A Review of Thrive by Shelf Reliance Freeze Dried Chopped Spinach

A Review of the Thrive by Shelf Reliance Freeze Dried Chopped Spinach

By Jason Wagner

The pouches are exactly as shown here. They have a zipper on them, like resealable plastic bag so they can be eaten, sealed and eaten again later. Not a huge deal, but a nice feature all the same.

The pouches are exactly as shown here. As you might have noticed, they have a zipper affixed to the pouch; the zipper functions much like a resealable plastic bag. The zipper isn’t a huge deal, but it’s definitely a nice feature all the same.

A review on freeze dried spinach? Bah! I much preferred reviewing the bacon.

Before we commence, allow me to admit to a personal bias – I love spinach. Given how I seem to be in the minority of the matter, your opinion of this product will depend heavily on your opinion of spinach.

Taste – 9.0/10: I am pleased to inform you that this product does indeed taste like spinach! Spinach is spinach whether it is fresh, canned, frozen, dehydrated or freeze dried. However so, some methods of preservation are closer to fresh than others. As it would seem, freeze drying spinach is a particularly good way of preserving it

Unfortunately, the simple nature of this freeze dried offering might present something of a problem. I hardly think that you, the reader, would consider a bag of freeze dried spinach to be some kind of culinarilly diverse dish. When looking at this as a food item, try to look at it more as a cooking ingredient and less of an MRE; speaking of MRE’s, this would make a great side dish to an MRE!

Ultimately, this tastes like good spinach, thus, as a relatively reasonable person I cannot complain…good stuff.
Texture – 8.0: Hmm, it tastes like spinach and it chews just like how I imagined freeze dried spinach chewing. It has a bite, albeit it is a tad powdery for my liking. When you rehydrate it, the texture is spot on, but when consumed dry it is a bit too much like talc powder. If you use your disgusting saliva, you can rehydrate it right in your mouth…however, that could induce dehydration or at the very least a dry mouth if there was a lack of water.

A not-so-unusual side effect of consuming freeze dried food is a dry mouth; it’s just that you might notice that the dry mouth symptoms are a bit more pronounced. Again, any dryness of mouth largely depends on whether you intake enough water.

Nutrition – 9.8/10: its spinach…as we all know, spinach is more or less a super food. It lacks in calories, of course, but what it lacks in calories it makes up for in minerals and nutrients. I like to think of spinach (regardless of type, but this is better than most) as a vitamin for the mind and body.

Shelf-Life – 8.0/10: By the time I got to taste testing this particular freeze dried offering, it had already been sitting around for 3 years in my apocalypse pantry. Even after two years, it still tasted good, hell, better than good. According to the manufacturer’s specifications, they predict that this spinach will last several years and possibly in the 5 – 7 year range. The packaging is good, but I am not sure I would trust the individual pouches for an extremely long-term storage. I figure once you’ve unsealed the original container (the plastic bin containing the pouches) that the shelf-life may be reduced. While the pouches are housed inside of the plastic container, I suspect that they will last 5 – 7 years, if not longer.

OpSec (Operational Security) – 10/10: Unless they can, somehow, hear your soft chewing of the little green morsels of spinach, they will remain none the wiser of your feeding. While they starve, you shall feast…you might feel bad about it, but it’s better than the alternative.

Not even the hungry German Shepard’s will be aware of your presence…unless they can smell YOU and in that case, well, um – I hope that you’re a fast runner.

Filling Factor – 9.0/10: While I would not go so far as to call this little bag of health a supremely filling thing, it serves its purpose well. Have you ever noticed how the less healthy the food, the more you can eat. Conversely, the more healthy the food (vegetables in particular) the less you can consume? That little phenomenon definitely exists here.

Portability/On-the-Move/Sojourner/Scouting Score – 9.9/10: As far as I am concerned, anything that is extremely lightweight, relatively compact (vacuum sealed, too!) completely without cooking requirements, nutritionally dense and relatively filling is more than just accept. For the active, constantly on the move survivalist, this spinach will serve you well. If it weren’t for the concerning shortage of calories, I would have been comfortable awarding this spinach a 10.1/10.

