Homesteading · Prepping · Recipes · Urban Homesteading

Better Than Boxed Mac n’ Cheese – Meals In A Jar

This pantry staple is a homemade mac n cheese recipe. It is kid-friendly and stores really well as a “meal in a jar” for easy lunches or dinners. That is something you must think about as a prepper when planning long-term storage meals. If you have young children (or adults with sensory issues), having comfort foods on hand is very important. It’s not they cannot eat whatever you make, but if times are hard, having an option that they will like on hand? That in itself can help one relax and not be overwhelmed. It can make tough times a lot easier for everyone.

Boxed mac n’ cheese is universally popular, but if like me you cannot stand the squishy pasta (it’s so unappetizing to me) and the chalky powder sauce mix, you can make an improved version easily. And you don’t need fresh butter or milk on hand to make it, as it uses dried versions of both.

Consider if you are in the middle of a bad storm. With lots of snow and ice, driving to town for supplies just isn’t a safe situation. Our island has been a mess for nearly the past week. Today was supposed to finally warm up, with promises that the ice rink outside would finally melt. Meanwhile, Mother Nature instead dumped snow for hours today. Having a well-stocked pantry goes far in creating meals.

I made this recipe with whole-grain pasta, you can use what you like. White pasta will be the most child-friendly of course. Try to find the lowest cooking time to conserve fuel. The whole grain Barilla is 6 minutes. The kids here have accepted Mom tries to push at least some nutrition into them.

When I do meals in a jar, I try to think out the cooking. As we have a gas stove, and plenty of hiking stoves on hand, I know I can cook meals and not just plan “add boiling water” meals. This would be a recipe though where you need water to make it, and water to clean up with. For a storm where you are stuck at home, it’s a great option. I keep the just add boiling water for when the power is out here and the well is down due to it.

The finished mac n' cheese. Looks like the boxed stuff, but is so much better tasting and stores really well.

Better than boxed Mac n’ Cheese recipe



Take a clean/dry wide-mouth mason jar and pour the macaroni into it. Tap the jar gently to settle the pasta.

Add the remaining ingredients into a bowl, and whisk until smooth.

If storing long-term, pour the dry ingredients into a plastic bag, seal, pushing out air, then place on top of the macaroni and seal the jar.

To Make:

Fill a medium-sized pot with water, and bring to a boil. Add in macaroni, and cook as directed on the package for al dente (don’t overcook).

Drain in a colander and shake well.

Meanwhile, add the dry ingredients into the mason jar, pour in 1½ cups water, seal the jar, and shake till smooth.

Pour the sauce into the pasta pot, bring to a simmer over medium heat, and add the hot pasta. Cook for a minute or two, stirring constantly to coat the pasta.

The sauce continues to thicken as it cools.

Serves 3 to 4 smaller appetites. To serve bigger ones, consider adding in shelf-stable bacon bits or a can of drained chicken breast when you heat the sauce up.


If your eaters have sensory issues, you can leave the pepper, garlic, and dry mustard out. If you like it salty, double the salt called for.

The entire mac n' cheese dish in a jar, ready to go.