Let’s talk about this whole “gourmet food storage” phrase that I keep seeing all over the place. I’m really having a hard time accepting that anyone is falling for the concept of “gourmet food storage.” Doesn’t anyone else see the oxymoron in calling something "gourmet food storage?" Has someone figured out a way to freeze-dry roasted asparagus with a rum pear spinach salad served alongside roasted pork in a pear butter barbeque sauce? What exactly is it that qualifies a freeze-dried or dehydrated entrée as “gourmet food”?
If you look up the meaning of gourmet in any dictionary you’ll see that the term is referring to a person who’s a connoisseur of food and drink. I suspect that chefs such as Robert Irvine, Scott Conant, Judy Joo, and Simon Majumdar could arguably be referred to as gourmet chefs. Clearly they are connoisseurs, and as such I really have a hard time picturing any of them lauding the taste, textures, and balance of any food made by Wise Foods or Daily Bread—or anyone else who claims to have “gourmet food storage.” I looked and looked but didn’t find a single episode in which the “secret ingredient” of Kitchen Stadium was freeze-dried food storage let alone "freeze-dried peach flavored apple pieces." I just can't even imagine the Chairman dramatically whipping back the red silk cover as the dramatic music plays only to see that the Secret Ingredient is freeze-dried whole eggs.
Maybe that would actually make for an interesting Iron Chef episode, though I doubt that the high-standards of the Chairman would ever tolerate any such thing in his kitchen. Perhaps I'm being a little hard on Daily Bread's food. For all I know, maybe it has been featured on one of those luxurious 10-day Baltic or European cruises. Can you just imagine the overhead speaker on board of the beautiful cruise ship, “Good Evening guests. For tonight’s exciting dinner hour we’re featuring the gourmet food storage of Beef Stroganoff from Daily Bread and the Chili Macaroni from Wise Foods. Please remember that the deck of the ship is wet, so please walk, don’t run, to your tables so as not to break the fine crystal and china.”
I consider myself a “foodie” and I love to create comforting or, dare I say, even gourmet creations (and sometimes I can actually accomplish comfort with gourmet), but even my inexperienced palate strongly resists using the term “gourmet” in conjunction with the phrase food storage. So let’s find out what all the fuss is about and what is it that makes these food companies feel that their food merits the praises of the upper echelon of chefs, food critics, and high-class diners. For starters, yes, I have taste tested both Wise and Daily Bread samples—the two companies that I have found to be the loudest proponents of this erroneous, gourmet food storage status. Instead of a "wow!" tasting moment, I found the prepared entrees to be soggy, dull in color, lifeless, lacking in any texture contrasts, and no better seasoned than a can of Chef Boyardee. When I tried to fathom why they would go so far as to insist that their food is gourmet, the only unpleasant conclusion I could come up with is that perhaps it’s all about relativity. Perhaps someone, somewhere, at one time, did consider it gourmet after being lost in the canyons for 60 days with nothing more than a couple of packs of Ramen noodles. That may make sense for such a time as that, but if we make a purchasing decision today in favor of Daily Bread, Wise Foods, or Food Insurance based on their claim of palate pleasure, then I'd say we have a temporary case of insanity. Adding insult to injury is when someone goes out to a nice breakfast at a local 4 star eatery prior to going to the trade show wherein they are introduced to the ho-hum samples of a bite of freeze-dried mush, fall in love with it, and then pay 200% more per ounce for it than what they would pay for similar Chef Boyardee Grade Food. (Sorry Chef, but after you died, the food really did go down hill.) Come on. Really? I can understand paying for something like that after an 8.0 earthquake experience which swallowed up all of your "real food" and all you're able to find is some schmuck who got sucked in to purchasing buckets, cans, and packets of some "gourmet food storage" who is all too happy to now sell it to you for a $3,500. Yeah. That I can see. But why in the world would someone buy such a mushy mess now when they still have access to a civilized world filled with cell phones, overnight mail, air conditioning, microwaves, Wii, and karaoke--not to mention countless other food choices that taste GREAT, have a 20-30 year shelf-life, and are actually used in many 4 and 5 star restaurants worldwide? As I tried to find a way to discreetly spit out the sample in my mouth, I assure you I had a great deal of difficulty jumping into the whole “it’s better than beans and rice” logic--the beans and rice dish I made as a 6 year old really seemed to do a better job qualifying as "gourmet food storage". Again, perhaps I'm just missing something important here that would qualify this food as superior and more tasty than anything else out there. Perhaps the "gourmet" title is only reflective of the price points of the food. Unfortunately, I seem to lose my appetite when I see the price tag of $4,799.99 for only 6 months of food for a family of 5, (ostensibly 3 entree's a day). I am certainly not enticed, rather I feel nauseous with the ridiculous notion that someone would actually fall for that. So I took a closer look. As I evaluated the so-called “gourmet meal plans” offered by Daily Bread I came across some gross errors in assumptions, claims and math. But for starters let’s just address the whole “you get what you pay for claim” that their salesmen are so quick to spout when they are questioned on the price.
