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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

For Science! Rhio Reviews the Food4Patriots 72-Hour Food Supply

Recently, our ever-lovely Editrix Erin was asked whether we here at Blue Collar Prepping would be interested in doing a product review. Most of us have done a review of something prep related at some point or other, and we like doing them. It gives us an opportunity to test gear, and it gives you, our readers, a heads-up on both good and bad investments when looking at your own gear purchases. And in cases like this, where we've specifically been asked to review a product by its manufacturer (or think we have), it can hopefully give that manufacturer some feedback -- either to keep doing what they're doing, or to make improvements if necessary.

Erin was contacted by the guys over at 4Patriots.com (this link has been left deliberately not functional, so that folks won't be tempted to go spend money there) to request that we test and review "their" Food4Patriots product. 
A little note on this: While the 72-Hour Food Supply is indeed packaged for the folks at 4Patriots, that's as far as it goes to being "their" product. The contents are produced by someone else, and the larger amounts they have available on their website are not produced by them or, even packaged for them. They are produced and packaged by Patriot Pantry.
Since it was a food-related review, I volunteered myself to be a Guinea Pig. I'm probably the most "Foodie" of the lot of us (Evelyn is a huge foodie as well, but due to her multiple allergies it's not a good idea for her to do this sort of review!), so I figured this would be right up my alley.

And then there's the fact that I have no problem with telling the blunt and brutal truth, even if that truth isn't all necessarily good.

The Product We Were Asked To Test
Patriot Pantry Meals are a line of freeze-dried survival food, purported to be solely grown, harvested, prepared, and packaged here in the USA. I say purported because that's what they advertise, and the company that actually produces the contents may very well be using ingredients grown and/or manufactured in America.

I say "manufactured" because a common ingredient in all of the meals in this sampler pack isn't a base ingredient -- it's manufactured chicken stock just like you buy off the grocery store shelf -- which isn't made here in the USA for the most part.

I'm definitely in favor of Made In America products from an economic standpoint; keeping money in the loop here at home in the USA is a good thing in my estimation.

On the 4Patriots website, they advertise the product as being:
  • Strictly non-GMO
  • Filler-free (not accurate, and I'll go into that further down)
  • Preservative-free (again, not exactly accurate.) 
And lastly, they offer a 25-year, 300% Money Back Guarantee* that the food will still be edible and in good condition after that amount of time.

And So It Begins
I was eager for the package to show up so I could start the task. It arrived on my doorstep exactly when I was expecting it: bright and early on the Monday morning before I was scheduled to leave on vacation. With only four meals in the 72-Hour Kit, I figured we could taste test them one per day, or just wait until we got home from vacation.

Opening the Priority Mail package showed me exactly what I expected. It was, indeed, the exact same 72-Hour Food Kit that is shown on the website of the folks who asked us to do this review! Shown, but not really advertised there. You won't find the 72-Hour Kit on their website at all, except as a pop-up special, but more about that later. (See What We Found, below.)

Sadly, this was the high point of my experience. 

I decided to open the kit up immediately and take a look at what it contained, and perhaps try one of the meals for Lunch since they're relatively low cook times and zero prep work.
Four smaller packages were contained within, each one with the name of a meal :
  1. Traveler's Stew
  2. Granny's Home Style Potato Soup
  3. Liberty Bell Potato Cheddar Soup
  4. Blue Ribbon Creamy Chicken Rice
My partner and I were both looking forward to this little taste test, but we're also both big on doing research before we consider eating highly processed foods. There are things that we found during a half hour of research which were both revealing and (to a lesser extent) alarming. See What We Found, below, for more on this.

Day 1: Traveler's Stew
J, my partner, was the first to turn one of the packages over and start looking at the list of ingredients and the nutritional information. I was busy taking photos of the packages for this review, so that there would be plenty of visuals.

When I looked at what had J in a bit of a dither, I was shocked at what I found. And I'm a tough old bird - I don't shock easily. However, reading the nutrition information on the Traveler's Stew (the one we'd chosen to try for lunch) made my heart sink and my stomach clutch.

The multiple allergy warnings (Soy, Wheat, Milk) made me take a much closer look at the ingredients list.

