Buying Emergency Foods? Beware the “Servings” Advertisements “Servings” Are NOT A Real Meal

Some people buy emergency food supplies on the basis of price, and some suppliers advertise their products by the number of “servings” in a container.

This means you can find some product lines that look like a bargain price-wise.

You’ll notice that the highlighted print on the product will (quite honestly) tell you that “servings” are as recommended by the US Department of Agriculture (the USDA).

You will also see that there are as many as 80 “servings” in the container you’re looking at.

The price may also be almost irresistible.

But what are you really getting for your money? Are you really getting a bargain? Are you really getting good food? Is there any real nutrition in this cheap product? And will a “serving” equal a good meal?

The fact is that there is a huge difference between a “serving” and a good meal.

We’ll explain that. But first, let’s look at the USDA pyramid and learn something about both nutrition, and servings. You should know as much as you can about both of these subjects if you are serious about being prepared.

There is no point in spending money on cheap products if they are not going to sustain you, or if it means living (???) on thin soups and pasta for meal after meal.

The USDA food pyramid chart divides food into a number of categories, and then recommends how much of each category you should consume every day for optimal nutrition.

They also use the term “servings”, although it is a questionable way of explaining the system, as you will see in a minute.

Starting at the bottom of the pyramid, we have the Bread, Cereal, Rice, & Pasta Group, and they suggest you need 6-11 Servings per day.

They say …..


  • To get the fiber you need, choose several servings a day of foods made from whole grains.
  • Choose most often foods that are made with little fat or sugars, like bread, English muffins, rice, and pasta.
  • Go easy on the fat and sugars you add as spreads, seasonings, or toppings.
  • When preparing pasta, stuffing, and sauce from packaged mixes, use only half the butter or margarine suggested; if milk or cream is called for, use lowfat milk.


Next comes the Fruit Group, of which they suggest 2-4 Servings daily

  • Choose fresh fruits, fruit juices, and frozen, canned, or dried fruit. Go easy on fruits canned or frozen in heavy syrups and sweetened fruit juices.
  • Eat whole fruits often–they are higher in fiber than fruit juices.
  • Count only 100 percent fruit juice as fruit. Punches, ades, and most fruit “drinks” contain only a little juice and lots of added sugars.


And then the Vegetable Group and 3-5 Servings

  • Different types of vegetables provide different nutrients.
    Eat a variety.
  • Include dark-green leafy vegetables and legumes several times a week–they are especially good sources of vitamins and minerals. Legumes also provide protein and can be used in place of meat.
  • Go easy on the fat you add to vegetables at the table or during cooking. Added spreads or toppings, such as butter, mayonnaise, and salad dressing, count as fat.

Milk, Yogurt, & Cheese, 2-3 Servings

  • Choose skim milk and nonfat yogurt often. They are lowest in fat.
  • 1 1/2 to 2 ounces of cheese and 8 ounces of yogurt count as a serving from this group because they supply the same amount of calcium as 1 cup of milk.
  • Choose “part skim” or lowfat cheeses when available and lower fat milk desserts, like ice milk or frozen yogurt. Read labels.


Meat, Poultry, Fish, 2-3 Servings

  • Choose lean meat, poultry without skin, fish, and dry beans and peas often. they are the choices lowest in fat.
  • Prepare meats in lowfat ways:
    • Trim away all the fat you can see.
    • Remove skin from poultry.
    • Broil, roast, or boil these foods instead of frying them.
  • Nuts and seeds are high in fat, so eat them in moderation


Fats, Oils, & Sweets Use Sparingly

  • Go easy on fats and sugars added to foods in cooking or at the table–butter, margarine, gravy, salad dressing, sugar, and jelly.
  • ·      Choose fewer foods that are high in sugars–candy, sweet desserts, and soft drinks.
  • The most effective way to moderate the amount of fat and added sugars in your diet is to cut down on “extras” (foods in this group). Also choose lower fat and lower sugar foods from the other five food groups often.


 According to their numbers,  you need as many as 24 servings in a day.


If you are preparing for who-knows-what up ahead you need to buy and store foods that definitely will sustain you and provide optimum nutrition, because you’re going to need all the good health, vitality and strength you can muster.  On that basis, the USDA pyramid is an excellent nutritional guide.