Their “gourmet meal plan” includes such ho-hum “entrees” as chicken noodle soup, macaroni and cheese with beef, and cream of wheat with some freeze-dried fruit added to it. Granted, I’m no Julia Childs but I have a hard time considering any of those dishes as “gourmet”. I mean for pity's sake, if you wanted to sell it as gourmet food you could have at least used some French words like "Beouf" or La Creme de ble´." While lacking in culinary creativity for their entrées/meals, they certainly displayed a great deal of...um...creativity with the math. You see, Daily Bread’s math on these expensive packages is ALL wrong--or should I say extremely optimistic? They promote a plan for 5 people, 3 meals a day, for 6 months priced at a penny less than $4,800. Let’s see. There are 4.3 weeks in each month*. 4.3 times 6 months is 25.8 weeks. $4,800 divided by 25.8 weeks is $186.05 per week! Folks, I’ve NEVER spent that kind of money weekly on groceries, even before I began couponing, let alone consistently for 6 months. But guess what? It’s actually worse than what you see right now, because they are actually only giving you 1,912 “entrées”. (That’s ENTREES, folks, not meals.) And yet they are claiming to be giving you 3 “meals” a day for 6 months, for a family of five. I suppose they could be basing those numbers on the potential that someone in your family of five will still be a fetus when dinner time rolls around; or perhaps all of the test families used in their research had at least one person suffering from anorexia, because you would actually need 2,700 meals in your “gourmet meal plan” in order to have three entrées a day for 6 months, for five people. That’s a shortage of 29% of your entrées that you were planning on for 6 months time! Granted, we do tend to conjure up visions of French cuisine when we think of gourmet food and the French dishes are
famous for being memorably skimpy on their portion sizes; but I don’t believe that Daily Bread is selling to a French demographic, nor are any of the owners of the company French-born and raised. By missing the mark on the number of entrées that one would actually need for that period of time, Mom is put in a really bad position. Now she’s got to tell someone in the family, “I’m sorry, but there’s not enough food for you to eat this time around” AND she’s got to say that 157 times in a 6 month period—all for the privilege of spending $186 a week on just a single entrée! Not only do most families not spend that kind of money on a single entrée at each meal (i.e. FOOD) at the grocery store, they certainly wouldn’t go to the grocery store, buy their food for the week, and somehow unwittingly forget to feed nearly a third of their family! Again, keep in mind that we’re only talking about the so-called entrées offered by Daily Bread, not the rest of the meal. Please tell me that you do realize, of course, that fruits, veggies, something to drink, perhaps even a little bread makes a nice actual MEAL, right? O.K. Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh on Daily Bread and the like. Perhaps they really did intend to compare their food to that found in the kitchens of great French Chefs--though I doubt that any chef of any caliber would serve a meal consisting solely of one entrée. But let's try to give them a little leeway here. I can spend $150 for two people at my favorite French restaurant in Columbus, Ohio—The Refectory. (There was a pretty amazing one in Dallas too, but I can’t remember the name of it.) Mind you I don’t drink alcohol so I’m getting off a bit cheaper than most of you would. But when I’m done spending the money for such a meal I’ve had 6 heavenly courses consisting of a cheese and cracker starter, a decadent appetizer (though NOT the caviar at $125 a pop), fresh salad, luxurious soup, divine entrée, and a dream-worthy dessert. This doesn’t include the fabulous bread and homemade butters which accompany the meal, nor that deceptive spoonful of stuff that looks like a lime sherbet but is really just there to knock your socks off—er, I mean clean your palate in between courses. During the meal I always have at least 3 people waiting on me hand and foot to refill my water, brush the bread crumbs off the table in between courses, and you know, make me feel guilty enough to pay a 30% tip afterwards. When I leave the restaurant though I may be racked with a little bit of guilt over my indulgence, my stomach and palate is completely content and in fact, I’m STUFFED! (I’ll confess, there’s never been a doggie bag.) Now, let’s do that math. $150 divided by two people which pays for enough decadent food for 12 courses total. That’s an average of $12.5o a course. (Good grief. That really puts those trips to Taco Bell in proper perspective considering that the average fast food receipt today is now $7 per person.) Anyone else want to wager with me that that no one is going to have their allotted "serving size" as computed by Daily Bread, and then claim “Whew. I’m stuffed! Wasn’t that amazing food?!”