During my time in the Marines Corps, I ate more military MREs than I would have liked. Don’t get me wrong, they are actually pretty good, but sometimes you just want a home cooked meal.
Each case of Meals Ready to Eat contains 12 packets. Each packet contains a meal, or what are more accurately called “menu items.” There are two different case variations. Case A contains menu items 1-12, while case B contains items 13-24, so if you find you like one menu selection better, you can just order more of that type of case. We will go over what each menu item is below.
Some menu items are really good, while others I’d advise staying away from… or giving to your friends/family (more about each below). You’re definitely going to want to keep the Beef Taco for yourself.
Anyway, this review is going to be long, so you can just click on the heading to go to the part of the article you want more information about. If are looking to buy MREs, check out the where to buy MREs section to see your options.
What is a Meal Ready to Eat (MRE)
An MRE is an individuality packed vacuum sealed meal designed to be lightweight, long lasting, and provide essential nutrition. They contain a main meal, which is identified on the face of the package, along with accessories and beverages. These meals contain a lot of calories (about 1250 on average) to supply the body with energy when conventional food supplies are not readily available.
Although MREs were designed for military members, many civilians stock up on them to use as emergency food in case of emergencies or natural disasters. The world is a crazy place nowadays, so it’s definitely a good idea to have a long term food supply. Some people will think you’re crazy, but that’s ok. These people are usually highly dependent, and are the first ones to pass when things go south (natural selection can be a good thing).
Some MREs come with a convenient water-activated heating element. It’s basically a plastic bag with magnesium, iron, and table salt. When these minerals and compounds come in contact with water it triggers a flameless chemical reaction producing heat. All you need to do is tear the plastic bag open and add a small amount of water (there is a fill line marked on the bag so you can’t mess up), and then slip your main entrée into the bag. If you do add too much or not enough water it’s not a big deal, it just won’t get as hot.back to menu ↑
History of Meals Ready to Eat
The United States Department of Defense began developing the MRE in the 1970s after recognizing the need to meet the nutritional needs of service members with a balanced meal that was sustainable in diverse combat theaters for long periods of time. The MRE replaced the canned Meal Combat Individual ration (MCI) shortly after Vietnam. It is a revised version of a field ration called the LPR (long range patrol ration), developed by the US Army. The LPR was used by Special Operations and reconnaissance teams that would patrol deep into communist held Viet Cong territory. These rations allowed troops to move quickly and compress their packs without having to take along bulky and heavy canned food. MREs have continued to evolve over time, giving us what we have today.back to menu ↑
What are Meals Ready to Eat Good for?
MRE rations are used by civilians for many things. They are great to take along on hunting, hiking, and camping trips. They contain more than just food. They have some other useful accessories, such as matches, tissue paper, and beverage powders. It’s a good idea to have a least a 3 month supply of long term emergency food ready in case of natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, etc. They have a long shelf life (see MRE shelf life section for details), so once you buy a good supply you shouldn’t have to worry about emergency food for a long time.back to menu ↑
MRE Shelf Life, How Long Do They Last?
Per the GoArmy website, military MREs “must maintain a shelf life of at least three and a half years when stored at 80 degrees Fahrenheit.” Meal Kit Supply, a company that makes civilian MREs, says their product has an estimated shelf life of 5.5 years when stored at 70 degrees, which I think is a conservative estimate.
MRE shelf life really depends on the temperature they are stored at (storing at cooler temperatures makes them last longer). Most don’t even have an expiration date. I can attest they can be still safe to consume after over 10 years if stored correctly (although I would advise against it).
I remember in basic training we brought to our drill instructors attention that our issued MREs were over 14 years old. He assured us “MREs don’t expire,” which is not exactly right… It is true, however, that they don’t technically have an expiration date, because how long MREs last depends on how and what temperature they are stored. I mean, I never got sick after eating the Meals Ready to Eat that were over 14 years old, and I’m still alive to write this review. That said, I still don’t recommend eating MREs over 10 years past their Julian, or production date, unless it’s necessary. Just buy fresh MREs every 5 years or so, they’re cheap considering how long they last and everything included.
As I said above you won’t technically know when “a MRE expires.” Sometimes, however, the accessories inside, like the candy, will have an expiration date. Not too long ago I ate a pack of sour skittles from an MRE that was over 5 years expired, and they still tasted good. That said, when you’re in the middle of the desert everything tastes good.
