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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Review: Meal Kit Supply MRE's - Part 1 of 4



As an introduction to what's happening here, I'll introduce a part of myself to this site that has yet remained untold. I'm in my mid-twenties. That doesn't automatically qualify me to do anything, rather, quite the opposite. I completely understand that because of my short time here on Earth so far, my opinions and perspectives are due for changes later on. However, I know what I know.

I'm committed to creating an online Canadian preparedness community. I've done reviews on things I've bought and soon, things that other people have bought. Sometimes a Canadian perspective on things is going to be different than an American viewpoint, because we have different lifestyles that guide and mold us. For instance, a review on a pocket knife here in Canada will be different from one in the States' - we've got different laws that govern what we can and can not have.

Below, I'll start off the first part of four in a series of reviews on a product supplied by Meal Kit Supply Canada. This review series is very unique in that, these products were kindly provided to me for free by MKS - specifically for the purposes of reviewing. This does a couple things; it provides a degree of legitimacy to the Canadian preparedness community as a whole - our opinion matters, it also perked my interest to know that MKS would so willingly ship me a few MRE's - they really, REALLY stand behind what they're selling.

So we're clear about the intent of this review, let me explain. This first review of four is happening in my kitchen, on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. I have all the amenities that we consider luxury. I have a fridge full of food and just finished a double-double. In no way is this a scenario where food is a scarcity. I'm not trying to starve myself to see how full these MRE's really leave me. I am interested in the production value and taste of them. I'll be asking my wife to sample them as well. Let's face it - at the end of the day, we'll eat anything to make it through to the next day, but to buy a case of MRE's - a good tasting one couldn't hurt.

These products were given to me to review on a volunteer basis - no pay or endorsements.

I've purchased a few readily available MRE type packages as well, for both product-to-product comparison and to illustrate what is readily available to the consumer. I figure this accurately represents a cross-section of what's available to us; the mail order MRE, a Mountain House dehydrated package and a mil-surp MRE.

After a few phone-calls and emails, the package arrives at my doorstep. Little brown box that was much lighter than I expected. I brought it upstairs and immediately opened it up. I received four full MRE packages. At this point, I hadn't opened any up yet - as I wanted to do a full sit down review of each package. It would have to wait until the weekend as my job had me staying over in Welland, ON for a few more nights.




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The first one I picked to review was the Pork Sausage Patty. Some resources regarding this product are listed below the main review and provided on the Meal Kit Supply site.

I immediately noticed one thing about the MRE when I unpacked it all onto my kitchen table. It's all in subdued colours. I noticed this outright because my brain automatically triggered my 'cool' reflex. I took this as a good and bad thing. I subscribe to the theory of '2nd kind of cool' as stated by nutnfancy. This is an added bonus of subdued colours - it looks cool. Sure, it's practical in the bush and definitely for the military, but it's also cool. I hesitated on this fact however, as sometimes things that look cool are only that...


Welll, time to dig in. As you can see - I had my oh-so-professional reviewing equipment at the ready.

Upon further inspection of the packaging, I noted to my wife that the outer layer - reads: Meal Kit Ready To Eat - could be used as a waterproof container in a backpack. A stretch, but in a stretch it could prove to be very useful. The MRE contents read Made in MO - but it's all distributed out of Canada, which I'm glad to hear.

I'm only going to go over the things actually worth reviewing - let's face it, pepper is pepper. While the little condiment packages are not worth the hard look, it is worth noting that they are included. Two spoons, one short, one long. A napkin - I have read that it's a frustration among people who use these in the field to only have one napkin, but as far as I'm concerned, that is unfounded. I haven't experienced this particularly, however, and can therefore not comment on it accurately.


So the first thing I did was pour myself a glass of water and put a boil on to test out the coffee. I mixed up the orange electrolyte mixture and had a sip. It pretty much just tasted like freshy. There's no more accurate way to describe it. Like any orange mix you'll find. No detectable aftertaste or off-putting taste at all. Good and refreshing.


With boiling water, I mixed up a cup of coffee. I didn't use the creamer or sugar included - I spent many a night shift living off this stuff. Mind you, it's no double double, but on a rainy morning, stuck inside a tent, it's a gift sent directly from the gods. There's just nothing like a hot cup of java... instant or not. Again, nothing you wouldn't find at the grocery store, but it's all included in that little plastic bag.


I opened the Snack Bread first - I had wondered since I opened the package if it would just be some kind of hard tack or if it was indeed a 'bread'... not a 'board'. I was sincerely surprised to find a decent little bread-type, almost muffin-textured treat inside. I spread the included Blackberry Jam on top and had a bite. Without question, my favourite part of the MRE. I would buy this separately - just to eat. Really, really tasty. Almost sweet, not too chewy and almost moist. Awesome.