? And if you’re crazy enough to think that being stuffed won’t be important in a scenario in which you are forced to actually use your “25 year shelf-life food,” think again. In the beginning of such a crisis, it’s a scientifically and medically proven fact that the majority of people will turn to food for comfort in times of stress. What could be more stressful than an earthquake or a financial collapse? So yeah, no need to have the added nutrition of fruits, vegetables, and enough to eat to satisfy and comfort, right? Wrong. Sure this is $12.5o per course, but it's clearly gourmet with the added component of gourmet which is that I didn't have to do a darn thing to enjoy it all! We'll set this aside for a moment. In an effort to actually compare apples to apples, I need to actually extract the percentage of each meal that these “gourmet entrées” actually represent. So going back to the Refectory menu I see that my entrée represents 47% of the bill. In actuality, The Refectory’s percentage of the bill is in fact indicative of the general percentage that the cost of entrée’s reflect in a meal in the U.S., regardless of whether you’re doing cheap take out or eating at home. Within the confines of a standard meal, the cost of the entrée is usually between 45-50% of the total cost of the meal. This is important to know when considering the real cost of the Daily Bread’s food because their packages only offer an “entrée” for each person, per meal, per day, not an actual meal--no vegetables, drinks, fruits, desserts, bread, or appetizers and certainly not gourmet ones like one would find at The Refectory. So let’s first fix the math of Daily Bread. The real meal needs of 5 people, 3 meals per day for 6 months, with each month representing 4.3 weeks, for a total of 25.8 weeks, is actually 2,700 meals. Daily Bread’s “serving size” breaks down to “only” $2.51 cents for each entrée. $2.51 multiplied by the 2,700 meals which a family of five would actually need to feed each person 3 meals per day for 6 months is a startling $6,777. Now my first question for those crazy people out there who actually would have thought that they were getting enough gourmet food for their $4,799.99 is: Would you have balked at all if you were subsequently told, “Oops. My apologies. The real cost for just an entrée, nothing else for 5 people over a 6 month period of time, is $6,777.00!” Yeah, I’m thinking that a lot more people would have passed on that premise alone. Good grief! If they can’t even get their math right, do I really want to play Russian Roulette on the serving sizes being big enough for real people too? (By the way, in my world, chicken noodle soup such as the one Daily Bread attempts to portray as an entrée in their “gourmet meal packs” is rarely the focal point of any meal I would make. It’s usually an accompaniment to a sandwich or a baked potato. Chicken noodle soup is gourmet? You better have it simmered in a beurre blanc sauce with homemade noodles, organic vegetables sliced diagonally, along with copious amounts of free-range chicken, and a touch of white truffle oil on the top, served in a homemade sourdough bread bowl. Now THAT’S gourmet!) But wait, there’s more… Now let’s look at the consequences of spending that money only on the entrée version of the meal. What if you looked at $6,777 as representing only the true 45%-50% cost of a proper meal as is the average ratio in the U.S.? How would that impact your TRUE cost for this UN-gourmet meal? It would bring your total to…wait for it…make sure you have the defibrillators handy…$15,060 just to feed your family of 5, 3 MEALS a day, for 6 months/25.8 weeks, if you’re going the Daily Bread route. That's over $580 a week just for FOOD! Hey, clearly with my familiarity of The Refectory you can detect that I'm all about splurging occasionally for food. But not on every meal, every day for 6 months! Even worse is if you consider what the USDA says about the cost of protein in each entrée actually runs about 40% of the total cost of the entrée. Not only are there entrées offered by Daily Bread and Wise which have no protein in them, but you can be quite certain that when you do find protein in an entrée, they cut a few corners in providing sufficient