How to make meals-in-a-bag without a dehydrator

They can be used as microwave meals too!

Mylar bags for meals-in-a-bag
Mylar bags for meals-in-a-bag

I realize there are many of you out there who do not have a dehydrator. Others who do not feel like you have the time (or the energy) that it might take to dehydrate lots of food. And yet, you would like to be able to make meals-in-a-bag for your long term food storage or your Bug Out Bags (BOBs). Well, there is a solution to your problem!

The reasons I started dehydrating were because number one, I couldn't afford the pre-packaged emergency meals or the MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) that a lot of preppers have on hand. Number two, even if I could afford them I didn't like that I didn't have a choice in the pre-packaged meals or MREs to buy exactly what I wanted...that they came pre-decided in a bundle for me, or I had to buy the meals individually at around $9.00 USD per serving. And, number three, I knew that I couldn't carry a bunch of canned goods and other non perishable food items in my BOB and get very far, much less have enough food to last a few days.

So, I decided to make my own MREs. Then, when that wasn't working out exactly like I wanted because it was still hard to get a full day's meals together without them weighing way too much, I discovered dehydrating. I bought a dehydrator and started dehydrating vegetables because at least I could add them to the MREs I was making and it would save some weight in them.

Then, I became frustrated because it was just nearly impossible to get enough food together for several days that I could carry in my BOB. Even with trying to make my own MREs. That's when I discovered backpacking meals. I tried making some of those but found that I didn't really feel comfortable with the shelf life of some of the foods that were being used; mostly the hamburger meat. I wanted meals for my BOB that would last longer than a few months or a year. So, I searched further.

In my searching, I came across meals-in-a-jar. Whala! Those were what I had been looking for all along, without even knowing it! Only, instead of using jars, I could use bags. Turns out meals-in-a-bag are really light weight, most only weighing two or three ounces each; and, they don't take up a lot of space! I could put together two meals for each day (lunch and supper) and they still didn't weigh nearly as much as one actual MRE. Plus, I could make the meals in single serving sizes so each of my family members could enjoy the foods they actually like, and are accustomed to.

Well, then I discovered I would still need foods like hamburger meat and chicken. I was still uncomfortable with the idea of dehydrating meats and having them go rancid within a few months, or a year. So, I broke down and bought some commercially prepared meats. You know, the ones that come in those big #10 cans. Turns out, they are actually freeze dried and not dehydrated! I had put off buying them for a long time because they can be so expensive. But, when I looked into it further and saw how little I had to use of them for an individual serving and how many servings came in the cans, it seemed it would be worth the cost.

I figured up which cans of freeze dried food I would need and waited until I could afford to buy them. Well, in reality, I couldn't actually afford it, but I did have a chance to just go for it. I was so happy when I finally received them! While waiting for the time I could buy them I kept looking up recipes that my family would eat. They are so picky, but I suppose I can be kind of picky too 😜. In hindsight, I realize that I could (and will in the future) buy one can of food at a time and not have to buy them all at once. But, I was just so excited to be able to make the recipes I had found and wanted to make them as soon as possible.

Once I had the cans of freeze dried food on hand, I set about putting together my recipes and making some meals-in-a-bag. I was in love with them! You can see which recipes I started out with by going here.

As I was putting together the meals-in-a-bag I started thinking about people who don't have dehydrators and how they could take advantage of the most perfect way to make actual meals to put in their long term food storage and also use for their BOBs. I looked up the prices of other commercially freeze dried and dehydrated foods and realized that things like the vegetables, beans, and other ingredients I used in my meals were not as expensive as the meats. In fact, they were pretty affordable. So, I decided to share my findings with you.

How to make the meals-in-a-bag without a dehydrator

Now, we are getting to the point of a solution for those who want to make meals-in-a-bag or meals-in-a-jar, but don't have a dehydrator. It makes sense cost-wise, in the long run, to buy the #10 cans of the foods that are used in the meals-in-a-bag recipes. Sure, they may cost close to the same as those pre-packaged emergency foods and MREs, but you can get many, many more meals out of using them instead! Seriously, the chili meal-in-a-bag that I made for our BOBs only costs $1.58 per serving!! And, that includes the foods that I dehydrated, as well as the freeze dried meats I purchased. They are good sized servings, and all you have to do is add water and boil! Of course, I still have the actual (very few) MREs I purchased in the beginning of my prepping for those times that we may not have access to water for a day or so. But, our main meals for both long term storage and MREs will now be our meals-in-a-bag.

In addition, if you don't have a food vacuum sealer, you can store the meals-in-a-bag using oxygen absorbers and mylar bags. These meals can also be stored in canning jars with an oxygen absorber placed inside the jar. And did I mention the meals have a very long and stable shelf life? Anywhere from 10-25 years, depending upon the ingredients!

Making your own microwave meals

Now, something I did not expect to discover at all...these meals-in-a-bag can also be used as microwave meals! That's right! I found out because when I first made the meals-in-a-bag I wanted to test them before sharing the recipes with others. It was too cold outside to build a fire to test them on, so I used the microwave. I know, ingenious! Anyway, I realized that if I heated the meals in the microwave and let them sit for the allotted amount of time, the results would be the same as having cooked them over a fire outside. I know, right?!? They are so easy to put together and make! Just make a few extra meals when you are putting them together and put those aside. Then, all you have to do is put the meal in a bowl, add the water, cover it, and microwave it for approximately three minutes. Then, just let it sit in the microwave for around 10 minutes (depending upon the individual meal) and it's ready to eat! Just as easy as throwing in a frozen microwave meal, but oh so much better!

Most commercially prepared freeze dried and dehydrated foods do not contain additives and preservatives. So, in using these meals as microwave meals you are getting healthy and nutritious food! Unlike the frozen microwave meals you can buy! Score!! So, I will be buying me some small canning jars to put together these meals-in-a-bag recipes for my very own microwave meals. Why canning jars? Because they are re-usable and it will be more cost effective in the long run, and I don't have to worry so much about weight if they are in my pantry/cupboard. I'm so excited about this! In fact, last night I couldn't figure out what I wanted for supper, and it dawned on me that I could put together a meals-in-a-bag recipe and cook it in the microwave! It was kind of a duh! moment, since that was how I had tested them, lol. So, I made the hamburger vegetable soup and really, really enjoyed it 😊.

It is my hope and prayer that you will see the value of these meals-in-a-bag and that you won't let not having a dehydrator (or a vacuum sealer) stop you from giving them a try. You can even make up your own recipes! After I realized the amount of the ingredients necessary to make a single serving it was easy to see that I could use most of my favorite recipes! In fact, the chili and the hamburger vegetable soup are both based upon my own recipes that I've used for years.

I've been in a bit of a stall lately, but I do intend to have more recipes and videos for meals-in-a-bag coming up soon! In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding meals-in-a-bag or my recipes, please feel free to contact me. You can reach me by going to the "About" Page and filling out the form at the bottom of the page. Or, you can leave a comment below.

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Until next time...happy prepping, and God bless!