What to Know About MREs

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MREs have been around for a long time, dating as far back as WWII. But unless you were a service member of the armed forces or knew somebody who was, chances are you’ve never heard of one. MREs are Meals-Ready-to-Eat that don’t require any cooking or heating of any kind and each package contains a complete sustainable meal for one person. Here is what to know about MREs. In case you missed this post, 30 Items You Need To Survive A Pandemic

The United States Armed Forces made them the primary food ration for its members ever since 1980. While many servicemen and women dreaded having to eat them, by the time they were veterans they actually missed them.  

The MRE package is designed in order to stay protected from the elements while its food portions are able to last on the shelf for a number of years. Though it’s not recommended that you resort to only eating MREs, they do contain all the necessary calories and nutrients to hold you over during an emergency.

Which is why many preppers and civilians have already gotten their hands on them. Hence, civilian MREs and MIlitary MREs Fortunately, it’s not that hard for you to find them. Here’s more on what to know about MREs. Please note, I do not buy MREs or premade meals for my food storage, but I wanted everyone to realize what these meals are. I have tried many Mountain House ready to eat meals (just add water) but they have such a short shelf-life I didn’t want them. Some actually tasted pretty good.

“Prepare Your Family For Survival” by Linda Loosli

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What To Know About MREs

What is an MRE?

An MRE is a packaged food product that has been finely processed, canned, and sometimes even freeze-dried in order for it to have a much longer shelf life. They’ve been used by the military as combat rations for several decades now, but civilians can enjoy them too.

The entree includes meat, vegetables, fruit, carbs, dessert, and a drink. Some of the main dishes from the menu for MREs include spaghetti, chicken and noodles, chili with beans, spinach fettuccine, rice and beans, chicken burrito bowls, and bacon, potatoes, and hashbrowns for breakfast.     

Each MRE is packaged in a pouch that can survive the elements and comes with a number of different items. Every MRE comes with a heating source that requires a bit of water to help create an electrostatic charge, alongside the ingredients of magnesium, iron, and sodium chloride. With this combination, it can heat an MRE to 100 degrees in very little time.        

What is in an MRE?

If you’re wanting to find out exactly what meal options are out there, take a look at this MRE menu. Just keep in mind that the United States military updates it every year so don’t be surprised if a few changes are made. 

On average, every MRE contains approximately 1250 calories, with 13% protein, 51% carbohydrates, and 36% fat. Eating 3 MRE’s is equivalent to having 3 meals. The following list includes examples of some of the food items that come with a military MRE: 

  • Main entree: Beef stew or spaghetti
  • Side dishes: Mashed potatoes, corn, rice, fruit
  • Bread or crackers
  • Spread: Cheese spread, peanut butter, or jelly
  • Seasoning or hot sauce ( only in certain packaging) 
  • Beverage: Coffee, tea, Gatorade drink mixes, dairy shakes
  • Dessert: Pound cakes or cookies 
  • Candy: Tootsie rolls, M&M’s, or skittles    
  • Flameless ration heater  
  • Other Accessories: Sugar, salt, creamer, matches, spoon, toilet paper, chewing gum, etc.

Is it Really a Good Source of Nutrients?

When looking at the list of food items that are in an MRE, you may think to yourself that there’s not much nutrition there. But you’d be surprised. While an MRE is not meant to completely replace your regular everyday meal, they do contain the nutrition and calories to sustain you.

The military uses them because of how convenient they are and that they’ll hold soldiers over when they’re in a pinch, particularly when the soldiers are out on patrol or in specialized training exercises.

 MREs contain several vitamins and minerals along with enough calories to keep you going. Preppers often have them stored away in their emergency kits for use should a disaster ever strike. That way if their fresh food is limited or damaged, they’ll still be left with something that can sustain them.    

How Long Do They Last?

Your average MRE is meant to last for up to 3-5 years when stored at the proper temperatures of around 70 degrees. When temperatures exceed this, the shelf life will be greatly decreased. The civilian MREs have a longer shelf life because of the short life of the candy that comes in the military MRE.

