Preparedness blog

FAQs for MREs

By Ben from Ready Store
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Military MREs (Meal's 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. MREs are great to use during any disaster and are excellent for a 'grab and go' emergency. They provide you with a warm meal that is packed with nutritional value to help you through any situation.Here are some frequently asked questions about MREs:

faqs for mresWHAT IS A MRE? MREs were brought into military use during the 1980's to replace heavy, bulky food supplies. MREs are self-contained meals that include a way to heat your meal without all the hassle. They have a durable packaging that can withstand high drops and typically have a shelf-life of about 5 years(depending on storage conditions). Long before the MREs became the meal of choice for the U.S. Military, canned wet rations were the longtime favorite and only real option the military had. In the ‘60s and ‘70s as dehydrated food become more readily available and the military looked to replace the bulky and heavy canned food system it had relied on for so long. After a long period of testing and surveying, the MREs became standard issue in 1986

DO WE SELL MILITARY MRE'S? Yes and no. Military MREs are not sold to the public. However, the same contractors who make MREs for the Department of Defense, also make civilian MREs. These MREs are made to the same specifications as military MREs, but with a few differences. Civilian MREs come in a different packaging and don't include all of the same items, such as chewing gum, toilet paper, and other extra items.

HOW DO I USE MY MRE? MREs are very easy and simple to use and they don’t require much if any prep time. Here are 3 simple steps:

Step 1:
When opening your MRE, the entrée should be contained in a self-contained box that will give a description of the entrée that you will be eating. The MRE is inside the box is in a flexible retort pouch (aluminum polypropylene laminate pouch). Remember the food is already cooked and can be eaten hot or cold, directly out of the pouch.

Step 2: Heating your MRE
MREs can be heated in a variety of ways and the most common way is using a Flame-less Ration Heater (FRH) also known as an MRE Heater. These are very simple to use and require just a small amount of water to activate. If you don't have an MRE Heater, you can use the following methods to heat or warm your MRE:

  • Put the pouch in boiling water for 5 minutes.
  • Place near or on a fire until hot. A hot rock works great for this purpose.
  • Heat the food in a microwave or over a stove top. Be sire to remove food from the retort pouch first.

Step 3: Enjoy your MRE!

Once you have removed your MRE from the heating source (if you need to heat your meal) wait for your MRE to cool down so you do not burn yourself. Once it cools down to the point you can handle the MRE, it has a perforated edge on the sides that makes it easy to tear open. Tear your MRE open and you can eat out of the pouch or you can poor it into a plate and enjoy your meal.

HOW LONG WILL A MRE STORE? A MRE's shelf life is about 5 years, if stored at 75° F or less. The cooler the temperature, the longer they will store. Some items in an MRE will last longer than 5 years, although the wet pack entrees typically expire within 5 years.

faqs for mres - shelf life


MRE packages don't have an expiration date stamped on them in the sense of a day, month, and year. Instead, they have a manufacture date of when the package was made. So unless the seal is broken on the packaging, MREs have a shelf life of about 5 years, but they may lose taste and nutritional value after long periods of time. If the package is bloated or the food smells like it has gone rancid, then your MRE has expired. You can read more our article on MRE expiration dates for more information.

MRE Manufacture Date - faqs for mres - shelf lifeHOW DO I READ THE MANUFACTURE DATE ON A MRE?
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 code 7304 would mean it was manufactured on the 304th day of that year, or October 31, 2007.

You can see on the first example to the right that the 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's manufacture code is 1306, which means that it was manufactured on Nov. 1, 2011.

Because the official longevity of an MRE is no longer than 10 years, manufacture dates are printed on packages assuming that you will not keep your MREs for longer than this time period. That is why the year in the examples above is 2011 instead of 2001.

We've prepared this julian date converter sheet that you can print off and keep with your MREs for future reference.

A full meal MRE comes with the entree pack plus a side dish (typically fruit), a dessert, crackers, candy, and will also include a flame-less heater, eating utensils, and seasoning. An MRE entree is just a single pack main dish entree without any sides or desserts.

faqs for mresOne of the most common questions people call in and ask about MREs is about the nutrition value of an MRE entree. It's important to keep in mind that all MRE entrees are specifically designed for use by the US Military. A typical MRE entree will have anywhere from 230-350 calories. Each entree is very high in carbs, protein, and fats. They are nutritionally balanced for high intensity environments, which is ideal for an emergency. If you want to learn more about the nutritional value, read more here.

