Prudent Food Storage

The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down. - Proverbs 21:20

Section 2 Common Storage Foods
H. MREs - Meals, Ready to Eat


As one might expect once the bugs were worked out of retort pouch and flameless ration heater technologies the manufacturing companies that produce them would try them on the civilian market. This has been a little slow in coming, mostly because in the modern day "fresh is best and refrigeration is cheap" world their market segment is somewhat small, but they are arriving. At the time of this writing there are several products now available, some of them quite new.


HeaterMeals are a type of MRE in casual clothing. Like the rations above they are a retort pouch preserved meal with its own built in heater. The heater itself is the same technology as the MRE heaters (the company makes them for the military), but a little different in form, to include having its own self-contained water to start the heating reaction. The meals themselves aren't packaged with the idea of rough handling in mind, but they'll keep well on the shelf.

The meals themselves come in two basic forms:

An entree pack with the heater, seasoning packet and cutlery

A complete meal pack with the heater, entree, seasoning packet, cutlery, side items like fruit, snack, and dessert, and a bottle of water to drink.

If you're not having to use them under rough field conditions they represent a self-heating, completely self contained meal.

These meals can be ordered from the manufacturer, a number of dealers which are listed on the company website, or you can often find them at truck stops, some supermarkets, sporting goods stores, and other such businesses.

Shelf life info for HeaterMeals was found at:

What is the shelf-life of HeaterMeals and HeaterMeals Plus Meals?

HeaterMeals are a high quality canned food, so storage is easy.

HeaterMeals Dinner entrees do not require refrigeration, and are shelf-stable for approximately 2 years. HeaterMeals entrees come with a "Please use by" date stamped on each box. This date is two years after we package the meals, as this is the optimum time to eat your HeaterMeals.

The HeaterMeals Breakfast "Pancakes, Syrup & Sausage Links" and all HeaterMeals Plus meals have a one year shelf-life.

HeaterMeals dinner entrees are designed to safely store (at 80 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least two years; three years or more, if stored at a temperature of 607deg;F or cooler. The shelf-life of HeaterMeals can be even longer; and the unique packaging of the entree and water pouch permits freezing for unlimited storage.


In the United Kingdom there is another entry in the self-heating meal field. This is the Hot Can from Hot Can UK, Limited. It's an interesting blend of old and different new tech in that the food itself is contained in a run-of-the-mill pop-top metal can, but the food can is contained in a sealed larger can filled with calcium oxide (quicklime) and a separate water capsule. When needed the self-contained water capsule is pierced with the provided tool allowing moisture to seep into the dry quicklime below and the food can pop-top is removed. In twelve to fifteen minutes the can will have heated to 65°-70° Celsius and remains at that temperature for roughly forty five minutes which means once you've finished the food inside you can quickly rinse the can and heat something else, perhaps a beverage.

There are a variety of meals available from the company, each weighing about 400 grams (roughly 14 ozs). Shelf life is"Three years from manufacturing date, or as indicated on printed bottom end of can". The heater itself releases no harmful or dangerous gasses and if for some reason you should break one open and spill some of the quicklime on yourself it can simply be washed off again with water.

Company contact information can be found in the Suppliers Section. Hot Cans are probably also available through retail dealers in the U.K. and elsewhere.


New on the market from AlpineAire is their entry into the self-heating meal arena. Uses the same retort and flameless heater technology as MREs but in different packaging. Snap the bottom of the package and in eight minutes your entree is hot and ready to go. As I write this there are only two entrees with more coming in the near future. They're rather pricey at a suggested retail of $8.95 for a mere 240 calories worth of vegetarian food. Still, it's a start and with time they may both lower the price and increase the menu choices.

Alpineaire advises an eighteen month shelf life for this particular product line.

They may be ordered directly from AlpineAire or through their many stocking dealers.


Mountain House isn't really offering a true Meal, Ready to Eat since you still have to add water to their freeze dried/dehydrated food, but I'm including it here since it's close. Basically, what they're offering is their own version of a flameless ration heater and some new packaging of a few of their entrees that allows the pouches to be put into their heaters to be warmed. They call their heater a "Mountain Oven" though they really don't bake anything, just warms things up.

To use their heater you dissolve one of the furnished salt tablets in a plastic bottle that comes in the kit. Place a "heat activation pad" in the bottom of the insulated over pouch then pour the salt water on it. Open up the food pouch, pour in the required amount of water then put the pouch inside the insulated bag and zip it closed (the outer bag is vented). Twenty minutes later the food should be about 100° F. (38°C) hotter than when you started.

Each Mountain Oven kit is good for five uses. At a suggested retail of $11.99 per kit that's about $2.40 per use which makes it rather pricey compared to the ordinary MRE heaters already on the market which can usually be purchased for about a buck apiece or less. Still, like the AlpineAire entry it's a start and with time they may come down in price and perhaps be easier to use as well.

