Scot’s Product Review: MRE Depot Foods

MRE Depot is one of a number of vendors that sell storage foods aimed at preppers. As the name implies, they sell MRE’s, but they also carry a number of other items of interest. While MRE’s are useful, and I think everyone should have some, the other items are, in my view, more important, as MRE’s alone are going to make for a boring diet. MRE Depot was kind enough to send six different items for me to review, and I added a seventh from my personal stores.

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, and my sister, along with myself. I figure a rundown of our tastes would be helpful. Some of this will be repetitive from past reviews, so you can skip ahead a bit if you have read those. On the other hand, if you didn’t, it 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 panel.

I am probably the closest to a tasteless barbarian of the lot. I like a well-prepared tasty meal with fresh ingredients assembled by a talented cook, but 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 do get bored with them. Mountain House freeze-dried meals are generally satisfying 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 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 from the sponge by the sink. She bores if she has the same thing too many times, which is probably about twice. She spent a fair amount of time as a French Canadian and also as an American gobbling up Maine lobsters and getting to eat in good restaurants that had chefs rather than cooks. She can spend hours watching cooking shows. MRE’s provoke threatening looks from her. 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. 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 a cooking show with her.

My sister might be a cross between me and my wife. She will eat most anything but 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 is actually good at it).

Getting back to the food itself, all items except the bacon were in #2.5 cans. I like this size for my family, as we can use the food up before it goes bad or anyone gets sick of it. The bacon was in the #1 size can. While larger cans are more economical, food fatigue sometimes leads to things being thrown out. This is probably more of an issue when it is being eaten as part of rotation in normal times, rather than surviving when things have gone wrong. Your own mileage will vary according to the size and tastes of your family.

This is also repetitive from other reviews and can be skipped too, but I have decided to stop buying foods we won’t eat in normal times. It is my prayer that we never have to use this stuff in a crunch, but I have too much money tied up in it to throw it away or donate it. It has to be food we are willing to use when the time comes to rotate it. Additionally, having food that we would eat in normal times will be a huge comfort in bad ones.

Yoders Meats

The Yoders meat variety pack consists of 12 cans of meat totaling about 21 pounds of food. You get:

  • 2 Cans of Beef chunks, 14 servings of 170 calories each
  • 2 Cans Chicken chunks 14 servings of 80 calories each
  • 2 Cans Turkey chunk 14 servings of 70 calories each
  • 2 Cans Pork chunks 14 servings of 100 calories each
  • 2 Cans Hamburger 14 servings of 80 calories each
  • 2 Cans Pork Sausage 14 servings of 160 calories each

Each can has 28 Ounces in “U.S. Raised and Commercially Canned meats per can, fully cooked and ready to eat.” MRE Depot says to expect ten years of storage, and the case costs $110.00 plus shipping. All of the meats provide a fair number of calories from fat, which is something lacking from many storage kits. So if you have purchased one of those, something like this could be an excellent addition to those containers of wheat and rice as well as providing some variety in your meals.

One thing to note here is serving size. They use two ounces for a serving. Also look at the calorie count. My wife and I agreed that we would double or triple the servings, and if we were doing a lot of manual labor, would probably keep multiplying. This will vary from person to person, and these observations hold true for many other packaged food products. Think hard when you study servings and portions promised on any can.

The first thing we tried was the Pork Sausage, and it was a success. All of us liked it. It wasn’t as good as the patties our butcher made for us from the hogs we shot recently, but the stuff is tasty and enjoyable, as a breakfast side dish or for the main course for lunch or dinner. You could combine it with any number of foods. My wife thought of potatoes, and I thought of BBQ sauce and a bun. My son liked it and happily scarfed it down. My sister didn’t get to sample it, until after it had been in the fridge for four days and had, in my view, had lost some flavor, but she still approved. She didn’t like it as much as we did, but said she would have no trouble using it in rotation or in a crunch. It comes out of the can as sort of a loaf; the next time we try a can, I plan to see if it can be sliced and then fried as a patty. Frying might add some nice texture.

