Emergency food buckets, also called "survival food buckets" or "totes", are the current rage these days with food storage companies and resellers. Learn why we do not recommend these offerings as a replacement for any real food storage program. This is a companion article to "Why We Do NOT Recommend MRE's".
The storable food industry is plagued with new resellers and manufacturers who have sought to cash in on the food storage craze. In the past few years, the "Survival Food Bucket" and "Emergency Food Bucket" and plastic "Totes" method of prepared food storage supplies has become quite popular with numerous companies. We thought that these were good too - until we discovered otherwise, then we dropped them as being undesirable and unrecommended for a real food storage program.
What we have learned is the following facts:
1) Bad Taste. Storable food should be a direct replacement for what you already eat. Nobody wants to discover that their "food storage" supply is filled with strange, unhealthy and/or bad tasting food. Quite a lot of the survival buckets and totes being sold today are pretty terrible when it comes to something you'd be willing to eat every day. Cheap dehydrated products and sometimes, some bits of freeze dried food are mixed together with heavy seasoning and salt to create simple "meals" which are usually comprised of just a single-serving. The taste can be "ok" to "pretty bad" depending on the manufacturer and menu. The flavors are extremely repetative in our experience and we would NOT want to try to eat these foods every day. We checked, and did not find anyone who actually does either. This poses significant problem as a "solution" for emergency food storage.
2) Cheap Food. Manufacturers cut corners here on purpose by taking the following steps: Meals are created from the cheapest foods possible to cut production costs. Examine any of the menu offerings and you will see what we mean. The ingredients are largely carbohydrates and cheap filler products. This also accounts for their low nutrition and high sodium levels which is done to try and improve the taste.
3) Repetitive meals are also very common (no meal variety and poor nutrition) which you will QUICKLY tire of. Several manufacturers ONLY sell survival food buckets or totes, they don't even offer any real food choices, we do not consider any of these to be real food storage companies. You're stuck with eating the same meals over and over again (up to hundreds of times in a "plan"). You also cannot seperate out any of the ingredients and prepare something else from them - you're literally "stuck" with the same meal, same flavor, taste, texture and preparations they've provided over and over again. This is why they hope you never try to survive on their meal plans because it will reveal just how impractical and unsatifying they really are.
We've tried this (eating the same pre-made meals every day, over and over again). Why wouldn't we? We store quite a lot of food storage ourselves (10 year supply). It's miserable being stuck with the same meals again and again. If you've not tried this, we suggest you do so to avoid a huge, costly mistake. Meal time becomes dreadful, something you're not looking forward to. It's tiring and discouraging and you find yourself trying to avoid the same thing. There are serious disadvantages when you can't change your diet to something different. Pre-packed meals aren't flexible (at all), you can't seperate out the ingredients, or change the taste, or change the seasoning, or make the meals into something else like you can with regular food.
There is also the "sameness" issue - there is incredibly little taste variation between the meals, and the same applies to the texture of the meals - they're all identical. This isn't something you think about, but you will immediately notice after eating a few of these. They offer no real taste differences, or texture difference and your palate will notice this right away. Now imagine what it's going to be like trying to "survive" on these pre-packed meal plans for 30 days or a entire year.
For the record - this is exactly the complaints the US military has had with rations issued to combat soldiers and field operations. Soldier immediately try to discard all the portions they don't like and swap them around, trying to come up with something palatable and different tasting. They also get pretty sick at times (we've documented this too).
The reality is obvious - real food offers different taste, texture, variety, nutrition, calories and flavor - pre-packed meals are a "one-size fits all" idea that doesn't work in the real world for extended periods of time. It's marketing dream and highly profitable for the companies that engage in this type of promotion. But it's not a real solution to food storage or eating storable food every day. It's been widely rejected by those who know, including the US Military, DOD, FEMA, Federal Agencies, hospitals, retirement homes and industry. They know that real food is what actually works for food storage that won't be tossed out.
4) Small Servings. Very small serving sizes are used to inflate the "total servings" count for the bucket, tote, kit or food plan. This tactic is extremely common. Supposedly, one serving is supposed to be sufficient for a "meal" - which it isn't, not even close. 2 or 3 of these servings daily are supposed to sufficient for your daily calorie intake, which we have found to be 1/4 to 1/2 of the required nutritional calories needed for sedentary activity, with some daily calories as low as only 400. If you are active - then these small servings do not even meet 1/6th of your required nutrition levels.
5) Low Calories. Actual calories per meal are extremely low (insufficient) for proper health and nutrition. Combined with cheap filler products, excessive salt and sugar and you've got a perfect recipe for poor health and low energy. A few meals like this won't kill you, but the survival bucket kits and totes are being advertised to last a month, or six months or even a year or more. They will not last anywhere near this long because as your body starves for proper calories and nutrition - you will eat it MUCH faster then advertised, and still suffer from poor nutrition because of the highly limited food choices.
