Due to increases in demand, ship times on some orders may be delayed an estimated 1 month or more. See In Stock Products

A Look Inside Your MRE Full Meal

The Breakdown of an MRE Full Meal
Many people associate MREs with the military. However, there are also MREs available for civilian use. An MRE, or Meal, Ready-to-Eat, is a self-contained meal package that includes everything you need to prepare and eat the food inside, including heating up the food.

MREs are used in the military because they are packed with all of the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and calories for survival and sustenance. Civilian MREs are similar to military MREs, but have a few key differences. 

Military vs Civilian MREs
Military MREs cannot be sold to the public. However, the companies and distributors of military-grade MREs make similar MREs that can be sold to civilians.

These MREs differ in packaging and contents like sauces and beverages, but still have the same nutritional value in the food they contain.

Military MRE Full Meals include an entree, side dish, crackers, dessert, candy, and a beverage mix like coffee, as well as the flameless ration heater (FRH), pouch of water, and utensils. Military MREs also include items such as chewing gum, toilet paper, and matches.

Civilian MREs don’t have the same contents as the military MREs, but they are pretty similar. Here is what a civilian MRE contains:

What’s in My MRE Full Meal?
MREs contain a lot of nutritional value and provide you with everything you need to make the meal. Below is a breakdown of an MRE Full Meal with descriptions of the contents:


Pouch of Water: Every MRE will include a pouch of salt water to pour into the FRH. The water causes a chemical reaction with the heater that heats to high temperatures. Regular water will also cause this reaction, but salt water can help to speed up the process.1


Heating Sleeve: The FRH can heat to temperatures of over 100 F. You can use the sleeve to place the entree in to heat up without burning yourself or spilling the water.


Flameless Ration Heater (FRH): This is where the magic happens! The FRH contains a white pad filled with chemicals that react with the water to heat your food. When heating your MRE, be sure that the white pad is facing down to ensure that it is combining with the water for optimum heating.


Entree: This is the packet that you will place into the FRH and cardboard sleeve. This package is a  wet pack, meaning that it isn’t freeze-dried or dehydrated before packaging. In this sense, it is similar to canned food. There are various different MRE entrees like spaghetti and meat sauce, chicken and rice, beef stew, chili, etc.


Crackers: MREs contain a carbohydrate such as crackers that are packaged to last up to 5 years. Some packages include spreads to go with the crackers.


Side Dish: These dishes are not wet packs and don’t need to be heated up with the FRH. These are most commonly food items like raisins.


Dessert: A meal would never be complete without a dessert! It’s the best part of any meal. MRE desserts can be fig bars or cookies.


Candy:MRE manufacturers contract with different companies to provide candy in their meals. Currently the brand is Skittles.


Utensil Pack: The utensil pack includes a spork so you can eat liquid foods like soups and sauces and harder foods like meats and vegetables. There is also a wet towelette to clean up after your meal.


Seasonings and Mints: Also included in the utensil pack are seasonings for your food. Because they are sodium reduced meals, these seasonings don’t use salt.2 But they do help to enhance the flavors of your MRE. Mints are also included in the pack to help you freshen up after your MRE Full Meal.

As you can see, civilian MREs don’t contain beverage packs or other extra items like chewing gum or toilet paper, but they do provide you with a great source of vitamins and nutrients for your food storage.

With an average of 1,250 calories and a small package size, MREs are an item that can be easily stored so you can be prepared with a quick, ready-to-eat meal at a moment’s notice.

What about you? Have you ever had an MRE Full Meal? When do you use them?

1. Patent US5611329 - Flameless heater and method of making same. Google Books,. 'Patent US5611329 - Flameless Heater And Method Of Making Same'. N. p., 2015. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.
2. MRE package contains seasoning with salt-free ingredients: dehydrated onion, garlic, green bell peppers, carrots, and tomato, spices, sugar, dehydrated lemon peel, citirc acid, silicon dioxide and soybean oil.

12 thoughts on “A Look Inside Your MRE Full Meal”

  • DW

    Just wanted to comment on what you say a Military MRE contains. Having eaten many current Military MREs I can tell you that they do not come with a pouch of water. Unless that has changed and we are just eating really old Military MREs currently then it might be a good idea to adjust your article accordingly. Thanks.

    • The Ready Store
      The Ready Store May 4, 2015 at 2:48 am

      Sorry for the confusion @DW. This configuration is how Ameriqual configures their MRE Full Meals. Other MRE manufacturers sell a full meal bundle without a heater or water tube. The Ready Store distributes the Ameriqual version of the Full Meal. If you've purchased a Full Meal from Ready Store within the last 5 years, it should contain a variety similar the one described above, including a heater and water tube.

  • Jason Bowman

    These are not generally diabetic friendly. I'll either have to switch to freeze dried foods where I can better control what I'm ordering or just order the entrees and make up my own sides. But even then, I can't control the entree selection since we get whatever you have on hand and the supplier has sent to you.

  • D

    I ordered a "30 day" supply of MRE's from a supplier. I was disappointed in the Entree selection. Only 1 or 2 selections with beef or other meat. Dozen or more of meatless, slimy, poor taste chowders (of some kind). In a real emergency, a person would be happy to have, but not worthwhile to take camping, as the poor taste just makes the campers dig deeper into the supplies :-)
    Also, I have never come across any MRE, military or otherwise that came with a container of water.

  • Lee

    Jason, I totally agree with you. The number of people with diabetes is growing by leaps and bounds, and lower carb/sugar options would be nice. When in a severe emergency, medicines will be limited, and we need to do what we can with our foods to stay as healthy as possible in stressful times.

    Ready Store, would you consider a good, researched article for us on those types of diabetic-friendly, long term storage foods? Will the choices always remain limited? Any ideas would be helpful...Thanks! :)

  • Bob

    If you wish to try a military MRE, a couple of suggestions:

    Garage sales. If you see one for sale, ask the saler if they have more, they usally do.

    Truck stops. Everyone has seen the Guard trucks moving down hi ways, if you see them fueling at a truck stop, they will fill the garbage bins with unopened, and unwanted MRE's items. You won't find desserts ;-) However, there will be many unused heaters, sides, ect. Yes, it is a bit of "dumpster diving" but the waste of of all those unused, taxpayer supplied, items forced me to collect and store in my garage for the next emergency .

  • Angela

    I was with child on active duty when there was a snafu with my ration card. I had generous buddies with stockpiles of MRE's. I found that one military MRE would last me about 24 hours, and they were not ideal to live on but now I find the new freeze dried and dehydrated items to be my favorite comfort food. I'd much rather have a handful of granola or banana chips from Ready Store than ice cream and cake.

  • Robet

    US MREs are lagging behind much of Europe. You have to have a separate complete MRE for each meal, complete with packaging. This takes up a lot of space in a pack.

    Other countries are going to a 24hr system. They have three complete meals as well as snacks in a single package. The variety and quality seems to be better too.

    There are videos on You Tube by various people, KIWI DUDE for example, evaluating the different MRE options from different countries.

    They are a very good way to look before you leap.

  • Troy Whalen

    I cannot eat meals with lactose (milk cheese, cream, butter, etc). Can I purchase a box of MRE's without lactose? As well how much to ship to Nova Scotia. Postal Code B3K0C3.

    Thank you,

  • Doug Rodrigues

    I spent 5 years in the military during the 60's. As much as we disliked the C-rations then, I'd prefer them over MRE's. Even the Russians make a better meal pack than MRE's. Yuck !

  • Alistair Hackett
    Alistair Hackett November 9, 2016 at 1:31 am

    Hi - We have a potential customer who is looking for 5760 packs of Self Heating food with a shelf life of 5 years. The food must not be de-hydrated and must only need heating before consumption.

    The menu required is
    Breakfast x 1440
    Main meal #1 x 1440
    Main Meal #2 x 1440
    Dessert x 1440

    Delivery would be required in the UK and would be required prior to the 15th December 2016

    Please can you advise if you are able to supply.

    Many thanks

    Alistair Hackett
    General Manager - Ocean Safety ltd.

Leave a Reply