Which are the best survival foods and why?
Storing food can seem like an antiquated or even silly idea to some people. After all, there’s always food in the stores, right? There are food banks too – why would we need to store survival food? Many people view storing food is as something reserved for paranoids or whacky Hollywood characters. It’s an understandable view for people who’ve been lucky never to face a natural disaster head-on.
Yet, even a slow-spreading disaster such as this year’s Covid-19 pandemic has shown us that food shortages are more than possible. It’s also made it clear that even food banks often can’t keep up with the demand for food.
So, is this why we should always keep some survival food in storage? In the case of food shortages or a financial crisis?
Why bother with survival food?
There are countless of crisis scenarios where having even just a small pack of survival food can be life-saving. And many of them are not just possible or probable but disturbingly common. Here’s a quick list of events to keep an eye for:
- Stock market crash and financial crisis.
- Food shortages.
- Social unrest.
- Devastating hurricanes.
- Super-typhoons striking island or coastal regions.
- Out-of-control forest fires.
- Infrastructure-destroying rain floods.
- WMD (weapon of mass destruction) terrorist attacks.
- Full-blown war, be it civil or international.
- A global pandemic *cough-cough*.
- Nuclear reactor fallout.
- Any number of personal crises which can leave you short on funds and food.
We can easily count how many of these have happened in the U.S. just in the last 12 months. Not to mention the many others that happened around the world as well.
And this isn’t even counting some of the more obscure but equally devastating disasters that keep happening around the globe. Remember the huge locust swarms that ravaged East Africa and South Asia this year? You might remember if the mainstream media in the west actually paid any attention to them. It’s not like people in the west caused them through climate change, right?
This list of disasters does bring up a frequently asked question, however:
“Why do I need to store survival food in my basement? The natural disaster I’m prepping for will likely make it inaccessible!”
This is a valid question. Many of the disasters and crises we mentioned above can make your storage hard to reach. Floods and fires, hurricanes and typhoons – disasters like these can easily prevent you from taking advantage of your survival food. There are ways to go around this problem, however.
Here are 3 tips for making sure you can use your survival food in case of a disaster:
- Always keep your survival food in more than one place. Just having one shelf in the basement is risky as any flood or fire will make it unusable. Instead, it’s smart to have a bit in the basement, a bit in a kitchen cabinet, a bit in the garage, and some in your survival backpack.
- Make sure your storage is easily accessible. Wherever your food storages are, they should be easy to access. Locking your food behind several doors and multiple locks will make it safer, yes. But it will also make it harder to reach in an emergency.
- Always keep an eye out so you can be one step ahead of the disaster. The easiest way to not get caught mid-step is to always look around. Always pay attention to the news, use weather and climate apps, etc.
Why are we talking about survival food in cases of fires and floods, however? If something like that happens you surely wouldn’t want to stay home and nom canned goods, right?
Right, but that doesn’t mean you still won’t need food. In many cases, the purpose of survival food is to be taken with you as you evacuate.
The two categories of survival food
When most people hear about “survival food” they imagine a big basement with endless rows of canned food. And that’s certainly a type of survival food. There are lots of others that also need to be mentioned, however.
Overall, survival foods can be separated into two categories depending on their purpose:
Quarantine survival food
This is where those rows of canned food come in. The idea of quarantine survival food is to be used when you need to stay home and not go out. Canned foods are excellent for this as they have a very long shelf life. Plus, when you start looking into them, you may be surprised by the variety of types and tastes.
The Covid-19 “mini quarantine” we all had this year still allowed folks to go shopping. So, most people got by without food storage. Other disasters can easily force one to stay home at all costs, however.
Although, if we all did an adequate quarantine for a month this year, the whole circus would’ve been over by now. But that’s a different matter.
Evacuation survival food
The other main “type” of survival food is the food you can take with you as you evacuate your home. Shelf life is important here as well since you don’t know how long you’ll have to last with no other food sources. It’s much more important for the food to be compact and easy to carry, however, for obvious reasons.
Canned goods don’t really work here as they are usually too heavy. Instead, dried and frozen foods work great. Nuts, chocolate, and nutritional bars are also good options. In these cases, it’s also smart to carry tools for hunting or fishing as you can’t carry too much food with you.
What factors do you need to prioritize when choosing survival food?
So, you’re going to start prepping your survival food storage. What factors do you need to keep in mind?
We’ve already mentioned a couple of them but here’s a quick list to keep you on track.
Long shelf life
With both quarantine and evacuation survival food, you want it to last as long as possible. Even with small evacuation quantities, you might have to ration them as you forage, fish, and hunt for additional food sources.
“Good” survival food will generally last at least several months. This means that it will both 1) be more useful in a survival situation and 2) won’t spoil before the survival situation has even occurred.
Of course, with any survival food, you’ll have to “cycle” it before it spoils. This means that when there are no emergencies and crises – the best case scenario – you don’t just buy and throw away food periodically. The longer the shelf life of your survival food is, however, the less often you’re going to have to do this.
