Survival Buzz: The Myth of Serving Sizes in Packaged Emergency Food

Gaye LevyGaye Levy | Jul 2, 2019
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Something that absolutely drives me bonkers is to open a four-serving package of food, whether it is “regular food” or “emergency food”, only to find that it barely serves two people.  Now don’t get me wrong, I am not a big eater.  Still, I expect to eat a plateful of food as I get in my 1600 calories a day.

Then there is the issue of cost.  If I am paying for four servings, I want four servings.  To me, 1/4th cup of rice with a speck of meat and two specks of vegetables does not constitute a serving.

Myth of Serving Sizes in Packaged Emergency Food | Backdoor Survival

The issue of serving size, calories, and cost is big one for every prepper yet many are blind to what they are really getting for their hard-earned dollars.  They make purchases based on price and the quoted number of servings alone, when, in reality, the purchase should be based on a cost per serving, with the serving based upon a reasonable number of calories. While for many of you, I am preaching the choir, for others, this is new information.

In today’s Survival Buzz, I would like to educate you a bit relative to serving sizes and how, when it comes to emergency food, the size of the serving affects your wallet.

The Mystery of Serving Size and How It Affects Your Wallet

You might have noticed that serving sizes on your everyday grocery items aren’t always consistent, with one small carton of ice cream being four half-cup servings and another being two one-cup servings, or different brands of chips indicating a single serving is four or eight or even 10 chips. When listing smaller serving sizes, the manufacturer is downplaying the number of calories in the product. But who only eats four chips, or even a half a cup of ice cream?

Kind of tricky, right? One food industry niche in particular where this phenomenon is found is food storage.

Here’s how it works specifically in this industry: Some manufacturers will list similar prices to their competitors or claim they offer more servings per cost, but in reality, they are actually offering less food.

How can you know this? Instead of comparing prices based on number of servings, compare prices based on total weight of the package of food. Companies boasting lower prices per serving often cost far more than competitors when compared by the weight of the food inside. More companies than you think are “shrink serving” sizes to make it appear as if you’re getting more food per package than you really are.

For example, one food storage company offers a 720-serving package for $1,505 with the total weight of the package being 120 lbs., with total calories at 175,800, averaging 244 calories per serving.

Another company offers the same number of servings for $1,430, with the total weight of the package being 184 lbs., total calories being 267,360 and average calories per serving of 377.

A third company charges $1,646.99 for its 632-serving package. While that’s obviously fewer servings than the others, it averages out at even less calories per serving than the first choice: 224 That’s a huge difference, especially for the cost.

The last place and time you would want to discover that you don’t have as much food as you thought to feed your family is during an emergency situation. When spending your hard-earned money on emergency supplies, you need to be sure you are getting what you think you’re paying for.

So remember that the most important things to consider when comparing food storage packages is the total weight of the package and the resulting calories per serving, not the cost per serving. Knowing the total weight of the package will allow you to determine the real serving size for the price you’re paying—the calories per serving—so you can ensure that each member of your family gets enough each day to keep them healthy for as long as you need to live off of the emergency foods.

Now that you know the tricks many food storage manufacturers make to convince you that you’re getting more food for a lower cost than you really are, you can make more informed purchasing decisions.

Happy shopping.

By way of full disclosure, this article was written by Phil Cox, the CEO of Legacy Food Storage and long term Backdoor Survival sponsor, Buy Emergency Foods.  Most of you already know that Legacy Food is one of the few providers of freeze-dried food that I trust.

That said, my intent today is to educate and not to sell you product but, if you would like to check them out, click on these links to check out some of their food storage products and sample kits.

Prepare Your Family for Survival: Tip #7

Here are this week’s prep tips from Linda Loosli’s recently published a book, Prepare Your Family For Survival.  Be sure to check below in the giveaway section.  Linda has donated five copies of her book in the latest Book Festival giveaway.

Chapter 7 – Lessons in Laundry

Tip: If you run out of disposable diapers and don’t have any cloth ones on hand, take some old flannel shirts or nightgowns or bathrobes, cut big squares of fabric out of them, and fold them up to make emergency diapers that you secure with safety pins if you don’t have diaper pins. You’ll also want to cover the diaper with plastic of some sort, perhaps fashioned from a food storage bag.

