What in the world are meals-in-a-bag?

And why would you need them?

Breakfast Bowl meal-in-a-bag with the ingredients in mason jars in the background.

You have probably noticed that I have been posting articles and videos about meals-in-a-bag that I have been developing recipes for and making. If you have read/seen those articles or videos, I hope that you would have gained an understanding of what they are, how they can be used, and why you may need them. However, I may not have been exactly clear in my explanation of this in my articles/videos. And that is why I am writing to you today.

First of all, what is a meal-in-a-bag?

Meals-in-a-bag are just that. Meals that are put together and placed in a bag. More specifically, a mylar bag or a vacuum sealer bag. You can also use mason (canning) jars and you would have meals-in-a-jar. First, you gather and measure all of the ingredients necessary for a particular meal, pack them into the bag, place an oxygen absorber inside the bag, then seal the bag to make it air tight. Then, when it's time to cook the meal you just add boiling water! How simple is that?

Only properly freeze dried or dehydrated food ingredients should be used for making meals-in-a-bag. Anything else can rot, mildew, or become rancid; making the food unsafe to consume.

Commercially prepared meals-in-a-bag

If you are a prepper, or looking into become one, you are probably aware of the "emergency food" that is available for purchase from various companies such as Wise Company, Mountain House, Augason Farms, etc. The emergency foods they sell are merely commercially prepared meals-in-a-bag. The biggest problem with these commercially prepared emergency foods is the serving portion size and the amount of sodium in each serving. Not to mention the cost.

Let's address the portion size first. Their serving size and my idea of a serving size are totally different! Basically, their serving sizes are realistically about half a serving, sometimes even less. Let's take for example, Mountain House Chili Mac with Beef. The package says it contains two servings. One serving cooked equals one cup of food. I don't know about you, but if I've been walking/hiking for miles on any given day and stop to set up camp (chop wood, build a fire, and make a shelter), I'm going to need more than one cup of food to satisfy my hunger and replace all of those calories and carbs I've burned!

Even if you don't have to bug out and you hunker down at home, you will be exerting yourself physically throughout the day. Probably more so than what you normally would. Especially if your job entails sitting at a desk all day. And, we all know that those who work physical jobs are going to need more than one cup of a casserole type dish for a meal. Sure, one cup of food at a meal may be enough to survive on and to keep us from literal starvation, maybe. But we will need to do more than merely survive. We will need to have enough energy to be able to get through each day. Let's be realistic here.

Next, let's take a look at the sodium content in one serving of said Mountain House meal. One serving, that's the one cup of cooked food, has 780 mg of sodium. If you are like me and would need two servings to satisfy your body's needs, that's 1,560 mg of sodium! Wowza! That's WAY too much sodium in one meal. Especially if you are trying to keep your body properly hydrated! "The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day and moving toward an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults." So, one meal would put you over and above the recommended ideal limit of sodium per day. Not to mention the amount of water you would have to drink!

Thirdly, what about the cost? The aforementioned Mountain House meal is $9.99 per bag. Which is pretty standard. Let's say you have four people in your household. Each of those persons would need at least one bag per meal. That's $39.96 for one meal for your family. Let's say your family needed three meals per day. That's $119.98 per day. How many of us spend that much money per day on groceries?!? Oh, and if you only store enough meals for your family for one year, that's $43,756.20!! Who can afford that?!? When you really break it down, it's mind boggling! Of course, not everyone is going to rely solely upon these emergency meals for their entire emergency food storage, but if we did! Wow! That's why so many preppers push the beans and rice. They are cheap. But, just beans and rice will not realistically suffice for one year's worth of food. They would be great for fillers and even to have 3-4 days a week. But, after a while we would become bored with them and that would lead to us not eating enough to sustain ourselves.

