Guide to the Different Types of MREs

MREs – which stands for Meal, Ready-to-Eat – is a self-contained individual ration of food in a lightweight packaging originally provided by the US Department of Defense for its servicemen. It was designed as a food supply in field conditions where organized food facilities are not available. These MREs have become popular with survivalists, preppers and glampers, and it’s often used as a humanitarian aid for disasters.

Origin of the MRE

MREs were brought as a ration meal for the US Military starting in 1975. It replaced the MCI (Meal, Combat, Individual rations) used in the WWI and WWII. The meals were not fully tested until 1983 when the troops of the 25th infantry division ate only MREs for three times a day for 34 days. These troops only ate 60% of the food provided. As a result, nine of the original 12 meals were replaced and the entrée size was increased. They added candy and hot sauce to the meals, plus a cold beverage to the 12 MRE meals.

During the Operation Desert Storm in 1990, the military launched their first large-scale effort using MRE meals, and the MREs have changed once again with the addition of hot sauce as a condiment in all 12 menus, plus freeze-dried coffee. Candy was added to four more menus, and wet-pack fruits replaced dehydrated fruits.

As the Operation Desert Storm continued, shelf-stable bread and a chocolate bar that doesn’t melt were developed. In 1992, they added a flameless heater.

Where to Buy
MRE 2020 Inspection Date Case, 24 Meals with 2020 Inspection Date, 2017 Pack Date. Military Surplus Meal Ready to Eat.
S.O.S. Rations Emergency 3600 Calorie Food Bar
Captain Dave's 12 Military MRE Entrees,Meals Ready to Eat, MREs Case
Western Frontier 2021 and up Inspection Date, 2018 Pack Date, Meals Ready-to-Eat Genuine US Military Surplus with Western Frontier's Inspection
Mountain House Just In Case 14-Day Emergency Food Supply

Benefits of MRE

  • MREs are a great way to ensure that you can sustain your body with food for long periods of time.
  • These food packs are relatively shelf-stable. Their shelf lives are around 5 years or more, making them a dependable source of food for long-term prepping.
  • Some MREs come with a flameless heater to make the food more palatable to eat, and it even comes with condiments and utensils.
  • It’s waterproof, impact-resistant and sealed. Since it’s conveniently packed, you can easily sneak it in to your bug out bag in case of an emergency. You can also store it in your survival gear, food cache, trunk of your car, and at your bug out location.
  • For people with families, MREs can be a life saver. With great flavor that these food bars offer, your family will have one less thing to complain about during a disaster.

What’s in an MRE?

Meals, Ready-to-Eat are high-calorie prepared meals that are a convenient food option during emergencies and disaster situations, besides being a meal supply to soldiers anywhere and anytime.

A typical MRE includes

  • Entrée (varieties include macaroni, chili, beef ravioli, spaghetti, meatballs, sausage and more)
  • Side dish (mash potatoes, corn, rice, etc.)
  • Dessert (cookies, poundcakes, etc.)
  • Bread and spread (peanut butter, cheese, jelly spread, etc.)
  • Candies (M&M’s, Tootsie Rolls, Skittles)
  • Cold drink mix
  • Hot drink mix
  • Condiments and accessories (hot sauce, sugar, salt, spices, chewing gum, toilet paper, matches)
  • Utensils
  • Flameless ration heater (for use with the entrée)

Good MREs in the Market

Department of Defense MREs

The original Meal, Ready-to-Eat, MREs from Department of Defense are designed to sustain a warfighter in a physically demanding environment to one meal a day. Each MRE from DoD contains 1,500 to 2,000 calories in its content. These MREs are packed with nutrition and flavor and have a shelf life of 3-10 years. And each MRE comes with condiments packet that contains tissue paper, gum, moist towelettes and spices. Some comes with instant coffee powder with creamer and sugar. These military also MREs come with an accessory pack that includes water-activated flameless ration heater so you can prepare your MRE anywhere. Each comes with a variety of meals to prevent food fatigue.

S.O.S. Rations Emergency 3600 Calorie Food Bar

The ration bars from S.O.S. are delicious and nutrient-dense. Each packet contains 9 fortified food bars that provide 3682 calories. This MRE is approved by the US Coast Guard under all climatic conditions. The packaging of the food bars are top-notch – they come in vacuum-sealed Mylar wrapper for protection against air and moisture. Inside, each bar is individually wrapped in cellophane to keep the food fresh for days, even after the large package is opened. The food bars come with a tasty and non-thirst provoking formula to maximize survival capacity in situations where drinking water is unavailable.

Captain Dave’s 12 Military MRE Entrees

This MRE pack form Captain Dave’s come with 12 entrees with at least six different meal flavors. Some are chicken-based, while some are beef-based. This is a government-approved MRE manufacturer, so you can be assured of its quality. This MRE is perfect for those who just want the meat portion of MRE without the side dishes. It has a same five-year shelf life as the full meal.

Mountain House Just In Case 14-Day Emergency Food Supply

One of the best MREs for natural disasters, this 14-day emergency food supply from Mountain House comes with a 30-year taste guarantee. This comes with breakfast, lunch, and dinner that totals to 1800 calories each day for two whole weeks. Its packages are lightweight and compact, making it easy to store in your emergency supply storage. And preparing these foods are simple. All you need to do is to add boiling water to the meal and it will be ready to eat in less than 10 minutes. The good thing is, the meals actually taste good.

Western Frontier Genuine US Military Surplus Meals Ready-to-Eat

These are military-standard MREs that are inspected and verified fresh by Western Frontier. Each case comes with 12 different meal entrees. Every meal has approximately 1250 calories. It includes a variety of tasty Italian, Mexican, Asian, traditional and vegetarian cuisine. It also comes with assorted snacks, desserts, milk shakes, coffee, and hot chocolate. Like the military RMEs, this one comes with an accessory pack with flavor-enhancing seasonings, toilet paper, matches, and other survival essentials.