Other Questions?
If you have any other questions, we'd be happy to try and answer them. Comment below and we'll answer away!

1 year ago
10 years ago at 11:18 AM
Thanks for the info, wish they would post a best used by date. But I understand why now....
9 years ago at 12:11 PM
So a code of 1342, is that 2001 or 2011? Made by Ameri pack.
9 years ago at 11:08 PM
It would be nice if the year had 2 #'s and not just 1.
8 years ago at 8:47 AM
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 :)
8 years ago at 3:22 PM
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..
7 years ago at 5:46 PM
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!
7 years ago at 6:39 AM
Angel, the first one was. The 17th day of 2013. And the second was 323 day of 2013.
7 years ago at 6:43 AM
PS. Angel , you should have bought them from the Ready Store. Then you wouldn't have to worry about it.
7 years ago at 8:22 PM
Back when my dad was in the Military he would bring back MRE's and they were so good!!! :)
6 years ago at 10:44 PM
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???
6 years ago at 8:35 PM
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.
Lea Allen
6 years ago at 3:10 PM
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!
6 years ago at 8:49 PM
Does it mean the seal is broken if you can hear the contents of the MRE's moving around when you hold it?
6 years ago at 8:13 AM
My code on two MRE's is 0238 does that mean that it expired back in 2000? Nothing crawling around inside of it... i don't think
5 years ago at 6:36 PM
Ok mine say 2318 mv 2 xxx 5
5 years ago at 9:56 PM
1 case of my mre says "packed 5/86 inspected 5/89" my brother brought these home for hunting trip. They got put in the well house and were forgotten about, until I found them last week.
4 years ago at 9:43 AM
How do you correctly dispose of MREs after they have expired? Is the flameless ration heater hazardous waste?
2 years ago at 10:44 PM
Yes very hazardous. You should completely incinerate, then take ashes & store in a metal container. Do not put in garbage or be left to decompose.
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2 years ago at 12:14 PM
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2 years ago at 10:57 AM
I was given some MRE's, Government issue. The dates indicate they are either 2016 or 2006, They seem to be in good shape. Manufactured by Sopaco, Inc in Mullins, SC Is this company still in business? Is there any way to find out if my MRE's are 3 yrs old or 13 years old? Thanks
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2 years ago at 10:58 AM
How do the military, out in the field, dispose of the MRE packaging?
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1 year ago at 10:42 AM
MRE Packs do not have expiration dates, they have inspection dates for the military. Mylar is an Air-Tight, non-porous material that will not allow any sunlight or oxygen to get to the food. Without oxygen, food cannot spoil. If the outer pouch is expanded to the fullest extent, then something in it is definitely spoiled. In the military, they can keep them only 3-5 years. I have been doing this for the past 10 years, and have never seen a spoiled MRE PERIOD!
1 year ago at 7:04 PM
Are these MRE’s new stock? If not, what year are the oldest MRE’s you sell? Thanks
William Day
1 year ago at 1:49 PM
How does one arrive at a kit that states it is a 3 month supply with only 144 full meals? The way I figure that works out to 1.6 meals a day for one person for 3 months. This seems misleading. How many meals a day are your estimates based on?
Alexis Mireles
1 year ago at 9:38 PM
I just bought a week on mull meal MRE’s, are they really going to take 3 months because of the virus stuff???
11 months ago at 8:48 PM
I noticed that some civilian Mre meals do not contain beverages, is this just a cost saving measure?
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9 months ago at 9:09 AM
How many difference meals are there? And what are they, do not care for HOT n SPICY. Do you have breakfast meals?
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9 months ago at 10:03 AM
The information you guys provide about MRE's is very misleading. Any MRE entree or case listed on your website says the shelf life is about 5 years if stored 75 degrees or below. My MRE code on the main entree (6338) when typed into the calculator stored at 75 degrees expired a few months ago back in April of 2020. But the MRE package (7082) that keeps everything bundled together expired in July of 2020.......I dont get it.
7 months ago at 4:54 AM
If I buy a bulk container of MRE ground beef or some other bulk item, is the expiration date void and once it is opened? how long can I keep it itf it is in a can with a lid on it? I’ve never seen that explained and I think it’s an important question.
7 months ago at 4:54 AM
If I buy a bulk container of MRE ground beef or some other bulk item, is the expiration date void and once it is opened? how long can I keep it itf it is in a can with a lid on it? I’ve never seen that explained and I think it’s an important question.