DIY–How to Make Your Own MREs At Home

This topic is hardly new among survivalists and campers, but when I sat down the other day to make some MRE’s for summer camping I thought I’d take a few pictures and share with you how I make mine.   I’m going to put a few of these in my bug-out-bag too, because at the moment I’ve just got some loose food items floating around in there and this method will help keep my pack organized.

For those of you who may not know MREs are handed out in the military and stands for Meal Ready to Eat.  Military MREs come with many different entrees and you can make yours the same way.  You’re limited only by your imagination.

The ones I put together here are pretty basic, but should give you a good idea of how to go about making your own.  To keep things neat and help them stay fresh for a long time I vacuum seal mine.  Some people will calculate the amount of calories for each meal and figure out exactly what they’re getting for protein, carbs, etc.  I don’t get that precise with my meals although it’s not a bad idea if you’re trying to figure out how much you should take on an extended trip. 

For this set I used protein bars, crackers, Ramen Noodles, trail mix bars, fruit cups, coffee singles (2 per MRE), and I also put in a spoon, matches and a few paper towels to use as toilet paper or whatever.

Step 1 is to assemble the items you’d like to put in your MRE.  (Below)


Below you can see the device I use to vacuum pack my MREs.  This is a Seal a Meal that I bought at Target in the $60 range, if I remember correctly.


The bags I use are the continuous feed kind, so you have to seal one end first.  (Below)  You can buy individual bags too, but I vacuum seal meat and other things to freeze and like to have this kind of bag so that I don’t waste any more than I have to.


Put the end of the bag in the sealer (above), close the lid and hold it down until the “Sealing” light comes on and then turns off.  (Below.)  This becomes the bottom of the bag.


Next , put the items you want on top of the bag to measure how much you need to cut.  (Below.)


Put everything in the bag neatly.  Now put the end of the bag in the sealer and close the lid.  The vacuum sealer starts up and starts sucking the air out of the bag.


Below you can see the air starting to get sucked out.


Now you can see all the air finally removed from the meal.


Once  you have everything assembled it literally just takes minutes to prepare a bunch of meals for later use.


The last thing I do is put a date on the package so I’ll know what date they were prepared on.  I usually give them a two year expiration although I’m pretty sure they’d be good for a long time after that. 

Other ideas I’ve had for these were to put in tuna packs and a single serving of mayo, plus nuts, prepackaged rice meals, a single serving of Gatorade or something along those lines.  I’ve also taken nuts and/or GORP and divided them out into baggies and put those in the meal.  I figured with the air removed they’d stay fresh for a long time even after they’ve been removed from the original packaging. 

In my post about the Coffee Can Survival Kit I got some terrific feedback from you readers, so I thought I’d push my luck and see what you would put in your MREs.  Be creative, but keep in mind you’ll have to carry these meals when you’re hiking or bugging out, so you’ll want to keep them somewhat light.  In the pictures above you’ll see some canned stuff, which I don’t often do because they add a little extra weight.

So here’s my question:  What would you put in your MREs? 

-Jarhead Survivor


I’ve collated the feedback from the Coffe Can Survival Kit post and will be putting together something over the next week or two.  At some point I’ll get back to you with what I hope is a very logical (for the Northeast) kit that would be smart to have in your vehicle.  Thank you to everybody for such a great response. 

Hopefully you’ll give me the same great feedback on this MRE post.  I’m planning on  making a bunch of different MRE’s based on the feedback from today, so don’t be afraid to throw your ideas in.


49 comments… add one

  • Spook45 February 25, 2011, 9:18 am

    Hmm, Cool. Im gona have to get one of those baggie sucky things?!

    • Jason February 25, 2011, 11:55 am


      I bought one at Costco and they are great, I use it all of the time – especially when storing sugar, flour and other items. I made MRE’s for my kids when we would be gone a day or two – it keeps things simple and organized. Be sure to shop around for the replacement bags.

      • Jason February 25, 2011, 12:05 pm

        Spook, I totally forgot!!!

