The quick answer is "yes" to all of them – it's important to consider calories, meals, servings, and serving size when planning your food storage. The longer answer is, some are more important than others. Unfortunately, there are food storage companies that will be less than forthcoming with some of this data because it may shed some negative light on the products they are selling.
I remember years ago trying to deal with a real problem in the industry – the definition of a “year’s supply”. That term was used and thrown about as if it was a universal description of a definitive combination of food items that would feed an adult or a family for one year. As one would compare meal plans from a variety of companies, one would quickly discover that the term “year’s supply” could mean just about anything.
There were meal plans that were predominately whole grains, providing around 800 calories per day and yet were titled a “year’s supply”. And then there were others who offered meal plans with extremely small serving sizes, yet they were allowed to call it a “year’s supply” as well. One company’s representative shared with me his concern how there was no real quantifiable measuring formula in that day to make it easy to determine what a year’s supply really should be and how any given company should be compared to that standard. He said it got so extreme that one could almost take an apple and cut it up into 365 small pieces and call it a year’s supply of apples.
You see, one unique characteristic of this industry is that most people treat the acquisition of their emergency food storage as they did the writing of a term paper when they were in school. It was something that was easy to procrastinate, often dreaded and with what seemed great sacrifice finally accomplished. Then, after the paper was turned in, they never wanted to think about it again. They had checked it off their list and they were off to more enjoyable uses of their time and resources.
In other words, most people who purchase food storage simply store it away and really don’t want to think about it again, feeling as if they have accomplished this important task and can now check it off their list. Very little thought is given to what life would be like if they really had to live off their food storage. If fact, that’s the last thing most people ever want – to actually use their food storage. As a result, far too little due diligence is performed in analyzing and comparing different meal plans and how their lives might be affected if they had to live off them. Thus the need to discuss the fundamentals – calories, meals, servings and serving sizes.
Let’s start with calories. If one could choose just one of these categories to compare all food storage plans out there, my vote would be to compare calories. You see, of all these categories, calorie count is the only real definer of total food value. In other words, how much energy will this food give me when I consume it? How full will it fill my energy tank? If there aren’t enough calories in the meal plan, regardless of the number of meals, servings or serving sizes, you simply won’t have the energy your body needs to function, you’ll lose weight and could eventually starve.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of meal plans provided by companies today range around 1,100 calories per person per day with some as low as 750. This would be a great weight loss plan for many of us but in times of stress, it's simply not enough food value to keep us healthy and provide the energy we’ll need during those difficult times.
With several companies, it may require a fair amount of searching and math to determine the true daily calorie count. When that’s the case on any given companies’ website, that’s usually an indication of the numbers being low and the company not wanting to make it easy to see the real facts. These companies will usually promote the number of meals or servings instead. With such companies, a typical entrée will provide between 250 and 300 calories so if you are receiving three entrées per day, you’re talking about only 750 to 900 calories per day.
To see a real-life example of how critical calories are, Google the “Minnesota Starvation Experiment” or go to: http://www.refinery29.com/minnesota-starvation-experiment
It showed how a diet of just 1,570 calories per day had a devastating effect on the 36 men in the study. Calories do make a difference but to be fair, the source of the calories is equally important. Just take it to the extreme and I’m sure you’ll agree. If all one consumed was 3,000 calories per day of white sugar, I think we’d all agree those calories were empty calories and it wouldn’t take long for our bodies to shut down. This is where meals and servings help round out the balanced approach.
Let’s talk next about meals. A meal is usually defined in the industry as a single serving of an entrée – breakfast, lunch or dinner. This is unfortunate because seldom have I, or would I venture to say most people, consider one serving of an entrée as a meal. For me, that’s more like an appetizer – something to whet my appetite and get me ready for the real main course. But no, that’s the sum total of the meal.
Meals can be an important factor if there are a wide variety of entrees. I remember being on a 100-mile backpacking trip in the Wind River mountain range of Wyoming and all I took for breakfast was a bunch of pouches of instant oatmeal. By the end of that week-long trip, I was so sick of that oatmeal that I never wanted to even see a pouch of instant oatmeal again for as long as I lived. I never knew I could become so disgusted with a single food item in such a short period of time. I promise variety is an essential part of a balanced plan.
Now, let’s discuss servings. This category is somewhat similar to the discussion we had earlier about the definition of a year’s supply. This category, if looked at independent from the others, could be very deceiving because there is no standard as to the size of servings. Remember the apple cut into 365 pieces? Well, that could be considered 365 servings.
Now, this leads naturally to the subject of serving sizes. If a company touts that they provide serving sizes that are larger than other companies, that’s great IF that also translates into a higher overall calorie count with a good variety of entrees. You see, it would be possible to provide larger servings of low-calorie filler foods which would not increase the total calorie count.
So here’s the conclusion – you should look for a food storage plan that provides 2,000+ calories per person per day (my personal storage provides 3,500 calories per person per day). These calories should come from a good variety of entrees as well as fruits, vegetables, grains, rice, beverages and deserts (gotta have those comfort foods!). If these categories are properly addressed, the number of servings and serving sizes become a moot issue – you will be getting the nutrition and food value you need to not just survive, but thrive.