There's a lot of wisdom to the saying "hope for the best but prepare for the worst." And it is especially pertinent if you live in an area prone to extreme weather patterns, for example.
Far from the preserve of hard-core preppers and survivalists, emergency foods are a smart thing to keep in your home just in case you find yourself in one of those "just in case" situations. In a rapidly changing world facing some dramatic changes, it doesn't hurt to practice a little preparedness.
With that in mind, we took a look at six of the best emergency food supply companies. If you're stocking the cellar and you need freeze-dried goods that last, here are your go-tos:
Our Top Emergency Food Brands
1. Survival Frog
- Best Match For: Outdoor enthusiasts looking for quality gear, shelf-stable foods you can buy in bulk, and any other item you may need for camping or survival in the wilderness.
- Commitment Level: One time orders; Subscription
- Availability: Everywhere in the US
- Value: Survival Frog has an excellent selection of outdoor and camping gear, survival equipment, cooking and water storage equipment, and shelf-stable foods. If you are looking for the best value, you can join their club and get 15% off all orders, free shipping, and exclusive gifts. All orders over $75 receive free shipping to the contiguous US.
- Type: Everything you need for camping and outdoor survival
Unlike many of the other companies we review here, Survival Frog sells survival food from a varied mix of brands.
So on their website you'll find products from Legacy Food Storage, Mountain House, Backpackers Pantry and others.
While this does make it somewhat trickier to just order from one company in bulk, it's a boon when it comes to mixing things up a bit.
After all, eating only one brand's free-dried foods could be a little boring if the worst happens and you're living on emergency foods.
2. Legacy Food Storage (Editor's Choice)
- Best match for: Families who also want to prepare for their pets' welfare.
Legacy Food Storage offers savvy shoppers survival food containers for a range of time periods. But it's not only the human family members who are taken care of.
The company is unique as it also produces emergency food for pets — great news for fur parents who wouldn't dream of excluding their pets in a worst-case scenario.
Each pre-packet Legacy emergency food bucket contains between 60 and a whopping 4320 servings.
The latter is enough to feed one person three meals per day for four years.
Alternatively, you can order your long-term food items individually or in smaller quantities.
3. Mountain House
- Best match for: Survival food with a lengthy pedigree.
More than 50 years ago Mountain House was making free-dried survival food for the US Special Forces.
With this pedigree, you know you're dealing with a company that knows emergency food inside and out.
The company's products are often considered backpacker foods, but Mountain House also makes dedicated emergency food options.
For example, the two-week emergency food supply offers up a generous 1,436 calories per day and you'll need just 60 cups of water to prepare all the meals in this kit.
- Best match for: Customers after a one-stop survival shop.
BePrepared doesn't limit itself to just freeze-dried emergency food, the online shop also offers plenty of other items such as emergency water, first aid supplies, and gear.
That's not to say that its food offerings are not noteworthy, on the contrary, BePrepared stocks a huge range of Quality Survival Standard (QSS) foods.
Choose from 21 day, 1 month, 3 month, 6 month and 1-year emergency food packs.
Each is packaged in such a way as to increase food storage shelf life and eliminate oxygen, which can spoil long-term food.
5. AlpineAire Foods
- Best match for: Smaller emergency food kits that boast fantastic flavor.
AlpineAire might not be as well known on the preparedness scene as some of the heavy hitters we've looked at so far, but that doesn't mean the company's mini survival packs should be written off.
Not everyone is able to purchase in bulk, and not every company that offers bulk purchase offers payment plans.
Additionally, large packs don't suit hikers and adventure junkies after emergency food for expeditions.
Here, you can choose between standard and vegetarian seven-day survival food packs. There is also a three-day meal kit available.
Eat three servings (three pouches) for your survival standard of 1200 calories per day.
6. Ready Wise
- Best match for: Long-term food bundles in varying sizes.
You may recognize Ready Wise, formally known as The Wise Company, as the company rebranded recently.
What hasn't changed is its focus on a huge range of free-dried and dehydrated emergency foods.