        It is a great way to marinade meat, chicken or fish. You put it all in the bag, suck the air out and your marinade is then forced into the meat item, it works really well and in a fraction of the time! (I do it for my kids since I am a Veg head).

        Also, it works great as a dry bag for any item you don’t want exposed to moisture like a first aid kit if you are on a river or get caught in the rain while hiking.

  • Jennie February 25, 2011, 9:52 am

    Oooh, I dry a lot of local fruit every summer. I would put some little baggies of mix dried fruit in.

    I’ve also dried squash, and I would play with that a bit, see if I could get a dried squash that would reconstitute well with hot water, into something close to edible.

    I could see homemade deer jerky going in as well.

    • Jarhead Survivor February 25, 2011, 3:51 pm

      These are great ideas Jennie. Thanks!

  • Jennie February 25, 2011, 9:58 am

    Oatmeal, either the instant or the regular rolled oats, could be real easy. Add a dash of salt, some cinnamon and raisins, viola, MRE breakfast. :-D

    That’s one of the things I have in my BOB’s. I measured out a little bit more than the usual amount my family eats for breakfast, added spices and dried fruit and sealed it up.

    • carl February 25, 2011, 1:39 pm

      You need to be careful with “stuff” that is dusty. The vacumn doesn’t seal well and you can mess up the vacumn works with the dust.

    • Jarhead Survivor February 25, 2011, 3:53 pm

      This is a terrific idea! I’ll bet I could put all that into a baggie and get the air out of it before putting it into the package to be sealed so that I wouldn’t get dust in the machine like Carl mentions below. (I didn’t know that.)

      • ChefBear58 February 25, 2011, 4:27 pm

        Jarhead… Man you stole my thunder…. I was gonna say the same thing!

        Another option is made by Food Saver, its called the Game Saver Pro. I use it for packing up the game and fish that I get while hunting/fishing. If you buy some of the little oxygen absorbers it helps to keep dried stuff like jerky, oatmeal, rice, dried hash-browns, ect. tasting fresh for a lot longer than packing them without it.

      • Alan_theduck April 7, 2011, 10:09 pm

        My wife use to seal her Christmas cookies in regular ziplok bags. She would use a straw to seal them. This might be a way to deal with the dust.

      • Anonymous May 1, 2016, 3:33 pm

        For wet vacuum sealed items, place a couple of paper towels just inside the bag to keep moisture out. This can also be used for dry powdery things. I sealed flour in a jar and it said to use a coffee filter to keep fine dust out of the sealer.

  • Lori February 25, 2011, 10:31 am

    How about those foil pouches of tuna, less weighty than a can. I know they are pricey, but you can often pick some up for free if you combine a good sale with a coupon. (yes, I am one of those “crazy coupon” stockpilers)

    • Jarhead Survivor February 25, 2011, 3:54 pm

      I’ve actually used those before and they work great. I also put in one of those single serving of mayo and just mix it up right in the package. Delicious!

      • ChefBear58 February 25, 2011, 4:31 pm

        Be careful with the little condiment packs, in the restaurant industry we call them P.C.’s (personal containers). They usually have a shelf life of about 6 months, mayo is especially hazardous if it goes far beyond the expiration date because of possible salmonella, Campylobacter and botulism growth. All of which can make you miserable at best, dead at worst!

        • Jarhead Survivor February 26, 2011, 9:41 pm

          Hey Chefbear – I always wondered how long those mayo packs are good for. I think I used one after about 8 months or a year! It seemed to be ok, but I’ll be mindful of that in the future. I don’t mind eating tuna straight up.

  • noisynick February 25, 2011, 10:52 am

    condiments the freebies you get at every fast food joint and or convience store. Peanuts or prepacked nuts of any kind, slim jims or better jerky strips, fruit leather, hard candy{carb sup] chewing gum.
    Having had to rely on MRE’s as an only food source on several occasion
    spicing them up with stuff helps.
    we make our own like you suggested here for our scouting adventures the cool thing is the boys customize theres and so do I. Sams has lots of Ind prepacked stuff.
    Great topic……….

