Nonperishable Food Report Card
It may be on sale and it may be shelf stable, but do I want it on my table?
Full disclosure upfront here, these grades are subjective. You can probably call this the “Wilson Squeamish Index,” but at least let me tell you why. I wanted to look at some foods that fall into the “buy and forget” nonperishable category for food storage. If you get a great sale on Rice-A-Roni®, should you stock up?
It depends if you are a label reader or not. I picked about twenty typical nonperishable foods to do a label scan and see if they are good to eat keep. Some of the results just may surprise you! You will see my annotated photos below showing the particular ingredients that weight the particular grade for that shelf stable food item.
In alphabetical order:
1. Canned pears in syrup: B
Now I am a big fan of pears, but the syrup part worries me. What kind of syrup you ask? Corn syrup--not good. Otherwise these would be great!
2. Canned Soup: C-
Originally, this one shocked me. Chaya and I subsided during our early marriage on canned soup, but here you see the whole bottom half of this shelf stable classic is not good. Moreover, my grandmother's chicken noodle soup was awesome sans MSG thank you very much.
3. Canned Tuna: B+
Tuna is a great protein source. Take out the Pyrophosphate (it keeps the flesh of the fish firm and moist) and the BPA lined can and this would a sold A for me.
4. Cheez It®: C+
Surprising not as bad as you may think for a snack food. Can you live off them? No. My concerns here are the Soy and Palm Oils, the TBHQ and the Soy Lecithin. Note: on none of these foods am I even touching the enriched flour factor in the rating.
5. Chocolate: B
This may surprise some of you, but if you take out the PGPR, I would rate this a solid A. PGPR was put into chocolate because it is cheaper alternative to cocoa butter--which is actually good for you. Find chocolate without PGPR and that is a keeper.
6. Cocoa Powder: A
Most one ingredient foods score very highly with me. Who would think of entering an emergency situation without cocoa? Take this out of the plastic package and put into a glass jar and you have a solid A+ by Wilson's reckoning.
7. Honey: A-
Honey gets nature's perfect single ingredient, shelf stable food award. If you were to take this out of the plastic jar it would be an A. Buy it from a local producer A+. Harvest your own honey . . . move to the head of the class! Oh, and if it crystallizes, do not panic. You would be surprised how much of a discount you can get on crystallized honey! Simply warm up the part you need and it will go back into the liquid solution state you know and love.
8. Instant Potatoes: C-
The only reason why this is even in the C range is because it contains potatoes. I highlighted the whole label as one big "not on my shelf" concern.
9. Cornbread Mix: B
I love cornbread! And the best cornbread is made with lard. However, if you see "hydrogenated" anything--pass on it.
10. Macaroni and Cheese: C
The label was "okay" until I got down to the bottom. Things with Yellow 5, Yellow 6 or Red 40 never make it to the shopping cart for us. A C may be generous here. I am not a pasta hater, so if you really want good Mac 'n' Cheese that is nutrient dense try this recipe.
11. Matzoh Crackers: A-
Well you may not have them on your shelf, but we grew up eating them. If they used olive oil instead of Canola, this would be an A for sure. Plain matzoh crackers are tough to beat.
12. Oils: C-
Not all oil is created equal. No, but vegetable oil (read: "[GMO] Soy") and [GMO] corn oil are your not-good-for-you subjects of the Farm Bill. Olive oil or Coconut oil will do just about anything that you need in the kitchen all the while supplying Omega 3's.
13. Peanuts: C-
Cornstarch, MSG, Torula yeast--really? I love peanuts in the shell, but I will pass on these thanks!
14. Powdered Milk: B+
There are not any sources to put raw milk on a shelf, which is what makes it so nutritionally potent. When you put it through high heat, you kill off the stuff that boosts your immune system. Failing having a dairy animal "on tap," instant nonfat milk is not a terrible shelf stable food.
15. Ramen Noodles: F
That is not a trick of the eye. Both of those ingredient lists are highlighted because they are both terrible! One is for the noodles and one is for the powder--not only do they have MSG, but space wise they are mostly air! Solid F!
16. Rice : A-
It is hard to improve on rice. Not all rice is grown equally or ethically--so do your homework. However, for a filling side dish, it is tough to beat. Plus, it is half of rice and beans, or if you prefer beans and rice. Brown rice is better for you, but because it has more oils in it, the rice will go rancid more quicly.
17. Rice-A-Roni®: C-
Take a great food like rice and add hydrolyzed anything, MSG, autolyzed yeast (MSG lite), blah, blah, blah and the score plummets.
18. Spam®: B-
What, Spam® gets a B-? Yes, it is actually not made from the parts of the pig that are rejected for dog food, rather it is all shoulder meat (citing the Spam® museum here). It would rate higher if not for the "modified" potato starch and of course, what shelf stable meat would be possible without sodium nitrate? Take those away, and Spam would be an item on my shelf.
19. Stuffing in a box: D+
I am not grooving on Stove Top because of the High Fructose Corn Syrup, the "hydrogenated" word again, MSG (seems to be a theme here) and BHA and BHT for good measure. *sigh* Stuffing can be so good, so meaty, so uncomplicated--but it cannot be "tasty" shelf stable food--therefore it has to be loaded up with all of the other junk. Try asking your Grandmother for her recipe, I bet she makes the good stuff!
20. Triscuit: A
Surprisingly simple ingredient list. Actually, Chaya makes a great version of these at our house. Avoid the flavored ones, they typically have "flavor enhancers" (aka: MSG or its knock offs) in them.
21. Whole Grain Pasta: A-
Not the do-it-yourself kind with real whole wheat, but not terrible for processed food either. Not all pasta is equal, but this is pretty good.
Now the quintessential post-nuclear war nonperishable food award goes to the Twinkie®. If you are into Twinkies®, I would highly recommend reading a great book by Steve Ettlinger, Twinkie, Deconstructed. It will make you laugh because it is funny and it will probably make you sick to think that you ever ate one at all.
I randomly picked out the above list in a recent trip to the grocery store. Your mileage may vary on your nonperishable choices, but please read the label when making your purchase. What good is it to live through the Mayan calendar ending, EMP, Zombie Apocolypse Trifecta only to suffer from poor nutrition? Recently a friend of ours (who grew up Mennonite) relayed how she never knew anyone with cancer from her community--until the processed foods started to encroach in on them. I am not advocating a diet of twigs and grass, but there is a large measure of health to be had by sticking to simple ingredients. Sure, you are bound to get lots of advice on nonperishable this-or-that for emergencies, but hold the MSG and the stuff you cannot pronounce.
Pro Deo et Patria
All Photos by Pantry Paratus
http://www.twinkiesproject.com/ Lots of funny experiments done with this snack cake.