This brings us back to “servings” versus nutrition and a good meal. It is, quite frankly, unfortunate that the term “servings” has been intentionally “spun” by some advertisers to give the impression that a “serving” is a meal.

We’ll start by pointing out that advertising copy is intended to persuade you that you are getting a very good deal. That’s why the focus is always on “benefits.”  Therefore the use of the word “servings” is highlighted to convince you that this is a real benefit, especially when it comes with  a price tag that is much cheaper than some other brand.

But whoa. Step back.

The USDA also says (but the big print on the product omits this) that If you eat a larger portion, count it as more than 1 serving.

In other words, the average person is NOT going to get anything like a decent meal from ONE serving of ANY item. In reality, you’ll starve to death eating your emergency supplies if you expect a meal to be a “serving,” or a “serving” to be a meal.

So what does constitute a “serving” in this USDA pyramid?

Here’s the reality.


Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese

1 cup of milk or yogurt 1 1/2 ounces of natural cheese 2 ounces of process cheese

Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, and Nuts

2-3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish 1/2 cup of cooked dry beans, 1 egg, or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter count as 1 ounce of lean meat


1 cup of raw leafy vegetables 1/2 cup of other vegetables, cooked or chopped raw 3/4 cup of vegetable juice


1 medium apple, banana, orange 1/2 cup of chopped, cooked, or canned fruit 3/4 cup of fruit juice

Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta

1 slice of bread 1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal 1/2 cup of cooked cereal, rice, or pasta

If you buy cheap kits that contain only vegetable soups (3/4 cup = a “serving”) and macaroni and cheese (1/2 ounce of cheese and 1/2 cup of pasta)  you are not going to keep your tummy happy for more than a New York Minute.

Trust us. We are NOT saying you should not buy the cheap products. We ARE saying “you get what you pay for.” Summing it all up, we’d repeat that a “serving” is NOT a meal. In fact, depending on your appetite and the food of your choice, you can realistically expect to eat at least three and possibly four  “servings” for any one meal.

What does that mean to your pocket book? It means if you see something advertised as containing a certain number of “servings” you can divide the price by three, or four, to figure the real cost per meal. A $60 product that touts itself as having say 60 “servings” will in reality give you only 15 or 20 meals, not the 60 that is implied by the use of the word “servings.”.

And even then, they’re not real meals if it’s only vegetable soup or cheese and pasta. 

Considering that in this example the price equates to as much as $4 per meal – well, what do you think? Is it a bargain? For soup and pasta?


Advertisement – Yes Here is the punch line..

Wouldn’t you prefer to buy the Be Ready Pantry with its 42 real meals, freeze dried, in pouches and a tub, good for storage in optimum conditions (50 to 70F) for 20 years or more – knowing they’ll be as nutritious when you prepare them as they were the day they were packed.

Current price from us (September 2012 but subject to change without notice because of droughts and rising prices) is $165.

For that, you get 42 real meals – breakfasts, lunches and dinners – enough for one person for two full weeks.

Yes, that’s an average of $4.00 per meal – but it’s a real meal – with each pouch containing what the USDA would say is at least four “servings.” In other words, your $165 gets you at least 168 “servings” – but they will be fruit and cereal for breakfast, tasty rice and beans for lunch, and Tamale pie for dinner (just a few examples) and they are going to give you a full stomach and plenty of energy, rather than leaving you empty and looking for more.

(BTW – we personally tested Tamale Pie recently, and found that one pouch was enough for two people).


We hope this article has clearly explained the difference between “servings” and “real meals.”

And that it will help you in your food preparedness endeavors by encouraging you to understand that difference, and buy very wisely in future. 

By all means, compare prices between vendors, especially on the Internet – but remember, we will meet or beat (within reason) any  price for same-type or similar products. And you could save on shipping as well.


Lastly – to help you even further –  the comprehensive book, “Basic Preparedness,”  not only includes a chart of the nutrition values of many long-term storage foods, but also helps you decide how much of each you will need for children, teenagers and adults for an extended period of time.

It condenses 35 years’ preparedness experience into a book that will save you an enormous amount of time and money. It is the “bible” for beginning Preppers, and a boon to the more experienced. You won’t find anything like this anywhere else.


Copyright: The Portland Preparedness Center. 7202 NE Glisan St. Portland. Oregon. (Cnr 72nd and Glisan).

 Phone 503 252 2525.

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