Emergency Food Kits – The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

Guest article, by ‘NRP’

First let’s start by knowing that I’m not here to “Bash or Trash” the Emergency Food Kit industry, nor am I attempting to discourage ANYONE from storing a supply of foods, among other preparedness needs.

I am going to point out some ideas on Food Storage “Buckets” that may substitute the Industrialized “Emergency Food Kits”, or as I like to call them, ‘Food Buckets’.


The Good

They are fast easy and cheap, a No-Brainer. One can purchase a months’ worth of “food” for around $80 per person. AND if you’re not a Prepper, you’ll have that warm fuzzy feeling you did at least ‘Something’, right?

They will (should) last, in proper storage, for many MANY years, 10-20 years, longer than I’ll be around that’s for sure, Sure hope the Nephew likes em……

Most of the meals are very easy to prepare with little or no Kitchen Equipment. Some, aka MREs, are completely self-contained just need a little water.

You can get a HUGE variety of Prepared Meal and ingredients for basically any style of meal you can think on.

I would bet that most have a reasonable Calorie Count, boosting somewhere around 2000-C per day.

Availability now-a-days is GREAT, seems you see them everywhere, and a LOT more advertisement on the Radio (they trying to tell us all something?)

( Search ‘Emergency Food Kits’ on Amazon )

One very nice thing, if you need to ‘GOOD’ fast, this is something you can just toss a few buckets in the old F-350 and head out. Hoping of course that Ford Starts…..


The Bad

Salt, and I do mean SALT!!!! Everyone I have tried and I have tried many, the Salt content is literally overwhelming. Now let’s be clear here, I do eat salt and add a little to a nice BBQ’ed Steak, but OMG guys, cut back on the NaCl.

I find the lack of flavor a little disappointing in most, maybe it’s the overpowering salt?

Many I have found have a very “pasty” taste and texture, seems maybe a lot of some type of filler they use to increase volume of the product.

The packaging on 99% is very good, I have had some (4 or 5) damaged when I popped the box from the Factory, not a good thing if your depending on this to survive.


The Ugly

Honestly, I would bet that maybe MAYBE 5% of the Country has a Bucket or two in their home. This is NOT good. Heck FEMA says 3 days, and a Bucket is 30 days????

People are so wacked out these days, if someone sees you have a couple of buckets of food stored you get labeled as “One of Those” and ridiculed as a Prepper. Additionally those will be the same ones beating down your door WTSHTF.

The .gov will also mark you as a Survivalist and a Terrorist for storing and preparing for yourself. Look up the Patriot Act.

Again so many of the uninformed believe that FEMA and TPTB will be there for them, you’re betting you and your families lives on it. Are you really that sure?

Ok, remember the saying “Store what you eat and Eat what you store”? I’m betting that 99.99% of you that have these ‘Food Buckets’ have never eaten a month’s worth of this stuff….. Need I say more?


Ok, a few suggestions;

Go ahead and get a few of these, I will not suggest any particular brand (I prefer Augason Farms). Having some will assure at least “some” food in the house and ya can always barter the Wise Buckets for some TP if needed.

OK, here ya go, Look up on the net ‘Meals in a Jar’, remember “Store what you eat and eating what you store?” Why not build your own ‘Buckets’ with food that you will actually eat?

Related cookbook: Meals in a Jar

Now before ya go nuts and say “When your hungry you will eat that Rat on a Stick” but really??? Is that your answer for your Family? Are you telling me you can take a day and build 10 buckets with food that will last for years for the ones you love?

Seriously, I know most here have 500 pounds of Beans, 1000 pounds of Rice and a few dried peas stored up, right?

Rice & Beans – A Survival Combination

How about building some quick Grab-N-Go buckets of food that you can be proud of?

FYI, take a good hard look at the Picture I have below, Is that you standing there stranded and worrying how you’re going to get tonight’s dinner on the table? OR if the stores will be open to even get food?

Just my 2¢ worth.

How To Make A Survival Kit


  1. I make my own 5 gallon buckets for most staples. Orange bucket, lid, mylar bag, hand warmer pack. Hand warmers will consume available O2. I purchased a CO2 tank and regulator used for bar soda dispenser. CO2 is heavier than air. I flood dry ingredients from bottom of bucket to flush out O2 add the hand warmer pack and seal it up. You can test a successful flood using a cigarette lighter.