The sheer amount of Sodium was absolutely mind boggling! 1070 mg of Sodium per 1/3 cup (dry/pre cooked, or 1 cup cooked) 190 calorie serving. Those numbers are, quite bluntly, nearly as high as some of the 10 Saltiest Foods In America as reported on the Eat This, Not That website. However, all the meals that ET, NT lists are a minimum of 650 calories for that level of salt -- not fewer than 200 calories like this Traveler's Stew -- and those numbers are for an entire meal, not just the entree.

I was, however, committed to giving this a try with an open mind.

5 Cups of water went into the big pot and brought to a boil, and the contents of the package (minus the oxygen eliminator) were dumped in.  This is what it looked like at that point.
Lots of dehydrated carrots; a tiny half handful of elbow macaroni, lentils, and dehydrated peas; a whole bunch of rice; and some unidentifiable bits that I assume were the listed dehydrated potatoes and onions and soup base.

By the time it had boiled for the specified 5 minutes, though, we were feeling much more hopeful.  The aroma was actually appetizing, and the kitchen was smelling fairly good. As it simmered for the next 25 minutes, my hope that maybe I was going to be pleasantly surprised rose.

But the actual taste test of the product without additions, adjustments, or tampering -- straight up "following the directions printed on the package" -- were a lot less pleasant than the initial aroma made us hope for.  Now I suppose if you've never had really good Traveler's Stew, this could be considered okay... for certain values of "okay."  Like. "Okay if you don't mind something that is overall bland, tasting almost exclusively of salt, and completely lacking in the flavor of any other seasonings or the protein that it's supposed to be made of/mimicking." The vegetables, despite boiling and simmering, had an unpleasant texture to them.

By the time the "stew" had finished cooking, the rice was so overcooked it had turned into almost nothing but tiny starch goo pieces.  The elbow macaroni -- grossly outweighed by the significantly cheaper rice in the first place -- had turned into what may as well have been little nuggets of rubber.  And those unidentifiable bits of dehydrated vegetable matter? I'm now fairly certain that while they're billed as potato, they're actually made of chalk. Fortunately for my stomach (and my sensibilities), this "stew" was at least nominally salvageable with a bit of tinkering.

To make this something other than incredibly bland (which might have been an improvement, considering it was nearly inedible due to the salt content), I decided to work my kitchen wizardry on the pot and see whether I could salvage the contents. Even with my skills and well-stocked herb cabinet and basic pantry, I wasn't completely successful. I'm not sure anyone -- even a world class, Five Star Chef -- could be completely successful with this starchy salt bomb glop.

My Changes
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dry thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 8 ounces cooked turkey from the fridge (any meat would work, but that's what I had handy)
  • 4 extra cups water
  • 1 cup dry pasta (to bolster the elbow macaroni that was already in there)
I added those ingredients, then returned the pot to a boil for 10 minutes, until the meat was heated through and the additional pasta was cooked.

While not a complete success, it at least turned this into something that didn't make me want to crawl away and whimper for a while, or simply go hungry because that would have been a more acceptable alternative.  It finally had some flavor other than "SALT!!" 

There was nothing I could do, really, to salvage the dehydrated vegetables in the initial adjustment period. They were bits of slight color that still maintained a slightly off texture to them, but at least they had lost most of the overwhelming sensation of eating chalk.

After sitting for an extra six hours between lunch and dinner, the dehydrated vegetables finally managed to absorb every bit of the remaining liquid, reconstituting them sufficiently to become a texture that no longer reminded me of cardboard.

I had to add yet more liquid before reheating the pot so we could have leftovers for dinner. It was still mostly bland, the rice having disappeared into a starch paste that with the addition of more fluid almost resembled gravy, and the elbow macaroni becoming mush.

We ended up doing something that I am always loath to do: we tossed it in the trash rather than putting the remaining leftovers into a container in the fridge. Even though this had been sent to me for free so I could test and review it, I despise throwing away the money that tossed-out food represents. However, J and I both agreed that there was little chance that we would willingly eat this for a third meal unless there was literally NOTHING else in the house (or on the planet) to eat.

Appetite fatigue, food ennui, "I'd rather starve than ever eat this again" syndrome... whatever you want to call it, we were feeling it after only two attempts  and much tampering with the contents.

Rating
All in all, I'd rate the Traveler's Stew at a 1.5 Stars: 1 star for ease of cooking, 1/4 star for ease of adjustment and 1/4 star for potential to accept a wide variety of adjustments to suit your taste. That is offset by a -4 stars for its initial, un-adjusted taste! (Seriously, it was that bad!)

