Unforeseen emergencies happen, there’s no way around it. They often happen with little warning, so it’s smart to have a supply of food, water, and other essentials on hand at all times.
Emergency food rations are a unique purchase. They’re one of the few items you buy and pray you never get to use.
Planning ahead and selecting the right types of emergency rations for you and your family will make all the difference down the road. I get it, there are so many types, the buying process can be overwhelming. It’s hard to know which food storage method is best and how much you actually need.
Luckily for you, I did all the research and compiled a comprehensive list reviewing all your options below, so you can quickly decide which ration type is best for your particular needs and circumstances. I will even show you a place to get bulk survival food that almost nobody knows about.
- Here Are the Best Emergency and Survival Food Options
- 1. Local Food Packing Center (Hidden Gem for Survival Food)
- 2. Freeze Dried Rations (Recommend for Most People)
- 3. MREs (Meals Ready to Eat)
- 4. Emergency Food Ration Bars (Most Convenient)
- 6. Canned Meats
- 7. Sustainable Emergency Rations (Seeds and Such)
- 8. Freeze Dried Canned Meals (You Can Pick Your Favorites)
Want to learn more before seeing your emergency food supply options? Keep Reading!
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of this review, let’s cover some basics.
How Much Emergency Food Should I Store?
Currently, the American Red Cross recommends people have at least three days of non-perishable emergency rations and water. They also say “though it is unlikely to be cut off from a food supply for two weeks, it’s a good idea to have a food supply that will last that long.” I recommend checking out their food and water guide here. In my opinion, the more emergency and survival food you can stockpile the better, there really isn’t such thing as “too much”.
Canned Food vs. Packets
A lot of people buy canned food over packet food because it is marketed as having a much longer shelf life, but taste tests and research shows that food packets last almost as long as canned food if it is packaged properly. The key words there are “if packaged properly.” It is vital that the food is sealed in a thick packet with a metal layer to prevent oxygen exposure. Many knock-off companies will include plastic liners in the packaging to make their product feel quality, even though it’s not, and often times they don’t even include an oxygen absorber. So, if you decide to buy food packets, ensure you buy them from a reputable company that uses a thick metalized layer that will prevent food oxidation and spoilage. Also, remember one of the most overlooked and important things isn’t what the food is sealed in, but how it’s stored and at what temperature!
As far as space goes, if you’re storing your food in your basement or garage size might not be a big deal, but for most people, the smaller size of packets and the fact that they’re lighter and take up less space is a significant advantage over cans.
More important than type is quantity and actually having an emergency food supply ready in-case something happens. Emergency and survival food is reasonably cheap, last a long time, and easy to store, so stock and get a reasonable supply of long-term emergency food, then, pray you never need it.
Here Are the Best Emergency and Survival Food Options
1. Local Food Packing Center (Hidden Gem for Survival Food)
The Church of Latter-day Saints believes that everyone should have at least a 1-year emergency food supply so they can remain self-sufficient during emergency situations, economic downturn, or loss of employment. You might be thinking that’s wonderful, but I’m not a Mormon, why are you telling me this?
The good news is they allow anyone to buy from them. In fact, they’re happy to sell to anyone, as an overall more prepared community benefits everyone.
My family actually went into a local food distribution center and packed our own food, and we get a small discount. We did this about 4 years ago, so don’t quote me on the discount anymore. Anyway, if this option interests you, I recommended using the link below to see if they have any distribution centers near you.
Once you’re on their website, look under the heading “Find One Near You.” Don’t let the prices fool you at first glance, it’s a very good deal, and you get an entire case with multiple large cans for that price. This is one of the best survival food supply options out there right now.
2. Freeze Dried Rations (Recommend for Most People)
Freeze dried emergency rations are great because along with being super convenient, they have a super long shelf life (30+years). The Mountain House Company has a great reputation and their meals taste amazing. For most people, this is the simplest way to have a long term food supply ready. another plus is you typically don’t even have to cook them, and you can eat right out of the packets, so you can say goodbye to the dishes!
Just in Case Bucket (Freeze Dried Rations)
I recommend buying freeze dried food packets by mountain house for a number of reasons. First of all, the bucket is easy to store and the rations have an impressive shelf life (30+ years), are versatile (good for food storage, camping, or backpacking), and typically don’t typically need to be heated before consumed.
Although I will say that adding hot water to the packets makes them much more enjoyable. The bucket has a great assortment of meals, including breakfast meals, so you can dish them out to different family members depending on their taste preferences.
I really love how the rations are inside a bucket. The bucket has a handle, making it a very convenient for grab and go situations like bug out or even camping. They don’t weigh much or take up a lot of space in your pack so you can toss them in your bug out bag or pack. Backpackers and hikers know that ounces quickly add up to pounds when it comes to getting a pack ready.
The two most popular freeze dried food brands are Mountain House and Wise Food Supply. I will put a great video comparison video of the two brands below. Personally, I much prefer Mountain House.
Why not just buy MREs if I’m buying food in packets?
Good question, the simple answer is MREs actually don’t last as long and were made to meet the needs of troops the battlefield. As a civilian just getting ready for an emergency they are great, but not necessarily the best.