Storage Qualifications/Storage Score – 9.0/10: Even a very, very large box that has been stuffed to its breaking point with pouches of this particular freeze dried spinach would feel no heavier than a featherweight. Lightweight food items, such as this, make bugging out on the shortest of notices much easier. Also, because these are so lightweight you can literally stack the storage boxes to the ceiling without concerning yourself that the boxes will cave. The plastic container that my spinach pouches came in was heavier than the spinach itself. Despite the increased weight, the plastic housings are still very easy to carry, stack and store.

I have this trait that basically dictates that I try to stuff as many calories per cubic footage as is possible. In doing so I can maximize how much energy I can store on a metal shelf, corner of a room and so forth. With that being said, items like the Thrive freeze dried spinach play against my usual strategy. Like with all things, extremes are usually warped opinions. So, on that note I do make allowances for storing low calories, nutritionally dense items such as this one. Besides, a large stock of this green stuff…I mean spinach, only takes up a small amount of space.

It's a lovely shade of green. Also, excuse the snowstorm that erupted just before I started taking the pictures.

It’s a lovely shade of green. Also, excuse the snowstorm that erupted just before I started taking the pictures.

Final Review – 8.4/10: While the Thrive freeze dried chopped spinach is certainly an odder choice for survival food, it’s no less impressive. Indeed, once you expand your mind to the many possibilities, this freeze dried spinach really makes you appreciate todays high-level methods of food preservation.

The thing is, if you eat this on its own, with nothing else, you will be squandering what makes this spinach great.

When you view the spinach as a tasty ingredient for a recipe, all the sudden this looks like one of the most versatile foodstuffs available. Until civilized trading starts or people can grow a garden without fear of being painted a target by every raider within a couple dozen clicks, things like canned, dehydrated and freeze dried vegetables very well might be one of your few options for vegetables and their associated nutrients.

Basically, so long as you dedicate a majority of your food storage space to high protein, calorically rich food and water, filling in the spaces with the healthier things just might make the difference between life and death. The right nutrition can give you that grizzled survivor’s edge.

Another way to look at this delightful product is that it can help to stretch your greater emergency food supply. For instance, if your usual meal is roughly an entire 1200 calorie MRE, this could cut your MRE consumption down to half of that very same MRE; thus saving you money, resources and providing a greater level of assorted nutrition.

To sum everything up within the constricting confines of the lone sentence…This is a great product to fortify an existing food cache, it provides nutrition, it’s beyond easy to prepare, lightweight, can be eaten without preparation, perfect food for the sojourner, absurdly healthy, satisfying to chew, easy on the stomach and it’s an overall great product that I recommend for the herbivores and carnivores alike.

Recipe Idea:
In a pot, add some milk to the spinach and cook it over low heat until it is lightly boiling around the edges. Stir the contents, season with salt and pepper as desired and serve the creamed spinach to your tribe. If a cow isn’t available, there is nothing to say that you cannot use evaporated milk instead; don’t confused evaporated milk with condensed milk…that is, unless you have some very questionable tastes in cuisine.

A Review of Yoders Canned Bacon

Yoders Canned Bacon.

By Jason Wagner

The lovely can of the even more beautiful bacon.

The lovely can of the even more beautiful bacon.

Canned bacon, wow, okay – as far as processed meats go, I’m actually not all that scared…not to say that most heavily processed meats scare me in the least, no, maybe.

Upon opening the can and seeing the wax paper separating the bacon slices, I was rather impressed. at the initial details..read on for the rest of my thoughts.

Taste – 10/10: What can I say? Bacon that’s been suspended inside of a can of metal is a winning combination! What’s the surprise there? We’re talking about bacon, not Vienna sausages! One of the best traits of the Yoders canned bacon is its complete lack of meat water. Low grade meats that are suspended in meat water is definitely among the more horrifying things ever to be forced down mankind’s throats. The Yoders canned bacon tastes so unlike most canned meats that it’s less like a canned meat and  more like a meat that’s been preserved with salt and nothing else! It’s like salted cod, baklava, but instead it’s bacon. Too many adjectives and descriptions in general can be a bit of a problem, so how about I sum up the taste with this – it was amazing; it really did taste like real, refrigerated bacon that had just been fried up without overcooking it. The fat content is perfectly balanced in the sense that it can be eaten right out of the can, no problem or fried up for a hot, slightly crispier and more delicious of an experience. If the bacon had a higher concentration of fat it might have been a problem; thankfully, the Yoders bacon has basically hit the fatty nail directly on its head.