Tip: Those awesome blue jeans you tend to wear most days, won’t seem so awesome when you wash them by hand. They are thick, soak up a lot of water are difficult to wring out, and could take days to dry on the clothesline. If you live in jeans, make sure you have several pair, and think about having a few items in your wardrobe that are easy to wash and wear.

For more about the book, visit the article 11 Ways to Prepare Your Family for Survival.

Current Backdoor Survival Giveaways

Reminder:  there are five copies of the book available in this week’s Book Festival giveaway.

Prepper Book Festival 11: Prepare Your Family For Survival + Giveaway

Custom Healing Salves the Easy Way With Spark Naturals | Backdoor Survival

Custom Healing Salves the Easy Way With Spark Naturals + Giveaway

With all giveaways, winners are notified by email and have 48 hours to claim their prize or an alternate will be selected.  Once selected, the names of winners are also displayed in the Rafflecopter on the original giveaway article.  This usually happens on the Friday following the end of the giveaway.

The Final Word

Of all of the topics I considered writing about this week, one that went to the bottom of the list was the “I am tired” speech.  No, I am not talking about lack of sleep (although there is a bit of that), but rather tired of the BS and prepper porn (as one reader called it) that is out there on the internet. I find many of the attention grabbing headlines in our space tiresome and sad, mostly because some unsuspecting prepper is going to fall for the fear tactics.

The other reason I am tired is that these sites are still up to their old trick of stealing content, adding links that pitch crappy products, and then naming themselves as the author.  Tiresome indeed.  Some days I think about quitting the battle and writing books instead.

Okay, enough of a rant.   I hope everyone had a fantastic week and that you did a modest amount of prepping. Everything in moderation right? So tell me about it; what did you do to prep this week?

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

If you enjoyed this article, consider subscribing to email updates.  When you do, you will receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-Book, The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide.

You can also vote for Backdoor Survival daily at Top Prepper Websites!

Bargain Bin:  Below you will find links to the items in the article Finding Your Way Back Home Without a Map and Compass as well as the items shown my personal Survival Key Ring.

Survival Key Ring - Backdoor Survival

Military Prismatic Sighting Compass & Pouch:  I have owned this compass for a long time.  This is why Hiking is Important!

Original Fox 40 Classic Whistle:  This pea-less whistle was my choice for my key ring.  It is smaller than the Windstorm (still a favorite) with no "pea" to stick and impede sound. The harder you blow, the louder the sound.

Streamlight Nano Light Keychain LED Flashlight:  This little flashlight is extremely small and light weight yet it will throw off a decent amount of super-bright light. At just .36 ounces and 1.47 inches long, it will take up a minimum of space in your pocket or bag.  It is the #1 bestseller on Amazon in the category Key Chain Flashlights.

Victorinox Swiss Army Climber II Pocket Knife: This is the Swiss army knife that both Shelly and I carry.  It includes the following: large and small blades, two standard screwdrivers, bottle and can openers, a corkscrew, a wire stripper, scissors, key ring, reamer, and parcel hook. In addition, there is a tweezers and a toothpick that pull out of the end.

Kingston Digital DataTraveler Flash Drive: I much prefer these metalized flash drives because the ring will not break.  Been there, done that.  These flash/thumb drives have really come down in price and are great for storing important documents.

Nite Ize DoohicKey Multi-Tool: This little tool comes in handy for all sorts of things. You can use it to pry things, screw or unscrew things, and as a measure.  It is well worth the $5 and weighs almost nothing on your key ring.

Compass and Thermometer: This is the compass I carry with me.  It is tossed around in my handbag and has suffered a lot of abuse along the way.  That said, nary a crack or scratch in the casing.

Bundle of 2 Premium 350 lb. Paracord Key Chains: The paracord key ring I own is no longer available on Amazon but here is a good alternative.  Pricewise, you get 2 for the price I paid for one.


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Preferred by Backdoor Survival.  This is the Emergency Food I buy for my own use. It is non-GMO and MSG-free plus there are 100% Gluten-Free options.  Shipping is always free.  CLICK HERE TO ORDER.

