I was at REI the other day and checking out the commercial meal options, to see if any caught my eye for review. I came across one lone Heather’s Choice meal, a Shepherd’s Pie. It was hanging on a lonely peg, with no other meals by it. I decided to take a chance on it. Shepherd’s Pie I like, though I know for some the combo of textures can be challenging (smooth/chunky).
I am conflicted on this meal, and I will explain my whys below.
- It is a single serving meal.
- Retails for $15.95. This puts it at the high end for commercial meal prices (the meat is a big reason why).
- Dry weight is 4 ounces. Lightweight.
- Meal require 11 ounces boiled water and a 20 minute sit time.
- Upside is the packaging is small compared to many commercial meals, meaning it will fit into a bear canister far easier.
- The meal is made with clean ingredients, including grass fed hamburger, something you don’t see often.
- High in protein (38 grams).
- Low in sugar (8 grams, none added in)
- Not low in sodium (1200 mg)
I have reviewed Heather’s Choice meals, but they were before the Great Hacking when I rebuilt the website in around 2018-19. So those reviews are lost. I remember trying the macaroons and the fish chowder, and I did like those meals – they were all very good.
The meal is easy to prepare, set aside and come back to eat, while you putter in camp.
Flavor is nice. A bit salty for my taste, but also not horribly high. If it were a hard, sweaty day on the trail the sodium and potassium (from the potatoes) would do your body good. That is an upside.
Having said that, I had a huge issue. The dry ingredients just didn’t fully rehydrate. The company touts using dehydrated ingredients over freeze-dried as being better. I’d argue that isn’t true these days, as freeze-dryer units get cheaper and cheaper – and easier to buy. The nutrient claim I have issues with. Modern studies are showing the opposite – that freeze-drying can preserve up to 90% of the nutrients!
From their website:
Why dehydrated and not freeze-dried?
Weight, taste, and nutrition are all things we take very seriously with our meals. The dehydrating process helps our meals maintain the original product’s texture, taste, and nutrients which are often lost when freeze-drying.
The problem is, the potatoes were soft, but nothing else was. The beef was slightly crunchy, and the vegetables were leathery on the teeth. This is normal for dehydrated vegetables – particularly corn and green beans. I am used to that, so for me I just chew well. But…if you are not used to it, your stomach may not like you later as it chews the food again for you. Your mileage may vary. (And yes, this issue affects my recipes that use dehydrated vegetables as well, so I am not throwing shade here!) To be honest, this is a personal thing – I am so used to eating freeze-dried vegetables and meat now, that I don’t overall like the texture of dehydrated now as freeze-dried gets more common.
The other issue – and this is on REI – was something I didn’t look at.
In the grocery store I look at expiration dates always. I didn’t even think of it. Because overall most commercial meals have 5 to 25 years shelf life. But dehydrated meat is a different issue, and has a far shorter shelf life. The meal had less than a month before its pull date. Ouch. Well, better I bought it, and used it up for a review, than a hiker buy it….and then look at it in camp. In August.
So….ALWAYS LOOK AT DATES! Even for those 25 year shelf life freeze-dried meals.
Good flavor, clean ingredient list, small packaging and lightweight – with good protein count, but texture wise took it down a few notches. Due to the dehydrated vegetable texture I probably wouldn’t buy it again.
-This review is our personal thoughts and opinions. The product was bought by us.