My wife went as far as to say she'd eat it as a snack, any day, while comparing the taste to something like a poptart without any filling. We both liked the fact that the jam was more like a spread - no hunks of berries. I was interested to get my wife's input on these products, knowing what her predisposition to them were. She insisted they would taste like cardboard - she was very surprised to eat and enjoy all that was included.


Next, we ripped out the sausage patty. The picture above is fresh out of the packaging. I wanted to try the 'main' stuff cold and hot - you never know, maybe you'll have to eat it cold. The sausage was greasy and, to be brutally honest, unappealing when it was fresh out of the package and cold. I took a bite - decent. Could definitely taste the maple, and that was a huge plus for me. Heating it up in the microwave for a half-minute or so (yes, I know that's not always possible in a bad situation, but I wanted to give the main dishes a thorough review) proved a valuable endeavor. After getting it out, the area right in front of the microwave fumed up with the scent of Sunday morning. Pork and maple - oh! Canada!

When eaten hot, the sausage was really quite tasty and you could really get the taste of maple. A good healthy portion too. About the size of a McDonald's hashbrown, but twice as thick.


After that, I pulled out the Hashbrowns w/ Bacon package. We tried the flameless heaters with great success. After reading the instructions twice through, I couldn't for the life of me find the 'fill line' for the water, but the instructions luckily included a measurement of water to use.

Here's basically what happens - Rip off the top, slide your food pouch in, put 40ml of water in, fold over the top and stick it the food pouch's box, tilted upwards.

Here's what I didn't expect - this thing gets HOT. I mean - "holy shit I need to find somewhere to put this" hot. I stuck it in the sink - suggested time is 12 minutes. I let it sit there for about 10 minutes before I took it out to see. When I removed the food pouch from the heater pouch, it was really, really warmed up. The pouch had steam rising from it before it was even open.


The hashbrown's packaging allows the user to open it horizontally - a great feature so that you don't get any on your fingers trying to reach down for the last bits.

We tried the hashbrowns cold. They were good - you could really taste the bacon.

Warmed up they were my second favourite part of this MRE. I dumped the pepper in there and gave it a stir - and finished the package. My wife had a couple spoonfuls and noted that she would have expected it to be gross, but that it actually tasted really good. From sitting in the heater, the hashbrown mix was steaming - right up to the last spoonful.

Supplied as well was a brand name Pop-Tart. Not much to say - you can get them at the grocery store and everybody knows they're good. I could see keeping this, however, as a 'snack' for after the main meal - maybe kept in a pocket for later as it retains it's own packaging.


MKS has kindly supplied a hand wipe with each meal as well. Cleanliness aside - this could prove to be a major morale booster to those not really used to not having a sink around. Good call.

I had always viewed MRE's as military issued survival food. I knew I could get them at the army surplus store and had thought that they'd be really, really gross. To the layman - food sitting around for YEARS will not be very tasty.

This is much more than just 'suvival food', it was in fact very tasty and I'm really looking forward to getting into the next three. We'll look a little deeper into the nutritional benefits of these packages and how best to keep them, next time.

I would encourage sheepdog readers to stick around for the show - we're being offered a limited time coupon for purchases from Meal Kit Supply!

Resources:
FAQ - Shelf life, allergies, nutrition.
Case Details - Configuration and information about packaged MRE's.
Ration Heater - More information on MKS Flameless Ration Heaters


3 comments:

  1. The first box I had from this company was a mixed bag. 12 meals but not 2 of each menu, one was even a breakfast meal. Some meals had coffee, some not; some had napkins, some not; some had one sugar, some two, some none. The jam was mostly of one flavour and drinks mainly lemon and iced tea. Spoon were different sizes.

    NOTE: You have to pay more for the ones with heaters, my box were the non-heater kind.

    Price was too expensive from the company and Costco compared to American prices so I bought mine on Ebay, I have 6 in storage from another seller.

    Good point: The outer bags can be re-sealed with a Foodsaver Vacuum machine so I was able to change the menus around to be closer to 2x6 menus as well as add things like coffee, napkins, and gum/candy.

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  2. I usually spend hours on the net reading blogs on various subjects. And, I really would like to praise you for writing such a fabulous article.I really like your way of information given.Thanks! ration MREs meals ready-to-eat

    ReplyDelete
  3. I was just telling my girlfriend about my post-Katrina MRE experiences. I got to the point of describing the snack bread to her, but couldn't remember its name. So I searched for "MRE bread images" and picked your picture out of the line up.
    I read your review and though I can't recall ever eating a breakfast MRE, I do have vivid memories of how much I enjoyed the snack bread. If I could get that separately, I would also.

    ReplyDelete