The military gives service members portable meals called “Meals, Ready-to-Eat” (MREs), which are self-contained field rations in lightweight packaging. But MREs are sometimes hard to come by, and it can be expensive to purchase them if you have a large survival group.
To save some money, you can prep DIY MREs using ingredients you already have at home. (h/t to ApartmentPrepper.com)
What are Meals, Ready-to-eat (MREs)?
MREs contain all items you need for one meal, like:
- A meat entree
- A type of starch or carbs
- Coffee and tea
- Drink mix
- Seasoning packets like salt, pepper, and Tabasco sauce
An MRE usually includes a heating unit, making it a handy item to have if you’re camping or bugging out during an emergency. MREs are also convenient and filling, which are essential for supplies that you will need when SHTF.
But not everyone can afford to stock up on MREs, especially since they cost about $12 each. If you like the idea of MREs and having easy to prepare meals for an emergency, you can tweak the idea by prepping DIY MREs right at home.
Tips for DIY MREs
There are two easy ways to make DIY MREs for your bug-out bag: Prepackaged assembly or “just add water” meals.
You’ll need gallon-sized zip-top bags for prepackaged MREs and a vacuum food sealer to package the homemade MREs. Save more money when stocking up on the ingredients for these prepackaged MREs by looking for items on sale or using coupons.
When buying the items below, make sure your family likes what you get, so nothing goes to waste:
- Breakfast bars
- Dried fruit
- Milk powder
- Nuts, such as almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts
- Breakfast bars
- Cheese spread
- Instant soup
- Tuna packets
- Chicken or other meats such tuna steaks in a pouch
- Meat spread
- Packets of instant mashed potatoes
- Dried fruit and nut mixes (Related: Food supply tips: Survival foods that will last longer as powder.)
- Individually packed fruit cups
- Eating utensils
- Instant coffee
- Matches or lighters
- Mints or other hard candy
- Napkins or wet napkins
- Portable stove
- Small pot for heating water
- Salt and pepper
Assemble meal packets for each family member and add them to their designated bug-out bags. Remove as much air as possible before packing.
If you have a food sealer, use that instead of the gallon zip bags. You also need bottled water for instant soups and for the beverages in the MREs.
Note that you should only consume these meals when camping, bugging out, or on the road to reduce your intake of certain items with preservatives and sodium, like instant soup or ramen.
“Just add water” meals
As the name implies, “just add water” meals are instant meals you assemble in a jar using dehydrated foods. Here’s a sample recipe for a pot of chicken soup.
Prep the ingredients below in a Mason jar or an airtight pouch.
Chicken soup DIY MRE
Ingredients for 5-6 servings:
- Egg or instant ramen noodles
- 1/4 Cup of dried carrots
- 1/4 Cup of dried celery
- 1/8 Cup of dried onion
- 2 Chicken bouillon cubes
- A dash of dried parsley
- Canned chicken (Optional)
- Add an oxygen absorber to the Mason jar. Don’t forget to remove the oxygen absorber and discard it before cooking.
- When you’re ready to eat, add eight cups of water to the other ingredients and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until the vegetables and noodles are softened.
- Add a can of chicken during the last five minutes. You should have five to six servings of chicken noodle soup. You can also make a beef version with beef bouillon and canned beef.
- Serve with crackers.
“Just add water” meals should last at least a year in your pantry. Rotate your supplies regularly to prevent food spoilage.
More meal ideas for DIY MREs
Rehydrate these meals within minutes by adding boiling water. Once you’re done measuring the ingredients, seal the Mylar pouches with a vacuum sealer.
When it’s time to eat, empty the pre-measured Mylar pouches into your canteen cup of boiling water, stir and wait for the food to rehydrate.
To make instant beef stew, add beef jerky, onion and garlic powder, slices of cooked and dried carrot and potato, spices and beef bouillon into a Mylar pouch. You can customize the recipe by adding other ingredients like bell peppers, dried peas, mushrooms and tomatoes.
You need dried Greek yogurt or buttermilk powder to make beef stroganoff. Boil water in a canteen cup along with a handful of egg noodles and add beef jerky pieces, buttermilk powder or yogurt and dehydrated garlic and onion powder.
Instant tomato soup
Use powdered tomato as the soup base for this MRE. Add optional ingredients such as bell pepper, powdered milk and spices.
If you prefer something spicier, try making Thai noodles for your MRE. Add hot peppers, beef jerky, brown sugar, small pieces of dehydrated pepper, a beef bouillon cube and rice noodles. Rice noodles are very thin and will rehydrate within minutes.
Save money when buying supplies for your survival stockpile by prepping tasty DIY MREs for your bug-out bag or your next camping trip.