6) Survival food buckets are a very poor replacement for real food that you will actually eat. These buckets are often being sold as "complete food kits", but they're not. They contain very few real food items in limited quantities and small serving sizes with low calories. Cheap fillers, salt and sugar with heavy seasoning is added to disguise what you're really eating. Due to their low nutrition and limited variety, eating this food every day will be woefully inadequate in terms of nutrition, fiber and calories. Much of this food is literally "powdered" with a heavy reliance upon soups. You can't change the menu either - or mix and match items to make a real meal from the ingredients. You're stuck with whatever the manufacturer has created, over and over again. This makes the food extremely repetitious. After a week - you're going to wish you had real food.
7) Ultra Processed Food Is Extremely Unhealthy. Numerous studies have been conducted that reveal how highly processed foods are extremely bad for your health. A whopping 71% - 86% of food sold to Americans is classified as "ultra-processed". This is EXACTLY what you find in "survival food buckets" and "totes". These foods “are industrial formulations made entirely or mostly from substances extracted from foods (oils, fats, sugar, starch and proteins).” By including these foods in your diet, you're increasing your risks of health related disease, poor nutrition and obesity. This is why we do not consider these offering "real food" because they're not. They're simply gimmicks to get people to take short-cuts on diet and emergency preparations. We could easily carry them - but don't, because we know that they are not a suitable replacement for real food and you will quickly tire of trying to eat it. Your survival food preparations need to include REAL food, not powdered substitutes.
8) Advertised Time Versus Reality. Most of these kits will not last 1/4 of the time specified. You will need far, far more of these survival buckets or totes to meet their advertised survival time. You will be forced to eat them far faster then they have advertised due to their low calories and what your body will be craving. We've seen this problem virtually EVERYWHERE we looked. Survival buckets and totes are actually a poor idea designed to liberate you from your money - a "shortcut" food storage idea that will not work as planned. Nothing replaces REAL FOOD in sufficient quantities and nutrition. There are no short-cuts to nutrition, health and staying energetic. Just marketing hype and propaganda to take advantage of people.
9) Extremely Expensive. Because they are only 1/4 to 1/2 of the actual food storage required for the advertised time lengths - you'll need to purchase 2, 3 or even 4 times as many of these survival food buckets to meet the required time lengths we've seen advertised for obtain sufficient food amounts. This makes these survival buckets and totes incredibly expensive (multiply their cost by 2, 3 or 4 times). See our "Tired Of Storable Food Scams" page. An enormous amount of money is now being wasted on truly poor food storage planning with almost all of this wasted money being spent on survival food buckets and totes.
10) Poor Packaging - Survival food buckets and totes are bulky due to the sheer amount of packaging involved and utilize a poor packaging concept and materials. The square buckets and containers are not air-tight and the food is divided up into pouches inside. The pouches can leak oxygen (osmosis) if not of sufficient quality and materials, and the food will become stale in a matter of months. Several manufacturers do not even use oxygen absorbers here either in their packaging. This excessive packaging is "stackable" but it also wastes a lot of space in each bucket. The amount of floor space required for a 1 year unit is up to 5 times larger than the #10 hard sided cans.
11) NONE of the reputable food storage manufactures produce survival food buckets or totes that are intended for long term eating. This is very noteworthy, because they have extensive multi-decades of experience in the food storage industry (so do we). The food storage industry leaders like Mountain House and Rainy Day Foods know what we know - for long term food storage, and long term food survival, you need real food, in sufficient varieties, quantities (servings sizes), nutrition, calories and amounts to endure real food emegencies. These companies have DECADES of experience in food storage and know what works - and what doesn't.
12) Real Food will weigh a LOT more then what you find in survival buckets or totes because your getting a lot more. Even when dehydrated, real food supplies weigh a lot more then survival buckets or totes. The actual volume of food is also significantly higher, and so are the nutrition, calories, serving sizes and the number of servings per container. This is why nobody offers free shipping with real food either, the actual food weights are substantially higher then what you receive in a survival bucket or tote, because there is a LOT more food you're receiving and you're getting it at a LOT cheaper price then the overpriced survival buckets and totes. There really is no comparison between real food supplies and all the heavily advertised hype. There are NO SHORTCUTS when it comes to survival supplies and proper food storage and nutrition. If you want to stay healthy, eat right and have a sufficient food supply, do it right the first time and stop wasting money on phony "quick fix" scams.
REAL food storage, done right, does not have any of these problems. This is our 23rd year in business and we've seen all kinds of fads and ideas come and go. None have replaced real food storage in sufficient quantities and never will. In a food shortage emergency - you need real food. Don't fall for Hollywood hype or a poor substitute. We've spent decades educating people on what actually works - and what really doesn't.
We highly recommend to buy what you already eat. Are you eating out of a survival bucket now? On a daily basis? Of course not. Nobody is. Don't drastically limit yourself to what you aren't familiar with or will quickly tire of. Eat regular real food from your food storage supplies. We do - every day. The foods we carry can be eaten and enjoyed every single day for years on end. They are familiar, common and will last with the airtight packaging we employ. It's real food - for every day use or emergencies, with a nearly endless variety of choices. These products are used by Hospitals, Restaurants, Schools, U.S. Military, Pentagon, FEMA, Red Cross and Disaster Relief Organizations worldwide. They know what we know - real food storage is real food, not some other poor substitute.