What's the shelf life.

Posted by: chaz

What's the shelf life. - 05/14/08 03:09 PM

I'm thinking of stocking up on dehydrated meals like Bpackers pantry, Mt. house etc. I plan to use for upcoming trips but also want to keep several on hand for emergencies. What is the shelf life on those products? And what is the shelf life on MREs?

Thanks in advance to people in the know.
Posted by: cwmoore

Re: What's the shelf life. - 05/14/08 04:10 PM

The largest factor seems to be the temp where they are stored. If you can keep them refrigerated or very cool, like under 60 deg, MRE's are up to 7 years, I'd expect dehydrated even longer. I'm not sure about freeze dried, probably similar to dehydrated.

But if in heat, like your car trunk, MRE's 6 months., if that... and as you probably already know, some are inedible when brand new !! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" />
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: What's the shelf life. - 05/14/08 05:43 PM

You should be able to find an expiration date on the package. The quality may be less after this date but still be usable. Fats go rancid and will make things taste bad. Walnuts seem to be quite sensitive. Almonds less so. On one trip a friend ate 2-year past-date Raman noodles and got sick. Cool, dry and dark is the best for storage. Under these conditions you could easily eat stuff past its expiration date. Also, grains (rice and such) tend to get weavils when stored a long time. Once you break the seal on freeze dried food (such as sealed containers of f.d. fruit that I buy at Whole Foods) it quickly absorbs moisture.

My rule of thumb is to get new food at the beginning of each backpack season. I do not keep emergency food in my car due to the potential for bears to tear into my car.
Posted by: sarbar

Re: What's the shelf life. - 05/14/08 07:43 PM

FD meals have a very, very long shelf life unopened. Most have 5-7 years from manufacture date. So read the date and all is good. FD meals are low in fat as well - so they don't go rancid in storage.
Posted by: Fiddleback

Re: What's the shelf life. - 05/15/08 06:19 AM

A few days ago I was tempted to post in the 'what's your worse meal' thread. This thread gets me a two-for-one.

I can say from experience that the shelf life is somewhat under 20 years. I 'inherited' a couple cases of freeze-dried (not dehydrated) food that was probably 20 years old, but maybe as old as 30, and took a package on a trip. That was the first mistake. The second mistake was eating it.

While I didn't suffer any of the more acute, classic symptoms of food poisoning, I did suffer. I know the food's storage history wasn't an issue (low temps, low humidity)...maybe the packaging failed. In any case, I ended up with years and years-worth of backpacking meals that I couldn't trust. And a very special memory of my first ever solo... <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" />

These days I stick to my own dehydrated meals...usually made from reserved portions of the week's meals and dried just days before a trip.

Posted by: chaz

Re: Thanks for the info. - 05/15/08 07:44 AM

Thanks all for the info. The reasons that I asked was 1. I have eaten several Mt. house meals etc and didn't read the label as far as the date. 2. When I mean emergency, I was referring to a major catastrophy like an earth quake. With all that happening around the world and me living on a major fault line, I thought it a good idea to get some things together. 3. I tried to dehydrate some food an failed to the point that I wouldn't eat the stuff. Couldn't even get bananas to co-operate. The only thing I had success with was apples. And too much work and fuss to deal with. Plus my POS dehydrator went in the trash. 4. Mt. house and Bpackers pantry meals are good compared to eating mac and cheeze more than once on an outing. It's ok for a side dish but not for me when I'm hiking, camping and trying to enjoy myself. Decent meals and a way to prepare them are to me, the main thing that caps off a great day. (along with a taste of burbon). <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />
Posted by: Fiddleback

Re: Thanks for the info. - 05/15/08 05:23 PM

That's how I ended up with the 10 to 20 year old food (forget the the 30 year estimate above...you know how early morning arithmetic is...) -- there were cases of stuff put away for an 'emergency'. Of course, the one doing the preparing never understood that such a drastic emergency (or civil strife) would probably shut down the water supply and, without a bunch of water similarly stored for an emergency, the freeze dried food wasn't going to be very tasty.

