I routinely budget $20 a week for my habit of prepping, and this week that $20 bill bought me 20 rice mixes for $10 (coupon magic), 25 boxes of mac & cheese for $7.50 (loss leader sale), and five pounds of white beans for $2.50 (discount bin). All together, that's enough food to feed 220 people. That works out to nine cents per meal-- and I consider that to be twenty bucks well spent. If I took that $20 and spent it on MREs (Meals-Ready-To-Eat) I would be able to purchase about four of them, with each MRE providing a single meal. So, when given the choice of purchasing 220 meals for twenty bucks, or purchasing four meals for the same money, I feel it's wasteful to buy MREs. That's strike one for MREs.

MREs have a shelf life of about five years. When compared to the shelf life of rice, pasta, and beans, which falls somewhere between "indefinite" and "forever", that's pathetic. Do I want to risk spending my hard-won dollars on food that might turn out to be inedible when I am most desperately in need of food? Hell no! That's strike two against MREs.

If I have rice mixes, and I also have garden vegetables, I can stretch the rice to feed even more people. If I add venison or trout to my mac and cheese to make chili mac or fish casserole, the same is true. But if I have veggies and venison and a shelf full of MREs, I'm not going to be able to stretch those MREs because MREs are so rigidly packaged and proportioned that they offer no such options. Strike three for MREs.

When I purchase a pound of beans, the beans weigh one pound, and the plastic baggie they are wrapped in weighs the merest fraction of an ounce. With a package of macaroni and cheese, the macaroni weighs 6 ounces and the cardboard box along together with the cheese sauce wrapper might weigh a tenth of an ounce. So, the ratio of food-to-trash is very favorable. But try unwrapping a single MRE. Put the edible stuff on one end of the scale, and the garbage generated by unwrapping it all on the other end of the scale. My guess it that the scale is going to balance perfectly. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the trash actually outweighs the food. I don't feel like packing my limited storage space with garbage, so that's strike four against MREs.

I understand that soldiers in the field need a hot meal without having cooking facilities available, but as a civilian who will undoubtedly always have access to at least a rustic coffee can rocket stove or fire pit, I'm not worried about that. If you want to play soldier, play soldier. But if you want to be a prepper, pack practical prepper foods and avoid the garbage.
The entire contents of a single typical MRE

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