    • Jarhead Survivor February 25, 2011, 3:56 pm

      We always took a little tobasco sauce to the field when we went to spice them up. Salt and pepper packs are a good idea though… I’ll have to order extras next time I go through the McD’s drive through.

  • sanityjones February 25, 2011, 11:28 am

    Here’s something I do for home use……..When I go fishing I bring my catch home and place single serving sized portions (covered in butter, garlic salt, pepper) in a vacuum seal bag and toss it in the freezer. I simply toss this package in a pot of boiling water for about 10 minutes, open and eat. It’s absolutely delicious, easy to cook, and no dirty dishes! The same thing may be done with eggs, veggies, small cuts of meat, etc. It also works good for camping as the frozen foods are good for keeping drinks cold for the first few days of a trip. The vacuum sealer also comes in handy for packing clothing for a bug out bag as it reduces the bulk considerably.

  • carl February 25, 2011, 1:44 pm

    I have been trimming the extra tops from Mylar bags when I fill 5 gallon Buckets. I cut this into pieces about 8″ x 8″ then seal up three edges with a clothes iron.. I put in mac and cheese or Soup base in small bags and then dehydrated veggies. Then seal it up with my seal a meal. These fit really nice into a BOB or in the BOV.

    I am going to try this method. I am wondering though about those pakages of crackers. doesn’t the Vacumn break the crackers up?

    • Jason February 25, 2011, 2:25 pm


      Check this video, it may be helpful for larger storage buckets – the guy is pretty goofy, could stand to lose a pound or 50 but his point is good.

      • carl February 25, 2011, 3:13 pm

        that is pretty much how i do it. There is alot of bag left over and you can make smaller bags from the waste.

        No offense to anybody but I am sure glad that guy has his own food storage because i would hate to have to feed him. Big Boy…


      • Jarhead Survivor February 25, 2011, 4:12 pm

        That was a pretty instructional video. I might try that method with a few of my buckets and see how it works.

    • Jarhead Survivor February 25, 2011, 3:50 pm

      It doesn’t crush the crackers up, but it does round the edges off a little! Depends on how you vacuum seal them too. I try to make sure they’re flat when I do the sealing.

  • ChefBear58 February 25, 2011, 5:18 pm

    Someone mentioned sealing up individual portions of fish with seasonings and then putting them into a pot of water to cook… This method is actually starting to gain more popularity in the culinary field, by folks who practice “molecular gastronomy”. Most of them use an immersion circulator to “poach” the sealed food at a constant temperature, but a pot of water works to. For the best results when poaching food in a bag like this keep the water between 140-145F, it will cook slowly, but will also make the food cook evenly and retain a lot of the natural juices/flavors.

    I like to use the vacuum sealer to pack my own instant meals, similar to the backpacking meals by mountain house and other companies. You can make your own by simply buying freeze-dried and dehydrated fruits, veg, starch and meat in bulk and adding in different seasonings to suit your taste. One of my favorites is chicken noodle soup, just put 2/3 c. noodles, 3-4 tbsp dried mixed soup vegetables, 1/4 c. freeze dried chicken and 3 tbsp chicken stock base. Seal all f this stuff into a pack, when you are ready to eat it, just add in a couple cups of boiling water and let it sit for a few minutes. Then just eat it once the noodles are cooked through.