Choose between packs containing 120 servings up to a huge 4320 servings.
Or if you're after a smaller amount, try the company's Starter Kits which contain a more modest 52 to 170 servings depending on your choice.
Meals are packed into food storage bins that ensure freshness and optimal shelf life.
Preparing each meal is a matter of simply adding one cup of water.
Emergency Food is Not Just for Preppers
There's a common assumption that long-term freeze-dried and dehydrated foods are primarily created for hardcore preppers and survivalists, but the reality couldn't be further from the truth. Many people these days are choosing to stock up their homes with foods that last years on end as a contingency plan.
Whether you live in an area prone to severe weather, such as hurricanes or flooding, or you're planning a six-day hike into the mountains, emergency food is just the ticket. Food servings are generally made from free-dried and/or dehydrated foods, to prepare each meal, you just need water. Just note that some servings taste a lot better when heated so a small camping stone is also a good idea.
How Important is QSS Certification?
QSS certification is the benchmark of a high-quality emergency food product. The thrid-party certification indicates that the recommended number of servings per day add up to 1,800 calories and that these calories come from "good" sources.
Imagine an emergency meal that is full of empty calories, such as those provided by sugar. This meal might boast the same number of calories as a QSS-certified meal but the latter will keep you fuller for longer. In line with this ideal, QSS certified emergency foods ensure your body receives a minimum of 40 grams of protein per day.
For some, QSS certification is essential. If you're not particularly savvy to macros and nutritional information, you may prefer to choose certified products.
But if you're good at reading nutritional info and sorting the wheat from the chaff so to speak, you could save money by purchasing non-certified servings as certification often means greater costs to the manufacturer. And these costs necessarily increase consumers' costs.
The best food to buy for survival is food that has been specially prepared for that purpose. It's all well and good to stock up on cheap cans of beans, but your diet won't be particularly varied in an emergency, or balanced for that matter.
Additionally, tins are heavier than foil pouches so if moving is a necessity, you won't be able to carry as many tins and could be putting yourself at risk in a survival situation.
Dedicated emergency food is nutritionally balanced, designed for peak performance, and packaged for optimal food storage times of up to 25 years.
In an emergency food kit you will need survival food, such as those offered by the companies above. You will also need water to prepare your food. It's a good idea to also include the following items:
- Ready-to-eat freeze-dried fruits
- Protein bars
- Dry cereal
- Peanut butter
- Powdered milk
- High-energy food
- Camp stove
- Can opener (if you're including cans)
Remember to take your family's special dietary needs into consideration. For example, you may need to stock up on gluten-free emergency food, or consider what the baby will eat. Besides food allergies, it's important to consider each person's taste preferences. After all, it's no use having packets of mushroom and beef stew if two persons in your group or family hate mushrooms.
For absolute optimal food storage you need dedicated emergency food such as those detailed above. These can last 25-plus years in the right conditions and are packaged to eliminate as much oxygen as possible. Other items with good food storage credentials include:
- Canned food. Shelf life does depend on the contents though, for example, high-acid food (tomatoes) can keep for a year and a half while low-acid food (vegetable, meat, fish) should last five or more years
- Coffee, tea, hot chocolate
- Nuts and dry/dehydrated fruits
- Milk powder
Of course, storing food long-term requires cool, darker conditions and a minimal amount of contaminants and moisture. Use air-tight containers and try to remove as much air from your storage units as possible. Avoid grubby fingers or utensils entering the storage containers as these may introduce bacteria that could affect the food.
The Best Emergency Food Shop?
We have to hand it to Legacy Food Supply for its varied range of emergency food options (for both people and pets) and its payment plans, which mean stocking up for a worst-case scenario is possible for families and people on a budget. We also like that the company ships across the US, including Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.
A recommendation here for BePrepared too, although this company isn't the most affordable choice, its QSS-certified food means you're guaranteed the right amount of protein and calories in any survival situation.
Looking for a smaller amount of emergency food for a trip or an adventure? Try AlpineAire's three and seven-day food packs.
Legacy Food Storage
Our #1 Recommendation