Survival Food kits can be incredibly useful in an emergency, or they can be a complete waste of money. It depends both on the kit you choose (and the nature of the emergency).
I’m all for preparing for the worst, but if you’re going to prepare, remember your brain is your most valuable asset. Don’t buy dumb stuff.
Time and time again I see reviews for the best survival food, where people have bought huge stocks of survival food and never bothered to try it. Not only did they never bother to try it, they never bothered to even think about it before they bought it.
Does this kit make sense? In an emergency, will this kit actually help me feed my family?
Best Survival Food Kits
I’ve written up an extensive review of most of the survival food kits on the market, taking you through the best and worst. It’s a long article, and I’d encourage you to read it before making your final choice.
For those of you that prefer to cut to the chase, these are my absolute favorites:
- Valley Food Storage ~ They’ve been providing high-quality survival food kits for more than 15 years, and always get stellar reviews. They’re one of my favorite suppliers because their food tastes amazing, and is a good value price-wise. They go out of their way to source the best ingredients possible, and it showed in my head-to-head tests. Even their basic freeze-dried fruits taste better than the exact same product from competitors. If you’re going to pick just one, they’re the best of the best (with a good selection of varied products too). For more details, read my full Valley Food Storage Review.
- Nutrient Survival ~ A relatively new company, they’re survival food meals are fortified with vitamins and Omega nutrients, and they’re much higher in protein than just about anything else on the market. They blew me away in the taste tests, and they beat Mountain House in a blind taste test on similar meals. (Seriously, try their homestyle scramble, I could eat it every day!) They only have a few meal types, but they’re protein & nutrient-rich, perfect for supplementing your other emergency food stores. For more details, read my full Nutrient Survival Review.
- Mountain House ~ Though they’ve been a big name in emergency food for decades, even supplying the military with food for MREs, they’ve reduced quality in the past few years. Their food was always pricey, but worth it. Now, however, portions have been cut and formulas changed in some of their most popular products. They’re still a good option for novelty things like freeze-dried astronaut ice cream sandwiches, but I’d go with Valley Food Storage or Nutrient Survival for actual survival food kits.
- My Patriot Supply ~ By far the best economy option for survival food. They have a deal of the day page where a different product is 50% off every day, so it’s worth checking periodically. Beyond survival food, they also supply all manner of preparedness equipment such as water filters, survival seeds, and off-grid cooking equipment. For more details, read my full My Patriot Supply review.
I DO NOT recommend the following companies:
- 4Patriots ~ You’ve probably seen their advertisements, and they’re incredibly convincing. That’s because they’re a marketing company that re-packs and re-sells survival food. They don’t actually produce anything themselves, they just rebrand it. While their food is totally fine, it’s not the best option (unless everyone else is sold out). I’d encourage you to read my full review of 4Patriots for details.
- Augason Farms ~ I’ll be honest, their food is pretty horrible, and almost all of it is bland carb-filled mush with very little protein. That said, if you’re on a tight budget and just looking for something to stuff into a back closet for a dire emergency, their 30-Day Emergency Food Supply Bucket is their lowest cost option. It is technically food, and it will keep your belly full when push comes to shove. That said, My Patriot Supply has a similar kit that’s less expensive and tastes a lot better.
Other things to think about…
- Making Your Own Survival Food ~ If you can still get food locally or grow it yourself, you can create your own long-term storage survival food kits with an in-home freeze dryer.
- Fresh Water ~ Berkey water filters make some of the best in-home countertop water filters you can buy. They sold out quickly in 2020, and it took over a year for them to be dependably restocked. Now they’re available, but the stock obviously won’t last long after another emergency.
- Power Generation and Storage ~ Having electricity, even a small amount of electricity, can bring a lot of comfort. It’ll allow you to charge devices, run lamps, and some are powerful enough to run induction cooktops. We have a Jackery 1500 portable power bank with portable solar panels to keep it charged, and it’s enough to power almost anything we’d want in an emergency. (They have smaller models too, which are good for just charging devices.)
- Small Space Gardening ~ You can grow a substantial portion of your own food, even in small spaces. We have a garden tower unit and we use it to grow fresh greens year-round for our family of 4 in our attached greenhouse. They also have kits with lights for fully indoor growing.
- Sanitation & Laundry ~ While I can’t help you with toilet paper, I’m all over off-grid laundry options and composting toilets. We’re currently using a non-electric pedal-powered washing machine from Yirego and it’s really easy to operate (even by my 3-year-old). We also use a composting toilet to save water/electricity and to generate more compost for the garden (if you’re interested, read more about our survival garden). If you’re looking for an inexpensive option, there are kits to turn a 5-gallon bucket into a toilet, which is great for camping and short-term emergencies.
For full reviews of most of the survival food products on the market, I’d encourage you to read on…
When you look at a survival food kit, start with a healthy dose of common sense.
A while back my husband sent me a link to a survival food kit, with the subject line: What’s wrong with this? I looked at the contents, and instantly knew what he was talking about. It was a huge kit, all in #10 cans.
There’s nothing wrong with #10 cans in general, but once you open a perishable #10 can without refrigeration, you have at best 2-3 days before it spoils. This kit included several #10 cans of beef gravy.
Get a spoon Bubba, you’re eating nothing but gravy for the next 48 hours.
Beyond just technical practicality, I think people get caught up in the fever of preparedness and don’t think about it from a rational economic perspective. This pack of “survival pasta” is 50 oz of elbow macaroni for the budget price of $50.
Are you kidding me? Is there a gold bar hidden at the bottom? A dollar an ounce for pasta is about, oh I don’t know, 20 to 30 times what pasta should cost.
While on the one hand, you are paying for the long-term storage packaging, and you should expect to pay a slight premium, use your head. A slight premium doesn’t mean losing your shirt. For that same price, you could buy a 5-gallon bucket and a gamma seal lid, along with 5 gallons of pasta…and then still have money left over for a celebratory 6 pack.
What Makes a Good Survival Food Kit?
Emergency survival food is just food that has a long shelf life, good nutritional profile, and ideally, is easy to cook. The very best emergency food is food that your family will normally eat, and so that you already know how to cook it and are accustomed to eating it. Let’s start with the basics:
- Easy to Cook– In a short-term emergency, you may not have fuel or time for hours of boiling. For longer-term kits, this is less of an issue.