The Mountain Oven kits can be ordered from Mountain House directly or purchased from one of their many dealers as they are distributed.

Updated: 9/18/96; 4/16/97; 7/21/97; 10/20/97; 9/15/98; 11/02/99; 12/01/03

Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2003. Alan T. Hagan. All rights reserved.

Excluding contributions attributed to specific individuals or organizations all material in this work is copyrighted to Alan T. Hagan with all rights reserved. This work may be copied and distributed for free as long as the entire text, mine and the contributor's names and this copyright notice remain intact, unless my prior express permission has been obtained. This FAQ may not be distributed for financial gain, included in commercial collections or compilations, or included as a part of the content of any web site without prior, express permission from the author.

DISCLAIMER: Safe and effective food storage requires attention to detail, proper equipment and ingredients. The author makes no warranties and assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions in this text, or damages resulting from the use or misuse of information contained herein. This FAQ is not intended for, nor should it be used in, any commercial food applications.

Placement of or access to this work on this or any other site does not necessarily mean the author espouses or adopts any political, philosophical or metaphysical concepts that may also be expressed wherever this work appears.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements & Foreword

Section 1 - Shelf Lives

  1. Time, Temperature, Moisture, Oxygen and Light

Section 2 - Foods

  1. Common Storage Foods

A. Grains & legumes

  1. Grains & Grain Products
  2. Legumes
  3. Availability of Grains and Legumes
  4. Storing Grains and Legumes

B. Dairy Products

  1. Dry Milks
  2. Canned Fluid Milks and Creams
  3. Butter
  4. Cheese

C. Eggs

  1. Dry Eggs

D. Sugar, Honey and Other Sweeteners

  1. Granulated Sugars
  2. Honey
  3. Cane Syrups
  4. Corn Syrup
  5. Maple Syrup

E. Fats and Oils

  1. Buying & Storing Oils and Fats
  2. Extending Shelf Life By Adding Anti-Oxidants

F. Cooking Adjuncts

  1. Baking Powder
  2. Baking Soda
  3. Herbs & Spices
  4. Salt
  5. Vinegar
  6. Yeast

G. Infant Formula

  1. Alternatives to Breastfeeding
  2. Selecting and Feeding An Infant Formula
  3. Storing Infant Formulas and Baby Foods

H. MREs - Meals, Ready to Eat

  1. U.S. Military MREs
  2. U.S. Civilian MREs
  3. British/Canadian MREs
  4. Other Self-Heating Ready To Eat Type Products

I. Ration Bars

  1. Ration Bars

Section 3 - Specific Equipment Questions

A. Storage Containers

  1. What is Food Grade Packaging?
  2. Plastic Packaging
  3. Metal Cans
  4. Glass Jars
  5. Mylar Bags
  6. Reusing or Recycling Packaging

B. CO2 and Nitrogen

  1. Dry Ice
  2. Compressed Nitrogen

C. Vacuum Sealing

  1. Vacuum Sealing Considerations

D. Freeze Treating

  1. Freeze Treating

E. Oxygen Absorbers

  1. What Is an Oxygen Absorber?
  2. How Are Oxygen Absorbers Used?

F. Moisture in Packaging and Food Storage

  1. Why Moisture is Important
  2. What Is A Desiccant?
  3. Types of Desiccants
  4. How Do I Use Desiccants?
  5. Where Do I Find Desiccants?

G. Diatomaceous Earth

  1. What is Diatomaceous Earth?
  2. Where Do I Find DE and What Type Should I Buy?
  3. How Do I Use DE in Food Storage?

Section 4 - Spoilage

A. Insect Infestations

  1. Pests of Stored Grains, Legumes and Dry Foodstuffs
  2. Control of Insect Infestations

B. Molds in Foods

  1. Minimizing Molds
  2. Molds in Canned Goods
  3. Molds in Grains and Legumes

C. Bacterial Spoilage

  1. Botulism

D. Enzymatic Action in Food Spoilage

  1. Enzymatic Action

Section 5 - Shelf Lives

A. Food Product Dates

  1. "Best Used By", "Use By" and Other Food Product Dates

B. Closed Dating

  1. Closed Dating Codes Used by Some Food Manufacturers

C. Shelf Lives

  1. Shelf Lives of Some Common Storage Foods

Section 6 - Resources

A. Books

  1. Books

B. Pamphlets

  1. Pamphlets

C. Electronic-online

  1. Information sources
  2. Software sources

D. Organizations

  1. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - LDS Family Cannery Guidelines

E. Food and Equipment Suppliers

  1. Mail Ordering Storage Foods What You Should Know
  2. Addresses of Suppliers