Homemade MREs for Your Stockpile

MREs, or Meals Ready to Eat, originated from the military. In fact, the military has a whole department in charge of the development of these unique meals. MREs are scientifically designed to last up to 5 years.

Crafted to be immediately edible, they provide an average of 1250 calories. The composition breakdown is 13 percent protein, 51 percent carbohydrates, and 36 percent fat.  One- third of the military recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals, so 3 MREs are a full days’ worth.

  • MREs are convenient to have on hand when a disaster strikes. Some of the reasons you should have MREs on hand are:
  • MREs are easy to move. Most preppers have canned foods, but they are bulky and heavy and are not so easy to just grab on the way out. Some require special preparation to eat them and, of course, you will need a can opener. If you’re traveling on foot, you will need to limit the number of cans of food that you can take with you.
  • They do not use up a lot of space and are lightweight. They can be easily put into your backpack, car, emergency kit, or home. Plus, they have an excellent shelf life.

If you want to make your own MREs, it can be satisfying, more nutritious, and much cheaper.

Keep these in mind:

  • Purchased MREs can be quite expensive. Especially if you have to pay for shipping.
  • They are also high in fat content. They were originally designed to meet the needs of someone doing heavy physical activity. When you combine that with the low water content, you are destined to get constipated.
  • They are also low in fiber and again. Another reason they lead to constipation. They have been nicknamed by some as “Meals Requiring Enemas”, and “Massive Rectal Expulsions.”
  • The sodium content in MREs can be as high as 3800 mg. That is 3x more than the average person should consume. This would make you pretty thirsty, too.
  • Because they are high in calories, high in fat, high in sodium, low in fiber and low in water, they can play havoc with the good bacteria in your stomach. Thus, causing extreme gastrointestinal distress which is not ideal when you are stuck in a sedentary situation.
  • Most importantly to some would be taste. They just don’t taste good. If you have ever eaten several of them, you’ll find they taste the same. Troops have been known to drown the entire meal in hot sauce just to get over the taste of it. There also is not much of a selection when it comes to purchased MREs.

Homemade MREs are the best for you in the long run and so much more cost effective. You won’t need to worry about the “not for human consumption-may cause diarrhea” mentality. You also won’t have to worry about packing inedible stuff such as a heater, matches, etc.

To begin, you’ll want to look into your options for packing your MREs.

Though Mylar bags are far better than plastic bags, they are also much more expensive. Though they offer a 10-12-year shelf life, they require oxygen absorbers, and high temperatures to seal the bag.

A vacuum sealer is the best way to go when creating your own MRE. Most MREs only have a shelf life of 1-3 years, depending on the contents of it.

Check out this video on vacuum packing sealing your own meals:

DIY Survival Food Storage - Vacuum Seal Your Own Meal Packs

So what do you put in your MRE?

When making your own MREs, you will want to consider anything that can be eaten raw or cooked with water.

A complete MRE should include:

  • Utensils
  • Entrée
  • Seasoning
  • Crackers
  • Side dish
  • Spreads
  • Dessert
  • Candy
  • Dried Fruit
  • Dessert

When making your own MREs, you will want to consider anything that can be eaten raw or cooked with water.

Start looking for sales and stock up on:

  •    Bagged and canned meats: spam, tuna, chicken, salmon, sardines
  •    Ramen Noodles
  •    Instant rice and potatoes
  •    Instant oatmeal
  •    Instant drinks: coffee, tea, crystal light, Gatorade packets, Kool Aide, Hawaiian Punch
  •    Tea bags
  •    Bouillon cubes
  •    Packaged snack crackers: cheese, peanut butter, whole wheat
  •    Packets from restaurants such as pepper flakes, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, etc.
  •    Packets of sugar, sweeteners, etc.
  •    Granola bars
  •    Candy bars
  •    Power bars
  •    Dried fruit

Be sure to double check your stockpiles for the supplies needed to make the MREs, and arrange the type of meals you want to create. If you don’t have these in your stockpile, then start planning to add items to your stockpile to make the homemade MREs.

One example of an MRE you could put together yourself is:


  • Two packs of instant oatmeal, two servings of dried fruit, and 14 oz. of water, single serve packet of coffee, spoon
  • Vacuum pack the combination without the water. You can tape the water to the outside of the bag.

