Monday, December 24, 2012

D.K. Richardson Guest Post - Nutrition: Food and Cooking

Nutrition: food & cooking
This segment focuses on putting together your own meal, ready to eat. Using commonly available long shelf-life commercial products, you can make your own tasty and easy-to-cook or heat-to-eat meals. I discuss several common problems with home-made MREs and show you how to avoid the problems. Finally, since you should store what you eat - and eat what you store. Here, I show you how to incorporate your homemade MREs into your day-to-day diet so that rotation and out-of-date foods should never be a problem.

I'm going to focus on ~about 72 hours of food for an individual. You should be able to eat most the items without cooking; the items should have a good shelf life - more than 6 months in the kit and be relatively low cost.

Food for your kit should require no refrigeration, be easy to make and simple to clean up. The food should also provide real calories - in a disaster you'll need anywhere from 2K to 5K calories per day, depending on the weather. Minimal water use is also something you should factor in as well.
Remember, even if you eat nothing, you will still need at least two liters of water, per day.

Let's look at some possible choices for your kit food. I'll stick with brands that can be had here in Alaska - you should have no problem finding them where you live as well.

Clif Bars - 230 Calories - 30 from fat

Oatmeal (fast, not instant)- 150 Calories per 1/2 cup serving (4 days is only 2 full cups)

CoffeeMate dry creamer 15 calories per packet (1 tbsp) shows 1 g of fat

Sugar, packet 15 calories

Instant potatoes - (Baby Reds) 4 oz pouch - 110 calories (no serving size listed, I'm assuming per oz as it is a carbohydrate)

Minute rice - 250 Calories per 1/2 cup serving per the producers website
Note - other sources show 150-185 calories per single cup serving or 'rice'.
Note - With Minute Rice brand rice - 1 cup dry is a 1 cup serving. For unprocessed rice, it is 1/2 cup rice = 1 cup cooked.

Peanut butter (JIff to go) 250 calories, 150 from fat. per 1.5 oz serving

SPAM (classic, slice in bag) 250 calories per 3 oz serving. (Other choices are tuna in the larger bag, chicken breast in the pouch, and dry salami. See below)

Trail mix (Planters, 6 oz) 150 calories, 80 from fat per 6 oz bag

Lipton Soup (dry) Chicken noodle - 60 calories per packet

Sun Maid raisins 1.5 oz (28g) box 90 calories

StarKist light tuna in water (Pouch, 2.6 oz) 80 calories, 5 calories from fat.

Bumble Bee chicken breast (pouch, 4 oz) 150 calories

Sailor Boy Pilot bread - 100 calories per cracker

Hormel roast beef and gravy (12 oz can) ? The product page lists servings as "varies' then shows 130 calorie per serving. Lean roast beef is about 46 calories per oz. Call it 500 calories per 12 oz can.

A Mountain House Beef Stroganoff (2 serving pouch) gives you 500 calories for 4.6 oz.

A single MRE gives (about) 1250 calories and each one weighs in at between 0.8 pounds and 1.8 pounds (depends of menu item and packer) stripping out some of the packing will shave off some weight. Cost of a single MRE is around 8 US dollars as of the time of writing.

Hormel Dinty Moore Beef stew, DAK premium canned had (16 oz), Corned beef & corned beef hash, and other canned meats may be more to your taste - this is an exercise in counting calories and trying for some balance in your food choices.

To reduce clean up, wet items can be served in a sandwich bag - used as a liner - held by a bowl. Doing this will reduce your clean up tasks. Rice and oatmeal only need hot water, the stew may be (carefully) heated in the opened can using a water bath, the water being saved for washing up after your meal..

What kind of meals can we make form these basic ingredients?
So, how about a big breakfast of 1 cup of oatmeal (300k), 1.5 oz of raisins (90) a couple of CoffeeMates in leiu of milk (30) and a packet of sugar (15) - you end up with 435 calories and a pretty filling start to your day. Requires hot water to be palatable for most people.
Optional items, Swiss Miss hot coca mix or freeze dried coffee.

For a lunch - as most folks are habituated to a noonday meal, even if not necessary.
Lunch of 6 oz of trail mix (150) + 1 Clif bar (230) consumed thru the day, will give 380 calories and will keep you going. No cooking required.
Optional items would be Crystal Delight or other low-cal drink.

Dinner of SPAM, diced (250) in a soup mix (60 ) over 1 cup of Minute rice (500) gives you a full dinner of 820 calories + drink. A 'desert' of a candy bar will add several hundred more calories.
This requires cooking, making a "One Pot meal".

Daily total 435 + 380 + 820 = 1635 - still short of what would be necessary except for the very short term.

Even the roast beef and gravy over 4 oz potatoes would still leave you a bit short of 2000 calories. Adding a Jif peanut butter packet on a couple of Sailor Boy crackers at mid-day would add an additional 450 calories - meeting the 2K goal per day.

