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Instead of adding water or cooking, MREs are wet-packed so all you have to do is tear them open and eat. We do recommend heating them up though!
Whether it's your next hunting trip or a wildfire evacuation, MREs slip into any backpack for easy storage. Take them on your next hike or have them ready for an emergency
We've been eating MREs for years on camp outs and in emergencies. We also source MREs from the same companies that are contracted to make them for the military
What comes to mind when you think of food storage? For most people, they think of grains, bulky barrels, dried good and more. Today we want to talk to you about a type of food storage that defies these stereotypes—the Meal, Ready-to-Eat, or MREs as they are more commonly known.
MREs are individual rations, self-contained in lightweight packaging that can be warmed without a fire or stove, originally designed for the United States Military to consume during combat or similar field conditions without food facilities. Each meal contained in an MRE is packed with calories - 1,250 calories on average - and designed to provide whoever eats it with the proper minerals, vitamins and energy they need to cope with their surroundings.
Brief History of MREs
These meal packets were designed to address the growing need for quick and easy meals in military situations. The MREs are the most recent in a long line of ways the U.S. Military has fed its soldiers in the field, replacing the more recent MCIs (Meal, Combat, Individual rations) and the LRPs (Long Range Patrol ration).
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. Read more about the military history of MREs in our article, “The History of MREs, or Meals, Ready-to-Eat.”
For a long time this type of meal, and food storage, was only available to the military. For a brief period around the year 2000 they became available to civilians (though not through the military, but through commercial companies) largely in response to Y2K anxiety.
There wasn’t much commercial interest for MRES again until 2005, when the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina proved that such a food resource would be in demand by civilians. Since then MREs have become widely available and sought for by civilians. And as a result of this increased demand the overall quality of MREs have only improved.
How MREs Work
Keeping food meal-ready at a moment’s notice for up to five years is a difficult feat to accomplish, so how does it work? How do MREs provide warm meals without stoves or fires at a moment’s notice?
The two keys to this equation are the flameless heater pouches and the advanced food technology that keeps the food edible and nutrient-rich for long periods of time. The flameless heater pouches, or MRE heater, contains a simple water-activated system that quickly heats meals and is environmentally friendly. The shelf life and flavor of the food have been perfected over years of hard work and advances in food storage technology—and there is no sign of those advances slowing down any time soon.
Different Types of MREs
There are currently a wide variety of MRE meals and entrees available. Over the years the menus behind MREs have greatly expanded to an existing selection to more than two dozen meals, currently including Mediterranean chicken, spicy penne pasta, and vegetable lasagna.
When you’re looking at MREs for your food storage, 72-hour kits, auto breakdown bag or camping trip; you have a few options:
Individual Entrées – At the centerpiece of every MRE is an entrée of some kind, usually meat and grain based (though in recent years vegetarian MREs have become available). Popular variations of MRE entrees include sandwiches, pastas, and stews. These individual entrees can be purchased individually (usually somewhere between $2.50-$5.50 an entrée) or in bulk.
Snacks and Drinks – Sometimes all you really need (or want) is something sweet or salty. The MRE snacks and drinks were provided to meet this need with a variety of cookies, turnovers, pound cakes and brownies. Nut and raisin mixes (with and without M&Ms) are also popular, along with baked snack crackers, dried fruit and filled pretzels. The drinks in MREs are typically small powder packs to be mixed in with water to create fruit drinks with nutritive sweeteners or carbohydrate electrolytes. Pricing for a single MRE snack ranges from $2-$4, depending on the complexity of the snack. Again, they can be purchased individually or in bulk.
Full Meal – The military makes small changes and alterations year-to-year with what they include in MREs, but typically a full MRE contains the following: The entre, a side dish (rice, fruit or corn), hot sauce or seasoning, crackers or bread along with a spread (jelly, cheese or peanut butter), candy, beverage mix, dessert, flameless ration heater, and additional accessories (spoon, chewing gum, toilet paper, etc.). The nutritional value of a single MRE is equal to a third of the military recommend daily allowance of vitamins and minerals, with each containing a careful balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates. Individual meals can be purchased, but they are most often purchased in cases of 12 or 24 full meals.
So, whether you are looking for a new meal to bring with you on your hiking trip, or want lightweight meals to include in your bug out bag, or want to experience the diet of our nation’s troops—look to MREs as your ready-to-eat solution.
Does Ready Store 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 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.
How do I know if my MRE has expired?
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.
MRE Expiration Calculator
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).
1172 would mean that it was manufactured in 2011 on June 20th (the 172 day of the year). 1348 would translate to Dec. 13, 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 MREfaqs for mresThere 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.