Introduction: DIY Compact MREs (Meals Ready to Eat)

DIY Compact MREs are perfect to take on a hike, a camp trip or to store for emergencies. These meals are easy to customize for whatever occasion you need!

If you're on a budget, most of the items required can be bought at a dollar store or you might already have in your cupboards! If you don't mind spending a little more, you can make some premium MREs to enjoy.

Creating these compact kits can help save space in your emergency or camp trip gear.

The content and directions list ensures that you'll have what you need, when you need it.

For extra convenience, you can add items that don't require cooking or only need hot water.

If you don't have a bowl, the durable plastic bag can hold hot items!


Durable, quart size plastic bags. Optional: if you use vacuum seal bags, the food will stay fresh longer.

Snack size bags (if you'd like to bag smaller items you're putting inside each kit).

Non-perishable, compact food items. They can be prepackaged from the store, or home made!

Utensil items (hand wipes, napkins, plastic forks/spoons, depending on what each kit needs).


Paper or index cards.

Computer and printer (if you want to type up and print out your content and directions lists).

Clean, open area.

Step 1: Brainstorm Meal Ideas

If you'd like, choose a theme for your MRE. Think about when you may use it and what you might like for that occasion. I chose to make kits that are breakfast, lunch and dinner inspired.

If you are using some food items you already have at home, you could base your plans off of those items. For example, I already had a box of oatmeal packets, so I made oatmeal the main dish for my breakfast kit and bought other items that would be complimentary.

Remember to choose food that doesn't need to be refrigerated and is compact so it will fit into the quart size bag. Take into consideration items that may melt or get smashed.

Step 2: Make a List, Shop and Compile Your Items

Having a list helps you stay on track at the store and to remember specific items you need. It also helps you avoid compulsive purchases.

Step 3: Pack Each MRE and Make Note Cards

As you grab each item for a kit, record it on a piece of paper or index card. Note the calories or nutrition facts if you'd like. Add any special instructions for preparing the meal and the date you packed it. After you've created each meal, pack it in a bag to make sure it fits!

Once you've made your first kit, you can easily replicate it using the same content list.

*Note: for my dinner kit, I emptied some instant noodles into a small snack size bag to make them more compact. If you choose to use noodles, make sure you know how to cook them! To keep it simple, get noodles that only require hot water.

Step 4: Optional: Type Up and Print Content Cards

You can stick with your index cards you made or for a nicer touch, you can type it up, print and cut out an insert for each bag. The photo shown has four on one page, but I'm sure you could fit more if you wanted.

Step 5: Enjoy!

Pack your MRE kits in your camping gear for premade meals. Pack them in a backpack and keep in a convenient location near your front door or in your car for an emergency. Bring them on a hike and impress your friends!

Bon appetit!

Step 6: Replace/ Rotate

Make sure you eat your MREs before they expire. If you only made them for emergencies and you're fortunate enough to not need them, eat them as a snack or donate them before they expire. Replace them with new kits to maintain your storage.

Step 7: Optional: Make Small Utensil Kit for Cooking

Add a utensil kit to your pack if you need items for cooking. A pot, water, metal spoon, metal mug, matches, or fire starter may be needed for your MRE.