Scot’s Product Review: MRE Depot Food Products

I recently wrote about the Yoders meats sold by MRE Depot, one of a number of vendors that sell storage foods aimed at preppers. As well as MRE’s and Yoders meats, they also carry a number of other items of interest. While MRE’s are useful and everyone should have some, the other items are, in my view, more important. A diet of MRE’s is going to get old pretty quick. This review is on some of the other food products they offer. They were kind enough to send several different items for me to review.

Since I think readers deserve more than my opinion on food, I have assembled a family taste panel, which I’ve described before. For the benefit of regular readers, I put the description of the panel at the bottom of the review. I have also noted before, but will repeat that I think storage food needs to be composed of stuff your family will eat in normal times. Many of us fear that there is a crunch coming, but we hope to never need it, and so I don’t want to get stuck with food that might go to waste. We, therefore, taste test before we buy, and we don’t buy what we won’t eat in normal times.

All of these products were in #2½ cans– a size I favor for storage. My immediate family consists of three, and we can finish the contents of this size can before anyone gets so sick of what came out of it that we stop eating it and it goes to waste. The products in #10 cans last far longer than any of us want to eat the same thing over and over, and we therefore have to worry about wasting food. This probably won’t be as much of an issue in crisis, but it sure comes up when we eat things to rotate supplies. Your mileage will vary as you may have a much larger family, or food fatigue may not be as much of an issue for you.

Future Essentials Canned Fifty Chocolate Gold Coins

These are six-gram pieces of chocolate, wrapped in gold foil and embossed to look like a Kennedy half dollar. They are 1½ inches in diameter and 1/8th inch thick. The can provides a total of about 10.5 ounces of chocolate. I tricked my son with this one and didn’t tell him it came from storage food, and he liked them. He has grown suspicious of some of his dad’s experiments with storage food. He wasn’t the only one who liked it; in fact, everyone did. It’s not Godiva, and it’s not Hershey’s, but it is good; it will never, ever go to waste in my home. In a SHTF situation, these would represent a huge cheer up factor, especially if you have kids. The problem will be making them last. They are $10.95 per can and have a five-year storage life.

I didn’t try them, but I saw that they also offer a chocolate variety pack for $109.45 with three different chocolate items and a seven- to ten-year storage life, if kept out of the sun or heat. You get canned Milk Chocolate Caramel Cups, canned Mini Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, and canned Hershey’s Mini Milk Chocolate Kisses. This could go a long way in keeping folks happy under stress.

Freeze Dried Strawberries

My son, who devours fresh strawberries, turned his nose up at these, alas. The adults approved; however, I suspect my son was being fickle. They offer no competition with fresh strawberries, mind you, but they are quite acceptable. They can be eaten without reconstituting with water, but I liked them better after letting them soak for several minutes. A bit of sugar helps too, as they seemed slightly tart. I thought they worked quite well with vanilla ice cream or yogurt; my wife and sister agreed. They cost $8.95 per can.

Pilot Bread Crackers

These crackers are almost the same diameter as the #2½ can they come in. There are 12 in the can, and each 100-calorie cracker is considered a serving. They reminded me a bit of hard tack without the hard. In other words, your dental work is quite safe. I had expected something of a Ritz cracker flavor, but they don’t have the soda taste; that makes me like them even more. My sister and wife also enjoyed them as did my son, who grimaced when he discovered they came out of one of my cans. He kept eating it, though. There are a lot of possibilities with these things. Soups go great with them as do peanut butter or jam. Cheese is also an excellent companion as is a fried egg. They are sturdy enough to be wrapped and carried in a coat pocket. You would have to take a bit of care, but if they were in a bag, you could dribble the crumbs into your mouth. They cost $7.95 per can, and MRE Depot says they will last for 30 years, so you won’t have to rotate them very often.

Future Essentials Freeze-Dried Marinara Sauce

This rehydrated into a chunkier mix than my son or I prefer. Since my son and I both cringe at the sight of intact tomatoes, my wife threw it into the blender for some extra processing. She used it with the pasta noodles that came with the shipment and made a pleasant meal. It wasn’t my favorite ever Marinara sauce, but there were no problems using it in normal times. It goes for $10.95 per can. They say it is good for 10 years storage.

Future Essentials Cooked Freeze-Dried Ground Beef

My wife called this “a great raw material for meals”, which is high praise coming from her, as she really likes putting things together for herself. It rehydrates easily, and while neither of us were crazy about eating it by itself, it worked well in a couple of dishes my wife prepared. One involved the Marinara sauce and the pasta noodles that are part of this report. This one costs $14.95 per can. They rated it as six servings per can, which I thought was pretty appropriate for how it will be used in recipes but probably not if served alone.

