Despite the popularity of MREs, most people (veterans especially) don’t like them. Although MREs are able to survive all sorts of temperatures, they don’t taste that great and the portions are kind of small. Another questionable thing about MREs is whether or not they give you the actual nutrition you need.
Thankfully, there’s an alternative you can do yourself.
In going to the grocery store one day, we stocked up on some items that could be thrown together in a gallon-sized re-sealable plastic bag. I realized that by doing this, there was more control over what entered my body as opposed to the unknowns in MREs.
Although the kit being shown here is still comprised of processed foods, there’s a good amount of healthier items. Non-GMO and organic foods were mainly used because of personal preference. I wanted to have more quality food rather than eating a bunch of junk.
It’s easy to consume foods that aren’t healthy when camping, hunting or practicing bushcraft / survival skills. The big thing people overlook, however, is that quality food intake is especially important when you’re doing strenuous activity.
If you put old, low grade gasoline in a fine Italian sports car, the engine will eventually have serious problems. This is why it’s good to focus on nutrition in putting these ration packs together. In fact, if you think about, these packs might be used during an emergency or some other activity where a ton of calories are going to be burned – all the more reason to fuel your body with proper nutrients.
With that said, I really tried for a good balance of carbohydrates and protein. When you’re subjecting your body to hard work, it will need the carbs to fuel the activity and the protein to feed the muscles.
In the ration kits, we added beef jerky and tuna for protein as well as some Organic Valley brand protein milk. For carbohydrates, a good variety of salty snacks was purchased like pretzels and crackers. From many years of running ultra-marathons, I’ve learned the value of eating salty foods during prolonged activity where rehydration is important. Some other foods under the carbohydrate category include toaster pastries and granola bars.
Although carbs and protein are well-known elements, one thing that shouldn’t be overlooked is a little known food group called “morale”. In every MRE in the military, there was some sort of tasty treat that made you just a little happier during a field exercise or war-time deployment. So in these kits there’s some healthier fruit snacks as well as Lifesavers brand candy. You wouldn’t think it but little things like this can make a huge difference in a survival situation – especially if you have kids.
Although you could add fresh fruit, it would be tough for two reasons. First, you might not eat the contents for several months which by then the fruit would leave a disgusting, unhealthy moldy mess in your bag. Second, fruit can easily be crushed. Because of this, we opted for adding a bag of dried cranberries and a squeezable fruit tube that contains a blend of chia with fruits and vegetables. This product also claims to have a essential Omega-3s, protein and fiber.
For beverages, there’s individual Gatorade packets that can be mixed with water. Having something like this can help in replacing lost electrolytes. Other beverages include hot chocolate mix and instant coffee.
Although the bottle of protein milk doesn’t compact that great, it has a dual purpose in that it can be used to mix water and beverage powder after the original contents are emptied. I wouldn’t add boiling water to the empty milk bottle so I’d just drink the coffee and hot chocolate mix cold. Sometimes you can’t have everything perfect in life.
Another item that has a dual purpose is the one-gallon plastic bag as it can be used for gathering water supplies, organizing things, etc. As always, it good to have something that can serve at least two purposes.
Eating utensils could be added to the bag; however, I usually keep a metal fork and spoon with me so adding this would be kind of unnecessary.
The nice thing about customizing a ration pack is you can tailor it to your dietary needs. If you’re suffering from a certain illness, your physician may recommend you not consume MREs, freeze-dried food, or whatever. They may recommend something more beneficial to your medical condition.
Though MREs can have a longer shelf life and survive a range of temperatures, creating a few of these packs will give you more opportunity to add some really good food instead of processed mystery meat. Never forget that when it comes to survival or long days in the woods, fueling your body with proper nutrition should never be taken lightly.