Recipes and Tips for Healthier Living and Smarter Budgeting

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Freeze-Dried and Dehydrated Meals

Our family has recently been working on getting our 72-hour kits up-to-date, and in the process my husband found a food storage company online from which he ordered a sample.  I was skeptical to begin with, just knowing that these meals are supposed to have a shelf-life of 25 years.  I've heard ads from a similar company on the radio and have wondered about their preserving technique and why those foods taste so good, according to all accounts.  My reasoning was how could something manufactured and pre-prepared that lasts that long possibly be good for the human body?  And is MSG the reason these foods taste so "delicious"?  But I was willing to give it a try, since we needed to figure out what our options are, beyond the regular staples of food storage.

Well, we received that sample in the mail last week and tried it over the weekend.  I haven't made Rice- or Pasta-Roni for so long (it all contains MSG) that it was weird to just boil water and pour the stuff in.  It also didn't smell very palatable to me as I was stirring it up.  And as I read the ingredients I found four MSG ingredients: hydrolized soy protein, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, and disodium phosphate.  There were also three probable others: yeast extract, "natural flavor," and spices.  As I complained about what we were about to eat, my husband teased me about it, so I stopped talking and just tried it.  I wasn't a bit surprised that it tasted better than it had any right to or that I wanted more after my first helping.  I knew that both sensations were fake.  After a small second helping I had to have a helping of some real food to stabilize myself, which helped me feel better.  My husband, on the other hand, was looking a little green around the gills.  It tasted good to him too and he had a hard time not eating more of it, but even before he finished eating he could tell it wasn't making him feel good.  Then he was the one complaining--and no more teasing.

Thus, we have learned an important lesson: Prep-prepared freeze-dried or dehydrated meals really are packed with MSG (which also acts as a preservative).  I suspected as much, but it took this experience for us (my husband especially) to realize that we would rather have food storage staples with which to make simple meals that don't make us feel gross, than have "gourmet" pre-prepared meals that have lots of flavor.  Of course, in the case of our 72-hour kits, we may have to fudge a bit, but as that is a limited amount of meals, I'm okay with that.  If it came down to it, I'd rather eat some MSG-laden food than die of hunger.  But not for the long term!

Interesting note: The owner of the company who sent us the free sample called for feedback and when I told him about the MSG thing, he acknowledged unfortunately that will always be the case with such foods.  I wonder if a brilliant person down the road will discover a way to prepare and preserve foods for very long term without the use of harmful additives and chemicals...

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