Whether you are a prepper, Boy Scout, or just safety conscious, the American Red Cross recommends that everyone has the following as part of their emergency kit:
Sadly, most of the “emergency food” options taste… well… TERRIBLE. Eager to find a better option we teamed up with Emily R. from DoubleFeed online for the following review of Wise Company Emergency Food Supplies.
You have probably seen these:
They sell Wise Company Emergency Food Supplies at gun shows and Wal-marts everywhere. Should you have an emergency situation (earthquake, snowed in, too lazy to shop) a tub of these will feed a family of four a hot dinner for 15 straight nights with one pot, 4 gallons of water, and a flame or stove. Convenience on a scale of 1-5: 5.
*As usual, we have added clickable links to the products in the review from trusted merchants.
Living in earthquake country, I’ve had one of these tubs in my closet for a few years now. I’ve always hoped I would never have to use it, but secretly wondered what these things tasted like. I needed a really good excuse to crack these babies open. So why not do it for the sake of sharing my experience with all of you?
On to the Main Course…
I had read somewhere-apparently-unreliable that cracking open the storage tub diminishes the longevity of the contents. So I emailed Wise Company to get the truth. Wise told me that, in fact, breaching the outer container DOES NOT compromise the meals inside. Nice to know!
For transparency, I have absolutely nothing to compare these meals to except for astronaut ice cream and the state of being really hungry. Really anything is better than being really hungry, except for astronaut ice cream. So, that’s probably not the best comparison. I had never ingested a freeze-dried meal, emergency food bar, or MRE, but today will be the day that changes everything.
The sample pack I received contains four different meals: Cheesy Lasagna, Tomato Basil soup, Creamy Vegetable Pasta, and Savory Stroganoff. I have to admit, I am the most excited about the Cheesy Lasagna as I was pretty into Chef Boyardee as a kid. I am least excited about the Savory Stroganoff. And the Creamy Vegetable Pasta and the Tomato Basil soup come in second and third, respectively.
The packaging is nice and sturdy as well as visually appealing. The ingredients and nutritional information are listed on each individual package. The cooking instructions are also printed on each package, seem easy to follow, and (the best part) are the SAME for every meal. Nice! My first impression of willingness to try each flavor (outlined in the paragraph above) is based on two things: the names and the photos. Cheesy Lasagna sounds great and the photo on the package look delicious. I’m not crazy about the name “Creamy Vegetable Pasta” but the photo looks pretty good. The name “Savory Stroganoff” makes this dish even sound like it’s not good. It’s like using the adjective “charming” to describe a home for sale. You know what it means. Packaging and appeal on a scale of 1-5: 3.5
The next thing I look at is the nutrition facts. This is actually one of the high points of these meals (not to give anything away). They are relatively low in calories (given their density), lower in sodium than I expected, high in protein, low in fat (for the most part) and have some added vitamins. They literally have the nutritional profile of a Clif bar. They’re that nutritious. Nutrition on a scale of 1-5: 5
I fire up 4 cups of water per the package directions and decide to make the Tomato Basil soup and the Cheesy Lasagna first. I have to try all these after all. Directions: Boil 4 cups of water. Remove from heat. Add package contents. Stir well. Sit for 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. I can do all those things!
[PRO TIP: Use a large pot. These packages are quite deceiving… there’s a lot of food in there! I would have had better luck using a 3-quart saucepan, making it a lot easier to stir and vastly improving my soup. More on this later.]
Next I dump the Cheesy Lasagna contents into yet another too-small saucepan, careful this time to retain the packet inside that’s absorbing excess moisture (because I totally dumped that into my soup earlier), and stir it all in. I am immediately disappointed this doesn’t look anything like Cheesy Lasagna. I don’t know what I was expecting really. But it resembles beefaroni. I kind of like beefaroni. So, ok.
I go back to stir the Tomato Basil soup again, but the pasta is still really tough, so I turn the burner back on (I am using a gas stove). I hadn’t let the water boil rapidly before turning it off (mostly because I am impatient) so I decide it needs some more heat. This helps significantly.
Meanwhile I stir my Cheesy Lasagna with a wisk. Ah-ha! That works better than a spoon. It’s all in the stirring, my friends. And then I just let the Cheesy Lasagna soak up all that water. I figure, as with “real” lasagna, the longer it sits the better it gets.