Texture – 10/10: A 10/10 being awarded to both the taste and texture departments? What an upstanding product! The texture is, how should I put this…without any tangible flaws. The meat is completely without slime and even better, the meat is completely lacking in most everything that people traditionally associate with canned meats. Given that there are very few bad traits associated with this product, there is no sense going into any great detail about its nonexistent negative qualities; let’s get to the good stuff. The texture is greatly akin to when you cook fresh bacon just enough so that it’s safe to eat, but not crispy. When I cook myself a big cast iron skillet full of bacon for breakfast, I cook it to the degree that the end result is almost exactly what comes out of the can – chewy with a very slight crisp to it.


Nutrition – 9.0/10: Sure, plenty of doctors would sooner see me crucified than to see me give out a 9/10 to a canned bacon product, but come on – I rate food for the disasters and the (possibly) impending apocalypse! In the event of a life-threatening situation, the fatty and protein rich bacon might be the only thing to properly sustain you. On the more primitive level of things – this can of bacon packs a caloric PUNCH to the stomach! It’s almost ridiculous that this one can of bacon could sustain an active person for a whole day; their arteries might be somewhat (highly) clogged after eating this and only this, but the extremely high concentration of calories will be extremely welcome. Beyond the more basic ways of looking at nutrition, bacon provides its calories through a very efficient, if not brute force method – fat, protein and not much else. The heavy payloads of fat, plus protein mean that the bacon will prove especially advantageous in the cold climates.

Shelf-Life – 8.0/10: I was unable to locate either the best by or the expiration date on my can of Yoders bacon, so do with that what you will. Despite the lack of information, I have a feeling that even if your can was dated for only a relatively short period of time, it would last significantly longer than whatever it was advertised as. The canning companies are known for issuing very conservative best by dates and expiration dates, too. I’d presume that they’re perpetually paranoid that somebody is going to come down with a case of the botulism and that perhaps the sick person will get rather furious at the company. As we know, botulism is extremely rare in even the oldest of cans, but every now and then…

This is how the bacon will appear once the paper has been removed.

This is how the bacon will appear once the paper has been removed.

Operational Security – 10/10: Look, if you don’t cook the bacon, they won’t find you. Should you be absolutely dead-set on cooking the bacon, make it quick and even if people are in a fairly closet vicinity, your cover is likely to remain uncompromised. There’s always the chance that a hungry dog will find you, but there are some things that are so difficult to dodge that it’s best just not think about them. I see no reason why something like this that’s completely ready to eat is deserving of anything less than a solid 10/10.

Space-Efficiency – 10/10: These cans of Yoders bacon can be stacked and/or boxed to excellent effect; even better, the incredibly large number of calories per can means that a little bit goes a very, very long way. Damn, I used the word very…twice, thrice; damn…no pun intended. Given the canned nature of these products and the aforementioned caloric megaton per can, I think that I can call these cans amongst the very best additions to your food storage pantry.

Resource Efficiency – 10/10: Have you got a can opener? Yes, this is so light on the resource side of things that a can opener is literally the only thing that is required to enjoy this. Scratch that, a hard, pointed knife will open up one of these cans can well, too. This is truly a ready to eat item. There’s another nicety associated with this bacon – if you fry it up in a skillet, it yields a decent amount of bacon fat; bacon fat is a perfect cooking grease and a fair choice for seasoning cast iron skillets.

Carrying/Backpacking Rating – 10/10: Canned products are usually perfect for the home and the antithesis of perfect for the field: Cans of Yoders bacon are perfect for the home/base/outpost and quite ideal for carrying with you on the move. You might feel terrible after having consumed so much bacon, yet you’ll still be alive (you won’t have starved out) to complain about it. In deciding on the score, I had originally planned to award a 9.0/10, but I later determined that while the weight is a bit of a concern, given what you get out of each can, it balances out more than good enough for the coveted 10/10.

