Editor’s Note: Though often touted as the only meal you need to store, MRE’s (Meals-Ready-To-Eat) have serious drawbacks as highlighted in Here’s What Happens When You Eat Nothing but MREs. To be sure, there is a time and place for pre-packaged MRE’s and we certainly recommend having some in stock in case of an emergency. But eating MRE’s exclusively will obliterate your digestive system leading to symptoms like constipation, inflammation, bloating, gas, fatigue, and diarrhea – not exactly the feelings you want to be experiencing in the middle of a disaster.
The following article from The Prepper’s Blueprint author Tess Pennington was originally published at Ready Nutrition and aims to solve the problem of having shelf-stable, highly nutritious foods, while also resolving the unwanted symptoms that come with traditional MRE packs.
Meal planning for emergencies can be simplified if we adopted the same principles as the U.S. Military for making MREs. The meals are pre-planned, they are conveniently sealed and stored away for a later date. Granted, the lifespan of homemade MREs will not be comparable to the 10 year lifespan of government issued MRE’s, but they have a few advantages of their own. For one, making your own MREs is less expensive and they have fewer preservatives, thus causing fewer intestinal back ups. And, of course the most important advantage is they taste better.
If you have certain food allergies or other dietary requirements, it would make more sense to make your own rather than gamble on an allergy flare up. With the homemade versions, you also have the benefit of having a re-usable bag, which can be used for carrying water, or being used to boil other foods.
What You’ll Find With Pre-Assembled MREs
As this site notes, MREs manufactured since 2005 are of equal quality and caloric value as military MREs. They now average about 1,222 calories per meal. The typical MRE entrée has crackers (pilot bread), spread to put on the crackers, a side dish, dessert or snack, powdered beverage and an accessory pack with matches, gum, instant coffee, creamer, sugar, salt, moist towelette and toilet paper. All of these contents are packed into a sealed heavy plastic bag.
You can easily create a similar version by vacuum sealing your items or sealing them in a Mylar bag. With a little searching you can find most shelf stable foods in single serve packets. This also cuts down on the food enemies. To buy single serve packets in bulk, I went to Amazon.com where they have everything from packets of water and meats to packets of dehydrated vegetables.
Keep Nutrition in Mind
As with all emergency food supplies, you want to keep some basics in mind with the foods you decide to store. Find foods that are just add water meals or no cook meals to help you conserve your emergency supplies.
- Shelf life (at least 6 months-1 year)
- Calorie content (1200-2000 calories)
- Nutritional needs
- Protein content
- Heating and preparation
When you assemble your MREs, remember to make your meals calorie dense with lots of protein and healthy carbohydrates (preferably whole grains). Here is an easy equation to follow when packing your foods up:
Protein + Carbohydrate + Fruit/Vegetable + Sweet snack + 4 ounce water pouch = 1,200 calories
Remember to purchase foods that are shelf stable and have a longer shelf life. Further, save those plastic utensil packages and condiments from your take out orders. In no time you will have an ample supply of them to use toward your homemade MREs. Purchasing these foods in bulk can save you some money in the long run.
As mentioned previously, homemade MREs will not have a comparable shelf life to their commercial counterparts. But if you are resupplying your food pantry, you could easily rotate these in as meals. Some MRE food suggestions are below.
- Ramen noodles
- Power bar
- Single servings of peanut or almond butter
- Cheese and cracker packs
- Unsalted nut packs
- Singles of packed meat (tuna, salmon, chicken, Spam, etc.)
- Beef jerky
- Pre-cooked rice or quinoa packages
- Instant soups or make your own
- Single servings of cookies
- Fruit roll ups
- Dried fruit snacks
- Pudding packs
- Dried fruit packs
- Trail mix packs
- 4-ounce water pouches
- Instant coffee
- Electrolyte drink packets
- Hot chocolate
- Instant fruit drink mixes
- Instant tea
Pack It and Stack It
Add meals to a vacuum sealed bag or Mylar bag. Flatten your assembled MRE’s as much as possible (without damaging the packaging) and seal them thoroughly. Ensure that you label the contents along with the packing date to stay organized. It would also be proactive to list the best by date.
Making your own emergency meals is a convenient way to store a balanced amount of shelf stable foods for a rainy day. Keep the above suggestions in mind when you are planning your homemade MREs and you will have your emergency meals ready in no time.
Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.
Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals.
Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.
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