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Author Topic: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)  (Read 1503 times)

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Online 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.

Online 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.

Online 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 »

Online 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.

Online 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 »

Online 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.

Online 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 »

Online 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.

Online 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. 

Online 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.

Online 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?

Online 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.

Online 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.

Online 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)

Online 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.

Online 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.

Online 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?

Online 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 »

Online 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. ^_^

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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.

Online 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.

Online 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.

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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 »

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Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #25 on: September 08, 2017, 10:09:50 PM »
Also this and this are interesting. Since all you need is enough fuel to bring water to a boil this kind of thing could expand your cooking options greatly. I know this is still off the scale of what your thinking is. This kind of option would be something likely to use for an entire community rather than small scale self-use.

Offline Shores

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #26 on: September 09, 2017, 01:34:28 AM »
The ones I eat only need water! And they're creamy and delicious! And have different flavours.



I went to check them out again and they're a local brand. I haven't tried the pepper crab one, going to look out for it in my grocery store.

Online Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #27 on: September 17, 2017, 10:15:38 AM »
The ones I eat only need water! And they're creamy and delicious! And have different flavours.



I went to check them out again and they're a local brand. I haven't tried the pepper crab one, going to look out for it in my grocery store.

Very interesting, although I have never seen these in Norway. I am particularly interested in the size of them. Could I talk into writing a review on one of those tiny bags, contents and nutrition and so on?

Online Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #28 on: September 17, 2017, 11:31:22 AM »
We still haven't gotten to lunch, but first: a possible solution to the biscuit/crackers issue. As mentioned earlier there is a need for something bread-like to eat; it's carbs and fiber and filling. The thin biscuits I have found until here have not been well suited for our purpose. Another option I have looked into is hardtack, which has a problem in that it is sold in fairly bulky packages. Nor am I entirely enthusiastic about their hardness.

Here is however one variation I found which may prove more useful. "Wasa Fiber Balance". Kindly let me know if you can find a similar product in your own stores.


This cost me about 1.5 USD. The package is about 2/3 the size of the usual Wasa crispbread packages which helps with the size issues. It's a whopping 29% fibre but although it looks about as edible as a welding mat I found it not only tasty but nowhere near as hard to bite as the usual types of crispbread or hardtack. If I was more than usually hungry I'd eat this even without any kind of spread. It seems to be flavored with sesamy seed and oat flakes. I think we have a winner here - right now I am sitting here eating this as snacks. Not because it is healthy, just because it is tasty.

Close up, per 100 grams
Wheat germ: 27 grams
Grain rye: 57 grams
Oat grains: 13 grams
Sesamy seeds: 8 grams
Salt: less than 1 gram
Total weight is 230 grams, equalling 780 calories!
This translates to about 7% fat, 42% non-sugar carbs, 29% fiber and 12% protein. Healthy as an early morning. Storage is set to about six months, which I think is a very conservative estimate. I still have a crate of crispbread left over from an event 7 years ago and when I open some of the packs the bread inside is still edible and tastes all right.
« Last Edit: September 17, 2017, 11:37:12 AM by Captain Maltese »

Offline Shores

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #29 on: September 17, 2017, 11:35:43 AM »
Very interesting, although I have never seen these in Norway. I am particularly interested in the size of them. Could I talk into writing a review on one of those tiny bags, contents and nutrition and so on?

Sure! I'll do one once I manage to buy one from the grocery store. I keep having to buy other things most of the time, so my hands are usually full. These aren't on any of the online delivery portals yet, unfortunately!

Online Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #30 on: September 17, 2017, 11:39:17 AM »
Sure! I'll do one once I manage to buy one from the grocery store. I keep having to buy other things most of the time, so my hands are usually full. These aren't on any of the online delivery portals yet, unfortunately!

I think the name in the US is simply "Wasa Fiber".
http://www.wasa-usa.com/products/crispbread/fiber/

Edit: whoops, I thought you referred to the crispbread haha!
« Last Edit: September 17, 2017, 11:40:32 AM by Captain Maltese »

Online Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #31 on: September 18, 2017, 07:11:02 AM »
Nations often have their own favorite spreads. England has various jams. USA have spreadable cheese and more importantly peanut butter. Here in Norway all of that is available, but one of our biggest spreads are liver pate.


Stabburet Liverpate is a classic food staple here, and is sold in cans of varying size and price. The one you see here is only 22 grams and is sold in packages of six for about 3 dollars, so 50 cents per box. The pate is actually just 31% pork liver; the rest is water, other pork meats and fats, rape seed oil, oeat meal and even anchovies, etc. 19% fat but a whopping 10% protein. Good stuff for a hungry belly and a weary body. Obviously one of these in your MRE isn't going to be a main ingredient but it tastes great on bread and on crispbread too. I am adding these to the morning meal at least.