I try to go back and stir the Wise Company Tomato Basil soup with the wisk. I regret using a small saucepan. Ease of preparation on a scale of 1-5: 3
I count 15 minutes and serve the soup. The Tomato Basil soup is not a bad color, but it’s not my favorite color for soup. I’m kind of a tomato soup snob, as I really only like it the way my mom makes it, but my mom isn’t here and we’re dying of starvation so this will have to do. I taste the soupy part first. It’s not bad. First taste is meh, but after a couple of spoonfuls, I think it’s pretty good. Then I taste a noodle. [This is where I totally failed you, Wise Foods, and I’m sorry.] The soup needs a big pot because, otherwise, the dry soup powder gets trapped in the noodles… and hardens. Into really gross bits. Inside the noodle. The other solution would be to use a noodle other than macaroni, but then all the meals would have the same noodle… and that would be really boring after about 4 days. Wise Foods Tomato Basil soup on a scale of 1-5: 3
The Wise Foods Cheesy Lasagna has been getting nice and creamy on the stove so I rinse my emergency dish and scoop in some cheesy, noodely food. I have to be honest. It does not smell good. In fact, I should take a moment to say none of the packages smell good. However, the house did smell of home-cooked meals and hope so I am not going to hold the smell against my score.
I taste the Cheesy Lasagna. I don’t want to publish my initial reaction, so I will break it down objectively. Texture: very good. Adjectives that come to mind are comforting and warm. Taste: not good. I taste no cheese, which I was looking forward to. I do taste real meat. So, that is a positive point. It left an unpleasant aftertaste for me as well. Wise Foods Cheesy Lasagna on a scale of 1-5: 2
While all this was happening, I had gone ahead with preparations for the Wise Foods Savory Stroganoff, this time using a 3-quart saucepan. I stirred it really well and it seemed to have a nice consistency going. When it was ready, I served myself a small portion. At this point I’m not really hungry, as I had just eaten most of a small bowl of soup plus four bites of lasagna. But I taste the Savory Stroganoff with an open mind. And well I’ll be damned, it is actually pretty good. It tastes just like potato soup. Obviously more like canned potato soup or dinner potato soup, but potato soup, nonetheless. I grab the packaging to scan the ingredients, and sure enough – potato flour. Touche, Wise Foods. It also actually tastes like it was made with fresh onions. Impressive. Wise Foods Savory Stroganoff on a scale of 1-5: 4
I was a bit surprised by the low-ish sodium content (lower than many packaged foods) because these meals taste really salty – saltier than canned soup which has a similar sodium-to-serving ratio. Even though it was a little easier to eat knowing it wasn’t that much salt, it still was hard to keep eating and eating. These meals are very filling, especially for the calorie content. For the same calories as a Clif bar (I eat a lot of Clif bars, ok?), you can really be full for several hours on one serving of this Wise Food Company emergency meal. I think I probably ended up consuming 1.5 servings between the three meals by the time I was done tasting (I finished my serving of stroganoff!) and I was full. That being said, if you are splitting a package between four people, it may not be enough calories to sustain you if you have to do a lot of manual labor… three meals a day at 250 calories is only about a third of what most people would “need” on a really active day. However, I would think the total contents is filling enough for four meals, and at the very least three. (It’s way too much for just two people.)
I know you’re wondering what happened to the Creamy Vegetable Pasta. Well, in all honesty, I couldn’t bring myself to make another one. I thought I would just make it the next day, but I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm. So I’m going to hold on to it for a while, and maybe I’ll update you in the future if you all behave yourselves. 😉
Final Gear Rating score:
Drum roll please…
Did you notice a bit different style in this review? Emily R. contacted me a couple of months ago and proposed a guest review. I checked out the DoubleFeed site and saw something I wish was more common in the review world… people doing REAL reviews. I know, it sounds bizarre, but many “review sites” are actually just shills for the brands that pay to have their stuff reviewed. Obviously, I saw none of those shenanigans at DoubleFeed and agreed. Sure enough, after some time to reach out to Wise Food Company for sample product and do some real testing, the above review arrived…. and I liked it. 🙂
In her own words:
“Emily R. is the enthusiastic primary contributor at Double Feed, a gun & gear review site. She is an avid shooter, firearm collector and all around tacticool chick on a mission to tell it like it is. You can find Emily’s reviews, photos, and other cool stuff over at doublefeedonline.com.”