    • ChefBear58 February 28, 2011, 12:59 am

      I tried a new recipe idea for a homemade freeze-dried meal this weekend, well actually its a dessert. It is for a berry cobbler, I am going to try replacing the berries with freeze-dried peaches and bananas next time.
      -Berry mix/filling-***
      1/2 c freeze dried berries (I used raspberries and blueberries)
      1/4 tsp powdered vanilla(or vanillin, artificial vanilla powder… I use Watkins powdered vanilla)*
      pinch of salt
      1 tbsp granulated honey*
      2 tbsp raw sugar
      1 tbsp A.P. flour
      -Crumble topping-
      1/3 c quick-oats
      2-3 tbsp brown/raw sugar (I used raw)
      1 tbsp granulated honey*
      pinch of salt
      1.5 tbsp powdered milk
      1 tbsp powdered buttermilk*
      1/2 tsp powdered vanilla*
      2 tbsp A.P. flour
      4″x4″ piece of tin-foil, or the smallest size needed to cover the top of your canteen cup
      If desired put 1/3 of a bar of freeze-dried ice cream in a separate bag and seal inside the main container *
      ***I kept the berry mix separate from the other ingredients, I did not pack this batch since I was testing the recipe but the plan is to pack the berry mix into a small zipper bag and then seal it inside the pack with the “crumble” ingredients.***
      -Add up to 1.5 cups boiling water to the topping mixture inside of the vacuum seal bag and stir just enough to combine (it may take more or less water depending on the weather, humidity, elevation, ect.), fold the top of the bag over and let sit for about 5 minutes or until the oatmeal is softened.
      -Combine the filling mixture with up to 1 cup of boiling water in a canteen cup and gently stir until combined, allow to set for 2-3 minutes. Be careful not to blend the berries into a paste, if you do the texture of the final product will be affected.
      -Top the prepared filing with the prepared topping however you like, I prefer to make it into a “pancake” and top the berry mix with it. Some might prefer to simple “crumble” the topping onto the berry mix
      -Cook on your camp stove, or even better beside the coals of a campfire for up to 5-10 minutes, to crisp up the topping and ensure the filling “sets”
      -Let rest up to 5 minutes and serve
      -If you have freeze-dried ice cream, add 1-3 tbsp water to the bag it is packed in and gently stir to rehydrate it, to achieve the desired texture and use it in place of whipped cream or ice cream on top of the finished cobbler
      The ingredients with a *behind them indicate that they can be omitted, but it won’t taste as good. If you don’t add the granulated honey, replace it with 1/2 the amount of whatever sugar you are using

      This recipe feeds up to 4 and tastes pretty damn good (if I do say so myself!), but 2 will be able to easily eat all of it.
      Sorry it took up so much space! Hope you guys get a chance to try it, and I hope you like it!

  • Apartment Prepper February 25, 2011, 7:46 pm

    What a great idea! I’ll have to get one of those seal a meals though. I would pack dried fruit, individual Spam, trail mix; make breakfast ones with oatmeal packs, dried fruit and nuts, small can of juice etc.

  • razr February 25, 2011, 8:11 pm

    OK I also do some of my mre stuff……….But I do a lot of dehydrating ….I used to put them into 1 big bad…..split them into smaller bags ( in case there is some bacteria…it won’t wipe out all) NOW did you know the “vacume sealer has a hose sealer for all large and small mouth canning jars) I put my dehydrated food into small reg bags and then into a jar… can do this over and over….be careful opening the jar lid….This is especially good for bisquick,gravy mix etc…..anything that can mess up your system….the jar systems are inexpensive and well worth it…….by the way learn the way to make your own gravy mixes, sauces, liquid soaps etc… is so much cheaper and easy….. this works great for making MRE’s …pluse just keeping your own food on hand……I would also recommend a inexpensive slicer and a dehydrator with a blower…..slicer keeps food the same size and a good dehydrator is a must….I have 3 now…gl PS Food Sealer bags are very expensive……when I do bags for a jar I use any small food bag..punch a couple of pin holes in bag before you seal inside jar…..reseal each time you open the jar

    • Prepared N.D. February 26, 2011, 5:32 am

      +1 on using the mason jar attachment. It does a great job storing dehydrated and dry goods.

      It also works off grid, just hook one of those manual brake bleeders up to it and vacuum :-)

  • razr February 25, 2011, 8:17 pm

    I must be clear this is only good for dry foods, cake mix,bisquick,grany stuff etc…..also great for M& M’s just to be clear…..if it needs to be canned,pressure canned…..this is not the way to go……but for all else is great…..just wanted to make sure we were all on the same page.

