For the survivalist, outdoor enthusiast, hiker or end of world planner, this is the perfect long life vacuum packed one day supply of food. Set up like the military MRE Meal-Ready-To-Eat, this is a vacuum packed daily ration of food. And it all weighs under a pound. The total cost of this DIY full day supply of food is just a fraction of the cost of commercial freeze dried food packs.
Anyone who has gone on an extended hike knows that every ounce of weight you carry adds up fast. It is important to get all of your gear down to the lowest possible total weight for a comfortable hiking experience. Food and water are some of the heaviest items we carry on a trip. We can trim down our weight on food with little cost and just a bit of work beforehand. Commercial freeze dried food packages are ideal, but very expensive. Most people cannot afford to take three meals per day of freeze dried food on an extended hiking trip. At about $7 per meal, it adds up fast. The solution is to dry your own food for the trail. It is very simple and does not involve much work to prepare your own do-it-yourself dried food packs. And, if you vacuum pack your food, it can be kept for a very long time on the shelf.
For those who do not have or cannot afford a vacuum sealer, zip lock bags can be found at the dollar store. These can be used to keep your food dry for a while. Tupperware containers can also be used to keep bulk dried foods safe.
If you dry your foods totally, it can be kept for years in most cases. Avoid fatty foods, oil and nuts for long term storage. Fatty and oily foods tend to go rancid with time.
It does not matter if you are preparing food for your bug out bag, planning for a potential future food shortage, or simply just going on a long hike, this article should be helpful. In most cases where long term shelf stable food is needed, light weight is also an issue. It does not help to have a year supply of food saved up, only to find that you cannot carry it all on your back in an emergency.
Campers, fishermen, hunters, survivalists and hikers can all benefit from affordable dried foods for the road. And it is just a good idea to have food put away for bad times. People loose their jobs, money gets tight or an emergency comes up. Having a good supply of long term storage food will help you through these times.
This complete day’s rations can be made for under a few bucks.
The full menu includes:
Two oatmeal packets and a cup of coffee for breakfast.
Lunch and trail snacks consist of about 6 strips of dried beef jerky, 6 whole wheat crackers, an apple, a banana, a peach, some cranberries and some raisins. There are two tea bags or a second cup of coffee to drink with your lunch.
Dinner includes a complete dried beef stew mix with mixed vegetables, beef, rice and spices. There are another 6 whole wheat crackers to go with your stew. There is either your second tea bag or coffee to drink. For dessert you have a portion of dried apple sauce. For a nice treat, you can add some water to the dried apple sauce and eat it on the crackers as a sort of spread.
Now I like to eat on the trail and have packed a lot more than some people might need. You may want to cut out some of the tea or coffee. You can reduce portions of the oatmeal and fruit to suit your needs. This is just a suggestion, based on my own daily consumption on the trail. I like to snack the whole day in between meals, so I have added lots of fruit.
How to prepare your foods.
You can prepare all of these items in a food dehydrator or in the oven, depending on what you have available. I will simplify the details here and summarize the drying process. Some foods take a little longer than others to dry. When using a dehydrator, follow the instructions that came with it. My food dehydrator was second hand (no instructions), so I just leave everything for about 18 to 24 hours. This is a bit overkill, but ensures that there is no moisture left in the food when done. If using the oven, you can set the oven to 175 degrees and prop the door open slightly to release moisture. The pilot light on a gas oven works very well for drying foods, but takes a bit longer.
I cut the beef into 1/4 inch thick strips and made sure to trim off all of the fat. I put them on the dryer until they were nearly brittle. I wanted to make sure there was no moisture left in the meat at all. I used dollar store frozen vegetables and simply spread them out on the drying racks, right out of the freezer. The vegetables will also be very brittle and hard when finished. The peaches are also dollar store frozen food. A whole pound was spread out on the drying rack until completely dry and brittle.
Slice apples and bananas to 1/8 or 1/4 inch thick and lay out on the rack to dry. The apples should appear to be completely dry and will be a bit leathery and flexible when bent. No moisture should show up when bent. After cooling down, the apples became brittle. Bananas will be brittle when done.
Cranberries, blueberries and other types of berries make great dried trail foods with a long shelf life if handled properly. Try to avoid nuts because the oils in them can go bad with time. Nuts are not good for long term storage.
Apple sauce fruit leather can easily be made by spreading out the apple sauce on the fruit leather trays that come with most dehydrators. If you are using an oven, use parchment paper – not waxed paper on a tray. Dry the apple sauce until it can be peeled off the try cleanly. Make sure there is no moisture visible on either side. I peeled mine off and left it to dry another couple hours on the bottom side to be sure.
Dollar store naturally flavored oatmeal packages, whole wheat crackers and spices are used to make this a very affordable project.
After you have finished drying out all of your foods, pack them into air tight tupperware containers or zip lock bags to keep air out.
Now, to make the beef stew, measure out 1/4 cup of dried mixed vegetables and spread them out onto a tray and place it into the oven for 10 minutes at 175 degrees to kill off any bacteria and make sure they are totally dry. At this point I added 1/4 cup of each of my dried fruits to the tray and placed it into the oven. I also put my beef jerky on the tray as well.
Measure out 1/4 cup rice and put it into a zip lock baggie. The baggie will be used to hold all of the ingredients when you are finished preparing them.
