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A Review of Survival Foods to Help You Through Y2K

Times Staff Writer

With just 306 days till the new year, you may want to stock the pantry now and avoid the Y2K rush come December. A handful of companies offer Meals Ready-to-Eat, or MREs--survivalst foods that may be used in the event of computer failure, societal breakdown, food shortage and general chaos. We sampled a few products so you don’t have to.

ARMY SURPLUS: Beef Frankfurter Meal

Cost: About $7 per meal

Contents: beef franks, potatoes au gratin, apple jelly, hot cocoa, oatmeal cookie bar, Tabasco sauce, lemonade mix, crackers, candy, sugar, tissues, moist towelette, chemical heater pack, spoon, creamer, Chiclets, matchbook, instant coffee, salt and pepper.

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Packaging: This color brown is a shade too dark to be appetizing. The vacuum-sealed packets are also difficult to open, despite the rip points. And the packaging lacks nutrition information, an ingredients list and an expiration date.

Taste: The franks are a little sweaty and taste more like sausage than hot dogs, but if you get beyond the texture, they’re tasty. The potatoes in the au gratin are real--a pleasant surprise--and the crackers are crisp, but the jelly is tasteless and runny. The oatmeal cookie isn’t fit for animals. Smart thinking to include the Chiclets.

Comments: Eating these makes you sympathize with our troops.

Contact: Your local Army surplus store.

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MIL*SPEC: Chili and Macaroni Meal

Cost: About $8 per meal

Contents: chili macaroni, crackers, strawberry jam, a chocolate-covered oatmeal cookie, instant coffee, sugar, salt, pepper, Tabasco, matches, moist towelette, spoon and instant creamer.

Packaging: The blue and beige color scheme makes this MRE look nutritious, if a little like dog food. Ingredients and nutrition information are listed on the back of the main package. Most of the individual foods are in vacuum packs, with the same rip-tab problem as the military MRE.

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Taste: The chili mac tastes like Army standard issue. If you like canned meats, you might enjoy this. If not, steer clear. Mil*Spec’s “chocolate"-covered oatmeal cookie is much better than what the Army offers. Still, it tastes like a generic store brand with imitation cocoa. The strawberry jam is very good. It even has real fruit!

Comments: Mil*Spec is about the same quality as Army fare, only you pay more and get less.

Contact: (800) 565-4147

MILLENNIUM III FOODS

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Cost: $1,595 for a one-year supply

Contents: broccoli, taco un-meat, creamy mashed potatoes, vegetable stew.

Packaging: Individual food items come in 1-gallon containers and are dehydrated to be mixed with water. Unlike MREs, these canisters are not meals in and of themselves. They are to be mixed with other items from other canisters. Some containers hold as many as 100 servings. Millennium III offers 92 items. You have the option of deciding the size of your portion.

Taste: You can tell this food was purchased from restaurant suppliers. In terms of texture and taste, this is almost as good as Mom used to make.

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Comments: “We don’t believe people have to eat survival foods,” says company owner Carole Munson. “With our foods, you can continue eating exactly like you do today.” We agree.

Contact: (888) 883-1603 or https://www.millennium3foods.com

GROCERY STORE STAPLES

Cost: Varies

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Contents: Anything you want. We’ve chosen Starkist tuna, Campbell’s pork and beans, Del Monte green beans, Kraft macaroni and cheese, and Carnation instant milk.

Packaging: These common household brands have been around for years. While the quality varies, at least there is some familiarity with the products.

Taste: It varies from brand to brand, but knowing it’s a name product somehow makes the food taste better--far superior to biting into a mystery meat in gunmetal gray wrapping.

Comments: The choice is yours.

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Contact: Your local grocer

WIZCITY INC.: Meal 3

Cost: $39 for six meals

Contents: black bean and rice burrito, noodles in butter-flavored sauce, pound cake, vegetable crackers, peanut butter, instant coffee, salt, pepper, sugar, creamer, napkin, moist towelette and spoon.

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Packaging: Generically named Meal 3, you don’t know what’s inside this package until you open it up. A small graphic in the upper left-hand side of the package features a sniper and gun, the telltale sign of survivalist fare. Individual items within the pouch include nutrition information and ingredients.

Taste: The burrito has a waxy texture that makes it look fake and an exterior that looks more like pastry than a tortilla. The noodles are flavorful, if you like instant noodle packets available at the store. Peanut butter is the best part of this package, but we’re not sure if it is meant for the pound cake or the crackers. The cake is delicious--a nice end to an otherwise mediocre meal.

Comments: A step up from Mil*Spec.

Contact Information: (253) 856-7899 or https://www.wizcity.com

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SAM ANDY FOODS: Feast in a Can

Cost: $29.95 per canister

Contents: apple slices, fruit blend, scrambled egg mix, fruit-flavored drink, peanut butter powder, beef-textured vegetable protein, garden peas, chocolate pudding, buttermilk pancake mix, instant milk, diced potatoes and vegetable soup.

Packaging: The label reads, “Life Insurance in a Can” and has a colorful, if shoddy, look. Inside, the items are packaged in individual plastic bags with preparation instructions. It’s nice to see what’s inside before opening the pouch, which is resealable--a nice touch.

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Taste: The dried vegetables, fruits and soups are all good. The milk is excellent, considering it’s dehydrated and nonfat. The powdered peanut butter was a pleasant surprise, both in consistency and flavor. The only troubling item is the “beef,” which tastes more like Bac-Os and feels like boiled rubber bands.

Comments: Yum. A good choice if you had to eat this way.

Contact: (800) 331-0358


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