Be Prepared: Stock Up on MREs

If you served in the military, you probably have some strong feelings about MREs (meals ready to eat). But love them or hate them, they’re an essential tool for emergency preparedness everywhere.

If you haven’t served, you’ve probably got a few questions about MREs and how you can use them in your emergency preparation.

What is an MRE?

rothco mreMREs or Meals Ready to Eat were first developed in the 1960s. They’re a complete meal inside lightweight packaging. Since they’re much lighter than the canned meals that soldiers used to carry, it meant soldiers could reduce their combat load while still carrying enough food with them.

For civilians, MREs are great for emergency preparedness, but also work for camping or backpacking when you need to eat but can’t count on foraging. Today’s MREs contain everything you’ll need for a meal including a flameless heater, seasoning, mixes for drinks (like coffee), dessert (like Charms candy), and even a moist towelette to clean up after.

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What Do MRE Meals Taste Like?

There are 24 different MRE flavors ranging from things like Country Captain Chicken and Buttered Noodles to Jambalaya. Like most packaged foods, they’re heavy on items like meat, pasta and rice. Most Americans have eaten a decent amount of canned food, and MREs don’t taste much different. They’re less flavorful than fresh food, but can suffice when you’re in need.

If you ate an MRE for every meal, you’d find yourself craving something fresh. But hopefully whatever emergency you’re prepping for will pass before too long and you can go back to eating normally. The main drawback to the premade options is that the food comes as a finished product, meaning you might get stuck with meals you don’t like if it has an ingredient you can’t remove.  

Where Can I Buy MREs?

Brands like Rothco, Sure-Pak, 5ive Star Gear, and XMRE Light all make MREs for the general public, and some come with heater packs while others are designed to be eaten cold. Check out a wide selection of MREs on the US Patriot website to find the right pack for your situation.

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What’s the Difference Between Military MREs and Commercial MREs?

mre commercialIn terms of the food, there’s not a real difference between military and commercial products. They generally have the same components and the same flavors.

However, the MREs that are manufactured for the military are for military use only. That means you can’t buy or resell them, so you’ll be exclusively eating commercial MREs. Their packaging may be slightly different than what you would see in a commercial MRE, but the food and nutritional value remains consistent between the two types.

How Long Do MREs Last?

The short answer? It depends.

How you store your MREs can have a big impact on how long they last. If you’re keeping them in a sweltering 100-degree attic—or if you’re deployed in a hot desert—they won’t last more than a few months.

If you’re able to store them at a reasonable temperature, they should last three to five years. But if you have access to a refrigerator they can last even longer. Be sure to check the expiration date on your MREs.

Should I Get an MRE Case?

There are some benefits to buying MREs by the case. In a true emergency, it’s likely you’ll need to eat more than one meal before you get to safety. In fact, most experts recommend having at least three days’ worth of nonperishable food on hand. If you have a family, or think you’ll have a few others with you in an emergency, having extra food is a big benefit.

The drawback to buying by the case is that your meals may go bad before you have a chance to use them. Of course, if they’re getting close to their expiration date, there’s no need to wait for an emergency and you can just eat them before resupplying.

Emergencies can happen at any time and being prepared is the first step towards survival. Ensuring you have enough food to get you through is important—and MREs are the best way to do it.


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