Another example would be:

  1.    Canned chicken
  2.    Packet of instant chicken flavored
  3.    Packet of instant rice (such as Knorr flavored rice)
  4.    Packet of instant mashed potatoes -roasted garlic
  5.    Packet of Ramen noodles
  6.    1 tea bag
  7.    3 packets of sugar or Splenda
  8.    Packets of salt and pepper or your own seasonings (recipe below)
  9.    Packet of crackers with peanut butter or cheese
  10.  1 granola bar/energy bar
  11.  1 packet of taster’s choice instant coffee

Another packet might include:

  1.    1 vacuum sealed packet of Star-Kist Chunk Light Tuna
  2.    Ramen Noodles
  3.    Betty Crocker cheesy potatoes
  4.    Packet of flavored rice (such as Knorr)
  5.    Packet of peanuts-snack sized
  6.    Packet of Nescafe instant coffee with packets of cream and sugar
  7.    Splenda
  8.    1 bouillon cube
  9.    Packet of dried fruit
  10.  Packet of crushed red pepper or homemade seasoning packet

Try to make the meals as appetizing as possible while hitting all the major components noted in the list above. You don’t want the same boring meal every time, not to mention that members of your group may have different likes and dislikes.

Now, break out the vacuum sealer. Wrap your homemade MREs into nice little packs and seal away.

Adding your own components to your MRE is a great way to go. Try homemade preserved foods.

When you preserve your own food, you know exactly what is in it. No allergen issues, genetically modified ingredients, excess salt or sugar. Home preserving is a great way to cost- effectively make your own MREs.

Dehydrating Foods

Dehydrating foods makes them light and easy to store. Some can be dehydrated with the intention of rehydrating them later.

Dehydration is one of the oldest and best methods of food preservation. Dehydrating inhibits the growth of bacteria, mold, and yeasts by removing the water. Foods such as beef, fish, fruit, vegetables and garlic and onions are the many different types of foods that can be dehydrated.

If you have a food dehydrator, just follow the instructions. Check the web for recipes and ideas.

If you don’t have a dehydrator, use your oven. Turn the oven on to the lowest setting and cut your fruit and/or vegetable into ¼ inch slices. Place the sliced up vegetables or fruits in the oven on a lined sheet pan for about 6 to 8 hours or as long as they need.

Try your toaster oven. Toaster ovens vary so keep your eye on it. Turn the temperature of the toaster oven on its lowest setting and keep the door propped open a bit to avoid any condensation. This is one of the best ways to make beef jerky.

Sun drying is another option. This is especially good for tomatoes and herbs. Slice the fruit and/or vegetable and place them on an aluminum lined baking sheet. Leave the fruit or vegetables in a sunny spot for a few days.

For herbs, you can easily tie a string around them and hang them upside down. You can put the herbs in the sun or just let them hang out in your kitchen until they are dried. Just make sure no steam from the sink’s faucet or boiling pots on the stove reaches the drying herbs. This can caused mildew or mold on the herbs.

The most common fruits that are dehydrated include apples, apricots, berries, bananas, cherries, figs, grapes, plums, pineapple, pears, peaches, and melons.

The most common vegetables are tomatoes, carrots, beets, greens, beans, squash, onions, peas, celery, corn, pumpkin, and broccoli. These should be blanched briefly before the dehydrating process to limit the risk of food-borne illnesses. Since they will be crispy, they make great chips or a topper for your soups.

Here are some good recipes for your homemade MREs. Pick and choose according to your tastes and needs.

Southwest Seasonings


4 Tbsps. chili powder

4 Tbsps. paprika

4 tsp ground cumin

2 Tblsp ground coriander

2 Tblsp dried oregano

2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 Tblsp garlic powder

2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

2 Tblsp salt

2 tsp black pepper


Throw all the ingredients in a bag; then shake it up.

Store it in a vacuum-sealed bag.

Homemade Beef Jerky


8 lbs. Flank steaks or 8 lbs. London Broil beef

4 tsp black pepper

4 tsp chili powder

4 tsp garlic powder

4 tsp cayenne pepper, add more to adjust to your taste

4 tsp onion powder

2 tsp liquid smoke

1/2 c. soy sauce or you can use a 1/2 c., soy sauce, low sodium

1 c. Worcestershire sauce

1 c. red hot sauce


Trim off all the fat and cut the meat into 3-4-inch size strips.