- Things You Know How to Cook – Wheat berries are great in theory, but unless you have a hand crank grain grinder and know how to cook with whole grains, you might be eating a lot of gruel.
- Manageable Package Sizes – Most emergency food is only guaranteed until you break the seal. Make sure it’s packed so you can eat it all before it spoils, and resealable if it contains more than 1 serving.
- Plenty of Calories – While you can probably live on 1,300 calories a day, you’re planning ahead so you don’t have to, right?
- High Nutritional Content – Instant white rice and Kool-Aid have plenty of calories, but you can’t live on it for long.
- Reasonable Prices – Expect to pay a premium for a premade kit, but use your head and don’t lose your shirt.
- Long Shelf Life without Refrigeration – The power almost always goes out at the worst time.
Beyond the basics, here are a few nice to have traits:
- No Unnecessary Ingredients – Eating a chemical cocktail before the apocalypse doesn’t make sense, and it makes even less sense to compromise your health in an emergency.
- Can withstand Freezing Temperatures – If you’re in a cold climate, and the heat goes out, all your home canned goods in mason jars may break.
- Comfort Food – Familiar foods and comfort foods help with the emotional side of managing an emergency.
If you have the time, I’d suggest investing in good food storage equipment and storing your own pantry staples, rather than actually buying a premade kit. Things like a vacuum sealer or food storage buckets with airtight lids are reasonably cheap, and allow you to safely store your family’s favorite foods.
A gamma seal lid turns a 5-gallon buck into an airtight food storage container, that you can open and then reseal. Rather than #10 cans of prepared food that can only be opened once, you can pack just about any storable food into a 5-gallon bucket, and access it as you need it with a twist-off lid.
Then add in a few shelf-stable survival foods, like powdered butter, powdered eggs, and powdered milk.
Still, sometimes you want a bit of extra insurance, and outsourcing the planning takes one more thing off your plate. If you are going to buy a pre-made survival food kit, here’s a rundown of the pros and cons of the top survival food kits on the market.
(I received free samples from most of these companies for my honest unbiased review. As you’ll see, I’m giving my honest opinions below, and some of the brands I tried were downright horrible. Other’s were amazing, and everywhere in between. Regardless, these are my honest opinion on the quality of the survival kits provided.)
Really simple shelf-stable foods, like just add water oatmeal allow you to put food on the table quickly and without a lot of equipment. The problem is, you can’t live on oatmeal packets alone. Freeze-dried meals allow you the ease of instant just add water food, but they can be almost anything, including meat and high protein items.
I’m a huge fan of big buckets of dried beans, but those only help you for a long-term emergency. For the short term emergency, when you need simple, quick-cooking food for a week or less, freeze-dried foods are the way to go.
Mountain House used to be the very best survival food and instant camping food, but in 2020 they changed up a bunch of their recipes. With demand high, it was easy enough to reduce serving sizes on the #10 cans from 10 servings to 8, and then remove some of the protein-rich meat from certain kits. They’re still pretty darn good, but Nutrient Survival is tastier and a better value (in my opinion).
That said, if you still have some pre-2020 packs of mountain house food, hang on to those, they’re worth their weight in gold!
Mountain House sells a number of prepackaged emergency food kits:
- Three Day Emergency Food Kit – Three just add water meals per day totaling roughly 1,650 calories per day.
- Classic Emergency Food Bucket – A best seller on Amazon, with over a thousand 5 star reviews from people who have actually eaten the food. Includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- Essential Emergency Food Bucket – The #1 bestseller on Amazon in emergency food, “With 12 total meals, this bucket has enough food to feed a person for 3.5 days based on a 2,000 calorie diet.”
If you’re looking for a grab-and-go kit, this 72-hour survival backpack is well equipped for 4 people, and it includes plenty of tasty, easy-cooking mountain house food. It also has a camp stove, water rations, lamps, and just about everything else you’d need in a pre-packed emergency bag.
I also love that they have a lot of really unique one-off items like freeze-dried ice cream sandwiches. Are they practical? Nope. And they’re definitely weird astronaut food, but they’re great for making a 5-year-old feel better in a crisis, even for a few minutes.
Keep in mind that you’ll need some way to boil water, which can be a challenge in some homes without electricity. This bio-lite camp stove burns twigs and debris to cook and boil water, and it turns some of that heat energy into electricity for charging devices by USB cable. All handy in an emergency.
Mountain House also sells #10 cans of freeze-dried food, which is much more economical than individual serving packets. I got a chance to try freeze-dried rice from an “antique” 17-year-old can. How does it hold up? Pretty darn good.
I followed the instructions, poured on boiling water and it was pretty amazing. It says “ready in 5 minutes” which isn’t quite right. After 5 minutes of soaking, the rice tasted a bit like wet rice crispies. I was skeptical, but it just needed more time.
Amazingly, after 15 minutes of soaking, it fooled my husband who thought it was freshly cooked rice.
Instant freeze-dried foods are expensive. They’re convenient, tasty, and nutrient-dense, but you’re going to pay for it. Most of the mountain house kits range from 3 to 14 days worth of food because portable freeze-dried food isn’t meant to get you through the long emergency.
It’s a good idea to have some packs around to get you through short emergencies, and maybe even a few #10 cans for the medium term. For long-term emergencies, like 6 months or a year, you can get a better deal by sacrificing a bit of convenience.
Long Term Survival Food Kits
Once you’re past the short-term emergency, long-term emergency planning can be a bit trickier.
How do you fit several months or even a year’s worth of food in a reasonable amount of space, and at a reasonable cost? For the long-term emergency, you’ll need to be set up for actual cooking as instant freeze-dried food just isn’t practical or economical.
Valley Food Storage
If you’re planning for a longer emergency, Valley Food Storage is a great choice. Their food is still mostly prepared, meaning that it comes in easy to make entrees that are ready to cook. Unlike Mountain House, which has you pour boiling water directly into the pouch and stir, these do require a bit of cooking. All the food is “just add water,” but most of it needs to be simmered for about 8-10 minutes to cook.
