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Author Topic: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)  (Read 2094 times)

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Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« on: August 30, 2017, 09:52:25 AM »
I am dedicating this thread to something maybe most people have not seen close up; Meals Ready To Eat. Anyone with military experience will know these food ration packages very well from deployment or exercises. But also aid workers, and those unlucky enough to need temporary assistance during and after a disaster, will know versions of these as issued by FEMA, Red Cross, UN or other help organization. Both military and civilian MREs are of course manufactured by major food corporations according to supplied specification - and according to the budget given - in huge volumes, which generally makes for high quality and well balanced meal. Often individual items in these packages are simply commercial shelf ware items in original civilian wrapping or in military wrapping.

Even if you aren't a survivalist or military interested the chances are that you might have seen one of the hugely popular Youtube channels where people like SteveMRE1989 are testing out MREs of varying age, scarcity and quality - tasting and eating stuff that varies from great to life threatening. I find them interesting and some times quite teaching, but have no intention or hope of competing with these videos. By the time I have bought a ration online and shipped it to my country, this kind of food tasting is way out of my budget. Besides, what can I say about these products that others have not already? There are however also people who make their own ration, and this direction has more room for creativity and research.

I will be posting more, a lot more, but it will be great to have contributions from others in this thread too, experiences, and comments.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2017, 10:15:15 AM »
So, what makes an MRE? Wikipedia says that "The Meal, Ready-to-Eat – commonly known as the MRE – is a self-contained, individual field ration in lightweight packaging bought by the United States military for its service members for use in combat or other field conditions where organized food facilities are not available." Let's stick with the MRE name but redefine it a little for our convenience. I suggest "The MRE is a self-contained, individual, compact food ration for use when and where kitchens are not available." In other words, if you already have proper cooking facilities you probably also have some stores of raw foods to work with. The MRE then applies primarily for when you need to evacuate and can't expect to get a chance to do proper cooking, or even get hold of other food.

In the military a lot is expected of an MRE. After all a soldier might get nothing else for a whole month, and the MRE is supplied from military stores where it might have been waiting for decades. And eating the same stuff every day hits moral pretty quickly. On top of that, volume and weight matters a lot in a situation where transport is needed everywhere at the same time - including in the soldier's backpack. This translates to a product needing nutrition, taste, durability, efficient and light weight packaging, requiring a minimum of heating and work, moral boosting and just for fun, a minimum of garbage to dispose of afterwards. It is no wonder that these packages are expensive to acquire for the military. If you got one cheap it was probably close to or over the expiration date.

A soldier is expected to endure some pretty harsh conditions and do strenuous things. A civilian has other needs, in theory. But it is one thing to be a Syrian refugee and not know where or when your next meal arrives, and another thing to be stuck in a football stadium in the US for a week until the hurricane ends. So for a DIY MRE, some standards can be lowered.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2017, 10:51:00 AM »
The current standard American military MRE (here is the Wikipedia page on it) is a suitable benchmark to compare homemade versions with. Obviously it is manufactured to fairly optimal standards. It is also made of several meal units each made in multiple versions, so that you don't get identical meals every day. In theory at least. There are also different units for temperate and hot climates. Special variations exist for pilots, life boats etc. I am not going into parameters like heat variation durability. One interesting point is that storage life is 3 years (a mere 9 months in hot climates), which is actually shorter than in the old days but reflects that the contents have become far more complex.


The US MRE contains:

3 meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) at about 1200 calories, which is a daily intake of 3600 calories.
Total weight (depending on variations in content) is 2200 grams or so, or about four pounds, including wrapping.

General contents may include (I just copied the following from Wikipedia):

    Main course (entree)
    Side dish
    Dessert or snack (often commercial candy, fortified pastry, or Soldier Fuel Bar.)
    Crackers or bread
    Spread of cheese, peanut butter, or jelly
    Powdered beverage mix: fruit flavored drink, cocoa, instant coffee or tea, sport drink, or dairy shake.
    Utensils (usually just a plastic spoon)
    Flameless ration heater (FRH)
    Beverage mixing bag
    Accessory pack:
        Xylitol chewing gum
        Water-resistant matchbook
        Napkin / toilet paper
        Moist towelette
        Seasonings, including salt, pepper, sugar, creamer, and/or Tabasco sauce
        Freeze dried coffee powder


Some of this can be copied by any civilian. But flameless ration heaters? Those are nifty bags with chemicals that react to contact with water. I have never seen one from close up. To get as close as I can I'll be swapping them with Esbit cookers and similar, preferably something so cheap that one burner can be added to each package.

