HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ?

Posted by: salesguy

HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ? - 01/09/11 02:14 AM

OK seem like with all the dried "fruits & vegetables and protein powder" on the market I May be better off making my own...but really do i need too with all the MRE's on the market today? Curious... I am really only interested in emergency needs not a catered affair.
Posted by: ironraven

Re: HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ? - 01/09/11 04:41 AM

Well, what is it you REALLY want to make?

A true, wet pack, retort pouched Meal Ready To Eat? You can assemble these kinds of components from most grocery stores, they might taste a little better than full meals assembled by Sopako and the like, but you won't save much.

Food that you can add hot water to? That is easy, and from what you mentioned for components that sounds like what you have in mind, or maybe some kind of compressed food bar for an emergency ration. Look at the ultra light and long hiker websites- there is a LOT out there.
Posted by: hikermor

Re: HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ? - 01/09/11 10:39 AM

What you get with MREs is mostly convenience and adequate nutrition. For cheap and lightweight, you can do much better with judicious shopping. Ironraven's advice is right on. There are lots of options - many are very nutritious and tasty.
Posted by: LED

Re: HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ? - 01/09/11 11:25 AM

You could pack your own food but you it requires more prep work and the maintenance requirements (expiration dates, storage temperatures, etc.) are more involved than MRE's. MRE's are convenient but nutritionally they're pretty lousy. Yes, you will be alive but after eating them for a few days you'll probably be constipated and generally feel like crap. For my emergency kits I use a combination of MRE's, freezedried meals from Backpackers Pantry, and my own food stuffs like almond/peanut butter, raw nuts, wheat germ granola, powdered milk, dried fruit, fiber packets, miso soup, salmon jerky, coffee/tea, etc. If you own a food dehydrator you have even more do-it-yourself options.
Posted by: Byrd_Huntr

Re: HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ? - 01/09/11 12:51 PM

I say 'make your own'.

For 'shelter in place' we have a 30 day supply in storage.

The dry stuff: Dried beans, peas, flour, and rice. A large stack of 1-2 pound packages of dry whole wheat pasta. 6 two pound cans of coffee, bisquick, ramen noodles....

The heavier stuff: Lots of misc canned tomatoes, soup, spaghetti sauce, green beans, corn, chili beans and great northern beans. A dozen containers of peanut butter, multiple types of canned meat and fish.....

Last: 100 rolls of TP and 100 gal of available water, half of it in 7 gal totes.

We rotate by using it regularly, and replenishing it when it goes on sale. We also keep a large backpack, a rubbermaid tote , and 25 paper grocery bags on the rack.

It's way cheaper and we have and use what we like.
Posted by: LesSnyder

Re: HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ? - 01/09/11 01:41 PM

not as sophisticated as most, fairly inexpensive but not "ready to eat" composition for one day of my 72hour food pack:

packet instant oatmeal
(2)packet cocoa

tinned tunafish
ramen noodles or foil pack yellow rice
lift ring fruit cup
tub crystal lite
tea bags
boullion cubes
hard candy
peanut butter cracker snack

packed in and with spare 1 gal ziploc and 2'x2' square of aluminum foil



Posted by: Crookedknife

Re: HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ? - 01/10/11 04:08 AM

When I grew up in Alaska, we would often dry food or use a pressure cooker to preserve it for the winter. It's not hard; it just takes work. We found that freezing food would only keep it fresh for a few months, and the food would spoil anyway if the power went out for a few days.

You can use a dehydrator or smokehouse to dry meats, and it's easy to dry your own banana chips & such. If you search the web for "freezer bag cooking" you'll find websites that give recipes for dried meals using a dehydrator. (I'd avoid the common practice of adding boiling water straight to a freezer bag; use a pot instead unless you like traces of melted plastic in your food.)

If you get your hands on mass quantities of fruit, vegetables, or meats, then a pressure cooker is the way to go. We used to use it to jar fish during the salmon run, and to preserve whatever surplus food we grew in the garden. You can make your own jams & jellies that way too.

It's a good idea to write the date on whatever you preserve. The food won't go bad, per se, but it supposedly loses its nutritional value after a few years.
Posted by: philip

Re: HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ? - 01/10/11 06:11 PM

Your use of MREs may be misleading, but I can't tell. My wife and I have a month's worth of food stored in our van, but it's all canned or boxed stuff we bought at the store. We also have some HeaterMeals we bought from that company; they're a sort of MRE - self-heating meals in a plastic pack. Military MREs have too many calories, too much salt, too much fat for my 60+ year old body. HeaterMeals suit my nutritional needs better.

