I have been looking for sometime for a direct replacement for the commercial MRE due to the high price, weight and limited choices in entrees.
I first started back in 1983 with a then new vacuum sealing system. This was before retort pouches were widely available and the few that were had a limited variety. I was unhappy with the results I was having with the available choices of food for backpacking trips and started experimenting with my own concoctions. I tried instant rice, instant potatoes etc… I met with varied success but was never really satisfied with what I was coming up with.
With all the new advances in packaging and the different choices now available, a homemade "MRE" style food pack can be made for a fraction of the cost of the commercial variety. I have recently searched on the web for prices on MRE’s and have seen them as low as $62.00 dollars per case up to $89.99 and that does not include shipping!
Besides being expensive (I feel), MRE’s are fully constituted so they are heavy as well as bulky. I have heard some people that claim to strip down their MRE’s to lighten the load. If that is what you are going to do, just buy the entrée instead of the whole thing. I do have several cases of MRE’s, I don’t think they are all that bad other than the price. Mine however, will be stored in my safe room or pre-positioned at my base camp at a later date. I don’t want to carry all that weight.
Over time my criteria evolved and culminated in this current home made MRE. Here is a picture of version 1:
1 packet hot chocolate
2 packets flavored instant oatmeal
2 packets instant cup of soup
1 packet cappuccino
1 packet spiced cider
1 package cheese n crackers
1 granola bar
1 package raisins
1 packet of tea
2 packets of beef bouillon
1 Oberto meat stick
1 book matches
3 pcs jolly rancher hard candy
1 vitamin pack
This is designed with the premise that breakfast and supper on the trail will most likely be eaten in the same encampment. It is also designed around a warm meal with warm drinks for cooler and cold weather. The rest can be consumed while on the move during the day. 2 packages of oatmeal in the morning along with either cider or cappuccino for breakfast, granola, crackers, raisins, hard candy and meat stick for on the trail, hot soup and hot drinks for evening after the day’s journey.
Notice the size of these 3 meals compared to one MRE meal.
This MRE weighs nearly a pound all by itself! While I don’t have a weight on the ration pack I know it is not that heavy.
In order to increase the amount of calories available per day I am considering the meal extension pack.
If at anytime you are hungrier than what the homemade MRE will satisfy, a spoonful of peanut butter and/or honey will help satisfy that hunger. The bacon bits will lend a bit more meat into your diet as will the tuna and the mashed taters mixed with a boullion packet will be better than going hungry.
Here is another meal extension pack:
Add the French vanilla flavoring to your oatmeal or make a hot beverage with it. Trail mix needs no explanation.
Here is a second MRE version I have created:
In this pack you see a different soup mix which will make 1 quart of soup.
Here is 5 days worth of meals from home made rations:
Now lets compare this to 5 meals of MREs.
Where I live and hike, water is not much of a problem. Streams, ponds, lakes and rivers are abundant and you will likely run across water somewhere along your hike or bugout. Each of my ration packs will require between 2-1/2 to 3 quarts of water per day. This doesn’t include what I will drink on the trail. I will be carrying at the least 2 quarts and when I make camp I will need several gallons for cooking, drinking, washing and restocking my canteens. Some can be boiled, some will be purified.
Cost wise, I save money on my rations by visiting food warehouses and liquidation stores. I bought everything but the matches and bouillon packets at a liquidation store near where I work. Boxes of granola bars were a $1.00, a package of almonds for $0.25, a box of instant oatmeal for $1.00. You see how cost effective this can be. Also, when I am visiting other stores, I am always on the lookout for other items that would make good additions and add variety to these packs. Over a few months time, I have assembled a 30 day supply for each of us three.
I realize this would not work for very arid regions due to the amount of water you would have to carry. Those regions can pose big problems. Perhaps someone else will be inspired by this article to tell us what their solution is.