So what is the challenge? I see it as making a daily ration pack from shelfware goods, without taking the goods from the original individual packaging, that can be stored for one whole year without cooling, then served without or with a minimum of heating. Once that year is gone I can simply eat the contents and nothing will be wasted. In the extremely unlikely event of a nearby disaster I could even use it, or give it away.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2017, 11:17:05 AM by Captain Maltese »

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2017, 08:54:38 AM »
I live in a high income, high cost of living country. Food and many other things are so expensive compared with the rest of the world that when foreign car camping tourists come here on vacation, they bring their own food and alcohol so they won't have to buy any here. This mean that what prices I will be quoting are high, and exchanged from NOK to USD at a currency rate that won't be constant. But it is the best I can do, and it will provide a relative benchmark.

Before we start with the food, let's look at the wrapping and non-food accessories. I don't know about you guys but I don't have access to individually hygienically wrapped sets of the kind you might fight in an MRE or get on a train- or plane trip. What I can get are 20-to-100 items set of spoons etc, and wear gloves as I repack them to sets. Why gloves? Cleanliness is a virtue but it is more important to avoid getting moisture into the MRE which could feed mold.

Typical wrapping in a military bag, normally suction packaged:
- outer package. Military MRE used to come in a carton; now it is some times a plastic shell around the goods in a carton shape. I will be substituting all of that with a simple mid size plastic bag.
- individual meal package, which will also be a zip bag for me.
- item wrapping from the factory. This includes metal cans.
- heating/preparing bag. This is simply a zip bag where you can put cereal or soup etc and add water.
- holding bag. Zip bag for leftover food you want to keep in your bag.
- chemical heating bag. Can't emulate so I will substitute with some other heater.
- garbage bag. Yet another zip bag.
- shitting bag, pardon my language. Only found in military MREs to the best of my knowledge. Zip bag.
- parting cardboard. Frequently found in older MREs.
All of the above helps to explain why you end up with so much weight and volume, and so much junk even when all the food has been eaten. From an environmental point of view there's little to be enthusiastic about. But in war and disasters the health of people tend to be higher up on the priority list, and at least the garbage bag shows that some thought have been put into it. I do hope the day comes when secure yet harmlessly dissoluble packaging becomes a reality.

Non-edible accessories:
- Water-resistant matchbook
- Napkin / toilet paper
- Moist towelette
- Plastic spoon
- Tooth brush
A hundred years ago the WW1 soldier would have been most eager for the matchbook, and he would have expected to find a few cigarettes in the package as well. Paper or any other way to get clean would have been an unusual luxury, and he was already carrying his metal spoon in his boot shaft. Ask a modern soldier in Iraq and the moist towelette will be the most desired item. All of these things are useful though; the trick is to keep the cost down because moist towelettes in single packages are quite expensive per item for the regular shopper
My suggestion for accessories:
- big zip bag. Oversized for the accessories alone but it will have other uses as well as described above.
- plastic spoon, from a large package.
- two big dry napkins for all purposes, from a large package.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2017, 10:47:25 AM »

Soldiers in the field need food and drink. The drink has always mainly been cold water, carried in a canteen that could alternatively be filled with anything from wine to milk. Beside the canteen - the only lidded container in his equipment - he also has a cup of some kind; we know these were issued as far as 16th century. Part of the cups function was for distribution of the daily half ladle of grog or wine, or tea and eventually coffee. By the start of WW1 the American and the German soldier had a metal cup in his canteen pouch, while the British soldier still had his enameled cup in his pack. Many soldiers still have a cup of some sort in their field gear but the most modern soldiers like the US forces in Iraq get their field liquids from soda cans or soft water bags, neither of which are practical for drinking coffee or making food in. A modern civilian has a similar problem, in that he might not have any suitable big cup in what stuff he has left on his body once he has been evacuated. Never mind a way to heat anything. Where soldiers tend to have someone on kitchen duty boil gallons and gallons of water for distribution, the civilians might not have any such supply of clean or warm water that day at all. Considering how MREs tend to be contain as little water as possible this is definitely an issue.


