free stuff for my prep/DIY MREs

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stickle
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free stuff for my prep/DIY MREs

Post by stickle » Fri Mar 03, 2017 5:53 pm

I am reworking my food preps and decided to make up some DIY rations.

I have looked at many discussions on the topic and see many common items. These include

plastic knife/spoon fork
salt/pepper
hot sauce
sugar

But I have seen all of these in fast food restaurants FOR FREE and packaged perfectly for my ration packs! I intend to pick up a few of each to begin my ration pack build, but it got me thinking. What else is there that I could snag for free?

Jelly packs (IHOP)
packs of honey (Popeye's Chicken)
Straws
catsup/mustard/relish

So I wanted to ask if anyone had other ideas or items that they know is free for the taking?

Regards to everyone that I have learned from that have written on this forum.

S.

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Re: free stuff for my prep/DIY MREs

Post by w3rdtoyamama » Sat Mar 04, 2017 8:03 pm

Napkins. Multiple purpose.
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Re: free stuff for my prep/DIY MREs

Post by JackBauer » Sat Mar 04, 2017 8:25 pm

If I'm a paying customer I grab a few extra hot sauces, cayenne pepper like you mention.

Chinese restaurant: soy sauce packetd, fortune cookie
Seafood: lemon juice packets
Starbucks stevia packets
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Re: free stuff for my prep/DIY MREs

Post by majorhavoc » Sat Mar 04, 2017 11:09 pm

For what it's worth, I have not had good success with those little peel top tubs of jam/jelly. The plastic tub portion is sort of fragile and prone to cracking, especially at the corners. Makes your DIY MRE's a sticky mess.

When I stay in hotels, I grab all the little travel size toiletries and those porous coffee disks they have for the in-room coffee maker, along with the little packages stirrers, creamer, sugar etc. I do this each evening I'm staying, housekeeping will replenish them each day. If I stay a couple/three nights, I come home with a nice haul. If the hotel has a continental breakfast downstairs, well that's a bonanza for condiments of all sorts, including rarer items like peanut butter, breakfast syrup and honey. Plus tea bags, hot chocolate packets, you get the idea.

It might seem sort of obvious, but any time I get something that comes in those little tiny zip lock baggies (hardware, little craft items, etc) I always save them. They're great for things like the above mentioned leak prone jam packets.

Matchbooks from bars and restaurants. Any breath mint/hard candy if it's individually wrapped.

ETA: Those mailers made out of bubble wrap, especially the ones that are all plastic, are really good for keeping in the heat when warming food with a flameless ration heater, or reconstituting dehydrated food after you've added boiling water. Way superior to those cardboard sleeves that the real MREs expect you to use.

This one's gonna seem a little gross, but in the restrooms of doctors offices I sometimes come across a basket of pristine containers for, ahem, urine or stool samples. If you can get past the (completely psychological) ick factor, these are laboratory grade, sterile containers with screw top lids. I use them to store peanut butter for hiking trips. No reason why they couldn't also be used for the same purpose in DIY ration packs.

Similarly; I've long since jumped on the Sonicare toothbrush bandwagon, but whenever I'm in the dentists office, I take them up on their offer for a complimentary toothbrush. Great to toss in your ration packs along with the hotel toiletries I mention, above.

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Re: free stuff for my prep/DIY MREs

Post by stickle » Sun Mar 05, 2017 1:37 am

Wow!

Urine sample bottles...that is hard core!


Speaking of doctor's offices, alcohol swabs are a good item.

The tooth brushes from the dentist have made it into my BOB.

Are there other non-food items you can find?

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Re: free stuff for my prep/DIY MREs

Post by TacAir » Sun Mar 05, 2017 12:47 pm

Almost every Friday, I have lunch with an old buddy of mine. When I order the chowder, I ask for crackers.

I always grab a couple of the cello-wrapped Saltine crackers. The shelf life is really abysmal, but for summer camping - they offer dry crackers to go with my SPAM and peanut butter soup.

