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Author Topic: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)  (Read 591 times)

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Offline Oniya

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #50 on: September 28, 2017, 08:03:23 PM »
You're definitely going to pay for the packaging if you go with single-serving porridge over 'family size'.  A few years back, I sent Mr. Oniya to the store for some wheat porridge (farina), and he came back with the single serving packs.  I went to the store later that month, and saw two almost identical boxes - same price, same brand, same physical space on the shelf.  One had literally over twice the amount of actual food in it.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #51 on: September 29, 2017, 08:40:00 AM »
You're definitely going to pay for the packaging if you go with single-serving porridge over 'family size'.  A few years back, I sent Mr. Oniya to the store for some wheat porridge (farina), and he came back with the single serving packs.  I went to the store later that month, and saw two almost identical boxes - same price, same brand, same physical space on the shelf.  One had literally over twice the amount of actual food in it.

Family size is better value for money. Some times.  I hate it when I realize that the offer is 'buy a double, pay only twice of a single'!

I edited the previous post because I had forgotten the most vital data, the calories: 243! It has me thinking though. Is the stated goal of 1200 calories per meal overkill for a civilian, even in an emergency? It is beginning to look like a lot of food even for a hungry person.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #52 on: September 29, 2017, 05:26:56 PM »
I tried yet another porridge variation. This time there's taste involved.


Exhibit 3: "Axa Express Oats Porridge Original With Milk". Price: 1.12 USD. This sample differs in that milk is included; milk powder anyway. At least half a teaspoon of it? And while it does little to change the nutritional facts it DOES change the taste, making the product sweeter and and a little less dully oats. I did not have to add any third product to make it edible enough to finish the portion. It is a 50 grams package though so it is a small meal.

There's 180 calories in this meal. Of the 50 grams, 30 are carbs. Storage is indicated to be 6 months. I am not entirely sure how long milk powder stores well, but it is dry powder. I'd eat this after a year without much worries. The bag it comes it is plastic and durable.

All in all this item would function in an MRE. But the previous exhibit would be the better choice. I intend to do a couple more samples before coming to a conclusion.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #53 on: September 30, 2017, 02:15:50 PM »
In the old viking lore of my country, there is a moment where one weary and scarcely fed captain tells his king "Kill me Lord, but not with porridge!" I am beginning to see his point. Tonight I tested a 'God Start' oats variant which varies only in the theoretical presence of 'red berries', which is supposed to be strawberries but could be plastic for all the taste it offers. I will admit for possibly having noticed a bit of acidity but half a teaspoon from a car battery would have equally achieved that. Is it really this hard to make a tasty porridge?

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #54 on: September 30, 2017, 06:28:39 PM »
One can get carried too far on any subject and I think, on reflection, that I know enough about the porridge element now. All the tested samples are acceptable for the purpose; I have not yet acquired the type which comes in a bag you can pour water directly into but if it is hard to find it's not really relevant for the MRE project anyway. The flavor of all tested samples was meh even when they boast fruit and indicates that you may as well go for the unflavored ones. It's going to be the cheapest alternative too. I'll be favoring the 65 gram version because as far as I can tell, it is more food for the same price as the 50 gram one. So, moving on.


Offline Ket

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #55 on: September 30, 2017, 11:11:43 PM »
Is the stated goal of 1200 calories per meal overkill for a civilian, even in an emergency?


Yes, yes it is! Unless during that emergency situation you are carrying around a 90 lb pack on your back and are constantly in motion (at least walking) all day long, then 3600 calories in a day is entirely too much for anyone. The reason MRE's (I am speaking of American MRE's when I speak of them) contain that many calories is because they are food that is used in the field when a modern soldier is pushing themselves, with all of their equipment, gear, uniform essentials, weapon, etc., attached to their person. And except for a few quick breaks and to sleep, they are constantly in motion. Many soldiers will not eat the entire contents of an MRE in one day. They will save bits and pieces for use later, or for trading. Not every MRE contains the same drink mixes or the same types of jelly, so they'll be traded off for flavors that are liked by an individual, or for different portions of the MRE.