  • razr February 25, 2011, 8:22 pm

    where did my other email go…about the jar sealers for the seal a meal…..why did you take that out??

    • Ranger Man February 25, 2011, 9:36 pm

      I didn’t, for some reason it was thrown in the comment moderation bin. I just approved it. The new anti-spam feature does this once in a while, but it seems to be better than having people enter captcha codes before each comment is accepted.

      • ChefBear58 February 27, 2011, 6:27 am

        DEFINITELY like the new version compared to typing in that code! For some reason it wouldn’t take the codes sometimes, and I had to get into the habit of copying the comments before posting them.

  • jamie February 25, 2011, 11:27 pm

    I can’t make survival kit fit a coffee can. I buy the plastic shoe boxes and put my kit in those boxes. The sterno stove usually is the kicker on size. But bit more size lets me add a lot in ponchos and emergency blankets, food and 1st aid stuff.

  • Prepared N.D. February 26, 2011, 5:58 am

    I’d seal up a few supplements along with it. It would give you a bit of redundancy and it’s convenient not having to dig into your first aid kit every meal.

    Some ideas (per pouch):
    1 whole children’s multivitamin or 1/3 of an adult one-a-day.
    2 or 3 papaya enzymes (digestive aid/after dinner mint)
    and then whatever supplements you’re already taking with meals.

    I’d wrap the supplements in cardboard or something similar since they’re sensitive to light. Of course, they’re also sensitive to moisture but you wouldn’t want to wet pack a MRE anyway.

    This is another idea I’ve been playing with but haven’t tried it yet. I would make a master spice kit that is not included in the individual MREs. I was thinking about taking those little hobby (2×2 “, 3×3″, etc) ziploc bags and filling them with various herbs and spices – salt, pepper, chili powder, turmeric, garlic salt, powdered butter (Butter Buds), lawry’s seasoning, montreal steak seasoning.. you get the idea. Now take all of those individual packs, place them in a sandwich sized ziploc and vacuum seal that.

    If you run low on rations and have to forage, you may have to eat some fairly nasty stuff – a single packet of salt and pepper wouldn’t be sufficient.

    • Prepared N.D. February 26, 2011, 6:11 am

      A couple modifications:

      Scratch the cardboard supplement wrap, use aluminum foil – duh. It’s too early in the morning for me to be commenting. Aluminum foil is also pretty nifty and can be used to make a lot of things.

      You might also consider adding a really small measuring spoon (sub-teaspoon size) to the spice kit. It would lower the risk of spillage and you wouldn’t contaminate your spices by having to use your fingers, knife blade, etc to dip spices out.

      • I forget which alias I use February 26, 2011, 10:03 am

        You’ve just discovered the 41st use for that aluminum foil hat you wear.

        Should never mess with a genius ….. that could be a 2 way street. Figure that one out my friend!


        • Prepared N.D. February 26, 2011, 11:55 am

          My system works pretty good. I keep the hat on to keep big brother from reading my thoughts and compromising my plans by pre-positioning agents at my future location.

          Once I get deep enough underground, the hat comes off and I can cook my food in it etc.

          • John F. Nash jr February 26, 2011, 12:21 pm

            Well done – eeeeeeextremely funny!!!!

  • Hokie February 26, 2011, 8:05 am

    Excellent read!

  • YukonBry February 26, 2011, 5:23 pm

    Sorry, but a tru MRE has to have a John Wayne bar. And a heater pack so you can seal it in a bottle of water and make a bomb when you’re bored.

    Actually, really good post. As obvious as it would seem, I never thought about using my vacuum sealer for this purpose. Now I’ll have to go out and buy all kinds of little goodies to toss in.


  • ChefBear58 February 27, 2011, 6:41 am

    Another thing you can make up to add some diversity to your home-made MRE is home-made hot chocolate mix.
    1.5-2.5 tbsp cocoa powder (I like Ghirardelli dark, but Hershey’s works or whatever you like)
    2-3 tbsp powdered milk
    1-2 tbsp brown/raw sugar
    pinch of salt
    Cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin/apple pie spice, cardamom, clove, dried orange/lemon zest, chocolate chips, for an extra creamy flavor/texture you can add powdered coffee creamer
    This is for a 8oz cup of hot cocoa, but I like mine pretty rich. You can scale this recipe up to make a big batch and portion it into individual servings. They will be good for up to about 1.5 yrs, but taste best if used before 1 yr.