If you're looking for storable meals that need little or no preparation, check our page at http://www.cieux.com/bm/quickMeals.html and see if anything suits you.

I wouldn't rely on any one thing for food for a month - not all MREs, not all canned goods, not all dehydrated stuff. Mix it up so you don't get bored to death.
Posted by: Susan

Re: HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ? - 01/10/11 07:11 PM

Actually, Salesguy has brought up an interesting question.

I try to keep a reasonably full pantry, as being marooned by flooding is my most likely scenario. Even with my small pickup, it would take up considerable room, weight and time to move. Plus the pets and their food.

So, let's rethink Salesguy's question...

Would it be POSSIBLE to make your own kinda-sorta MREs? Not necessarily packaged as tightly, no heat unit, just a smallish, condensed unit that would keep for a year or so, that wouldn't need commercial processing. For those of you who have seen all the Tremors movies, I am reminded of Burt Gummer's statement: "Plastic is NOT an oxygen barrier!"

Never having even held an MRE in my hand, I am assuming they are sealed in foil. Food storage websites sell 'barrier-coated mylar' and oxygen-absorbing packets, but I really can't see that being as good as a metal foil. Is that possible in the home kitchen?

There is no water in MREs, so I am assuming a separate source of water for cooking, where you wouldn't have to depend on the moisture in cans, for instance. Let's not muddy the question with multiple uses.

So, would anyone have any insight on how this might be done? Maybe some metal foil bags that could be used with a home vacuum-packaging unit?

If you have even partial ideas, please trot them out and maybe we can build on them.

Sue
Posted by: PSM

Re: HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ? - 01/10/11 07:50 PM

We've used the Hungry Hiker's cookbook, by Gretchen McHugh, for nearly 30 years. It's allowed us to eat food that we would (and did) eat at home while backpacking, sailing, and now, RVing. It became a habit to dehydrate something from every meal we made and, over time, we had a pretty good selection. (An example would be if we made spaghetti sauce, we'd spread a couple of servings on a backing sheet and stick it in the oven at very low temperature (with the door propped open)overnight then crumple it up and put it in a Ziploc bag. If we had green beans with the meal, a couple of servings could also be dried.) I can't say how long it lasts since we used it pretty regularly and replenished it often.

Another advantage to drying the food you normally eat at home is that there is no shock to your system when you switch to the "rations".

Unfortunately, we've largely gotten out of the habit but thanks to this thread I think we'll beef up our pantry again.
Posted by: hikermor

Re: HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ? - 01/10/11 08:17 PM

[quote=Susan
There is no water in MREs, so I am assuming a separate source of water for cooking, where you wouldn't have to depend on the moisture in cans, for instance. Let's not muddy the question with multiple uses.
[/quote]

There is plenty of water in MREs; that is the reason they are relatively heavy and ready to eat, hot or cold, with zilch prep time. I would say that they are essentially canned chow in expensive packaging. For what they are, they are actually pretty good. I have been fortunate to have eaten mine on firelines rather than foxholes.

I am not sure about their packaging - it is not straight foil but is some kind of mylar/foil blend - seems to work.

Freeze dried/dehydrated is another matter. You definitely need water to make those edible.
Posted by: LesSnyder

Re: HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ? - 01/10/11 08:18 PM

Sue.. military MREs are exactly that... they need no water except for the small amount used in the heater bag..the older LRRP stuff was freeze dried and needed rehydration

my post was a consolidation of a survival lab I assigned to my 9th graders... they had to come up with a suitable off the shelf meal, basically a one pot entree with a source of meat protein, carbohydrate from root vegetable, pasta, or rice, a fruit sugar dessert, and beverage. Other than the tinned meat, everything else was to be in a sturdy plastic or foil container with a minimum of 1 year shelf life... for Holiday food drives we collected tuna fish as good source of Omega 3 and protein for needy families...

if weight is a important factor, the tuna and other meats are available in foil packs with close to a 3 year "best by" date

instant rices and beans are available in pre packaged meal, and you can easily vacuum pack to save money... I happen to like yellow rice... the kids insisted on the ramen noodles regardless of the packaging

the dried fruits were not popular with the kids, so the concession to the lift ring can of fruit cocktail, canned peaches/pears was amended

crystal light was chosen due to the robust tub it is contained in, the tea or instant coffee would be a concession to the adults..most of the kids brought Kool Aide or Gatorade salts....the cocoa was universally accepted by the kids, and most agreed they could eat the oatmeal, but was not included in the original requirement

one of the lessons learned after the 04/05 hurricane season was the inclusion of a snack... the peanut butter snack and hard candy

the aluminum foil was tiple folded around edges and placed into the gallon zip loc bag, and heated water added to cook...this worked depending on the care they took folding the seams... most later considered a separate cooking container
Posted by: paramedicpete