Day 2: Granny's Homestyle Potato Soup
We were much less disappointed by this than by Day 1's offering, despite our initial trepidation. We were leery of opening the package simply because of the utter disaster that the Traveler's Stew turned out to be, and we were not looking forward to a repeat of that experience. We had a rather tense conversation just prior to lunch, debating whether we wanted to risk subjecting our stomachs to the nightmare a second time.

"Granny's Potato Paste" would be a more appropriate name if you followed the package directions exactly. We more than doubled the amount of water to get it in the neighborhood of soup-like consistency, and in the three minutes it sat in the bowl while I typed part of this, it turned back into the consistency of potato starch glue.

The package directions read "stir frequently". That really should be changed to read "Babysit the pot, because if you turn your back on it, it's going to cause grief like an unsupervised toddler," because if not stirred constantly, it will congeal into a mass in the time it takes to turn from the stove to the sink (two steps away), get another 1/2 cup of water to add to the mass, and turn back.

While the flavor wasn't bad -- in fact, it was even edible from the start without making adjustments -- it did not taste like "creamy potato soup". When J  and I finally compared notes and pinned it down, we decided that the flavor was closer to "Instant mashed potatoes that someone had simply added too much water to, and for some completely incomprehensible reason added chicken stock, and then left out the butter."

My Changes
The flavor would be tremendously improved with the addition of bacon bits, but unlike Day 1 it didn't need additional help to keep from being stomach turning or making me desire starvation in its place. You'll definitely need to triple your water use expectations, though, if you're expecting soup.

If you treat this one as a mashed potato side dish instead of a potato soup, then you won't be too terribly disappointed... so long as you don't mind the taste of chicken stock in your mashed potatoes. (Seriously, chicken stock? Who, in the name of all that's holy, adds chicken stock to potato soup or mashed potatoes? Are they Insane?)

Rating
I give this one a solid 4 stars: 1/2 star for ease of preparation (due to the amount of extra water needed) 1 star for convenience, 1 star for ease of adjustment, 1 star for basic flavor that wasn't strictly salt or bland, 1/2 star for potential versatility if used as a side rather than a soup, and -1 star for giving both of us indigestion and heartburn within 20 minutes of eating it.

Day 3: Blue Ribbon Creamy Chicken Rice
By this point in the experiment, my partner J was actually fearful of me opening another package and testing what was inside. Fortunately for him, he needed to sleep for work that night, and thus was spared. I was feeling more than a tad fearful myself for that matter, but I had promised to deliver on this article and test all of the contents, and I was determined to see that through to the end.

Based on my experience as a cook, combined with my experience with the other 2 meals we'd tried so far, I decided before I ever put this one into the pot that I would go ahead and make adjustments: half of the package contents (there was no way I was making four servings when I was the only one eating) and half of the water called for plus 1/2 cup extra to account for the fact that rice absorbs water in order to become tender enough to eat. I didn't want to alter the flavor until I'd at least tasted it, so I refrained from seasonings or additions of that sort.

My Changes
It was in cooking times and method where the big alteration took place.

It didn't help that, as with the previous meals we'd tested, this one required constant babysitting of the pot to keep it from sticking, even at extremely low heat. The whole flavor profile is best described as "bland"; despite the claim of "Creamy Chicken" on the package, there was practically no chicken flavor to this conglomerated mess. That lack of chicken flavor actually disappointed me, considering that this was the one and only meal in the group that was supposed to taste like chicken!

I ended up tossing out the majority of this flavorless rice and salt goo. I tried offering the remains of my bowl to the dog, but even he turned his nose up at it after only a couple of hesitant bites.

Rating
This one gets 2 stars: 1 star for ease of use, 1/4 star for ease of adjustment, 1/4 star for un-adjusted flavor, 1/2 star for potential versatility as long as you don't expect it to actually taste at all like chicken.

Day 4: Potato Cheddar Soup
J and I left for vacation, my stomach and intestinal tract both joyous that I was leaving off the taste testing for several days. After we came home and unpacked, I was forced to contemplate (with much dread) the final offering from the 72-Hour Kit, and how best to overcome my utter revulsion at the idea of trying yet another of these meals.

I whined. I pleaded. I threatened. And I got soundly reminded by J that I had given my word.

I decided to spare him the ordeal that I knew was forthcoming, and waited to make the "soup" until after he'd headed off to work that night. (He owes me for that one; he just doesn't know it yet.)