Also, MRE's are notorious for giving soldier's constipation if they eat too much of the meal. That's why it includes the gum. Never, under any circumstances other than being unable to go to the bathroom, chew that gum. Your guts will be in massive pain and you won't be able to leave the bathroom for hours. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener, use most often in sugar-free candies. And those candies come with the warning that eating too many of them at once will lead to diarrhea. That MRE gum is loaded with havoc wreaking badness. Trust me, personal experience.

That being said, I actually can't stand the stupid heater packs. I hate the smell they give off when they are in heating mode, and using them in anything but a clear open field will have the 'steam' they emit invading every mucus lined orifice of your body and irritating it. I'd rather just survive on canned meat and biscuits.

As far as porridge goes, if you're in a position to boil water/stock/milk, you can make polenta, which is sooo much tastier and easier to stomach. Not only that, but you can add all sorts of different flavorings to it to change up the taste. Melting cheese into polenta is delicious.

Offline Oniya

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #56 on: October 01, 2017, 12:24:41 AM »
Polenta is basically corn meal boiled in water or milk until thick.  Can be used as a breakfast (milk/water and some kind of sweetener) or something more savory (use broth/stock/even bouillon powder mixed in.)  As Ket said, you can also mix in numerous other things - even fry it into corn pone if you have access to a heat source and reasonably clean flat surfaces.  (This was a Native American version of 'trail bread'.)

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #57 on: October 01, 2017, 08:05:13 AM »


*has a heart attack - Ket, is that YOU old warrior?*

I have heard such comments on the US military MRE before, and they back you up on all points - although I have not heard the gum specifically described this harshly before, and the smell of the heaters is also new information to me. But I lack personal experience with these. The Humanitarian Daily Ration (HDR) describes a daily content of just 2200 calories, and interestingly also does not contain heaters.

If we can reasonably go down to just 750 calories rather than 1200 per meal it will reduce cost, number of elements, and volume a lot. I am going to hold on to that thought.

I am not against considering polenta based instant porridge instead of oats. For that part I could as well consider rice or sago - and the porridge I eat on at least a weekly basis is rømmegrøt, a classic Norwegian sour cream porridge dish. But for the purpose of this exercise the product needs to be readily available in shops in single portions in sterile packaging, requiring no more preparation than adding warm water. If these porridge variations are readily available in your stores then I am interested in hearing about it.

Offline Ket

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #58 on: October 01, 2017, 12:04:28 PM »
Shhh...don't give away my location!

I hate that gum. I would honestly rather be mildly constipated for a week out in the field than chew that gum. Everyone reacts to it differently, of course. But if you think constipation may ever be an issue in a survival situation, pack sugar-free candies and eat a bunch of those. The effects are much less violent.

Everyone reacts differently to the heater pack as well. I know some people who can have it right by their face and have no reaction, except to notice the smell. They also get extremely hot, and I do mean extremely. If you don't let them sit for the suggested period of time after they've stopped steaming, you will burn yourself.

Basically, we just have instant oatmeal. You can buy it in boxes that have small individual packets, or insingle-use containers. They come in all sorts of flavors, but are loaded with sugar. In a survival situation that's not a bad thing, but for everyday use it's a bit too many sugars at once.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #59 on: October 02, 2017, 08:07:53 AM »
Yeah, the heating device is an issue for several reasons. One that seemed important to me initially was the price. I am beginning to suspect that those water heaters are excluded from aid packages for a different reason as well; they make a handy basis for an Improvised Explosive Device. Considerable instant heat practically approaches a termite charge. Esbit fuel burners are rather less threatening in that area, even if they are obviously also less effective. I'll be checking out several modern civilian aid packages to see how they resolve the problem.