That 8-10 minutes of simmer time means you’ll need a good cooking pot, but if you don’t have that in a long emergency you’re chances are pretty slim anyway. What does that short cook time get you? Really spectacular flavor.
When you’re planning on eating emergency food right out of the packet, there are only so many things you can offer, but when you’re willing to do a tiny bit of cooking the options open up dramatically. Valley Food Storage’s dishes were hands down the best-tasting survival food I’ve tried to date. (Until I tried Nutrient Survival, and now I’d say they’re dead even.)
I also love that they offer quite a bit of creative variety in their entrees. While most kits are filled with oatmeal, mashed potatoes, pasta, and other bland starchy food, Valley Food Storage entrees really show some creativity. Options like mango habanero chili, Thai coconut curry, and chicken teriyaki mean that you’ll avoid appetite fatigue in the long term.
They also offer comfort food staples to keep the kids happy, like apple oatmeal and mac & cheese. The choice is up to you.
What blew me away about these kits is the quality. The first thing I opened up was their package of freeze-dried strawberries, which were hands down the best freeze-dried fruit I’ve ever eaten. I seriously couldn’t keep my kid’s hands off them long enough to take a picture…
I was so impressed that I actually went out and ordered freeze-dried strawberries from a couple of other suppliers, and I picked up a package from trader joes. We did a blind taste test with the whole family, and there was no question. Everyone, including my 3-year-old, could pick out the ones from valley food storage. The texture was much better, and the flavor was out of this world.
They were so tasty I was inspired to make a batch of post-apocalyptic strawberry donuts using just food storage ingredients. It’s always a good idea to practice cooking with your preps, and this was a good exercise that got the whole family in on the fun.
Now I know I can make some pretty epic donuts from a homemade just add water mix, and my kids see cooking with our preps as just another fun way to get treats. That pre-conditioning will come in handy if we ever actually need these in an emergency.
Valley food storage has a-la-carte options where you can buy just the meals that suit your family’s tastes, or you can just purchase a pre-made kit. They have a number of options, ranging from 72 hour kits to 1 year food supplies.
Good quality comes at a cost. Their one-month premium food kit costs about $550. That is considerably less than mountain house, where buying two 14 day emergency food kits would get you less food for about a $1000. But, it’s also considerably more than some of the cheaper options. That said, I’ve been unimpressed by the quality of the cheaper options, so keep in mind you get what you pay for.
New in 2020, I’ll admit I was skeptical of Nutrient Survival. I assumed they started up as a fly-by-night operation to take advantage of the recent run on survival food. They offered to send me a few cans of food to test, and I was blown away!
Currently, they only offer a few products, but I’ve tried just about all of them and they’re absolutely delicious.
They advertise that their survival foods are nutrient fortified, and high protein, with added Omega fatty acids to keep you healthy in a crisis.
Looking at the nutrition label, I was impressed. Somewhere between 25 and 70% of the daily value of most nutrients in a single serving, plus more than 1400 mg of Omega fatty acids. My doctor recommended I take a pricey Fish Oil supplement that costs 50 cents a capsule, and it only delivers 1280 mg.
Not a bad bonus from your survival food…
They market their breakfast scramble in direct competition with the breakfast scramble from Mountain House. They boast that theirs has more calories, protein, and nutrients for less money. That’s all well and good, but how does it taste?
I used to absolutely love the Breakfast Scramble from Mountain House, but they changed their recipe in 2020. Serving sizes were cut and the recipe changed, and now it just doesn’t cook right (the eggs stay crunchy).
In a blind taste test, Nutrient Survival’s version won hands down. It cooked faster, tasted dramatically better and I’ll have to just take their word for the nutrition facts. They make a darn good scramble!
Beyond their freeze-dried survival meals, Nutrient Survival also offers some really innovative read-to-eat “cookie meals.” They’re protein-rich and vitamin-fortified “cookies” that taste an awful lot like the cliff bars I take hiking sometimes.
My kids love them, and thus far I’ve managed to use them as a really effective bribe. If they’re really good all day, they can have one special cookie for dessert. Not a bad deal, and nutrition-wise they’re infinitely better than just about any other treat I could possibly offer.
In a crisis, keeping kids happy, comfortable, and well-behaved can be tricky…and these are perfect for getting the job done and feeding them at the same time.
Beyond the homestyle scramble and cookie meals (in both chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin), they also offer comfort food favorites like macaroni & cheese, southwestern rice & beans, apple cinnamon oatmeal, maple almond granola, and nutrient fortified instant chocolate milk.
At this point, there aren’t that many choices, but they’re all delicious, so it’s hard to go wrong. I hope they add to their offerings, and I’m really looking forward to trying whatever they come up with next.
They’re a new company, and it’s hard to say where they’ll go with either quality or price. That said, Mountain house had unbelievable food for 30 years, and only recently started cutting corners, so they’ll likely be epic for at least the foreseeable future.
With only a few meal types, it’s hard to imagine living exclusively on Nutrient Survival food, but it’s tasty enough that I’m going to keep a few cans on the shelf to supplement my other emergency food stores.
For the budget-minded, Aurgason farms is a good option, but keep in mind that a low budget is going to cost you in either quality or convenience. They offer two different routes, either pre-made just add water foods, or freeze-dried pantry staples (ie. powdered butter, powdered eggs, and powdered milk). While I love the pantry items and use them regularly, the premade foods they offer are pretty horrible in my experience.
Augason farms offers a premade 30-day survival food bucket rated at over 1,800 calories per day. Most of the food included is labeled instant and is supposed to be easy to prepare with boiling water. They may be “just add water,” but they’re not instant like mountain house. Most require 20+ minutes of cooking in a pot of boiling water.
Even though they require a substantial amount of cooking, I’ve been seriously unimpressed with the pre-made food I’ve tried from Augason Farms. On the one hand, everyone has different tastes, and it may just not be a good match for mine, but my criticism goes beyond that. I followed the instructions for this “creamy chicken flavored rice” and it just didn’t cook.