Try to make each piece about 1/2 inch thick. (Partially frozen meat will be the easiest to cut.)

Pound out the meat lightly.

In a bowl mix the remaining ingredients; then mix or rub it on the meat.

Cover.  Next refrigerate for a minimum of 8 hours or overnight.

Line the cookie sheet with tin foil and place the strips on the sheet without overlapping.

Set the oven to the low temperature (150-175°F).

Bake for about six hours; then turn the meat after 3 hours of cooking and continue to cook.

Jerky is done when meat is dried out.


Hardtack (aka cabin bread) is a basic type of cracker that is inexpensive and long lasting.


4-5 c. of flour

2 c. of water

3 tbsp. of salt or herbs (see above seasoning recipe)


Mix all the ingredients together and message until it comes to a smooth consistency. Flatten it out on a table or flat surface keeping a half inch or less in height. Cut into squares that are approximately 3 inches by 3 inches. Poke each square with a fork several times. If you have an oven; then bake for about 30 minutes or until crispy. If you don’t have access to an oven, wrap each square in aluminum and place it near the hottest part of the fire. Check periodically for the desired doneness. On the fire should take about 30 minutes also.

Trail Mix


  • 2 c. almonds-raw
  • 1 c. dried apricot chopped
  • 2 c. sunflower seeds -raw
  • 2 c. raisins or dried cranberries
  • 1/2 c. flaked coconut (optional)
  • 1/2 c. chocolate or 1/4 c. carob chips (optional)


  1. Pour everything into a large container, cover and shake!
  2. Store it in a vacuum-sealed bag

You can find more homemade trail mix recipes here.

Spam and Pea Ramen



1-2 packs of Ramen Noodles

½ of peas – dried, canned, or vacuum sealed

Parmesan Cheese

Red Pepper Flakes


Bring a saucepot of water to a full rolling boil. Add the noodles to the pot of water. If the peas are dehydrated, add them as well. Once the noodles are done, add in the Spam, parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes and peas if you have not already added them.

Sweet and Spicy Tuna and Rice


1 5 oz. package of Sweet & Spicy flavored tuna

1 package of instant rice

½ c. of vegetables – canned, dehydrated or vacuum sealed


Cook the rice according to directions. If you are using dehydrated vegetables, make sure to add them while cooking the rice. When rice is done, stir in the tuna and vegetables if you have not already added them.

Cocoa Mix with Cinnamon and Nutmeg


½ c. of powdered milk

3 tbsp. of cocoa powder

2 packets of non-dairy creamer

3 packets of sugar

½ tsp. of cinnamon

½ tsp. of nutmeg


For convenience, combine all ingredients and pack in a vacuum-sealed bag for storage. You can use Ziploc bags if not storing for a long period of time.

Mix 2 tbsp. of the mix with a c. of hot water.

Add a packet of coffee if you desire.

Cooking Methods

Imagine if you did suddenly find yourself with no modern appliances. No electricity and no gas which translates to no oven, toaster oven, or microwave. Even if you do have a generator, it won’t last forever and who knows how long it will take for everything to come back up if it ever does.

The fact that you have a great supply of food is not enough. You also need to have a plan to handle the everyday processes as well such as cooking.

One item every prepper and homeowner should own is the traditional Dutch oven. It is a heavy iron kettle with a tight-fitting lid perfect for cooking meats, soups, bread, entrees and even desserts. The some of the lids have a ridge so as to hold the hot coals on top of it. The Dutch Ovens come in small, medium and large sizes with the average sized kettle being about 12 inches in diameter and holds about 6 quarts.

There are many purchasable options for cooking with no power such as propane and gas stoves, solar stoves, and rocket stoves.

Check online for stoves such as the Kelly Kettle, Solo Stove, and the Volcano Collapsible Cook Stove.

We touched on some of the basic information needed for homemade MREs, and there is still so much more out there to be addressed. Share your recipes and ideas below.

15 thoughts on “Homemade MREs for Your Stockpile”

  1. Very Good! The only problem with MREs is the weight factor. Doing them yourself is a great way of controlling how much they weigh and the portions content. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Thanks for the ideas im going to make hardtack tonight. I do enjoy MRE’s myself having eaten dozens of them in service. What you write about stool is true however it is very convient if your on a 25 mile ruck. Really the flavores arnt all that bad when your starving. Thats the key, you must be hungry and i tell you anything tastes good. Will be saving thi post for my boys and my camping trips cant wait.