I knew from the moment that I opened the package that this was not going to go well. There was no expected scent of cheddar (expected since it was potato cheddar soup) There was, however, a somewhat familiar and slightly nauseating scent which I mistakenly put down to the ubiquitous chicken stock that these jokers apparently put in everything except for the actual chicken dish.

I should have checked the ingredients list at that point, and saved myself several hours of immediate grief, and a few days of minor Lupus flare issues.

Remember those chalky bits I mentioned in the Traveler's Stew, the ones that are supposed to be bits of dehydrated potato, but I was fairly certain actually weren't? Yeah, this thing was full of them as well, just like the Traveler's Stew and the Granny's Home Style Potato Soup, and they were still the texture of cardboard and the taste of chalk. By about the 4th bite, I had, to my horror, managed to identify the unpleasant aroma emanating from the "cheddar" potato soup. It was something that never, under any circumstances, has any place near cheddar soup: Blue Cheese.

I love cheese. I'm a huge fan of cheese to the point that I learned how to make cheese, and know what sort of cultures are used to both flavor and ripen various types of cheese. The one and only variety of cheese that I'm unable to enjoy is blue cheese and its variants, because I'm allergic to the specific bacteria cultures used to create blue cheese! This is, in fact, a rather Common allergy where Cheese is concerned.  So much for any thought I might have about this being something to turn to during an emergency, as it turned me into an immediate intestinal emergency with several rather unpleasant hours spent on the toilet, and I'm going to be paying for this for the next several days.

Moreover, the taste of blue cheese is distinct and, for those of us who are allergic to it, unpleasant. Its flavor profile is not at all like that of cheddar. It is sharp, musty, and has none of the pleasant qualities that a complimentary cheese such as Monterrey Jack or Colby happen to posses. It has absolutely no place in a dish that is supposed to taste like potatoes, much less cheddar!
  • Was it soup? 
    • Nominally yes, with the addition of 2 extra cups of water. 
  •  Was it potato soup? 
    • Yes, for certain values of "yes", such as if you consider bits of chalk coated cardboard to be potato bits. 
  • Was it potato cheddar soup?
    • No! It was potato & cheese soup, and there was (technically) some cheddar powder in there, but if you ate this expecting to taste cheddar rather than the nastiness that is blue cheese, you'd find yourself either incredibly disappointed, or simply spitting it out as inedible.
Sadly, this was the one and only meal out of the four that could otherwise have been palatable, with the only adjustment made being extra water. It being full of something that I'm allergic to, though, ruined what appetite I had gained from the flavor.

Rating
This gets 3 stars: 1 for ease of use, 1 for un-adjusted flavor, and 1 for ease of modification. It also garnered -2 stars for the addition of a type of cheese other than the cheddar that is in the dish's name.

What We Found At Their Website
I'm going to be blunt: the folks who asked us to do the product review, 4Patriots, are NOT the folks who actually manufacture the product, despite their website giving the appearance that they are the originators. The folks who actually manufacture these survival foods are Patriot Pantry, based out of Salt Lake City, Utah, and not the guys who asked for the review, who are based out of Nashville, TN.

Comparing the two websites was an education in itself: 
  • The website of Food4Patriots proclaims that they are the originators, and it states that the packaging system is !Space Age Technology! that uses a CO2 flush to drive out free oxygen as well as oxygen absorbers to keep the food in good condition. 
  • The website of Patriot Pantry makes a much different claim: they use a nitrogen flush to drive the extra oxygen out of the packaging as it's being sealed. The individual meal packages state on the front that the package has been either nitrogen flushed or has an oxygen absorber in the package.
What we saw were mylar bags with a oxygen absorbers like the ones on Amazon.

Then there's that whole "GMO Free, Filler Free, Preservative Free" thing on the Food4Patriots website. I've gone into detail about the GMO Free issue below, because it deserves its own area. The Patriot Pantry website does not make the "filler free, preservative free" claim. I looked, carefully, and it was nowhere to be found... and considering the things I saw in the ingredients lists, I know why their website didn't make such claims.

The other claim they made was that there is "no added MSG". Having a slight allergy to more than trace amounts of MSG (like many people, it gives me migraines, and the last thing I need is to find myself incapacitated that way during a crisis) this was much more important to me than a lack of chemical preservatives (which are there in a couple of the base ingredients) or fillers (small amounts, and none added directly, but they are there from one of the ingredients used.) 