I had to add nearly 3x the amount of water to get the rice to cook properly. The “creamy sauce” was a slimy goop, and I wished I’d just had some plain white rice instead. It would have been cheaper that way anyway…
Beyond the fact that most of the food in the kit requires substantial cooking, variety is lacking, as is protein. The kit contains 30 servings of each of the following foods: Cheese, Cheesy Broccoli Rice, Creamy Potato Soup, Creamy Chicken Rice, Hearty Vegetable Blend, Instant Potatoes, Macaroni, Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal plus 80 servings of instant milk powder. You are going to be eating the exact same set of foods every single day.
The samples I tried were technically food, and a lot better than eating rats, but I’d have to be pretty hungry to enjoy it.
That said, it’s hard to beat the price if you’re trying to buy a cheap insurance policy to keep in your back pantry. A 1-month bucket from Augason farms costs the same as a mountain house 3-day bucket, so it is a great economy option. At the time of this writing, they’re running a buy one get one free deal on 30-day buckets, but the sale changes regularly.
A better long-term option…
While I really hate their short term kits, the long term kits are actually a pretty spectacular option believe it or not. Mainly because they only include pantry staple items rather than premade foods. Instead of just add water entrees, they give you all the shelf-stable ingredients to prepare a meal. Augason farms makes a long-term kit designed to feed a family of 4 for a year, for about $4000 (or a similar kit for 1 person for roughly $1000). This is by far the best value for the long term, no question.
I’ve tried most of the foods included in this kit, and I keep quite a few of them on my shelf for day-to-day kitchen use. Shelf-stable versions of common cooking ingredients, like butter powder and egg powder, give you a lot of flexibility for cooking your favorite recipes. We’ve started practicing cooking with their butter powder, and it works great in a homemade just add water biscuit mix or my homemade just add water pancake mix.
The problem is, you’re really going to need to know how to cook from scratch. If you don’t, this isn’t the kit for you. Stick with something that has pre-made food (and pay more for that convenience).
This kit contains 30 cans of hard wheat berries, so it will require a grain grinder. Lehman’s makes a completely non-electric hand crank grain grinder that will allow you to convert those wheat berries into flour for baking. You also may want to throw in a bit of baking powder and baking soda to leaven your baked goods. Beyond that, they’ve thought of pretty much everything.
They do include some powdered, vitamin C fortified drink mixes. Many kits include dozens of cans of this sugar-laden filler, but they’ve kept it to a minimum. Six cans in a huge kit is just enough instant orange drink to add a little variety to your stored water once in a while, but not so much that it’s a substantial portion of your calories.
They also sell kits including a 55-gallon water storage barrel with a pump system, which is a handy addition to help manage water needs.
Their basic one year kit on year contains 1,200 calories per day per person. That’s enough to keep you alive, but you’ll need to supplement this kit with foraging, gardening, or hunting to make it realistic. If you want more substantial amounts of food, you have to upgrade to their premium kit which includes a lot more variety and over 1,900 calories per person per day for only about 20% more money. Well worth it in my opinion, if you’re just looking for an easy solution you don’t have to pack yourself.
Wise Food Storage
(Update: Wise food storage has re-branded as “readywise” and they are now a bit more transparent about their servings and calories. My earlier criticism of them when they were “Wise Food Storage” still stands, but you can read my updated review or Readywise for current information.)
Wise food storage offers a number of just add water food storage kits, ranging from 1 month to 12 months. Like mountain house camping food, these just add water pouches are extremely convenient, but that convenience comes at a price. These kits are some of the most expensive I’ve seen, and there’s not a lot to show for it.
While they do sell long-term emergency kits, but if you read the fine print, most only contain about 600 calories per person per day. A “one-month emergency food supply” doesn’t list total calories per day, just that you get 3 servings of food. The problem is, when you look at the individual nutrition labels, a single serving has about 200 calories. Saying 600 calories per day amounts to a 30-day kit is just a balled face lie, and I want nothing to do with a company that would lie to people that blatantly when it comes to their survival.
Their website is intentionally misleading, trying to hide the fact that their kits are short on calories, and they even insinuate that in a real emergency you should be eating 2 servings (ie. 400 calories) a day because who can expect 3 full meals in a crisis.
I don’t expect to be eating like a king, but for the amount of money these kits cost, 400 calories is pretty pathetic.
As if that’s not enough, wait for it…they actually show pictures of how this kit could feed 4 people for a month, or 6 people if it’s two adults and 4 kids. I don’t know about you, but I eat more than 600 calories a day, and so do my kids. Over the course of a month, my husband and I would starve to death giving each of our kids our extra 600 calories a day, and our little ones would just barely make it through on 1200 calories a day each.
For science, I’d love to taste wise food storage’s kits, but I just can’t bring myself to give this company any money because of their dishonest marketing. Even their “free sample” requires you to talk to a sales rep on the phone, and they require you to promise that if it tastes even halfway decent that you’ll buy a kit from them. No thanks, I won’t be sampling these.
If you are going to choose an instant just add water option, go with Mountain House for the short term, and Valley Food Storage for 1+ months. They’re both transparent about the nutritional content of their food, and high quality.
Misleading advertising, low calories, and high price…so just about everything.
Thrive life got a lot of press when they started selling their 1-year emergency food kit at Costco. If there’s one thing Costco shoppers love, it’s buying a boatload of food all at once. That’s kind of their business model. After that, a bunch of suburban housewives became accidental preppers basically overnight.
This is another kit that contains a lot of unground wheat berries, and you’ll need a hand crank grain grinder to make those useful.
The reviews consistently say that the kit contains a lot of sugary powdered drink mixes with a short shelf life. While most of the items have at least a 10 year rated shelf life, a substantial number of the cans are basically kool-aid mix with a 3-year shelf life. At least that’s what the negative reviews seem to site. That may have changed recently because the current kit contents list doesn’t contain them.
For the most part, these kits are sold “Tupperware party” style by consultants that come to your house. That style of marketing has its benefits, in that it lets you try the food, but it also relies on peer pressure from all your friends at the party encouraging your purchases.
Overall, this company seems to be marketed at the casual suburban household that hasn’t done their homework. That’s not to say it may not be an excellent kit, but that marketing strategy causes me to raise an eyebrow. None the less, a friend of mine is one of their “consultants” and I’m going to order a few cans from her to try them out. I’ll report back soon…
I can’t seem to find anyone who has actually opened their kit. Reviews typically talk about how inexpensive the kit is, and how quickly it arrived.
