Comfort foods. We all need them, don't we? Macaroni and cheese is considered to be the most popular comfort food in America. So, why not have some for your Bug Out Bag (BOB) or your emergency food storage? Well, that was my thinking a while back when I made my first meal-in-a-bag using a popular boxed macaroni and cheese. (At that time, I called them homemade MREs because that was what I knew. However, the term meal-in-a-bag is a more appropriate description.) Later on I got to thinking, why would I want to feed my family the boxed macaroni and cheese with all of the preservatives and chemicals when I could make it from scratch (homemade)? And that's what I set out to do. I came up with this recipe based on the recipe my mother handed down to me that I have used for years to make my own homemade mac & cheese. The recipe is pretty standard in itself, but to put it together using dehydrated/freeze dried ingredients took a few trial and error runs.
A meal-in-a-bag is just what it sounds like. A meal that has been put together in a bag. When you're ready to cook the meal, all you have to do is add boiling water! That's what makes it so convenient for keeping in your BOB. Just boil water and pour it into the bag with the ingredients, stir, and let it sit for 10-15 minutes to “cook”. How much easier can that be? You can also store the meal in a canning jar in your long term food storage pantry and “cook” it in the jar or a bowl. In addition, meals-in-a-bag are great for hiking, thru-trail, and camping! So, as you can see, there are many uses for meals-in-a-bag.
Even though meals-in-a-bag (or jar) are perfect for your BOB, emergency food storage, hiking, etc. they can also be great for adding to your regular every day food pantry. Making macaroni and cheese from scratch is really pretty simple to do. However, in this modern world our lives have become so busy that it is much easier to just grab a box or a mix to make our meals. So, why not make our own meals to have on hand for those extra busy days? After all, they would be healthier, and much easier to cook! All it takes is a little prepping, and even that won't take up a lot of your busy schedule. It will be so worth it when you need it on those crazy busy, exhausting days!
The photos you see here are from making my lunch at home today. I used the instructions for cooking in the microwave. I didn't use what I have in mylar bags because that is not what I have them for. But, I wanted to give you an idea of how the mac & cheese looks when it is cooked. Now, let's get started!
The first and most time consuming step in making mac & cheese meal-in-a-bag is to cook and dehydrate the macaroni. You simply cook the macaroni according to the directions on the box then rinse with cold water and drain it. Once the macaroni has drained and cooled enough to touch it, spread it out on your dehydrator trays and dehydrate at 125 degrees for approximately four to six hours. Once the macaroni has been dehydrated let it cool for at least a couple of hours before putting the meal together. Personally, I let it cool overnight in a zip lock baggie. However long you choose to let it cool it is best to put it in a baggie or jar to keep any moisture in the air from getting back into the macaroni. Why dehydrate the macaroni? Because it will cook faster when you add the boiling water and it won't be starchy (because the starch has already been cooked and rinsed out of it) or mushy. Of course, you can use non-dehydrated macaroni in the bags if you want to, you will just need to cook it according to the package directions once you open up your meal-in-a-bag. To me, that would dirty up my cook pan unnecessarily when the time comes to cook it.
Next up is gathering everything you will need to put this meal together:
1. Either mylar bags, vacuum seal bags, or canning jars
2. Oxygen absorbers or vacuum sealer
3. Measuring cups and spoons
And now, on to the recipe!
Homemade macaroni and cheese Meal-in-a-bag (DOWNLOAD/PRINT RECIPE)
2/3 cup precooked and dehydrated pasta
1 tablespoon powdered whole milk (I used Nestle Nido)
3 tablespoons powdered cheddar cheese (I used Augason Farms Cheese Blend Powder)
1-1/2 teaspoons powdered butter (I used Augason Farms Butter Powder)
Dash of salt
1 cup water (for cooking)
PREPARATION AT HOME
Put the dehydrated macaroni into a 1 quart sized mylar bag or vacuum sealer bag.
In a zip lock baggie put:
(cheese sauce packet)
Place the cheese sauce packet into the mylar/vacuum sealer bag with the macaroni.
Put oxygen absorber into bag. Squeeze out as much air as you can, then seal mylar bag using an iron, straight iron (for hair) or an impulse sealer. Seal vacuum bag using a vacuum sealer.
NOTE: To cook multiple servings simply double or more the ingredients and use larger bags.
COOKING OVER A FIRE/COOK STOVE DIRECTIONS
Pour 1 cup water and pasta into pot.
Bring to a boil.
Remove from heat. Stir in cheese sauce packet ingredients.
Cover and let sit for 10 minutes.
ALTERNATE COOKING OVER A FIRE/COOK STOVE DIRECTIONS
Take the ingredients out of the zip lock bag and pour in mylar/vacuum sealer bag with the macaroni.
Add the boiling water, stir, zip closed and put in a bag cozy or wrap with towel/shirt (anything to help keep it hot). Let sit for 10-15 minutes.
MICROWAVE COOKING INSTRUCTIONS
Place all ingredients in a microwavable bowl.
Boil 1 cup water in microwave.
Add boiling water to bowl with ingredients and stir.
Cover and microwave for 30 seconds.
Let sit, covered, in microwave for 10-15 minutes.
And there you have it! Simple and easy comfort food available for when you will need it the most. Whether it's an emergency situation or you're just having a rough day.
Until next time...happy prepping, and God bless!