The really important part however? Expiration date is December... 2022. Those little guys have five years of storage longevity, and that is just the official number.
« Last Edit: September 18, 2017, 07:12:29 AM by Captain Maltese »

Online Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #32 on: September 19, 2017, 11:02:25 AM »
Okay, better take an updated look at the breakfast meal since some new items were reviewed, before moving on to the lunch pack. I'm skirting the cost for the moment and focusing on the calories count. As mentioned earlier the ideal seem to be around 1200 calories. For this meal, having access to warm water or not decides if there are going to be any warm drinks. The rest of the meal does not require any.

Main accessories:
- 1 big zip lock bag to contain all of the food items and other items
- 1 small zip lock bag for the non-foods
- 1 plastic spoon
- 2 dry small napkin for all cleaning/bathroom purposes

Drinks:
- 1 tea bag (requires warm water): 0 calories
- 1 instant coffee/creamer/sugar bag, single cup (requires warm water): 90 calories
- 1 ice tea bag (makes a liter of juice): 300 calories

Solids:
- 1 package of crispbread: 780 calories
- 1 22-gram box of liverpate: 10 calories


Bah. Clearly this is not a satisfying meal even if the calories add up. There's more crispbread than needed, the ice tea portion is huge, and nowhere near enough spread. Suggestions anyone?

Online Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #33 on: September 19, 2017, 02:57:15 PM »
Okay, so I am not completely blank. Two options I have is a just-add-warm-water porridge thing, and your typical cereal/energy bar. But who wants porridge for breakfast?

Offline Shores

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #34 on: September 20, 2017, 07:55:31 AM »
Porridge is delicious! I eat a salty one though. I understand people eat sweet ones overseas.

We also have instant porridge here:



I've also eaten cup ones:

« Last Edit: September 20, 2017, 07:56:47 AM by Shores »

Online Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #35 on: September 22, 2017, 11:22:06 AM »
Let's take a look at energy bars. I happen to have a whole box of them here. The whole box cost about 3 dollar some time ago, and I doubt I can match that but it makes an example. What I cannot find is any pictures so the product may have been renamed or replaced. Let's just call it Exhibit 1?

This product is declared to be a banana/chocolate protein bar. There's picture of a banana on the outside. The Best Before date is 24th February 2016 and I have had several over the last few days; they do taste banana and while they don't exactly melt in my hand these bars go down easily enough. I honestly can't say I noticed any chocolate. One interesting claim on the packaging is that this bar works best AFTER working out. Which makes sense since a weary body craves protein. But it also means that such bars are best suited for lunch or dinner, rather than breakfast.

Data:
Weight: 60 grams
Protein: No less than 20 grams, which is very high for any given product.

Contents:
Soy protein: 50%
Glucose syrup
Glucose fruit syrup
Sugar
Dried banana: 5%
Dark chocolate (made up of lots of stuff): 5%
etc

Nutrition per 60 gram bar:
A whopping 225 calories
fat: 3.5 gram
carbs: 27 grams
protein: 20 grams
Fiber: 3.1 grams
Etc

All in all an excellent snack, energy wise. Even when these bars were brand new the taste was not exactly a feast, but I am fine with that because if I am not hungry I should not be stuffing down anything this rich.

Online Oniya

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #36 on: September 22, 2017, 12:35:18 PM »
Soy protein bars are available in a lot of places, from singles at quick-marts to larger multi-bar packs at groceries and specialty stores.  Frankly, the ones at the specialty stores (GNC or local equivalent) seem terribly over priced, and I suspect that the quick-marts also have a 'convenience markup'.  Luckily, the multi-bar packs are usually individually wrapped bars.

Online Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #37 on: September 22, 2017, 02:49:35 PM »
That's interesting; I didn't know soy was the typical ingredient in these protein bars. Are there other types in normal sale?

Edit: Ok, I did the obvious and checked with Wikipedia. Excerpts:

Protein bars are nutrition bars that contain a high proportion of protein to carbohydrates/fats.

Protein bars are targeted to people who primarily want a convenient source of protein that doesn't require preparation (unless homemade).[1] There are different kinds of food bars to fill different purposes. Energy bars provide the majority of their food energy (calories) in carbohydrate form. Meal replacement bars are intended to replace the variety of nutrients in a meal. Protein bars are usually lower in carbs than energy bars, lower in vitamins and dietary minerals than meal replacement bars, and significantly higher in protein than either.