Now, this is not to say that there is zero MSG in the product, because there is. What this means is that they haven't added it directly as a flavor enhancer. Unfortunately, like the filler and preservative, it's there as one of the sub-ingredients in part of their formulation, which means that making a claim of not having any in there is absolutely misleading and ultimately false advertising.

About Allergens!
Not one of these meals is suitable for those with any sort of food allergy issues, and that's a growing number of us both in the general population, and in the preparedness community.

Corn is in literally everything I tested. 
While corn isn't a common allergy, it is out there, and these are all full of corn starch, hydrolyzed corn protein, and corn sugar. Bad News in a Bag for folks like our own Evelyn, who has allergies to ALL of those things.

Wheat, soy, and milk are present in some form in pretty much everything I tested. 
When I say milk is present in some form in all of the meals, I'm not joking. Three out of the four are recipes which , when done normally, call for milk or cream or butter, or which have loads of cheese. Instead of using dry milk (which would actually make sense), they use dry coffee creamer

Now, you might look at that and think "Oh, then you're wrong, there's no milk in dry creamer!" BZZZZ! Read the ingredients list on your jar of coffee creamer, and you'll see a specific form of milk solids listed in the ingredients. The main difference is that creamer is significantly cheaper as an ingredient than actual dried milk, saving the manufacturer tons of money at the expense of our collective intestinal tracts and taste buds.

Even I didn't escape the allergen issue completely, and I have very few food related issues.

Caveat Emptor!
If you have any sort of food allergies, check the Patriot Pantry website carefully for the ingredient lists (thankfully, they have them available) before you purchase any of these foods. Don't bother looking for ingredient lists at 4Patriots; you won't find any there as of this writing.

About The Pure Starch Issues, Glycemic Index, and Potential Problems for Diabetics
This is a serious consideration for those who have blood sugar issues controlled by diet rather than by medications. Not one of these meals should contain sugar. None of them. Not a single recipe that I have in my (rather exhaustive) supply of cook books, learned skills, or recipe files both off and online calls for sugar to be in something like Potato Soup or Traveler's Stew or Chicken-flavored Rice.

And yet every single meal that was sent in this sampler pack was absolutely loaded with straight up sugar, both as an individual ingredient in its own right and as an ingredient in the chicken stock that was used (rather unsuccessfully) as a flavor component in all of them. For those who have to carefully control their blood sugars, this entire experiment is an utter disaster waiting to happen.

While there were indeed about four single cup servings when I finished cooking any of these dishes, they are composed entirely of starch. Starch by itself is not going to keep you going for the long haul, because it gets used up rather rapidly by the body as its converted into simpler sugars which we process and utilize easily and quickly. Starches and sugars are fantastic if you need a rapid burst of energy -- like, say, while running away from the tiger that escaped the local zoo, who thinks you would make a great snack -- but not so much so on the long term, "I've got to chop enough wood to last in the fire for the next 3 days while this storm blows over" kind of way.

Protein
This is what you need to keep going for long periods, as it takes significantly longer for the body to digest and distribute, and does so without causing brief, sharp spikes in your blood sugar. This means that it won't cause that "slump" you get a couple of hours after eating a lot of starch, which makes even those of us who don't have blood sugar issues feel like they have a lead weight attached to their ankles

Now the nutritional information on all of these meals will list a protein value, but don't be fooled by it. What protein exists in any of these meals is from hydrolyzed soy and corn, not from animal sources, which means they aren't digested and processed by the body in the same way. The limited amount of vegetable protein that exists in any given serving is so overwhelmed by the extremely heavy carb load that it is utterly insignificant.

These meals have no real staying power as far as your digestive tract is concerned. You'll get a brief blood sugar spike, and feel hungry again within a couple of hours.

About the Whole GMO-Free Thing
While there are concerns about some of the most recent genetic modifications being done to the food supply -- specifically those which are only possible in a lab setting, and tinker with things at the level of specific cell DNA modification that wouldn't be possible in nature even with selective breeding -- humanity has been tampering with and altering the natural state of its food supply for upwards of 6,000 years. This is not a new development as a concept.

Face it: Forced cross-pollination, selective breeding, hybridization, and reinforcement of desired traits through breeding have been the standard for a couple thousand years now. The wheat in your sandwich loaf is no more closely related to the ancient wheat grown by Egyptians and Romans than you are to the Romans who were growing it. Yes, you're both Human, but that's as close as the relationship gets unless you're specifically Italian with no other nationality in your family tree at all.