Posted by: BarryP

Re: What's the shelf life. - 05/16/08 09:15 AM

Expiration dates always seem to be longer than I store food.
I think it is wise to have a year supply of food storage. However, I also think it is wise to have the food be eaten within a year and thus have a rotating-food storage. This has the following benefits:
1. Fresher (meaning – not 5 years old) just tastes better.
2. When strapped for cash, I have a buffer of food storage to hold me through. This is one less thing to worry about during a job loss.
3. Only stock when sales happen; thus food storage lowers the food bill.
4. Hopefully I can get my storage during a tornado or earthquake <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif" alt="" />.
5. No traffic-infested-people-packed-last-minute shopping before an upcoming storm.
6. Since I/we (family) only store what we LIKE, AND rotate we don’t have to experience an intestine-laden diet change. I see people buy a year’s supply of wheat and never use it. Their digestive systems will be surprised when they finally do! BTW, I haven’t bought white or wheat flour for >15 years. We just grind our own wheat (called white wheat) to make our breads/cookies. The neighbors swear we use store bought-WHITE flour. That stuff is bad for you! We don’t mix store flour and freshly ground flour; that’s bad! Yet, the neighbors still don’t believe we ONLY use fresh-ground flour (grind it on the spot). Our only sweeteners are black-strap molasses and/or honey. White sugar is useless.
7. Peace of mind.

If I see a good deal on dehydrated food, I don’t think “Wow! That is so cheap I’m going to buy 10 years of it!”. I will save money by just buying 1 year worth. I will find a good deal the following year. Thus my food storage stays rotated and fresh. If the only way I can get a good deal is to buy 10 years worth, then I coop with my neighbors to get it split up.

Good luck with your expiration dates! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />

Posted by: chaz

Re: Thanks for the info. - 05/16/08 05:55 PM

I'm hip to rotating stock so it doesn't go bad. I also store water and rotate it every other month. Is that to long?
Posted by: Fiddleback

Re: Thanks for the info. - 05/16/08 06:28 PM

Not at all, IMO. You probably have bleach in your home...that can take care of virtually all the beasties that might develop in previously potable, but long-stored, water. Further, as a backpacker, you probably have filters or chemical treatments you can use on water you're not confident about. Add your camp stove and fuel for boiling water and you've got multiple methods to provide clean water at home should the municipal source or the well go out...as long as you've stored water in the first place. Given the reliability of my electric co-op you can bet I've got dozens of gallons stored plus the pond, horse troughs, toilet tanks, etc.

Backpackers are extremely well set to 'rough it' at home. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />

Posted by: kevonionia

Re: What's the shelf life. - 05/16/08 08:01 PM


Great tips. After having been thru several hurricanes & hurricane scares and seeing that mob hysteria at the stores, having a stash of food is not a bad idea.

Say you had that year's supply of rice onhand, you'll have missed the insanity at the store of the rice hording in the past month.

Interesting news tip here in South Florida is the collective local governments' announcement that they won't be doling out ice or cases of 12oz. bottled waters the day after a 'cane, like they did in '05 after even minimal Wilma. Instead, they spent the money helping fund all grocery stores down here getting generators, so these yahoos that got in line THE NEXT DAY after the 'cane can do what they SHOULD be doing -- BUYING the stuff they had neglected to purchase beforehand. A shockingly enlighted policy change.

Now that I've got the nice A/C storage unit, I've got a place to keep that supply of properly packaged foods -- bought at a discount as you suggest -- that I can store next to my down sleeping bags hanging in their new cotton-sheet cassocks.