    1. Good plan on flushing the bucket but what kind of lids are you using? If using the regular lid the seal might not be as intact as you would like. I’ve thought of doing something similar. Anaerobic bacteria thrive on CO2. Nitrogen might be better. I’ve thought about rigging a paintball tank for flushing the bag with nitrogen. Nitrogen paintball tanks are available on eBay and I presume Amazon. Truthfully though I don’t know much about paintball. Is pure nitrogen used in the tanks or is it a mixed gas? I did rig a military surplus one man raft to inflate with a 9 ounce paintball CO2 tank for use on my fishing boat.

      For years I’ve been harping about truth in advertising on the buckets. It used to be the label would proudly proclaim 90 servings. Then in small print you would find that the serving contained 250 calories of carbs. Heavy on potatoes, oatmeal and rice, not so much on the protein.

      Now most of them are more honest on how many days you can eat on the from the bucket but from my comparisons on the different meals most of us them going to leave you on a less than desirable amount of calories for anything other than a very sedentary life.

      When you have adequate carbs and inadequate protein the body “steals” the protein from muscle. We’ve all seen the pictures of survivors of concentration camps. Don’t be that kind of survivor. Store plenty of protein to supplement those “survival buckets”.

  2. Okay, I’ll add my .02 cents here. We don’t store lots of prepared foods, most we just don’t care for the taste. We do have some Mountain House cans of various meals that I had purchased some 20 years ago. Currently we are in our own SHTF scenario, so we have been living off of our stores. Having to cook everyday, spending as much as 4 hours in the kitchen some days can really wear on a person. I love to cook, its my passion. However there were some days where I just didn’t have the energy to spend a large portion of my day in the kitchen. Those Mountain House meals were a God send. Just add hot water, wait 5 minutes, and dinner is served. Granted Mountain House is not in our regular rotation as it can be a bit pricey. In my opinion worth every penny, and will increase our Mountain House meals once we are back on sound financial ground. Imagine that your household is getting over a bad case of the flu, people are now hungry but no one has the energy to cook. Yes we do have lots of soups that can just be opened, heated and served, however sometimes you just don’t want soup.

  3. We have the 72 hour packs in our BOB’s in both vehicles. Last year we replaced them with fresh units. Told the wife we should open one up and live on it for a few days to see if it would work out. Second meal she announced she now plans on eating dirt to get back home. We also opened a #10 can of Mountain House and after the first meal the dog got to finish off the rest. “The new plan” is she will cook all the normal food in cans and buckets first. Than when we are real hungry we start on the M.H. followed by the MREs and finish with the 72hrs. packs. My plan is to keep my mouth shut and do as I’m told by the cook.

    1. Dirt, funny!!! Yep I feel that way about MRE’s. We opened some sort of Mexican flavored meal when Mr’s grandson was here (GS eats most anything) dirt would be better!

      1. Gee, I like MREs. I really liked C rations. In Korea we (USMC) used to steal Cs from the Army; they were that good, especially the limas and ham.

  4. Your photos above of the huge traffic jam, reminds me of what I had considered when I’ve seen similar on news after/during some huge evacuation.
    In addition to suggestions above in article, a person should devise some sort of emergency kit/food kit specifically for above type traffic jam situation. — Put inside some sort of container/bag which will not be obvious from the folks in the vehicle next to you. —Something to cover/shield your car windows from inside if you need to manage a call of nature inside vehicle, or even just because you are tired of the folks in next vehicle “looking in”. (some of the emergency evac traffic jams go on for hours and hours). High Calorie/High density/Maybe even high salt (likely hot in car and sweating a lot, so lots of salt loss) in small individual packs to easily eat in car/crowded car. Supplies for some type of inside car “nature calls”/sanitary supplies/emergency med supplies. —Something to amuse /distract you/kids/others a bit in case you are stuck there for eight hours.

    1. – Anon –
      Your comment made me think of my wife’s comment after she made her last of two annual flights to Pennsylvania. Her return flight had fairly severe turbulence and the staff were not able to serve drinks or food on the flight. “You’re going to have to replace the peanut butter crackers from the bag you keep putting in my car!” LOL. Since her car is little (a Chevy Spark), she has a *small* GHB that stays under the passenger seat. (That way she doesn’t take it out because it’s taking up her trunk space.)
      – Papa S.

