Return of the Prepper #2 : Tins v Freeze-dried for long term food storage
Like any good prepper building up a stockpile of long life food is part of the plan.
Traditionally the go-to route for any hardcore prepper is freeze-dried ready meals from the likes of Mountain House, the Wise Company or My Patriot Supply.
These can come in sachets, tins or buckets, with shelf-lives ranging from around 7 years to 25 years.
In the UK the choice of producers is much more limited than in the USA. Mountain House has stopped producing in Europe, so I believe anything still available here is old stock or imports.
Generally these freeze-dried meals are also considerably more expensive in the UK than in the USA where they are much more widely available.
Over the last few years I had been buying some of these products for long term storage. I had managed to collect about 6 weeks supply, and had been planning, when funds permitted, to buy much more – maybe eventually even a year’s worth.
But they are very expensive – commonly up to £5 / USD6.50 per meal – and because of the price, not rotated in with our general eating plans. Therefore they can represent a lot of locked-up capital that is not then available for more immediate prepping needs like investing in solar power.
So recently we have decided to swap our long term food prepping strategy to building up a good supply of tin foods, along with some dried goods like beans, rice and pasta.
Tin food is much cheaper than freeze-dried, and can therefore be much more readily rotated in with our general food consumption.
If you shop carefully at the discount supermarkets like Aldi you can find decent unbranded tin food with up to 2 years marked shelf life (and more in practice) at very cheap prices.
Common products like baked beans, soups, broad beans, sweetcorn, assorted beans, tomatoes as well as tinned fruit, rice pudding and custard are commonly only 20p – 50p, and there often 4 for 3 type offers to bring the price down further.
Pasta and rice are also quite inexpensive and will commonly have a shelf life of up to a year.
This tin based prepping strategy might not appear so long term and mobile, but we are very much thinking in terms of bugging-in not bugging-out. And at our age (approaching 60) thinking 25 years ahead does feel rather extreme and almost inappropriate.
So our current food prepping plan of action is…
- Collect up to 12 months supply of common tinned foods (baked beans, vegetables, fruit, creamed rice etc)
- Buy only products that we like and commonly eat
- Look out for offers and bulk buy opportunities, and buy as cheap as possible
- Manage the stocks carefully and ensure good rotation so the oldest are always used first
- Buy 6 – 12 months of dried goods (beans, lentils, rice, pasta) as shelf-life permits
- Hold up to 3 months of more short life products like flour, UHT milks, sugar, tea, etc, and rotate well
- Supplement all this with as much fresh and preserved home-grown produce as possible.
I would also like to learn more canning techniques to increase the amount of our own surplus garden produce we can put by. Canning is nowhere near as common in the UK as it is in the USA.
Depending on the exact nature of any emergency I think we can ensure we would have up to a year’s supply of food that is sufficient in calories and in nutrients, and varied and enjoyable enough to eat.
To date I have been following an ad-hoc path of buying as and when offers and funds have allowed. But now I am adapting a more strategic and more methodical route – even bringing a spreadsheet into play.
We are upping our own food production and buying in 3, 6 and eventually 12 months supply of tinned and dried goods.
Finances will have some influence of course, but the plan is to reach full capacity by the end of the year.
What’s your food prepping strategy?
[ images from @pennsif – note, the first image is from before we became vegetarian ]