One of the worst items I've been seeing people being taken advantage of is long term food storage. While I don't deny the world could fall apart because of an asteroid - I'm sure the dinosaurs would have loved a head's up on their coming extinction ;) - or the markets could lead to total financial devastation, I'm the kind of person who worries more about things that could happen like job loss and being snowed in for a week or two. This leads me to take a little more of an open look at long term food storage than someone would who was worried the end is about to happen - since it's October, and 2012 is almost over.
Before you purchase any long term food storage, you have to sit back and ask yourself - and your family - a few things. You need to know what your preparedness goals are. If you are just prepping for a week or two of bad weather, you might be better off purchase extra items at your grocery store like cans of fruit, veggies, and other assorted shelf stables snacks and meals that your family enjoys.
On the other hand, if you'd like to have more options on your pantry shelves and have a shelf stable self sufficient food supply of six months or more, you might want to start looking at long term food storage. Like all foods, don't rush into buying a year's supply of an item until you've tried it first. 12 cans of dehydrated beef stew might sound like a great idea, until you taste it and realize it tastes worse than hospital food. All of a sudden, you've thrown away $200+ that could have been used for better tasting preparations, because you rushed into buying without trying.
Some brands, such as Provident Pantry, Mountain House, Shelf Reliance THRIVE, and Augason Farms, sell smaller sized cans and pouches that you can purchase to try out before making a large purchase. Take advantage of these, and try them out as a FAMILY. You might be able to tolerate it, but your spouse or child(ren) might absolutely hate it. Don't forget that when you try it out, you need to make the dish the same way you would in an emergency situation. If you are planning to have no electricity from a natural disaster, then make the meal the way you would in that situation - on a grill, portable stove, or fireplace. If you're finding the dish a bit lacking, and you start to add ingredients - then you need to keep this in mind for the future and stock those spices or other ingredients.
A very BAD mistake many people make is not checking out the nutritional panel on these long term storage foods. Some items available for purchase are being marketed as "72 hours of meals" or "1 month of food" and I'm here to tell you the cold hard truth: unless you are rationing, most of these are NOT 72 hours, one month, or whatever. They are the bottom of the bottom of calories, some under 1,000 for an entire day. This could be fine for a day or two - but if you're storing for the complete collapse of society and it happens, 1,000 calories is NOT enough for survival for your average adult. Not even close. Keep in mind all the extra work by hand you'll be doing - from chopping wood to carrying water - and you'll realize that our great grandparents really needed the extra fat in their bacon. The harder you have to be working - even just cutting branches and clearing the yard from a major tornado or hurricane - the more calories your body will need to consume. I've tried some long term meals that were marketed as a meal for two - and they weren't even enough for my DH alone for one meal. I had to supplement with other items from my food storage to make it a meal.
Another mistake on that nutritional panel is not checking out the ingredients. Many are loaded with sodium, which could be a problem if you have blood pressure or heart problems and you are living off long term food storage with no fresh foods. Also, be aware that most long term food storage is NOT organic and could possible be laden with GMO's, as well as artificial flavorings or coloring. Read the labels, and remember when it comes to long term food storage, cheaper is NOT always better. If you're relying on it to live, quality outranks price. Better quality foods means you are needing to eat less, and sometimes it even takes up less space.
Don't forget storage times. Some of these long term storage foods are only good for 2-3 years, while others, like Mountain House, have passed the 30 year mark and are still fine to eat. Yes, how you store your foods is important, but some food will go bad quickly no matter how perfect the storage environment is. If you're planning to store for a major event, but you're not eating what you store, you'll want to be sure that the storage food you are purchasing is geared to be good as long as possible.
You'll also need to take in any food intolerances into account. If a family member has a food allergy, be aware that many of these long term foods are all made in the same plants, and come into contact with soy, dairy, gluten, etc. A lot of the "meat" products in some of the cheaper food storage brands is actually made from soy - so again, read those labels, and be aware of the ingredients in what you are buying.
Finally, as a reminder: if you are storing long term foods, please remember to stock accessories that go with it. I read a story of a single guy who purchased a year's worth of wheat, beans, and rice. When he lost his job, he was thrilled to be able to fall back on these preps... until he realized that he couldn't even eat the wheat as he had intended, because he had forgotten to also purchase a grain mill to grind that wheat! Make sure you own items such as a grain mill, multiple manual can openers, water to cook with, pots and pans that can be used (Teflon cookware and woodstoves don't mix! You want cast iron or stainless steel!) and plenty of spices to go alongside those foods, or you're going to tire of beans and rice very, very quickly.