Homemade MRE?

First off – let me say that what I am about to describe does not replace a military-type MRE. Military MRE’s are superior to “home made” MRE’s in many ways.

For those on a budget – there is an alternative to military MRE’s – and they are sitting on your local grocery store shelf. They are called Hormel Compleats Meals.

Hormel Compleats are a tub-packed fully cooked food item. They can be eaten directly from the package cold or they can be heated. Typical method for heating is the microwave oven. They can also be heated via boiling water. At around $2.00 each – many can be stocked for little money.


These pre-packed meals average around 300 calories each- so they lag behind military MRE’s by quite a bit. Being able to fully satisfy one’s caloric intake during a TSHTF events is important – however these meals do not contain a huge amount of energy. When TSHTF, it’s important to keep in perspective that grocery stores will quickly run out of stock and without electricity refrigerated foods with also quickly expire.

These Compleats meals have an expiration date printed on the packaging. Typically I find freshly-stocked product to have an expiration date of around 2 years out. This is something else that military MRE’s have an advantage – longer shelf life.


As far as taste – I love ’em. I recommend the Chicken Breast with Mashed Potatoes and Turkey with Stuffing. Those 2 are my favorite.

Here is a list of current offerings from Hormel for the Compleats meals:

  • Beef Steak & Peppers with Noodles
  • Cheese Manicotti
  • Chili with Beans
  • Grilled Chix & Pasta
  • Pasta Primavera w/ Chicken
  • Spaghetti & Turkey Meatballs
  • Spicy Italian Sausage & Pasta
  • Spinach & Cheese Ravioli
  • Homestyle Beef with Potatoes and Gravy
  • Santa Fe Style Chicken with Beans and Rice
  • Sesame Chicken with Vegetables and Pasta
  • Chicken & Dumplings
  • Chicken Breast & Dressing
  • Chicken & Noodles
  • Chicken & Rice
  • Chicken Alfredo
  • Chicken Breast & Gravy with Mashed Potatoes
  • Teriyaki Chicken with Rice
  • Chicken Marinara
  • Roasted Turkey & Veg w/Rice
  • Turkey & Dressing with Gravy
  • Turkey & Hearty Vegetables
  • Swedish Meatballs
  • Lasagna with Meat Sauce
  • Meatloaf with Potatoes & Gravy
  • Beef Steak Tips
  • Beef Pot Roast with Potatoes & Carrots in Gravy
  • Salisbury Steak with Sliced Potatoes & Gravy
  • Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
  • plus more!!

To make a homemade MRE – take one of these meals –  add some candy, salt/pepper packets, snack/nutrition bar, couple packs of crackers, Gatorade packet, chewing gum, pack of matches, napkin, and a plastic spoon. Vacuum pack everything together – and you have a Homemade MRE.

These meals have their place in a survival food storage system. They can be especially useful for use in your bug out supplies.

Give ’em a try.


20 survival items ebook cover
Like what you read?

Then you're gonna love my free PDF, 20 common survival items, 20 uncommon survival uses for each. That's 400 total uses for these dirt-cheap little items!

Just enter your primary e-mail below to get your link:

We will not spam you.

33 thoughts on “Homemade MRE?”

  1. Rourke,excellent! I hadn’t even thought of these.One more item.Variety is good.One can only eat so many pinto’s n spam !!


  2. I just bought a bunch of these, for those “I’m too tired to cook but don’t want fast food” days. Then I saw your post. Good idea, making your own MREs using these as a base. Now I just need to get a vacuum sealer-know of an inexpensive one? Thanks!

    • As far as a vacuum sealer – you really get what you pay for. I have had a couple of cheap models – then bought a used Foodsaver brand off eBay. The Foodsaver has worked great. Forget the hand-held ones – at least from my experiance.


  3. Where, may I ask, are you buying these for two bucks? Amazon has them for around four and that still may be worth it but, I could get twice as many at two. Good thinkin

    • DrSique – Local grocery stores and Wal-Mart. Every so often they have them buy one, get one plus coupons. They can be had for around a $1.00 or even less.

  4. I bought enough of these Hormel Compleats to fill two large sealed plastic buckets. They stack really well with 3 per layer. They’re light, great for travel, and the bowl is durable enough to re-use. If you’re bugging out and the stores are still open, grab all you can eat over the coming weeks, but don’t buy them much in advance. These are not a good choice for long-term storage. When fresh, they do taste pretty good. Sadly, I have found that all varieties take on a horrible plastic flavor after a few months. After a year, they may still be edible, but the flavor will turn your stomach. These meals are cooked, sealed, and then sterilized under high cobalt irradiation. The meals are probably not hazardous in any way, but folks should be informed.

    • Appreciate the comments Misty Mountain Man. I had never tasted anything odd with these meals – even after a year but I eat a select few.