      1. – Correction – Not a “GHB”, an “emergency kit”. LOL.
        – Papa

      2. Grin..well, those little packs are ideal if one were stuck for hours I traffic…Yup, better get a case, grin.

    2. Anon;
      I agree with you on the “evacuation” comment.
      Been hearing stories of what’s going on right now in N-CA with the fires and the evacuations there.
      Can you imagine not even having a bottle of water in the vehicle trying to get out when 50,000 others are doing the same thing?
      Worst “traffic jam” I have heard of was in China some tie back, lasted for literally 9 days till they got the roads cleared.

      1. NRP….hadn’t heard about the nine day China evac, but heard of two and three day ones, both in U.S. and Canada— seen these on the news. Us lucky folks “just watching” on the news were all wondering what the heck folks were doing to manage food/toilet/water. Most (all) of the situations did not have bushes by the road. Tough spot to be in.

  5. I went with Valley Food Storage for my emergency food. I have been happy with the price and quality. It is good enough I rotate through it when I go camping.

    I also keep a pantry and rotate through the supplies there too. I rely on freeze dried foods as well in the pantry. Freeze dried produce is amazing, especially for me because I live a remote region which does not have access to every type of produce at all times.

    My diet variety has improved considerably because of freeze dried produce.

  6. I tried the S.O.S food labs bars. Got them off Amazon during the Prime day sale. I wanted to see what they tasted like. Horrible. In a survival situation they would not keep you full, yet they have tons of calories. Best bet is to have beef jerky, nuts, or something like that. That was like eating chalk with sugar sprinkled in. Very crumbly. Also when you open it the package, all of them are in a thin plastic wrapper. So the rest will need to be put in something. Don’t use these in your BOB.
    Its was a bad impulse buy.

    1. The jerky I see at Costco has a relatively use by date, a year or less. I would think jerky would have a long shelf date, why doesn’t it. It’s also pretty pricey, $10-15 a bag…

      1. Jerky: , Repack in oxygen free pint. that problem is fixed.
        Most foods have a short shelf life, got to keep people only buying what they want for the moment… and keep their profits up. $$$$$

        1. Yes and the packaging is a thin layer thus letting in air. Also the nitrates in some meat products will help keep it. Although nitrates are not so good for us won’t matter if we are hungry.

  7. A few points in favor of freeze dried foods
    – take up less space than traditionally canned or frozen foods
    – weigh much less without the water/moisture
    – retain the color and flavor of the food better than dehydrated food

    but the best is that long term storage is possible without having to worry about temperature control – this is of particular importance to those of us in the frozen north part of the country.

    I do agree that the best food source for variety, flavor, nutrition, … is that year-round garden and the livestock on the hoof – the lifestyle that our friend NRP advocates. Unfortunately, this is not possible for many to achieve for physical or financial reasons, so I am glad there are the emergency food options available by the bucket or home freeze drier.

    1. Some of these benefits of freeze dried foods could be very advantageous when faced with having to bug out due to emergencies like the terrible fires. Just throw some into the truck, RV, car or bike carrier and not have to worry about spoilage. Find that nice river away from danger, pull out your water filtration device and live well without having to go to an urban area for supplies.

  8. – I have to agree with Texasgirl; the lifeboat rations are not things to write home about. They will, however, keep, despite extremes of heat or cold, so there are two in both vehicles under the back seat.
    DW’s bag contains an original Leatherman tool; two packs of kleenex, two packs of jerky, 4 Clif bars, an all-in-one glucometer the size of a pill bottle (DW is type 2 diabetic); a small fishing kit; a roll of picture wire, a 1″ roll of silver tape, and a Mylar Poncho.

    There is a large first aid kit under the driver’s seat with water purification tabs in it. and in the very bottom of the bag a Lifestraw. Both vehicles generally have several water bottles (She has gotten really good at keeping those in her car!) ; Oh, and some peanut butter crackers!

    She does EDC a small flashlight, a Swiss Army Classic pocketknife in her purse and a few other items which she has learned to keep on her, like any good mom does.

    She has a Ruger LC9; I cannot get her to keep it with her reliably, but there is a little Jennings .22 LR under the seat where it will be available should she go looking for it, along with a 50-round box of Mini-Mags.