Future Essentials Canned Cream of Broccoli Soup Mix

This one was the one that failed for us. A failure was bound to happen sooner or later. The recipe called for milk or water, and I made it with milk, figuring it would be creamier that way. There were liberal amounts of broccoli, but both my wife and I felt the vegetable had a rubbery texture, and neither of us really liked the overall taste. I would eat it in a crunch, and I suspect my wife would too, but neither of us would eat it in normal times, so it isn’t something I will plan to stock. You might like it, but be sure to try it before buying it in quantity. It goes for $5.95 a can, so it’s no huge loss if you buy one and find you don’t like it either.

Future Essentials Canned Instant Mashed Potatoes Instant Mashed Potatoes

These were pretty much like any other instant mashed potatoes. My wife warned that the recipe didn’t ask for enough liquids, so she added milk. They suggest adding butter, which she also put in along with some salt. I wondered if they had been made completely with milk if they might have been better, but they were fine if you are okay with instant mashed potatoes. I’m not a fan of them, having been spoiled by the real ones my wife makes, but these were okay, and there will be no problem using them in rotation. They cost $7.95 per can.

Future Essentials Canned Small Shell Pasta Noodles

There isn’t much to say. These were noodles; they came out of the can and were just like the ones from the grocery store that come in a box; they tasted the same. The only difference is that they will last a whole lot longer on the shelf and the bugs and varmints can’t get into the can, like they could a cardboard box. They are $5.95 per can.

The Tasters for This Review

When I write about food, I need to give more than just my opinion. The taste panel I can conveniently herd together consists of my wife, my son, my sister, and me. I thought a rundown of our tastes might help you determine how valuable our comments are for your own needs. Please remember that everyone has different tastes and you may love stuff we hate. That’s why I have tried a panel approach, though it is a limited one.

I am the closest to a tasteless barbarian, though my table manners are better. While I like a well-prepared, tasty meal with fresh ingredients assembled by a talented cook (the national command authority also known as my wife), I can get by on far less, as long as mushrooms, raw tomatoes, and kimchi are out of sight. I can handle most MRE’s, but I do get bored with them. Mountain House freeze-dried meals are generally quite satisfying to me as a baseline meal, though they sure don’t compare to my wife’s excellent cooking. As long as I have a good recipe, I can prepare a decent meal, though I panic over judging whether fish and meats are cooked enough and having to improvise sends me screaming in terror from the kitchen.

My wife is on the gourmet end of the spectrum and is an accomplished cook. She doesn’t need any stinking recipes to toss together a very pleasant meal from whatever she can scrounge from the kitchen. I suspect she could make something tasty with the sponge by the kitchen sink. She bores if she has the same thing too many times, which is probably about twice. She grew up in French Canada and U.S. Maine, eating fresh lobsters and dining in good restaurants that had chefs rather than cooks. She can spend hours watching cooking shows. MRE’s provoke threatening looks. She truly enjoys exotic foods from around the world, and there is little she won’t try.

My ten-year-old son likes Vietnamese and Chinese foods and will go for a number of dishes his peers panic over. His table manners would be barbaric if allowed. He has had bouts of suspicion over some of the storage foods we have tried, as a couple of them weren’t so hot, but he seems to be getting over it. He makes some good observations on meals that surprise me with their sophistication. He does have some typical ten-year-old boy aversions to vegetables, but he likes meat in most every form. When he likes something, he will eat it for days without end. He trusts his mom’s cooking more than his dad’s and will even watch cooking shows with her.

My sister might be a cross between my wife and me. She will eat most anything, but she really likes quality food. She spent a lot of time living in Europe and was exposed to many cuisines. Although she is good in the kitchen, she doesn’t cook much herself as my brother-in-law fancies himself a chef, and he really is quite good at it.

SimGar Update

I have been meaning to do an update on the SimGar container gardening system I reviewed quite a while back. As a reminder, it has two containers for soil that sit on a tank of water that is circulated through the containers with a solar-powered pump. I got a nice batch of black-eyed peas out of it and then switched to green peppers when the black-eyed peas gave out. The peppers didn’t do well, and I was puzzled why until I remembered I had been warned to watch the pH of the water and soil. I picked up a pH meter and sure enough, things had gotten really acidic. Apparently, the fertilizer I was using, or perhaps the rain, brought the pH down substantially, and the green peppers were miserable. I picked up some stuff to bring the pH up to a more normal range, deep stirred the soil, and put in some chives, parsley, oregano, and basil; now things are looking pretty good. My wife is also happy to have the herbs, so that’s a plus too. I still have one container open, so I’m going to try some more green pepper plants. I still like the concept, and the unit is working well. I had to move it to catch the winter sun. A nice feature is how well it catches rain water. I have only had to add water once, but it has been a wet year in these parts. I’ll keep you posted.

– SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor, Scot Frank Erie