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Creating Homemade Freeze Dried MRE

The Freeze dried MRE is a fantastic concept for home cooks and gardeners with a freeze dryer. If you have a freeze dryer, making your own freeze dried MREs allows you many interesting ways to make entire meal plans for long (or short) term storage. You can make cost effective nutritious meals you know your family will enjoy when you make it yourself.

Freeze Dried MRE’s are great take along food for day hikes, camping trips and of course they make great emergency food that will last up to 25 years. If you plan correctly you can use leftovers, or double your recipes when you want to add more MRE’s to your larder. My Harvest Right Freeze Dryer has opened a whole new world of food preservation in my home. This is a game changer for home cooks.

We are going boon docking through the country for a month and freeze dried MRE’s are coming along with us. Making our MRE meals saves us money since we eat at restaurants less often and we know we will enjoy the meals since I’m making them out of our favorite foods.

Freeze Dried Mre
Homemade Freeze Dried MRE. Just add hot water.

Having a stock of freeze dried Meals ready to eat offers you a supply of quick delicious meals that only need hydrating and warming up. Homemade Spaghetti, chicken Alfredo, soups and stews, your favorite casseroles and skillet dinners can all be made into either single or family sized MREs for fast week night dinners, yummy camping food or even emergency rations when you need them.

What is the Difference Between Freeze-Dried Food and MRE?

MRE is a purposefully designed pre-packaged, ready-to-eat meal designed to keep people alive in extreme circumstances. MREs are otherwise known as Meals Ready to Eat. This is a concept the military devised for the troops out in the field and freeze drying makes this a pretty easy thing to do.

Military MREs are designed to be consumed without any additional preparation. While some items might benefit from heating and the military MRE will provide a heater for this, the food can be eaten straight from the package.

Freeze dried MREs will need water to hydrate them. And often hot water will make the meal more palatable. Freeze-drying is a single, versatile, long-term food preservation method with a wide range of uses including making MRE’s. However, military MREs, used in both military and civilian versions, use various preservation techniques, including freeze drying to keep troops alive in field conditions with a complete daily ration of calories and nutrients.

The homemade or purchased Freeze dried MRE has some things in common with the military MREs but they are not the same thing. When you make your own MRE from freeze dried food you will need to develop MREs with your own priorities in mind. This may be different from ensuring a full days calories in one pouch.

Does the Military use Freeze-Dried Rations for MREs?

Military MREs use a variety of preservation methods, and freeze-drying is just one of them. MREs come in a complete, self-contained package that includes not only the main entrée but also a variety of side dishes, snacks, desserts, beverages, and accessories (like utensils, napkins, and heating elements right in the MRE package). The packaging is durable and designed to withstand harsh conditions like dropping out of an airplane at 1200 feet.

MRE’s are a slick idea and these daily ration food packs have kept troops and survivors of natural disasters alive through many conditions unimaginable to civilians. There may be some freeze dried snacks, fruits or other easy to eat freeze dried foods included, but the ones our family have purchased from sporting goods stores have only used a pouch of a fully hydrated meal. Just open, heat (if you can) and eat.

Are Freeze Dried Camping Meals Healthy?

Yes, Since freeze drying retains up to 97% of the foods nutrients, If you create your MRE out of nutritious foods, homemade freeze dried MREs are healthy. It’s all about what you freeze dry and put into the package.

Advantages of Making Your Own Freeze Dried MREs :

While Military MREs will keep you alive when you’re in a tough spot, homemade MRE making reflects your own priorities and preferences. You may want to make freeze dried complete meals ready to eat that are simply convenient for car trips, hiking or camping but don’t exclusively keep you alive. This gives you a much wider range of options about what goes in your mylar food pouch.

You can also choose to include the utensils, napkins and even salt and pepper in your homemade MRE but its not necessary in most cases, unless you are packing all your food in.

Use your favorite meals from the store or deli, even take out)...

  • Portions: When you make your own MRE you can choose what you put in the pouch. Want more than one food in the pouch? You can do that too. For example, freeze dried cooked meats with a sauce, vegetables and rice can all be freeze dried on separate trays. They can then be added to the same food pouch, rehydrated and eaten as one single meal. This way you can portion the food into a sustaining meal and use the leftover freeze dried items for long term storage.
  • Nutritious: Almost ALL the nutrients are retained in the freeze drying process, so nutritious foods stay nutritious until you eat them.
  • Convenience: Your homemade MREs are close at hand for impromptu car trips, planned camping or hiking events or even your long term emergency food supply. Freeze Dried MREs will last years and years in storage so you can easily make a large pantry of freeze dried MREs for quick grab meals at any time you want one.
  • Easy: It’s very simple to make enough of your favorite dinners to freeze dry the leftovers for MREs. You can freeze dry almost anything you enjoy. All you need is water, hot or cold, to rehydrate the meal and eat it, since it is already cooked.
  • Sustaining: Freeze dried food is very lightweight, so it makes a great choice for take along food on backpacking, camping or hiking trips, car trips and day long events of any kind. It’s also a perfect choice for emergency rations.
  • If you own a freeze dryer, making your own MREs is one way to make your freeze dryer a cost effective purchase. Freeze drying your own Homemade food is very inexpensive compared to the sky high prices asked for freeze dried, long term stored emergency foods. The cost of ingredients and packaging materials can make the MREs budget-friendly if you think it out and plan ahead. Freeze drying is very simple to do using food you make at home (I use up my leftovers by freeze drying them and adding them into my MRE plan). But you can purchase your favorite deli foods and take out and freeze dry them if you have the budget. It’s most likely still cheaper than buying emergency rations and much tastier.