Here’s a good example, “As the product says, it is for EMERGENCY. So I don’t know how it tastes and, quite frankly, I hope I never have to. But we did a lot of comparison shopping and this was by far the best value we found.” Maybe the kit is wonderful, but if no one’s going to open it, it’s hard to know. If all you’re working from is price, then it just becomes a race to the bottom on cutting costs and quality.
All-Around Best Survival Food Kit
What would I pick for my family of 4?
For short-term emergency food, a classic bucket from mountain house is the way to go. If you’re looking for something to tide you over during a power outage or other short-term emergency, a just add water kit filled with proven camping food is just what you need.
For long-term food storage, I think the best all-around quality in a pre-made kit comes from Valley Food Storage. Their food is delicious and high quality, but you’re going to pay a premium for it. The food is packaged as entrees, for the most part, taking the guesswork out of it, and it’s really exceptionally tasty.
Best Budget Survival Food Kit
For the best long term budget option, try Augason Farms. I’m not a fan of their pre-made 30-day survival bucket because the food pretty horrible, though “technically edible.” While their pre-made food is unfortunate, I’ve had great experiences with their pantry staple options, which just provide you with shelf-stable ingredients for scratch cooking.
If you know how to cook, there’s no better option for the truly long term than a one-year survival food kit from Augason Farms. It is a little short on calories, but it’s real food with high nutritional content. While you can upgrade to the premium kit which offers more calories and variety, many of the convenient foods added contain lots of artificial ingredients and bulking pasta.
It’s a good option if you want to buy something and not have to think about it, but economy-wise you’d be better off with a basic kit and supplementing with a bucket or two of your own pasta, packed into buckets with gamma seal lids.
I recently noticed that the bulk kits from Augason farms now come with grain grinders included, which is a really thoughtful addition and shows they are actually thinking about how their kit will be used. Some include water storage/filtration and heirloom seeds as well. In general, you’re better off choosing a survival seed bank that fits your location, but I’ll never turn down an extra tin of seeds.
I’d supplement the kit with home-canned goods, sprouting seeds, and leaveners like baking powder. I’d also add something for water storage and filtration if the kit didn’t include it, like a Berkey Water Filter.
What Do I Store?
So now here’s the million-dollar question. Now that I’ve done all this research for you, What do I actually store in my own basement?
We have a mix of options so that we can be prepared for a variety of different contingencies. We keep a few mountain house buckets available so we have a grab-and-go throw-in-the-car option if we need to evacuate for any reason. The kids also love taking those camping, and will sometimes beg for a “camping lunch” where we cook them over a campfire in our yard.
I say yard, but really, we live on 30 acres off the grid in the middle of the woods…so “yard camping” just means in the woods within sight of the house.
For the longer-term emergency, we keep about a dozen buckets of food sealed with gamma seal lids. I don’t use mylar pouches because we constantly turn our inventory of flour, beans, rice, and pasta. On top of that, I have #10 cans of powdered butter, powdered eggs, and powdered milk so that we can cook our favorite meals in a long emergency.
Since I absolutely love Nutrient Survival’s Homestyle Scramble, I bought three cans and keep them on hand for camping (or for special treats, cause they’re really that good).
We’re avid canners, as you can tell from the fact that I have more than 100+ canning and preserving posts listed on this site. Here’s a stockpile of my favorite canning recipes if you’re curious. But beyond home-canned food, we also have a number of #10 cans of freeze-dried fruit. Now that my little ones have fallen in love with valley food storage freeze-dried strawberries, I’m seriously considering adding a full case of those to my stock. Maybe for my daughter’s birthday…
Beyond that, we hunt, salt cure meat, and grow much of our own food on our land.
Other Survival Food Suppliers
There are a lot of survival food suppliers out there, and it seems like new ones pop up every day. I can’t rate them all, but there are a few reputable companies still on my “to try” list.
- My Patriot Supply ~ Supplies a number of ready-to-eat meals, but also supplies all manner of preparedness equipment such as water filters, survival seeds, and off-grid cooking equipment. They have a deal of the day page, and I just missed a 1-week food supply at 50% off. Since then, I’ve been watching their site waiting for a deal on a smaller food kit to give them a try.
- Northwest Fork ~ Supplies gluten-free emergency food kits that are also kosher, non-GMO, and vegan. In an emergency, you’re obviously less picky about what you eat, but if you really can’t tolerate gluten an emergency is no time to trash your digestive system. I haven’t tried these kits, but I have heard great things about them. The reviews also look promising.
- Survival Frog ~ A re-seller of survival food and equipment, they actually have a surprising amount of food and gear in stock on their Survival Frog website. Case lots of long term storage meat in no. 10 cans are available for immediate shipment. While no. 10 cans are normally not my pick, at this point it’s one of the few things you can order and actually get now. They also have kits from Legacy Food storage and some Mountain House meals as well. (They still have survival gear in stock at the moment, but that’s also selling out fast.)
- Emergency Essentials ~ They still have a number of food kits in stock on the Emergency Essentials Website, but their shipping is delayed at least 4 weeks just due to high order demand.
- The Ready Store ~ Per the Ready Store Website, most of their items are still in stock, including long-term food kits and MREs. They are experiencing shipping delays, just like almost everyone else.
I’d love to hear about your experiences with survival food kits. Leave a comment below and share your knowledge.
Thank for this article, we prepped for Y2K and I was already grinding my wheat with a hand crank mill because that’s what I could afford at the time. There were many people looking at emergency food kits back then as well, but our family’s budget just wouldn’t allow for it. So I canned-a lot. I got jars form anyone who’d give them to me and I canned whole meals- casseroles, soups, I even canned spaghetti with my stewed tomatoes so if water was limited the pasta would be already cooked. Something I hadn’t really thought about and I’m glad you pointed it out, was that glass jars could freeze and break in winter during power outage. This is something I will definitely keep in my for where to store homecanned food. I have tried a couple of Mountain House meals during camping. They aren’t bad. Overall, I think I’ll pass on spending the money on that kind of emergency food though.