Re: HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ? - 01/10/11 08:46 PM

Anyone remember Yurika Foods from the 90ís? They were one of the first companies to employ retort packaging on a large scale for civilian use. Yurika Foods (which I believe went bankrupt) turned out to be a type of pyramid scheme, in terms of itís sales approach, but their food products were fairly high quality and like the current military M.R.E.s had a very long shelve life without refrigeration. I belive the food once in retort packaging was irradiated instead of cooking (canning) for long-term storage.

I think if a company today utilized the technology from the Yurika Foods days without the marketing scheme, it would do very well.

Pete
Posted by: hikermor

Re: HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ? - 01/10/11 09:07 PM

My pantry shelves contain Homel "Compleats" - roast beef stem in a plastic tray and thin plastic cover that can be heated in boiling water or in a microwave. I would imagine that the stew could be eaten cold if necessary. Is this similar or related to retort packaging? I would bet that technology is edging into our supermarkets in one form or another....
Posted by: paramedicpete

Re: HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ? - 01/10/11 09:25 PM

Here is some information on retorts:

Retort Processing

Retort Packaging

CDC Food Irradiation

Food Irradiation Process

Retort Irradiation Foil Product

Retort Business
Posted by: JBMat

Re: HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ? - 01/11/11 10:39 AM

Odd MRE factoids:

MREs were developed with the idea of getting one meal with about 1500+ calories in it. The average grunt needs 3k calories a day more or less, so two meals would do it. The early MREs sucked, pure plain and simple. Dehydrated meat aka hockey pucks, were never eaten. The dehydrated fruit was not much better. I mainly lived on ramen, tuna, canned chicken, jerky, slim jims, beanie weenie, snickers and raisins.

Most of us would take the MREs apart and can the stuff we didn't want. The best part, the tabasco sauce, was a good trade item.

One trick to MREs, open them length wise, instead of at the top. Easier to get all the food out without getting it all over your hand. You may need a knife, but all field guys have knives.

Allies freak until they realize one MRE is one meal. They tend to get a day's rations in one pack, we use three.

The MRE cheese is said to have plumbing plugging properties that defy modern science. The peanut butter is decent however.

I ate way too many MREs. Later on, a close friend was the SGM of the test labs and I got some sample runs of the newer stuff. The taste was better, but it was still an MRE. The newer ones have a protein bar and candy that the old ones lacked.
Posted by: salesguy

Re: HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ? - 01/11/11 11:37 AM

I must be honest I have never eaten a real Military MRE, but seeing the ones in all the camp stores, started me thinking. First I noticed the price and yes for convenience they seem to fit the bill, but they have a high concentration of stuff my body really does not need, salt and calories for starters. Granted i am now 55 but I'm not ready to be put out to pasture I just want to eat better.

Having changed jobs a few years ago my sales traveling patterns have changed and I am now generally at a place for a few days and nights and it is no fun to eat without friends and family so i have started to eat more heat and serve meals while I read or work. For breakfest I moved from instant oatmeal to regular oatmeal but i only cook (heat)till tender vs. a wet ball of goo. I add my own banana's, peanut butter/natural, and/or raisins,, etc. So yes this is not an "official" MRE it is to me. As i moved to lunch and dinner and the fact I wanted to eat better and at a lower cost, i started packing my travel MRE's (dry food packs) at home and taking with me for the week/month.

Yes you are right in the sense of military MRE's I am not, but in the general sense i look for better recipes both health wise and dollar costing.

Thanks for all your suggestions I have learned a lot once again.

God Be with you all.
Posted by: 6pac

Re: HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ? - 01/11/11 02:39 PM

I've heard that your not supposed to eat MREs for an extended period of time, does anyone know why or if this is even true.
Posted by: hikermor

Re: HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ? - 01/11/11 09:36 PM

Well, for one thing, it would be pretty expensive, and I imagine we would get pretty tired of them after a bit. They are heavy in calories and salt, etc. Consuming MREs for a long time would be about like eating at McDonalds regularly.