If you buy from a reputable supplier, and store your Meals Ready to Eat in your basement, or a cool area, they should be safe to eat for a very long time (10 years or so) after the Julian date, although around 5 years is probably more optimal.
For more information on how to read MRE expiration date, visit the FAQ section at the bottom of the page.back to menu ↑
Where to Buy MREs
If you’re looking for cheap military MREs for sale, we recommend buying from the suppliers listed below, depending on what you’re looking for.
The MRE suppliers below ensure they were stored correctly and still have many years of shelf life remaining.
They have reasonable prices and shipping is fair considering the weight of the box being shipped.
It’s important to buy MREs you know where stored correctly. That’s why sometimes buying MREs that were actually once in a military theater isn’t the best idea.
You don’t know if they were stored in a storage container in the middle of desert cooking in the 100+ degree heat.
With the suppliers listed below, you can rest assure you are getting properly stored and fresh MREs.
Where to Buy Military MREs:
If you’re looking the buy the A case (menu items 1-12), we recommend buying genuine military MREs from this supplier here.
If you’re looking to buy the B case (menu items 13-24), we recommend buying genuine military MREs from this supplier here.
If you want to buy civilian MREs I recommend buying Meal Kit Supplies meals ready to eat. They are made in the USA and are high quality. They look a little different than military MREs, but the contents are very similar. They have a typical shelf life of around 5 years. Another big plus is they are pre-cooked, contain a healing element, have vegetarian meal options, and contain no preservatives. These meals are great to take backpacking, adding to your car emergency kit, or other emergency food supply. The manufacture notes the estimated shelf life when stored at the various temperatures on their website.
70 degrees – 5.5 years
80 degrees – 4 years
90 degrees – 2.5 years
100 degrees – 1.5 years
Note for Meal Kit Supply MREs: Menu items for Meal Kit Supply MREs will not match the menu items at the bottom of the page. I have listed the Meal Kit Supply menu items directly below. Each meal also contains a heating element, 6″ spoon, instant coffee, creamer, salt, pepper, sugar, wet nap, and napkin. Each case also contains 7 cocoa beverage powder mixes and 4 hot sauce packets. See the menu list below. There are 8 dinner and 4 breakfast MREs in each case.
- Beef Taco
- Chili Macaroni
- Spaghetti and Meat Sauce
- Vegetarian Taco Pasta
- Vegetarian Cheese Tortellini
- Meatballs and Marinara Sauce
- Beef Ravioli in Meat Sauce
- Vegetarian Vegetable Lasagna
- Beef Ravioli in Meat Sauce
- Sausage Patty with Hash Browns
- Apply Maple Oatmeal
- Sausage Patty with Hash Browns
- Apple Maple Oatmeal (Vegetarian)
How to Tell if an MRE is Expired?
Most companies don’t list an expiration date, so you’ll have to determine yourself if the MRE is still safe to eat. As long as you store the MREs in a climate controlled area around 70 degrees or below, they should be good for at least 5 years after their packaging date. If you don’t know how to read the packaging date. Keep reading, and I will explain that in detail.
How do I read the expiration date on MREs?
The production date, or Julian date, is stamped on the MRE box and package. Once you know what you’re looking for they are easy to find. You will see a 4 digit code that indicates this date. The first number represents the year it was produced, and the last 3 numbers represent the day of the year.
Lets look at the box here, it reads 5041. The first number (5) would stand for 2015, and the last three numbers (041) would represent the 41st day of the year. So this case was packaged on the 41st day of 2105. Because MREs are not usually kept for over 10 years, the first number is a representation of the year in that decade. Still confused? Keep reading.
You might be asking so how did I know the first digit, the 5, stood for 2015 and not 2005? Well the look of MREs is usually very different from decade to decade, so it’s easy to tell. Also, as long as you buy from a reputable supplier, you shouldn’t have to worry about your MREs being over 10 years old. If you’re really concerned, you can always reach out to the supplier and ask for the Julian date.
Difference between a MRE Meal and MRE Entree?
The Entrée can be thought of as the main item within the meal. So say you are eating a Chili Macaroni MRE, The Chili Macaroni would be the main entrée, and the combination of everything inside the package would be the meal.
Are MREs Good for You?
MREs were designed to supply the body with essential nutrients and calories to keep going. You can eat MREs for a very long period of time and stay healthy.