What are the best oils for your survival kit? Here are my top picks.

9 Best Essential Oils for Your Survival Kit | Backdoor Survival




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18 Responses to “Survival Buzz: The Myth of Serving Sizes in Packaged Emergency Food”

  1. What are some examples of prepper porn, tiresome attention grabbing headlines, and fear tactics? So I know when I’m seeing one.

    Anyway, this week I got a better headlight for my bicycle so I don’t have to duct tape on a flashlight, and I picked up a candle lantern at an estate sale for use around the house after the batteries run out during the Winter months when the Sun does not come out enough to charge anything with solar power. The lantern has frosted glass so it gives out a real low level light yet still lights up enough to see by.

    Also, the shift button on my keyboard stopped working and I’m tired of having to copy and paste things like question marks. I now want to answer the question, other than a smart phone, what’s the best shtf internet surfing/document reading electronic device to have?

    • One example is opening a survival/prepping eBook that you pay for and, within three pages, seeing: Watch this SHOCKING video now! When you click the link and open the video, it is one of those doomsday videos showing warriors in gas masks. The video is pitching an email course of instruction for surviving the apocalypse that you can purchase for “just” $69.95. But only if you order in the next five minutes.

      As far as an electronic document reader and web surfing device, I do love my old iPad2 but the new iPads are way too expensive for my current budget. I really should check out the Kindle Fire and see how they work since they are reasonably priced.

    • Gaye, just my opinion but ….. I have an old Ipad 1 and I have a Kindle Fire HDX. I love the Kindle Fire. I like it MUCH better than the Ipad.

    • Thanks for the tip. As much as I love the iPad, it is slower than molasses. I am going to check Amazon for the Kindle Fire HDX. My birthday was in November and I have not received my present yet 🙂

    • Any of the Kindle Fires would be a good surfing/reading device. The cheapest is only $49. A computer guru friend bought it recently and is putting it through its paces. She’s satisfied with it. I have the Fire HD 7 and intend to load it up with all my prepping, health, herbal, and personal files, plus the loads of ebooks I have, Kindle and otherwise.

  2. I have had a great week. I took my piggy to the butcher last week. I keep the belly to make my own bacon. I cured them with pure maple syrup, dark brown sugar, and salt. It took 10 days. Then to the smoker. Smoked them with apple wood for 4 hours, then left some bacon and all the ham hocks in for an additional 3 hours in hickory smoke. I know my pinto beans will taste grand now.
    I visited my daughter yesterday to use her meat slicer to slice the bacon. 22 lb. The greatest thing was her showing me her very own food storage room. I dont want to say I have been harping on her, but, it seems it is paying off. I raised one pig for her and she had to buy a freezer for the pig, so while she was at it, she put down new tile, and her husband (hen pecked)built her new shelves on 3 of the walls and she had cases and cases of canned goods.
    So I am so happy to have raised my very first piggies (I still have 2 more getting fatter), but most of all I have gotten my daughter, to get on the band wagon as a prepper.

  3. Just curious if you guys have ideas or options for the broke prepper, I live in an area where 90+ percent are below or far below the poverty line, so right now it is prep or eat. Do you have free and DIY options for supplies stuff other people downsized perhaps. Also, I have a dehydrator, I want options to dry stuff myself and make it taste ok

    • A bag of rice and/or a bag of beans per week should be within your budget, even if it’s only a small bag. You’d get more value if you partnered with a neighbor to buy a larger bag and split it. An acquaintance in your neighborhood should be interested in this low-cost food item, whether or not they’re into prepping.