Taking a few minutes to plan now and making a list of items to pick up as part of your regular shopping cycle will help keep costs under control. Since you know what you and your group enjoys to eat, these are suggestions to follow when planning your disaster kit food menu choices.
Why no MREs? Those are good enough for the Army!
You are correct. Each MRE retails for about 8 dollars, or about 25 dollars a day. You can do better - cost wide. You can certainly plan for the evening meal as an MRE and know you will go to bed with a full tummy and likely have some leftovers to eat the next day.

Canned food? That stuff weighs a ton! Why would suggest canned food?
This is a DIY disaster kit, not something you would use for crossing the high Sierras on foot. Canned food makes sense if you will be traveling by automobile - I'm sure most of us would prefer that over walking. Canned food (also called wet pack) normally doesn't require additional water to cook.

Why would I pick an MRE over a nice freeze dried meal?
Rarely is a back-packer 'meal' a full meal - a popular brand of FD food - like Beef Stroganoff is lightweight and tasty. Add two cups of boiling water and you have -- a bit over two cups of beef stroganoff.
With a single MRE, you get a lot more - for a couple of dollars above the cost of freeze dried - if that. Open that funky brown plastic bag and you'll find -
Entree - the main course, such as meatloaf
Side dish - lots of choices here, rice, corn, fruit, or mashed potatoes, etc. These are available separately of you wish to build your own custom menus.
Cracker or Bread choice - tortillas even!
Spread - peanut butter, jelly, or cheese spread. Yum.
Dessert - a cake or cookie choice.
Candy - This is normally a commercial product - in some cases, not even repackaged.
Beverages - coffee, tea, sport drinks and so on.
Hot sauce or seasoningare found in some menu choices
Flameless Ration Heater- if you don't have a stove or don't want the hassle of a stove - these work pretty well, with MRE packaged items.
Accessories - spoon, matches, creamer, sugar, salt, chewing gum, toilet paper, etc.
I was in the store and saw some "Heater Meals". Are they any good for this?
Good question.
Pros - These and so-called microwave pacs are lighter than canned food, these wet pack items can be readily heated in a hot water bath. The Heater Meal brand has something like the MRE flameless ration heater to warm the meal. I have eaten several different brands as lunch while working in Cubeville. Most are decent tasting - but I will caution you to try any of your choices first to avoid any ugly surprises later.
Cons - These are not as rugged as canned food. You must be careful on how you pack and carry these, least you open your disaster kit and find it full of spaghetti and meatballs. The same caution applies to the peel-top cans as well.

"How about those sandwiches from the new First Strike Ration?"
I was a bit excited when they first came out at the backpacking stores here. The reality was less than thrilling - long on bread, short on filler. At $4 or more dollars - per sandwich, I find them pricy. That said, I still have some in my bag because you can eat them cold and they are something of a comfort food.

"I don't think I could eat a whole can of...say, chili. What can I do?"
There are a host of smaller, peel-top cans which, when heated and poured over rice, potatoes or pasta make a good filling and hot meal.

"I don't like the taste of parboiled rice. I don't want to carry the fuel needed to boil the water for 20 minutes to make real rice. Any suggestions?"
I hate to make those kinds of choices as well. I carry a thermal flask and use it to cook 'real rice' and real oatmeal, for that matter. It's also great for heating water the night before to make a hot breakfast without fussing with a stove in the morning. Check out any number of "Thermos cooking" websites for more ideas. For this - practice makes perfect...

"What else will work for breakfast? It's a big deal for the start of my day."
There are several dry mix products that will allow you to cook pancakes, bannock (AKA fry bread or pan bread) - or you can roll your own and store the ingredients in a zipbag or plastic container. Make sure your fuel budget covers the extra cooking time and that you have enough water for both cooking and cleaning up.

"I dunno, this all looks pretty complicated."
Good point, if you eat out all the time or your meals are mostly fast food, this can seem intimidating. In that case, the MREs are your friend. If you have even basic cooking skills, you can mix and match to suit your tastes.
It is really as simple as making a 4 x3 grid - three meals for 4 days, and filling in the blanks. Remember to check the "Use by" dates on any food before it goes into your DIY kit and make a mote of the dates you need to swap out your food supplies.
If you only do one or two practice campout trips a year, you can eat the food before it expires and get some practice on your cooking.

Questions? Ping Susan and I'll get an answer back to you via the webaite.

Thanks and Happy Holiday!
(Thank you, Mr. Richardson.  Excellent information as always, and I'm glad to have you back with us.)
From all of us here at Poverty Prepping
Merry Christmas!
Have a safe and wonderful holiday season.


1 comment:

  1. The pop tarts in MRE's are the unfrosted ones. Boring. If your packing your own you can pick the ones you like best!