What are they and why make homemade/DIY ones?
What are MREs?
MRE is the acronym for Meal Ready to Eat. The first MRE was developed as a field ration for U.S. soldiers in 1975. Several field tests were conducted and the first MREs were provided to soldiers in 1981. They kind of got a bad reputation for not tasting all that great. However, the taste and type of meals have improved dramatically over the years due to testing and evaluations.
Today's military MRE usually includes a main dish, side dish, desert, condiments, snack (usually crackers or bread with a spread), candy, flameless ration heater,
coffee and another beverage, gum, seasonings, moist towelette, and eating utensil.
MREs come in mylar bags and are shelf stable for around 5 years. Although the military MREs are not supposed to be sold to civilians, they are plentifully available to purchase both online and are usually available in military surplus stores.
Commercial companies also produce copy cat MREs based on the same principles of the military MRE. However, they do not always provide a complete meal or the flameless ration heater. Some of them only provide the main dish so if you are looking at purchasing some of those make sure you are getting the whole meal; the price is usually the same as for the whole meal military ones. Might as well get more then less for the same price.
Both military and commercial MREs are quite pricey. The average cost for an individual MRE bag runs around $10 to $15 each. They can also be purchased in cases of 12 for anywhere ranging from as little as $60 to as much as $150 or more. Some sellers charge a shipping fee on top of the actual cost of the case.
Why make homemade/DIY MREs?
The main reason for making homemade, or DIY, MREs is due to the price of the ready made ones. Another reason is that when you buy the MREs by the case you do not get to choose what meals come in your case. I only have a couple of cases and out of those 2 cases there may be 2 or 3 meals that I might actually want to eat. I now consider them to be a last resort, but it didn't start out that way.
My first belief, as a prepper regarding long term food storage was that the only way I was going to have enough food for my family in case of an emergency or SHTF happened was to purchase MREs and commercially prepared long term storage foods. My thinking was mostly due to the fact that we didn't have a lot of room to store cans and other non-perishable foods. So, a couple of cases of MREs is what I started with. But, I soon realized that those were just too expensive for my budget; especially if that were the only emergency food we were going to have on hand. So, we started building up our cans and non-perishables and filled our little closet with as much as we could, little by little.
Then, a few months ago I ran across a video on YouTube about making homemade/DIY MREs. So, I did what I always do when I find a good video...I binge watched similar videos! And, I watched and watched more over a period of several days. I had recently purchased a vacuum sealer for freezing my leftover food (making my own microwave meals) and noticed that in quite a few of the videos I saw they were packaging up their DIY MREs by vacuum sealing them. Some were using mylar bags to put their rations in and storing them, but I had no idea what those were or how they worked.
So, making the decision to go for it, I ordered some larger (11" x 50 ft) vacuum sealer bag rolls. Then my daughter and I went to the store and bought a bunch of non-perishables and no need to cook items we thought would work for our MREs. I decided it would make the most sense to put 3 meals together for each vacuum sealed bag. So, that's what we did...breakfast, lunch, supper, snacks, coffee sticks and powdered drink sticks. We put foods in that we knew we would all eat and were able to individualize each one. They turned out so perfect! Three meals in each bag. Then, I realized that some of the items we used were just going to be too heavy to put the MREs into our BOBs and we couldn't make them all like that. So, it was back to the drawing/research board! Seems to be the story of my life, but hey, at least I do learn from those mistakes, lol.
In my next article I will cover what we did to improve upon making our homemade/DIY MREs and how our second attempt turned out. So, stay tuned!
Until next time...happy prepping and God bless!