The local Walmart just started stocking these in place of Mountain House meals, so I figured I would buy a couple and try 'em out. They sell for $4.88 a piece and carry a 'Best by' date of 6/2013.
This one happens to be 'Cilantro Lime Rice w/Pinto beans.' As it sits, the package weighs under 5 ounces on my scale. It's a nice size for backpacking, if I had to compare it to something, I would say it's a little bit larger than a typical paperback book.
Here's the back side. As is typical with pre-packaged meals, the sodium content is extremely high. This one is 41% of your Daily Value. For hiking or strenuous activity, where you will be drinking a lot of water and loosing a lot of salt through perspiration, it's probably not a big deal. However, I wouldn't really want to eat these things day in and day out. If you notice, it also has a neat little clear window on the side that lets you use the bag as a measuring device, so you know exactly how put water to use to prepare the meal.
Preparing it is pretty simple. All you need is the bag itself, some water, and a way to boil said water. I'm using an MSR steel pot and an MSR Pocket Rocket Stove.
*Warning: Make sure to use stove on level ground in a well ventilated area.
While the water is boiling, I decided to open the package and see what's inside. Apparently, it's more packages. It appears to be one package of spices and one package of beans/rice/cilantro. I really like that. While it's more garbage to throw away, it does allow one to use different spices if so desired, or to only eat the beans/rice and save the spice packet for something else. It also allows one to use the main pouch as a way to roughly measure the necessary amount of water before boiling.
I started by opening the package of beans/rice/cilantro and emptying it into the main pouch. It looks like pretty typical dried rice and beans.
I then added the boiling water to the bag. *Warning: Boiling water is obviously very hot.
From there, it says to seal the pouch (which has a ziploc-like zipper along the top edge) and wait 5-7 minutes. I figured I would just split the difference and set the timer for 6.
After the 6 minutes were up, I added the spice packet and stirred.
I poured it into the pot and, Viola!, Cilantro Lime Rice with Pinto Beans. I don't think it looks too bad.
Taste wise, well, it tastes like what it is. Dried beans and rice, in a kind of soupy Mexican spice sauce, and a hint of lime. If you're expecting Michelin Star quality food, this ain't it. The beans and rice themselves are pretty tasteless, it's obvious all the flavor comes from the spice packet. It's a little hot, but I didn't find it to be excessively thirst provoking. The hint of lime is nice, adding to subtle sweetness to the dish. All in all, I found it to be filling and inoffensive enough that I wouldn't mind eating it again, at least when I'm hiking. It's definitely better than some meals I've eaten for under $5.