So, having been asked the same or similar questions multiple times, I am inspired to explain the information provided in the ‘emergency food comparisons’ published on the internet. The information you find is accurate to a point but that point is not made in the comparison. The companies listed sell pre-made, ‘just add water’ meals in a quantity labeled “One Year Supply”. The serving size is listed along with calories per serving and I admit that in my house a serving that provides 250 calories is a side dish not a meal. Even at 370 calories per serving three times a day, you are getting 1,110 calories per day if you consider this a meal. Recommended daily intake is 2,000 to 2,500 calories a day depending on activity, so the best of these packages falls short by about half. They show in the comparison that the prices per 2,000 calories vary between $10.70 and $26.36.
What’s missing in this picture?
As an illustration, I am going to make a pizza for dinner. My cupboards are bare so you are invited to follow me through the grocery store as I purchase ingredients. I’ll have to guess at the prices but I bet I’m fairly close.
- 5 lb bag of flour = 6.00
- 5 lb bag of sugar = 3.00
- 1 gallon of oil = 7.00
- 1 #2.5 container of salt = 1.50
- 1 pkg of yeast = 3.00
- That’s it for the crust, $ 20.50
- 1 qt jar of Italian tomato sauce = 1.50
- 1 onion = .50
- 1 green pepper = 1.00
- 1 box of mushrooms = 2.00
- 1 can of black olives = 1.00
- 1 lb of ground beef = 4.00
- 1 lb of ham or bacon or sausage = 4.00
- OR maybe I want two of these items or maybe I’ll make a meat lovers pizza with all three.
- 2 lb bag of shredded ‘pizza blend’ cheese = 6.00
- OR 1 lb block of mozzarella and 1 lb block of cheddar
- My toppings (without any ORs) comes to $18.50
The total for my pizza is $39.00
Now we wander past the freezer section and see DiGiorno on sale for $7.00. I can look at the serving size, number of servings and calories on the box. I would be a total idiot to believe my pizza would provide matching data. BUT there is a $32.00 difference!
What’s missing from the picture? NOTHING, as long as you compare DiGioro to Red Baron.
Let’s make that $32.00 difference the focus of this “One Year Supply” comparison.
You see, I will have left overs from my pizza. Just the left over flour will make 5 – 6 loaves of bread. The yeast will last, making bread every week, for a year. I will have oil for cooking, salad dressing and more for months. I will have half of the tomato sauce and other toppings for another meal. The left over cheese can be used in multiple meals or snacks. Every time I use something from my left overs, I lower the cost of my pizza. How can I measure and thus compare my grocery cart to DiGiorno? Well, actually I suppose I could … there are 252.4 tablespoons in a gallon. So at $7 a gallon, I spent almost 3 cents on oil for my pizza. But you know what I mean.
Please, please, please don’t miss the point. There is certainly a place for quick and easy, ready made, just add water meals. Most days fixing dinner requires some planning and 30 (ish) minutes to prep and then you have cook time. Then some days you are so exhausted or busy that throwing a frozen pizza in the oven is about the best you can do. These instances will probably be more frequent if circumstances require you to use food storage exclusively. Emergencies call for emergency food. Eating nothing but emergency food is like restricting your diet to nothing but frozen pot pies.
When it comes to food storage packages comprised of ingredients, compare TOTAL calories and protein provided knowing that how you use those ingredients and how you serve it up is how the “per serving” numbers are calculated. And just as a reminder, Uncle Bill’s serving doesn’t match little Lilly’s. A food storage package comprised of ingredients will generally provide 2,000 calories for $3 to $5 depending on ‘extras’ like freeze-dried vs dehydrated, some quick and easy meals and additional desserts.
Just as it is considerably less expensive to eat at home than to eat in a restaurant, it is more economical to prepare a meal from scratch. If you strive to stretch your food dollar at the super market, shouldn’t you do so in your long term food planning?