Old Rations

You often hear the phrase “rotate your supplies” from experienced preppers. You have to use what you store, store what you use, and check things regularly to that you know you really do have what you think you have. Great idea, doesn’t always work exactly as planned. I came across a couple of these the other day.

OldRations 004I think these are still being manufactured, and they are similar to those made by Mainstay, but I don’t see them available on Amazon. Web searches say they are mentioned in “The Life of Pi.” Personally I prefer the Datrex. This package was dated 1992, so it’s roughly 21 years old. Appropriate that emergency lifeboat rations are old enough to drink. Anyway, I ate some for lunch yesterday, and I’m still feeling fine today, and I know this package was knocked around in the trunk of my car for at least a few years, possibly a decade, so I’d rate them as “long lasting.” Taste is meh, as expected of food old enough to vote in the last presidential election. Packaging was still sealed and solid. Anyway, just a data point that some folks might find interesting.


11 thoughts on “Old Rations

  1. I’ve noticed that the actual edibile life of non-perishable food FAAAAAR exceeds the taste/texture life. It may look, taste and feel like crap, but it can still provide useful nutrition in a pinch…

    • Yup, I’ve seen that too, but I’ve not tested something quite this old before. I know properly sealed grains like wheat will keep for centuries and still sprout and be edible, but processed foods don’t have quite the same track record. The heavy Mylar(aluminum?) & plastic pouch in a cardboard box, with individual paper-wrapped bars, seems to be a pretty good packaging method.

    • Some of our traditional foods like cheese and yogurt will keep amazingly well also. I don’t know about 21 years though…If you can maintain at least an intermittent supply then a year would usually be more than enough, and a good cheese can last longer than that. I’ve taken to buying medium cheddar in quantity when it’s on sale and storing it for months in a non-air conditioned, un-heated pantry attached to the house. It comes out sharp, like the more expensive stuff. Really good. As long as it’s sealed well in its original wrapping it just keeps getting better. I haven’t gone past a year or so with it though.

      My daughter found a sealed container of yogurt in the back of the fridge that was months past its expiration date. She was going to throw it out, but I opened it, checked it out, and ate it. As far as I could tell it was as good as the day it was brought home from the store.

      A good strong ale or hard cider will keep for a very long time too, and there’s no special technology required in making, bottling or storing it beyond what was done hundreds or even thousands of years ago.

      Just this fall I decided to try dehydrating a few carrots from the garden. They turned out yummy, but now starts the long storage test. We can most of them, and freeze a few, but I wanted to try some other methods. Pickled beet greens with carrots is one of our current from-the-garden favorites.

      It’s probably a good idea to explore the methods used by our pre-refrigeration ancestors who put up most or all of their own food. As I tell my kids; a lot of the foods and dishes we take for granted were actually born or discovered out of desperation at some stage and then developed from there. If people didn’t know what they were doing in processing and storing their own food, they often didn’t survive. There’s a lot to learn from them.

      I’ve taken to marking the purchase date on a lot of the stuff I buy too.

  2. We were issued c-rations while playing war in 1976 or so. My canned cold spaghetti was manufactured in 1956. I cannot describe the taste. The crackers (or possibly cookies- it was hard to tell) were inedible. I didn’t feel so good the rest of the day. Much to the dismay and/or relief of the smokers, the little nicotine tubes crumbled into dust when unwrapped. At least I got a genuine P-38 can opener for my troubles.

  3. I have eaten World Kitchens jerky that was almost 7 years old, 5+ years past the pull date. It was fine, and even finer when made into Jerky Soup.

  4. Y’know, it’s okay *at* *present* to just ditch that expired stuff. You can loose pretty big with improperly-preserved foods and until hard times come, you don’t need to roll those dice.

  5. Two weeks ago I cooked some chicken that had been frozen in the original store packaging in 2009. Wasn’t freezer burned, nor did it smell funny. It tasted great and no one has complained of stomach distress.

  6. I haven’t had any trouble with alcoholic beverages such as vodka, Scotch and bourbon becoming undrinkable, but perhaps my rate of stock rotation is the reason.

    Does anyone have a bottle of 50 year old Scotch they’d like me try, for, you know, Science? 25 years might be a good age to test, too.

  7. As a lot of people have noticed, the date isn’t necessarily when the food goes bad, it is when the flavor/quality begins to change. So for many canned foods, if the can isn’t swollen or the food smelly, it’s likely still edible/nutritious. Food pantries, for instance, generally accept upto a year after expiration date. It is why you generally see them listed as Best By instead of Expiration.

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