Food Preparation

Homemade MRE: Meals Ready to Eat When You Can’t Cook

Homemade MRE
David Dawson
Written by David Dawson

When you think of emergency situations what is the first thing that comes to you mind? If it’s dark because the power is out, you would probably think about where the flashlights and candles are. If it’s winter and your furnace isn’t working for some unforeseen reason, you would probably think about grabbing blankets and other warm things.

No matter what time of year it is if you power goes out you runs the risk of losing all the food you have stored in your refrigerator and freezer. A full freezer if it’s not opened will stay cold for about 24 to 48 hours in the wintertime. In the summer time, the temperature in your freezer will change more quickly so the food will stay cold for less time. Try not to open the doors if you don’t have to.

Homemade MRE

DIY MRE’s or Meals Ready to Eat are the way to go when it comes to preparing for emergency situations, power outages, those wonderful rolling black outs that happen from time to time, the end of life as we know it, even just for a simple day of backpacking. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Benjamin Franklin said that, it’s a great quote and oh so true.

Grocery store

Creating DIY Meals Ready to Eat, is as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. You can go to the local grocery store and purchase any food items you might like to have in your personal MRE. First you need to buy yourself some sort of vacuum sealer and/or oxygen absorbers. Taking out all the oxygen will help to keep bacteria away from the food and also help to preserve its freshness.

Under ideal conditions a homemade MRE should last you at least 5 years. Talk about cost effective! Go to the store and buy yourself 1 box of instant oatmeal, which by my count has 8 bags of flavored oatmeal inside it.

Now go buy 1 box of your favorite granola bars, which believe also has 8 serving in it. Get yourself some napkins or paper towels if you think you might need them, 1 box of plastic spoons and 1 box of coffee, tea or hot chocolate the choice is up to you. If you want an added treat pick up a box of dried milk too. Go to the register and pay for all of your items, now let’s go home.

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Setting up you DIY MREs

You’ll need the following items:

  • 8 packs of instant flavored oatmeal
  • 8 packs granola bars
  • Instant coffee, tea
  • Bag or hot chocolate pack
  • Paper towels
  • Dry milk
  • Plastic spoons

Follow these steps:

  1. Open all the packages a remove the contents. Don’t remove the contents of the dry milk unless you’re going to use it all. Lay them all out on the counter.
  2. Determine how much of each item you want in each MRE.
  3. Separate them into their own little piles.
  4. If you’re using instant coffee that comes in a jar and is not premeasured, measure out the appropriate amount according to the directions and place the crystals into a Sandwich baggie and twist or fold shut. Do this for each pile of MREs you have.
  5. Do the same with the dried milk. Follow the directions on the package, place in a sandwich baggie and twist or fold closed. Do this for each pile of MREs you have.
  6. Once you have all your breakfast contents together assemble them in a vacuum sealer bag and seal. Don’t forget to mark what they are and date them.

There you go! You have made your first batch of DIY MREs! Wasn’t that easy?

Tips & tricks and other possibilities

There are other ways of sealing up – you can use Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers which are available for purchase online. Mylar is basically a polyester resin that has high moisture and oxygen barrier properties. What this means is when you add food items to a Mylar bag they will be protected from being exposed to moisture.

Mylar bags

You can also triple the life of your homemade MRE’s by triple protecting them. Take a food saver bag, an oxygen absorber and a Mylar bag and store your MRE in it. Let’s do a lunch MRE this time. Go to the local grocery store and get bagged tuna, chicken or spam. Go to the cracker aisle and pick your favorite package of cracker. If you want any condiments with your MREs, see if you can find the single serving packets.

Don’t forget your dry drink mix. Go to the cool aide aisle and find the single serving packets of dry drink mix; the ones where all you need is to add it to a bottle of water. Then go to your granola or snack aisle and pick your favorite. Remember not to pick anything too soft; you don’t want to have to lick it off the wrapper. Now let’s go home and put together your lunch.