However, you’re not going to get sick if you decide to eat an expired MRE. There are known situations where soldiers have eaten expired MREs that were more than 10 years past the coded data, which points to the fact that MREs don’t really have an expiration date. It’s also recommended that you always cook your MRE, even though it’s something that’s not required.  

Where Can I Find MREs?

Even though you may never have seen an MRE at your local grocery store, they’re actually not that hard to find. There are two kinds of MREs, the civilian and the military options. It’s actually illegal to buy or sell military MREs, but there are still ways that veterans can get their hands on them. Here are a few different ways: 

Army Surplus Store

Many army surplus stores carry MREs, whether it’s online or off-post. Just pay close attention to what they try to charge for them. You could wind up paying close to $100.00 for only one case. It’s best to get it from someone that you know is actually involved in the military base of operations, that way you save yourself a bunch of money. 

Ask Your Military Friend

When the military can no longer use expired or overstocked MREs, soldiers are then able to put them to good use.

Online and Auction Sites

You can go online or an auction site to purchase your MREs. Most of the websites list the manufacture date so you know what you’re getting. Just be aware that if you do in fact purchase military MREs online or an auction site, that it is in fact expired MREs that you’re purchasing and that the practice is also considered illegal by the military. 

I can see that Amazon sells some “MREs” that look like military but I do not feel comfortable listing the link. They do not say civilian, so I will leave it at that. Most of the buckets you see at Sam’s Club or Costco are in reality MREs, they just look different and have very few calories.

Please be cautious when you buy one of those buckets. They have different expiration dates on each packet. No problem, but just look closer and educate yourself.

Final Word

MREs are a food source that every prepper should have in their emergency kits. They provide all the necessary nutrients and calories to keep you energized, and if it comes down to it, you also don’t necessarily have to heat them. Just remember to keep them stored in a place that doesn’t have a temperature that exceeds 70 degrees. May God Bless this world, Linda.

Copyright Images: MRE Meals Ready To Eat Deposit photos_383459878_s-2019

24 thoughts on “What to Know About MREs

  • November 7, 2020 at 6:16 am
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    When we ate them for extended periods of time we tried to supplement with fresh fruit.
    The vitamins and fiber helps.

    After 5 yrs the standard is to open a case and inspect a meal. The dehydrated fruit seemed to be the most common item to turn.

    I would eat 5-6 a day. I can hear the gasping now. Lol. Look I had 2% body fat and weighed 150-170lbs in my prime. I carried a 65lb ruck and a machine gun. Days are 12-18 hours and what is a weekend? You need calories to hump n bump. If you think 1200 a day is enough in bad times your outta your mind. Someone always throws up the Ho Chi Men trail and eating low calorie rice. Well I ain’t them and you didn’t see them in their 50s n 60s. They died.

    There are times you need to have food you can eat on the go. Your GMHB is a good example. The world has gone to poop and your trying to get home. You ain’t got time to cook a gourmet meal. Eat and walk or take 5 and eat while hidden with no flame.

    The other times you might be too tired to cook. You set up defenses, cut wood, hauled water and your spent and need a recharge.

    They can assist. I went in after a tornado with my go bag and helped a guy recover. He decided to stay the night and guard the stuff we had found. I left him 2 meals that have matches and toilet paper. That’ll hold him till morning when I return.

    The plastic on your spoon fits over your rifle barrel. Keeps the rain n sleet out. The flexible plastic bag seals a sucking chest wound. The cardboard box keeps things or helps with fires. The sleeve that goes over the box is a very strong cardboard and will hold body weight for a makeshift toilet in the desert. It’s nice to sit. The candy goes a long ways with local kids. Share your meal with the locals and earn respect by “breaking bread” common in any culture.

    Y’all ain’t lived till Ranger Pudding.

    Reply
    • November 7, 2020 at 6:35 am
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      Hi Matt, oh my gosh, BEST COMMENT EVER! You always make it REAL and I love you for that! You know, it’s interesting because I thought to myself how would the military person only eat 3 of these a day? Obviously, they didn’t as you explained. I got the giggles over the 2% body fat, I bet I had more than that when I was born! LOL! I’m so thankful for your service and that you returned to your family. You learned a lot while you served and saw things none of us can even imagine. What I love about you Matt is that you are so willing to teach others and to work together as a team with your friends. Thanks again for teaching us the real world. Linda

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      • November 7, 2020 at 6:52 am
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        There were times like in training we only got 3. You just stayed hungry. When possible you supplemented with “poogie bait” aka snack food you snuck in.
        Is what it is. Embrace the suck as we say.

