"What's a soup kitchen?" -Paris Hilton
Not All Soups are Created Equal
I store three different types of soup, each for a different reason. I’m not talking about three different flavors of soup; I’m talking about three different ways soup is packaged. The three types of soup are canned soup, dry soup, and ramen noodles. Each has some stellar qualities and some drawbacks. No prepper pantry could be considered complete without all three types of soup on hand.
Canned soup, such as Progresso, is fabulous when you need an instant meal with no muss, no fuss. Just pop the lid off and drink that sucker down. You don’t need to have potable water on hand. You don’t need a source of heat if you’re willing to drink it cold. You don’t even need a bowl or a spoon – just drink it straight from the can. This is great for times of trouble and trauma. If you’re feeding people after a tornado has wrecked your town, huddling in the attic waiting for the hurricane to pass, or hunkering in a bunker after the bomb drops, a can of soup is absolutely the easiest and quickest way to get nourishment. It’s a one-minute meal.
The drawbacks of a can of soup is that it costs (roughly) one dollar, and feeds one person one time. In my budget, this counts as an expensive meal, when rice can be had for four cents a serving and beans for seven cents. Canned soup (canned anything) is picky about storage conditions and must be kept in a temperature-stable environment, preferably with low humidity, and absolutely no chance of ever getting wet from broken pipes, shattered windows, or holes in roofs. Canned soup is heavy and bulky. It takes up an inordinate amount of shelf space. It doesn’t transport easily in a bug-out situation.
Dry soup mix is an excellent item for ultra-long storage. The soup packets available at my local dollar store (two for a buck) are thin and flat, so they store easily. I can tuck many of them into the smallest nooks and crannies of my food storage system. Each packet provides enough soup to feed a one-cup serving to four people. For a buck, eight people can have a bowl of soup, far less expensive than canned soup. Stored inside vacuum-sealed bags or packed into air-tight containers, dry soup stands a better chance of surviving broken pipes, shattered windows, or holes in roofs.
The disadvantages of dry soup is that in order to turn it from a packet of soup into a pot of soup, you must have potable water, a source of heat, a cooking pot, bowls, and spoons. There are many situations in which these may not be available: the tornado trauma; the hurricane huddle; the bunker hunker. Dry soup is perfect for the post-Armageddon scenario, or any situation where things are at least semi-stabilized.
Ramen is wonderful because everybody loves noodles. Canned soup and dry soup cannot hold a candle to the absolute abundance of ramen noodles. Aside from being served as noodle soup, there are hundreds of things you can do with a package of ramen. You can’t beat ramen for versatility. Ramen noodles are boiled in oil, which makes them high in calories. If you’re trying to pack as much nutrition into a starving body as possible, ramen trumps both canned and dry soup. Ramen also comes out on top of the price wars, as they routinely go on sale for ten cents a package.
However, like dry soup, ramen can only be properly prepared if the situation is settled enough to allow basic cooking. However, the noodles are pre-cooked, so they can be reconstituted simply by soaking in water and then eaten cold. Because the noodles are boiled in oil in the factory, their shelf life is shorter than dry soup packets, lasting perhaps several years at best, rather than several decades. After about a year or so in storage the ramen noodles begin to taste like the plastic packaging.
For your dollar spent, then, you have your choice if a single can of soup to feed a single person; a big pot of dehydrated soup enough for eight people; or about ten packages of ramen. When it comes to soup, consider carefully and choose wisely. Be ready for all situations with all kinds of soup.
It's also worth mentioning that my local dollar store sells containers of bouillon cubes; you get 20 or 30 of them for a buck. I love bouillon cubes because I can pack so many of them into the smallest spaces, and the Armageddon Inn is all about packing the greatest amount of food into the smallest possible space for the least amount of money. If you need to reconstitute dehydrated survivors, bouillon, tea, and cocoa are your best friends. Bouillon also serves as a great flavoring agent; rice cooked in broth is so much tastier than rice cooked in water. However, bouillon does not offer very much nutrition so I did not include it in my list of "real" soups.