Final Review – 10/10: The Yoders canned bacon is one of those really special items that you feel truly honored to have consumed; honored may be a slightly strong word for some canned bacon, but never mind. This is a truly magnificent example of fine quality canned meat that pretty much delivers across every field. Unless the price of something is through the roof, it’s not my practice to modify my rating based on such a factor. The price of the Yoders canned bacon isn’t quite expensive, but I do suppose that it could be considered a little bit on the premium side of things. If the pricing is a concern than I’d advise you to sample a single can first. Do what you will, but remember that some foods are so delicious that opinions aren’t just opinion, but instead they become informed opinions! The Yoders canned bacon is a food that anyone whom admires the fine taste of bacon will enjoy.

Once the bacon has been prepared, you'll be left with this. Despite the cooking process, the remaining amount of bacon is quite substantian

Once the bacon has been prepared, you’ll be left with this. Despite the cooking process, the remaining amount of bacon is quite substantial

A Review of The Wenzel Aluminum Mess Kit

A Review of The Wenzel Aluminum Mess Kit

By Jason Wagner

Once the box has been dealt with, this is what you'll see. The wrapping paper is a slight, but nice little touch.

Once the box has been dealt with, this is what you’ll see. The wrapping paper is a slight, but nice little touch.

Ask any person on the move and they’ll tell you that it’s rather impossible to carry around your entire collection of traditional (and beloved) skillets, sauce pans, woks, griddles and of course, your 15 inch cast iron melee weapon/skillet. The feather footed survivalist will have to find an alternative. Thankfully, that alternative has been around for a rather long, long time; the mess kit.  This, or any other mess kit isn’t going to perform like your fancy non-stick cookware that you no doubt enjoy every day, but it works and it works well for what it’s worth. That was the short version; continue reading for the longer version.

As with any other product, I immediately and eagerly ripped into the packaging. Upon completion of said destruction, I was happy to see a shiny aluminum mess kit, all neatly protected with wrapping paper. That was fun, but I do believe that it’s time to get to the meat and potatoes, eh? Or better yet, how about we cook some meat and potatoes? Yum.

Performance 8.3: Cooking performance, that is. Aluminum isn’t so much a great cooking metal, but given its affordability and weight, it suffices. To be more specific, aluminum works well enough as a cooking surface, but it just isn’t anything to write home about. Anything that’s been cooked over aluminum will taste pretty good, and given a low and steady heat, aluminum will perform similarly, albeit inferiorly to cast iron. Because we are talking about thin, aluminum cookware, having ready access to cooking oils, such as the venerable soybean oil will help to discourage sticking. Cooking with high heat is discouraged, lest the food stick to the aluminum, with is definitely a fine example of the lesser qualities of untreated aluminum as a cooking metal.

Durability/Ruggedness 8.0: Well, aluminum is considered a soft metal, but don’t mistake that for it being a weak metal. So long as the metal isn’t literally ruptured, it’ll most likely be good to go. Dings, for instance; no matter how great a ding you’ve inflicted upon your poor aluminum pot/pan/what-have-you, that very same ding can be…dinged back into shape. Forgive me for that pun, will you? This particular piece of aluminum cookware should last for, well, it should last for quite a long time given some proper care; just don’t expect it to match the longevity of your cast iron skillet or anything. Beyond its raw strength (or lack thereof) aluminum makes for a fairly corrosion resistant material when treated with a reasonable level of care.

Ease of Cleaning – 8.0: You know, it cleans easily enough for something that isn’t coated in a potentially carcinogenic non-stick coating. Much akin to everything else, a pre-soak is sometimes required, but what’s new? One of the nicer things about this mess kit is that you can clean it with the more brutish cleaning methods without any real worry whether or not you’ll be ruining it. An example of that would be the use of a gritty sand to scour away heavy buildup/soiling. The using of a heavy grit would be out of the question for Teflon coated pots and pans, or even the more rugged porcelain enameled ones. For the record, don’t even consider tossing these pups into a dishwasher. A dishwashing machine will utterly disfigure the appearance of the aluminum. Given that these are, lone and behold, aluminum they won’t look factory-new for too long, but there is no single way to kill their appearance faster than washing them in a dishwasher. More importantly, I don’t know if using the dishwasher will harm the integrity of the metal, but given how the appearance is negatively affected, it’s best to avoid the dishwasher altogether. Besides – we are a rugged people, right? We can most certainly be bothered to wash some things by hand!