Some garages offer oil testing. See if you can get a couple of sample bottles (new of course) - they're great for carrying olive oil.
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Re: free stuff for my prep/DIY MREs

Post by Dogan » Mon Mar 06, 2017 11:43 pm

Any place that has individually packed wet naps, grab a few. Great multi purpose cleaner, safe for skin. Also snag alcohol wipes from eye doctor, regular doctor.

A few Mexican joints in my ao offer packets of Tapatio. While not my favorite hot sauce, I always grab a few of these too. In the same vein, most of the gas stations that sell hot dogs have packets of onions, relish, mayo, mustard, and interestingly enough barbecue sauce. Same story.

+1 to dentist office tooth brushes, but I prefer to keep Wisp style disposable tooth brushes in my MRE repacks. The free tooth brushes go in the hygiene box in the bathroom. Really surprised more MREs don't come standard with hygiene items, the Italian 24hr rations come with 3 toothbrushes.

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Re: free stuff for my prep/DIY MREs

Post by bacpacjac » Tue Mar 07, 2017 9:08 am

Speaking of doctor's offices, I went for regular ultrasounds when I was pregnant, and the tech always let me take a few individually packaged tubes of jelly (a.k.a. vaseline) They're great for first aid and fire kits!
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Re: free stuff for my prep/DIY MREs

Post by SCBrian » Tue Mar 07, 2017 2:10 pm

Food side:

Chic-Fil-A is your friend if you have one nearby. Hot sauce, Ketchup, Mayo, mustard, HONEY...

Non-Food:
Look around your AO. I know a few times a year (Mostly at the start of Hurricane season) we have 'safety' expos. METRIC TONS of giveaway items that slot right into preps.
I've seen whistles (The extra loud ones), first aid kits, flashlights, even as far as cheap little radios. I'm sure most AO's have these especially around their own disaster season. Check out your local Emergency management agencies...
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Re: free stuff for my prep/DIY MREs

Post by raptor » Tue Mar 07, 2017 4:04 pm

majorhavoc wrote: This one's gonna seem a little gross, but in the restrooms of doctors offices I sometimes come across a basket of pristine containers for, ahem, urine or stool samples. If you can get past the (completely psychological) ick factor, these are laboratory grade, sterile containers with screw top lids. I use them to store peanut butter for hiking trips. No reason why they couldn't also be used for the same purpose in DIY ration packs.
Ok you win. I thought I was cheap. :clap:


I would point out that these items are not free per se in that someone else pays for them and I bet the fast food restaurant owner would frown on provisioning at his/her expense. That said waste not want not and we should assume that these are extras that you simply do not want to discard and will re-purpose.

The one caveat for these instant use items is that they are not packaged for long term storage since they are instant use items. For instance the paper salt and pepper containers are easily contaminated or absorb moisture. The plastic wrap generally is not water proof on the cutlery/napkin sets. So keep that in mind when you re-purpose.

It was touched on briefly but trade shows and professional exhibitors frequently have some decent "swag" items. I have been gifted with cell phone USB li-on cell phone batteries, Mini-mag lights and other useful things. They have company logos on them but the price is right. You just have to pick the right trade shows. Normally there is an entrance fee to the decent ones but make a business case to your boss to pay for it and you have an instant profit built into the visit. :rofl:

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Re: free stuff for my prep/DIY MREs

Post by Joel B. » Thu Mar 09, 2017 9:52 am

Hospital cafeterias are full of good quality accessories, in the mre sense, and Cumberland Farms has a great selection of condiments, that's more of a local northeast place though.