  3. I see the basic idea is to package various canned, dehydrated, or any food that is packaged in soft pouches or can be repacked into vacuum bags, Mylar bags or whatever. It’s an easy concept, but easy to overlook. Now I am sort of seeing this as an area that deserves more attention.
    I have become an avid label reader in order to care for family members with various conditions. Even the “meal in a jar” concept is better than relying on MRE’s and commercially freeze dried foods which are expensive and not geared for people who by choice or necessity must select low fat, low sodium foods. And while cans are heavier, it’s possible to find good deals on “compatible” or favored foods and we can all make use of various foods in different types of packaging with a little strategy and ingenuity. Food dehydrators and vacuum sealers are not that costly. And mason jars can be reused for years. (They’ll still be needed at home to make the foods).
    By creating our own “meals to go” we can create more variety by tailoring the overall size, individual portions and food combinations.

  4. William H Bateman

    When you vacuum seal the pouches, air is still in the pouches you are sealing. How do you take care of that problem?

    1. Kylie Hetherington

      Some people poke holes in the packaging or cut a hole in it to help get the air out to help with the shelf life as well as to get the extra air out

  5. I was shocked to hear MREs are design to last only 5 years. My husband said they ate WW2 MREs in Vietnam .
    I wondered about the expiration date of the things like ramen. Their shelf life isn’t extremely long. Will vacuum sealing them extend that expiration date?

  6. Anyone thinking of making their own “MRE” for long term storage should look up information on botulism. It is a real risk. Several suggestions here for making a vacuum-sealed or mylar bag, and including crackers, jerky, nuts, dried fruit, and bullion cubes do not take botulism into consideration. Military spec MREs do not use a simple, off-the-shelf method to achieve a multi-year shelf, the process includes heat treating the food in a specially designed bag and sealing it. Be safe.

    1. The special packing methods you’re referring to, the ones the military uses, aren’t unique to the military. They’re called retort pouches and loads of stuff at the store come in them. Perfect for emergency food. I’ve heard them called “flexible cans” before. All retort pouches are heated to a certain temperature after being sealed in order to kill any bacteria in the contents therefore preventing mold growing on the food and stops spoilage for much longer than normal. The expiration dates on products are almost never accurate, they put a date that’s way earlier than a realistic one. They do this in order to cover themselves from lawsuits and such if someone were to get sick from food. Anyways you can get almost everything for your own MRE at Walmart or pretty much any other local grocery stores. Thanks

      1. Seems like the easiest, cheapest most truly workable way to go. Though frankly I dont see any of this as really workable for much if anything. If stuff really goes crazy, who is going to guard it? Me, profoundly deaf, with one partly functional eye from glaucoma, living in a Senior High rise at age 64?

  7. How is this better than an MRE other than the fact that you control what is in it? The shelf life wont be possibly as long and MRE’s come with their own heat source which is important in an emergency situation. I dont think everyone will remember to grab a dutch oven or something else as a cooking vessel.

    1. Anything would seem better to me, and how many are you going to carry on foot anyway, in whatever form ? I think most of this stuff is Christmas Fantasyland. Maybe a month for a temporary hiccup. Other than that, if you dont have a secluded homestead, you are going to be crap out of luck.

    2. Matti Meikäläinen

      Well, in the Finnish Defence Forces for example, the combat rations originally were just off the shelf dry goods and canned food, (essentially what these DIY MRE’s are) that you cooked in your military issued trangia cookers pot. During my conscription service in recon troops we still had those same trangia field cookers, but the combat rations had evolved in to the latest “generation” “add only hot water” -type trekking foods, with your regural off the shelf additions. So, I’d say that these DIY MRE’s do look pretty decent to me. I’ve been eating similair stuff in war exercises and they’ve been just as if not even more tasty as the NATO counterparts.

      Get yourself a decent cooking vessel and learn how to use it, then throw it in your car/BOB with a reasonable amount of fuel for it.

    3. Kylie Hetherington

      Hi Sam,

      Not all MRE’s come with their own heat source. You have to make sure that the ones you buy are. Also not all pouch foods say that you can heat them in the bag like Mountain House.

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