It's up to you, of course, but if you choose to buy complete meals, be sure and taste-test them before investing money in many cans of a particular food. Some websites offer free or inexpensive samples, or just order one can to try.
These meals have cooked ingredients assembled in a factory according to their recipes. They may be mostly noodles/rice, a sauce and spices, and maybe some vegetables. Others may include a meat choice of chicken or beef. If all the ingredients are freeze dried products, you will add boiling water and wait for the food to absorb the water and soften. Others may require simmering.
One such Entrée for instance, a Chicken Teriyaki from Valley Food Storage requires 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil then whisk in package contents. Turn down to a gentle boil for 10-15 minutes or until noodles are soft. Remove from heat and let stand for 5-7 minutes. (Many of their pre-made meals have dehydrated foods rather than freeze dried so they require longer cooking, which doesn't make them any less tasty. I have found them to be excellent Entrée's with no preservatives, fillers or additives.)
Pre-Made Meals are perfect for those busy times when you need a meal fast without going to a fast-food restaurant. It is healthier and cheaper too.
There are also many kinds of pre-made mixes such as soup bases, brownie mixes, and pancake mixes. (These are just as good or better than you can purchase in the grocery store.) Some may require an added ingredient, while others (soup bases) are quick and hearty meals if you add some meat and vegetables.
Not all pre-made meals are free of preservatives, fillers or additives. It depends on which company you purchase from. I suggest that you always read the ingredient label (ask them for an ingredient list if it is not listed on their website.)
I have some complete meals in my storage. They're okay and some are exceptionally good. But I've read the labels and, frankly, I'd rather put together my own combinations of vegetables, meats, spices, and sauces, because then I know exactly what's in the meals I fix for my family. No preservatives, no fillers, and no ingredients that may cause an allergic reaction to anyone who might be sensitive to those ingredients.
So now when I buy any long term food supplies, I choose the cans, buckets, or pouches that contain nothing but a single product of meat, fruit, or vegetables. And this is what led me to begin . . . The Food Storage Recipe Club
I took a careful look at my favorite recipes. Scanning each ingredient, I made a note about which ingredients could be substituted with a freeze dried, dehydrated, or a canned product — as opposed to fresh.
Nearly all of the recipes I checked could, indeed, be converted to a shelf-stable version of fresh.
I know — that's two questions, but they are definitely related. I began with writing down the substitutions right next to each fresh ingredient in my recipes.
I have lost count of the number of times I have been asked these questions,
Using a dry ingredient for the most part is very simple. Rehydrate it by covering with warm or boiling water and let it sit until it has become soft. Then, use the product like you would a canned or frozen product in any of your recipes.
You can use the ingredients dry, that is, without rehydrating them. For instance, if you are making soup, just add a handful of freeze dried or dehydrated vegetables and meat to your broth. Monitor the water levels as it cooks to make sure you don’t run your soup dry.
Keep in mind that if you are using dehydrated ingredients, the food will get much larger in size and you could have a very hearty soup without realizing it! Start with small amounts and add more as needed.
If you are using freeze dried products, the pieces are about the same size as fresh foods; so if your recipe calls for 1 cup of fresh, use 1 cup of freeze dried.
If you're going to throw some dry foods INTO your soup, you'll need to add a couple minutes or so to accommodate the rehydration process. If you are rehydrating them before, there’s no extra time needed. Because freeze dried foods come pre-cooked, this makes a great shortcut for casseroles and soups.
Freeze dried foods such as meats, fruits, vegetables, and even cheese are pre-cooked, so you can actually eat them dry as as a snack. However, most people prefer the meats and cheeses in recipes. But the fruits and vegetables are delicious for snacking right out of the package. The fruits especially, are great in trail mixes or throw some in a baggie for a healthy snacks to your child's lunch box. (They will LOVE yogurt bites or yogurt melts.)