3. MREs (Meals Ready to Eat)
I wrote an entire page on where to buy MREs and explained the different brands and case variations that you can read here.
MREs are great, but honestly, I don’t think they should be used as your primary emergency food rations because there are other options out there that have a much longer shelf life and taste better.
There are freeze dried meals and dehydrated canned food options on this list that have a shelf life 30+ years.
That said, MREs definitely have their place in the best emergency rations discussion, as they’re great for backpacking or camping because they are individually wrapped food rations with a lot of calories. While they might not be the end all be all when it comes to long term food storage, there are many reasons why they’re useful and they’re widely used by nearly every military in the world. It might be good to buy a case or 2, but I wouldn’t go too crazy.
If you’re just looking to buy a case or two you can pick them up on Amazon here.
4. Emergency Food Ration Bars (Most Convenient)
Many of the survival foods on this list are convenient, but emergency food ration bars top the list as far as convenience. The lightweight and individually wrapped bars are packed with calories (3600), which will cover one person’s macro-nutrient needs for an entire day, or even longer!
They are made by SOS Food Labs, which is a reputable company that makes their bars in the USA. There are multiple bars per pack, so you can space out your calorie intake throughout the day. When I first read about these I thought they were selling as a single bar that had 3600 calories (that would be pretty crazy). They way they set it up is a lot smarter.
You can buy them or read reviews on SOS Emergency Ration Bars here.
I recommend getting the cinnamon. The coconut is a tad cheaper but isn’t nearly as good!
12 Bars Per Packing and come in 3 Delicious Flavors Including:
- Coconut and Cinnamon
So What’s the Con of Food Bars?
The major downside of ration bars is that they don’t have as long of a shelf life as some of the other options on this list. That said… 5 Years is still a long time. I wouldn’t buy a bunch of these for a primary food supply, but having some on hand in case of a bug out situation is a smart idea. They also don’t have the micro-nutrient profile of standard foods, so if you’re eating these eating these as a stand-alone food source you aren’t going to get the recommended amount of essential micro-nutrients. This isn’t going to affect you much over the short term, but if you’re using these stand alone over a long time you could run into some problems.
Just note that these bars are designed to be used as a 3 day emergency food supply, and you don’t have to worry about micro-nutrients over that short of a time period. Even still, it’s good to pair these with a multivitamin or the non-gmo essential vitamins and mineral tabs listed below.
Note: these are great to store in your car as a food source in case of emergencies as well. They withstand heat extremely well!
5. Non GMO Gluten Free Essential Minerals and Vitamins Tabs
These are great for a bug out bag or emergency food rations stockpile. The product is designed to provide the best possible nutrients with the smallest volume of food. Your body stores a lot of energy in the form of fat.
My point is that your body will draw on your natural emergency source (fat) if you aren’t eating enough calories to fuel your body. But… the body doesn’t store vitamins and minerals as well, particularly vitamins A, C, and E, which are water soluble. That’s why having a multivitamin or a food source with a good nutrient profile is a great idea.
Each order comes with 4 pouches with 24 tablets, which equals 96 tablets. There are 12 tabs per serving so each package is 2 servings. Each tab is 20 calories, which means there are 240 calories per serving and 480 per pouch. For anyone that is health conscious or has a gluten allergy these are perfect.
You can shop for or read reviews on The Survival Tabs here.
6. Canned Meats
When deciding on the best canned meats for your emergency food rations, consider how often are planning on eating and/or replacing your food supply. If you are looking to buy purely for emergency situations, I would recommend buying freeze dried cans of meat, the mountain house cans below are a good option.
Survival Cave Canned Meats
Survival Cave has some great canned meat supply options. Their cases of canned meat contain 12 cans of meat (28 ounces per can). Choose from beef, ground beef, pork, turkey, or chicken. The Bulk cans of meat are all natural, low fat, low sodium, low fat, and contain no preservatives. They are also USDA inspected and sourced in the USA, so you can rest assured you are buying safe and quality canned meat.
Kirkland Cans of Chicken
I’ve personally tried Kirland’s signature premium chunk chicken breast, so I can attest that it is delicious. Their cuts of meat are extremely lean and are packed in water. Each pack comes with six 12.5 ounce cans. They also sell cans of tuna. Which you can see in related products through the product link above.
Mountain House Diced Chicken (Recommended)
Mountain House makes some of the best canned meat for emergency situations and food reserves. It is freeze dried, so you will need to add water. These cans of chicken are top quality and backed by a 30-year taste guarantee. Each can contains 14 servings. It is perfect for camping or feeding large groups.
Kirkland Cans of Tuna
Kirkland has great cans of meat. This 6 pack of Albacore solid white tuna is great quality and packed in water. Each can is 7 ounces and is American heart certified. Tuna is known to be a great and healthy source of protein.
7. Sustainable Emergency Rations (Seeds and Such)
You might also want to buy some vegetable seeds like Potatoes, Squash, Carrots, Tomatoes, Apples, etc. Growing food yourself will expand your food rations and give you and your family a fresh food and sustainable food supply.