I've got a question: Did you grow that wheat? Or buy it, uh, recently thrashed?? I get this pic of you with this grist mill with a big stone wheel run by a windmill grinding wheat like I saw in GSMNP -- how exactly do you do it?
Posted by: chaz

Re: Thanks for the info. - 05/17/08 03:52 AM

Yes, I also have several sources of water. Besides storing, there is always the toilet tank. When I mentioned that to my non-camping (much less bpacking) wife. They thought it was gross. They would or will be happy when I filter clean water from the many sources that are available. As far as the runs on the stores, this whole idea of being prepared is my point exactly. I'm sure most people think they are resourseful and think in an emergency everything will work out. That's why I want to put together a decent, well thought out kit that people can use. KISS is the key. Pictographs, instructions, whatever it takes to show them how to use the equipment and supplies properly. Another key will be relative comfort in a bad situation. Of course, that means being able to get to your stash.
Posted by: NiytOwl

Re: What's the shelf life. - 05/18/08 04:49 PM

Regarding long-term freeze-dried food storage: As long as the bag remains hermetically sealed, the real enemy of FD food is oxygen. The packaging is supposed to block oxygen, but it's not perfect. Most FD food should be edible up to 10 years, but it may not taste very good. I would throw out anything older than 15 years - at that point, enough oxygen has penetrated the bag to cause some really off flavors. Even if there is nothing biologically wrong with the food, psychologically it will make you ill. It's like being asked to eat cooked worms - nothing in the worms will make you sick, but you may chuck because of the idea of eating worms, along with the unusual taste , texture, and smell. Eating rancid fat shouldn't make you sick (it's just oxidized fats), but the smell won't be pleasant, and tells your brain "this is spoiled".

Regarding long-term water storage: If the water is pure (reverse osmosis water should qualify) it lacks the nutrients necessary for organisms to grow. Now put that in a non-reactive container (like a 5-gallon water bottle) and seal the cap on. It's good for as long as the bottle and its seal remain intact. For emergency use, I suggest digging a hole and burying one for each family member - safe from earthquakes, tornados, fires, and hurricanes (same treatment for at least one 5-gallon bucket full of FD food, then another bucket for whatever else you may need - first aid supplies, home protection gear, tarps for temporary shelter, etc.). A stash in your home does you no good if the structure has fallen down, burned, or been washed/blown away. You may not want to go this far - in that case, spread it around - some in the home, some in the yard, some in the shed. Then hope at least one location remains accessible.

If you have access to some land outside the city, consider repeating this caching exercise there too. It never hurts to have TWO family meeting places. If you can't get to the first one (it's on fire, people are rioting, etc.) you can go to the secondary spot and still have enough supplies to last a few weeks.

If Hurricane Katrina taught me anything, it's that you really need at least two weeks worth of supplies - and preferably a month's - because relief supplies may be slow in coming (roads destroyed, airport destroyed, docks destroyed). The hardest part is coming up with the $500 or so that it costs to put the initial supplies together. After that you just replace the food every few years - use the old stuff for camping while it's still good. The water can be left there forever. I hear it takes over 300 years for a 5-gallon bottle to decompose.... <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />
Posted by: BarryP

Re: What's the shelf life. - 05/19/08 09:11 AM

“Did you grow that wheat? Or buy it, uh, recently thrashed?? I get this pic of you with this grist mill with a big stone wheel run by a windmill grinding wheat like I saw in GSMNP -- how exactly do you do it?”

<img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
For the last 3 years we have been using this: http://beprepared.com/product.asp_Q_pn_E_FP%20M560_A_name_E_Wonder+Mill+Wheat+Grinder
Before that we used a unit that sounded like a jet engine, the Kitchen Mill Grain Grinder. It ran beautifully for about 10 years and then died.

I have two places to get wheat.
1) at http://waltonfeed.com/cart/all.html#8 . We coop with our church to get the shipping costs down (17¢/lb).
2) if you want to cut the cost of a 25lb bag from $22 down to $7, let me know and I’ll let you know of another coop that’s based in your area on “who you know” in Florida. It will take some phone calling on your part and maybe a 3-6 month wait for the wheat to arrive. Then you will have to drive to one of 4 centers in Florida to pick it up.

It’s a whole new world--- grinding our own flour like our ancestors did (with electricity of course!). mmm, I’m eating a chocolate chip cookie right now whose flour was just freshly ground 10 minutes before putting it in the batter.

Also, when you start cooking with fresh-ground whole wheat flour and/or use honey instead of sugar, there are some minor adjustments that need to be made to white-flour recipes so the result will still come out good.

Just something to think about … <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />