HomePosts Tagged "MRE’s"

The various types of emergency foods that are available, coupled with the commercial hype surrounding them, can understandably lead the prepper to make less than optimal decisions with regard to the types and amounts of emergency foods to acquire. In this article I will briefly recap the most common types of emergency food and describe how each would fit in to a practical survival strategy.

The common types of emergency food stores include:

  • Canned Foods – Canned foods consist of fruits, vegetables and meats that have been prepared for long-term storage in jars and cans. Canned foods can be prepared at home and are available at virtually any grocery store. Depending on the type of food, they can either be ‘dry-pack canned’ or ‘wet-pack canned’. (Wet-pack canning involves immersing the food in hot water – sometimes in a pressure cooker – prior to vacuum-sealing.) Dried beans and dried white rice are the dry-pack canned foods most commonly stored by preppers and survivalists because they have an extremely long shelf life (up to 25 years!) and provide a good supply of proteins and carbohydrates.
  • mre

    MRE’s are a common choice for Emergency Food.

    Dehydrated Foods – Dehydrated foods have been processed in a food dehydrator to remove much of their moisture. This inhibits the growth of microorganisms that cause the food to spoil.

  • Freeze-dried Foods – Freeze-dried foods have been processed in a commercial freeze-drier in such a way that virtually all water has been removed (much more than is removed by a dehydrator). This process results in food that is lightweight and which has a very long shelf life.
  • Cured Meats – Cured meats have been treated with chemicals (usually nitrates) in such a way as to inhibit the growth of microbes and extend the unrefrigerated shelf life of meats.
  • Smoked Meats – Smoked meats have been exposed to the heat and smoke such that the increase in temperature dehydrates the meat (which inhibits microbial growth) while the smoke deposits an anti-microbial chemical layer over the meat.
  • Meals Ready-to-Eat – Originally developed for the military, MREs are portable, long-shelf-life food packets that contain complete meals. MREs can quickly be prepared and consumed. Often these packets include built-in food heaters and provide complete meals.


In general, all of the above forms of preserved foods provide good nutritional value. While the heating associated with some canning processes can degrade some water-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, C, thiamine and riboflavin, they still serve as a good source of these and other nutrients. While nutritional value is preserved in the above types of foods, the nitrates used to cure meats have been shown to be carcinogenic in larger quantities. Salt and sugar may be added to canned foods to improve taste, which can also affect the nutrition offered by such foods (be sure to check the labels of any canned foods for references to sugar and salt!).

MREs provide good calories and some nutrition, but also contain a large quantity of sodium, which has been show to have adverse health effects when consumed excessively (MREs are designed to simply “get the soldier across the battlefield”).


The shelf lives described here assume the foods are kept at room temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Canned fruits and vegetables typically have a shelf life of between 2 and 5 years. There is much anecdotal evidence of canned meats being eaten (and having good flavor and nutrition) after being stored for as long as 10 years. Some dry-canned foods such as dried beans and dried white rice can have a shelf life that exceeds 25 years.

Dehydrated fruits and vegetables typically have a shelf life of up to one year, while dehydrated meats have a shelf life of only about one month.

Freeze-dried foods have a shelf life that ranges between 5 and 25 years, depending on how well it is packaged (plastic food pouches have a shorter shelf life, while cans have a a much longer shelf life).

Smoked meats have an unrefrigerated shelf life of only a few weeks.

Cured meats have an unrefrigerated shelf life that ranges from a few weeks to as long as a year, depending on the type of meat and how it was cured.

Canned foods offer offer the most nutrition at the least cost. The other forms of food have the advantage of lighter weight and/or longer shelf life, but at significantly greater cost.

Smoked meats have an unrefrigerated shelf life of only a few weeks.

NOTE: While the storage of cured and smoked meats is of limited value in the time leading up to disaster; the ability, equipment and supplies required to smoke and cure meats will certainly be valuable skills to have in the aftermath if refrigeration systems are unavailable.

Modern MREs have a shelf life of between 3 to 4 years when stored at room temperature, however that shelf life can decrease rapidly when stored at higher temperatures (in a desert environment the shelf-life for a MRE may be as short as one month!). Also, when purchasing MREs you should be certain of their date of manufacture – otherwise you won’t get the benefit of the full shelf life.


A good way to begin to understand the types of emergency food supplies you will need is to consider how you will most probably be traveling during and after a major disaster. If you expect to be sheltering-in-place then the bulk of your emergency food supplies should consist of canned foods, as canned foods offer a very good shelf life and provide a lower cost per meal than other forms of emergency food. Even though canned foods are heavier than other types of emergency food, if you are sheltering-in-place then portability becomes a less important consideration than cost.

If you expect to be traveling on foot for an extended period, then the weight of your food will be a major consideration. In these circumstances you should plan on having freeze-dried food available, as freeze dried foods have an extremely long shelf life and are extremely light.

If you expect to be traveling by vehicle then weight is less of an issue and the ability to “eat while on the move” becomes important. MREs are an excellent choice for these circumstances because they can typically be unpackaged, heated and eaten without the need to interrupt travel. Also, because they utilize a chemical reaction to generate heat, the preparation of MREs does not produce smoke that might attract undesired attention.

When considering these factors you should not only be anticipating your travel needs when bugging out, but also potential future needs to travel overland for trade, barter and defense. Of course no one has a crystal ball to be able to predict these needs with certainty; however you should at least be able to develop a reasonable estimate. Additionally, you should build into your estimates the expected duration of the disaster, which should ideally be the amount of time required for you to become self-sufficient.

A quick way to estimate your emergency food needs is to answer the following questions:

  • How many people are in my group?
  • What duration disaster (in days) am I planning for or how long do I anticipate before achieving self-sufficiency?
  • If bugging out to another location, how many days of travel will be required?
  • In the aftermath of disaster, what percentage of total group members’ time will be spent on extended trips away?
  • What percentage of meals will utilize basic dry-canned foods such as beans and rice?

The answers to these questions can help you to estimate your own emergency food needs. If MREs are used exclusively for travel, for example, then the total number of MREs needed for travel is simply the product of number of group members, number of days of travel and number of meals per day. You may then increase this number so as to plan to use MREs for a percentage of post-disaster travel when concealment and speed are a top consideration.

Amounts of freeze-dried meals can be estimated as the product of average number of people traveling, the number of days of travel and the number of meals per day (while there will be some double coverage of travel by MREs and freeze-dried food, it’s never a bad idea to have some extra food on hand).

The balance between dry-packed “beans and rice” type meals and canned foods will be much more subjective, however by thinking in terms of the percentage of beans-and-rice meals vs. other meals, and of course considering the number of people you are planning to feed and the expected duration of the disaster, you will be able to identify the types and quantities of these bulk emergency foods that will meet your preparedness needs.

NOTE: Even before disaster strikes you should normally be consuming and replenishing your supply of canned disaster food so that you do not find yourself with a cupboard filled with expired canned food when disaster does strike!


The various types of emergency foods that are available, coupled with the commercial hype surrounding them, can understandably lead the prepper to make less than optimal decisions with regard to

You know ‘em, love ‘em, and, most of the time, you buy them by the pallet. No wonder MREs are so popular since they make excellent snacks while providing your body with all the proteins and fats it needs to keep on rolling. But let me ask you a question here – is it really necessary to go to the military supplies store to buy MREs every time you run out? The answer’s “no” because these delish treats can be baked in the comfort of your kitchen. What’s even great is that you already have all the ingredients this recipe requires.

When I was doing my research for the first piece on pickling meat (be sure to check it if you haven’t done so already), I discovered, much to my bemusement, that there are lots of preppers out there who wanna know the best places from where one can buy Meals Ready to Eat. Can’t say that I wasn’t tempted in pulling a fast one by doing a piece on top 10 places that offer great bargains on MREs, but, then again, I really wouldn’t want you guys to spend more of that hard-earned cash.

I came to realize that my folks were baking MREs, long before the stuff hit the market. So, is this a family recipe? Yes, it is! An old one, at that. Mom told me she picked it up from my great-grandmother’s recipe book, who was a sister of mercy back in WW1. Apparently, this stuff would sell like hot cakes during the Great Depression, mostly because they go along so well with a glass of beer or moonshine or whatever (that raised a couple of eyebrows, back in the time).

After baking the first batch, my wife and I did the math: we spend somewhere around 20 on the ingredients for 8 jumbo-size MREs (although we could have made more if yours truly wouldn’t have sampled the mix too many times). That kind of money will probably get you around 4 or 5, and we still got enough left for another batch.

Still not convinced? Keep on reading for our killer survival ration baton recipe.

Why should I bother baking when I can always hop on the Internet to buy some more?

Because, contrary to popular belief, knowing your way around the kitchen is as important as learning how to swim or perform CPR. And we’re not talking here about whipping a quick breakfast or curing meat for long-term storage.

Nope, far from it! Cooking’s a no-brainer if you know how to follow a couple of simple steps.  And by that, I mean that you’ll be able to whip up a delicious and nutritious dish in no time, even if you’re that kind of person who sees the kitchen as just a room. Since I know most of you guys enjoy a good survival ration baton every now and then, I’m going to show you that it’s easy-peasy.

As I’ve said, the recipe involves ingredients found around the house – honey, assorted nuts, sugar, oats; stuff like that. There’s nothing fancy about this recipe, and it will only take you a quarter of an hour, tops. The result – 8 crunchy and sweet energy bars, each of them packing at least 3,000 calories. Check out it for yourself.

Get ready to ruuuuuumble!

As I’ve told you, all the ingredients for this recipe will cost you around 20 bucks, at most.  If you’re not too keen about going shopping, you can always order them online. Now, for 8 survival ration bars you’re going to need:

  • 5 cups of dry milk powder.
  • 3 tablespoons of honey.
  • 3 tablespoons of water.
  • 1 cup of granulated or white sugar.
  • 1 pack of gelatin (at least 3 oz)
  • 1 cup of peanuts or assorted nuts.
  • 2 cups of dry oats (you can also use normal oats).
  • 1 cup of dried cranberries (if you’re not too fond of cranberries, you can replace them with trail mix or assorted dried fruits of your choice).

