There are a lot of options out there for food storage. Wading through the options can feel a little overwhelming. You want to buy food that tastes good, is nutritious, and will fill you up, but you also want to be sure you are getting that food for the best available price. Smart shoppers want to shop around to compare prices and find the best deals.
Unfortunately, I’ve found that most people don’t compare food storage prices wisely. To be fair, it can be a bit tricky. Marketers are smart, and the way they market their food storage prices can make it difficult to compare them fairly.
But I want YOU to beat them at their own game and get the most value out of your hard-earned dollars.
Comparing Food Storage Prices
Tip #1: Base your comparison on volume, not on servings or weight
One common method I find people use to compare food storage prices is to compare the cost per servings of an item. If you look at the back of a can of food storage, the label will often tell you the number of servings. If you are calculating the cost per serving, you divide the price (say $20) by the number of servings (say 40) to get a cost of $0.50 per serving.
The problem with comparing by cost per serving
Serving sizes vary from one company to the next. One food storage company might consider 1/2 cup to be one serving, but another food storage company might consider 1/4 cup to be a serving.
This means that you could have two identical cans of food, and one would cost TWO TIMES more per serving than the other. However, you are getting the exactly same amount of food. Look at this example:
- Can #1–$20 and forty 1/4 cup servings = $0.50 per serving ($20/40 servings)
- Can #2–$20 and twenty 1/2 cup servings = $1 per serving ($20/20 servings)
Can #2 appears more expensive when compared by number of servings. But when you compare based on volume, the cost is the exact same.
- Can #1–40 x (1/4) = 10 cups at $2 per cup ($20/10 cups)
- Can #2–20 x (1/2) = 10 cups at $2 per cup ($20/10 cups)
This first example is fairly clear and easy to catch, but like I said, marketers are tricky. Try this example:
- Can #1–$20 and thirty-eight 1/4 cup servings = $0.53 per serving ($20/38 servings)
- Can #2–$21 and thirty-three 1/3 cup servings = $0.64 per serving ($21/33 servings)
In this case, can #2 cost $1 more than can #1. In addition, you get fewer servings. At first glance, can #1 looks like the better deal.
But look what we can see when we actually calculate the cost by volume:
- Can #1–38 x (1/4) = 9.5 cups at $2.16 per cup ($20/9.5 cups)
- Can #2–33 x (1/3) = 11 cups at $1.91 per cup ($21/11 cups)
Can #2 is actually the better deal! Now, multiply that savings by hundreds of cans over the years and you can save some serious money!
Another common method for comparison shopping is to calculate the cost of the food by weight (for example, cost per ounce). If you want to compare the cost of something using this method, you might look on the website and find the weight of the food in that particular can. Then, you divide the price (say $20) by the weight (say 12 oz) to get a cost of $1.67 per ounce.
The problem with comparing by weight
Take a look at the following example to see why this isn’t the most effective way to comparison shop:
- Can #1–$20 for 15 oz or $1.33 per ounce
- Can #2–$20 for 13 oz or $1.54 per ounce
It seems clear that can #1 is the better deal. And this would be true for some foods such as dry grains and beans, etc.
However, when you are comparing dehydrated or freeze dried products this doesn’t work.
The reason for this is that dehydrated and freeze dried foods are dried by removing water. There is no way to remove exactly the same amount of water from each batch you dry. One batch may have 97.2% of the water removed while another batch may have 97.9% of the water removed.
In addition, different companies use different freeze drying machines. For example, Thrive Life freeze dries all their own food with their own machines that they control very carefully. (Insider tip: no other food storage company does this.)
Other food storage companies hire out this process. So, food storage company A may get their food from freeze drying company #2 while a food storage company B gets theirs from freeze drying company #1.
The different machines, companies, locations, etc., all increase the difference in the amount of water left in the product. And water is HEAVY, so while these slight differences don’t affect shelf life, they do affect weight.
This means that a company with slightly heavier product could choose (not saying I know of anyone that does, but it is possible) to quantify their food based on weight. They could include less food (by volume) in each can and still have it weigh as much as their competitor’s can.
Takeaway: Taking a few minutes to calculate food storage prices by the cost per cup instead of cost per serving or weight could save you hundreds of dollars over the years.
Tip #2: Compare food storage apples to food storage apples
I don’t literally mean that you should only compare apples when you are comparing food storage prices. Teehee!
What I mean is that when you compare two products, make sure they are the SAME product being offered for similar types of promotions.
For example, one company may put their whole freeze dried strawberries on sale while another company has sliced freeze dried strawberries at their regular price.
- Whole Strawberries–$20 for 10 cups
- Sliced Strawberries–$28 for 10 cups
You might be tempted to snatch up the less expensive whole strawberries; I mean, they are the same volume, right?
But unless you actually want whole strawberries, this might not be a good idea.