        I appreciate the compliments. Most the time I’m just an old guy rambling

        Reply
          • November 7, 2020 at 7:36 am
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            Matt, I love your rambling, too. I usually learn something from you. Keep it up.

          • November 7, 2020 at 2:14 pm
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            So once I lost my mind. I dunno been out in the bush too long I guess and got burnout. I got mad and decided I wasn’t gonna eat nothing but this chow mein mre. I dug through the boxes and pulled out enough for 5 days 5 meals a day. Enough till we left and went home.
            All was well till I went back and ate other things. I spent the next few days camping out.
            Not a great decision lol. Don’t recommend it.
            I read a lot of the comments. I ate then mostly for fuel. We’ve got it good and mostly eat for taste and satisfaction and a few eat to meet medical needs. It’s nice to do that but in tough times it’s strictly for fuel. You need extra fat n carbs when it’s 20 degrees and your carrying your house on your back.
            Y’all stay safe.

          • November 7, 2020 at 2:24 pm
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            Hi Matt, you are a remarkable soul, none of us will ever know what you went through during this time or many times in your life. You nailed it: You need extra fat n carbs when it’s 20 degrees and you’re carrying your house on your back. You rock, Linda

    • November 7, 2020 at 7:54 am
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      Matt, you are spot on about the Army rations, there were times we were glad to get our hands on them, you don`t jump out of a foxhole and run to the kitchen truck because it ain`t there. And believe me, in the worst environment one could imagine, they were a good life sustaining meal.
      God Bless our troops…

      Reply
    • November 7, 2020 at 8:40 am
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      Excellent Matt! I agree 110% with you! 1200 yo me is equivalent to maybe one main dish, according to Linda.

      Very disturbing to see Linda in original post has 36 percent fat, 13%protein. No fiber. I listen to my physicians who are board certified in several areas, physicians say totally the opposite. They have me on high fiber high protein low fat diet. Anything high in saturated fats and trans fat stays on the shelf and does not go in any MRE I have or make.

      I intend to keep ranching and farming tradition alive, and I have a huge load gratitude to Matt for sharing his experience. First time I’ve heard of ranger pudding, how to make it, it’d be a privilege to be his student!

      Reply
      • November 7, 2020 at 8:59 am
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        Hi Angela, what are you talking about: Very disturbing to see Linda in original post has 36 percent fat, 13%protein. No fiber? I don’t understand. Linda

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        • November 7, 2020 at 11:58 am
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          Linda ~
          I think Angela was referring to the statement: “On average, every MRE contains approximately 1250 calories, with 13% protein, 51% carbohydrates, and 36% fat. Eating 3 MRE’s is equivalent to having 3 meals.”

          I also think that the concern is it is low on protein and high in fat. I know in stressful situations or when you are out busting your bu**, you need carbs but I think a more balanced meal option would be great. With that, I have made my own “MREs” with store bought items. I shoot for 1500 calories, 30% protein, 50% carbs and 20% fat. Most of the fat comes from peanut butter or almond butter packets. The carbs come from pasta, rice, and beans. Protein is jerky or other easily stored meats (canned, freeze dried, etc.) None of my homemade “MREs” are long term solutions and I make sure that they are things that I would want to eat cold!! I only keep 9 of these in my 72 hour bug out kit and they get rotated every 3 -6 months.

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          • November 7, 2020 at 12:29 pm
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            Hi Leanne, thank you, I thought she assumed I was suggesting MREs. I thought I put I do not buy these myself. I wondered why she was telling me about her board-certified doctors. I only use board-certified doctors, oh well. You totally get what I was trying to say. I would make my own as well. You have been making your own for years so you would be making what I would eat for sure. Linda

        • November 8, 2020 at 6:32 am
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          You are the one who wrote original post evidently you didn’t read my entire post, you totally proved my point! Your concept is good, you want to mean well …

          Reread your original post… In every so-called 1200 calories meals with have little protein and high fat, I am sure same could be made with half calories.