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Re: free stuff for my prep/DIY MREs

Post by Barnabus » Thu Mar 09, 2017 10:32 am

Don't go crazy grabbing up these 'free' items. They are for paying customers, and only take a couple each visit. Our fave place to eat was Lone Star steakhouse (they closed last month). Last year we noticed none of the tables had sweetner for the drinks and asked for some. The waitress told us due to people constantly coming in and taking ALL of what was on the table each time, (even from the empty tables when the staff weren't looking) they only brought them out now when requested. Owners will end up raising prices to make up the loss.
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Re: free stuff for my prep/DIY MREs

Post by Barnabus » Thu Mar 09, 2017 10:33 am

Oh, and MREs are best with hot sauce, so go back Taco Bell, 2 types of sauce, HOT, and FIRE! .
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Re: free stuff for my prep/DIY MREs

Post by Dawgboy » Thu Mar 09, 2017 2:34 pm

Panda express has Sriracha in single use packs. I have a dozen or so in my camp kit now 8-)
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Re: free stuff for my prep/DIY MREs

Post by Dogan » Thu Mar 09, 2017 2:48 pm

Dawgboy wrote:Panda express has Sriracha in single use packs. I have a dozen or so in my camp kit now 8-)
Oh hot damn I'll have to get on that next time I'm there.
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Re: free stuff for my prep/DIY MREs

Post by ssgcmw » Thu Mar 09, 2017 6:49 pm

Barnabus wrote:Oh, and MREs are best with hot sauce, so go back Taco Bell, 2 types of sauce, HOT, and FIRE! .
MRE Tabasco sauce was a lifesaver when I got stuck eating British rations in OIF. It was the only thing that could get me to eat the pate.

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Re: free stuff for my prep/DIY MREs

Post by Anianna » Sun May 21, 2017 3:05 pm

I just want to add a tip here that if you are using honey to treat wounds, etc, make sure it's real honey. Individual packs of honey are very likely not really honey, but honey-flavored syrup. In the U.S., the law requires that it be real honey to be labeled honey, but there is no enforcement and a lot of what you get on store shelves and in restaurants is not actually honey. Feel free to eat it, but only the real honey is good for wound treatment.
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Re: free stuff for my prep/DIY MREs

Post by southpier » Mon May 22, 2017 7:15 am

local orange big-box store has a display by the exit with water testing bottles in a wrapped package. they're about an ounce, have no idea what king of plastic, but might be useful for small quantities of "stuff".

and if you're taking stool kits from your doctors office, don't mix them up with your peanut butter. :awesome:

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Re: free stuff for my prep/DIY MREs

Post by alpha_texas1969 » Mon May 22, 2017 4:13 pm

The race track and qt convenience stores have a ton of goodies in single use packets , honey, .mustard, relish, chopped Onions, etc etc.
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Re: free stuff for my prep/DIY MREs

Post by MPMalloy » Mon May 22, 2017 5:38 pm

w3rdtoyamama wrote:Napkins. Multiple purpose.
I am in firm agreement. Personally, I'd rather have too many napkins than not enough. Also can be used as TP, which no one wants to be without... :D

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Re: free stuff for my prep/DIY MREs

Post by Ellywick » Mon May 22, 2017 9:01 pm

BBQ places and places that sell hot wings have wet naps.

Chinese restaurants have duck (sweet and sour) sauce and hot sauce in addition to soy sauce. I also always keep extra chop sticks. Even if you don't use them for eating, they are really great for stirring/mixing things and if you are careful you can use them more than once. I also just used chopsticks in my back yard in the ground to mark out the dimensions of my garden bed, lol. Use what you have, right?

Fast food restaurants like McDonalds and Wendy's have all kinds of sauces in plastic tubs for nuggets and such (BBQ, Ranch, Honey Mustard, etc.). If you're careful, they keep for a long time.

Honestly places like this usually give you so many that there are likely to be leftovers, so there's no need to grab a ridiculous amount yourself. I know I always feel like I'm a pig when I order Chinese takeout because even for one dish they give me 10 packets of each sauce and 5 sets of chopsticks. I just amass the extras over time, since most of the items are somewhat non-perishable.
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