There some important things to note. Meals Ready to Eat are very high in sodium, fat (saturated and trans), and have little fiber. They were designed this way on purpose. They are high in calories to meet the caloric needs of individuals who are very active. The fat provides calories (energy for the body). The high sodium content replaces lost salt lost through sweating.
If you do eat MREs for an extended period, make sure you read the labels and consume the entire meal, not just the parts you like. They can be used stand alone or in conjunction with conventionally cooked meals.back to menu ↑
List of MRE Entrees
|Menu 1||Menu 2||Menu 3||Menu 4|
|Main Meal||Chili With Beans||Shredded Barbecue Beef||Chicken with Noodles||Spaghetti with Beef and Sauce|
|Side Dish||None||Seasoned Black Beans||Wet Pack Fruits||Infused and Dried Fruits|
||Cracker (Trans Fat Free)||Multigrain Snack Bread|
|Other||Cheese Filled Snack Food||
|Beverage Powder||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder||Carbohydrate Beverage Powder||Cocoa Beverage Powder|
|Menu 5||Menu 6||Menu 7||Menu 8|
|Main Meal||Chicken Chunks||Beef Taco||Brisket Entree||Meatballs in Marinara Sauce|
|Side Dish||Wet Pack Fruits||Au Grain Potatoes||Garlic Mashed Potatoes|
|Cracker/Bread||Tortillas||Tortillas||Snack Bread||Italian Bread Sticks|
|Desert||Nuts and Raisins with Chocolate Disks||Cookies||Cookies|
|Beverage Powder||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder||Irish Cream Cappuccino mix||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder|
|Menu 9||Menu 10||Menu 11||Menu 12|
|Main Meal||Beef Stew||Chili and Macaroni||Veggie Crumbles w/ Pasta in Taco Style Sauce||Vegetarian Elbow Macaroni and Tomato Sauce|
|Side Dish||Wet Pack Fruits||Nuts and Raisins|
|Cracker/Bread||Multi Grain Snack Bread||Crackers||Crackers||Snack Bread|
|Desert||Fudge Brownie||Pound Cake|
|Beverage Powder||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder||French Vanilla Cappuccino Mix||Chocolate Protein Drink|
|Menu 13||Menu 14||Menu 15||Menu 16|
|Main Meal||Cheese Tortellini in Tomato Sauce||Vegetarian Spinach Mushrooms and Cream Sauce Fettuccine||Maple Pork Sausage Patty||Rib Shaped BBQ Pork Patty|
|Side Dish||Nuts and Raisins||Santa Fe Style Rice and Beans|
|Cracker/Bread||Crackers||Crackers||Crackers||Wheat Snack Bread Twin Pack|
|Desert||Dessert Powder||Maple Muffin Top|
|Beverage Powder||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder||Chocolate Protein Drink||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder|
|Menu 17||Menu 18||Menu 19||Menu 20|
|Main Meal||Mexican Style Chicken Stew||Beef Ravioli in Meat Sauce||Grilled Jalapeno Pepper Jack Beef Patty||Hash Brown Potatoes w/ Bacon|
|Side Dish||Wet Pack Fruits||Cherry Blueberry Cobbler||Peppers and Onions|
|Cracker/Bread||Vegetable Crackers||Wheat Snack Bread||Twin Pack Wheat Snack Bread||Crackers|
|Desert||Muffin Top Chocolate Banana||Cookies||Granola w/ Milk and Blueberry|
|Beverage Powder||Chocolate Hazelnut Cocoa Powder||Carbohydrate Beverage Powder||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder||Sugar Free Orange Fortified Beverage Powder|
|Menu 21||Menu 22||Menu 23||Menu 24|
|Main Meal||Lemon Pepper Tuna||Asian Style Beef Strips w/ Vegetables||Chicken Pesto Pasta||Southwest Beef and Black Beans|
|Side Dish||Fried Rice Chunky Peanut Butter||Spiced Apples|
|Cracker/Bread||Tortillas||Snack Bread||Snack Bread||Chipotle Tortillas|
||Jelly/Jam||Cheddar Cheese Spread||Meat Snack|
|Beverage Powder||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder||Chocolate Cocoa Beverage Powder||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder||Mocha Cappuccino Drink Mix|
Feel free to rate my MRE meals review with the starts to the lower right, thanks!