  • YukonBry February 27, 2011, 8:51 am

    I bet if I added a couple of ground up Vivarin to that mix I’d never have to go to Starbucks again.

    Thanks for the tip. That sounds SOOOOO much better than the stuff in the package.

    • ChefBear58 February 28, 2011, 1:03 am

      The store bought mixes don’t even come close! A word of warning, if you try it, you probably won’t want the “swiss miss” and other brands anymore!

  • Nor' Country February 28, 2011, 7:32 am

    Try the seal-a-meal with just about anything…

    I sealed a bunch of cartons .22LR rounds in several bags way back in 1999 as a prep for Y2K and the seals on the bags are still holding…

    I have also sealed documents like titles to vehicles, birth certificates and passports and such for long term preservation with zero problems. If you seal papers like the titles and birth certs mentioned, you will need to put a piece of stiff cardboard in as a backer. Believe me when I say this unless you want your document to be preserved as a waterproof, tightly compressed wad of paper… :)

    • ChefBear58 March 2, 2011, 2:14 am

      I seal my lightweight bow-hunting suit in one of those packs with a dirt-scented dryer sheet after the season every year. I have also used them to pack extra long underwear, socks, underwear, shirts and gloves in when planning kayak/canoe trips; I pack each item in a separate bag to decrease the chances of having it all get soaked. I also keep tinder and fire-starters sealed in “1-3 fire” packs, which I keep in my hunting pack and in an emergency box in my JEEP. I usually have enough tinder (combination of dryer lint, wax and cedar shavings/bark) and strike anywhere matches in each single pack, like I said for 1-3 fires, but seal the individual packs inside a larger one (usually 4-6 smaller packs) with a magnesium & steel fire-starter. With 4 smaller packs in it the larger one gives me about 12 fires easy to start, and more if I find/gather tinder from wherever I am.

      Good idea with the documents though… I bet my fireproof safe doesn’t keep water out extremely well!

  • Angry Mike March 14, 2011, 10:47 pm

    GREAT idea. I am totally liking this….but at roughly $4.00 per meal (prior to shipping) and a 7-10 year shelf life you can buy MRE’s from me. REAL MRE’S made to US Mil Spec. Im just saying, ya know… ;-)

  • Teres July 22, 2011, 2:13 pm

    Hello Everyone,

    Being a single mother of an 11 year old girl I have restarted my emergency stash. Since we are such a small family I chose to package a little differently. My meals are usually enough for 2 and my staples such as flour, coffee, Bisquick, etc…. are enough for a couple of meals at a time. This way if I open up a package I can use it up before it goes stale or get bugs in it of some kind. Something I haven’t seen mentioned is taking your flour, Bisquick etc and freezing them for two weeks before you package them. What this does is kills any chance of ending up with weavels in your package. All flour has weavel eggs there is just no way of getting rid of them because they are so small. By freezing you are killing these eggs and will never have them show up when you open a package. While vacuum sealing will also prevent this once it is open they may start hatching.

  • joni March 22, 2015, 9:09 am

    This is a little off the beaten path of survival food however I have two granddaughters who live with their mother and she is giving them lunchables for their lunches which are probably not the best choice nutritionally and the older ones says she is always hungry (a lunchable for an active 8 year old ). I would like to let the girls make a supplement lunch package for school as an activity. It would serve two purposes a fun activity and make lunch a little better for them. It would also help me stay out of trouble with their mom. I was thinking, trailmix, raisins and I am open to other ideas if you have them thanks-

  • Anonymous September 16, 2015, 12:03 am

    Awesome post. You all just inspired me to run out & buy a vacuum sealer food saver gadget.


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