Mountain House Foods, by Pat Cascio

I’ve been a “Prepper” most of my life. When I was a small child, and would hear the air raid sirens going off, every Tuesday morning, across the street from where I lived. I worried about a nuclear attack, and no child should have to worry about that sort of thing – even though it was a very real threat. Even today, we are closer than ever to a nuclear war, believe it or not. I used to “steal” some canned goods from my grandmother’s pantry and hide them in my bedroom, so I’d be prepared to eat if things went south. Of course, if Chicago, Illinios had been nuked, we didn’t live that far from the downtown area, and we would have been dead before we knew it. Still, I prepared.

As I grew older, I became a “Survivalist” – and I was hardcore about it. I was preparing to surviving in the boonies – for as long as necessary. I wrote for American Survival Guide, for a number of years. I did so until they got Politically Correct and that pretty much put a wooden stake in the heart of that once great survival magazine. Today, most of the hardcore Survivalists have disappeared. Now we have Preppers – and there’s not a lot of difference between the two terms. Some people make the distinction that Preppers, are preparing ahead of time, for “whatever” may come their way. Yes, I count myself as a Prepper these days. We operate on a very limited income, and we’ve yet to see the “extra” dollar – but we manage to put away stuff for “that” day that is rapidly approaching us all.

For a lot of years, I could look down the road – maybe a year or more in advance – and prep for whatever situations might come along. These days, I can’t see much beyond tomorrow. Call me paranoid, but the way the world is going, and all the daily threats we face, I can’t see far down that road any longer – so we “prepare” for today – and maybe even tomorrow – if possible. My wife is always talking about “when we have an ‘extra’ dollar – we don’t – we never have – we only have whatever money is in our pockets, and we have to make decisions on how best to spend some of that money, for our preps.

Obviously, if you read – you are a Prepper or Survivalist – if you’re not, then stop whatever it is you are doing, and get started. You don’t need a lot of money to get going. Needless to say, when the flag goes up, we won’t be living like we’re doing today. And we will be eating whatever we have stored up. A good way to start is with bags of rice and beans…and lots of Ramen noodle soup. Yeah, I hear ya, it’s not the best eating, but it beats eating grass and tree bark – like so many do in North Korea, to survive. For a very little money, you can easily put away a year’s worth of food with rice, beans and soup, and add in some spaghetti and sauce, and you will be surviving. Just add in a good supply of every day multiple vitamins. This is important to have this on-hand. No matter how well prepared you think you are, you won’t be getting your daily vitamins and supplements – and generic multivitamins are very inexpensive, you can purchase a year’s supply for one person for under ten bucks.

Mountain House has been around for a very long time. Matter of fact, they have their plant just 25-miles down the road from where we live. I’ve never gotten over there to see their operation – but maybe someday. They have a retail store – and by that, I mean what they sell there is at retail, no discounts. I suspect there are a couple reasons for this. The big and small box stores all carry Mountain House freeze-dried foods, and they usually sell it at or slightly below retail. So it would miff the owners of these stores if the manufacturer sold the products below the price that they sell them for.

I won’t go into the details between freeze-dried foods and dehydrated foods, that is common knowledge. A 30-second web search will yield lengthy discourses on that topic, at numerous web sites.  Mountain House freeze-dries their products. In any case, freeze-dried foods, when stored properly, can last 20-30 years unopened…and that’s good news for long-term storage. We own both types of foods, and can’t tell the difference between freeze-dried and dehydrated when we prepare them.

I don’t know how long we’ve been eating Mountain House foods, but it has been a long, long time. We have some favorites, though they are always changing their menus. We all love the Beef Stroganoff with mushrooms – makes for great eating. It is as good as any we’ve had in any restaurants. Mountain House comes in sealed packets as well as in #10 cans. The packets don’t keep the food for as long as the #10 cans do. However, when you break down the price, the packets and cans costs you about the same, per ounce. We all keep several packets of Mountain House in our bug out bags, too

Now, you have to remember that, it takes a little bit of time to prepare these freeze-dried meals. You have to break the seal and add boiling water to the pouches…once you open a pouch, you usually have to add about 13-ounces of boiling water, and mix it all up, and close the pouch back up for about 8-10 minutes. Then open back up and stir it all again, and close it for about 4-minutes, and then eat and really enjoy a nice hot meal. This doesn’t work if you are on the “run” or on the move, when you may not have times to do this…so, a few military-style MREs are in order – they can be eaten hot or cold. And, of course, with freeze-dried or dehydrated foods you have to have a supply of water on-hand, and a method to boil the water – keep this in mind.

The wife and I recently decided to eat some of our Mountain House packets for several meals. And, as always, we love the beef stroganoff with mushrooms the best. I’m a fairly good cook, but can’t make mine stroganoff as good. We also tried a fairly new meal – at least to us – and it is called Pad Thai with Chicken. This one is really good tasting – spicy, but not “hot” to the taste. Unfortunately, it did not agree with my digestive system at all – ugh! It didn’t bother my wife in the least, though. Lasagna with meat sauce – it was “okay” – but I’m spoiled on my own red pasta sauce that I make – it wasn’t bad, just not up to my expectations.

Mexican style adobo rice and chicken – a really good one – eat it alone or put it on a tortilla for a meal. And, keep in mind that, all these pouches say there are two meals in them – well, if serving children, that works – but two adults – it is pushing the issue to say there are two servings – in a survival situation, two adults can share a pouch.

Chicken Fajita bowl – another great-tasting meal… and this can also be put on a tortilla for a few added calories. And, to be sure, each pouch tells you how many calories a serving is. Plus how much protein is in each meal – this is important, and don’t just go by the calorie count – you have to have protein in your diet.

Breakfast Skillet – another great tasting meal – and it will start your day and give you some much-needed protein and energy. Plus, you can have biscuits and gravy as well – just don’t think one servicing is enough, so prepare to not share this one…LOL

There are many, many other varieties of freeze-dried foods to pick from. And, I won’t give your prices because each meal in the pouch is a different price. We bought some from the local small box store, when they were on-sale with a $2 discount on each pack – a really good deal. If you feed two people, from one pouch, that’s cheap eating, at $5 to $6 per pouch. We plan on getting some more while this sale is still on – using some of our “extra” money – like I said, we have to budget each month to see what we can afford to purchase and what we can’t afford.

It’s a good idea to have a small two-burner propane camp stove in your house, for when the power goes out. With that, you can easily boil water to reconstitute these Mountain House meals. So, when others are eating crackers, you’ll be eating some really great meals – nice and hot and ready in minutes.

You can usually find Mountain House foods in the sporting goods department at many big and small box stores. We have literally seen people with their grocery carts full – and I mean, full of Mountain House pouches of food. I guess they were Preppers and didn’t even know it.