We can a lot too, whole meals ready to eat. I realized that they’re not safe in freezing temperatures when some friends of ours came to visit. They live in a tiny 16×16 cabin they hand built, and it has very little insulation. A small wood stove is their only heat, and if they leave the house for even a few hours the house plummets below freezing. I was trying to gift them a few home canned soups, and while they were excited about them, they wouldn’t last very long in their tiny cabin…
Insulation is of the utmost importance in their situation. Why don’t they insulate their cabin better? They are just begging to be found one day frozen to death.
Love Mtn. House. Tried a Wise Foods sample. It was extremely watery and sparse on meat.
Thanks for the that! Some part of me still wants to try wise, out of just morbid curiosity, but I just can’t bring myself to talk to their sales rep on the phone. With how misleading their sales copy is, I wouldn’t be polite…
I tried Wise Food Teriyaki Chicken and thought it was awful. Also all of there food is Texturized vegetable protein. I really don’t like soy products so I would not buy their products.
Hey my friend I mean Calgary Canada if you’re interested in the Wise food we ended up buying a ton of it before the price went up it is actually really decent food you’re definitely right the sales tactics are crazy and they doubled the price once covid-19 but out of all of the disaster food pails I have to say this was one of my kids favourite myself I would eat anything in a bind but my kids are very picky at even starving they probably wouldn’t eat so we went with wise and very happy they also do sales once in a blue moon that’s what we did we bought a year Supply I got a really good price
Mountain House site is currently down with no date for its reappearance.
Any of the companies in this industry that list orange drink as a serving of food, I think, is bogus. I don’t care who they are. Problem with MREs is that it is illegal to purchase Government MRE from anywhere, off post. I have heard through some retired USA friends that they can purchase them on post when they visit. Never saw them in an Air Force commissary, but then I wasn’t looking. Any MRE you find, is expensive and you have to know how to read the coded use date. Actually, they have the pack date on them. If stored right, you might get 5-7 years out of them. We used MH on scout trips, they are great for short term.
It must have been a temporary glitch because the mountain house site is up now? Thanks for the heads up though!
I have been buying MRE’s for years on line. I buy from the same company that makes for the military.
Best Regards, Ranger Rick
Thanks for the wonderful manual
I have been looking into freeze dryed food. My problem is finding out where the food is sourced and where it is packed. Do not want anything sourced or packed from China or questionable places. Very hard to find out this info. I think Thrive might be the only place where most of it is USA grown, no gmo’s. My head is spinning! Do you have any info on this or a site I can go to that has done the research? Thanks!
That’s tricky because even if something’s not made in China now there’s nothing stopping them from moving production there any time. If that’s really a huge concern for you, the best option might be to buy a freeze dryer. They’re expensive though…
Have you thought about dehydrated foods. It takes water to reconstitute the food, but from reading here, everything takes water … I have a Presto 6301 Dehydrator, about $65. Make sure it has temperature settings for the different types of foods. I’ve dehydrated from tomatoes to pineapple to mushrooms. It has stacking trays, 4 come with it and you can purchase more if you need them. Just a thought for you.
Ray Hill (from SimplyOffGrid.com)
Ashley, I love your post. I wrote a similar one to this, and I can see a lot of correlation.
One of the things you mentioned that I did as well was MRE’s.
At first I was expecting disappointment in regards to taste… but it wasn’t too bad at all.
Have not tried Mountain House, but did Backpackers Pantry (i think was the name).. and it was genuinely tasty.
Awesome Ray, and nice to connect. I enjoyed checking out your site. I’ll have to try backpacker’s pantry, thanks for the tip.
I also prepped for the 2016 election. I (as was most every American CONCERNED that KILLARY was going to be POTUS) So I prepped,and I prepped LARGE!! I’ve got several water filtration systems. But I also bought in bulk from Amazon Aragauson farms. And I also bought from Wise foods(not a lot,but some) But I got the bulk of my supplies from Patriots Supply. Thwy had a “sale “” that was 50% off,and Im telling tou what ,i knocked that “sale out of the park every TWO weeks!! Ive got the storage closet under the sown stairs …STUFFED!! Front to back floor to ceiling and a LARGE tub (about the size of wa shing machine tub) outside of the closet because…IT WONT FIT!! LOL There was a K Mart that went out of business a few years ago and I bought 24 cans of variety cofees (Chase and Sanborn ,Folgers and Eight O’clock). I also stocked up on heavy duty aluminum foil,,while i was there. Sorry for the rant..lol Now back to tje subject of my reviews of Patriot Supply. I actually tried a few of their items couple and (I honestly) have to admit…that they were actually pretty good….AND SATISFISFYING…I know shocking right? I’ve also obtained several different lots of “broken” MRES…I’m please with those as well. Now as far as Mountain House brand. I only use those when I go on “survival Missions”..BUT I also blend them with MRE’S…SO as of this writing,I/we have enough supplies for 3-4 years for a family of 3-4. We also freeze dry, vacuum sealer and can.
Woah, enough supplies for 3-4 years with a family of 4 is quite impressive. Well done!
Good thing you prepped, The was Humpty Dumpty is running the place, you’ll really need it now.
I read your blog and it’s very informative and made a lot of sense when it’ come too storing food. I am new in this so any advise is appreciated. I recently purchased several of 5 gallon bucket from Mernard’s Home improvement store, it has #2 printed inside triangle with HDPE on the bottom, the triangle did not have arrow chasing each other like recycle symbol but did said “Food Safe”. I do not intend to put any food directly into the bucket without mylar bag, and the price of the bucket is about $4.00 a piece. When I look at some other places sale bucket and it cost $20-25, it made me wonder why does the price so different. My question is did I get the right kind of buckets?
Thank you for your advise in advance,
If it says food safe then I think you’re fine and I would use it. I think the reason most buckets are so expensive is two reasons. First, when you order them online they have to ship them and they’re big. Second, if they come with gamma seal lids, those are about $15 each and that would explain the cost. If you’re using mylar bags anyway, the main thing to worry about is keeping rodents out. Really, sealed mylar bags in anything rodent proof would be fine, even a metal trash can. If the food’s not touching it, it really doesn’t matter. I use food safe plastic buckets with gamma seal lids, and I don’t use mylar. I just put the bulk goods right in.
