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    • #99982

        I’ve put together my own MREs for the upcoming CLC. I thought I could share my approach, in case someone was interested in doing the same. My intention is to provide myself two of these for midday and evening meals with something lighter for breakfast. Also I expect to have a few snacks between meals if time permits.

        It was all a balancing act between a number of goals. As a brief historical point, the field of operations research (which is my specialty) was started in WWII to minimize costs while satisfying the nutritional requirements of GIs. If I had significantly more time, I could have set up an optimization problem for this.

        My goals were:
        1. Have them 1000cal with solid nutrients (minimum daily cals totaling 2500-3000 for pretty active days at 5’11” 170lbs 29yrs old male)
        2. No cooking required (hard routine capable)
        3. Relatively pleasant
        4. Lightweight

        I think I was mostly successful with meeting my goals, but there are some drawbacks:
        1. Sodium is high. I just haven’t found a way around this without relying on either fresh food or food that requires cooking
        2. A little more sugar than is optimal (pleasant factor)
        3. Slightly higher costs (for nutrition value)
        4. Slightly less protein than is ideal

        A run down of some key components:

        1. Ready Rice: this goes by different names and there are many brands available but this is (mostly) cooked rice in a plastic pouch meant for microwaving. I’ve used these extensively backpacking. They can be eaten as-is with the rice just a little dry and “al dente”. They can be placed near fires or on a not-too-hot rock. You can add a few tbsp of hot water and seal it up for a few minutes. The best preparation method, if circumstances allow, is to heat it up in a pot. These provide in the range of 500-600 cal.

        2. Pace Ready Meals: these are true ready to eat meals that come in similar plastic pouches. The consistency is kind of mushy, but is the same whether heated or cold. Heating it definitely makes it more pleasant, overall they taste pretty good. The two with the highest amount of protein are Cheesy Chicken Quesadilla and Chili Mac. They are 290/300 cal and provide about 14g of protein. I would suggest using 2 packets together for one MRE. I’m going pair the cheesy chicken quesadilla with either mini pita bread or naan bread, both of which should hold up pretty well in a daypack.

        3. Boneless Salmon in Foil Packet/ Mexican Taco Tuna in Foil Packet: I personally don’t like canned tuna but I can tolerate canned salmon. These are pretty good sources of protein (some fat) but not as much calories as you might expect at 150cal.

        4. Drink mix: Hot chocolate or gatorade mix (100/45 cal respectively)

        5. Peanut Butter/ Cheese Crackers (190 cal, delicious)

        6. Dessert: Fiber One Brownie (90 cal, 7g of fiber), Atkins Pecan Cluster (120cal)

        7. Jimmy’s Protein Bars: now I haven’t tried these, and don’t expect them to taste great (seem very hard) but they are made with better Whey protein instead of cheap soy protein. They provide 230cal and 21g of protein. The MREs with these in it are back ups, just because I had extra rice to pair with them.

        8. Qia and Ideal Seed/Nut Bar: the Ideal bars are pretty natural and 170cal. The Qia are pretty natural too but higher in sugar

        9. Hot Sauce!!!! Yet to be acquired, but I put hot sauce on most things

        Now almost all of this came from discount grocers, Aldi’s and a small chain called Grocery Outlet, so I was able to get higher quality stuff for fractions of what they would cost from a regular store. I was also at the mercy of what they happened to have. I’ve assembled this stuff over the course of roughly 3 trips spread out over a month. With that in mind, the approximate cost for each is only about $5-6, give or take contents and sale price. The point is, you can make some tailored meals, to fit your individual needs from multiple perspectives: caloric requirements, dietary restrictions (if any), personal taste, prep requirements, etc. Add in some other healthy snacks as a supplement to these and you’re eating pretty well.

        If you have any other questions or want to share your own DIY MREs, join in.

      • #99983
        Brian from Georgia

          That’s pretty good variety. Have you ever tried Pro Bars or Lenny & Larry’s Complete Cookie? They are around 400 calories so they make a decent light meal all by themselves.

        • #99984

            I haven’t had those but I remember seeing the Pro Bars at Grocery Outlet. There was some reason I passed on them but I don’t remember why.

          • #99985
            Joe (G.W.N.S.)

              Another way to have such envelope meals ready for a hot meal is a variation of Thermos cooking.

              A large mouth thermos of sufficient size to fit packets (bending as necessary) filled with hot water will heat packet and keep warm until next meal.

              A variation if you remove any pricing labels is to substitute water for coffee/tea etc…leaving you with hot meal and a hot drink ready to eat when ready. While eating you heat water/drink for next meal.

              Obviously situation dependent.

            • #99986
              Joe (G.W.N.S.)

                Not to take away from JohnnyMac’s excellent option, but here are a couple of links for other alternatives.

                Dehydrating Food for Field Rations and Preparedness

                Building and Using Expedient Field Rations

              • #99987

                  JohnnyMac great post and thanks for sharing. I am not scarred from MRE’s as many prior/active service members are. They are more expensive than I would like but I had bitten the bullet in the past for the ease of having what I needed in a portable long lasting package. These are some great ideas and will give it a try also (perhaps I will also bring a few MRE’s as backup plan).

                  Joe, I somehow missed these other posts (another proof point of not just looking at the new posts) so thank you for posting again here. Also good options/info as always. Options are good :yes:

                • #99988

                    Tortillas hold up well in packs although pita is a good idea. I’ve seen thru hikers mix all sorts of weird concoctions on tortillas.

                    Never seen those Pace ready meals. That’s an interesting alternative to MRE entrees.

                  • #99989


                      I tried the Chicken Quesadilla in a tortilla and it kinda wanted to ooze out, maybe it was user error though.

                      Yeah, the Pace ready meals are 2 for $4 at my local grocery store.

                    • #99990

                        Anyone for sardines?

                      • #99991
                        Virgil Kane

                          Anyone for sardines?

                          I’ve eaten many little fishes on the trail.

                          I try to stay low carb, but it’s almost impossible with any packaged food, especially freeze dried. It is usually loaded with rice. Canned and dried meats work well, but vegetables are difficult. An overnight trip is easy, but several days can mean spoiled food. Does anybody have any good options for that?

                        • #99992

                            My kids call the Fiber One Protein Bars “Fart Bars” (and I do believe they are correct), do the Brownies have similar effects?

                          • #99993


                              I completely agree with you about the Fiber One Protein bars!!!!!!

                              No, the brownies don’t cause that.

                            • #99994

                                Dude, forgot one of the best items… Jerky, deer elk beef it’s all good. Simple salt and pepper on some sliced meat, hang it for a week = job done. A steady snack that can reside in your jacket pocket. Dried fruit is awesome to. Don’t forget the kipper snacks.

                              • #99995


                                  Jerky is a given haha.

                                  Dried fruit is great too, but you have to have a good source because some of it is coated in sugar.

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