Next up were the Chicken Chunks. Again, it was approved by all, though we all felt it needed salt. My wife’s first reaction was “I can really make something with this!”, which was magic to my ears. Anytime she feels she can work with a food, it is a victory in my column. She gets a lot of pleasure from converting raw materials into a tasty meal, and when she approves of the ingredients I am home free. My son immediately hit it with soy sauce (I think he will drink the stuff as he does tabasco) and was well pleased. I added a bit of soy and some BBQ sauce (my universal solution to food, apparently) and was also happy. My wife sautéed potatoes and spinach, added some salt and was immediately pleased, both by her efforts and by the chicken. As usual, she made a nice meal out of things that I would have been lost with. My sister got to sample a taste of the chicken from the can and agreed it needed salt, but she said it was quite decent. The chicken itself seemed to be all white meat and was compressed into the can, which I think improved the texture. There was some broth which could have been made into a soup or ladled on to rice with good effect.

While the hamburger did not meet with quite as much favor as the chicken or pork sausage, my wife agreed that it would never go to waste. I thought it was fine but did need salt. My son became suspicious and refused to eat it as is, but suggested it would be good for a sloppy Joe. My wife then cooked some noodles and concocted a stroganoff-like sauce and combined it all into a very nice meal. My son stated that he refused to eat the hamburger by itself, but he devoured two huge servings and said it was good with the noodles and sauce. Ten-year-old boys, sigh. My sister was not around, so she didn’t get to try it, as the whole thing was consumed quickly, which means my family of three consumed the whole can along with a healthy portion of pasta. See my comments on serving size!

This report is probably starting to sound repetitive. We liked the Turkey Chunks too. They aren’t as pretty when they come from the can as the chicken. The can we sampled was mainly dark meat. My son was suspicious of the appearance, but when I used the recipe on the side of the can that called for some Worcestershire and soy sauce along with some cornstarch to thicken the broth, he gobbled up a good-sized serving and said he liked it. I did triple the amount of called for soy sauce, as he loves the stuff, and I felt it needed the saltiness. My sister liked it better straight from the can and said it would work fine in their home. She felt I had added too much soy to the broth, though. I liked it either way as did my wife.

Lest this continue to excess, the beef and pork chunks met with essentially the same reactions as the other meats. They tasted fine from the can, though bland, and my wife felt they made a “fabulous” base to work her magic on. She added BBQ sauce to the beef and made sandwiches we all enjoyed for lunch, and the pork got served with scalloped potatoes and a salad and also won culinary approval for dinner from all involved. My sister, alas, missed out on both.

Yoders Bacon

The Yoders Bacon doesn’t come in the variety case of meats but can be purchased separately at $170 for a case of 12 cans plus shipping. The bacon had what I consider the most accurate serving information. Each can has 9 ounces of bacon with 40-50 slices per can and says that there are three slices per serving at 60 calories per serving. I generally see bacon as a side dish; I’m pretty happy with the idea of three or so slices with breakfast, though I can almost always eat more of the stuff. We tried a can that has been stored for five years, and it was exactly how I remembered when we tried a can when the case first arrived. It is pre-cooked and could be eaten right out of the can, but cold bacon is a bit yucky to me. It reminds me of the pre-cooked stuff my wife sometimes buys for camping that we heat up in a pan and then devour. Neither the Yoders nor the grocery store pre-cooked bacon is as good as fresh, raw bacon sizzled to one’s taste for crispness in a frying pan, but it is still tasty and enjoyable, so there is no fear whatsoever that it won’t be eaten. A 10 year plus storage life is promised. We tried it microwaved but liked it better heated in a frying pan. I had been just getting it hot before eating it. However, my son made some and actually cooked it a bit further, and it was a lot better.

One thought that occurred to me is that cooking bacon produces great aromas, which could be a disadvantage in a survival situation. Far less is produced with this stuff since all you have to do is heat it and cook it a little, and that means you are less likely to draw the attention of those who may not be welcome for dinner. It’s one thing to invite guests’ it’s another to have unwelcome ones arrive.

Overall, we were quite pleased with all of the Yoder meats. I had already been keeping some of the bacon on hand and plan to add the other meats when the budget allows. It is bland out of the can, but that allows you to season it to your tastes, which is a good thing in my book. The primary caveat is that the servings are small, even if you aren’t doing much. If you are feeding a group of folks doing hard, manual labor, it isn’t going to go far. That said, the costs are pretty reasonable compared to what you can find in the grocery store, which will have a shorter shelf life and are usually in smaller containers.

– SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor, Scot Frank Erie