          Your welcome to your opinion, and 1200 calorieseals you lay out I would be starving and always hungry!

          I’m sure MRE has been around for decades, but I highly doubt a registered nurse, registered dietitian would have much healthier and much less fat. Increase protein and add fiber — which you did not include in your original post — decrease fat big time!

          Reply
          • November 8, 2020 at 6:46 am
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            Thank you Leanne, you were right on. I mentioned my board certified doctors because they have the medical experience and training , none of which Linda has..and would advise increase protein and fiber w ..NONE would advise me 36% fat . I have more than enough fat on me. 36% diet would add me at higher risk of health disorders.

            What I admit is that everyone including me has misunderstandings. I apologize for my tone, my intent was to lower the fat to live a longer lifespan.

            I wish Linda, Leanne, all posters the best in health, life and enjoy BEST rewards we have — families, health, life, and always look for opportunities to help others..

            Warm regards, Angela

  • November 7, 2020 at 7:35 am
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    We have a store close by for Preppers. They carry MREs as well as other SHTF items. I’d love to have a gift card for that place. I’d way over spend. LOL They have Freeze dried items as well. I need to get us some MREs. Our daughter and Son have quite a few.

    The story behind the daughter and son . . . My daughter, and husbands son. They were dating, and got us to go out on a date. We dated for a while and decided to get married. We got married in December 1989. They were still dating. He was in Houston. We were in Mineola, TX. After he graduated from UTI, they got married, July 1991.

    Reply
    • November 7, 2020 at 7:41 am
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      Hi Deborah, Oh, I love a good love story! Life is so good! Linda

      Reply
      • November 7, 2020 at 7:46 am
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        They have 2 boys. One is married and has a son. Together we have 5 children. 3 boys, and 2 girls.

        Reply
  • November 7, 2020 at 8:09 am
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    Hi Linda. When I was a kid, and my father returned from the Korean war, he brought home some, as he called them, K-Rations or Sea Rations. As a kid, I loved what they called “biscuits” (I called them crackers) and the little packages of jelly. The chocolate, sometimes was good but mostly it was old. I ate it anyway. So, I’ve been around MRE’s for a long, long time. I used to take them with me when I went hiking or camping years ago. They do make a quick meal, but you do need to be careful on what you get because some of the ones you can get at Army Surplus stores don’t taste all that great, lol. But, if you’re in a pinch and very hungry, just about anything tastes good. To me, it’s better than hunting and eating grasshoppers. Have a Great Day!

    Reply
  • November 7, 2020 at 9:09 am
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    really, toilet paper in an MRE ?? LOL I don’t recall my son saying anything about that.(He was in Iraq for 15 months). We did buy some MRE’s and have not used most of them. The few we did try were not to bad. One I recall was a BBQ pocket type of sandwich. We really liked that ,but couldn’t find them after a while. We have a lot of peanut butter packs. I know some had Tabasco Sauce included. My son said the main reason they were issued MRE’s was because being out in the ‘field’,soldiers had no real bathroom facilities and MRE’s tend to ‘bind you up’.(Hope this wasn’t TMI ) LOL. Anyway, thank you for the information on them. I’m sure many will find it useful as did I. I pray we all can get past this election chaos. I pray for the safety and health of all of us.God bless

    Reply
    • November 7, 2020 at 9:19 am
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      Hi Judy, I have never tasted any civilian or military MREs. I really don’t buy premade meals. It’s just me, I like to make my own meals from scratch. Plus the short shelf-life always bothered me. I pray we all get past this election chaos as well. God bless our Country, we need it for sure. Linda

      Reply
  • November 7, 2020 at 12:16 pm
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    I had to laugh. My husband ate these in the service, as well, and said he will “Never eat them again!”. I looks like I will stay with my other stored foods.

    Reply
    • November 7, 2020 at 12:31 pm
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      Hi Cheryl, oh my gosh, my husband said the same thing! LOL! Yep, we will keep our own style of food storage!! Love it, Linda

      Reply

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