Thank you very much. It is make sense and reasonable on what you are doing. Have a wonderful Christmas.
I ordered samples from My Patriot Supply. They were good.
I’m new to prepping but very interested in it. My question is if I use the gamma sealed buckets should I remove food from its original packaging to store it? For example, if I bought (on sale, of course) pasta, should I remove it from the boxes?
Yes, that’s what I do. Some people then put it into mylar bags inside the buckets, and seal it tight in those. I don’t because I’d rather turn my food stores and replenish, so I constantly have a fresh supply. In a gamma seal bucket, I can use it regularly and it never has to last more than a year. Just use a couple of buckets and turn your stock.
Very thorough, informative article, thank you. Unfortunately, I started prepping when I did not know much, and since there was a good sale at Sams Club, ended up buying a year’s worth of the Auguson Farms 1-month-of-food-in-a-bucket (which I have not opened – they will now wait until the last days of the emergency, as I have since purchased some more palatable options.) I did get one of the “free sample” 3-day meal kits from Patriot Pantry (which, although advertised as “free”, actually cost just a hair’s breadth under $20 for “shipping and handling”.) I did try the kit, although there was really only one day’s worth of food, not three. What they described as a package providing 4 servings is what I would eat for a single meal (and I am an entirely sedentary woman old enough to qualify for seniors housing!) I experienced severe gastrointestinal distress for almost a week after finishing their trial package. Frankly, eating rats might be a better option!! I do agree that the best short term and long term options are Mountain House and Valley Food Storage – I am now much further along in my prepping journey and have had the opportunity to try many of the options out there. I always keep a sealed mountain House Classic bucket in the trunk of my car, along with a large thermos of water, water purifier, and camping cook kit. Also a small plastic ammo can of energy bars and another of Datrex water pouches. This is one person who is not going to make headlines as starving to death after being stuck in the snow in a winter accident!
I’ve heard that high temperatures can effect both water and foods. Might not be the best idea to store in your trunk during the summer months Just want you to be safe.
We invested in a HarvestRight home freeze dryer and absolutely LOVE being able to freeze dry our own “ready made meals” 😀
I’ve been trying to find a food source for healthy foods for say diabetics that have issued with starches and salt. I’d have no issues adding imitation or sea salt to my meals, but would like that option. Also, don’t some methods of preservation actually add salt in the process. In your blog, you didn’t mention which suppliers dehydrate or freeze dry their meals. Which is healthier and better tasting?
All of the meals I discuss here are freeze-dried, which stores much better and retains quality. Rehydrated freeze-dried food is surprisingly similar to fresh, and you can actually test this out yourself. Often grocery stores will have small bags of freeze-dried fruit in the snack section. Try rehydrating some freeze-dried apples. They’re not exactly the same, but they are a lot tastier than rehydrated dried apples (apple chips).
If salt is an issue for you, I’d say your best option might be to store foods that aren’t ready-made. (ie. buckets of dry beans, or freeze dried fruits). Just about any “add water and eat” meal kit is going to have a lot of salt.
In the long run though, if you’re really committed to this, buying a home freeze dryer (about $2,000-ish) is the best option for controlling the ingredients. You can freeze-dry almost anything, not just fruits and such. Make your own meals (chili, whatever) and then freeze-dry them at home.
Thanks, I was hoping that because freeze drying didn’t require salt to make it storable, then the Emergency food makers wouldn’t need to add salt, or any other things that could be unhealthy for some individuals. I can always use my own spices.
We all know the need for speed when preparing for emergencies. Looks like My Patriot Supply is now offering a guaranteed 2 day delivery for all their orders. This would give time for one to prepare the home without having to hit the stores for food and water filtration items. No extra cost either. Two days is fast. Details here: My Patriot Supply Announces Guaranteed 2-Day Delivery on All Survival Supplies.
For extra proteins & calories, nuts are a pretty good option if you can keep them fresh. I’ve found that nuts.com is good on that score for bulk. They also have some excellent dried fruits, and I got some bulk textured vegetable protein from them. It’s delicious but too much of it does upset my stomach a bit. It works well to add protein & stretch a meal a bit. Their stuff would need to be repackaged to be shelf stable.
Harmony House does great dried veggies like zucchini, broccoli, etc. It’s “throw in water & cook for soup” mostly, but I’ve mixed their dried veg with nuts for a homemade trail mix that’s pretty dang good. I love that you can eat their beans straight; they’re precooked. They’re hard & crunchy, but won’t give you the problems raw beans would.
I found bulk dried kale from a dude who advertised firehouse foods, or something like that – it was astonishingly sweet tasting but very Woody. I was looking for something I could snack on dried, but the kale really needed to be cooked to not be a stomach danger.
There’s a bulk dried foods supplier who sells bulk dried veg that only sells bulk to buisnesses, which is sad because I haven’t got time to be a business right now – they have some different dried veg I’d love to try.
Bulk unsweetened carob chips are one of my favorite treats (can’t have chocolate).
I’ve tried the freeze dried blackberries, blueberries and strawberries from augusson farms and loved them, but I’ll definitely give the ones you’re raving about a shot!
Hi, and thanks for all you do letting us know and making us aware of this great information. I have ordered a few of the items you have tried and am anxiously awaiting their arrival!
I was wondering if you’ve heard of or tried anything from companies like Daily Bread or Readyman?
Honestly, I hadn’t heard of either, and I had to look them up. I’m putting our daily bread on my “to try” list, and they seem to have a lot of options for survival food at first glance. Readyman doesn’t seem to have food, but they do have some really nifty everyday cary lock picking supplies. I’m looking for more portable stuff to add to my kit, and their lock picking cards look great at first glace (punch out cards that fit in your wallet like a credit card, but are lock picks). (more about lock picking here)
My apologies for the wrong name of Readyman, It is actually “Ready Store”. I too like and have ordered items from Readyman. Good quality and great survival ideas..
FWIW – You should know there is a third party (mediavine) which appears to inject a script into your website making the browser scrollbar disappear. I concluded this after blocking scrits from mediavine with the Ublock Original addon on Firefox upon which the scrollbar reappeared.
