Dehydrated Dinners, part 1

Donna writes, “I was wanting to add a bit of MRE type packaged food for emergencies and travel etc.  However, when I’ve looked into some of the popular brands and looked at the ingredients, we couldn’t possibly purchase them.  It seems they all have some form of MSG as well as other ingredients we can’t eat.  Due to my own health issues, I have to stick to a strict low sodium diet.  One of my daughters has extreme food and chemical allergies.

So I’m trying to figure out if anyone has come up with any packaged MRE type foods that are actually healthy without the chemicals/gmos, etc.  Do you know of a product like this?

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Donna, what a great way to introduce my newest series of articles, “Dehydrated Dinners”!  I couldn’t have planned it better myself!

Yes!  There is someone who can make healthier packaged meals for long-term storage, and that person is you!  Creating your own dehydrated meals is fairly easy.  It starts with choosing appropriate recipes, deciding how it will be packaged and stored, and then putting together the ingredients using mostly dehydrated and freeze dried foods.

The benefits are many.

  1. You know exactly what is in your recipe and what isn’t.
  2. You control the cost of your dehydrated meals.  If a certain recipe contains expensive ingredients, find another.
  3. You can use ingredients you dehydrate yourself.
  4. Depending on space available, your meals can be packaged in either mylar bags or jars.
  5. Your meals will be recipes your family already knows and enjoys.

Watch for Part 2, “Choosing a recipe that works”, coming up, but in the meantime, you can read more about this concept at Dinner is in the Jar.  The book by the same name provides numerous recipes and directions for storage.  The downside of the book is that the author doesn’t explain how she analyzed the recipes to determine how to store them.  For example, you’ll notice that sometimes two jars are called for or certain ingredients are separated from the others and stored in a zip-loc inside the jar.

My series will teach you how to analyze your own recipes and not have to rely only on recipes some other family enjoys.  Having said that, I think the book is worth owning.


There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

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  1. Sue says

    I'm so glad you're running these articles as I don't know where to start with this. Can't wait to read some more.
    Thank You Lisa!

  2. Sue says

    I am excited about this series. Recently I tried a sample MRE and it wa absolutely delish! However the sodium was out of sight and that killed the deal for me. I didn't even look at the other ingredients-just the sodium content was enough. Thanks Lisa.!

  3. CBP says

    Dinner in a Jar is excellent. I purchased it immediately when you first mentioned it a while back. Looking forward to your input on different dishes!

    • TheSurvivalMom says

      I'm glad you like the book! I had hoped to read more about how she planned out the recipes for storage, but figuring it out on my own was good practice for me!

  4. rightwingmom says

    Lisa, You've struck a (positive) nerve again! I've been researching this topic too.

    If anyone has proven recipes, please post them!!!
    I'll start:

    Potato Soup Jar Recipe

    1 3/4 C instant mashed potatoes
    1 1/2 C dry milk
    1 Tsp. instant chicken bullion granules
    2 tsp. dried minced onion
    1/4 tsp. ground white pepper
    1 1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
    1/2 tsp. ground sage
    2 Tsp. cornstarch

    Mix thoroughly.
    Place in air tight container.

    Cooking instructions:

    Add 1/2 C mix to 1 C boiling water.
    Wisk until blended.
    Lower heat until thickened.
    Makes 8 servings

    I vacuum seal mine in a wide mouth Mason jar. My Food Saver has a hose and I purchased the Mason jar lid attachment. I base my expiration date or best by date on the food products themselves. Although, vacuum sealing my soup mix gives me confidence that it will last long after those dates.

    Word of advice ~ Make this recipe and have your family taste it before packing it. RWDad and RWSons love it, so I’m golden. :)

    • TheSurvivalMom says

      Absolutely taste test everything and then double check your instructions for preparation. I made one of the soups in Dinner is in the Jar that contained both lentils and macaroni. It turns out that lentils take WAY longer to cook than macaroni, but that wasn't included in the directions. I kept having to add cupful after cupful of extra water. I never knew that macaroni could grow to such a huge size! You definitely don't want to package up a dozen or so dehydrated meals only to find out that no one likes them!

      • rightwingmom says

        True Lisa. I've noticed many Meal in a Jar recipes call for separating ingredients. My goal is to have meals I can throw in a pot of boiling water without any fuss. One less thing to think about when it's TEOTWAWKI!

        • TheSurvivalMom says

          Well, if you think about Kraft Mac-n-Cheese, you'll notice that the cheese mix is separate from the mac. To cook the two together would be a huge mess! So for some recipes, you have to separate some of the ingredients from others. That's the trick, but if I can figure out how to do it, anyone can! I'll get to that step in either Part 3 or 4 of my series.

    • Cat_Ion says

      I'm wondering if you could add some dehydrated veg – corn, carrot, celery, onion, parsley, potato shreds, — and some dehydrated chicken and make a chicken-corn chowder?

  5. Tricia says

    Thanks for the Potato Soup recipe. I have all the ingredients on hand right now, so I think I am going to whip up a batch for the pantry.