  4. Total calories are king, but I’m not sure I’d agree with weight. Freeze dried versus wet packed, and it’s easy to see that the freeze dried will usually be a LOT lighter than the wet packed food, but it will last longer and tends to have as many if not more calories (depending on what the wet pack is packed in, say a sugar syrup for fruits versus tuna in water.) And even dry storage, sugar is heavy, but not terribly nutritious when you get down to it. Sure, it adds to the calorie count, but if that’s your only source of calories that will be a big problem, even if you have an unlimited supply of vitamins. Balancing the foods in your LTS is critical, but with an eye towards nutritionally dense foods…empty calories are the enemy for longterm health and survival.
    Even with the better LTS prepping foods, I usually have to divide the servings in half to get a decent serving size. Although if you’re just planning on short term survival rations then you can get away with 1500 calories a day, or maybe 1200 if you aren’t active. But after a few days of that your energy will be gone, so if you can afford to bulk out your storage then it’s definitely worth it.
    As to my latest prepping tasks, I am trying my hand at sauerkraut – I bought a lot of cabbage to make cole slaw, and thought, let’s try fermenting some of it. Two days to go before I can give it a check, but I’m hopeful since it’s such a simple recipe. Chopped cabbage, then mashed into pulp to release juices and add salt on top. I’ll know soon enough if I messed it up.

  5. Gaye , I think you’ve got it. We tried a couple of 2 person pouches of freeze dried meals. Imagine my surprise when there was not enough to feed both of us in one pouch. Was a bit ticked off because I looked at content, calories before making the purchase. I have another dilemma brewing,I may be the densest person around about this but I understand that x # of cups of food in x# of cups of water will get you x # cups of re hydrated food when you have freeze dried food but HOW many mouths will that feed. Every time I ask that simple question I get a lot on caloric count, ounces, etc. like everybody has it in their storage but hasn’t used it yet. ALL I want to know is will one # 10 can of freeze dried meat feed how many people or how many cups of re hydrated food feed x # of people. Yes I know that there has to be other food you add to it but as I try to figure out what I have to store it’s frustrating. I can tell you that one 24-28 OZ can of Keystone meat with the appropriate amount of beans or rice or noodles, etc in a crock pot will feed my family of ten a full dinner without sacrificing calories, vitamins,etc or how many lbs of fresh foods I will need to make nutritious meals for my family. I’ve even figured out how much wheat to grind to make bread, pancakes, etc for the family (not bad for a total city kid). I have to be dense because I just can’t get a handle on the freeze dried foods. No I haven’t cooked with them yet it’s silly, I know, but I may not be able to replace it if needed, IF I use it and can’t replace it I’m sunk, if I don’t use it and shtf time I may be sunk as well, Catch-22 right . Have any of your readers cooked with freeze dried foods on a regular basis? I have a couple of cook books using freeze dried and dehydrated foods, but NO WHERE do they say how many people the recipe will feed.
    I think I need a vacation ROFL We’re getting MORE snow tomorrow.

    • Kathy

      I’m no cook but I’ve tried a variety of freeze-dried (from a variety of vendors) and … it varies (I’m nothing if not predictable).

      As Drm has said, calorific content may be stated correctly but weight is ‘very’ misleading. A better way is to judge by volume.

      If you use one cup of fresh food to feed x number, then one cup of freeze-dried (once rehydrated) will feed the same number (I’ve rehydrated everything from mushrooms to freeze-dried steaks and chops and they remained almost exactly the same size, and cooked only slightly quicker than fresh).

      The only problem is that what a vendor states as ‘one portion’ is the variable (often only defined for cost or marketing reasons and bearing no relationship whatsoever to what anybody would class as a reasonable serving). If the label only states the weight of product (or a vendor defined portion) you may have difficulty. Most of the reputable vendors labels also include ‘number of cups’ though, which I’ve found to be generally accurate.

      So if your #10 can of ‘ground beef’ says it contains 30 cups (or 60 servings of a recommended ½ cup each). How many people could you feed with 30 cups of fresh ground beef? It really is that simple (says the guy who had to try it to find that out, and then had to work out how many cups of beef were in a pound of fresh, though).

      So now all you have to do is (looking as weird as I do) calculate the volume (in cups) of all those regular foods we all buy in ounces and pounds (then figure out what ‘you’ class as a single serving amount – I have to basically double the suggested amounts for an indivual as I’m 6′ 5″, 240 lbs and … big boned).

    • Alex,
      THANK YOU. I appreciate your help It makes more sense to me now the way you’ve broken it down
      thank you Gaye also I really LOVE this site.