Read All Our Posts On Freeze Drying: Start Here!

How To Make your Own Freeze Dried MRE:

Creating homemade freeze-dried MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) is a practical way to prepare for emergencies or outdoor adventures. When planning and assembling your homemade freeze-dried MREs take these things into consideration.

Best Foods For Freeze Dried MRE’s:

Meal Ideas: What to Put in the MRE: Choose a variety of nutritious meals your family enjoys and are easy to make and scale up. Some examples are spaghetti, casseroles, soups and stews and your favorite skillet dinners.

You can read our entire series on freeze drying to be fully informed on this method of food preservation. suffice it to say, you can freeze dry a LOT of different foods with great results.

  • Breakfast options for freeze-dried foods: fruits like banana, apples, pears and berries, proteins like eggs, cheese and meats. You can also add oatmeal or granola to your MRE, even though they are not freeze dried most often, they make great breakfast in a bag options.
  • Lunch and dinner options (freeze-dried soups, stews, pasta dishes).
  • You can also freeze dry ice cream sandwiches, cheesecake, candy and other desserts.
  • Snacks both freeze dried and not that can go in an MRE in an enclosed separate bag include nuts, trail mix, energy bars, fruits and even DIY freeze dried veggie straws.

How to Package MRE’s:

Use vacuum-sealed bags to preserve the freshness and extend shelf life. Choose a sturdy brand of bag. I’ve been most happy with either the 7 millimeter Harvest Right Bags or Wallaby Pouches. The Wallaby pouches are a great shape for loading and eating a. meal straight from the bag.

The best option for an emergency food supply serving package is Mylar bags. They are specifically designed for this purpose. Mylar keeps freeze dried MREs compact, lightweight and easy to carry and store long term.

Keep in mind, Mylar bags are expensive, however, they can be resealed and used more than once if you can keep them scrupulously clean. On the other hand, If all you’re doing is making MRE’s for a single season of outdoor activities and you don’t need to pack them far in rigorous conditions, you can pack them in any air tight jar or bag, with O2 absorbers that will keep the light out. Just make sure the packaging is durable, air tight, properly sealed and can withstand the conditions you will subject them too. They will not protect the food as well as Metal lined mylar bags, but sometimes you don’t need that long term protection.

Label packages with expiration dates and rotate your stock In a FIFO (first in first out) inventory system when long term storing your MRE’s and other food rations.

Nutritional Balance:

Aim for a balanced mix of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats) to sustain you properly for the activities you are planning. The overall nutritional value of your MRE is only as good as what you freeze dry and put in the pouch. Most recipes nowadays will include the complete nutritional label to help you calculate what you are actually feeding your body.

Calculate the caloric content and macros to be sure each MRE provides the energy you need. For example, driving to the camp ground and Sitting around a campfire is quite different from a weekend hiking trip over a mountain. These two activities are both great places for MREs but require significantly different caloric and food inputs to keep you going.

That said, including comfort foods or favorite snacks in your freeze dried MRE’s is a definite win for keeping spirits high and your palate satisfied. It’s all about balance and what you want to pack along.

Cooking and Rehydration Instructions:

Include clear instructions on the container of your MRE on how to prepare each meal, including required water amounts and rehydration wait times.

Rotation and Testing: Like all pantry foods, Date Your freeze dried rations and regularly rotate your homemade MREs to be sure they remain fresh and retain their prime quality.

As I noted above, mylar bags are the most sensible and effective option for storing freeze dried foods long term. But they do have a cost. I have also reused my empty mason jars with O2 packs and sealed with a jar sealer for freeze dried snacks, fruits and even vegetables. They won’t last as long (1 to 5 years) but make sense when you just making meals to last a season or so. They do need to be stored in a cool dry place.

Your homemade freeze-dried MREs should be made with nutritious food you know you will enjoy from your own personal recipes (feel free to search this blog for recipes). MRE’s made at home are perfect for storing (or taking meals ready to eat with you) that address specific dietary needs, and the different kinds of situations in which you plan to use them.

NOTE: The only down side to freeze dried MRE’s is they do need you to carry water to rehydrate them. Not a lot most often, but water is heavy. Eating dry rations of freeze dried sustenance is not a good idea. The food is extremely dry and will give you indigestion if you don’t at least drink water on the side. So keep this in mind when planning your hikes, climbs and walking trips.

Making Your Own Mres For Food Storage