Protein bars are mainly used by athletes or exercise enthusiasts for muscle building.

----

I know about a variety of bars but was unaware that they split into energy bars, meal replacement bars and protein bars. Now I need to get back to civilization, find me a food store and try to find at least one of each. I don't even think I have HEARD of 'meal replacement' bars before.
« Last Edit: September 22, 2017, 02:54:30 PM by Captain Maltese »

Online Oniya

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #38 on: September 22, 2017, 03:17:24 PM »
I think soy is a common 'protein' ingredient, simply because meat-based protein tends to have preservation issues.  Also, soy tends to work better if you're going for a 'sweet' as opposed to 'savory' product, just in flavor profile.  Whey (powdered) is another one that I see in the 'fitness oriented' protein supplements.  Not sure what the shelf-life is on that, but the fitness stores do sell the whey powder in pretty large containers for adding to smoothies and such.  Meal replacement bars (typical brand 'Carnation Breakfast Bars') and drinks tend to be marketed to the weight loss community, although sometimes they can be used to supplement normal food consumption.

Online Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #39 on: September 22, 2017, 03:55:56 PM »


For comparison's sake I am presenting Exhibit 2, a military energy bar known as Soldier Fuel and formerly as the Hooah Bar. If I understand correctly this is often present in American military rations. US military MREs are not supposed to be sold on the open market, a law which apparently is not that heavily enforced. But I find these bars on Amazon so I guess they are fully available. I have not had a chance to taste it. But the data are available.

Taste: Peanut butter
Weight: 65 grams
Protein: 10 grams
Packaging claims that the product is full of vitamins a electrolytes and is also gluten free. That is nice.

Quoting Wikipedia: In 2004, D'Andrea Brothers LLC licensed "HOOAH!" for commercial sales, and the company started marketing the bar to the public in 2004.[4] The energy bar is now named "Soldier Fuel" instead of HOOAH!, and provides 270 to 280 calories, 10 grams of protein, 8 or 9 grams of fat and 40 grams to 42 grams of carbohydrates.

Comparing this bar with the previous one, the Solder Fuel is even fuller of calories but leaner on the protein. It is twice as fat and 50% more carbs. I am frankly not sure how how to compare the actual products.

Calorie King offers this table: http://www.calorieking.com/foods/calories-in-sports-bars-peanut-butter-energy-bar_f-ZmlkPTEzNTk4MA.html

There is no argument against this being a very effective calorie source. I haven't found data yet on those vitamins it claims to have. But is it a decent breakfast? I am slightly in doubt because of the heavy carbs and fats. Then again, 65 grams is not a lot. I may be a little prejudiced though, because everyone who posts tests of US MREs report that it sits in their stomachs like a sack of wet concrete. Here it would be nice to have feedback from someone who is actually familiar with the product.

Online Oniya

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #40 on: September 22, 2017, 05:21:02 PM »
While I haven't tasted that particular bar, I would say that most of the protein bars I have tried (usually by accident) tend to be very - 'thick-tasting'.  It's not a casual snacking sort of mouth-feel, but something you have to consciously finish.  They definitely require something to wash them down, and you aren't going to mistake it for a granola bar after that first bite.

Offline Vellys

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Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #41 on: September 23, 2017, 10:26:07 AM »
I don't know if you've seen this or this, they may give you ideas for a jumping off point.

Online Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #42 on: September 23, 2017, 12:50:41 PM »
I don't know if you've seen this or this, they may give you ideas for a jumping off point.

Interesting links. MRE Depot seems to favor stuff in metal cans. Big cans. Those seemed best suited for running an entire kitchen unit, and frankly seemed a bit pricy - but an American can judge that better than me. There certainly was nothing wrong with the life expectancy of the food. What I did find to my liking was the 1st generation heating units which broke down to a low per-unit cost. Same with the beverage drink mix straws which look a lot more practical than the big bags I have located so far. The various first aid pouches they offer are technically outside the MRE issue but they are nice - pity the cheapest ones are empty, while the filled ones are expensive enough that you could buy one for the same price in a store. All in all, you can shop there and probably not get screwed but it's not a moneysaver. If I lived in the US where shipping is low I might have bought a couple of items. Worse, none of the goods they offer give you any nutritional data whatsoever.

Wisefood sells large boxes with many portions but in many cases no individual wrapping. Worse - they have more popup ads than a porn site and they are even offensive. Avoid!