  6. As you know, over time I have developed some biases when it comes to freeze dried foods. I have tried most of the brands and some are barely edible with serving sizes so small that even I could not sustain myself.

    I have a pouch of Mountain House Chicken and Dumplings sitting on my desk right now. The serving size is 1 cup and the package says it serves 2. Calories are 310 per serving. So, the way I look at it, if this is the only food I will consuming, this is a 1 person pouch. That would be 2 cups of food and 620 calories.

    Number 10 tins will be similarly labeled.

    To me, this is an easier calculation that kits or buckets of food. With buckets and kits, you have to look at calories plus the nutritional value of the total calories. So, for example, if there is even one single sugary drink, then none of the numbers work. I want all of my food consist of quality calories.

    In your case, with a large family, you might be better served by purchasing FD food in single ingredient tins and supplementing with other, bulk food items.

    By the way, I do use FD foods day to day. Not so much the meals, but the single ingredients such as the veggies, fruits, egg and butter powders, and meats. With only two of us, it is often less costly than having a lot of waste. With FD, there is none.

  7. Gaye,

    THANK YOU (as usual)!!! I’ve been preaching this for years, and have even called and gone off on some of teh major companies asking how they can advertise such things. I believe there is certainly a place for some dehydrated food (it is nice and light for starters) in ones stores. However, they often advertise 30 day supply, 90 day supply, 1 year supply or more. They make it very difficult to calculate calories, but after some search I usually get the info. I have calculated some of these companies “days supplies” at as low as 600 calories a day. When I called companies and told them one can not survive a year (or even much less) like this, they respond that it is not intended to be your only food and it is intended to be supplemented. I responded that, it is then NOT a 1 year (90 day, 30 day, etc…) supply if it needs supplemented. After a few minutes of back and forth I was told we have to agree to disagree! A variant of this conversation has occurred with three of the major companies.

    So, what I do: I plan on 2000 calories/day per person. Obviously you could argue that under some survival situations you would need more, but I plan for several small children that need less, and some days just hiding out would also need less, so 2000/day is a doable average. I then calculate all my food based on this, and label my buckets, boxes etc… (using a sharpie) with how many days they contain (based on the 2000 calories/day). I keep a spread sheet of the total days, and occasionally divide it by the number of people in my household, to see how many “days” of food we really have in stores.

    Anyway, keep up the great work.

    • FYI, by calculating packaged food by number of 2000 calories per day, you can then divide the cost by the days and get a price/day amount that is closer to an apples to apples (of course empty calories, as you mentioned, cause things to differ a little) comparison. In my opinion, this is better than cost per serving, because servings vary (just look at the site you recommended above, and they state their servings are bigger. That’s why I say the best comparison is by 2000cal meal days. It’s more meaningful than comparing price per servings, since that is not a standardized unit.

  8. Gaye,
    I have done that, gotten some single item tins to supplement what I have been putting away. Just never could figure out how many people they would feed so I could plan accordingly and add to the stores.
    Thank you again

  9. Great tips today on those packaged food items. I always like to compare the #10 cans from several companies to other #10 cans and compare the shipping to help me calculate what I’m paying for those servings. Thanks Gaye as always you nailed it!

  10. Hello, All. GREAT website with superior info and many very good comments.

    Like others here, I too have struggled with calories and amounts of food to feed my extended family for X number of days. It’s a real uphill battle with so many different ways of measuring various foods and then trying to equilibrate them all into a single simple measuring system for comparison.

    My food storage plan is set up as a 3-way method consisting of about equal amounts of freeze dried, canned, and fresh foods. My goal is to have enough food on hand to feed the 7 people in my family for a year. I am not there yet but am progressing along those lines.

    Gardening is a must. I know that my garden is too small where we are now, so a move is planned where we can have a much larger garden. Home canning is something my mother taught me over 50 years ago. I still remember the basics but also have one of the Ball canning guides to refresh my memory plus various Internet sites that discuss home food storage. We also have a food dehydrator so can dry all manner of fruits and vegetables.

    Having a long tern food storage plan is good but knowing that it is a living plan that is subject to change as new info is revealed is ever better.



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