FAQs for MREs

Written by The Ready Store

Military MREs (Meal Ready to Eat) are a must-have in your emergency food storage. The U.S. Military relies on MREs to give them the nutrition and energy they need to survive in the most extreme conditions. Our fresh, first-run MREs are great for use during any disaster and are excellent for a “grab and go” emergency. I recommend that you stock up and make sure you have a fresh supply on hand.

Here are some of the most frequent questions that we get regarding MREs:

What are MREs?
MREs were brought into military use during the 1980s to replace heavy, bulky food supplies. The MREs are self-contained meals with a durable case that can withstand high drops. They typically have a shelf-life of about 5 years depending on storage conditions. You might want to read our article on the history of MREs.

Do we sell military MREs?
Yes and no. Our MREs are made by the same contractors who make MREs for the Department of Defense. They are made to military specifications the same way the military’s are made. The only difference is that the civilian MRE comes in a different packaging and doesn’t include chewing gum or hot sauce. It is against the law to sell military MREs.

How long will they store?
An MRE will store for bout 3 to 5 years, if stored at 75° F  or less. The cooler the temperature, the longer they will store.

How do I know if my MREs have expired?

The hard part is that there is no expiration date stamped on an MRE package. However, unless the seal is broken on the packaging, MREs can last a very long time. MREs will lose taste and nutritional value after long periods of time. Use the sniff test to see if the food has gone rancid.

MRE Manufacture DateHow do I read the manufacture date on my MREs?
MRE Manufacturers use a 4-digit modified Julian Date code to indicate the manufacture date.

This code is usually stamped on the MRE box and pouch. The location of the code can vary. The first digit represents the year, and the last three digits represent the day. So, for example, the cpde code 7304 would mean it was manufactured on the 304th day of 2007. Sometimes other letters representing batch numbers will be appended to the date code (i.e. 7304C).

You can see on the example on the right that code 1172 would mean that it was manufactured in 2011 on June 20th (the 172 day of the year).

The second MRE has a manufacture code of 1348. This would translate to Dec. 13, 2011.

The third MRE would have been manufactured on Nov. 1, 2011.

Since the official longevity of an MRE is no longer than 10 years, and the modified date code makes it impossible to determine the decade of manufacture, this calculator assumes that your MREs are not 10 years old or more.

We’ve prepared this Julian Date Converter Sheet that you can print off and keep with your MREs for future reference.

Click here for the PDF.

What is the difference between a “Full Meal MRE” and an MRE entrée?
A Full Meal MRE comes with the entrée plus cracker, peanut butter, chocolate or peanut, cookie, dairy shake, drink mix, condiments, flamless heater, and salt water pouch to activate the flamless heater. An MRE entrée is just the main dish entrée by itself.

If all you want is the entrée, don’t buy the Full Meal.

Other Questions?
If you have any other questions, we’d be happy to try and answer them. You can read more MRE articles on our blog or write your question below.

Updated June 4, 2009


  1. Art wrote:

    Thanks for the info!

    June 6th, 2011 at 7:15 pm
  2. Mark wrote:

    Thanks for the info, wish they would post a best used by date. But I understand why now….

    November 30th, 2011 at 12:18 pm
  3. Sam wrote:

    So a code of 1342, is that 2001 or 2011? Made by Ameri pack.

    April 27th, 2012 at 12:11 pm
  4. The Ready Store wrote:

    Hey Sam,
    Since the shelf-life of an MRE is no longer than 10 years, the manufacture dates assume that you’ll eat it within that time frame. So, you might not be able to tell if the date is 2001 or 2011. If you bought it from The Ready Store recently, then it’s 2011. We don’t have any old stock like that. However, if you bought the MREs from another online retailer (or a private sale) than we can’t guarantee the manufacture year.
    You might also be able to tell if the MREs are bad because the bags will be bloated and when you open them, the food will smell bad. If that’s the case, they were probably made in 2001. Hope that helps!

    May 2nd, 2012 at 9:29 am
  5. Bill wrote:

    It would be nice if the year had 2 #’s and not just 1.

    May 8th, 2012 at 11:08 pm
  6. Name GRANDMA S wrote:

    NO Are you kidding ???NUMBER ONE FOOD SAFETY RULE WHEN IN DOUBT THROW IT OUT! Never ever rely on smell or taste anything you have doubts about it can get you in serious trouble .not worth risks. YOU CAN’T ALWAYS SEE THE BAD EITHER.
    6/20/2013 7:44pm

    June 20th, 2013 at 8:46 pm
  7. Annelies wrote:

    The code on the MRE’s I bought are on the bottom and show the following:

    SPB 2332CX 2 2 17 3 01:21

    I don’t see this format in your examples? I’d appreciate a decoding :)

    August 23rd, 2013 at 8:47 am
  8. The Ready Store wrote:

    @Annelies What product did you purchase?

    August 23rd, 2013 at 2:21 pm
  9. john wrote:

    I have several mre’s on hand made by the Wornick Company…the mre date i see – reads 0350-m2-2-lo5-7……does this code mean it was made on the 350th day of 2003 ??? i have only had this mre on hand for a few months … appreciate your help..

    August 25th, 2013 at 3:22 pm
  10. HairyGuy wrote:

    why do they make the manufactured date a “secret?” are they worried that their food will rot and you won’t eat it so they try to trick you into hoping you will think it is safe to eat? makes no sense. all food products i see have either manufactured on or expires on dates.

    January 28th, 2014 at 11:48 am
  11. Angel wrote:

    Hey I bought a couple individual mre’s from cabelas the other day and here is the code on them- 3017 & 3231
    I hope I got some new ones Plz decode!
    would like to buy boxes a&b email me about it plzz!

    February 20th, 2014 at 6:46 pm
  12. Gary wrote:

    Angel, the first one was. The 17th day of 2013. And the second was 323 day of 2013.

    March 11th, 2014 at 6:39 am
  13. Gary wrote:

    PS. Angel , you should have bought them from the Ready Store. Then you wouldn’t have to worry about it.

    March 11th, 2014 at 6:43 am
  14. CoDhoboattack3 wrote:

    Back when my dad was in the Military he would bring back MRE’s and they were so good!!! :)

    April 22nd, 2014 at 8:22 pm
  15. Terry wrote:

    Angel wrote a code of 3017 & 3231 on Feb. 20.
    Gary decoded the date for Angel on March 11 to mean 17th of 2013.
    According to the Ready Store it should be 17th of 2003? (The first digit represents the year, and the last three digits represent the day. So, for example, the cpde code 7304 would mean it was manufactured on the 304th day of 2007.)Can you explain who is correct???

    December 11th, 2014 at 11:44 pm
  16. Jake wrote:

    What if my MRE has a longer code?
    One of mine reads: 12306B2
    The other reads: P33816 12312B4

    I’m assuming they are from 2011 or 2012, but the longer code threw me off.

    January 4th, 2015 at 9:35 pm
  17. Lea Allen wrote:

    Thank you for this info. Is was very useful! I almost bought MRE’s from a local store that were made in 2000 and they were going to sell me those 15yr old MRE,s. After I read this article, I really tore them a new butt for selling expired food. I could tell they knew it was expired too…. Pisses me off,but I’m glad I got this info before I was on my backpacking excursion and found out the hard way!
    Thanks again!

    April 8th, 2015 at 3:10 pm

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