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Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #43 on: September 25, 2017, 08:47:02 AM »
Wisefood sells large boxes with many portions but in many cases no individual wrapping. Worse - they have more popup ads than a porn site and they are even offensive. Avoid!

 :-[ I did not notice that when I went but I did more of a quick in and out like a thief in the night.

Online Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #44 on: September 26, 2017, 09:41:15 AM »
I finally made it to my primary grocery store again yesterday. I returned home with six different bars and five different instant porridge packs. Combined that's enough calories to drive an 18 wheeler truck several miles, so I am not going to test it all at once - but at least I can read the wrappers. My respect to SteveMRE1989 for having the iron constitution it takes to eat this kind of stuff on a regular basis.

For now I am focusing on the bars. As posted earlier, bars are divided into a) energy bars, b) meal replacement bars and c) protein bars. However the stores seem to have no need to tag their products in the same way and not many of the manufacturers either. Of the six products I found today, three were in the cereal section, two in the crispbread section and one in the candy section.

Here's one I did in some detail:
Semper Soft Oat Bar; Cocoa
Price: 1.7 USD
Just 30 grams, but 117 calories
Gluten free, lactose free, and vegan.
Contents: Mostly oats and raisins, plus oil and fruit juices. Only 2% cocoa.
Best before date: 17th July 2017?! Ten weeks before I BUY it?!
Taste: It doesn't taste half bad really. What it mostly taste of is raisins though; my tongue detected no trace of the cocoa it brags of in its name.
All in all: an impressive amount of calories for such a small package. But it doesn't fill the tummy any more than a couple of of grapes. And with a high price and a storage time comparable to fresh fruit this is no likely winner. I could get a big box of raisins for the same price.


Recap:
Exhibit 1: "Elite Nutrition". Protein bar. Price 0.30 USD per unit (sold in packages of 10). Taste: Banana. 225 calories. Weight 60 grams, of which 20 are proteins. Appears to be a cereal bar. Actual storage time seems good. Brand may no longer be available on the market.
Exhibit 2: "Soldier Fuel". Energy bar. Price 2 USD per unit (sold in packages of 10). Taste: Peanut butter. 280 calories. Weight 65 grams, of which 10 are proteins. Storage potential unknown.
Exhibit 3: "Semper Soft Oat Bar Cocoa". Energy bar. Price 1.7 USD per unit (sold singly). Actual taste: raisins. 117 calories. Weight 30 grams, of which 16 are carbs. Storage potential: none?

And now:
Exhibit 4: "Wasa Sandwich Whey Cheese". Meal replacement bar - I think. Price 1.30 USD per unit (sold singly). Taste: brown cheese. 165 calories. Weight 36 grams, of which 15 grams are carbs and 8 grams are fat. are proteins. This product is simply two pieces of crispbread with brown cheese between. Scandinavian cuisine, but also extremely common. Stated storage time is six months. Since it is crispbread it does fill the tummy.
Exhibit 5: "Wasa Chocolate & Hazelnut". Meal replacement bar, type cereal. Price 1.30 USD per unit (sold singly). Taste: Nutty, really. 135 calories. Weight 35 grams, of which 20 are carbs. Storage stated to be 3 months. What primarily bugs me is that the tiny 'nuts' are hard to chew. If I am not sure if I have a nut or a small rock between my teeth I spit it out before it is too late.
Exhibit 6: "Wasa Almond & Cranberry". Meal replacement bar, type cereal. Price 1.30 USD per unit (sold singly). Taste: unknown as yet. 135 calories. Weight 35 grams, of which 20 are carbs. Storage stated to be 3 months. Same consistency as the previous.
Exhibit 7: "Go'Morgen Cranberry & Yoghurt". Meal replacement bar. Price 2 USD per unit (sold singly). Taste: unknown as yet. 190 calories. Weight 45 grams, of which 20 are carbs. Storage stated to be about 9 months.
Exhibit 8: " New Energy". Energy bar. But then why is it in the candy section? Price 2.15 USD per unit (sold singly). Taste: cocoa. Actually this one is very tasty. 190 calories. Weight 45 grams, of which 28 are carbs. Stated storage: 6 months. The brand has been on the market for decades.
Exhibit 9: "Karen Volf Musli Bar". Meal replacement bar, type cereal.. Price 1 USD per unit (sold in packages of 4). Taste: It lreally do taste cocoa. 92 calories. Weight 25 grams, of which 15 are carbs. Storage: one lousy month? I do have to add that this product is the best looking of all the bars I have seen so far. Was the product three times bigger this might be a contender,r

