Testing 20-Year-Old Mountain House Lasagna, by S.H. in Texas

This article describes my experience with some Mountain House brand freeze-dried lasagna that I taste-tested 13 years beyond it’s “Best By” date.

Since I have become a bit of a “prepper”, I have noticed that the years seem to fly by much faster than before! Perhaps it’s just the usual momentum of age, but it seems every time I check on something from my “deep storage”, I find that it has been at least 10 years since it was purchased! Very disturbing. So…the question that plagues us is this: “would this be better-‘n-nothing when the SHTF, or should I just appease the wife and throw it out?”. Sound familiar?

To gain some insights into this dilemma, I have pledged to test some of my older supplies when the opportunity arises. One such endeavor with yeast, vacuum packed and frozen, was posted some time ago. I also dug into an old MRE and JWR was kind enough to share the findings. I encourage my brother and sister preppers to do the same, so that we can all learn better how to optimize the efficiency our storage space. I can think of nothing worse that settling my family down to a meal of precious storage food, when no options remain, only to find that it is spoiled beyond consumption!

Today’s experiment deals with an old “backpacker” package of Mountain House lasagna. I purchased this around 2003 or 2004 for an anticipated backpacking trip, but somehow, it survived. Since that time it has been stored in my long-term larder, at controlled room temperature ranging from 75-80° F.

The lasagna was prepared following the manufacturer’s instructions, with one exception: after adding 16 oz of boiling water, stirring well, closing the bag, and returning it to the foil bag to retain heat, I let it sit for 15 minutes, rather than the 5-10 minutes recommended, in order to allow it a good chance at rehydration after so many years. Anyway, I don’t recall ever timing things exactly around the campfire!

Here are some photos, showing the packaging, and my reconstitution and taste test:

Evaluation: The lasagna had a mild tomato aroma – not unpleasant. Upon sampling several fork-fulls, I found the noodles to be tender, the meat chewy, and the flavor somewhat understated, with a tangy feel. I did not experience any unpleasant after-taste or texture. Overall, I would rate it as reasonably palatable. I was unable to complete the toxicity phase of testing, as my wife was screaming: “STOP EATING THAT STUFF!!!!”.

Summary: I had planned to reconstitute the second package in a boiler, allowing it to simmer for a while, but found no need to do this, as the lasagna was adequately hydrated following the manufacturer’s in-package instructions. In fairness, I haven’t had any “fresh” Mountain House lasagna lately, so no comparison could be made, though I recall it being a bit more flavorful when newly-purchased. Of course, the #10 cans are said to have a much longer storage life than the packets. Nutritional value could not be evaluated.

Based on this experiment, I would definitely NOT dispose of Mountain House freeze-dried packets just because they are a decade-plus past their “best by” date. Of course, other menu items may have different results – for example, products containing milk powder may deteriorate faster than a tomato-based product.

If my family and I were really hungry, then this lasagna, served over rice or more noodles, would certainly bring a glow to our bellies and smile to our faces!

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