Frugal buying tips - freeze dried, etc

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TurtleNomad
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Frugal buying tips - freeze dried, etc

Post by TurtleNomad » Fri Nov 18, 2011 2:59 am

Please share your frugal tips, for all manner of shelf-stable food. :)
I'll start off with freeze dried, since that was one of my Prepper Goals for the last year...

Freeze-Dried:
Probably the best trade-off to start with, is to buy individual pouches (Walmart, REI) and sampler kits (mostly online, e.g. Amazon, CheaperThanDirt, etc).

Walmart typically has two to about four entrees, at reasonable but not fabulous prices.

Try a couple. If you hate them all, you probably should stop.
If you like them, start looking for deals on kits or multi packs. :)
Eventually, consider trying out #10 cans.

REI has some good sales, fantastic variety (over 100 entrees), currently does free shipping on purchases of $50+, and you can select exactly what you want to try (vs buying a combo pack).
Right now, they're running a "buy 12, save 10%" sale, which makes them competitive with Walmart (... and shopping quietly (no screaming-kids & no bell-ringers) from home... priceless!).

Amazon is hit and miss. Sometimes you can find great bargains.
About a year ago, I bought the "AlpineAire Foods 5 Day Gourmet Meal Kit" for $66.92 (17 Pouches).
That's 3.94 per pouch.
There were several other very attractive AlpineAire sales at about the same time.
Amazon's individual pouch prices are usually insanely high.

Here's some nifty tricks with Amazon:
  • Add interesting items to your shopping cart, then click on the "save for later" link for each item.
    Every time you visit your cart, it will show you price changes. That makes it relatively easy to spot sales.
    That AlpineAire 5-day kit often fluctuates daily, between low 80s and low 100s.
  • Usually, your GoldBox offers will be biased towards your most recent purchases, and what is in your shopping cart or saved area.
    After I ordered my first AlpineAire 6-pack, each day I usually received a $1 to $2 off offer on one of the other AlpineAire 6-packs which were in my saved area.
  • http://camelcamelcamel.com/
    is an Amazon price tracker, and lets you set up notifications (I've never used the email thingie - be very careful about giving your email address to any Ferengi type org).
    When I first spot something interesting, I usually check the price range using Camel. That's cruder but less risky than setting up a notification.

Costco and Sam's Club have some great items, and both have much better deals (price & variety wise) than CTD and other specialty vendors.
You do have to have a membership, or a trustworthy friend who will order for you.
On the upside, Costco & Sam's prices usually (always?) include shipping.
Note that most of these items are rarely in their stores - online only!
You can enter both types of stores, without hassles. You need a membership to buy, not enter.
Sometimes, you can get a "one day membership", however there's usually a surcharge on everything you buy.

Allegedly, a friend can buy you a giftcard, which does not require a membership to use, however I have not tried this myself.

Please don't be overwhelmed by the "year" supplies.
There's some very attractive two to six can packs of #10 cans, that we mere mortals can afford. :)
I'm particularly interested in the milk and egg two-packs.
I'm not prepping for TEOTWAWKI, just for realistic stuff like ice storms, floods, etc. :)

Here's Costco's "Emergency Food Kits & Supplies" index page:
http://www.costco.com/Common/Category.a ... lang=en-US

One of the best deals is 24 of those Mountain House "wrap" pouches for $99.99:
http://www.costco.com/Browse/Product.as ... 77&topnav=
Check out Treesuit's and others' excellent MH wrap reviews.

They also used to carry the 7-day AlpineAire kit for about $90.
Many of their deals disappear for a while, then return.