I imagine if someone visits a website but is unable to scroll down on the page, they will simply leave the website. So this seems definitely like something you should look into.
GREAT ARTICLE! I agree about Valley Food Storage. I’ve ordered from them several times. [The drawback with them is they seem to frequently be out of stock so it takes a month, sometimes much more for my order to arrive]. Check out Mountain House Just in Case 2, 3, 4 or 5 day combo boxes available at some big box stores. Those packs seem to have a variety of the most popular entrees that include breakfast and meat dishes – priced well. Several taste tests on You Tube rate MH flavor and texture best overall. I’ve also gotten some of the Legacy Foods brand items too. They seem to be on par with Valley Foods, so see what you think of them. Their prices and serving sizes are good. All but Mountain House meals seem to be all starch, no meat. So it’s good that Valley Foods and Legacy Foods both offer freeze dried meat to add flavor and protein. I store a variety of brands and types of meals in stackable clean kitty litter buckets lined with a clean bag and stick a label on them.
I have tried all of the brands you have mentioned. I love Mountain House. I do not, repeat do not like Wise brand at all. We tried several of their varieties and none were of good quality,at least that’s the opinion of my entire family,my mom and my sister as well.That old saying you’ll eat anything if you’re hungry enough, well I don’t think I will ever be that hungry. I buy Thrive freeze dried and dehydrated vegetables. They are good, but take time to rehydrate. I have not bought any of the Augason Farms pre made meals, but do have some of the other pantry items. I have also tried Patriot Supply foods. I do not care for them either. Back in 2011 my son bought a year supply of food from Emergency Essentials, they are pretty good as well.But they also included a bit of TVP, which I’m sure a lot of people would not care for. Especially if you really love meat.
I am new to searching out freeze dried products and trying to get emergency food stocked up. I have purchased some protein powers, powered milk, and a few other products, but I am quite unknowledgeable about these sites. Thank you for the info provided here and the responses from others. I can be overwhelming when trying to research it on your own. Any other tips would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Has anyone tried rations from 4patriots ? If so, how would you rate them
Great question! I just posted a full review of 4Patriots here: https://practicalselfreliance.com/4patriots-survival-food-review/
Hi, a while ago I purchased some #10 cans from Honeyville food storage. I had to open them to taste them (yum) but I knew I wouldn’t consume them fast enough once opened. What I did was put the contents into several quart Mason jars and vacuum sealed them. Do you think they’ll last?
Do look into Honeyville if you have a chance. I didn’t like any premade meals from any brand due to too many carbs, so I just got fruit, veg and protein separately.
Honeyville is one of the few brands I haven’t yet tried, but they’re on my list. Stored vacuum sealed is the best bet for keeping the contents after you open it. If it’s freeze dried, try to get it vacuum sealed as soon as you can, because what kills that after opening is humidity. If it’s not well sealed or if it’s left open too long on a humid day they’ll absorb enough water that things like fruit can start to mold.
Beyond freeze-dried fruit, I’ve had other things (dried milk, butter powder, dried eggs) last for a full year after opening without issue, just capped up in the same can. Just keep it closed as much as you can.
susan s sweeney
I have been doing some research on emergency food supplies. .I am overwhelmed with all the websites and information. You have given me some great advice and common sense thinking. Thank you !!!
You’re quite welcome, so glad it’s helpful to you!
Do you have any comments about 4patriots survival food kits? Thank you
Hi Rodney, I just posted a full review of 4Patriots here: https://practicalselfreliance.com/4patriots-survival-food-review/
I thought I would see Mary Jane’s Farm Outpost food mentioned. I hear only positive comments about them
Thanks for sharing that.
Great read. I think it’s really important to be prepared nowadays. I love how you also mentioned the worst survival kits as well. I actually want to try getting some from Valley Food Storage as well. It was recommended to me and it was on top of your list as well.
Thank you. So glad you found it helpful.
The link in this link is incorrect: ‘For more details, read my full My Patriot Supply review.’
So sorry about that. Here is the correct link. https://practicalselfreliance.com/4patriots-survival-food-review/ I will make a note to try and get the link corrected on this post. Thanks for catching that.
Utter garbage “reviews”. NO testing, no evidence, just hearsay. It’s pretty obvious that you’ve never actually eaten the food you recommend or even the ones you don’t. You also make countless false assertions that should get you sued by these companies. I’m hoping you do because I cannot stand liars.
How many of these companies are your affiliates? You are definitely another scammer making claims that are simply untrue (false review site).
I’m not sure what testing or evidence you’re looking for but typically a review consists of an opinion of the products or services. It’s totally ok for you to not agree. Have a great day!
I have looked at the reviews and BB ratings and problems of two companies. Valley and Patriot Supply. Valley has a had a lot of BBB reports that were not satisfied. Where Patriot Supply really impressed me with the way they dealt with every report and refunded and replaced all.
Valley’s reviews were all from people who did not taste the food. That makes every review not adequate to impress me. With all the complaints we decided not to purchase for our company use. I ordered a test product to try the food prior top a large order.
I ordered once from a company a two year buckets kit. They are now out of business. The products were garbage. All the products were over dehydrated and they sold them that way anyway. I have maybe 20 in my basement that only parts of the stuff in them MAY be usable. SAD.
Auguson Farms sent me some last month. The stew with no meat. I had to cook it in the pressure cooker to get it to fully hydrate. So I was happy that that worked. On the stove did not work. Then we ate a large meal of of it. I HAVE NEVER HAD SO MUCH GAS IN MY LIFE WITH ANY MEAL LIKE I DID WITH THIS. Again what a waste of money.
I have another company pail to try. Not sure which one at the moment. My company deals with disaster relief and I have found my experiences very valuable. Patriot Supply is so busy filling orders they can’t keep up. This mean the customer complaints are 90 % about not getting the orders in the times suggested. Back orders. However, they did get filled with a little patience. OR GLADLY REFUNDED. I was super impressed.
I have a package on my desk- “Ready Hour”- Homestyle Potato Soup. I will take this home tonight and try it. The Ceo is taking home a package of porriage.
BE CAUTIOUS AND CHECK THEM ALL OUR PRIOR TO STOCKING UP.
Thanks for sharing your experience. We really appreciate it.