If anyone out there isn’t convinced that we need to store food for an emergency, then they might not have been paying attention to the news. With the need clear, the question we each must ask is, “What kind of food should we store?” Personally, I like a variety of foods– fresh, dehydrated, freeze dried, grocery store cans and boxes, and retort packed foods, which include MRE’s. I even think frozen foods are good to have, though if the power goes out, that’s the first thing to eat.
Each type has advantages and disadvantages, based on how easily and long they will store, how much space they require, what they weigh, the difficulty of preparation in a possibly awkward circumstance, and how palatable they are. Cost is also a very serious matter to most of us.
It is important to store food that we will actually eat for several reasons. First, it prevents waste because it has gone out of date before anyone was willing to eat it, and second, if it turns out we don’t want to actually eat it, it may present morale problems when that’s all there is to eat. This can present particular problems in some families, and mine is one of them. There are three sets of taste buds in our home. Mine are probably the most tolerant. I truly enjoy good food, but in the end I regard it as fuel and can subsist with a degree of acceptance on most anything, save raw tomatoes and mushrooms. My son shares my disgust of raw tomatoes and adds a few feared foods, like onions and carrots. He has also begun to view vegetables in general with suspicion. He can concoct and devour a number of things I can’t stomach, like peanut butter mixed with marshmallow cream. My wife is the gourmet of the household, which we attribute to the French genes that passed through Normandy to Canada and finally to the U.S. She will eat what she has to in an emergency, but she isn’t happy with things I can stomach pretty easily. What she wants are meals made from fresh food, and she likes to cook them herself.
All this plays into what I can store for an emergency. It has to be something that will help with family harmony. It is also predicated on not wasting food, should everything stay hunky-dory. I have, over the years, stored quite a bit of food. Some of it turned out to be stuff no one would eat unless they were truly starving. This isn’t a good plan, as it means when it goes out of date, you have little you can use it for. Luckily, we have chickens, and I have also donated some of it to food banks, but it is expensive chicken feed, and who knows what the food bank did with it. It is better to store food you are happy to eat at any time. It prevents waste, saves money, and will make life more pleasant, should things go north. With this in mind, I upped the quantities of canned and boxed grocery store food we keep on hand by quite a bit, since my wife and son generally will eat it, but it complicates the rotation factor, since it has a relative short life expectancy.
MRE’s last longer than the grocery store bought stuff and can be eaten without prep, but they are pricey and generally fail the family taste test. My son will eat about a third of them, while my wife generally rejects most of them. I can handle two thirds and always like at least part of every one of them. That said, when it is time to rotate the MRE’s, we give away some expensive food.
Freeze-dried and dehydrated foods are interesting, as they offer long storage life (up to 25 years or more, depending on how they are stored and packaged), which solves most of the rotation issues. I’ve also had some that were actually quite tasty; even my wife admitted to that fact. Long storage food is where Legacy Premium Food products come into play. They use both dehydrated and freeze-dried food, saying they select which is the best for a particular application. Their line features a number of prepared meals and sides in pouches that hold four servings. They also have drinks in eight serving pouches. I like the serving size, as it is more economical that the single packs I often see for camping products, and it is a size that will feed my family a meal with little leftover. The #10 cans that this stuff is often found in can leave a lot of food that should be used more quickly than we sometimes want to repeat a meal.
The packaging is a sturdy Mylar pouch, and Legacy says they are nitrogen flushed to protect the food during storage. An oxygen absorber is also included and must, of course, be removed before preparing the food.
The pouches are well labeled with nutritional content and note that the foods are not genetically modified. They also indicate the date of manufacture and the plant where they were made. Preparation instructions are also on each pouch. They use sea salt and the meals are vegetarian with soy protein in place of meat. I’m personally not crazy about soy protein for flavor or nutrition and would have preferred meat. They do sell freeze-dried chicken and beef, which has been cooked before drying, so all you need to do is soak it for a minute before serving. I did not sample any of the meats.
Most of their items come in tough, sealed, plastic buckets with an assortment of different foods. Only the sides appear to be available on their own.
All of the meals I tried required simmering and not just rehydration. I assume this is due to the dehydrated vs. freeze-dried items. Many of the freeze-dried food I have encountered are pre-cooked, so all they need to do is sit in some moisture for a bit to be ready to eat. In fact, a number of freeze-dried fruits and some vegetables are tasty without rehydration.
I purchased some of their meals, and Legacy provided four more for the review. The samples they sent were older than the ones I purchased, which is a good sign; it means the freshest food is going out for sales. The purchased ones were all about one month old, and the oldest two of the four samples were not quite a year old.
They have 19 entrees for lunch and dinner, four breakfasts, six sides, and five drinks, including coffee and chocolate milk. They cunningly throw a French press into the coffee bucket.
