25-Year Shelf-Life Emergency Food Supply FAQs

Q: Should I eat all of my emergency food at once? A: No.
Bernardson / Via giphy.com

You’ve got the 25-year shelf-life emergency food supply FAQ’s, and we’ve got the 25-year shelf-life emergency food supply A’s. Let’s get into it.

1. Can you cook emergency food kits over an open flame?

Most of the emergency foods on our list are dehydrated and require rehydration with boiling water. You can boil water for your emergency food kits over an open flame, but it’s important to follow the package instructions carefully. Some emergency food kits are designed specifically for use with camp stoves or open fires, but that’s usually the exception. Whatever you do, don’t use a camp stove or start a cooking fire indoors; you won’t need your remaining packages of emergency food if you are already dead from carbon monoxide poisoning.

2. What’s the difference between freeze-dried and dehydrated emergency food kits?

Freeze-dried emergency food kits use a specialized process to remove moisture, while dehydrated food kits simply remove moisture through drying. Freeze-dried food tends to retain more of its original taste, texture, and nutrition than dehydrated food. However, dehydrated food is typically less expensive than freeze-dried. They’re both usually rehydrated with water, although some freeze-dried foods are intended to be eaten dry.

In all honesty, neither taste as good as normal food, but if you’re in a situation where you’re genuinely relying on your emergency food, you’ll probably be too stressed out from trying to live another hour to care much about flavor.

Waiting out the nuclear disaster with some top ramen in the bath after putting on some fresh eye makeup. (It’s called self care. Look it up.)

3. How much water should you have on hand if you’re relying on emergency food kits?

As a general rule of thumb, it’s recommended to store at least 1 gallon of water per person per day, in case running water becomes unavailable. If you can store 14 gallons per person, that would give you water for two weeks. This includes water for cooking and cleaning, as well as for drinking.

A gallon per person per day is enough water even if you are relying heavily on emergency food kits, but you should store a few extra gallons to account for the water needed to rehydrate the food. Make sure to store water in a cool, dry place and replace it every two years.

4. Can my furry friend share my emergency food kit?

While sharing is caring, it’s important to make sure your pet’s nutritional needs are met during an emergency. Some emergency kits are designed for pets, but human kits may not be suitable. Unless you’ve made sure all of the ingredients are appropriate for your pets, it’s best to keep the human food for the humans and the pet food for the pets. Consult with your vet, if you’re really committed to the idea of feeding your pet your expensive rations! And don’t forget to pack extra water, bowls, and treats to keep your pet happy and healthy during unexpected situations.

Just between us, if sharing food with your dog is an important bonding ritual, you can probably safely have a few bites of THEIR food… and it might help you bulk up. (Really though, do not eat dog food.)

If mother loved us, mother would give us partially rehydrated beef stroganoff from the crinkly metal bag.

5. Can you use emergency food kits if you have allergies to certain ingredients?

If you have allergies to certain ingredients, we really hope someone else (like a doctor) has said this to you already… You should be reading the ingredients of everything you are planning to eat. Carefully read the labels of emergency food kits before purchasing. Emergency food kits are designed to be shelf-stable, which means that they may contain preservatives, additives, or allergens that you might not immediately associate with the normal versions of those foods.

Look for kits that are labeled gluten-free, soy-free, or allergen-free to avoid potential allergic reactions. If you can’t find a kit that works for you, check out the larger cans of individual ingredients. They might exclude ingredients you’d like to avoid.

6. How do you properly dispose of emergency food kits that have gone bad?

Note: You should always check the expiration date before consuming any emergency food kits. 

If the expiry date has passed or you suspect that the food has gone bad, trash it. Unfortunately, most are packaged in layered plastic and metal bags that can’t be recycled. “Proper disposal” means chucking the entire expired package in the garbage. If you want to do a very small environmental penance, open the bags and put the food in your compost bin before putting the package in the garbage.

In an ideal world, you’ll make a note of when your emergency food is expiring, so you can consume it before it expires and replace it with fresh food. Our Disaster Playbook will show you how!

7. Do I need to check my emergency food kit with 25 years shelf life?

Yes, even if your emergency food kit has a 25-year shelf life, it’s still important to check it regularly for signs of spoilage or damage. The kits we’ve linked in the guide are specifically advertised as having a shelf life of “up to 25” or “up to 20” years. Be sure to note those individual expiration dates on the individual packages before putting them in your Stay Bag.

While these kits are designed to last for an extended period of time, factors like temperature, humidity, and exposure to light can all impact the quality and safety of the food. 

When you replace your water every two years, check your 25-year shelf-life emergency food supply’s packaging for any signs of damage or punctures, and inspect the food for any unusual smells, colors, or textures. 

You’re in luck: A supply of dehydrated food on the brink of expiration is a recipe for an epic backpacking trip.

About the Author

It takes a village! We are researching, writing and fact checking as a family. Collaboration is the name of the game, whether we’re running from a zombie horde or finding the best way to turn a complex concept into a deliciously digestible set of bullet points.