    • I have eaten the pot roast meal after 5 yrs on the self and it tastes just as good as freshly bought one!! (SALT AND PEPPER IS A MUST!!) LOL

  5. These are about $2 at the local Dollar Store. I agree they taste OK for the money, but I would be careful with these, however. The sodium content is anywhere between 1200-1500 mg depending on the flavor. Not very heart healthy, and you will drink a lot of water after eating these — not ideal for SHTF.

    • Eric – Thanks for the comment. I look at these just like an MRE – not something to eat day after day for weeks. FOr a survival situation or once n a while as a meal they are pretty good.

    • Probably little chance you will see this, but you are confusing SHTF with true survival. The idea in a survival scenario is that you have few or even no resources, therefore sodium might become an enemy. However, if the grid is down but you have food, water, and a way to cook, chances are you will be working and sweating, meaning you will need to replace lost salt. Survival is conserve resources, off-grid living is consuming resources to gain more resources.

  6. Rourke,

    Great posting. I have been making homemade MRE’s for a while now and there are many other offerings that can add to your dining experience. I have also used the Uncle Bens whole grains pre-cooked packets that are around $2 as well as these. They have one many that include both rice and beans which create a complete protein. Another option is to get the Idahoan potatoes, a gravy packet, and some of the shelf stable beef crumbles or chicken cubes as your main dish. The two things you forgot to mention that a Mil Spec MRE has to offer that these don’t is that these actually taste better, and they won’t “STOP YOU UP” as bad as the Mil Spec MRE’s do. Sprouting is another option for adding some fresh LIVE food to your menu when you have to bug out. Just use a BPA Free plastic bottle and you can sprout away and have a salad with your meal or just munch on the fresh vegetation on the move.

    Thanks for all you do,

    Brad M

  7. I’ve come up with a list of quick protein meals, with the caveat that these are not good for long-term storage, but they will save you in a pinch. I’d really like to get a list of those items which contain more calories, and are more healthy than than the items on this list.

    Tuna Helper, Tuna
    Hamburger Helper, freeze-dried hamburger
    Packaged Chicken Soup Mix
    Hormel Complets
    Home Frozen Dinners and Frozen Leftover Meals, packaged in vacuum bags
    Home canned hot dogs
    Commercial and Home Canned Soups, Stews and Chili
    Home Canned Meatloaf/Meatballs/Salisbury Steak
    Home Canned meats with bbq or other sauce
    Home Canned Sloppy Joe Sauce w/meat
    Any commercial canned meats
    Home Canned Corned Beef in Beer
    Home Canned Hasenpfeffer (see Rabbit)
    Home Canned Spaghetti Sauce with Meat
    Home Canned Deviled Ham for Sandwiches
    Home Canned Ham
    Home Canned Venison
    Home Canned Rabbit
    Home Canned Chicken
    Chicken Soup MRE
    Canned Pasta with Meat
    Add Hemp Protein Powder to any meal w/o enough protein

  8. Here’s another list I made, with some healthier options

    “Go” Buckets for One Month Food Supply
    Or use Embark 24-can soft cooler from Amazon

    “Go” Buckets to Grab in Emergency Preparedness, Travel or Camping (For 2), with Diabetic Options

    3 Buckets: Breakfast, Lunch/ Dinner

    One Person=30 breakfasts, 60 lunches/Dinners

    Rotate Yearly, longer with mylar bags
    Keep one set in the pantry, loose, and one set stored in a large bucket; Rotate sets regularly, and keep pantry caught-up monthly.
    Lightweight packages from Camping Survival (Backpacker’s Pantry)
    Freeze Dried Foods can also be found in the Camping section at Walmart

    60 or More Breakfasts
    Place Shopping List in Bottom of Each Bucket
    Oatmeal Packets Jar Instant Coffee
    Cold Cereals, including Glucerna (Vacuum Pack) Tea Bags
    Canned Cheese (Bega) Hot Chocolate Packets (Vacuum Pack)
    Canned butter 2 (80 ct) Box Sweeteners (Vacuum Pack)
    Peanut Butter Freeze Dried Eggs
    Small Bottle Agave Nectar 1 Large Gravy Packet w/rubber band to close
    Bega Canned Cheese (beprepared.com) Small Packets Salt and Pepper
    Aunt Jemima Pancake and Waffle Mix (Vacuum Pack) (PPI Jelly Assortment @Sam’s)
    Packets Freeze Dried Fruit Pouches Salt and Pepper packets (Diamond Crystal, W.M)
    Dry Milk Packets(vacuum pack), plus container Dry Creamer
    Honey Kool-Aid
    Small Bottle Cooking Oil Pilot Bread
    Water Pouches Boxed Hash Browns
    Yoder’s Canned Bacon Grits
    Freeze-Dried Sausage Smoked Salmon
    Freeze-Dried Pork Chops B&M Raisin Brown Bread (Walmart.com)
    Can Opener Breakfast Bars
    Biscuit Mix Assorted Canned Meats
    Carnation Instant Breakfast Emerald Breakfast on the Go! Breakfast Nut Blend, 5-Pack
    Oscar Meyer Bacon/Breakfast Sausage Real Bacon Bits Complete Muffin Mix
    Spam with Bacon Individual Tea Bags, Plain and Flavored