Breakfast:
Your military MRE aims for about 1200 calories per meal, which is generous for someone who are simply holed up in an evac center for a week. But starting a potentially strenuous day which might not be the first or last in a row, with some nourishing food is important and could be vital. Don't skip breakfast in an emergency situation even if you are one of those who don't normally have one.

Military MRE might have:
Liquid related:
- instant coffee, single portion bag.
- sugar, single portion bag consisting of powder or cubes. Some times honey or other alternative sweetener.
- dry milk or creamer, single portion bag.
- tea bag, single portion bag.
- beverage powder, single portion bag. Normally with fruit taste, and containing magnesium and other minerals making it essentially a dehydrated energy drink.

Food. Typically varying a lot according to the country's meal culture. For instance only USA issues items with peanut butter in them. This is a brief list.
- biscuits/crackers. The main carbohydrate item.
- jam, pate or peanut butter for spreading; enough for all the biscuits.
- cereal mix, usually including everything but water.
- nuts or raisins
- chocolate/sweetened energy bar for dessert
- chewing gum for teeth cleaning

With warm water available this is a filling meal, but it isn't required for anything but the hot drink. If you don't have access to water at all right there and then, it is still edible on it own and that is important.

So what can you match this with in a DIY MRE? Again the problem is to get individual-sized, moisture-resistant packages. Yes, you could buy large packages then make two-cube sugar packages or spoonfuls of instant coffee, but you would still have an issue with packaging that keeps moisture at bay, and I can't get hold of zip bags smaller than DVD size. So this is my initial, clearly insufficent suggestion until I have found shelf ware alternatives. Hunting down foreign ebay supplies, or specialty stores, or factory outlets in the other end of the country will make this entire project expensive and thereby pointless.

Breakfast liquids:
- 1 tea bags: x grams, x calories, 0.06 USD
- 1 instant coffee powder bag including sugar and creamer powder: 17 grams, x calories, 0.38 USD
- Iced tea powder, enough for a liter or a quarter gallon (smallest I can find so far) x grams, 320 calories, 1.28 USD

breakfast food:
- chocolate flavored musli bar: 25 grams, 92 cal, 2.05 USD.
- pack of salty peanuts: 250 grams, x calories, 2.16 USD.

Total known weight: 292 grams
Total known calories: 412 calories
Total known price: 5.93 USD

Again, the prices are all Norwegian and regular, not sales.

Biscuits will have to wait until I have investigated the longevity of the store types. Raisins would be a bad idea because around here, they are fresh goods sold in paper boxes and not recommendable at all for longevity storage. I am looking for suitable alternatives.

I might be post-editing these posts when or if I get more data. In some cases I am also getting the info from grocery stores webpages rather than holding the goods in my hands so some of the items might turn out to be unsuitably packaged after all.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2017, 10:56:05 AM by Captain Maltese »

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2017, 04:27:46 PM »

Ah, chocolate. The most valued product of the Aztecs, one of the most loved food types on the planet, a quick energy source, a regular in most MRE systems, aaaand a bit complicated. Some might be aware that the international cocoa prices are rising and probably will continue to do so for maybe decades ahead.

Raw cocoa: Beans from the cocoa plant are treated in various ways. Cocoa butter is extracted from the bean leaving solids which are also a product, and cocoa drinks can be made by instead roasting the beans. All these basic cocoa products are acrid in taste, not sweet. We rarely eat chocolate in this pure form. Cocoa butter may be available in stores for baking purposes, and in its pure form it is essentially a vegetable fat. The butter element is what eventually goes rancid after long storage. Another benefit of chocolate is that it is full of anti-oxidants - and maybe above every other factor mentioned, it is a proven mood lifter.

Milk chocolate: Normally light in color, this is supposed to be made from about 20-25% cocoa solids and the rest is milk powder or equivalents. And sugar, and other products who all are meant to add appeal and reduce cocoa percentage. Above everything this product is sweet and high in carbs.