Portability – 10/10: The entire kit, from the skillet to the cup is ridiculously lightweight. While it may be (is) painful to think that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to carry your cast iron with you, this entire kit is half again as light as the smallest of cast iron skillets, so I think that you’ll be able to cope. The thing that really holds the kit together is, well, literally the thing that holds the kit together; the individual components of the kit can be layered and secured with nothing but your hands and the provided screw & fastener. A nice touch is the included storage bag to keep things neatly together. Speaking of the storage bag, the storage bag is surprisingly rugged and I fully expect it to last quite a long time.

Health Concerns – 2.0: Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not one of those tin foil hat types that hides under a solid-wood bed, terrified for my life from all of the malicious things that the government/corporations put into the food, water and building insulations. With that being said, there are some associated concerns with using aluminum as your sole method of food cooking. Chiefly among these concerns are that cooking food over aluminum might raise your very long-term risks for certain types of cancer. Note that while aluminum might pose some risks; there isn’t a definitively established link between food prepared on aluminum vs other cooking metals and cancer, but there’s enough of a link to be somewhat concerned.

Overall Design – 9.7: Everything, every single component neatly collapses (nests) into each other like one of those Russian dolls for the maximum in space-saving efficiency. My main concerns revolve around the material used and the gauge of the metal, yet, with the price being what it’s compared to other available market choices, I think that I can overlook all of the concerns.

Versatility – 8.9: Yeah, while I do suppose that virtually any cooking fuel can be used with the aluminum, there are a few things to note with this particular set. The aluminum isn’t thick by any stretch of the imagination, so don’t pre-heat it with a strong heat source for any significant length of time. Beyond that, avoid extremely heavy direct heat contact; an examples of this would be a stoves burner set to power boil.

The Weak Link – 3.0: Well, plural, I mean, there are two weak links. First, I think that the pot handle is a somewhat frivolous design aspect; unless the contents are perfectly level inside, holding the pot by the handle is very likely to result in a spilled (wasted, obvious, right?) meal.  My second gripe revolves around the cup; yes, that’s right – inferior quality cups sometimes get me into a real tizzy. Everything else (except my other complaints…) about this Wenzel mess kit are spot on. Why oh why is the cup made out of plastic? I love aluminum cups. I love aluminum cups so much that I have a collection of them. Sure, aluminum cups tend to go from scolding hot to ice cold, but for what they’re worth, they work more than fine. I don’t know, with everything else being made of aluminum, I would of liked an aluminum cup that could be nested right in place of the plastic cup. I guess the primary reason I’m infuriated, well, displeased is that the cup will go a long time before the rest of the kit; especially if the cup is stored anywhere near the sunlight.

Final Review – 9.0/10: Hmm, do these product pictures look familiar? If you’ve perused more than a few of my posts you’d know that I like to use these. Given my, err, enjoyment of these fine mess kits, it’s my belief that you’ll enjoy using these as well. Whether you buy this Wenzel mess kit, or a similarly designed mess kit, you’ve made the right choice. Having the right mess kit for the apocalypse is much like having a gun; sure, the perfect gun is out there, but any gun is miles better than no gun at all. It’s a bit of a shame that this is made in China, but then again, what isn’t made in China nowadays? For what its worth, I’ve owned at least four of these and none of them have disappointed. Evidently, the quality control at the Chinese plant is quite good. I hope that they aren’t using slave labor, though, that always causes me a feeling of first world guilt.  In the best of all worlds you will be able to hunker down wherever you live and weather the apocalypse from the comfort of your own home; enjoying all of your high end, heavy as lead cookware. Of course, if it were the best of all worlds then there wouldn’t be an apocalypse to begin with, which is why you really should hurry up and buy a mess kit, any mess kit. As with any other product, I’d buy one of these, just to make sure that they work for you. Assuming that you like this mess kit as much as I do, it’s my opinion that you should buy one, or maybe even two mess kits for every member of your household.

Once everything has been separated, you'll be left with this amazingly thorough kit. It's hard to believe just how much you get from such a small and space efficient package. Take note of the detachable handle that's adjoined to the frying pan.

Once everything has been separated, you’ll be left with this amazingly thorough kit. It’s hard to believe just how much you get from such a small and space efficient package. Take note of the detachable handle that’s adjoined to the frying pan. That very same handle can be reversed to hold the entire kit together. In other words, the kit is surprisingly well designed.

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