Unless you're a research scientist in the field of botany, you're unlikely to have ever had food that wasn't modified by humanity in some manner at some point in time. Calling something Non-GMO or GMO-Free is, in my opinion, little more than the use of buzzwords and hype to increase sales.

*About the Guarantee Offered by 4Patriots
Okay, this one is sort of out there. 4Patriots hasn't been in business anywhere near 25 years, and they aren't likely to actually last anywhere near 25 years, either, considering the sheer volume of false advertising and misdirection I found in my research.

They aren't the actual manufacturer of this product, regardless of what sort of claims they're making on their website. While the 72-Hour kit is indeed packaged for them, they have nothing to do with production of the contents: they didn't come up with it, they didn't create the recipes, they aren't doing any of the manufacturing processes, and they didn't develop any of the manufacturing processes regardless of what their website implies.

Given all this, offering 300% money back if the food is spoiled when you go to open it is... well....
  1. First, it would depend on the company still being in business. That in and of itself is doubtful considering their not so honest claims. They're no doubt headed rapidly for a lawsuit of some sort.
  2. Second, it would depend on someone purchasing and storing the food for the 25 years to find out whether it was still good after that amount of time. This is actually possible, considering what I saw with the packaging and actual contents, but the caveat is actually having it around for that long.

    If the world collapses, then you aren't likely to be eating stored, dehydrated and freeze dried foods for 25 years; you'll be growing your own foods (or dead) long before you reach that point.  Oh, and if the world collapses, then even the actual manufacturer won't still be around to offer you a refund, much less these jokers.

About The Rest Of The 4Patriots Website
I have to admit, I went and took a good long look around their entire website. I wanted a better feel for the company besides just their food, which I'd already found didn't actually originate with them. I'm glad I did, considering all the utter nonsense I found there in the course of researching things for this article.

I was less than impressed by what I saw there.

My impression of their website, and the attendant advertising of their various products (which include more than just survival foods , and my money is on every single product being from someone else that they're claiming as their own), is that it is primarily aimed at extracting large amounts of money out of the gullible, the easily-panicked, those who don't show due diligence in their research, or those prone to falling for frequent use of scary buzzwords.

The entire site read like a recent version of Chicken Little, with  "The Sky Is Falling! The Sky Is Falling" replaced with "The sky is about to fall! Giving us money will help you survive when it does!"

On a strictly emotional level, everything on their site is aimed at instilling fear of the future and then offering a quick but expensive fix for the fear that's been generated with the scenarios they paint. As someone who trained as a psychologist during one of my trips to college, I find the rather blatant manipulation and unsubtle emotional appeal to your desire to be a good provider for your family, regardless of circumstances, to be rather distasteful and decidedly off-putting.

I found it absolutely infuriating when viewed with the knowledge that they're trying to claim credit for someone else's product, rather than making it plain that these meals, specifically this kit, is only packaged for them, rather than made by them.

If I had gone to their website first and then written a review based strictly on that... well, the review would never have been made, because I would have been so annoyed at all the overpriced, poorly hyped bait for the gullible that I would have refused to try the products 

"Free"
One very specific problem I found when I went to their website to look at the Food4Patriots portion was something that I personally consider to be clickbait scam tactics. They were (are?) running a "special limited time offer" for a "Free" 72-Hour meal kit. The very kit, in fact, that I've reviewed, which normally sells on Amazon and the Patriot Pantry website. I couldn't find it listed anywhere on the 4Patriots site other than as a special limited time offer.

Now to me, when I see the word free, that tells me I won't be spending any money, not even a dime. A free sample, a free trial; these are typically used to get you to try something in the hopes that you like it and will therefore start purchasing it. But they are also usually what they claim to be, free of absolutely any cost other than your time and willingness to try something for a short period or extremely limited amount.

Only when I went to order the "Free 72-Hour Kit" from their limited-time offer -- it was supposed to be free, and I was about to try one, so why not have a couple of spares around to experiment with, right? -- it turned out to be not free. Granted, I wasn't asked to pay for the meals (four of them, costing roughly $25, at the Patriot Pantry website.) No, I was simply expected to pay $10 for shipping and handling.

Now, a lot of you might consider that to still be free. Why quibble over $10 S&H, after all, when practically all companies do that? My answer is "Because that's not free." It's deeply discounted, yes, but they are still trying to get money out of me after telling me that I'm not going to be spending any money in order to convince me to look at the offer.