  1. Lay all of your chosen items out on the counter or table.
  2. Open the packages and separate them into individual piles.
  3. Take your Mylar bags and drop in an oxygen absorber
  4. Fill it with your chosen lunch items
  5. Measure you food saver bag so that it is about 4 inches longer than your Mylar bag
  6. Seal the bottom of the food saver bag
  7. Slide in your filled Mylar bag so that the open side faces the open side of the food saver bag.
  8. Vacuum seal your food saver bag
  9. Mark the contents and date it

Another way of creating a homemade MRE is by making a meal in a jar by putting all of the ingredients for one meal into a canning jar and sealing. You can vacuum seal it if you have the attachment that goes to the lid and to the vacuum sealer.

Making a meal in a jar

Oven canning is not something you can do with everything like the vacuum sealer is, and neither is the jar canning. Most DIY MREs have a variety of food in them not just one meal so for the oven canning I think I would keep that for the one-pot dishes and things like rice, flour, dried corn, things of that nature.

I would stick with the basic Mylar and oxygen absorber or the vacuum sealing for DIY MRE’s. Yes you might be making them in bulk but you want a variety. The average calorie count for one MRE should be in between 1200 to 2000 calories. Try to make sure when you are buying items for your MREs that they are shelf stable and have a long shelf life.

Following we listed some food ideas that should help you on your journey through DIY MREs.

Ramen noodles

You can do a lot of things with ramen noodles. Things I’ll bet you haven’t ever thought of. Here are a few recipes for your DIY MREs.

Ramen noodles

Ramen seasonings are filled with a lot of salt. On a hot summer day you’re probably going to need that plus plenty of water but with this first recipe you’re going to take out the seasoning pack and replace it with a dried tomato leather.

Item you will need:

  • I pack of ramen noodles
  • ½ cup of dried shrimp or crab meat
  • ½ cup of dried vegetables (your choice)
  • ½ cup of tomato leather tightly packed
  • 4 tablespoons parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups water

To prepare:

  1. Break noodles into pieces
  2. Combine all ingredients except parmesan cheese in pan
  3. Bring water to a boil and cover
  4. Remove from heat and allow to stand for 5 to 10 minutes
  5. Stir in parmesan cheese and enjoy

When you go to pack this into a Mylar or vacuum bag you should place the noodles and dried vegetables in the same bag but everything else in its own bag. You don’t have to seal them separately you can put them into a sandwich baggie an either twist then closed or fold them closed but they should be separate. Don’t forget to add your sweet snack and drink mix.

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Dehydrated Chili

Dehydrating chili is another fantastic idea for a diy mre. I mean how many people don’t like chili. You can even dehydrate the rice to go with if you like it con carne’. There are two ways you can do it you can go buy cans of chili or you can make it yourself at home. If you’re making chili homemade let it sit overnight. An easy way to measure how much water you will need to rehydrate is to use a canning jar as measurement.

Dehydrated Chili

Steps to dehydrating chili for MRE

  • Fill canning jar with chili
  • Spread your chili onto the roll up tray of you dehydrator evenly
  • Place and empty dehydrating tray on top of the chili tray
  • Place another tray with the roll up film on it on top of the empty tray and fill with chili spreading evenly
  • Add another empty tray then cover
  • Turn on your dehydrator
  • Follow the manufacturers instructions on the drying guide
  • Place your MRE in a vacuum sealed or Mylar bag
  • Mark and date

Don’t forget to write on the bag how much water to add. Whatever size canning jar you used is the amount of water needed to rehydrate. Bring water to a boil, add your dehydrated chili and simmer stirring constantly for about 20 to 25 minutes.

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You can take a lot of those items you make for dinner and turn them into Meals Ready to Eat just by dehydrating them. It doesn’t create a leftover night, which most kids hate, and it doesn’t waste food. Take that one or two tablespoon of mashed potatoes, peas mixed vegetables or whatever you have a dehydrate it. Seal it up and use it in a DIY MRE, it will not only save you money it will add up quickly and soon you will be ready for the next whatever comes.

Making Granola bars

Granola bars and trail mixes are great to have for back packing or just for snacking if you get one of those hunger pangs where you just need to have something. If you don’t have a protein such as meat in your MRE because you’re a vegetarian or you just don’t trust long-term storage of meats then you can supplement. I don’t recommend it because meat is an important part of our human diet but each to their own.

