Making a Homemade MRE (Meal Ready to Eat)

February 19, 2013

Food Storage, Survival Kits

A breakfast homemade MRE

You’ve probably heard the term Meal, Ready-to-Eat, or MRE for short. It’s a term coined by the U.S. Military in the 1970’s when the armed services recognized the need to provide troops in the field with a variety of nutritionally balanced meals that were relatively easy to carry, had a long shelf-life, and could be eaten in remote areas where no additional cooking supplies were available.

MREs have evolved over the years, getting better with each iteration. New entrees and side dishes have been developed that are actually relatively tasty.  However, MREs are designed for very active soldiers to eat on a short-term basis, typically 3 weeks or less. Each MRE contains an average of 1,200 calories and 52 grams of fat. Certainly not a diet you’d want to sustain you for the long run.

In recent years, MREs have been marketed to civilians. Campers and backpackers have bought the civilian MREs for their excursions into the woods. Preppers have also bought a lot of the meals to prepare for times of scarcity. This can be pretty expensive though.

Making Your Homemade MRE

A few years ago, I began making my own homemade MREs. I use the when I go backpacking or spend the weekend in the woods. I also keep several of them with me in my Get-Home-Bag that travels with me everywhere. Here’s an example of a breakfast homemade MRE that carry.

  • 2 packages of instant oatmeal
  • 1 granola bar
  • 2 paper towels
  • a plastic spoon
  • a tea bag

To make the MRE, I place the contents of the meal in a food saver bag and use the food saver to vacuum seal the bag. This process removes the air from the bag which helps to preserve the contents.

food saver in action

Here’s how the finished product looks.You can improve upon this design by adding other items.

homemade MRE

Although I haven’t tried it, I suspect that, if I’m careful, I can boil water over an open flame in the plastic food saver bag. You can also mix the oatmeal in the little packets eliminating the need for a bowl or plate. Take care since the water will be very hot.

Technically, this is not a Meal, Ready-to-Eat since it requires some external components, namely a source of heat to cook the oatmeal. For me, that’s not a problem since I always carry several ways to make a fire with me and at this point I’m not trying to evade someone or escape detection. If you prefer, you can make the completely self-sufficient by adding a flameless heater and some water pouches. For me, those enhancements are not worth the added expense and effort.

I’ve also made other meals using cracker packs, bouillon, and Ramen noodles. I’m not sure exactly how long these meals will last. I suspect quite a while. Like a good prepper, I rotate through my stock on a regular basis, eating the older meals while making new ones. Since I spend the weekend in the woods regularly, eating what I store is not a problem.

Having a few of these tucked away in my bag provides a sense of comfort that should I need to spend an unplanned night away from home, I won’t go hungry.

Have you made MREs? Got one that you’d like to share? Let’s hear it. 

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17 Comments on “Making a Homemade MRE (Meal Ready to Eat)”

  1. JAS Says:

    Sort of like way back when I was in the Boy Scouts. When we were going on a long camp out, we would prplan our meals and prepouch all of the contents for each. All we had to do, was pull out that pouch and prepare the meal. It was so much simpler to do it at home and make sure you had everything you needed to make the meal ahead of time.


  2. Rhonda Morin Says:

    I love the idea of putting a heater and a water pouch in the Food Saver bag. It’s all in one and no fuss. I would add an oxygen absorber just as a precaution but what a brilliant idea.

    I have been wanting to put together Dinner’s in the Jar meals in mylar bags with the oxygen absorber’s, haven’t gotten around to it, but I like the idea of making a bigger set to grab and go with water and heater packs. I read about a kitchen on the go bag so that if you had to leave in a hurry it would be one of the bags you would grab to go with you. You could put enough of your small homemade MRE’s in that bag as well.

    Flameless heating is brilliant if you are trying to be under the radar too, no smoke, no one knows you are there. 🙂 I need a pack mule to carry everything now, thanks. 🙂

    Thanks for the great website.


  3. Jack Says:

    This is something I have started multiple times and never finished. I am big on calorie count, as I am pretty sure I am going to find myself on foot with a backpack on my back walking a long distance under some type of duress if I “need” an MRE of any sort. With that said, I will probably require an ample amount of calories. So I always find myself looking at multiple packets of tuna, etc. or canned tuna, canned ham, or canned chicken along with several other items to be sure I have the calorie count I might need for my trek or situation…

    This is something I want to do, however, because it is a convenient way to have a portion controlled meal when you need it…


    • T Says:

      I think your on the right track , what people sometimes forget is the fact that a pack can only hold so much ……with that said , space is limited and carrying your food loose gives you more options on where you put it ( all empty or unused space is fair game , like stuffing your mess kit areas , etc . )


  4. hue Says:

    Hey, I just came across your website whilst looking up stuff on Disaster Cooking, good stuff, we need more info like this out there I think!

    I just started a Kickstarter campaign for a survival cookbook. “Cooking with Fire: The Disaster Cookbook. How to cook when the lights go out.” If you are a fan of cooking or disasters, 😉 check it out, we need the support and we have some really swell pledge rewards!

    Thanks and keep up the helpful work!


  5. T Says:

    Well , no offense but that wouldn’t feed your cat .Matter of fact , a can of cat food would probably feed you better . If your going to make home made ” MRE”s , use real food …..seriously . Yes it will weigh more but well worth the extra bulk . The military rations are bulky for a reason ………..they need to feed an adult , under stress , exerting themselves . Pretty much the same situation you may find yourself in ( minus the shooting ) if you have to use them , so pack serious food . One example of one of mine is : 1 – 75% cocoa dark chocolate bar ( 600 calories ) 1 – 240g can of Sprats in oil ( 855 calories , 36g protein) 1- package ( 10 ) whole grain long rye crackers ( for sprats ) 20 pieces dried fruit ( apricots ) 1 pack nuts ( peanuts or cashews personal preference ) 2 sticks chewing gum , 1 tea or coffee ( instant ) 1 packet baby wipe towelet ,1 multivitamin . Thats just for one meal . A typical breakfast type might include bulgur wheat , buckwheat , or oatmeal ……..but would also have a protein like nuts and a bread unit of some kind . I try to stay away from separating out meal types and carry dry foods like the wheat , and other things in addition to any pre made meals …………most of my food is carried loose , so is a “as needed ” arrangement . Dont get me wrong , that wasn’t a slam , but I see a lot of people packing things that way and it wont feed a bird . That may sound like a lot to put in one ” mre ” but 2 things about that , 1. nobody says you have to eat it all in one sitting , 2. your stamina , moral , and health under stress depends on good food intake ……why starve yourself ? just sayin .


  6. Lynne Says:

    Speaking from experience, Ramen noodles will go bad in about a year. Just nasty. I really like the breakfast MRE. I’m going to make some up and add instant coffee, package of Sweet N Low and creamer. Plus a bit of dried fruit, probably raisins, for the oatmeal.


  7. emily Says:

    What if you added a pop top can of fruit, It wouldnt be flat, but you could then boil the water in the empty can after eating the fruit and add your oatmeal in there!


  8. emily Says:

    OR! Better yet, a small aluminium disposable bread pan folded flat!! Un fold day of and your set! And still get some what flat storage


  9. WesMidwest Says:

    Great concept, but certainly a bit spartan. I would want to get a bit more creative and generous with my portion size. Did you end up trying to boil the water in the plastic bag…I’m curious about that.

    I agree that MREs are too pricey as a mainstay for your emergency food supply, BUT I would consider them excellent for variety. And the preparation for some of them could double as entertainment.

    Wes T.


  10. Kimberly Hartfield Says:

    Reblogged this on Go Fish Ministries, Inc.



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