Sam's Club's equivalent page is:
http://www.samsclub.com/sams/shop/categ ... Id=1340121
The most interesting/relevant items are in the "A-La-Carte" sub-section:
http://www.samsclub.com/sams/shop/categ ... Id=1760105
or (all on one huge page):
http://www.samsclub.com/sams/shop/categ ... Id=1760105

Here's one very promising deal:
http://www.samsclub.com/sams/shop/produ ... ction=push
$109.36
AlpineAire Foods - 14-Day Portable Food Pantry
It's 29280 calories, so that's $2.60 per pouch, averaging 697 calories per pouch.
The main downsides (IMO) are lack of variety (only 10 types), and a lot of granola type food (Tree, you reading this?).

If you're helping out beginner friends, that would be an excellent second purchase, after a sampling of individual pouches from Walmart or REI or elsewhere.
Combine it with mundane emergency food (canned, snacks, etc), and a modest family would be set up (food-wise) for 99% of realistic emergencies. :)
The important thing is the spices.
A man can live on packaged food from here til Judgement Day if he's got enough Marjoram.
- Shephard Book, "Serenity" (the pilot), Firefly
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Ruleryak
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Re: Frugal buying tips - freeze dried, etc

Post by Ruleryak » Fri Nov 18, 2011 12:25 pm

Fantastic info, thanks TurtleNomad!

I just wanted to add that if you're not in a rush another great way to keep your costs low is to join a few on-topic forums that allow commercial advertising. Mreinfo.com is a great site for us and sure we can find some great deals trading and purchasing with each other but in this case I'm referring more to sites like survivalistboards.com where there's a section for larger retailers to advertise. If you keep an eye on these areas there are regularly going to be sales just for members of that forum with some substantial discounts - not to mention contests too - and who wouldn't want FREE bug out supplies? :mrgreen:

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Treesuit
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Re: Frugal buying tips - freeze dried, etc

Post by Treesuit » Sun Nov 20, 2011 1:30 am

I do know that MREDEPOT.com does have some good deals once in awhile. I did check on their freeze-dried items and if your looking for single #10 canned items the price ranges from 4.95 to 14.95 depending on what your getting. There are some freeze dried and fresh pack bulk lots that are good buys especially on basic staples such as flour, whole wheat, rice, pasta, etc.

They did carry the single cans of canned cheese, real butter, and bacon a long time ago but not so much these days. You have to buy a big case of each and when they do have specials on those they go super fast.

I too like REI and there selection of Mountain House Foods and Alpine Air. There freeze dried foods are pretty tasty and there specials can't be beat. :D

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Bypah
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Re: Frugal buying tips - freeze dried, etc

Post by Bypah » Sun Nov 20, 2011 8:46 pm

If you want to get freeze dried foods in bulk and cheap try Emergency Essentials.Is a store run by mormons in Utah.
http://beprepared.com/
also the LDS have a cannery program which you can get stuff , if you lucky. :wink:
"Live long and prosper..."

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Treesuit
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Re: Frugal buying tips - freeze dried, etc

Post by Treesuit » Sun Nov 27, 2011 11:02 pm

TurtleNomad,

I just re-read your comments on the online vendors and was wondering how any of those guys stack up against CTD.com. I know CTD does a have a few good items for sale. I was looking for the WISE freeze dried foods but didn't see them. I have usually found WISE foods a good, slightly cheaper investement. I don't know what the prices were through CTD than with theepicenter.com. Seems the epicenter carries that brand but you have to buy bigger lots.

TurtleNomad
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Re: Frugal buying tips - freeze dried, etc

Post by TurtleNomad » Tue Nov 29, 2011 3:17 am

Ruleryak wrote:If you keep an eye on these areas there are regularly going to be sales just for members of that forum with some substantial discounts -
Great suggestion, Ruleryak! :)
I've been thinking it would be cool if we had a "Deals" thread, aimed at short-term sales at reputable outfits, so we could all post tips. A few times, I've found out about good sales, and been tempted to post it, but felt shy about starting a whole thread for something small-ish.
Treesuit wrote:I do know that MREDEPOT.com does have some good deals once in awhile.
Yes, there's so many outfits out there, I no longer check them all regularly, but do remember some great MREDEPOT sales, often of items that few/any others carry.

