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 day’s worth.
Pros of Store-bought MREs
- ✅ MREs are convenient to have on hand when a disaster strikes or in any other survival scenario. 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.
Cons of Store-bought MREs
- ❌ 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. 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 important 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.
Packing Homemade 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’re 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.
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.
Our MRE Recipes Suggestions
Oatmeal, Fruit, and Coffee MRE
- 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.
Whole-Day Meal MRE
- Canned chicken
- Packet of instant rice (such as Knorr flavored rice)
- Packet of instant mashed potatoes -roasted garlic
- Packet of Ramen noodles
- 1 tea bag
- 3 packets of sugar
- Packets of salt and pepper or your own seasonings (recipe below)
- Packet of crackers with peanut butter or cheese
- 1 granola bar/energy bar
- 1 packet of taster’s choice instant coffee
Whole-Day Meal MRE #2
- 1 vacuum-sealed packet of Star-Kist Chunk Light Tuna
- Ramen Noodles
- Betty Crocker cheesy potatoes
- Packet of flavored rice (such as Knorr)
- Packet of peanuts (snack sized)
- Packet of Nescafe instant coffee with packets of cream and sugar
- packet of sugar
- 1 bouillon cube
- Packet of dried fruit
- 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.
- 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 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 massage 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, it should take about 30 minutes also.
- 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)
- Pour everything into a large container, cover, and shake!
- 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, and the red pepper flakes.
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.
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.
I don’t know about you, but there’s hardly anything that gets me ready for a day of hard work like a big, steaming plate of pancakes in the morning.
This is one MRE option that will require a little bit more cooking than usual, but if you have the time, opportunity and supplies nothing will stick to your ribs quite like this homemade banana pancake mix.
It’s delicious, fortifying, keeps for a long time in dry form, and is a cinch to prepare. Recipe can be found right here.
Tuna Salad and Crackers
The quintessential office lunch also happens to make a wonderful MRE. Containing a nearly ideal profile of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals this is a great option for people who want to eat clean while watching their salt intake.
For the rest of us, it just happens to be delicious and filling- assuming you like tuna salad! If you’re on a budget, this is one of the best and easiest MREs to assemble using things you can get in abundance at any grocery store or gas station. Find the recipe at this link.
Couscous, Peppers and Hummus
In the military, many vegetarian MREs are roundly hated for their substandard taste even compared to other mres, but we have more flexibility.
Whether you just want to change up your menu a little bit or you are a vegetarian by choice or religion, you don’t have to go without a tasty, filling and nutrient dense MRE.
Combining couscous, sun-dried peppers and tomatoes and hummus, this meat-free offering is absolutely packed with protein, has plenty of carbs and tastes wonderful. Frankly, it tastes better than a lot of meat offerings! Find the recipe here.
Famous, or infamous, depending on who you ask, the field pizza was engineered by members of the military who were upset that the traditional MRE pizza slice offering was finally deleted some years back.
Using components scavenged from various MRE menus, they frankensteined together a dish that vaguely resembles and tastes like pizza.
Now, I’ll level with you, this pizza isn’t going to rival your favorite brand or even a halfway decent freezer pizza, but the general flavor profile is there and it’s easy to carry all of the ingredients with you that you need when you’re craving a slice.
Also, it’s possible to easily modify this recipe using other toppings that you might desire, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Learn how to make it here.
For some of us, shepherd’s pie is the ultimate comfort food. The combination of mashed potatoes, savory beef, and vegetables will fortify your body while easing your mind. Although relatively simple fare, it does take some time in the kitchen to make a shepherd’s pie.
You can make a variation known as cottage pie easily enough in the field though, and even carry it with you in the form of a DIY MRE.
You’ll prepare some of the ingredients separately from the mashed potatoes and then layer them in a bag or bowl after they are completed.
I’ve tried this one before, and the results are surprisingly good for the effort involved! If you like shepherd’s pie, I’m sure you’ll like this spin on the homemade MRE version. Link.
Spam Fried Rice
Spam makes its second appearance on this list for good reason. It lasts a long time, is nutritious, delicious and affordable. Perfect for inclusion in our MREs. You can take your spam in a more Asian direction by including it as an ingredient in fried rice.
And unlike the traditional stuff that you’d make at home, this modified recipe won’t keep you up all night when you are ready to eat up and climb into your sleeping bag or get back on the trail. Find how to make it here.
Cooking Your MREs
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.
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.
My name is Teresa Fikes. I am a Homesteader, survivalist, prepper, historian, and writer plus much more all in one package deal. I was raised on a small family farm were I was taught at an early age to survive off the land without the help of modern conveniences. I am a writer by profession and a Homesteader by Blood, Sweat, and Tears.