Is there a difference?
I first discovered meals-in-a-bag when I was doing searches for homemade DIY MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) on YouTube. My search eventually led to what is called homemade backpacking meals. I was so excited when I discovered these homemade backpacking meals! It didn't take but a moment to realize that these meals could be used for MREs. First of all, the MREs I had put together tended to be a little too heavy for putting very many in our backpacks. The backpacking meals that were made using a dehydrator were extremely light weight! Did I say I was excited? That really doesn't even begin to describe how I felt! Here, I'll give you a link to the first video I actually found on the backpacking meals. Dehydrating Food for Backpacking. Go ahead, click on the link and check it out. The link will open up in a new tab so you won't lose this page. Seeing this video will help you to understand why I was so excited!!
Note: When I refer to my/our MREs, I am actually talking about a vacuum sealed bag that has a day's worth of food in it, individually packed inside. For example, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks, along with drink mixes, condiments, plastic silverware etc.
After watching dozens of these videos I decided to buy a dehydrator and try making them myself. I soon discovered that most of the backpacking meal recipes only had a shelf life of six months to one year. That was mostly due to the ingredients they were using. So, I resigned to the fact that I would just have rotate our MREs out every six months. It was worth that to me to have lighter, more nutritious, and more familiar type meals than the ones you can buy ready made.
After a few months in continuing my search for more (and more) backpacking recipes, I ran across these things called meals-in-a-jar recipes. I was so amazed at that concept! Meals-in-a-jar are very similar to backpack meals, except the foods are dehydrated separately and then mixed all together in a jar to make a meal to store for later use that you just had to add water to and cook. Then, I thought why couldn't I put these meals together in a vacuum sealed bag or a mylar bag? And guess what?!? I found some videos on doing just that!
Because the meals-in-a-jar recipes called for using freeze dried meats, I decided to wait until I could afford to buy some instead of using dehydrated meats I had prepared at home. When I saw that the difference in the shelf life of commercially freeze dried meats and home dehydrated meats, it was a no brainer. Home dehydrated meats only have a shelf life of six months to a year (thus why the backpacking meals are only good for that long). Whereas, commercially prepared freeze dried meats have a shelf life of 25 to 30 years! See what I mean? No brainer! To me, it was well worth the cost of that #10 can of freeze dried meat.
Homemade backpacking meals and meals-in-a-bag basically contain the same ingredients. However, the difference comes in the way those ingredients were prepared. So, in answer to my question above...yes, there is a difference, and in my opinion it is a big one!
The first meal-in-a-bag that I put together was chili with beef and beans. When I calculated the cost of the individual meal (based on the cost of the #10 can and the amount of servings I could get from it, along with the other ingredients used) it came to $1.56 each. There's no way you can buy a pre-packaged backpacking meal for that price! Not to mention the fact that the meal was at least two cups after cooking, and it tasted delicious! The chili meal-in-a-bag weighed only 2.9 ounces, and it has a shelf life of at least 25 years! I'd say that's a win-win-win!
Until next time...happy prepping, and God bless!