I could go on looking for bars in the shops in the area but I think we have enough data to make some conclusions.
- all of the bars above are too small to constitute a meal alone. At least for an adult in an emergency situation, which is the stated scenario.
- prices are mostly between 1 and 2 dollars. But weights are between 25 and 65 grams, although the volume varies more because of the contents than because of size.
- the cereal alternatives are fairly heavy on carbs from grain and fruit, making them healthy alternatives. What puzzles me is the low storage capabilities. Are they erring on the very safe side, or does the fruit elements make them short lived?
- The "Soldier Fuel" is the clear winner in the calories list. It is also one of the two heaviest bars and judging by the picture, also one of the bulkiest. And the fattest. It is the closest to constituting a full meal by itself. Does any of you guys know if it can be bought in stores in 15-packs, or is that an online-only option?

Based on all of the above, I think I would be happy to find a meal replacement or energy bar in both my breakfast and lunch MRE. They are not going to be enough energy alone for the next four hours, but are easy to pocket for later if the main part of the meal is sufficient, and if you cannot find the warm water needed for the main part then the bar means you will not be empty bellied until the next meal. Best of all is that weight and size is fairly small.
« Last Edit: September 26, 2017, 06:14:48 PM by Captain Maltese »

Offline NiceTexasGuy

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #45 on: September 26, 2017, 02:07:49 PM »
Wow, thank you Cap'n M for making this thread.  I confess I haven't read everything yet - sometimes it's difficult for me to stay focused, and if you'll pardon the (almost) pun, that's a lot to digest.

Basically, I wanted to make a post to thank you, and to make this easier to find and follow.  Meanwhile, I'll try to make a little contribution - though it may not be much of a contribution, more like a trip down memory lane.

It's been a while since I was in the Service - like Gilbert and Sullivan's modern major general, my military knowledge was only brought up to around the beginning of the century.  I remember there was always one guy in every group who would have a bottle of hot sauce - usually Tobasco.  Before the US went with the kevlar ballistic helmet "system" we had the old steel pots which were suitable for cooking.  Sometimes the guy with the tobasco sauce would collect contributions from everyone, mix it all together in his steel pot to cook, and dish out his masterpiece to all who contributed.  That certainly alleviated the boredom.  I think the hot sauce is included in the package now, and I think I just revealed my age to everyone.  (Hope the youngsters will still want to play with me.)

I also remember how nice it was when MRE's replaced the C-rations.  The new MRE's were great, really, up until the point where you realized you were tired of them, then they were horrible.  Good to keep developing new meals.

Keep in mind that everything in the meal didn't require heating or even reconstitution with water if you were hungry enough, but with that comes the risk of dehydration (and constipation) if you're not drinking enough water.  And the rule of thumb is a person can survive 30 days without food, but only 3 days without water.  That varies greatly with climate and activity level.  Eventually the hunger subsides, but it does bad things to your body.

And oh yes, MRE's are packed with calories, because of the likelihood they'll be consumed in the field where physical activity is going on.  At the same time, one might only get two a day instead of three, which is fine because most people won't eat an entire meal in one sitting anyway, and there's always left-overs.

A tactical consideration to remember, metal cans you discard might be used to make weapons... especially by an enemy without a lot of technical assets.. anything from packing a can with explosives to using the metal for arrow head, spear tips, etc.  But then again, you can do the same thing.

Again, thanks for the thread and I look forward to studying it whenever I get the chance.
« Last Edit: September 26, 2017, 02:15:43 PM by NiceTexasGuy »

Online Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #46 on: September 26, 2017, 02:46:06 PM »

Woah, nice to see you around Tex! You are probably not the only one on E who has first hand experience with the C rations but you are the first one I have met. Your input will be highly appreciated. This thread aims to design a home made MRE for emergency purposes, modeled on the military and aid organizations MREs, that can be created entirely from grocery store items with a minimum of work and money per unit. The end product model would then be able to be quickly and cheaply mass produced by the hundreds, maybe thousands, by a small crew for giving away to those in need, preferably needing nothing more advanced than warm water added. 

Online Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #47 on: September 27, 2017, 07:09:25 AM »
Well. Breakfast seemed the right time to get started on the selection of instant porridge. I will cover at least the first one in detail.

Exhibit 1: "Axa Oats Porridge With Blueberries". Price: 1.42 USD which is the highest price of the instant porridge samples I have bought so far.
This particular product comes with a cup and a little folding spoon. Just pour in hot water to the mark and wait a minute. So far, so good: it means that you need no extra utensils. The product can also be eaten with cold milk.

