Poverty Prepping: Review of Chef’s Banquet Dehydrated Foods
(Today we are going to have a guest post by one of my readers who is using dehydrated storage food for her main meal source. She likes it because it is costs so little, stores well and frees her from the tyranny of the cooler. In this post she reviews the taste which should help us all decide if they might work for us. It’s hard to beat a full months supply of food for $100!! Be sure to check out her blog:) http://herjournies.blogspot.com/
I am a big believer in dehydrated foods for three big reasons: 1) it’s cheap and 2) it lasts for a long time 3) it doesn’t need refrigeration. During emergency situations it’s necessary to have foods that are non-perishable and easy to store, dehydrated food fits that bill perfectly! But, even in a non-emergency situation I still love it because it saves me so much money, is very easy to cook and I don’t have to keep a cooler! The food I bought ended up being about $.39 a serving, which is an extremely cheap way to eat! The first brand I chose was Chef’s Banquet, because it appeared to be the cheapest dehydrated food available. Keep in mind you get what you pay for–some of the more expensive brands taste better. I’ve tried some of the Mountain House brand and when it’s rehydrated it is the closest to real food. For the purposes of this post I will be reviewing and discussing Chef’s Banquet more, as it’s what I’m eating now and can provide pictures of.
Click here to buy it from Amazon.com: Chef’s Banquet All-purpose Readiness Kit (ARK)
I bought mine off Amazon. You can get different types from Chef’s Banquet, and ultimately decide for yourself what you would prefer in your bucket. The one with the most variety that I was okay with eating was the All-purpose ready kit. The main issue with dehydrated food is the up-front cost–you may be paying .39 cents a serving, but you’re paying for it all at once instead of a little bit at a time. My bucket was on sale, so I got it for $119 with free shipping. If you keep an eye on the deals they do go on sale pretty often with free shipping; that’s the best time to buy. Otherwise you’ll be footing a bill for $130 or up to $200. As I said, the sales are when you want to buy, and they ARE frequent so don’t lament if you can’t find one tomorrow or later this week. They happen at least twice a month or even more often.
This bucket has 330 total servings, which should provide you with roughly 2100 calories worth of food for 30 days, assuming that you eat that much. I can’t, as I have a small stomach and 1’m lucky to manage 1000 calories a day. For me, one bucket is a 60 day supply. If stored in the bucket as you receive it in a dry cool environment, it has a shelf life of 20 years. Once opened, it drops to 7 if you keep it sealed and dry in the package it comes in with the oxygen absorber left in. If you want to eat healthier, they also make fruit and vegetable packs:
Chef’s Banquet Freeze Dried Fruit Variety Bucket-300 Servings
Chef’s Banquet Freeze Dried Vegetable Variety Bucket-320 Servings
This particular bucket has these meals in it:
- Oatmeal: 60 servings,
- Potato soup: 60 servings,
- Chicken vegetable stew: 30 servings,
- Mixed vegetables: 30 servings,
- Instant potatoes: 60 servings,
- Macaroni & cheese: 30 servings,
- Beef vegetable stew: 30 servings,
- Cheddar broccoli rice: 30 servings.
Each is packaged individually and labelled with nutrition information and how to cook. Each package varies a bit in directions but for the most part it’s basically adding the amount of water listed and cooking for 20 minutes. I find that I like to add more water than it asks for as I tend to think it turns out dry and salty otherwise. But it’s personal preference so you’ll have to try it the way it is recommended first and change it accordingly. You can also soak in the recommended water for several hours or overnight before you cook it to help it absorb and rehydrate better. When you get ready to cook, either build a small fire or use a propane stove (my choice) to bring water to a boil, if you haven’t already dumped the food in, do so now. Then lower heat to medium/high for 20 minutes and it should be ready. As I said, I add more water in because some boils off and because it’s a bit too salty to me otherwise, so during the boiling phase I typically have up to 1/2 cup or 1 cup more water than called for. I recommend staying with it for the full 20 minutes and stirring extremely well because it can easily stick and burn, or may not cook evenly. Dehydrated food can be strange like that. You want it even and soft all over.
What does it Taste Like?
No matter how cheap or convenient it is, if it tastes bad it’s still money thrown away. Fortunately, I love all the foods in the bucket except one and I must say I’m not a fan of the beef stew; it isn’t really beef so much as a vegetable protein and it doesn’t taste good to me. It is particularly salty and no matter how much I water it down it just tastes bad, but I take that hit because all the others are so good. Here is my review of the different packets:
- The oatmeal is basically just oatmeal that is quicker to cook than normal. I add cinnamon and brown sugar to mine as the oatmeal is plain in this package.
- The potato soup is probably my favorite. It’s some of the best potato soup you’ll ever have. It has carrots, celery, onion and garlic with spices for flavoring. The best part is if you want more vegetables in it you can add a scoop of the mixed vegetables in there to have extra flavor. I water it down more than the package recommends and I add mixed vegetables typically. It is extremely filling, so while the serving may look small, make sure you eat and drink water with it because dehydrated food tends to expand more after you’ve eaten it.
- Chicken vegetable stew is among the more salty of the packaged foods. I tend to water this one down more than recommended also, and if I have a tomato handy I like to cut it up and add it to it. By itself it tastes like a vegetable stew made with chicken broth. This one is basically mixed vegetables and chicken broth. I’ve never particular seen chunks of chicken in it, so I assume it’s mostly broth for flavoring.
- Mixed vegetables are basically carrots and peas with seasoning, I believe there’s bits of green beans in there too. Sort of similar to the frozen mixed veggies you’d but at the store. They are okay by themselves but very similar to eating a package of those veggies together. I like to add them to other things or turn them into a soup by adding whatever I have on hand.
- The instant potatoes are mashed potatoes. They are very tasty and are spiced with garlic and herbs. If you add a touch of butter to these and some milk they are even better. But most van dwellers won’t have these cold luxuries. They are still fantastic by themselves, but if you have powder milk to add to them you can do that to give them an extra creamy oomph.
- Macaroni & Cheese is reminiscent of the store bought easy mac. It has powdered cheese that you pour on the noodles after they are cooked. To me it tastes exactly the same as the store brand, and it looks similar too.
- Beef vegetable stew: I don’t have much to say about this one except that it’s not beef. It’s a vegetable protein that I am not a fan of and the stew itself is extremely salty and bland. To me I don’t enjoy this packet but for the price of everything else I’m willing to deal with it being included.
- Cheddar broccoli rice is another of the better recipes. I tend to water this one down and cook it slightly longer than recommended because I like my rice a little more soft. It has excellent flavor and is a stand-alone dish.
Each packet will have one or two oxygen absorbers in it, so make sure you don’t dump directly from the package into the water you are going to cook in. This picture is the instant potatoes. You can see the potato flakes and the little bits of carrot and celery in there with the oxygen absorber.
After you have finished all the products, the bucket itself is a 5 gallon bucket that can have multiple uses in your vehicle. I use mine as a bucket potty for when I’m out camping and can’t get near a restroom. But it can be used for storage as well.
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