protein, let alone a full 40% of the cost of that meal. That further diminishes the actual value of their "gourmet freeze-dried meals." You know, call me naïve, but I don’t even think the famous Glenn Beck would condone such an expense on a food that’s so lack-luster and even downright misleading. Oh wait. That’s not exactly true either. You see, for a full 45 minutes I interviewed the account manager who sells advertising for Glenn Beck. As you may already know, Daily Bread isn’t just an advertiser on his show; they are “personally endorsed” by Glenn Beck. How does one get personally endorsed by Glenn? Does he try your product? Nope. Not a requirement. Does he do any double checking to make sure that you’re not misleading the public? Nope. I’m sure he would have caught the erroneous math if he did. And at the very least, I suspect that he would have a problem calling this food “gourmet” when compared to the good cooking of his wife and any one of the fine restaurants he frequents. Nope. Sorry to tell you that the only requirement that a company must pass to be personally endorsed by Glenn Beck is to sign an advertising contract to the tune of $500,000 over a 12 month period, and have the financial wherewithal to back up that contract. Yup. A half a million bucks is all that’s required for Glenn to put his name in association with your product. Ah, Glenn. You disappoint me…again. Well, at least now I can understand why Daily Bread has to hide a few entrees and charge me so much for their food! A half a million dollars! By the way, the other names which Daily Bread
and Wise flash on their websites under the “As recommended by…” header are names such as Dennis Miller, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham—and they require the exact same kinds of advertising negotiations as well. “Give us enough in advertising dollars and we’re willing to concur that your Chef Boyardee quality food is worth the association of our good name.” Anyone feel like they are being pimped by people you have no relationship with? But hey, it’s not all that bad. After all, I didn’t tell you about the “FREEbonus” that Daily Bread gives you in their “100% freeze-dried package” —276 servings of rice. I'd much rather spend $12.5o per course, on average, knowing full well what I'm getting, than be left $5,000 poorer for mediocre mush, along with the false sense of security that "all is well" in a particular area of Preparedness.
In closing, I feel like I need to make one thing clear. I'm not trying to beat up on you if you have fallen for this...this...stuff. I've been doing this long enough that I know that unfortunately, some of you will feel like you need to justify your previous purchases from these folks. That is NOT what this article is about. It's about pointing out the blatant deceptions that are rampant in the preparedness industry--particularly when it comes to FOOD. Hopefully after reading this article you'll listen less to the paid talking heads, purchase only after fully evaluating, and of course, and always keep the prioritization of the Ten Principles of Preparedness in mind. Some of you may defensively lash back and say it doesn't matter how other people spend their money, why should we care. My counter to that is, yes, I agree. But being robbed and deceived is very different than voluntarily spending money-- especially when it affects the sanctity of MY home. In addition, A) I would never sit by without saying or doing something if I observed you being robbed. And B) If others come desperate to me for what they need because they were duped by someone else, then it becomes a part of my problem as well. I hope that with everything else I'm trying to share on this blog, you can quickly see how you can effortlessly spend that same $15,000 on food and a TON of other necessary essentials and certainly end up with a whole lot more bases covered besides "2,700 (a.k.a. 1,912) mediocre meals over a 6 month period". You don't need to settle in your preparedness efforts. That's why they are preparedness efforts. We're preparing now so that we don't have to be miserable later. You don't need to plan merely for survival. You certainly have my permission and encouragement to prepare to THRIVE. Do it now and you'll find that you can establish an environment of THRIVING without any regret. If you are missing that key point of this article, then at least let me direct you towards other companies that will take your $15,000 for real food and give you a heck of a lot more of it too! (see Freeze-Dried Preferences) *According to GAAP calculations.
P.S. My favorite freeze-dried resource is Thrive Life.