    60 or More Each Lunches/Dinners (Two or More Buckets) (Total 120)
    Need 30 lunches, 30 dinners each for two people
    15 Freeze-Dried Mountain House Meal Pouches (2 servings each)
    Small Cans Pork n Beans/Plain and with Weenies
    Small Packets Salt and Pepper Smoked Alaska Salmon
    Heinz Picnic Packet with Mayo (Sam’s or Walmart) Pudding Cups/Fruit Cups/Other Snacks or Desserts
    Crackers/Chips & Dip, etc. 15 Canned Dinner-Sized Canned Meats
    Water Pouches Fill In With MRE Meals
    Canned Meats/Fish (Deviled Ham, Vienna Sausages, Potted Meats, Tuna, Sardines) Tuna Salad Meals (Walmart)
    Pilot Bread Banquet Homestyles Complete Dinners
    Peanut Butter Large Gravy Mix/Rubber Band
    Canned Cheese Canned Chicken and Dumplings
    30 Dehydrated or Freeze-Dried Soups/Stews Chili’s Packs of Potato Flakes
    Drink Mixes Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix
    Auguason Farms Dinner for 6 Dry Milk Packets
    Hormel Compleats Summer Sausage
    Raman Noodles B & M Brown Bread
    Margaret Holmes Supper Starters Betty Crocker Complete Meals
    Taco Dinner Kits Betty Crocker Ultimate Helpers
    Old El Paso Tortilla Stuffers Carne Asada Steak Meal Starter, 9.5 oz (Mountain Home Store) Ravioli with Meat
    Spam Meals

    Camping Kit (Walmart)
    Fire Starter
    Fish Hooks and foldable fishing rods
    Filleting knife
    Water Bottle & Filter
    Roll Plastic Bags/Paper Towels/TP
    Paper plates, cups, forks/knives/spoons/napkins
    Trash Bags

  9. My only major concern is the plastic bowl these come in. They may or may not be BPA free.

    As for the expiration date, as some may know by now, those are recommended dates to help cycle out old stock. As long as the seals are good (no expanding of the pack from bacterial breakdown of the food) they should last for 4 years. Most foods have a longer shelf life well past what’s printed on them.

    I personally test foods for shelf life stability and pass my experiment results on to the public. One example is this thread: http://angeryamerican.net/showthread.php/2230-Condiments

    I will look for some nearly expired Compleats and try to get results on their shelf life as supply availability allows.

  10. Don’t forget Tabasco, ketchup and mustard. Enough of either in the right meal will get rid of odd tastes. Also important for your homemade MRE is toilet tissue .
    Moss or leaves are not good substitutes.

    • Thanks oren. I enjoy many foods with my ketchup. Can also grab extra packs at Chick-fil-a. They have Heinz. Yeah – I am a ketchup lover.

  11. Brilliant Rorke. Thank you, especially about the vacuum sealer advice. I really need one of those. Our group has been toying with this same thing on paper. So far, it’s Zip-locks, small little self closed condiments bag with utensils, and the food. Small, light weight, easy to pack, not great, cheap, but sustainable.

    • Those vacuum sealer are useful for a lot of things beyond food. Throw in a bunch of matches and seal it up – store it away. Just an example.

  12. I’ve tried three variations of these meals and used some left over MRE heater packets in a modified foil pouch (that aluminum bubble foil insulation) to test heating/eating. They get heated to a lukewarm state with just one, but two make it piping hot. The sodium content is off the chart and they do have a bit ‘off’ taste but still edible.

  13. Go to Hormel.com and sign up and get some printable coupons. That’s why I first tried these. You can can get more coupons each month.

  14. The ‘Expiration date’ is actually a ‘Best By’ date. It is still good beyond that date but may begin to lose texture or flavor. I have eaten some of these a year beyond the ‘Best By:’ date and could tell no difference and had no ill effects.

    I keep mine in a opaque plastic storage bin with lid. It is in a closet in my home. Having been thru a hurricane where our entire community was without power for 14 days, I can tell you these were awesome to have. Heat them by placing in boiling water for a few minutes.

    You can frequently find a 1$ off coupon for these. Walmart has them for $2.79 for the larger ones, or less than $2 for the smaller items.

  15. Dollar genera, Kroger, Walmart. Ive never seen them over 2 bucks anywhere. Amazon isnt a grocery store no wonder they are twice the price there


Leave a Comment