Contents: They call it instant porridge. What this product really is, is a few spoonfuls of extremely cheap cereal. The blueberries on the picture looks big and delicious and many. In reality, there is about five pinhead-sized blueberries in the entire package and they are hard, dry and tasteless.

Data, per box:
Weight: 50 gram, of which 30 are carbs. There are also about 9% fiber, 6% fat and 6% protein
Calories: 180 - not bad
Storage: Stated to be 8 months, but frankly this completely dry and very well sealed box is probably going to keep the contents good for several years.

Taste: slightly inferior to warm glue. I got two spoons in and had to add sugar or find something else to eat. Jam, honey or even just more salt would have made this more edible.

Overall: The best parts of this product are that it fills your tummy, and comes in a very handy cup. The contents are very healthy, nutritionally good, and will not clog up your digestive system. The other side of the coin is that the box is very voluminous for an emergency ration, and the meal itself is very uninspiring. All of that could have been rectified with a bag rather than a box and the taste could so easily have been made more interesting, and such products are out there. This test will be the benchmark but I will be looking for better solutions.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2017, 07:20:50 AM by Captain Maltese »

Online Oniya

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #48 on: September 27, 2017, 11:27:17 AM »
Instant hot cereals with fruit do tend to have that problem.  A better solution would be to have a packet of dried fruit (even just raisins, which you mentioned earlier) on the side that could be consumed separately or with the cereal.  Most dried fruits work fairly well with oatmeal, and the ones that are intended for 'out of hand' trail snacks plump up nicely - with the notable exception of dried bananas, which taste like lightly sweetened poker chips.  If you thought the nuts in the Wasa bar were bad...

Online Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #49 on: September 28, 2017, 03:49:22 PM »
Here we go with another instant porridge test. I need fewer hobbies. This time the big difference is the package. The "God start" (literally Good Start in Norwegian) is one of the house brands of Rema, one of the three big grocery store chains.


Exhibit 2: "God Start Oats Porridge With Oat Brans". Price is just 0.82 USD, making it the cheapest of all alternatives I am aware of. But you need to bring your own spoon and cup - but the same can be said about coffee. Like the previous sample, you can eat this with warm water or cold milk.

Contents: Oats. Literally the cheapest cereal next to sand. But it doesn't pretend to be anything else either. With just a little salt or sugar it does improve in taste. A little.

Data, per bag:
Energy: 243 calories! That is very good.
Weight: 65 grams. That's a third more than in the first sample and somehow, the small portion increase makes a more filling meal. After eating this one I felt full. That didn't happen with the 50 grams one. Of the 65 grams, 38 are carbs. The rest is mainly protein and fiber. Healthy as a free rabbit.
Storage: States 7 months or so, but I would eat this after a decade if it is stored dry and dark. That bag is sealed plastic and can probably withstand some wetness.

Overall:
It is almost half the price of the cup type yet contains a third more food, and takes rather less volume and is less awkwardly shaped. I would take this on a hiking trip without blinking. Adding a spoon of jam or honey or butter or some sugar would be enough to upgrade this from edible to decent tasting. But most of the competing porridge products come in the same type of bag, some have the same amount of food, and some of them are supposed to taste something. I will sample at least one more brand before doing a lineup.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2017, 08:35:12 AM by Captain Maltese »

Online 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.

Online 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.

Online 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.

Online 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?

Online 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.


Online 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.

Online 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'.)

Online 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.

Online 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.

Online 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.

Online 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.

Online 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.

Online 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.)

Online 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.



Online 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'.)

Online 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.

Online 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.

Online 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.

Online 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

Offline Vellys

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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.

Online 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.

Online 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.

Online Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #74 on: November 04, 2017, 02:54:37 PM »
Hah, finally got the pics taken of the Breakfast portion. Which has been adjusted a few times by now, but this is starting to look like an actual meal. I am still overshooting the revised goal of 700 but at least it gives leeway for the manufacturer to use similar items of different brands and sizes according to what is available. And in the worst case that you can't acquire warm water or a cup, you'll still have a reasonably sized meal.



I should do the tray thing too, but not tonight.

Revised breakfast as shown:
Tea bags, 2  pcs: 0 calories
Coffee mix (coffee, sugar, creamer) : 90 calories
Raisins, 42 grams; 130 calories
Instant oatmeal porridge (65 grams package): 250 calories
Meal replacement bar (which is really a chocolate bar in this case): 420 calories

Also included:
Spoon (supposed to be plastic)
Paper towels, multipurpose, 2pcs
Ziplock plastic bag, multipurpose

Total calorie count: 890!

