Pre-packaged food storage meals are super convenient and easy to store and cook. Ranging from MRE’s to dehydrated mixes to freeze dried entrees, these meals have all the meal ingredients in them and are either heat-and-eat or add water and cook. It’s tough to find a food storage company that doesn’t offer at least a handful of pre-mixed meal choices. They sound like a good deal–I mean, who wouldn’t want to be served lasagna or chicken a la king without having to actually make it? Well, here are 6 reasons I don’t like pre-made food storage meals and a couple reasons why I still have some in my preps.
1. Amazingly picky eaters. Especially the kids. No, especially the husband. Well, maybe the kids have him beat sometimes. They haven’t met a pre-made meal they really love and few that they even like enough to eat. A couple of Mountain House varieties have been deemed okay for camping if we don’t have anything else (but only Turkey Tetrazzini and Chicken a la King) as well as a couple of varieties of the Thrive pouch meals (Baked Potato Cheese Soup and Pasta Carbonara). I can’t say that I have tried every variety from every manufacturer–there may be a couple more that my family would accept but I don’t hold out high hopes. Maybe this all stems from reason number two.
2. We eat and like mostly home cooked meals. I take ingredients and put them together and make a meal. We rarely eat out or even eat things like hot pockets or corn dogs. A meal that is already put together just doesn’t taste the same as mom’s homemade dinners.
3. Seasoning content. Some of these meals have the salt level a bit high, some need salt added. Some have too much pepper or whatever other spice in them. You don’t get to customize much when it’s all put together for you. And maybe some of these meals that I think are too salty would be just right for you–different people have different tastes. Which is why I prefer to spice my own food.
4. Richness. Maybe this sounds funny, but sometimes you can have a sample of something and it tastes really good, but by the time you’ve hit your limit with the flavor you’re not exactly full. Like my homemade clam chowder. It really needs a bread bowl with it to fill up on because it’s so rich. Some of these meals are like that. Maybe they’d work as a side dish, but they’re just too rich to fill up on. Straight from the mouth of my husband.
5. Meat content and quality. I really like Mountain House’s Turkey Tetrazzini, but it sure falls short in the protein area. If we’re planning on using it for a camping meal I need to bring some extra pre-cooked, canned, or freeze dried chicken to add to it. Same goes for a lot of these meals. If you’re looking for protein content, you’ll probably need to add some of your own meat to it.
6. Serving sizes. Maybe this is getting picky since serving size is some mysterious standard measurement that all the food manufacturers use, but if you plan on actually feeding four with a 4-serving pouch, you’ll be sorely disappointed (unless, as mentioned above, three of the family members won’t eat it anyway–then you’ll end up with leftovers). One adult and three kids–maybe. Four adults–no way. Just be aware of that in case your meal count is based on the number the manufacturer says it will serve.
And now that you know how un-enamoured I am with pre-mixed food storage meals, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I still have some in my food storage plan. In fact, I have quite a few. Why? Well, here’s the big reasons I still stock pre-made meals.
1. Because I may not be the one needing to make the food and poor sweet husband would have a serious learning curve if he had to start cooking all the meals tomorrow.
2. For the days I am unable to put together a real meal either due to time or physical limitations. I’m hoping in a REAL emergency they family would eat them better simply because there wouldn’t be another option.
3. Occasionally we’ll use them for camping trips, but not too often. However, when sweet husband gets a crazy idea to take off this afternoon on a hike, it’s good to have something to take along to feed everyone. Like I said, we try to stick to storing the varieties I know the family likes. Experimenting on new dishes is for home where they can have a peanut butter sandwich instead if it’s not good.
If you’re planning on making pre-made meals a large part of your food storage, I would recommend spending a bit up front to purchase a few of the meals you want to store. Then open them up and cook them for dinner. Feed them to the family. See if you like the flavor, if the kids will eat them, how much it takes to get full, etc. Then move ahead with a larger purchase if you deem the meals are a good fit for your situation. As for me, I’ll stick with an ingredient based food storage with a smaller supplemental supply of pre-mixed meals.