Somebody start a Deals thread, please! :)
Last edited by TurtleNomad on Tue Nov 29, 2011 3:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
The important thing is the spices.
A man can live on packaged food from here til Judgement Day if he's got enough Marjoram.
- Shephard Book, "Serenity" (the pilot), Firefly
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TurtleNomad
Posts: 129
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2008 12:49 pm
Location: USA, northern MidWest

Re: Frugal buying tips - freeze dried, etc

Post by TurtleNomad » Tue Nov 29, 2011 3:26 am

Bypah wrote:If you want to get freeze dried foods in bulk and cheap try Emergency Essentials.
Bypah, I agree that Emergency Essentials usually has great prices, however I am very hesitant to deal with any company whose privacy policy looks like it was written by a Ferengi:
We occasionally make our list available to carefully screened companies whose products may interest you. If you would prefer to have your name withheld, please fax (1-801-222-9598) or mail us the address area located on the back of your catalog or mail piece. In addition, please indicate your preference below, so we may do our best to fulfill your request.
Bolding added by me.
Selling my info should only be with my prior permission.
It should be trivially easy for me to change it.
While faxing and mailing aren't quite up there with the notification requirements of Vogon Constructor Fleets, they are decades behind the time.

Um, rant over, thanks for bearing with me. :]
Yes, I'm one of those folks who read website privacy policies before ordering.

And, like Bypah, I'm a huge Star Trek: Deep Space 9 fan. ;)
Bypah wrote:also the LDS have a cannery program which you can get stuff , if you lucky. :wink:
Bypah, thanks for the excellent suggestion of LDS canneries!
I've only heard good things about them, and they're on my list of things to check out some day.
They also have an online store, with some very intriguing items:
http://store.lds.org/webapp/wcs/stores/ ... _N_image_0
I'm hoping someone will buy one of their "starter kits" and do a review. :)
The important thing is the spices.
A man can live on packaged food from here til Judgement Day if he's got enough Marjoram.
- Shephard Book, "Serenity" (the pilot), Firefly
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TurtleNomad
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Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2008 12:49 pm
Location: USA, northern MidWest

Re: Frugal buying tips - freeze dried, etc

Post by TurtleNomad » Tue Nov 29, 2011 4:22 am

While checking prices for Treesuit, for Wise Food at Amazon, I stumbled across a big price drop of the AlpineAire 7-day kit!
25 differnt pouches for $104.04 ($4.16/pouch).
As I mentioned, I've bought the 5-day kit, and was very pleased with its quality (I'll post some reviews to Tree's freeze dried thread, soon).

Here's the CamelCamelCamel price chart, as a great example for any Frugality Padawans:
http://camelcamelcamel.com/AlpineAire-F ... B001LK8GN6
It was dumb luck (plus a timely question by Treesuit) that I spotted that at the point it dived!

It's now in my Amazon cart "save for later" area, and, for research purposes, I set up my first ever CamelCamelCamel alert (it will email me if it detects the price dropping to $96)
I set that up using a "tagged" email address, so if they sell my address and/or are cracked, I'll find out and will post here. :)

(note: "tagged" email addresses are simply addresses that have a unique code in them, and are only given out to one person/organization, so it's trivial to detect when someone else sends to it. It's an important tool in anti-spam research.)

Treesuit wrote:I just re-read your comments on the online vendors and was wondering how any of those guys stack up against CTD.com. I know CTD does a have a few good items for sale. I was looking for the WISE freeze dried foods but didn't see them. I have usually found WISE foods a good, slightly cheaper investement. I don't know what the prices were through CTD than with theepicenter.com. Seems the epicenter carries that brand but you have to buy bigger lots.
First, here's CTD's master "food" list:
http://www.cheaperthandirt.com/ItemList ... catid=6195

In my personal opinion/observation, CTD often has near unique stuff, often at good prices, but they also often have common stuff at higher than "normal" prices, and their shipping is somewhat expensive.

