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. 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 of the most frequent questions that we get regarding MREs:
What is an MRE?
MREs were brought into military use during the 1980s to replace heavy, bulky food supplies. MREs are self-contained meals that include a way to heat your meal. They have a durable packaging that can withstand high drops and typically have a shelf-life of about 5 years depending on storage conditions.
Do we sell military MREs?
Yes and no. Military MREs cannot be 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 an MRE?
MREs are very easy and simple to use and they don’t require much if any prep time. You have 3 simple steps:
Step 1: Open the MRE package
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. It is identical to eating food out of a can.
Step 2: Heating your MRE
As stated, MREs can be eaten cold or hot because the food is already cooked. MREs can be heated in a variety of ways, the most common being using a Flameless Ration Heater (FRH) also known as an MRE Heater. They are very simple to use and require that you add about an ounce 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.
- Place the MRE in the direct sunlight to be warmed.
- Heat the food in a microwave or over a stove like you would do with
regular canned food. 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 an MRE store?
An MRE will store for 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.
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 can last for 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 our article on MRE Expiration Dates for more information.
How 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 code 7304 would mean it was manufactured on the 304th day of 2007, or October 31, 2007. Sometimes other letters representing batch numbers will be added to the end of the date code (i.e. 7304C).
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.
What is the difference between a “Full Meal MRE” and an MRE entrée?
A Full Meal MRE comes with the entree pack plus a side dish (typically fruit), a dessert, crackers, candy, and will also include a flameless heater, eating utensils, and seasoning. An MRE entree is just a single pack main dish entree without any sides or desserts.
If just want the single entree pack, don’t buy the Full Meal.
What is the nutritional value of an MRE
There are a few different ways civilians can order a case of MREs. One way is to order the full meal MREs, which include everything from the main entree to the plastic-ware and drink mix. They can also order a package that just includes the main entree.
The main part of an MRE meal is called an MRE entree. The entree is packed inside a pouch that's kept inside cardboard box. This box doesn't include the side dish, snacks, drink mixes, and condiments that a full-meal MRE has. It's important to understand the difference before you order a case of MREs.
One 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.
They have been designed to meet the specifications that the Department of Defence requires for food for the US Military, and contrary to what some say, we have the bet fed military in the world.
A typical MRE entree will have anywhere from 250-350 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 have any other questions, we'd be happy to try and answer them. Comment below and we'll answer away!