Whole strawberries leave a lot more “dead” space in a can than sliced strawberries do. Think about it–if you bring home whole strawberries from the grocery store that fill up that 16 oz container, how much space (volume) do those exact same strawberries take up after you slice them? Not nearly as much!
Just as you want to be sure you avoid comparing different products, you also will want to avoid comparing one company’s sale price to another company’s regular price. Each company has their “big” sale at different times of the year. For example, Thrive Life has two big sales–March and November. Emergency Essentials has their big sale in October.
If you were to compare Thrive’s November prices to Emergency Essentials November prices, Thrive would win.
But if you compared Thrive’s November prices to Emergency Essential’s October prices, the difference wouldn’t be so clear.
Takeaway: Make sure you are comparing the same products at their lowest prices across food storage companies.
Tip #3: Consider Quality When Comparing Food Storage Prices
My husband and I are very different in many ways, but (luckily) we are the same page when it comes the quality of the things we spend our money on.
For example, we’d rather buy ONE pair of quality gym shoes for our growing boys each year at $50 than two-three not-so-high-quality pairs for $20-$25.
We will spend a little more on a car that has great maintenance records according to Consumer Reports than buy a cheaper car with a lesser track record.
We would rather wait an extra year or two to invest in a new couch that will know will last forever than settle for a cheap one now that we will likely have to replace in a year or two.
Now this doesn’t mean that we always buy the most expensive item we can find. Expensive does not always mean quality. Sometimes things are expensive simply because they are popular. Also, if you are willing to shop around and have patience, you can often find high-quality products at great prices.
But quality items are rarely (if ever) the cheapest you can find up front. Yet, they often save you money in the long run.
I would recommend that you approach comparing food storage prices this same way.
High quality food will rarely be the cheapest food you can find.
However, the cheapest food may cost you more in the long run–your kids may not be willing to eat it. It may go bad earlier than higher quality food. It may be chopped so tiny that it is useless in recipes. It may be less nutritious and/or have enormous amounts of preservatives.
But the most expensive food isn’t automatically the highest quality food either.
I suggest you try various foods. Ask around about them (ask me if you want–I’ve tried lots). Call companies and ask about their processes and supplies. Read labels.
Then, pick two-three companies that you are comfortable buying from and compare those prices.
Takeaway: Don’t compare low quality food to high quality food. Instead research quality, and then compare food storage that is similar in quality.
Have you every made a food storage purchase based on price that you later regretted when you realized it was actually more expensive (for one reason or another)? Tell us about it in the comments!
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If you’re looking at ready to eat type meals.. say “stroganoff” and not just a single food like strawberries, you may also want to compare calories per serving (once you adjust serving size so you’re comparing equal portions). This is also important if you’re getting those food for a year or whatever buckets. Also, start by figuring out how many calories you need. Most people need 1600-2200 calories as their basic metabolic rate, which means if you’re going to do anything except lie in bed you need more than that. So these 3 single serving meals a day that only adds up to 1200 calories won’t be as much as you might think.
I respectfully disagree with your #1, in terms of comparing based on servings. Most Americans completely disregard the serving size when consuming food. I mean, if I want a handful of potato chips, I’m going to eat a handful, whether the official serving size is X or Y, you know? I know my family eats one box of pasta in a meal, regardless of whether the serving size is X or Y. My cake recipe needs 1 jar of peaches, regardless of how many slices are in a serving size. Etc…
I totally agree on your #2 though. I usually buy brick cheeses, for example, assuming they’re cheaper because no work is required to shred or slice. Lo and behold, sometimes the shredded or sliced varieties are actually cheaper (per ounce). You really do have to make sure it’s apples to apples!
Your point is actually the same as mine Jill. (-: (at least I think it is). I’m suggesting comparing on total volume INSTEAD of the number of servings. One can might have 50 servings, but only 10 cups while another might have 25 servings which equals 11 cups. If they are the same price, then the 11 cup (25 serving) can is a better deal – b/c you are right, the actual number of servings doesn’t matter. If I have a recipe that call for 1 cup of freeze dried celery, I can make that recipe 10 times with the first can or 11 times with the second can – so the 2nd can is a better deal. Or, to use your example of potato chips…one bag may say it has 20 servings, but it counts a serving as 1/2 of a handful. Bag #2 may say it has 15 servings, but it counts a serving as a full handful. So, you actually get MORE total chips with bag #2. If they are the same price / bag, then bag #2 is the better deal b/c you are getting MORE food. Does that make sense?
I believe that you need to sample your long term emergency food storage (the 25 year kind) before you try to fill your emergency storage. I have tried several and have turned most of them down based on taste, ingredients, or price. However, price is NOT the deciding factor. If it tastes awful I won’t eat it so I won’t buy it. Taste test, purchase the samples, figure that part out then you will be able to make a more informed decision.
YES! I couldn’t agree more! Some people don’t have the funds to purchase numerous samples, so in that case, I think they should at least ask around and do a lot of research. But whenever possible, samples are the smartest thing to do!