Examples:
CTD has 6-packs of Mountain House 2-person entrees for $39.97, which is about $6.66/pouch.
REI had a sale with a wider selection of MH 2-person entrees for $5.19, which included free shipping, for orders of $50 or more.

CTD has a 100-item box of MRE Almond Poppy Seed Pound Cakes for $59.97, which is the cheapest I've ever seen them.
They also have a "MRE Dessert Assortment Containing 15 Individual Dessert Paks" (pound Cake & Brownies) for $19.97, which is significantly above the normal price for such items.


Wise Foods:
As I mentioned, Amazon sometimes has great prices, sometimes crazy high prices.
I've found that with freeze dried items, their multi-item prices tend to be fairly decent.
They have a number of Wise Food kits that qualify for free shipping, and are cheaper than both CTD and EpiCenter.

Amazon's organization sucks. Here's how to get a nice grid:
Enter "wise foods" into thee search box.
You can narrow it by clicking "Sports & Outdoors" (left hand side, top, under "Department").
Click on "Free Super Saver Shipping" (left hand side, about one screen down under "Shipping Option").

Here's the (current) highlights:

"Emergency Survival Food Wise Foods 72 Hour Emergency Meal Kit Gourmet Outdoor Foods"
$27.95 Amazon, with free shipping
$29.97 CheaperThanDirt, plus shipping (about $2-$3, if added to an existing order)

"56 Serving Gourmet Emergency Grab and Go Food Kit"
$101.95 Amazon
$99.97 CTD, shipping about $7.5

"60 Serving Gourmet Emergency Grab and Go Food Kit"
$99.00 Amazon
$99.97 CTD, shipping about $8

"84 Serving Gourmet Emergency Grab and Go Food Kit"
$150.00 Amazon
$149.97 CTD, shipping about $10

To ship anything from CTD, it starts at about $10 (for an item that was about half a pound), in addition to the estimated cost above.
They tantalizingly mention "FedEx SmartPost" as a slower delivery option, but fail to mention whether it's cheaper or even how to "select" it. :(

In general, CTD seems to have much "weaker" customer support/service than a big outfit like Amazon (well-oiled machine), or TheEpiCenter (sweet and lovable real humans).
They carry stuff that nobody else does, so I'll buy from them, but not with the same enthusiasm as other vendors.

Frugality doesn't always mean picking the lowest monetary price.
It also tries to reduce mental stress and support better vendors. :)
The important thing is the spices.
A man can live on packaged food from here til Judgement Day if he's got enough Marjoram.
- Shephard Book, "Serenity" (the pilot), Firefly
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Treesuit
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Re: Frugal buying tips - freeze dried, etc

Post by Treesuit » Sun Dec 11, 2011 7:12 pm

TurtleNomad,

Just wanted to give you and the others an update. I had a great deal with MREDEPOT.com on one of there black friday deals. I always get e-notices from them on when there running a sale. This time it was free shipping on all items. So on that friday I went on and bought some stuff that I thought would be great to have and want to really to eat. So I bought a #10 can and 6 of the #6 cans. Altogether it was a little over $50.00 dollars for 7 cans and the free shipping was great since it got to my house within 4-5 days.

With MRE DEPOT some people here have had mixed success with that company but I have never had a bad experience with them at all. It's just the shipping part kills any interest with me since I'm on a budget. Now if they run another deal like this after Chirstmas or before I'm going to take advantage of it and order some more.
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Treesuit
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Re: Frugal buying tips - freeze dried, etc

Post by Treesuit » Thu Jan 19, 2012 3:02 pm

TurtleNomad,

I have had two successfull buys from MREDepot after Christmas where I bought more freeze dried canned foods. Right now I'm looking for great deals on the freeze dried pouches. I did look on Amazon.com but haven't found very more worth buying.

Have you had any luck?

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