Dark chocolate: This is partly made from cocoa solids which is why the result is hard as brick, partly from butter to make it more edible, and partly whatever the manufacturer gets away with. The cocoa percentage varies from product to product and from country to country. You can usually find it in the baking isle in the grocery store, marked 'baking' or 'cooking'. As a rule it contains less sugar, tastes more acrid, has more useful options, and is far healthier than the milk chocolate. It is also better suited for storage and is less likely to melt in your backpack. And now you know why all MRE chocolate is dark. In the stores here I can get this stuff with 70% cocoa and up to 86%, which practically make it health food.

Regardless, chocolate remains a high fat and high carbs item. Downing a whole big plate of it on a daily basis is not good for you. For my MRE version I will be looking for a not overly large plate, preferably just a bar, of the darkest chocolate I can find.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #6 on: September 01, 2017, 12:21:40 PM »

Oldest known surviving ship biscuit - from 1852!

Biscuits, aka crackers, aka hard-tack, is a concept as old as armies. Baked from flour and water and sometimes salt then dried until the last drop of moisture is gone, they are rarely a positive taste experience and the soldier who eat one without softening it in his tea is putting a clear and present danger to his teeth. None the less they fill the stomach and gives fiber and energy to face the day of struggle. The financers of war love these biscuits for their cheapness though and the durability and longevity they have in storage. Especially compared with normal bread which goes from fresh to moldy in a matter of days. The iron rations of Civil War soldiers, British Navy ratings and German soldiers have always been based on these hard meals. Well, until recently. Now that tin cans and vacuum packaged plastic wrapping are available, some moisture have been allowed along with a lot more taste. In MRE packages you can now find salt biscuits, sweet biscuits, various flour types like oatmeal and wheat, and even with exxtra nutriental additions. It does depend on the national food culture of course, as manufacturers strive to emulate it for the soldiers comfort.

In a DIY MRE the trick is to find a shop product that combines suitable portion size with storage longevity, and is suited for combining with all types of spread. For this reason I am avoiding sweet crackers and also the saltier salt crackers too. One problem is that some products offers wrapped portions within one box, but these portions are not marked with ingredients etc.

Here are two types I got today, for comparison at least.


1. Original Ritz Crackers
Price - 2.16 USD per box
Longevity - about 6 months. Clearly not good enough.
Size - 200 grams. A full portion will have 980 calories - remember the aim for 1200 calories for a whole meal - and a whopping 23% of this product is actually fat. Of the 67% that are carbs, about 8% are sugar.
My biggest issue with this product for an MRE is the box is big, and rather bigger than the contents needs - this is obviously a marketing thing. Inside the cardboard box is a plastic bag that is smaller and well closed, but unfortunately with zero text. The second issue is that each cracker is fairly small, which makes for a slower meal. In an emergency you may not have time for slow meals.


2. Karen Volf Classic Salted Crackers
Price - 3.32 USD per box, or 1.1 USD per portion packae
These crackers claims to be flavored with salami and cheese, which is good for eating on their own but makes them much less useful with separate spreads.
Longevity - I am not sure, frankly.
Size - 3 sealed packages of 100 grams. Packaging is neat and compact but the portion packages are untexted.
One 100 gram package is nutritionally comparably equal to the Ritz one.
UPDATE - I have now had a number of these crackers (with a good strong red wine admittedly) and I have to say that if I did not already know, I would not have known about the flavoring. I honestly cant taste anything but salt.

Neither of these crackers are really suitable for the purpose although I would wolf them down if given them in an emergency. The Ritz crackers are small and the Volf crackers are thin. Stuff them in a pocket and you will only find crumbles an hour later. The price, about 1.1 USD per 100 gram, is not a dealbreaker. I will be looking for a smaller volume product whose individual wrapping carries text, with less flavor and bigger individual crackers. At the moment I will be favoring the Volf over the Ritz due to the more efficient packaging.
« Last Edit: September 01, 2017, 05:42:42 PM by Captain Maltese »

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2017, 05:27:04 PM »
Let's take a look at an everyday item that you rarely find in military rations - pasta. Your standard pasta product, noodles or spaghetti, is essentially nothing but wheat flour mixed with water into a paste, then shaped and set to dry. Which means it is all starch, and incidentally a little bit of fiber and a surprising amount of protein and manganese. In most of the western part of the world it is one of the most common basic food staples, and paste recipe variations can include egg or vegetables which helps a lot on the vitamin content.