  6. JeSter says

    This might be completely obvious, so I appologize if I am insulting anybody's intelligence. I have served in the US Army Infantry in Panama, Somalia, Haiti and Afghanistan. As a result I am an MRE chef of sorts. It's important to point out that MREs are "combat rations". They do indeed have a high sodium content, but this is for a purpose.

    In addition, the calories in each MRE are VERY high! Again, this is because you are expending mucho energy in combat. It's actually not uncommon for soldiers that are not actively engaged in combat to get "fat" eating 3 MREs per day.

    Personally, if I were going to use MREs (and I do a bit, but the shelf life aint that great for the cost) I would plan on 1 MRE per day per person. This is obviously reduced rations to an extent, but the calories and sodium aren't as out of whack.

    I am very much looking forward to this series! Keep up the great work.

    • NM Retired Vet says

      I would very much stay away from the old style MRE if I were you, brother veteran. They're majorly rough on the digestive system, being hyper-fortified like they are. For bug out rats, they're fine, but for longer term I'd be looking for something else. Other than that, I agree with the one MRE per day routine, washed down with a LOT of water.

  7. Charla says

    I just found this site and am excited to delve deeper :) I love this idea! My question is, what if you (I) don't have a vacuum sealer for a mason jar? Any other idea on how to preserve these meals? Outside of the oxygen packets???? Thanks for any suggestions :)

    • TheSurvivalMom says

      Any dehydrated mix that you put together will have a shelf life equal to the ingredient with the shortest shelf life. Does that make sense? If you can't vacuum seal the jar and don't have oxy absorbers, your shelf life will be determined by the ingredients. You can maximize that length by keeping the meals in a dark, cool place, away from humidity and protected from any pests. You can find vacuum sealers on craigslist and ebay at bargain prices. If you go through the trouble of putting these meals together, it will be worth the effort and a little expense to either seal them properly or use the oxy absorbers.

    • Barbara says

      Charla– Get the mylar bags. Go to a car parts store and buy a brake bleeder hand pump. The trigger kind. (don't get a whole kit, they have parts you don't need.) They're not too expensive.
      Put product in bag. Seal (with common clothes iron on med. High) all but last half inch of bag. Put hose to hand pump down in the hole. pinch material of bag tightly around hose, and pump out air until bag is very firm. Still pinching firmly, quickly pull hose out, and finish sealing . You can do any size bag this way.
      This won't work with the bags that go with the Food Savers or Seal-a-meals, because the bag will melt on your iron.

    • Barbara says Great product to seal jars, even used glass jars from grocery store products can be resealed.

  8. Amy says

    Lisa, you are always a step ahead of what I'm thinking! Thank you so much!

    And Rightwingmom, thank you for sharing your recipe!

    Keep up the good work, ladies!

  9. nini2033a says

    I would love to do this but am hampered by so many allergies, milk, wheat, corn and soy. That leaves out so much and I am not good at substituting recipes…
    I think I could do the potato soup recipe with just a few substitiutions,,,potato starch for corn starch, potato milk for regular dry milk,,, but shoot, thats basically all potato…
    I have got to figure out some more…

  10. Hawaii Honey says

    Mahalo Rightwingmom for sharing your recipe! I recently ordered the Dinners in a Jar cookbook on your recommendation, Lisa, and am intrigued by it!!! It came very quickly in the mail with a personalized note from author Kathy!!! (Such a PREPPERHOOD we have!) I am anxious to try some of the recipes. I think sealing them in mylar bags and then putting them in plastic buckets with gamma seal lids might be a good way to store them. Everyone seems to be canning around here right now, and the mason jars are hard to find. Thank you again, Lisa, for this wonderful website.

    • rightwingmom says

      H.H., The practice of canning seems to have exploded around here. Normally our Walmart has cleared out it's seasonal canning shelves, but now they've dedicated and entire aisle to it! I'm working on learning both water and pressure canning. I'm not as good as my grandma yet, but NO ONE is!!! :)

  11. meemoe says

    I love this idea. Budgets are strained to the max right now and being able to "make my own" has always been my mantra. I'm going to make up the potato soup and hoping you folks have some more "jar" ideas and recipes to share. There are so many books out there I'd like to purchase, but like I said, budgets are strained to the max. Sharing is good for BOTH giver and receiver!

  12. Dextercowgirl says

    My suggestion for those of us who like potato soup with bacon is to have a separate small bag of either real or artificial bacon bits to add just prior to serving.

  13. Tiffany says

    I once read that MRE meals cause constipation because there is no time to potty in combat situations. I was looking for alternatives for MREs because of that reason ,this is just what I was looking for ! Thanks for another great idea.

  14. Susan says

    Also it is wise to put the sealed jars back in the box they came in, it provides dividers to help prevent breakage also light can affect the longevity of meals. Store in a cool dark dry space. Looking forward to more breakfast recipes.

  15. Chandra says

    Yes, lots of people are trying canning now. But be alert, some of them will likely give up and you may be able to get their jars for a song. I have gotten fifteen dozen jars FREE from people who were just happy not to have them cluttering up their place any more.

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