I loosely estimate the whole meal to clock in at about 3 dollars, of which the bar constitutes half the cost, with everything bought singly and off the shelf in a high cost country.

I am still short of a meaningful sweetener portion for the tea, as well as a cold drink alternative in reasonable size. An individual portion of salt would be nice too. The 'Sport' chocolate is a wafer bar, and so full of sugar and fat that you can run a truck engine with it. But it is good for a year of storage, it certainly gives you a calorie rush and on a bad day, which all emergencies consist of, it is appetizing when you might be too worried to be hungry as well. I'd rather go with a Soldier Fuel bar but for now, it has to do. The raisins worried me earlier on since these little boxes does not have a sealed bag inside, but then I realized that they will be stored in a closed zip lock bag. They'll hold for a year, no problem. Also they go perfectly with the instant porridge if you want a heartier portion.

Online Oniya

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #75 on: November 04, 2017, 03:01:41 PM »
That's the sort of thing that could go over well on college campuses for exam week.

Online Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #76 on: November 05, 2017, 03:12:49 PM »
With breakfast sorted out for the time being, let's look at lunch.

And we can start out by checking out one of the big standbys of budget DIY MRE's, the meal that have kept millions of students fed - instant ramen noodles. Depending on what kind of store you go to, you might have up to several dozen brands and variations to choose from. Price varies, according to my samplings, from 1.5 USD for a five-pack to 3 dollars for a single one. Since ramen is primarily just wheat flour and salt, any fat or protein will be in the seasoning/sauce package that always is included. Anyone eating ramen fairly often should be more worried about the salt than the fat though. On the plus side a portion of ramen will fill your tummy at a low price, and it only requires adding warm water. But you can't eat it with a spoon, it's mostly carbs, oil is not ideal for emergency food, and there are zero vitamins. While stocking ramen noodles for an emergency is a cheap way to fill the cellar, I don't want to hand it out to people who may not have had any other food that day and I think we can do better.

None the less I will sample a couple, after my next shopping round. At the very least it must be instant, meaning no cooking must be required after pouring in the water. This is not a small thing to ask, apparently: I found three different variants of 'instant' noodles on my shelves tonight and all three turned out to have instructions which require that the noodles should not just be added to boiling water, but actually be kept boiling for a full 3 minutes. I am pretty sure I have sampled several of these where I just added boiling water to the ramen and let it wait in the bowl for a while. Am I just nitpicking this part?

Online Oniya

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #77 on: November 05, 2017, 03:57:08 PM »
Again, from prior experience, the 'boil for three minutes' is not really necessary.  Most ramen will become soft enough after half that time on a full boil and even after steeping for a bit in hot water.  (Length of time will vary on personal preference.  I know some people who will forgo the hot water all-together and eat the dry noodles like potato chips.)  I've done mine in two minutes using the microwave, which doesn't even bring it to a full boil at all.  Adding dry soup mix, and even a strip of jerky while cooking instead of the included sauce packet (Knorr and Lipton both put out single-serve varieties of this) will also increase your calories and nutrition while keeping the 'prepackaged' condition.

Online Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #78 on: November 05, 2017, 05:53:19 PM »
Oniya, you have a couple of good points there. Maybe we can ignore the need for 3 minutes of actual cooking. And there might be some external flavoring that will be beneficial; I'll look, and I will listen to suggestions that can be researched. The total price will probably more than double. Fun fact though: jerky isn't commonly available in stores here. We absolutely love meat products but that one hasn't shown up yet - and when it do, it is pricey. We can substitute the plastic spoon for a plastic fork though since each meal package gets an individual cutlery item.

Online Oniya

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #79 on: November 05, 2017, 06:05:00 PM »
If you break the noodles up more before adding the hot water, it can be eaten with a spoon.  I've never actually tried the jerky thing myself, but when I hit up Knorr's homepage, someone had left a review suggesting it for camping.  The more important thing is that if you can throw it in soup, it's reasonable to add it to ramen - if you're including any kind of pre-cooked meat product (even the infamous Spam), it can bulk out an otherwise bland meal.

We get bulk packs of ramen often, since it's something quick and warm, but I'm always re-seasoning and otherwise messing with the 'recipe'.

