FUELING YOURSELF IN AN EMERGENCY
by Shaun Partlow, PR CERT
There are many other choices and ideas on how to go about creating your disaster-supply kit. And, of course, there is much more to a good disaster kit that what I'll put here.
But here's a few tips and links for how I arranged food for my family in my disaster kit.
HOW TO FUEL YOURSELF: MREs
The MRE (short for "Meal Ready to Eat") are the main operational food ration for the United States Armed Forces. You can check out the MRE History page for more a more in-depth history of how MREs came to be, but the short version is that the c-rations and k-rations from World War II developed into the MCI (Meal, Combat, Individual) rations used in Korea and Vietnam. Then in 1980, the MRE was developed and became the primary ration for the US.
It is a totally self-contained complete meal. It includes numerous "courses" in addition to the main meal. Within every MRE is a chemical heating bag. By adding a skant few tablespoons of water, the heating bag will fully heat not only the entree but also water for a hot beverage and then can be slipped inside a vest of a pocket to warm yourself.
One MRE equals one meal for a fighting soldier, who has a much higher caloric need than your average person. Since the complete meal is usually around 2,000 calories, that is a full day’s caloric needs for the average woman who is not being physically active. Think of 2,500 for men.
If people will be active, ill, injured or pregnant, think more. No one would enjoy having only one meal a day, but they could do it. The entree and side dish can be heated and eaten as the main meal of the day (the heater only works once), then the dry sides (breads, peanut butter, crackers, cookies, jam, other desserts) can be eaten for the other parts of the day. The packaging of an MRE is designed to withstand rough conditions and exposure to the elements. Inside each MRE bag is an entree and a variety of other food and drink items.
My preferred vendor for MREs: LongLife Food: I avoid a similar product called A-pack.
I like LongLife Food because they will sell you all the individual components of an MRE, so you could order 1 MRE per person per day, and a bunch of packets of bread, crackers, jam, peanut butter and a whole bunch of other things people could eat during the day. All of it with the same long shelf life.
STORAGE TEMPERATURES FOR MREs and SHELF LIFE
90° F (32°C) — 55 months
80° F (27°C) — 76 months
70° F (21°C) — 100 months
60° F (15°C) — 130 months +
That is, as best I can tell, the official shelf life. They claim a shelf life of three to five years from purchase, regardless of production date. At our building’s temperature, near 70 degrees, the MREs would last over eight years from production according to this chart. I would be very comfortable five years after purchase from this vendor.
OTHER HANDY FOOD TIPS
Some good advice is to keep fiber supplements (which require water) or stool softeners on hand.
Some people also like freeze-dried food, such as Mountain House or other brands, usually found in camping stores. These have a flaw, though: You need water and a way to heat it, utensils, and there will be water needed for clean-up.
If you plan to cook food or heat water for dried food, simple, reliable, propane stoves such as Coleman’s and sufficient small propane canisters are recommended. Gas service may be cut off or you may need to shut off your gas in case of damage in an earthquake, so don’t assume your gas stove will be available. Likewise, there likely won’t be electricity for electric stoves.
Many people rely on the canned goods they have in the pantry. Many of those are safe to eat unheated but not very palatable. Also, consider need for clean-up and how much water that will take.
Protein bars and the like are doable, but tend to have rather short shelf-lives, so you need to be on top of checking that. I suspect this would also be the most expensive route due to their cost and needing to be replaced so often.