For MRE purposes, dry pasta is wonderful for storage longevity. And while the more sizeable types like spaghett, penne and rotini demands sustained boiling, you can have noodles with no more than a warm cup of water to put them in - if you can manage warm water for drinks you can also have noodles. Old news for all of you, of course. Around here a 5-pack of noodles can be had for less than two dollars, and each individual pack comes with fully texted wrapping and some seasoning including oil.

The problem? Noodles are fairly boring if you don't have cheese or ham or something else to add. As mentioned earlier it is also rather limited in the vitamin section. It does fill your stomach though - provided you have water. Some people claim they like eating noodles dry. I'd do it too, but not until I had exhausted all other options. On the bright side, the cost of a pack is so low that the bigger issue is how much room it takes. You can also buy noodles-in-a-cup, just add water, but those cost 2 dollars per cup and contain rather less food.

There are a couple more possibilities. One is the various cans of pasta-and-meatballs and similar. These cans are usually dinner sized and way too big for a ration. It's generally cheap food but the pasta tastes meh and there isn't enough meat to build a single sausage; the tomato sauce is good for you but the damn can weighs in at two pounds and if you don't have to carry it there isn't really an emergency is there? There are however a couple more practical options; vacuumed bags, and dehydrated bags. Both allow for sauces and meat included. The vacuumed bags can be found in military MREs, essentially replacing the cans which leads to weight advantages. Storage longevity is an issue, but you can heat up the contents in a number of ways or eat them cold. The dehydrated stuff is much lighter and smaller in size, and you prepare them by pouring in the water. But both of the bag items have one big problem - price. Around here a dehydrated bag with paste and something meatlike is 8-15 dollars. That is a lot of money in an MRE.

Long story short, I'll go with the cheap noodle packs. They require a cup or bowl, but then so does the coffee.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #8 on: September 07, 2017, 01:57:01 PM »
Interesting but unintended test. I wanted a snack and found a 200 grams box of raisins in the back of the cupboard. Inside the cardboard box the raisins were wrapped in a sealed plastic bag. They taste perfectly good. Then I checked the expiration date. Fourth October... 2014. Note to self: This stuff has far longer storage longevity than expected, even in unvaacumed packaging. 

Offline Oniya

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #9 on: September 07, 2017, 02:50:56 PM »
At a certain point, raisins and many other dried fruits will dehydrate pretty completely.  Pretty sure I've had boxed raisins (no seal to speak of) well past the expiration, and the worst thing about them was the chewing.  However, a bit of a soak in that cup of warm water will soften them up, and a longer one will make a not-too-terrible fruit cocktail.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #10 on: September 07, 2017, 03:30:09 PM »
That is a fascinating thought. I always assumed dried fruit would eventually mold, either because of the remaining juice or because it would attract humidity from the air. Clearly this box I have here was kept dry, in the dark and at a fairly cold temperature, but it was also sealed. You think it would simply get drier if there was no sealing? Is the dehydration that effective?

Offline Oniya

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #11 on: September 07, 2017, 03:57:58 PM »
Not terribly sure, to be honest, and it may depend on the producer.  It occurs to me, though, that packets of silica gel (which I've sometimes seen in beef jerky bags) would aid in keeping the dried stuff drier.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #12 on: September 07, 2017, 04:29:46 PM »
Hmmm. Can you buy silica packets? I have seen tiny ones when I have bought stuff but that's no way to build up a supply.

