What Is “Prepper Food” and Is It Different from Regular Food?

Probably one of the very first things you have ever heard about prepping is that you have to store away large quantities of food. This needs to be prepper food that can be stored away for the long-term, perhaps enough food to last for six months to a year or longer.

But what kind of food is this? Have you ever wondered if there is specialty prepper food? The answer to this question is yes and no. Confused? It’s actually more straightforward than it might seem.

open beef and black beans MRE
open beef and black beans MRE

Regular Food as Prepping Food

Prepper food is any food that can be stored on the shelf for a long period of time. That’s it. This does not mean that regular food is not prepper food; it just depends on how the food is packaged and stored.

Any regular food can become prepper food, if it is properly packaged and stored away. So is there special prepper food? No, at least in the sense that you can turn your regular everyday food into prepper food.  Here’s how.

Canned Foods

Any canned foods you purchase at the grocery store will store for a number of years under the right conditions. Canned food makes great prepper food because it can be stored for such a long time and because you can eat it right out of the can if necessary.

Canned food will also provide a hot meal when you have the means to heat it and you don’t need any extra water or ingredients. Plus, depending on what you buy, you can get a complete meal in a can (think soups and stews) and you can get almost anything you could want in terms of canned food, including:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Meat
  • Butter
  • Milk
  • Beans and legumes

However, you can also can your own food, which will allow you to preserve the food you grow if you keep a garden. It will also allow you to make nutritious meals (there are those soups and stews again) that you know your family loves.


Freezing food can certainly help you store food for a few months, but that is provided you will always have functioning electricity. If the power grid goes down, all your frozen food will spoil. Having said that, you can freeze just about anything, including:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Prepared foods

Just remember that if your power does go out for an extended period of time, use up your freezer and refrigerator food first, cooking up all the meat at once so that it can be eaten, rather than wasted.


Dehydrating your food is a fabulous way to preserve it. Provided you have a dehydrator, you can dehydrate fruit, vegetables, and meat. Dehydration means to literally take the water out of the food. Without water, the food stays is less susceptible to spoilage. It can be eaten that way (think fruit leathers or beef jerky) or rehydrated and put into soups and stews and other meals.

Dried Foods

When it comes to storing away prepper food, dried foods are also ideal. Foods that are already in their dried form include beans, legumes, and grains, such as rice and wheat berries. You can also get powdered milk and powdered potatoes. These can be stored in large quantities to be used in times of emergency.

Specialty Prepper Food

So, what about specialty prepper food? Is there such a thing? Yes. Even though you can turn your everyday food into prepper food simply by storing it away under the proper conditions, you can also purchase speciality prepper food that has a long shelf-life and will keep you and your family well-fed for a long time. There are basically two types of specialty prepper food – MREs and freeze dried food.


MRE stands for Meals Ready to Eat and they are essentially military food. This is the type of food soldiers are provided with when they aren’t near a facility or camp that has a mess hall. MREs come in cases of 12 and each waterproof foil bag contains one three-course meal. When you get MREs, you can choose from so many options that the variety is pretty decent. There are even vegetarian meals available.

Brands of MREs include:

  • Eversafe
  • APack
  • Sure-Pak
  • MREStar
  • Meal Kit Supply
  • and more

MREs are a very convenient prepping food because aside from the pudding they do not require the addition of water. These meals also include a built-in heater so that you can warm up your meal no matter where you are and eat right out of the bag.

They are easy to carry with you, making them a good addition to your bugout bag, and they come as a complete meal, even down to the salt and pepper.

Having said this, they are not intended for long-term survival for the following reasons:

  • They don’t always taste that good
  • They are high in sodium
  • They are low in dietary fiber
  • Their shelf-life is only 3-5 years
  • They are expensive

MREs are really only intended as an emergency food when you are on the go and there is nothing else available.

Freeze Dried Food

Freeze dried food is the other specialty food option when it comes to prepping for survival. These are regular foods that are placed in a special unit in which the moisture is literally frozen out of the food, then it is heated slightly so that the water becomes a gas and can be removed from the food. The food is then vacuum sealed in a moisture- and oxygen-proof bag.

Mountain House freeze-dried meals
A few freeze dried meals from Mountain House: granola with milk and blueberries, and hot apple cobbler.

These foods are easy to rehydrate, simply by adding water, and they can generally be eaten right out of the bag.

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There are many different brands of freeze dried foods available, such as:

You can read our review of some of these brands here.

With freeze dried foods you can get a good selection of nutritionally balanced foods and they are easy to carry, even if you have to bug out. They have a very long shelf-life of up to 25 years.

The only drawback is if you don’t have water, you can’t rehydrate your food. Plus, it is ideal to have warm water so you can have a warm meal, so if there is no way to heat your water, then you will be eating a cold meal.

Food Storage

A word about storing your food. As mentioned above, your food has to be stored properly. If you don’t store it properly, you will lose it, all 6 months’ or a year’s worth of it. You don’t want that to happen. There are five enemies from which you must protect your stored food. These are:

  • Light
  • Moisture
  • Oxygen
  • Heat
  • Pests

Mix It Up a Little

As you can see, even the specialty foods are really just your everyday foods that have been prepackaged for you so that they come already preserved and ready to be put on the storage shelf. It just means all the work has been done for you. However, no one type of prepared food is the one and only one to use.

The best thing for you to do is have a combination of stocked up regular food and specialty food so that you have the ideal food for any situation in which you might find yourself.

When things go bad, you will want to ensure your family has at least some regular comfort foods and that you can eat real, freshly prepared food for as long as possible.

However, if you have no MREs or freeze dried food and you have to bug out and leave all your preps behind, you might have a hard time carrying a lot of canned goods with you.

You will also want to avoid something called “food fatigue,” which is when a person gets so bored of eating the same food all the time that they don’t feel like eating that food, even if it’s the only thing they have, combined with the lack of nutritional variety in their food.

Take Your Food for a Test Drive

The final piece of advice is to test-drive the foods you have chosen as your emergency food, especially if it isn’t your usual grub. You want to be sure everyone likes the foods you stock up and that they like all the regular food you have stored away.

The next time you have a power outage at home, break out some freeze dried meals and see how they go down. This will also help you compare different brands and meal types.

Ultimately, you will need to choose the right prepper foods to store away for your family. You know what they will eat, you know how they like their food, and you can make the call on how much regular prepper food you will use compared to how much specialty prepper food you will store away.

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