Scot’s Product Review: Valley Food Storage Meals

The angst of buying the right storage foods made me feel as if I was stuck in a drama, so I turned to Shakespeare and found a suitable quote in The Comedy of Errors: “Unquiet meals make ill digestions.” Although it wasn’t his best play, by a long shot, and the character had more on her mind than food, the thought does have some application to my household.

I mentioned in another review that my wife is a pretty intense food person, who loves gourmet meals and is a serious cook. My ten-year-old son is surprising in liking a large variety of cuisines, but he stubbornly draws the line on things like onions and a number of vegetables. He also insists that each food stay in its place on his plate and not be mixed up. He also inherited my wife’s need for quality on the dinner table. I’m the low brow, and as long as it’s not kimchi, mushrooms, or raw tomatoes, I can probably manage to get it down. I may not enjoy it, but it’s just fuel, right? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good meal, but I can get by without one for a lot longer than anyone else in the house.

My tolerance for low-quality food made it pretty easy to store stuff just for me. However, now that there are three of us, it is a lot more complicated. As we have started to rotate out some of the older stock, I am finding that they don’t want to eat some of the food I had been buying. My wife draws a heated line against MRE’s. My son likes the idea of Army food, but he will only eat about half of them. There are a few I don’t like either. There have been some other types of food that haven’t gone over well either, so we have been giving unwelcome items to food banks or homeless shelters. While I am happy to provide charity, some of this stuff was expensive, and I feel as if we have lost money we can ill afford.

For a while, I have motored along on the assumption that if they get hungry enough in a crisis, they will eat it, but the agony over eating it in normal times has made me worry about the stress that would be caused by forcing them to eat what they see as swill. That’s not a good plan for family solidarity in the crunch. Food is important to them, which means it needs to be more important to me when I make purchases.

My new vow is to try to buy storage food that we will eat at any time. While it might not be a first choice, it has to be something at least two of the three of us can handle.

My new food policy made me very eager to accept an offer for some sample food from a new company– Valley Food Storage of Orem Utah. Their slogan– “Store food you’ll love to eat”– certainly fit into my plan as did the 25-year life they guarantee on their products. The longer it lasts, the less often we have to rotate it. That saves time and energy as well as money, since this stuff is often costlier than fresh food from the store. (However, their per-serving prices aren’t bad.)

Valley Food Storage was started by people who were unhappy with the storage food they purchased in 2005. When they decided to try some a few years later, they discovered that all of the food they purchased had gone bad. They learned that the food they purchased had been made with ingredients that had limited shelf lives, and they resolved that they could do better. In short, Valley Food was started, as have been many companies, by people who were unhappy with what they found on the market and who felt they could do better.

Valley Food says there are a number of elements to why they are doing better. They make first-class choices in sourcing food. They ensure that their foods are dehydrated or freeze dried in ways that provide the right moisture level for storage, while not destroying nutrition or flavor. They are highly concerned with rancidity and say that their choice of palm and coconut oils will prevent it, as these oils are more stable. Nitrogen is used to flush out the bags of food before they are sealed, which helps reduce moisture and microbes. Valley Food feels this is more effective than just using an oxygen absorber.

Interestingly, they argue against the ubiquitous can for storage food, due to how they can rust. They also feel that cans transfer heat to the food, which will shorten storage life. Personally, I have seen rusty cans go bad, but I haven’t had a problem with the ones I keep in air-conditioned spaces. I do, however, keep thinking it might be a good idea to give all of mine a coat of varnish to protect them.

Valley Food also does not use MSG or genetically-modified products, and they eschew the use of soy oil, which are all pluses in my book. We can’t be sure of what the genetically-modified stuff is actually doing to us, and there are many arguments that can be found on the Internet about soy oil being dangerous to our health. MSG is a flavor enhancer. While most governments say MSG is safe, some complain that it causes headaches and other health issues; I would just as soon do without it.

Valley Food also has some items that are gluten-, dairy-, and nut-free, for those who can’t handle those items. All lunch and dinner entrees are five servings, while the breakfast ones vary from 15-20 servings.