Online Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #80 on: November 06, 2017, 03:02:51 PM »
I went looking for noodle ideas today while shopping. Didn't buy anything yet because the concept needs some more thinking through. First off, price: a package of instant noodles can be shaved down to 30 cents, but a small instant soup package starts off at a dollar - and then you have to consider what other food you can get for 1.30. Secondary, what soup does noodles taste good with in the first place? The number one instant soup option around here is tomato soup but frankly, who eats that? I also thought of a simple broth cube, but I can't find broth cubes of any kind with individual packaging. I am hoping to find some sort of meat soup product in instant packaging though, preferably with some dried vegs included. As yet I still like the idea of having a noodle package and an instant soup one, allowing the eater to either combine them into a nourishing meal or at least have one of them. So I am not giving up on the concept yet.

As for the basic lunch meal, it should contain the same drinks and accessories as the breakfast one, perhaps with a fork instead of a spoon. I am hoping to find something bread- or biscuitlike for this one since the breakfast did not have any.

Online Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #81 on: November 14, 2017, 05:14:04 PM »
I would like to have some opinion on crackers. How do rye crackers rank compared to wheat crackers? What would you rather have for lunch; either of them or some other type? That there will be spreads is a given.

Online Oniya

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #82 on: November 14, 2017, 05:53:59 PM »
I think I've encountered more wheat crackers than rye.  Wheat tends to be fairly easy to pair with a variety of spreads/toppings, which is a big selling point for Wheat Thins and Triscuits in the US (Triscuits are kind of like shredded wheat in cracker form.)  Rye has a very distinct flavor, which might not go with everything, but if you have something compatible, like a corned-beef hash type of spread, it would work nicely.  Multi-grain crackers could hold a bit more 'interest' if one is without spreads, and are probably just as common as wheat crackers around here.

Online Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #83 on: November 26, 2017, 01:49:17 PM »
I think I've encountered more wheat crackers than rye.  Wheat tends to be fairly easy to pair with a variety of spreads/toppings, which is a big selling point for Wheat Thins and Triscuits in the US (Triscuits are kind of like shredded wheat in cracker form.)  Rye has a very distinct flavor, which might not go with everything, but if you have something compatible, like a corned-beef hash type of spread, it would work nicely.  Multi-grain crackers could hold a bit more 'interest' if one is without spreads, and are probably just as common as wheat crackers around here.

Can you name a relevant, common cracker - in the US - which comes in a suitable packaging and preferably is in the 1-2 dollar range or so? Is Wheat Thin one of them? Google is unfortunately only helpful to a point.
I found this picture:

I Norway a small box of salt crackers of any grain - that isn't those tiny round things - clocks in at about 3 dollar, which is a bit stiff for our purpose, but if they are half that in the US then they could still be relevant.

Online Captain MalteseTopic starter

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #84 on: November 26, 2017, 02:39:47 PM »

Bleh. This is a test I have not looked forward to. The continued search for a relevant noodle product combination eventually brought me to this one. It is an instant noodle soup, which claims to have chicken, curry and lime - just add water. It clocks in at 2 USD. I am not a big fan of noodles, but I intend to test this thing twice. First, as it is. Then, combining it with a 30 cent bog standard instant chicken noodles package. That second test will have to wait until the next time I can work up an appetite for this.

Brand: Toro
Type: instant noodle soup
Flavor: chicken, curry, lime
Size: 2.3 dl, or about a cup
Energy: 129 calories
Nutrients: 21% carbs, 3.7% protein, 3.1% fat, 1.7% salt
Ingredients: about 50% pasta, starch, and dozens of other things in very small amounts. There's barely enough actual chicken here to hide under a pin's head.
Brewing: add 2dl warm water, then wait 3 minutes.

Test: Hmmmm. Interesting. The contents are so small in their dried state, it's more like powder. But after adding the water, the most interesting first impression is the scent. And it is good! I am thinking Indian food, chicken tikka maybe. The taste, which I am rather more looking forward to explore at this points, matches the scent. So far, so good. But one thing is certain - this is not noodles. It's a cup of noodle soup, in which there is enough noodle and other substantials to fill about two spoons total. Frankly the most need you have for a spoon for this meal, is as a stirring device.

Conclusion: One of the tastiest instant soups I have had, and one of the tastiest pasta meals. As hot drinks go, this is warming and nourishing. It just isn't very filling, and the price is off putting for this purpose. All in all this still looks promising; next time I will try this with the noodle pack added.

Online Oniya

Re: Homemade civilian MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)
« Reply #85 on: November 26, 2017, 04:27:10 PM »
Found a site that specializes in 'travel pack' items, and they do include a 1.75 oz pack of Wheat Thins for under 1 USD.  Also seems to have a wholesale section, but I didn't peruse too deeply.  I linked to the 'crackers' section in case there's something more appealing in there.

 https://www.minimus.biz/Snacks-Crackers.aspx