during a survival situation I am not going to be as picky. We still try to put back as good quality as possible. Putting together your own food packs with a vacuum sealer can make it less expensive if you are determined to go organic or GMO free. A lot of companies on the list at the beginning of this post do offer organic and non GMO options but they usually cost significantly more.
Again, if this is what you are looking for, check out the Non-GMO Wertz Canned Meats here (it’s a BDS favorite) OR I’ve found Honeyville here to have the best general selection of organic canned veggies and grains.
Big changes in diet can have an effect on some more than others.
When it comes to diet there are some people that seem like they can eat just about anything. Then there are those that are sensitive to diet changes. Sometimes the effect can be mild and sometimes someone can get quite ill. I am not someone that handles big diet changes so well. Planning your preps based on your current diet can help avoid problems. If you go from a healthy diet of 100% organic fruits, vegetables, and meats one day to eating survival rations full of salt, preservatives, not so great fats, and a lot of carbs, the next day, you might not feel so great until you get adjusted.
Final Word on the Best Survival Food
This article looks at many of those factors but we encourage you to do your own research too. Every emergency food plan is different because the needs of the people it must serve are different. What’s on your “bucket” list for survival food storage? Let us know in the comments below and speak up if you have a favorite brand that we did not discuss here.