You can use any sort of rice, but be aware that the white rice has a longer shelf life than brown rice. I prefer to have all natural nutrients in my food, so I use the brown or basmati rice. White rice has been processed to remove the hull and all nutrients, making it shelf stable. Then nutrients are added to make it worth anything as a food source. But anyway, it is up to you.
Now you can measure out about a half tablespoon of flour and put it into the baggie that contains your beef stew mix.
Again, here is a matter of choice. Flour is processed and bleached to make it shelf stable. And, as with the rice, has nutrients added back into it in order to make it valuable as a food product. I use whole grain, unbleached wheat flour in my recipe. You can choose either one. The whole wheat flour has a slightly shorter shelf life, but it is natural.
Measure out a half teaspoon of seasoned salt or your favorite spices and put it into the bag of stew mix. You can use a pre mix like I have or you can use plain salt and pepper. Or you can get creative and make up your own mix. Salt is a preservative and will also help in keeping your food fresh longer.
Your beef, vegetables and other items should now be done sterilizing in the oven. Let them cool and add the mixed veggies to the stew bag. Break up the beef into little bits and add it to the bag. Shake up the bag to mix all the ingredients well. This will mix the salt into everything nicely.
Now, roll up the baggie and place it aside until later. If you use a ziplock bag, do not seal the top. Leave it open for air to escape when it goes into the vacuum sealer later on. Rolling up the bag will prevent any of your ingredients from escaping and making a mess.
Now, for me, the most important part of any day is the beginning. I like to have my cup of coffee with breakfast. So, I measure out 2 tablespoons of coffee for every cup. This is a bit on the strong side. You can adjust it for the best taste.
Put your coffee grounds in a ziplock bag or a sandwich bag and roll it up. I have enough coffee for two cups each day. Put it aside for later with your rolled stew bag.
I took all of my sterilized fruit and put them into bags. I mixed the bananas and apples together in one bag and the peaches, cranberries and raisins in another bag. Roll up the bag and put it aside with the rest of your bags for later.
The beef jerky went into a bag as well and was put aside. You can measure out as much as you like. A good idea is to practice eating a lunch one day with your preferred amounts of meat, fruit and other items and see how much you actually need.
I placed all of the rolled up bags onto a tray to keep it neat and give me an idea of the size of vacuum sealer bag I would need in the end. Below you can see the finished meals all laid out on a tray.
So, here is a summary of all ingredients.
Two oatmeal packages
2 tea bags
4 tablespoons of coffee grounds
12 whole wheat crackers
1/4 cup dried apple
1/4 cup dried peaches
1/4 cup cranberries
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried banana
6 strips of beef jerkey
One serving of apple sauce fruit leather
And the beef stew mix:
1/4 cup dried mixed vegetables
1/4 cup rice
1/2 tablespoon flour
2 strips beef jerky, broken up
1/2 teaspoon salt or seasonings
Now, place all of your supplies into a vacuum sealer bag. Make sure your bags are rolled up nicely, but not tight. You do not need to roll them tightly. Air must be allowed to escape in the vacuum sealer. The bags are only there to keep the ingredients separated and to offer you a convenient way to eat them on the trail. Also, the bags may be very useful later for other survival needs on the trail. Ziplock bags can be used to hold water or other items later on.
Seal up your vacuum sealer bag. Make sure that the machine can get all the air out. When it is finished, it will look just like a professionally freeze dried food package.
It is hard to see in the image, but each individual bag inside was compressed and sealed tightly around the foods inside. The beef stew mix is sealed so tightly that each individual rice grain is held tightly in place.
Now comes the test. Can we make a full day’s worth of food, plus snacks and drinks, all under a pound? Weigh your newly finished MRE package and see the results.
My scale shows just between 14 and 14.5 ounces. Your results may vary a bit depending on how much you add or leave out of the mix. Again, I like to snack a lot on the trail and have my drinks, so this adds a bit of weight overall.
This project is a success in that I managed to get a full day of food dried and packaged which weighs under a pound.
To prepare your beef stew, it is strongly suggested to put the mix into a water bottle with 2 cups of water at lunch time to let it start to rehydrate a bit before dinner. This will greatly cut down on your fuel usage at dinner time. Another fuel saving tip is to bring your soup mix to a boil and then remove it from the heat and let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes. If you can wrap the pot in a towel to hold in heat, that would help a lot. In cold weather this is a must. After letting the stew mixture sit a while, you can bring it back to a boil and then simmer it until the rice is soft. A second round of sitting in a towel can help conserve fuel if necessary.
You will probably be the envy of others in your group with this light weight supply of food. Experiment, try out different foods and recipes. The important thing is to get out all of the water in order to keep it light.
If you are going on a longer trip, some other food items are important to take along for good health. Since oils and fatty foods do not store well, they have been left out of the packages listed above. It is a good idea to have some nuts and a small vial of oil handy for your bug out bag or hiking trip to supplement your diet with essential fatty acids and oils. Just remember to keep them rotated out and always have a fresh supply ready to hit the trails.
Another item that can be vacuum sealed is dried milk. Separate it into smaller portions to keep it fresh longer on the road. Any type of fruit, vegetable or berries can be dried. Tomatoes, potatoes, corn, peas, beans and other garden type vegetables work great. You can make a mashed potato leather by cooking the potatoes fully and mashing them up, then pouring onto the leather drying sheets of your food dryer. Cucumbers sprinkled with cinnamon and brown sugar make a tasty treat on the trails. Squash, pumpkin and other garden vine plants dry out well. Pumpkin pie filling dried into a leather makes a nice dessert. The possibilities are endless.
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