Making Granola bars

Making your own granola is fun and exciting. You just have to follow some basic ingredients after that you can embellish it with whatever you want. For your diy mre you should always have a sweet treat why not make it good for and tasty too!

Basic granola recipe ingredients:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup honey
  • ¼ cup well packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Spread rolled oats onto baking sheet, stirring occasionally
  3. Toast for about 15 minutes (while that is toasting)
  4. Combine honey, brown sugar and vanilla in a large saucepan
  5. Cook until brown sugar is dissolved
  6. Remove rolled oats from oven
  7. Reduce oven heat to 300 degrees
  8. Immediately pour rolled oats into the hot liquid
  9. Stir to combine
  10. Butter baking sheet to prevent sticking
  11. Turn mixture onto baking sheet, flatten and evenly distribute
  12. Bake for 25 minutes
  13. Cut into slices

This is a basic recipe the recipe which why there is nothing added to it. If you choose to add butter to it 1 ounce to the liquid mixture before you apply the heat. If you add dried fruits, berries, nuts or any other dried items add them to the rolled oats before you put it in the oven. If you decide to put candy in it I am going to ask you to not bake it the second time.

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Trail mix

Trail mix is great to have in your Meals Ready to Eat. They are great to snack on and a quick fix when you’re in need of something quick. You can add candy to these as well as dried fruit and nuts for added protein. In a pinch they will do the trick.

Items you will need:

  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup peanuts (skins on)
  • ¾ cup cashews
  • ¾ cup brazil nut (optional)
  • ¾ cup glazed/sugar coated pecans
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup M & M candies
  • 1 cup Reeses Pieces candies

Mix all these ingredients in a large bowl and you are done. Bag them up and seal them in. Don’t forget to date them.

When you start making your MREs at home your possibilities open up as to what you can put in them. If you start to dehydrate your own homemade food the expansion of your MREs grows immensely.

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The cost of the military Meals Ready to Eat compared to the DIY ones is so much cheaper and the taste, there is no comparison. If your penny pinching then dehydrating the leftovers from the meals you have made during the day at home will save you a lot more. If you’re looking just to prepare for the next storm to come through and knock out your power and you want to be able to enjoy what you have to eat.

DIY MREs are very cost effective and they have a very long shelf life if they are packaged and stored correctly. If you don’t really have the time or initiative to dehydrate your own food then go to the local grocery and buy the items you need.

Making Trail mix

There are suppliers out there who will also sell you freeze dried canned meals already sealed, like Saratoga Farms or Mountain Grove. They are more costly than going to the local grocery store but if you don’t trust those little spam, chicken or tuna packs to stay good long term these guys are the way to go.

About the Author
David Dawson
David Dawson

David Dawson is a retired security specialist with over 20 years of experience. He worked for a secret manufacturing facilities and hospitals in Illinois. David's responsibility was to protect people in case of any disaster or cataclysm that might occur. Now he keeps on doing it through teaching others about how to prepare and survive flood, earthquake or even war.

  • Jason Perez

    I love the recipes! I tried the trail mix and used it last weekend when I went on a day hike around Mount Wrightson and it was a life saver. I’m actually stockpiling some preserved items for my own SHTF shelter and these recipes are a blessing.

  • I’m glad to hear this Jason. Just make sure to keep a keen eye on those expiration dates. Also, make sure to consider the storage conditions.

  • Alex Lauther

    I used to do this in college. On a tight budget, I can only eat noodles/ ramen with canned chili. But that was good, I saved a lot of money. Haha. Until now, sometimes, I got so busy with work, my lunches are almost always canned/ processed meals. Anyway, I make sure that I can still get enough nutrients and that my breakfast and dinner should be a real meal.

  • James Barnes

    To be honest, I always just brought cans of food along when going on a camping trip. We would usually prepare food, but had canned supplies in case of emergencies or if we are simply lazy.
    This article provides a lot of useful tips on how to diversify diet without using canned food all the time.