MRE’s, or Meals Ready to Eat, are a common sight in the military and camping world. They offer a lightweight, convenient and calorie-rich meal that can be eaten on the go. However, they can also be expensive and difficult to find.
For those looking for a more affordable and DIY option, making your own homemade MREs is a great way to go.
There are many different recipes and methods for creating your own MREs, so you can tailor them to your own needs and preferences.
Below are a few of the most popular methods for assembling your own long-lasting, fortifying and durable MRE’s.
Build Your Own MREs
The Quick and Easy Option
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First off – let me say that what I am about to describe does not replace a military-type MRE. Military MREs 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.
Typically I find freshly-stocked product to have an expiration date of around 2 years out.
As far as taste – I love ’em. I recommend the Chicken Breast with Mashed Potatoes and Turkey with Stuffing. Those 2 are my favorite.
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.
The Basic MRE
I like the classic, easy MRE menu. Meat, cracker, drink mix, candy or dried fruit. Fills me up and stays with me.
A pouch of tuna, some hard crackers or biscuits, a packet of sports drink powder, cocoa or the like and a little something sweet to crush my craving or give me some quick energy and I am good to go.
The another method is to create a simple “smorgasboard” MRE. This requires little more than items like trail mix, candy, nuts, seeds, dried fruit and energy bars into your MRE’s.
Not necessarily super-satiating or nutritionally complete, but easy to eat on the go calorie dense, long storage life and easy to transport. Put it inside a heavy-duty lunchbox and you are all set. Keep in mind that high temps will make any “candy” components melt.
Another option is to create vegetarian MREs. This can be done by including items like hummus, peanut butter, honey packets, dried fruits and dried veggies. Again, calorie-dense and easy to transport, but it is obviously lacking in dependable protein sources.
Depending on your choices and you may want to include some form of supplemental protein powder or other nutritional additive to make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need.
Performance Nutrition MRE
A final option is to make “paleo” MRE’s. This involves including items like jerky, fruit leathers, nuts, seeds, honey, dried veggies and dried fruits.
This is a great option for those who are looking for a more natural and unprocessed diet, and is still more adaptable than proper vegan or vegetarian MRE’s.
Unfortunately, paleo options in an off-the-shelf and long-lasting format are still somewhat limited and expensive.
An interesting take on the concept. Add a small zipper bag of instant oats, a packet of maple syrup, some dried fruit, nuts and a small bag or can or powdered milk.
Combine the ingredients in the bag, let them sit for a short spell to soften and you’ll have a pretty passable rendition of cold oats, or overnight oats.
Chili Mac MRE
A classic your grandpa probably took along when he was out hunting before you were even a glimmer in your dad’s eye.
A can or pouch of chili mac, some oyster crackers or hard biscuits, a little packet of hot sauce and you are half-way to Cincinnati.
Make sure to include a pouch of hydration mix to wash it all down and some mints to cool your tongue!
Spam Creations MRE
Spam is one of my favorite ready to eat foods and despite its unsavory reputation in some quarters the ingredients list is clean.
For our purposes, it is calorie dense, highly filling and enjoys long and stable shelf life. It is also super versatile!
You can eat Spam right out of the can in a variety of ways, or fry it up on your field stove if you have time.
A can of Spam or single slice pouches can be combined with crackers, rice, pasta and all kinds of other ingredients to make a delicious and protein packed meal.
Choosing a Container
Once you have decided on a method, the next step is to choose a container. The most common and affordable option is to use a heavy-duty zip-top bag.
You can also buy specialized MRE pouches, which are often more durable and have better seals.
If you are looking for an even more long-term storage option, you can purchase Mylar bags and an oxygen absorber packet. This will give your MREs an extended shelf life, but it is not necessary for short term storage or transport.
One thing about various bags is that they will not protect the contents too well from harsh handling and other abuse. So, if you are carrying your MRE’s in a backpack for an extended trek, you might want to put them in a more sturdy, hard container.
This could be something as simple as a proper lunchbox or a bento box or something as large a cooler if your load and party size justifies it.
One of my favorite options is actually a common Nalgene water bottle. As long as it is dry and clean you’ll have a simple, sealing and utterly bomb-proof container.
A Word on Shelf Life
Homemade MRE’s will not last as long as commercially produced options, but they can still be stored for a significant amount of time.
If you are using zip-top bags or other good containers with individually sealed and preserved component items, you can expect a shelf life of anywhere from 3 to 12 months, depending on the contents.
If you are using vacuum sealed bags with oxygen absorbers and only the longest lasting foods, you can extend that shelf-life to 2-3 years.
Regardless of the storage method you choose, it is always best to rotate your stock and use the oldest MRE’s or their components first.
This way, you can ensure that your food is always as fresh as possible while avoiding any waste. Making your own MRE’s is a still a great way to save money and have more control over the contents of your meals.
Make it Better, Tastier, Cheaper
So, there you have it!
A variety of ways to create your own homemade MRE’s for field, camping or survival use. With a little bit of ingenuity and adaptation, you can make sure that you have the food you need, when you need it.
These meals have their place in a survival food storage system. They can be especially useful for use in your bug out supplies.
Whichever route you choose, homemade MRE’s are a great way to save money and have complete control over the ingredients and nutritional content of your meals.
With a little planning and preparation, you can easily make your own delicious and nutritious MRE’s that will last for months or even years. Enjoy your next outdoor adventure!
last update: 03/16/2022