I declined the offer, being both annoyed and more than a bit put off by what I consider bait and switch tactics. I had already been sent one of the kits anyway for review, so there was less than no chance that I would be willing to give them $10 that could go towards other things.

My thoughts are these: the "free" offer that isn't actually free is a last-ditch effort to get at least some money out of you, because they know that once the kit shows up and all the packaging lists a completely different company other than that outer bag that says "Packaged For", you'll never send them another penny of your hard earned money.

Last-Ditch, You Say?
I say this because outside of their "special limited time offer," you cannot order the 72-Hour kit from 4Patriots. They only offer three choices: one week, one month, and three month sizes, none of which are what could be considered inexpensive. In comparison, the real manufacturer's site offers a huge range of sizes, has a bunch of options that I saw nowhere on the 4Patriots site, has a few specialized kits of varying sizes (even one that is strictly snacks) along with the 72-Hour Kit which they advertise as a sampler.

The three month kit, for example (450 servings of various proportions of 19 food products, one of which is multiple servings of a form of dried milk) is $497. They offer free shipping with that -- after all, you're already giving them a hair shy of $500, so they have to toss you some sort of bone! In order to purchase a 1 year supply via 4Patriots, you'll spend just a hair shy of $2000. Considering that the 1 Year Supply size you can find at the Patriot Pantry website is only $1797, you'll save yourself more than $200 going directly to the manufacturer and taking advantage of their greater selection.  While $200 might not sound like much when you're looking at a purchase this large, that's still $200 you wouldn't have for other critically needed supplies. The 1 Year size at Patriot Pantry also offers a slightly greater variation in meal varieties, which will help in the long run to dispel Food Ennui as well, as well as individual meal types by themselves in #10 cans so you can customize things to your own preferences.

At the other end of the spectrum, while the 1 week kit isn't prohibitive on the face of things -- $67 + $5.95 S&H (again, the same price as that offered by the actual manufacturer) -- I have to quirk a brow at spending that much money for one week of "meals" that are more like side dishes or single entrees without sides, unless you're talking about the various soups. I spend significantly less than that for one week of meals for two people, with enormously more variety and a decent shelf life when I go shopping. And J and I eat well in our house, with two gourmets sharing the kitchen!

The Final Results
These meals are, at their heart, glorified MREs with fancier packaging to appeal to the masses. 

The Meals' Positive Qualities:
  • Convenience
  • Portability
  • Store-ability
  • No prep time needed
  • The capacity to be adjusted for taste (somewhat)
The Meals' Negative Qualities:
They are very bland and incredibly over-salted, so unless you're used to eating absolutely tasteless food, you will have to make some allowances in cooking time, and I hope you have a spice cabinet that has things other than salt and pepper. Of course, considering the sheer volume of salt in any given meal, it would mean you didn't have to keep much on hand in your other stored foods, as you'd be meeting your Recommended Daily Allowance just by eating lunch. 

They are also not cheap. Certainly no pre-packaged, long-term storage food item is cheap, per se, and these are no more grossly expensive than most of the rest out there, but don't go looking to build a serious Survival Pantry out of them on just a few bucks a month. As one of the wide variety of alternatives out on the market today, while they are far from the worst, they certainly aren't even in the neighborhood of the best.

4Patriots
AVOID THESE PEOPLE. Seriously, just avoid them. Over-priced, over-hyped, with an extremely limited selection, and set up to induce panic purchase by the gullible, they are a rip-off and a half. 4Patriots are just middlemen who are mass-marketing at a mark-up and claiming the products as their own.

Patriot Pantry
These are the actual manufacturers of the meals, who package the 72-Hour Kit for 4Patriots. They have a wide selection of survival food products available, an easily navigated website that was surprisingly user friendly and decidedly lacking in the scare tactics, hype, and sensationalism of 4Patriots. While still expensive, they weren't really any more expensive than the ubiquitous Mountain House brand. 

They also seem to know their stuff, and I didn't find anything on their website that was blatantly false advertising when comparing web claims with actual product labeling. If you're looking for something long-term and easily stored, in line price-wise with other offerings out there and with a fairly decent variety of stuff, they're not a bad choice.

Just check the labels and nutritional content of their food. 


FTC Note:  We didn't receive any compensation for this review, which ought to be obvious since we savaged the product.

The Fine Print


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