Keeping track of your survival foods’ expiration dates can seem like a bit of a bother, of course. That’s why we have a nice list of apps for that very purpose here.
Suitable to cycle
What do we mean by that? By “suitable to cycle” we mean that it should be something you’ll gladly eat on a regular basis. Sure, the taste of the food isn’t a priority during a survival situation. However, when you have to regularly “cycle” survival foods when there are no emergency – the taste matters.
Of course, sprucing on expensive survival food isn’t exactly budget-friendly. Nevertheless, it’s smart to make sure you’re at least “Ok” eating it at home.
If you don’t want to cycle survival food, there are dried options that can last years and even decades. There are also “emergency food kits” that can also last 20-30 years. Those are worth their separate article, however, so we’ll look at them in detail later.
Naturally, you want food that has a high-calorie count. With both quarantine and evacuate survival food, there’s no point in wasting space on low-calorie storage. This includes stuff like rice, beans, nuts, energy bars, dried fruits, quinoa, whey protein, peanut butter, and others.
Calories are not the only thing you want from survival food. Especially if you have to survive a long time on your survival storage, you need it to be packed with nutrients. Brown rice, energy bars, dried fruits and veggies, as well as fruit or vegetable powder are all nutrient-rich options.
Easy to carry
Crucial mostly for evacuation survival food, ease-to-carry is a must. The more compact the food is, the more you’ll be able to carry. Even with quarantine survival food, compactness and ease-to-carry are still a plus.
If you’re one of the lucky few who has no monetary considerations whatsoever, feel free to disregard this one. For the rest of us, however, survival food shouldn’t be something that breaks the bank. That’s one of the main problems of survival food kits too – they are too expensive per pound or per calorie.
Instead, a lot of the things are best prepared at home. Dried or frozen fruits and vegetables are very budget-friendly if you make them yourself. Dried things, in particular, are great if you have a high-quality dehydrator.
Note: we do mean “high-quality” – a lot of dehydrators are sub-par.
If you’ve had the good sense of growing a survival garden in your back yard too, your preparation will be even more affordable.
The 8 best survival foods in most situations
Of course, we won’t leave you with some suggestions. Here are ten of the best survival foods you can opt for in most situations:
- Dried beans. Lima, pinto, kidney, black, garbanzo – the choices are almost endless. And most of them are great too. Beans rich in calories, proteins, as well as nutrients. They are great both dried and canned too. Canned are generally easier to work with at home while dried are more compact for on the road.
- Beef jerky and other dried meats. You can either dry it yourself if you want to ensure its quality or get commercial jerky. If you go for commercial beef jerky, make sure you’re getting a quality product. Tasty and high in nutrients and proteins, dried meat is a must when SHTF. We told you about pemmican a while back and that’s also an amazing option.
- Nuts and seeds. These are so obvious that they shouldn’t even need recommending. High in proteins, nutrients, and calories, nuts and seeds are what we evolved on as a species. Make sure you get raw and not roasted & salted nuts, however. Very often in SHTF (shit hits the fan) situations, we’re short on water. Even raw nuts can dehydrate us a bit but that’s usually manageable. Roasted and salted nuts, however, are a No-No.
Note: Trail mix is often a good option as it also includes dried fruits and peanuts. It can be a bit pricier, however.
- Energy bars. These can vary a lot in terms of ingredients, quality, and price, so be careful about what you buy. Generally, however, they are high on calories and are a great option for survival on the road. Many of them include chocolate chips too. This seems like a marketing gimmick at first, and it is, but chocolate is also great in SHTF situations.
Note: Chocolate itself is also a good choice. It offers powerful short-term energy boosts and it’s high on calories. Plus, it’s delicious and can quickly become hard-to-find in crises.
- Powdered greens. A less intuitive but crucial survival food, powdered greens are exceptionally nutritious. Yes, regular vegetables are healthier but you can’t exactly fill your backpack with fresh spinach. Powdered greens, on the other hand, have a fantastic shelf life and are very easy to carry. We can also add sea vegetables here as most of them are certified superfoods.
When you evacuate or quarantine, powdered greens will usually be the added nutrients you need. Add them to the high-calorie base of beans and nuts or the proteins of dried meat and you’re good to go.
- Brown rice. High on both calories and protein, as well as nutrients, brown rice should be viewed as basically a superfood by preppers. There is a reason why most East Asian cultures focus so much on rice in their cuisine. Plus, rice can be easily cooked both at home and in the wilderness – all you need is water, a pot, and a fire.
- Canned fish. A lot of the foods above can be canned, including beans, veggies, and meat. If you have to talk about canned survival foot, in particular, however, we ought to mention fish. Quality tins such as canned Alaskan salmon are the healthiest source of proteins and Omega-3 you can find when SHTF.
- Peanut butter. Surprised? Peanut butter is rarely lauded as a “healthy” food but it’s great when SHTF. Peanut butter is full to the brim with proteins and essential fatty acids, as well as many minerals and vitamins. It’s not exactly easy to carry but even just one small jar can last for a long time. A couple of tablespoons per day are all you need to survive for a long time in a truly nasty crisis.