Have you ever wondered what soldiers feed on during long-term operations? With limited funds, time, and the risky venture of "shopping for groceries," there's almost no way to get something to eat, just like the average civilian.
Food is essential for strength and survival, and with no typical means of getting food, the military had to improvise. They came up with the MRE, which stands for Meal, Ready-to-Eat.
The MRE has been the go-to food for military servicemen and women for decades. In fact, it became something so sacred that civilians could only fantasize about it. Here's the good news; times have changed, and civilians can also buy MRE. It's now as simple as shopping for groceries. So, if you're planning on a hike, camping, or any survival-based adventure, you can and should stack up on MRE.
What is an MRE?
An MRE is a self-service meal that's designed to provide essential nutrition to persons on field operations. The US Department of Defense primarily used the Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) to cater to field rations for military personnel.
Thanks to its unique design, MREs can easily be stored for longer periods compared to regular food without getting spoiled. All you need to do is to keep your MRE stored in a cool and dry place, and it'll still be healthy for consumption whenever you're ready.
Although the MRE was created for field operatives, it gradually evolved into a relief package for civilians in case of natural disasters.
History of the MRE
Did you know that MREs aren't the first ready-to-eat meals? It's actually the successor of the MCI, which stands for Meal, Combat, and Individual rations.
The MCI was predominantly used in the 1980s, and the MRE is an upgrade of the combat field rations. MRE is much healthier, lightweight, and better packaged than its predecessor, the MCI.
The idea behind MRE dates back to WWII when soldiers had to carry food rations alongside personal military. Most times, the canned meals had either spoiled or lost taste, and they often increased the overall load to be carried. As such, it became important to provide lightweight food with essential nutrients that can be preserved for more extended periods and would be. This ultimately led to the creation of the MRE in 1963.
Since its inception, MRE has consistently undergone major upgrades in packaging, nutritional value, and taste preservation.
What To Look for in Purchasing an MRE
The US military heavily restricts the commercial sale of military MREs, but civilian MREs are easily available for purchase. You can easily buy an MRE from military personnel, military surplus stores, local gun shows, or shop online.
Before you buy an MRE, here are four things to note;
- Civilian MREs can be bought from online vendors with ease. But if you're looking for military MREs, then your best bet would be to shop at a legitimate MRE auction. MRE auctions give you better prices for verifiable MREs than being ripped off by online stores or unknown vendors.
- Civilian MRE kits often contain fewer items than military MREs. You may be missing minor items like matches and gum.
- When buying an MRE kit, check the packaging date and storage conditions. If you're looking for something fresh, you should compare the date you're shopping with the MRE packaging date - that'll tell you how long the MRE kit has been in storage.
- To get superior quality MRE, your best bet would be to buy from known manufacturers. The manufacturers for the US military are Sopakco and Ameriqual.
What Types of MREs Are There?
Although MRE was produced for military field personnel, it's now available for civilians. As such, there are two broad categories of MRE; military and civilian. Luckily, both MREs have similar nutritional value, packaging, and shelf life.
All MREs contain; essential meal accessories, hot sauce, side dish, dessert, entree, meal spread, beverages, and the flameless ration heater.
Each year, the US military makes changes to the MRE menu. As of 2021, there are 24 items on the MRE menu - including four vegetarian meals.
The items on the 2021 MRE menu include:
- Beans with chili
- Shredded beef in barbecue sauce
- Chicken, egg noodles, and vegetables in sauce
- Spaghetti with beef and sauce
- Chicken chunks
- Beef taco
- Beef strips in tomato sauce
- Meatballs in marinara sauce
- Beef stew
- Chili and macaroni
- Cheese pizza slice
- Elbow macaroni
- Cheese tortellini
- Mexican rice and bean bowl
- Mexican chicken stew
- Chicken burrito bowl
- Maple pork sausage patty
- Beef ravioli
- Jalapeno pepper and Jack beef patty
- Italian sausage with onions and pepper.
- Lemon pepper tuna
- Beef goulash
- Pepperoni pizza slice
- Southwest-style beef and black beans
The Best MREs On The Market
Although most MREs provide satisfactory nutritional content, some taste better than others. Similarly, some can be stored for longer periods, some are lighter and more convenient than others, and some are cheap yet high-quality.
Five of the best MREs in the market are;
MREs (Meals Ready-to-Eat) Genuine U.S. Military Surplus Assorted Flavor (4-Pack); this military MRE kit has brisket entrée, pasta, and vegetable crumbs in taco-type sauce, beans with chilly, and spaghetti with beef sauce. Each meal provides a healthy 1250 caloric amount. It has a shelf life of 3 years, it's lightweight, and can be cooked in under 10 minutes. It costs about $45.
Mountain House Adventure Meals; it's a long-lasting MRE with over 20 years of shelf life. It comes with chicken and dumplings with vegetable crumbs, granola with milk and blueberries, noodles with beef stroganoff, biscuit and gravy, and fried rice with chicken and vegetables. Each meal has a caloric value of 570 and can be cooked in 10 to 20 minutes, depending on your preference. It costs roughly $72.
Good To Go Thai Curry - Double-Serving; you can simply add water and enjoy your meal or heat up in less than 5 minutes. It's lightweight, has a shelf life of 5 years, and has a caloric value of 700 per meal. It costs $85.
NorthWest Fork Gluten-Free 30-Day Emergency Food Supply (Kosher, Non-GMO, Vegan); if you're looking for a vegan MRE, this is your best option. It has a 10-year shelf life; it's gluten-free, lightweight, and resealable packaging, has 400 caloric value, and only costs $165. It's an excellent choice for a fresh meal as it's only packed and shipped once you place your order.
ReadyWise Adventure Meals; includes various meals covering entrée, side and main dishes, and dessert. It has a shelf life of at least ten years and only costs $60.
Stacking up food is essential to preparing for an adventure, and MREs should be your go-to meal packs. Besides their all-around nutritional content, they're designed to survive harsh adventure conditions without losing their quality. Our list of the best MREs in the market gives you a clear variety of MRE options whether you wish to eat light, heavy, or prefer vegan meals.