Here is a short list of some of your options. I will be writing a full non-perishable and sustainable emergency rations list soon.
Open Seed Vault makes a survival pack with 32 different seed types. You can read reviews or buy the Survival Garden here.
- Peanut Butter
- Vacuum Sealed Crackers
- Dried Fruit
- Granola Bars
- Powdered Milk
- Multi Vitamins
- Sports Drinks
- Trail Mix and Nuts
8. Freeze Dried Canned Meals (You Can Pick Your Favorites)
Canning is a food preservation method that seals food in an airtight container to prevent oxidation. Many people ask the question “what is the shelf life of canned food.” Well, the answer really depends on how the food is stored and what type of food it is. Generally, canned goods last between two and five years, but if you buy freeze dried canned food it can last for 30+ years. So if an emergency situation arises all you’ll have to do is get your emergency food rations and add water and enjoy.
Chili Mac with Beef
Chili Mac with Beef is a best-selling flavor from mountain house. Each can of food has 12 grams of protein and 31 grams of carbohydrates. It is a hearty and delicious made with real beef, macaroni noodles, and beans. Just add water.
Italian Style Pepper Steak
Italian pepper steak is another good flavor. It contains strips of beef, red peppers, yellow peppers, onions, and many other ingredients that give it a great taste.
Chicken Fried Rice
Mountain house sells some of the most nutritious canned food on the market and their chicken fried rice is no exception. It is packed with real chicken, rice, and vegetables to give the body energy and nutrition during emergency situations.
Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
Canned spaghetti is a simple dinner that is delicious, hearty, and filling. You can’t go wrong with this meal, which is why it is a best seller. I mean who wouldn’t like tender pasta with chunks of seasoned beef in a rich marinara sauce. Best of all, it’s fast and easy to prepare.
Rice and Chicken
If you’re looking to buy bulk canned food from mountain house, the rice and chicken is a flavor you can’t go from with. As I said before Mountain House makes some of the best freeze dried canned food on the market, and because it’s freeze dried the company backs it by a 30 year taste guarantee.
Beef Stroganoff with Noodles
Beef Stroganoff by mountain house is another good tinned food supply option. I’ve never personally tried this flavor, but it has hundreds of 5 star reviews, which you can read by clicking the image of the canned meal above.
Chicken Teriyaki with Rice
Chicken Teriyaki with rice and vegetables is a great tinned meal that can be prepared in less than 10 minutes, with no cleanup. Since it is dehydrated, all you will need to do is add water. It is packed with dehydrated vegetables, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, rice, and chicken.
Mexican Style Rice and Chicken
Mexican Style Rice and Chicken with tomato, peppers, and olives is a unique canned food flavor that is made with spicy rice, beans, olives and chicken for a “south of the border flavor.” For over 50 years Mountain House’s canned meals have been a favorite for campers, backpackers, and survival experts.
Mountain House also makes great freeze dried canned breakfast meals. The cans of tinned food contain hash browns, scrambled eggs, crumbled pork patties, peppers, and onions. This breakfast meal is good enough you might be eating it even if the emergency is just you’re not currently eating breakfast.
Granola with Milk and Blueberries
Mountain House Granola with Milk and Blueberries is a simple but great canned food meal that is packed with energizing dried fruit, fiber, unsaturated fats, and carbohydrates. Just add water and you’l have a nutritious breakfast in under 10 minutes.
Scrambled Eggs with Bacon
Mostly everyone likes scrambled eggs with bacon. One can contains thirteen servings, each serving containing 16 grams of protein. It’s a great way to feed an entire group while camping or just to have ready for emergency situations.
I listed this canned dessert last because it is a great addition to any meal. Mountain house raspberry crumble is a great sauced topped with chocolate cookie crumbles. It has hundreds of 5 star reviews and also has the 30 year taste guarantee
Other Considerations and Final Thoughts:
Here are some final things you might want to consider.
Cost Per Serving
Cost per serving is another thing to keep in mind when your buying emergency rations. To calculate the cost per serving, simply take the cost of the product divided by the number of services to get the cost per serving. I will try to list that next to each product for you.
While food might not be as high of a short term priority as water in an emergency situation, have a decent size stockpile will eliminate a lot of stress should something serious happen. Plus, you never know how long an emergency might last, so it’s smart to have at least a 3 day emergency food supply, but preferably a lot more.
Humans can survive longer than you might think without food. I mean, think about it, have you seen a fat guy that starved to death? Probably not. That’s because we humans naturally store calories on our bodies (in the form of fat). The reason it’s a good idea to stock up is because like I said above, you just never know what is going to happen.
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Corporal Wabo is a former Infantry Squad Leader with 3rd Bn 4th Marines that specialized in Mortars. In his free time, he enjoys hunting, hiking, running, shooting guns, and reviewing gear. He started this website while transitioning out of the Marines, and since has recruited several other Marines to help him work on the Marine Approved website. We are currently looking for former Marines to join the team who are interested in writing about tactical gear, survival gear, hiking supplies, etc. For more information about us or joining the team, check out the “About Us” tab.