They sent two items– the Pasta Primavera and the Mango Habanero Chili. Both meals come in a heavy “industrial-grade mylar” bag. They were tough enough that I preferred to use scissors to open them, rather than using brute force and tugging at the top where they had the little notches to tear. The bags can be resealed, too. A bag of either meal costs $11.95. If you buy one of their larger units of one or more months of food, it will come in one of those heavy plastic buckets to further protect it.

We tried the chili first. You boil five cups of water, whisk in the package, and then leave it on a low boil for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. They also suggest cooking, until the beans are to your preferred tenderness. You then take it off the heat and let it stand for 5-7 minutes. I did feel it was slightly soupy and would consider cutting the water back by ½ cup. My wife and I both liked it as is, but I then added the suggested ½ pound of ground beef. We agreed that improved it. She enjoyed the heat, but I found it a bit too warm for my tastes. (Habanero is hot? Who knew!) So I added some canned chili beans, which toned it down more to my tastes. I really enjoy chili beans and felt the extra beans added to the meal. I also sautéed some onions and threw those in too. Some green pepper might have been nice as well, but there weren’t any around. What I wish I had thought of was using some of the pork sausage patty from our hog hunt rather than ground beef for the meat. I think it would have worked well together. I’m not much of a mango fan, but I was surprised at enjoying it in the chili. It had a pleasing texture and the little bites of sweetness were a pleasant counter to the habanero. Adding some shredded Colby Jack cheese further enhanced it. From the package, you get 180 calorie servings, which could be a bit light for a full meal, but adding meat will bring that up. Include some bread and cheese along with a side vegetable and you should be able to get the calorie count high enough for someone doing manual work to get by for a meal. This one is on our buy list.

The Pasta Primavera is prepared similarly to the chili. You boil five cups of water and whisk the package contents in. Let it low boil for 15 minutes, or until you think the noodle are soft, and then let it stand for 5-7 minutes. My wife prepared this one; she likes noodles al dente, while I like them softer. That led to the peas, in my view, not being fully cooked. I suspect that if I had prepared it, she would have felt the noodles were too soft, though I would have been happier with the peas. This may sound familiar to many of you! We tried it without the suggested two tablespoons of butter and thought it was pretty tasty. Then we added the butter and felt that made it even better. She then cut up a chicken breast and some cooked butternut squash and put them in, which made it work quite well for a full meal. Again, we both would be tempted to cut back slightly on the water to make it a bit thicker, but it didn’t prevent us from enjoying it. I would have appreciated a few more vegetables in the original mix. I suspect green pepper would be a good addition, along with more broccoli and peas. I was very happy that the mushroom flavor wasn’t very strong, as I really don’t like those nasty things. My wife loves them, so it was not of concern to her. The servings from this entrée are 380 calories, so more likely to fuel you while doing manual labor. The chicken would pump it up as would some bread and extra vegetables. Again, this is one I will buy.

My wife agreed that both meals would be fine to purchase. She prefers making her own meals from scratch, but she felt these were good to go, even if we don’t wind up in a crisis. I won’t have to worry about throwing them away or giving them to a food bank.

Brass Stacker Scope Mount updateJames Tolboe of Valley Food agrees with adding things to their entrees is a good way of making them meet your own tastes. He said they did that with one of their chili entrees recently and won a contest with it.

My 10-year-old is absent from this discussion, as he pretty much refused to try anything. I came up with some other food products he flatly didn’t like. Now he is keenly suspicious of anything Dad prepares, trusting only Mom’s cooking. I’m probably going to have to let her prepare the next few samples and see if I can slip a few meals in for testing. The frustrating thing is I am pretty sure he would have liked both of these meals, as he is fond of hot chili and loves pasta with chicken and cheese sauces, at least as long as he knows Mom made it!

Brass Stacker Scope Mount update

When I reviewed the Brass Stacker scope mounts for the Mosin Nagant, I mentioned that I would have liked to have the torque settings for the mounting screws. Apparently I got a copy of the instructions that didn’t have this information, and Brass Stacker let me know that it is now in them. They recommend 20 inch pounds of torque, to be sure everything is correctly tightened.

– SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor, Scot Frank Erie