Offline Ket

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #60 on: October 02, 2017, 09:52:17 AM »
A minor reason for having the heater instead of using some flame producing stove, is simply so there is no flame. At night, in the field, a flame can be seen for miles, giving away locations. But in a civilian situation, where you aren't necessarily going to be worrying about that, some some sort of small camp stove wouldn't be an issue. Or a fireatarter pack, and collecting your own wooden/paper fuel.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #61 on: October 09, 2017, 04:56:49 PM »
Okay, giving breakfast another go since we are down to an aim of 700 calories. The crispbread element now seems excessive due to the size of the package, especially as it requires spreads. Maybe it will be better as lunch?

Revised breakfast:
Tea bag, 1:
Coffee mix (coffee, sugar, creamer), 1: 90 calories
Instant oatmeal porridge (65 grams package), 1: 243 calories
Meal replacement bar (here "Soldier Fuel" which really is an energy bar), 1: 280 calories

Also included:
Spoon, 1
Paper towels, small, multipurpose, 2
Ziplock plastic bags, for garbage and for leftovers and for the entire meal, 2

As you can see we are already up to almost 600 calories. And I still have not located a portion sized sweetener for the tea. A small chocolate bar or fruit unit would be enough to complete this meal and serve as a small dessert, and in the worst case I think the porridge could be eaten with cold water as a cereal.

Offline Oniya

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #62 on: October 09, 2017, 05:13:47 PM »
Is the coffee mix a single product, or is it a coffee packet, a sugar packet and a creamer packet?  I've been to a few hotels where the 'three packet' system is used, and the assumption is that you will use the coffee sweetener for the tea if you prefer tea to coffee.  Alternatively, many sugar/sweetener companies do release a bulk pack of those little paper envelopes, and in Germany, there's a tradition of using rock candy to sweeten coffee (rock candy being more spill-resistant than sugar might make it a useful addition, as well as something that could be treated as a 'sweet' instead of an additive.)

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #63 on: October 09, 2017, 05:21:38 PM »
I have very few alternatives for single portion coffee in local stores and even fewer for separate single portion sweeteners. Nescafe has one they call 'Sweet and cream' which I would normally consider too rich for my taste. In an emergency it would be a lot better than no coffee at all. Here is the link.



Offline Oniya

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #64 on: October 09, 2017, 06:45:57 PM »
Hm.  Both Folgers and Maxwell House make 'coffee singles' around here - literally a filter bag like a tea bag that you can brew in your cup.  However, I saw you mention that these MREs could possibly be 'put together' by a team of preppers, and I happened across this DIY while I was looking for the commercial brands:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Making-Single-Serve-Coffee-Bags/  (If one has a canteen, this sort of thing can be used to cold-brew coffee, which I hear is the latest thing in the 'hip crowd'.)

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #65 on: October 10, 2017, 06:28:18 AM »
Hm.  Both Folgers and Maxwell House make 'coffee singles' around here - literally a filter bag like a tea bag that you can brew in your cup.  However, I saw you mention that these MREs could possibly be 'put together' by a team of preppers, and I happened across this DIY while I was looking for the commercial brands:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Making-Single-Serve-Coffee-Bags/  (If one has a canteen, this sort of thing can be used to cold-brew coffee, which I hear is the latest thing in the 'hip crowd'.)

Hahaha! That's wild. I am half tempted to make one just for the exp. It's hardly practical for when you need 300 single unit MRE meals but I admire the inventiveness of it.

Offline Oniya

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #66 on: October 10, 2017, 12:51:55 PM »
Depends on your team.  Mr. Oniya takes part in live-action role-play, and one of the things they often use to simulate spellcasting is a square of cloth filled with a measured amount of birdseed.  They'd have evenings where they just sat around and pack these things.  One of the guys works in a machine shop, and actually developed a machine that would do the job.  I'm now tempted to pose him the challenge of making coffee packets.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #67 on: October 10, 2017, 01:02:49 PM »
Depends on your team.  Mr. Oniya takes part in live-action role-play, and one of the things they often use to simulate spellcasting is a square of cloth filled with a measured amount of birdseed.  They'd have evenings where they just sat around and pack these things.  One of the guys works in a machine shop, and actually developed a machine that would do the job.  I'm now tempted to pose him the challenge of making coffee packets.

Heh. Careful. You might end up with a product with enormous sales potential. There's a lot of people interested in MREs these days.