The newer varieties are pretty good, especially given the constraints under which they are produced and used. Nontheless, I can easily produce meals that are lighter in weight, nutritious, and cheaper, while being relatively easy to prepare - by that I mean that I need to boil water, about the limit of my culinary talents. I would never take MREs backpacking.
Posted by: salesguy

Re: HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ? - 01/12/11 01:16 PM

I should have said...."Ball Jar" recipes because aren't they the first modern day MRE? I have noticed that we all have moved from making stuff/food from scratch to all prepared food. It is amazing how many families do not know how to make or bake a simple apple pie.

But I move on. Taking dried items and adding hot water may be another way to keep cost down and flavor to an acceptable level.
Posted by: Byrd_Huntr

Re: HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ? - 01/14/11 12:03 AM

Originally Posted By: salesguy
Having changed jobs a few years ago my sales traveling patterns have changed and I am now generally at a place for a few days and nights and it is no fun to eat without friends and family so i have started to eat more heat and serve meals while I read or work. For breakfest I moved from instant oatmeal to regular oatmeal but i only cook (heat)till tender vs. a wet ball of goo. I add my own banana's, peanut butter/natural, and/or raisins,, etc. So yes this is not an "official" MRE it is to me.


I travel for a living too, and you sound exactly like the guy I ran into in the exercise room at the hotel a week or two ago with a secret oatmeal recipe.

I don't want to hijack the thread, but what you say is right. When you travel it's no fun to eat alone, and you get real sick of restaurants and the pounds they pack on.

I compensate by buying all my food fresh each day on my way to the motel, and I carry a dinner kit that I put together from thrift store stuff. I set out a tablecloth, and cloth napkins, and put out the real ceramic dinnerware, and metal utensils. I fire up my electric hotpot with light soup or whatever, roll up 2 or 3 ounces of meat, cheese, or fish in a low carb wrap, and slice up fresh green peppers to dip in salsa. I finish off with an apple and green tea (lately with pomegranate). Then I make my breakfast and lunch for the next day, pop it in the mini fridge or cooler, and wash the dishes.

This not only insures that I eat healthy food, it keeps me busy by stretching out the meal process, and that keeps me from getting bored and pigging out at a restaurant. The company doesn't object to paying grocery store receipts instead of restaurant tabs because I save 1/3 to 1/2 of my meal allowance each day, and there's no tips to pay.
Posted by: MostlyHarmless

Re: HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ? - 01/14/11 07:36 AM

Originally Posted By: Byrd_Huntr

I compensate by buying all my food fresh each day on my way to the motel, and I carry a dinner kit that I put together from thrift store stuff. I set out a tablecloth, and cloth napkins, and put out the real ceramic dinnerware, and metal utensils. I fire up my electric hotpot with light soup or whatever, roll up 2 or 3 ounces of meat, cheese, or fish in a low carb wrap, and slice up fresh green peppers to dip in salsa. I finish off with an apple and green tea (lately with pomegranate). Then I make my breakfast and lunch for the next day, pop it in the mini fridge or cooler, and wash the dishes.


This strikes a very profound chord in me: Let the important things (like food) take the proper attention they need to get done properly.

This is actually a new realization for me, although the concepts of "slow food" and "slow time" (google those terms) always have appealed to me - but those concepts did not in any way impact my life. Some recent mental processes kicked by rather randomly stumbling across some books changed that. "Slow food" doesn't mean you should spend 5 hours cooking - it means whatever your menu is, do it properly and don't cheat. Creating "slow food" in 15 minutes with minimal utensils isn't a problem at all if you plan accordingly.

Posted by: CANOEDOGS

Re: HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ? - 01/15/11 06:52 PM

my take on "home made" is that you know what you are getting.
when i buy MRE's for my canoe trips i stick to the meat paddies like the chicken,pork riblet or meat loaf.to one of those i add a Mac and Cheese or one of the many side dish packs that we have for dinner when we want something fast.i know what a Spanish Rice or Noddles and Cheese is like so there are no surprises with odd after tastes or spices.
Posted by: Mike_H

Re: HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ? - 02/09/11 07:41 PM

I've eaten a lot of MREs in my day. No, I'm not military, I just like them. I'm also a member of the MREInfo forum. Lots of great info there.

Every year, the menus become more interesting and more diverse. There are 24 total menus per year. I've eaten MREs over 10 years old without any ill effects.