Offline Oniya

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #13 on: September 07, 2017, 04:33:39 PM »
Amazon seems to have them in everything from 'just a few' to 'bulk'. (Largest order unit is 12 kilos, smallest is 60g)

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #14 on: September 07, 2017, 05:04:48 PM »

One of the most obscure food types here in Norway is canned soup. Sure we eat lots of soup but while my mom's generation and today's actual cooks make soup from the bottom, the majority of consumed soup is simply something dry in a bag. Just add water and let boil for a few minutes. Personally I eat soup only very, very rarely - I'm a stew guy. But in order to at least have tried it, I here have one can - about 1.10 USD - of Heinz Classic Cream Of Tomato Soup. Emptied it in a pot and heated it until it started to boil then took it off. Well... it is definitely soup, and definitely tomato. One can is 380 ml, contains about 200 calories total. Per 100 ml it contains about 2 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein and 7 grams of carbs. Longevity, and I bought this can this week, seems to be about half a year. All in all this is basically a warm drink. I've had more filling TWIGS. If there had been meat and rice or pasta in it, the size would have been fine. It is a pull-open can and that is handy. Some other time I might try to heat an opened, full can over a camp fire or by putting it near the fire but I am not sure it is advisable what with modern can's complex layers. Strangely enough the can text does not mention the vitamin contents, which I thought would be a big selling point. A little googling brought me to this nutritions page which flatly claims that this product does not contain any vitamins. What it does have is sodium... meaning salt. Not unreasonable in a tomato product, mind you.

All in all, this can does offer 200 calories which is a sixth of what you need in a meal. The taste is nice once it is heated, maybe even unheated - I should have thought of that from the start. And you can have bread on the side, or biscuits or crutons. Or ham or sausage pieces. But the more I think of adding stuff the stronger is the argument to buy something with more stuff already in it. Does this canned soup belong in an MRE? It is durable after all and fairly easily heated. The weight and volume speaks against it though; I'd prefer an equal sized can of beans in tomato sauce any day.

Offline Oniya

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #15 on: September 07, 2017, 05:14:24 PM »
Gotta say - cream of anything soups are more 'ingredients' than anything.  I suspect that dehydrated potato flakes would serve you better weight-wise, and can be turned into mashed potatoes or potato soup with equal ease.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #16 on: September 07, 2017, 05:31:06 PM »
"Potato soup". Now there's an alien word to a Norwegian. Sure we have soups with potato in, but they are also full of carrot and meat and meatballs and bullion. How does this product work?

Offline Oniya

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #17 on: September 07, 2017, 05:49:27 PM »
Depends on how fancy you want to go - your absolute basic is made by adding more hot liquid to your mashed potatoes, until you get a soup-like consistency.  Not terribly interesting, but warms you up.  Add bits of salt pork/bacon, dried onion, garlic powder, and you're getting a meal.  Some of those dried soup vegetables you mentioned, and that'll keep you going for a while.  The particularly useful thing is that dehydrated potatoes are very light-weight and shelf-stable.  I wouldn't be surprised if the product was developed for ease in feeding troops.

Offline Shores

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #18 on: September 07, 2017, 06:20:25 PM »
I love SteveMRE1989! I think so far the product that survives the best from over 20 years ago is peanut butter. Doesn't become soggy/moldy/bug-infested like some biscuits, still taste good, doesn't have the fat rise to the surface and look weird like chocolate, and is high in protein and fat and good nutrients. I'm thinking that the layer of fat that floats to the top when peanut butter is kept too long helps preserve it. It's cheap too. I've been wanting to try almond butter but it's so expensive!

Also, I love dehydrated mashed potatoes cos they used to be my late night snack until I started making my own potato salad. I know there are some recipes for frying foods where they add it in the batter to make it taste even better.

Offline Vellys

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Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #19 on: September 07, 2017, 11:15:24 PM »
I am enjoying this thread. I've done a few quick searches for things you may not have considered or that I saw you touch on but may not have seen "all the angles".

Have you considered making a camp stove? There are tons of designs for these on youtube and assuming you could obtain a stock of fuel for them at a decent price you would only need to make a small number of the stoves unless you decided to share them with your neighbors or trade them. From what I understand many of these designs can run on simple rubbing alcohol, but if you have something similar or stronger of the drinking variety people are less likely to complain about losing the booze when they weigh it against a hot meal.

I know they were mentioned earlier but to go a bit more in depth.
Instant Mashed Potatoes are probably one of the most lightweight types of food items you could put into your MREs. Here in the U.S. they are cheap. You can get them for a few dollars a box and the recipe works whether you use any combination of water or milk, butter or margarine, or even just water if you are desperate. They might not be feasible for you to acquire you may not have looked into them in depth. This is a popular brand in the U.S.