Managed to grab all the ingredients? Neat! Let’s start making some survival bars.

Step 1. Preheat you over. Aim for 350 degrees.

Step 2. Grab a large bowl from your pantry and mix the following ingredients in order: milk, oats, nuts, and sugar.

Advice: use a wooden spoon or spatula to mix the ingredients (avoid using metal because the resulting mixt will have a bitter taste to it). Don’t stir too fast. You’ll want your mix to be a little chunky. What I like to do is to sort of dip the spatula and bring everything from the ground up top. Do this for a couple of minutes to make sure that there are no air bubbles left.

Step 3. Time to prepare the gelatin for the bars.

  • Grab a small pan and empty the gelatin pack’s contents inside.
  •  Add three tablespoons of water (don’t add more otherwise you would end up with mush).
  • Add three tablespoons of honey to the pan.
  • Crank up the heat and bring the mixture to a boil.

If you want to add a dash of color to your energy bars, try using some edible paint. Go crazy with them.

Step 4. It’s now time to put together everything – the dry and the moist ingredients. One thing you shouldn’t do would be to let the gelatin and honey mixture cool down completely. If you do that, you won’t be able to mix them with the dry ingredients.

So, toss the spatula aside, and ready your hands. Yes, you’re going to use the hands for this part. It’s much easier and, why not, fun. Don’t forget to wash them hands before messing with the mix.

Just like before, stick your hands inside the mix and bring the stuff on the bottom right to the top. Do this for a couple of time to make sure your dry ingredients are thoroughly mixed.

When you’re done, grab the gelatin pan. Pour a little over the mixture and use your hands to knead the stuff. Continue pouring and kneading until there’s no more gelatin.

Advice: the first time I tried doing this one on my own, the dough turned out to be way too dry even after pouring the entire contents of the pan. To make is moister (wipe that smirk off your face), add a little bit of lukewarm water or even a tablespoon of milk.

Knead, knead, and knead again, until everything’s hunky-dory. If you want your batons to be extra puffy, cover with a clean cloth and it aside to rest for around half an hour. Plastic wrap also works if you don’t have a cloth.

Step 5. Place some baking paper on an oven tray and pour the mix right in the middle. Then, using a spatula or your hands, spread it around as to cover the entire surface of the tray. Over should have reached the desired temperature by now.

Step 6. Use a pizza knife or the other end of a wooden spoon to separate your energy bars. I like to make them rectangular, but you’re free to try out any shape you like (next time, I think I’ll make them in the shape of hearts or Christmas trees just because I can).

Step 7. Stick the tray into the pre-heated oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes (might takes less if you have one of those convection ovens). Here’s what I like to do in order to see if the bars are ready to be taken out of the oven.

FYI, this trick works for all your baking needs (cake, cookies, pastry). So, what I do is take a toothpick or small piece of wood (grandma used a clean straw from the broom), and sort of poke a small hole in the middle of the dough. Take out the toothpick and look at it – if the dough’s still clinging to the toothpick, it means that it’s not yet ready. On the other hand, if the toothpick’s clean, take it out of the oven before it hardens.

Step 8. Take the tray out of the oven and allow the power bars to cool down before bagging them. You can store them in zip-lock bags or airtight plastic container.

More on home-made MREs

That’s about it for the baking part. It’s exactly what I’ve been telling you – simplicity itself. Now, some of you are probably wondering about shelf life.

Well, since this recipe calls only for ingredients with very long shelf life, in theory, they should last for quite a while if you’re careful enough to store them in a proper environment. Still, if I were you, I would bake a fresh batch every couple of months or so just to be that the B.O. Bs are up to speed.

For those of you with peanut allergy, I would advise you to replace them with dehydrated fruits. You can also use more oats if you like that stuff.

Also, if the good, old doc told you to cut back on the sugar, you can always 86 the sugar from the recipe and stick to honey, pun intended. I wouldn’t use artificial sweeteners like stevia because that would give the bars and unpleasant, metallic-like taste.

The best thing about this recipe is that no matter how clumsy you are in the kitchen, you’ll still be able to make it to the finish line. First time I tried baking MREs, I poured the mixture from the side, instead of putting it in the middle of the tray. Yeah, I ended up doing more cleaning than actual baking.

If the power goes out, which tends to happen of a weekly basis where I live, you can still bake these thingies if you have a gas oven, a thing I highly recommend.

Another thing you can try out is to try an all-nut version (without fruits). Of course, that would definitely make the calorie count go through the roof..

So, have fun with your baking and don’t forget to hit the comment section to show me how your MREs turned out. Ta-da, guys!

Is it really necessary to go to the military supplies store to buy MREs every time you run out? The answer’s “no” because these delish treats can be baked in