Offline Oniya

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #68 on: October 10, 2017, 01:27:22 PM »
Heh. Careful. You might end up with a product with enormous sales potential. There's a lot of people interested in MREs these days.

Hell, I'm hoping to end up with a working prototype!  ;D

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Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #69 on: October 11, 2017, 09:44:08 PM »
I don't know if anyone considered that another reason they put all that bind you up food into the MRE is so that you aren't as likely to be out of combat for the runs.

Yet another reason to put that much of that kind of food into the MRE is that it's cheap and filling and as previously mentioned positively rich from all the calories.

I would also like to point out or remind that old time prison food was bread and water for the simple fact that it was cheap and it bound you up and caused a ton of pain. However, while it is useful for a soldier to not be in the latrine, it is not useful for them to be unable to go at all - hence items like the aforementioned gum.

As for calorie content, civilians in a crises situation could probably do with a more or less 2000 calorie type diet like we have in the states. Since it's relatively hard to build each individual refugee's caloric need into a given MRE, it's far easier to build higher so that no one gets left behind. A decent jumping off point would probably be 2000 calories, but then to add one or more sundry type items to enhance the calorie count in the event more are needed and to give the user wiggle room for trade. Hence chocolate and food bar type items.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #70 on: October 12, 2017, 06:03:16 AM »
You do have a point, Vellys. The runs - loose bowels caused by infection from virus/bacteria/parasites - the have been a scourge of many an army and of many a train of refugees. MRE's are, almost regardless of its components, helpful in combating it since it means no sharing of food or having it prepared by other people who may be infected or using unclean utensils. If a third party provides hot water it is probably the safest thing to drink in the area anyway. As for the MRE ingredients, it is helpful to avoid strong spices.

We started this thread with an estimated need for 3600 calories per day, or 1200 per meal. After some valuable input we are down to 2200 calories per day, or 733 per meal - and we will probably get closer to 800 to allow a little individual leeway. But only a little. Producing these meals is going to be based on donated money, not sales or federal support, so cost is vital.

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Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #71 on: October 12, 2017, 12:35:17 PM »
A good place to look to get an idea of just how much variety of dehydrated and instant foods we have here in the states (if you don't already know) would be walmart. There are something like 50 pages there with "instant" type food. Also here has "specifically" dehydrated foods. While there may be some overlap the sheer volume of options should become apparent. The hard part with most of those would be portioning them down into individual meals. A site I mentioned previously has tutorials on using mylar bags for food storage and other potentially useful tips related to this topic and for long-term survival in austere conditions.

They also have a rather sizeable emergency prep that might spark some ideas.

Have you considered a solar or hand-cranked source of power to put into a kit for a larger group? Lots of places hardest hit by devastation on this planet seem to be very sunny. Also, if the hurricanes and fires recently in the North American continent and it's surrounding Islands have reminded us of anything it is that power is a precious commodity.

Also, if we could find a way to manufacture a cheap solar oven it could be used even in 30ish (F) temperatures as prooved here. That combined with the previously mentioned wonderoven and creature comforts like regular hot meals become possible in austerity even with limited fuel and fire type resources.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #72 on: October 12, 2017, 12:58:39 PM »
Providing heating sources for groups is a discussion a bit outside the scope of this thread (although very welcome in the main survivalist thread). I have been to a Walmart once - it was a very big place. I'll check out their website for inspiration though; that Emergency section looks promising. But portion making is a no-go even if there is an obvious cost advantage, because you are going to lose other things. The end-of-use date, the sterility of the original package, the contents list - someone given just a food item might not dare to eat it on account of serious allergies. Sure you can print out the info from the big box but by now you are investing a lot of effort per individual unit. The best alternative SHOULD in theory be purchasing quantity boxes of say 50+ identical items, but the funny thing is that these have a nasty tendency to cost 50x the price of an individual item. Strange.

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Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #73 on: October 12, 2017, 03:58:42 PM »
That's why you have to be watchful of pricing. You usually get a better price for bulk... but there are times when the bigger package just costs more.