Making my dehydrated mac 'n cheese into MREs
Finally! I finally got the time to put together the boxed mac 'n cheese that I dehydrated a couple of weeks ago. It's a good thing I stored the dehydrated macaroni in a zip lock baggie in a dark dry place (my kitchen cupboard). I sure didn't plan on it taking this long to get to putting them together in an MRE.
The picture to the left shows the dehydrated macaroni pasta in open vacuum sealer bags ready to put everything together. I used two boxes of mac 'n cheese which is divided into four individual portions. These MREs will be used as a complete meal, not a side dish. You will also see the cheese mixture (2 packs equal almost 2/3 cup) and nonfat instant dry milk (four servings of 1/4 cup per package directions equal almost 1/2 cup) ready to go. Those are the only ingredients I am putting into these MREs. You can add salt and spices according to whatever you (and your family) like and prefer.
I cannot believe the time spent on calculating the exact portions of cheese sauce mix and nonfat instant dry milk it took! I felt like I needed to be a rocket scientist to figure it all out! Well, partly it was my own doing, lol. I haven't had to break down ingredient measurements in quite a while. I will give you the results of my findings along with my walk through below.
Mac 'n cheese pasta
The first thing I did was get my vacuum sealer bags ready. I folded the tops down on the outside to make it easier to put the ingredients in and to keep from making a mess all over the very tops of the bags. I used pint sized zipper vacuum sealer bags for the four individual servings.
After getting the vacuum sealer bags ready I divided the dehydrated mac 'n cheese pasta up into four servings, which came out to about 3/4 cups each serving, then put the pasta in the bags and set them aside.
I emptied the two cheese sauce packets into a two cup measuring cup to find out how much there was total; which came to a bit under 2/3 cup. Then, divided the total amount by four, and came up with about 2-1/2 tablespoons per serving. Of course, I relied on Google to get those measurement results. So, I put the cheese sauce mix into the bags along with the macaroni pasta.
Nonfat dry milk
This was what took the longest to figure out the exact measurement needed for each individual serving. The nonfat dry milk I used only had directions for a quart of milk. I had to divide that down to 1/4 cups each, which would be a total of one cup. For some reason, I had a hard time figuring that out. Of course, it all seems much simpler to me now. As you can see in the picture above, the measurement came out to a little under 1/2 cup; which would be a little under 1/8 cup per serving. Well, I don't have a 1/8 cup measuring cup so I had to divide that amount into tablespoons, which came out to be about 1-1/2 tablespoons per serving. Or at least that's how I figured it; I could be wrong, lol. So, I put 1-1/2 tablespoons into each of the bags. Looking back, I could have put two tablespoons into each serving; it wouldn't have hurt anything. Oh well, live and learn.
Oh, wait...let me back up here a little. After I figured the amount of cheese sauce mix and nonfat dry milk I would need for the MREs I put the ingredients into measuring cups so I could take a picture to include with this blog.
Ready to vacuum seal
At this point, everything was ready to pull out the ole vacuum sealer. So, I did that. I unrolled the tops each of the bags and shook the bags around a little so that the contents would blend somewhat as well as to settle the macaroni pasta in the bag.
Then, I placed the open end of the bag with all of its contents into the vacuum sealer. As you can see in the picture below, all of the contents were added into the bag from the bottom because it is a zippered vacuum sealer bag. The top portion where the zipper is comes already vacuum sealed.
The vacuum sealer I have is a Gourmia, and I love how easy it is to use! Unfortunately, it is not currently available on Amazon.
I checked on Gourmia's website and found that they have the same link to buy the vacuum sealer on Amazon that says it is currently unavailable.
The only reason I mentioned this is because I like to include links that may be helpful to you and there is no live link available for this particular vacuum sealer.
Sealed and ready to store
That's it! This DIY MRE was relatively easy to make and I'm sure we will really enjoy having it when it comes time to eat it.
The total weight for each individual meal came to 3.6 ounces. I could put four of these in a backpack and they would still weigh less than a pound! At that rate, we could get a lot of food in our backpacks.
Maybe that will help you to understand why I am invested in making our own MREs. Not only do they cost less, but they weigh a lot less than the MREs that you can buy ready made. And, even though we will have to add water to our DIY MREs, realistically you need to use water to prepare the military MREs as well.
How to re-hydrate (or reconstitute) the Mac 'n Cheese MRE
The really neat thing about using the zippered vacuum sealer bags is that it will make it so easy to reconstitute the MREs. All you have to do is open the zippered end of the bag (there's a notch in the top that you can use to pull off the very top of it) and pour boiling water into the bag. That's right! You can "cook" the meal right in the bag! You will need to boil about 1-1/2 to 2 cups of water for each bag before pouring it into the bag.
Start out by only pouring in enough boiling water to cover the contents of the bag by about a half inch (the macaroni will swell when reconstituting). Once you've poured the boiling water into the bag, stir the contents around, zip it back up and let it set for about 15-20 minutes. You will want to check the bag every once in a while and pour in more boiling water as needed. But, be careful not to over saturate the contents with the boiling water because that will make the meal too watery.
There you have it! You could also add some hamburger rocks (dehydrated hamburger meat) when you prepare the mac 'n cheese MRE and you would have cheeseburger mac 'n cheese! You can either make your own hamburger rocks or buy them already made. I'll have more info on that coming up in the future.
Until next time...happy prepping, and God bless!