Friday, October 12, 2012

Calorie and Nutrition Density

Decision-making for your food storage should include multiple considerations that span the emergency possibilities for your situation.  If your scenarios are primarily shelter-in-place emergencies then you have different concerns than if most require leaving your home to put distance between your family and the adverse conditions.  If you have determined that you need more than 72 hours of food, then transportation or in-home storage space may also be a consideration.  How do you balance variety, convenience, nutrition, weight, volume and cost?  Here are a few thoughts on the selection process.

When cost and convenience are important but weight or volume are not a problem, i.e. you don't anticipate needing to move to another location, then conventional canned food may be your best option.  Take the humble Chef Boyardee products.  A 39 ounce can of spaghetti and meatballs ( under $3.00) provides 4 generous or 5 not-so-generous servings between 200 and 300 calories each with lots of fat, protein, reasonable fiber and non-sugar carbs along with some B vitamins and odd minerals like iron, phosphorus and manganese. It packs a punch for one 4 X 6 inch can and 60 (5 servings) to 75 (4 servings) cents per serving. You can eat it cold or hot and won't need to purify water to make it palatable. It may not be gourmet, but it'll stick to your ribs.  That is what I mean by nutrition dense.

Another product, this time in the calorie dense arena is a freeze-dried, cooked and crumbled sausage packaged in a #10 can. Weighing 29 ounces, it provides 16 servings at a whopping 320 calories each, all in fat and protein.  The down side is you need hot, clean water to make it according to the directions.  We have tried it straight from the can and it is palatable, but might be better as a 'gorp' with raisins and nuts if used when you need to move locations in an emergency.  I cheated and bought this on sale, so it cost me $1.62 per serving, but the price trade was for much less weight and 4 times as many calories.

More practically, you can shop at Target or Walmart and compare the NUTRITION labels and the price.  If a 1 lb box of saltines is the same price as a 1 lb box of enriched dry pasta, you need to think through which makes more sense given your criteria. If you need ready-to-eat food,  the saltines and a jar of peanut butter may make more sense that the pasta and some sauce.  Both will provide carbs and protein, but you may anticipate a situation where cooking may not be realistic for several days. In that case, the peanut butter provide the fats and protein density and the crackers give some carbs to get you to the point you can fire up the pasta.

Some foods may fit both the shelter-in-place requirements and an evacuation scenario. (Preferably you will pre-evacuate and head out long before the masses hit the road!!) To make these decisions, you will need some clue about where you are going.  If it's 200 miles to Granny's and she's out of the evac zone, your food storage needs are different than if you plan to drive until you find a place to camp out and decide what to do next.  Once you make these decisions and as you buy your preparedness food supply, you need to package your evacuation supplies for a fast 'get away.' The advantage of having these foods set aside, boxed and ready to load could translate to fewer hours stalled in traffic because you beat the crowd leaving town.

I use a labeling system to help me make quick decisions.  I use boxes (some people use plastic tubs)  labeled with the meal and relative preparation requirements. So I can choose 'fast breakfast', 'fast snacks' or 'slow dinner' when I pack up.  Each box has EVERYTHING except the water and pan needed to prepare the meal. Each carton has at least 2 cans with a flat P51 can opener taped to the top or under the plastic lid. Each carton has some beverage powder with vitamin C (usually Crystal Lite orange), matches and a small can of butter. Even within the 'slow' boxes, I try to have at least one component that is palatable right from the can, just in case! (example: 'slow dinner' may have a can of dehydrated -- not freeze dried-- apple slices for the dessert. These can be enjoyed right from the can and will provide some good carbs and fiber.)

Anyone who has read my blog a few times understands that I'm a little ... odd. One of the little games I play when I've nothing better to do takes advantage of the Food Storage Analyzer (button on the right side, use the TRY IT option if you are concerned about your privacy). I see how many days of nutrition I can make out of one case of 6 #10 cans of freeze dried or dehydrated food. The analyzer will tell you what percentage of the essential nutrients you have accounted for-- my goal is 85% or better on all. This 'game' is to teach myself about nutrition and calorie density. My max to date is 21 days at 1800 calories per day for one person from a six can case of freeze dried and dehydrated food and beverages. Meals would be really bizarre, but you could stay healthy.  See if you can beat my max.  I'll even give you a hint: a can of orange drink mix provides carbs and takes care of a lot of the vitamins and mineral requirements!


  1. "Nutrition dense"...a great way to look at canned goods for comparison. Thanks for the tip and explanation.

    1. Glad it is useful information. If I had understood this concept better when I first began my emergency food storage, it would have saved me time and money.

  2. This is an greatly worded post, I'd like to post it under getting started (on my blog) with your permission.

    1. You always have my OK to post a reference or excerpt from anything I write that you find worthy! Many thanks for reading my work. I'm a big fan of yours!