    That’s what is in a little GHB, if you were wondering. I have to keep it distributed to keep it in her vehicle.

    – Papa S.

  9. I’ve been thinking about adding freeze dried to my stash, this article comes at a great time! I’ve been wondering which brand tastes best and had almost bought in to Wise Buys. I’ve had MH years ago and it was OK, but “years ago” was around 40 years and I’m sure they’ve improved some by now, plus my taste buds have developed I’m sure. :)

    1. Rob;
      I would suggest purchasing a pack or two of each Brand.
      Do a serious side by side comparison….. there is a LOT of differences in them all.
      After all, we all are different, I like Gin, Ken drinks Rock Gut Bourbon, so just because I like Augason Farms, you may like Wise…..

    2. Rob, what I did find about Wise is the quality of their meat products make sure to read the ingredients. Not always real meat especially the chicken. Also look and see what each supplier considers a serving to be. An ounce is not much even with some water added.
      I found that most of the freeze dried mfgs items have a lot of sauce in the product. Now I will add my 2 cents. Wise would be the last on my list to purchase. This comes from my personal investigations and eating it. But some is better than none!!!

        1. Thank you all who chimed in! I believe some side by side comparisons will be beneficial and prudent! Also, the meal kits that are sold seem to be filled with “fluff” like powdered drink mix, soup, things like that. Granted in a SHTF scenario anything that you can stomach will be appreciated, but I’d rather stock up on actual items to make a meal as opposed to kits with items that aren’t really needed or necessary.

  10. Thanks for the article NRP!

    I never travel without quick and easy snacks, plenty of water and a portable potty with all the “necessities”. I also carry a good supply of freeze-dried. I like to use individual ingredients so I can avoid all the salt in the “just add water” meals. With that being said, I don’t think I would want to pull out my stove and cook up dinner in the situation depicted in the photo either.

    I keep several pantry sized cans of freeze-dried fruits (pineapple is my favorite), green peas, corn, etc. because these are all delicious straight out of the can. The freeze-dried instant beans are also good to keep around, but you need hot water for those. I have purchased freeze dried individual items of fruit, vegetables, meats from different companies and they are all pretty comparable.

    I do have a couple of food buckets (company name withheld) and the food is awful. I will save those for the very end… Beach’n

  11. Beach’n is right. Freeze dried can also be eaten right then and there. Would need some liquid though. Like I said before I cook all of my food before it goes in the freeze dryer.

    1. Mrs. USMCBG,
      “Beach’n is right” :D I’m showing this to my husband!

  12. I don’t buy much in the way of ‘kits’. I buy fruits, veggies, cheese, milk. However I do like the soups from Valley Foods. Good taste and no chemicals. At least the ones that I have are all real food and spices. I have a few of the MH packages that are a couple of servings and I thought that they are just ok.

  13. Auguson Farms is pretty good. EFoods Direct is also fairly good but some is a little salty. EFoods does have a good variety of different stuff. Also get a lot from the LDS pantry store. Their stuff is the most basic, but generally is freeze dried foods with little to no additives. I agree with most others on Wise Foods, VERY SALTY.

    We break into the freeze dried stuff every so often. Usually for a quick camping meal.

  14. I just store and rotate our family’s “normal” food. While many items (like tuna fish) have long dates, other needed items like milk do not. Since we love us some sourdough pancakes in the morning, we do have several cans of Auguson Farms powdered milk, and for eggs, I go outside and rob chicken nests. Do not forget beans and rice can be boring, so consider storing goodies like nuts, pantry size jars of M&Ms, large Club size Lemonade and Hot Chocolate mixes that just needs water, oh, and don’t forget to rotate and enjoy.

  15. We starting years ago by ordering a sampling of freeze dried meals to try and found them to be way to salty for us. So we started getting the freeze dried vegetables and fruits that we like to eat. Now we can cook the meals we like to eat and control the salt. Also, I haven’t read all the comments yet and somebody else might have mentioned it but some of the items that we purchase from Emergency Essentials only had a 5 year shelf life and we only got 3 years out of them before they went bad. I think it was the cornbread muffin mix and the pancake mix both had a leveling agent in them. When we contacted them about it they did nothing to help. Even though the description at the time said good for 20 years. Oh well our loss. Live and learn. My point is that not everything last and you need to have a back up plan and visit your supply’s to make sure all is well. Sorry if this has already been discussed. We also have cases of food from the store for short term and are starting to can more.