When I think "instant soup" Bear Creek has always come to mind. It's what my parents always bought and it sounds like something you described earlier. They may be a cost prohibitive item. It should be noted however, one bag makes up to 8 1 cup servings so... it may come out in the math to find its way into affordability. Or perhaps you have something similar where you are that is comparable in price.

You pondered about food survivability when it is dehydrated.

I hope these links are helpful.
« Last Edit: September 07, 2017, 11:39:30 PM by Vellys »

Offline Oniya

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #20 on: September 07, 2017, 11:24:24 PM »
Instant mashed was what I was referencing earlier. ^_^

Offline Vellys

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Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #21 on: September 07, 2017, 11:40:18 PM »
Instant mashed was what I was referencing earlier. ^_^

I meant to reference that  :-[ Ah well, I edited the post so credit where it's due.

Offline Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #22 on: September 08, 2017, 06:21:45 PM »
Hey Velly. I'm a huge fan of camping stoves in all their configurations, I have a collection including a couple of DIY types I was given once; both are based on methylated spirits. It is something I have never seen in MREs; probably because it is both poisonous if it leaks into the food, requires a slightly complicated burner - relatively expensive to buy per MRE package, or alternately requires a while of work per unit - and a separate fuel container as well.

My idea for this project is to create a low cost, low size, easily and quickly reproduced and easily manufactured emergency day ration, that can be made by a small humanitarian unit like a scout troop or church volunteer group or similar, and then be stored up to a year before given away by the hundreds to people in need. With the scaling up in mind, every cent and every manual operation per unit can quickly add up to the point where that little group of well meaning people say "Oh well, this kind of thing is probably going to be sorted out by the goverment or the national help organizations."

So spirit burners are a bit unlikely. As as the chemical heater bags mentioned initially. The two remaining low cost options I can think of for now are tablet burners - who now come in origami metal plates, very clever idea - or what we had in the military MREs back in my army days, which was a tiny can with gel fuel which burned very well for a few minutes. If anyone has other low cost suggestions I am all ears.

We do have instant mashed potatoes here in Norway too; I think a single bag starts around 70 cents. The price is good for an MRE, but every one I have seen so far requires some sort of fat. I am not sure how edible they are without, but I am going to give it a shot. Even very small boxes of butter are going to cost more than the IMP bag itself.

Yeah, the Bear Creek soup/sauce is not an option. The price per unit is one thing. Another is that by itself, it is not a full meal unless you want just soup. And it is full of salt, and a fair amount of liquid fat which is not ideal when the queue to the bathroom is a mile long - totally a likely disaster scenario. The big kicker is however that it requires ten minutes of cooking which is going to require a lot of fuel. Pity. It looks absolutely delicious.

Great link to the NCHF! I will be exploring that website further.

Offline Oniya

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #23 on: September 08, 2017, 06:41:59 PM »
There's 'edible' and there's 'tasty'.  There have been times when (as Vellys mentioned) I've done the 'only water' method.  You can get it down, but it's not very morale-lifting.  If you've got dry seasonings (bouillon and onion soup mix are lightweight and typically cheap), then you can make it more than just survival rations.

One thing you might look into is 'Depression era foods'.  (I'd stay away from the 'coffee soup'.)  While they'd probably serve you best at the point of having established a bunker/bolthole, they tended to use items that wouldn't be as heavily rationed.

Offline Vellys

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Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #24 on: September 08, 2017, 09:59:55 PM »
When I suggested the camp stoves I was thinking along the lines of a separate item to go with a bunch of packages. That way you could save a bit of weight per package. I did not consider the potential hazard of using certain fuel sources.

Is this what you mean when you say a tablet burner? If so, that could be an interesting way to cook food assuming it gets hot enough.

I started looking into hand warmers (also because you can get them relatively cheap here in the states. I am not sure that the civilian ones get hot enough to prepare food.

One of the previous sites I looked at about hand warmers led me here. I realize that the cost for one of those solar ovens is enormous. It got me wondering if you could make something yourself for cheap. Further research led me to a children's science project and this project. Since a solar oven needs the sun to work it may not be a good option. Assuming it would work, one of the solar ovens could go with many MRE's again saving on weight and fuel.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2017, 10:11:55 PM by Vellys »