We tried six items with mixed approval rating:
1. Loaded Baked Potato with 440 calories per serving.
I thought this was tasty, though the texture of the potatoes was a bit chewy. I found later, with the chicken and rice dish, that more cooking helps with the texture of some of the items in the meal and wondered if it might have helped this one. It comes out like a creamed soup or chowder. My wife said it was okay, and my son initially liked the way it smelled, but by the third spoonful was losing his taste for it. I suspect he would have to be really hungry to eat it.
2. Enchilada Beans and Rice with 350 calories per serving:
This was my second favorite entree, and my wife rated it her third favorite. Again, my son liked it at first and then lost his taste for it. It also comes out with a chowder or cream soup consistency. I think, like the chicken and rice dish, it would have been better cooked longer, as the rice was slightly chewy. My wife added hot sauce and cheese to it, while I was thinking about how nice it would be with some soft tacos. The pinto beans were precooked and quite pleasant.
3. Spicy Corn Chowder with 300 calories per serving:
This was the biggest hit of everything we sampled, though once again, the child unit protested. As with some of the other dishes, extra simmer time helped get the vegetables to a nicer texture. The wife pronounced it tasty and suggested serving it with a grilled cheese sandwich. I also enjoyed it. Both of us thought it needed salt and would have been better with less pepper flavor. While the flavor was good, it limited the choices of how to serve it; it was too strong for either my wife or me to want it as a main course. You could easily spice it up, but it is hard to spice down. We thought it was good that the salt level was low, which allowed us to season it as we desired. We will be happy to add this one to our preps.
4. Chicken a la King with 380 calories per serving:
This was the meal that failed all of us. I can’t handle mushrooms, and this one had enough for me to be unable to overlook them. My son rejected it, and my wife, despite her love for mushrooms, didn’t like it either. I cooked it almost twice the recommend time when I discovered the rice was still chewy and that made the rice quite nice. There were tasty carrots and peas in it, but the mushroom flavor and the soy ersatz chicken put me off.
5. Classic Chili Mix with 340 calories per serving:
My wife, after adding Tobasco sauce and some shredded cheese, pronounced this her second favorite and said it would do, especially if served over a baked potato. My son, predictably, was not happy with it. I found that it has a vinegary tang to it that I don’t like, but I could definitely make a meal of it. I mixed in saltines and had it for my dinner.
6. Old Fashioned Pancake Mix with 350 calories per serving:
This is a “take one part and just add water” sort of mix. I’m the one who generally makes pancakes here, and this is not my favorite type of mix, despite its convenience. I think real milk and real eggs make for better pancake batter than one made with all powdered products. This mix fit in with my preconceptions, and it isn’t as good as my usual mix or the one I make from my scratch mix. My son was a bit disappointed with them, though he ate them. My wife wasn’t home, so she didn’t get to try them. I thought they were acceptable. The mix is serviceable, which means you can have pancakes in the absence of real milk and eggs, and that’s a good thing. Given a choice of no pancakes or these, I am sure my son would want pancakes, particularly if there is a good supply of maple syrup. I could, of course, probably just let him drink the syrup, but that’s not a good idea.
All of the pouches seemed to deliver four healthy servings. I’ve had this sort of food before, where people were left hungry, so Legacy’s good-sized servings was a big positive.
The web site does a good job of telling you what you are getting, which I greatly appreciated.
I think all of the meals could use more vegetables. The carrots, in particular, were tasty, and I would have been delighted to have more of them in every meal, though my son would have objected and eaten around them. I would have strongly preferred real meats, rather than soy-based stuff. I think that might have been a factor in my son’s rejection of some of the meals. He is a serious carnivore these days and can be kept happy with lots of beef and chicken, which he didn’t find in these entrees.
Some of the sides, breakfasts, and drinks that I didn’t try look good, and I will probably sample them at some point. I don’t think, however, that any non-fat powdered milk will go over well in our household for drinking, although we do use it for cooking. I did note that they add creamer to the chocolate milk powder, which will probably help make it more palatable to young ones.
My end opinion is based on my family’s tastes and a keen desire to buy food I know we will eat. Some of the items on this menu simply won’t work for us, while others will. My son is the main problem, which surprised me a bit. He actually is willing to eat an amazing variety of food from an assortment of cuisines, though there are things he runs from, mainly vegetables. He would flee from a couple of these entrees and whine about the rest. My wife was more accepting than I expected, and there was only one she said she simply wouldn’t eat, though the only one she completely approved of was the corn chowder.
All this reaffirms something I already knew– it is important to sample the foods you intend to store for a rainy day. If you don’t try it, you will have no clue as to what it is. Most of the Legacy entrees come in assortment packs, so if I buy their food I will be careful to avoid getting one that has too many of the items we don’t like. – SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor, Scot Frank Erie