  16. Well NRP while you are right that I never lived 30 days on a 30 day bucket neither have I tried to live 30 days on my canned food storage or just the beans, rice , wheat and spices either I do eat all of these at times though for me eating canned veggies is rare as I just don’t like my veggies mushy. I have a couple of buckets and packages of the freeze dried foods and while they aren’t my favorite thing to eat I have tried them and they are edible . As to the salt I would have to agree with you but then I would most likely be using these as a base and adding other ingredients like rice,pasta veggies ect just like I do with things like the bear creek soups I store. if it ever happens that I would need to live off my storage I think anything would be good for variety..

  17. I’ve purchased the MH kits when they go on sale at Costco. Most family members now have them in their cars and homes. Tried the biscuits and gravy with a DFM recently. Not bad.
    Rotation of regular food is a bit difficult as am stocking up for more than currently live here. Figure I’ll keep about four months’ worth of store-bought on hand and fill out the rest of the storage with FD and other LTS items.
    Had the opportunity a few years back to test out quite a bit of FD stuff so do know what we like and will eat.
    Hoping for the best and preparing, as time and resources allow, for the other.

  18. Good piece NRP,
    For most of us this is just a reminder,,,
    I personally havent got many pre made buckets of anything,
    Most of my food is stuff i eat anyway, and lately been sorta gutsy and filled up the freezers,

    Heres a quote from you,

    “People are so wacked out these days, if someone sees you have a couple of buckets of food stored you get labeled as “One of Those” and ridiculed as a Prepper. Additionally those will be the same ones beating down your door WTSHTF.

    The .gov will also mark you as a Survivalist and a Terrorist for storing and preparing for yourself. Look up the Patriot Act.”

    Ive said it before,
    Ill say it again,
    Sorry to all yall who say live to fight another day but anyone who thinks they are going to take anything, are in for a world o hurt, i aint kidding around, ill burn the whole thing to the ground with me in it before i start feeding a bunch of unprepared idgits, and or handing anything over to a buncha gov goons, they can all kiss my arse,,,,,
    Sorry, just the way its going to be.

    1. Has anyone tried Numanna? NRP one of these days you’re going to have to tell us what you really think 😊

  19. Hey NRP,
    Just curious. Was the rough draft of this article done on Charmin or one of the cheaper brands of TP? Shouldn’t be wasting that emergancy stock of TP on something like writing.
    Just kidding. Good article.

  20. I understand that too much sodium in your diet is unhealthy. However, shouldn’t we stock pile as much as possible to use as a food preserver if we lose power long term? What do you all think?

    1. Absolutely. Too much sodium is bad. Starvation is much worse………..

    2. SCprepper, At several times in history Salt was an important barter item. There was a saying my Grandma used… It was…” that person is not worth the salt that goes in his bread!” It is something everyone must have in their system, without enough sodium and potassium, the basic electrolytes your heart can not beat properly. When you stock up on salt be sure to get the potassium as well It is the ingredient in “NO-Salt” or “Nu-Salt.”..it is commonly used in rehydration formulas… very useful when working out in the heat.
      If we wish to live and be able to have strength to do to maintain our lives and family… then Yes! we need lots of salt. Have you salted down a hide to fletch it? Have you processed chickens in a salt water and ice bath to pull out any residual body fluids.? Do you like ice cream… even with no grid down You need to have lots of salt on hand at all times… as long as the only ingredient in the container is salt it will work,forr processing meat. tho may need to be broken up more with a hammer…( or rock). The pool salt sold in pool supply sections/stores is a name brand , look at the bag, only one thing in it…..salt. several bags per family would be a good investment. store it in a bucket/container that is rodent/moisture proof and do not add an oxygen absorber..
      Also consider easily absorbable forms of magnesium, like mag cittrate, zinc, calcium…and some of oil based vitamins… K2, coQ10, Vitamin D3 (2000-10,000 per day, less sun= more need.) Vitamin C, B complex.. some kind of Iron supplement to be taken separate from all other vitamins.

    3. scprepper

      You are correct on salt. In a shtf salt will indeed be very useful and highly valued.. If you are a young person, good thought process. If you are more mature thanks for the mention. Lots of young folks are unaware of the value of salt for just the reason you stated.

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