Comparing homemade recipes

This is where making your own meals-in-a-bag comes in. I am currently working on a recipe for Hamburger Goulash meal-in-a-bag. Which I will be sharing with you in the near future. I want to use that recipe in this article to show you why it makes more sense to make your own emergency food meals-in-a-bag than it does to buy them already prepared. Mostly because I'm currently working on that one and I have the statistics easily at hand. Yes, I can be lazy, but I prefer to call it organized, lol. But also because it has similar main ingredients in it compared to the Mountain House meal mentioned above.

Portion sizes: What can I say? Most all of the recipes I have developed for my own meals-in-a-bag are two cups serving sizes. To me, that is a more realistic serving (as stated above). So, my Hamburger Goulash meal-in-a-bag has a two cup serving size, cooked. Of course, for children the portion sizes would be smaller, but I'm feeding mostly adults. Just cut the recipes in half for smaller portions if needed.

Sodium content: My Hamburger Goulash meal-in-a-bag, with the serving size of two cups cooked, has a sodium content in the amount of 406 mg. Compared to the 1,560 mg of sodium for a realistic serving size of the Mountain House meal above and that alone should make your eyes go wide open!

Cost per meal: I've broken down the cost of each individual ingredient I used in the recipe; some commercially prepared that I purchased on Amazon and some I dehydrated myself. Then, I divided the amount of each I would use in the meal by the cost per serving. Having done this, I came up with a total of $2.22 for one serving (bag) of my Hamburger Goulash meal-in-a-bag. Each serving consists of two cups cooked, not one as in the Mountain House meal. So, if you had to use two Mountain House meals to make one serving, that is a savings of $31.08 per day's worth of meals!! Each and every meal-in-a-bag that I develop the recipe for and make are all less than $3.00 per meal. Compared to $9.99 per meal. Which would you rather spend your money on? Plus, my recipes are more nutritional and without all the added ingredients and chemicals the prepackaged meals have in them. And, my recipes are free!

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention...the shelf life of my own meals-in-a-bag are comparable to the commercially prepared ones you can buy. My Hamburger Goulash will have a shelf life of up to 25 years! Of course, to responsibly store them I will test one every 5-10 years and replace it with a fresh one. If we have that long. We should even test the commercially prepared meals periodically. Wouldn't want to have to use them only to find their packaging was compromised in any way which may have caused the contents to spoil.

So, what do you think? Even if you don't have a dehydrator to dehydrate your own food it would be cost worthy to buy the freeze dried/dehydrated food products needed to make your own emergency food meals-in-a-bag. At the most, it would add less than a dollar to the total cost of one serving of the Hamburger Goulash. If you can't afford to buy all the products at once, do what I did. I bought one or two a month until I had all of the ones I would need for a particular recipe. In the meantime, I came up with the ideas for new recipes I wanted to develop and make. Then, once I had all I needed for that recipe, I moved on to getting what was needed for the next.

I also love that I can basically use my own recipes. Recipes that I know my family is used to and will eat. I did look into buying the emergency food kits that come with a variety of foods for each meal. You know, the 72 hour kits. But, what I found there was that most of them had foods that I knew my family wouldn't eat. Not unless they were on the very verge of starvation. If even then. And, that's not what I want for them.

I wish I could find an emergency food for our bug out bags that would not entail having to add water to it. But, the truth of the matter is that there is none available. At least none that you would be able to carry in a backpack. You see, these meals-in-a-bag weigh almost nothing. They are lightweight and easy to carry. Thus brings up an argument for home canning your foods. Home canning is an excellent way to store food in your long term food pantry. However, it will not work for bugging out if you were to need to for any reason.

I hope I have helped you to understand what meals-in-a-bag are and why we need to have them on hand. I've even moved on to using these meals in my every day meal planning. They're super easy to make in the microwave! But, my main reason for making them is so that we will have food that I know my family will eat if an emergency/SHTF situation were to arise. Food that will sustain them and provide the necessary nutrients they need to thrive.

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

(Note: The links provided in this blog article are for informational purposes only. I am not an Amazon associate and I receive no income or compensation from them if you click on the link and/or buy anything.)