There are many companies that market all-inclusive “Emergency Food” solutions. The idea of figuring out what to store and how much you need can seem daunting, so you may be tempted to just open your wallet, make a purchase, and call it “DONE.” But these solutions come with high price tags. Ever the bargain shopper, you may want to just compare the number of servings and go with the lowest price. That would be a mistake.
There are companies that say they are giving you a LOT of servings to make it seem like a good buy for the money. It is important, however, to pay attention to the serving size and the number of calories they provide. In a situation where long-term food storage is needed, the caloric needs of people actually increase. This is due to increased physical activity that is required to perform many basic daily functions. An emergency situation is not the time to go on a diet.
Real World Example
As an example, I had an online friend who was very excited to purchase a year’s supply from one of the better online suppliers. The package that he purchased included 1080 servings in 9 buckets, which should last 360 days at one serving per meal.
The problem is that those servings have an average of only 400 calories each. At 3 servings per day, they only provide 1200 calories a day. If you need 2000 calories each day (you’ll need more if you are doing more physical labor because power/utilities aren’t available), you’ll need 5 of those servings each day.
How to Calculate
# Days per Pkg.
# of Calories/serving
# of Servings
Total Calories per Package
Total Calories per Package
Number of Days
432,000 Calories per Package
432,000 Calories per Package
That means that those buckets are only a 216-day supply for ONE person instead of the one year that is expected. You also need to consider the number of calories each person needs. A teenage boy who is running errands on foot through the neighborhood and doing physical labor around the house may need as many as 3000 calories a day. That same “year’s supply” will only last that teenage boy 144 days.
In order to survive, you will need to supplement these buckets with additional food, or buy more buckets. Also, the serving size of our example was only 1.5 cups of one type of food (no entrees plus side dishes here). I suggest measuring out your next meal and seeing if you will be satisfied with 1.5 cups of food for your meal. Some companies have even smaller serving sizes.
Also, realize that the entrees come in 4-serving pouches that may make rehydrating individual servings difficult; the package includes directions for rehydrating 2 and 4 servings. If you have a family of 4 each eating the needed 5 servings a day, those buckets will only last 54 days. That’s not even 2 months! You will need many more buckets at a greatly increased cost to last a year.
You MUST consider the accurate number of days, the serving size, and how those servings are packaged. If you want to use this type of food in your storage, it should be customized to your family’s needs. Don’t just take the manufacturer’s word for how long it will last.
The packages shown here all require 4 Cups of Boiling water to make 4 1-cup servings (except the milk substitute). That includes the Rice Pilaf which makes 8 servings ALL AT ONCE. This is one of the reasons we don’t count on it for a full 7 days.
Please don’t think I’m trying to discourage you from using any emergency food buckets in your food storage, that is not my intent; as you can see, we have some in our storage. I just think it’s better for you to understand this now rather than after an emergency comes along and your year’s supply doesn’t last nearly that long. It’s unfortunate that food storage companies can market their food as a “year’s supply” when it doesn’t actually come close. I have no issue with any of the products, just the claims of how long they will feed you.
So what other options are available for long term food storage? I recommend a layered approach that we’ll talk about next week that can be perfectly designed for each family’s needs and may even include some of these long-term buckets.
Food for Your Emergency Kit
This month we’re focusing on Emergency Kits, so what kind of food should you include in your Bug Out Bag (BOB)?
Food in your BOB should be lightweight. It should be ready to eat with little to no energy required for cooking or heating. If it is dehydrated or freeze dried, it will weigh less, but you will need to carry water to eat it. Backpacking food is a great option for this, as is the food mentioned in the example above. If it requires no additional water, it will weigh a little more. The decision on what to include should be based on individual needs, abilities, and preferences.
We’ll talk about water in more detail next month, but you should plan on having access to 1 gallon of water per day per person. That should be increased if you need it to rehydrate your food. Water for your Emergency kit can be purchased in sealed Mylar pouches, aseptic boxes, cans, or regular water bottles.
What do we do?
What is in our BOBs? I bought “1-week” pre-packaged boxes for each of our emergency kits. Due to the calorie count and method of packaging, we only expect each box to last 4-5 days. What are we doing for water? I have a filtering water bottle, drinking water pouches, a case of Costco Kirkland water bottles (40 – 16.9 oz bottles) for each person. We also have a collapsible wagon we’ll use to carry it if we have to evacuate without our car. The drinking water pouches go in our pockets, but they can be problematic (like Capri Sun pouches), subject to punctures and could leak.
We have, in the past, created our own food bags for each kit. These included items such as peanut butter or cheese and cracker sandwiches, fruit leather, meat sticks, instant oatmeal, tuna salad kits, fruit sauce packets, and other pre-packaged foods. These have appeal for families with children as the foods are more familiar and can provide some comfort. It is especially helpful for those who are picky eaters. The biggest concern is rotating this food in your emergency kit. If you can consistently switch it out every 6 months (I suggest the 1st weekend in April and October), the food will stay fresh and useful. If you don’t rotate it, you may find that your food is spoiled when you go to use it, ask me how I know.