Anyway, you don't want to be continually eating MREs for a length of time. Offhand, I don't remember what that time period is. They are also designed for someone actually being active outdoors. 3 MREs = 1 day of food. I certainly could get by with 2 MREs with my outdoor activities.

The nice thing about them is that the food is already prepared. Just warm them if you'd like. BTW, you can buy the FRHs(Flameless Ration Heater) seperately from several web sites. A little water is needed to activate the heater plus whatever water you want to drink (make coffee / beverage with).

For a few days out and about in the woods, I like them. I also supplement with Mountain House and other other foods.

Another site I've found was freezerbagcooking.com They show how to make your own rehydrateable foods.

I've also eated military rations from other countries (French / British / Norwegian / Canadian)

You can certainly make your own version of MREs using commercial retort packages of tuna / chicken / spam / etc... Probably best to vacuum pack them together. Maybe add an O2 absorber to ensure longer shelf life. One of the guys on the MREInfo forum makes his own version of the FSR (First Strike Ration) using military components, but for a fraction of the cost.
Posted by: MDinana

Re: HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ? - 02/09/11 10:59 PM

Mike, do you know where he gets the FSR stuff? I like it as a compact "emergency ration" idea in a Go-bag.

As for how long you can eat MRE's... talk to any vet from the Iraq or Afghan invasion. I'm pretty sure we're talking a couple months of solid MRE's.
Posted by: njs

Re: HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ? - 02/11/11 02:32 AM

Here is a link to more information on the First Strike Rations:

http://www.mreinfo.com/us/fsr/first-strike-ration.html

First Strike Rations seem to be hard to find, I've seen them on Ebay for about $40.00 with additional shipping costs. Here is a link to a recent auction:

http://cgi.ebay.com/FIRST-STRIKE-RATION-...88#ht_500wt_975


Just as an exercise I decided to try and make a home made FSR. The idea was to have a meal with a reasonably long shelf life without refrigeration and to keep the cost under $20.00 without using heavily preserved items. With a few changes and substituting cheaper jerky for the Tanka bar the cost could probably be lowered to about $10 - $12. I already had the Bridgeford sandwiches and after a quick trip to a supermarket and a natural food store this is what I came up with.

Item..................................................Calories......Cost ($)
Bridgeford Shelf Stable Sandwich......................................290..........2.00
Starkist Ready Made Tuna Salad Pouch (chunk light)........200..........1.20
Bear Valley Pemmican Fruit ' Nut Bar................................420..........1.35
Tanka Buffalo Cranberry Bar..............................................70............2.35
Justin's Classic Almond Butter Pouch.................................200..........0.87
Justin's Honey Peanut Butter Pouch...................................180..........0.87
GoGo Squeez Applesauce Pouch........................................60............0.77
PowerBar Gel Vanilla Ö.....................................................110...........0.97
Planters Nutrition South Beach Diet Pouch.......................250..........0.67
BoBo's Oat Bar original.....................................................360..........1.67
Ultima Replenisher 2 pouches............................................20............1.78
Lance Whole Cheddar Cheeses Crackers..........................180...........0.25
Honey Stinger Waffle Ö....................................................160...........1.39
Panda All Natural Raspberry Licorice Bar.........................100..........0.89
Boomi Bar Almond Protein Plus........................................270...........1.29
Archer Farms Strawberry real Fruit Bar.............................110...........0.50
Gatorade G2 Fruit Punch Powder Pack..............................40.............0.38
Totals................................................................................3020........19.20
Posted by: Mike_H

Re: HOMEMADE MRE'S ? BETTER TASTING less cost ? - 02/14/11 06:21 PM

@njs - You took an approach much like this guy and I did when prototyping our own homemade FSR. We tried to keep everything "milspec" tho.

The three things he could not duplicate exactly were the ERGO drink (uses Gatorade), the Zapplesauce (user MRE fortified applesauce), and the beef jerkey (uses a commercial beef & cheese kind).

@MDinana - He has access to many military components. The only things I think he actually needs to buy are the Stay Alert gum and the Bridgeford sandwiches.

He keeps the cost/unit to $10 and then shipping charges. Very reasonable.

I have no affiliation except for planting the seeds of an idea in his head to make these. I get no kick-backs for this. I simply want to be able to share this with everyone here as well.

One pack is good for 24hrs. Nice for a BOB or for a day hike. These are certainly not the most nutrionally complete things out there, but good for a short stint.

If anyone wants more detailed info feel free to send me a message.

Here is a link to this:

http://www.mreinfo.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=3953&start=60