The Pros and Cons of Meals Ready to Eat (MREs)

If I were starving and someone handed me an MRE (meal ready to eat), I’d be grateful. And I’d eat it. Even if the nutritional value and taste were not quite up to par, I’d prefer it to hunger pains.

Generally speaking, MREs don’t have a great reputation. Mainly due to the taste. And the lack of nutritional value.

They usually do not have a particularly long shelf life, and they cost over $7 each. 

On the other hand, MREs have fed U.S. military personnel for many decades. And they’ve improved through the years. These self-contained Meals Ready to Eat come in airtight packaging. And they’ll last a few years under most weather conditions.

History of MREs 

Today I want to take a closer look at the pros and cons of MREs. We know there are better options when it comes to survival food. But MREs are certainly not the worst option. Especially when you don’t have the time or materials needed to heat up a meal.

First a little history. U.S. soldier rations began being distributed during the Revolutionary War. This ration consisted mostly of beef, peas and rice, and had to be distributed daily. The U.S. military moved to canned foods during the Civil War.

Lightweight preserved meats, either salted or dried, were given to soldiers during World War I to save on weight. Different field rations were distributed in World War II, but canned spam was the prevalent food. 

The Department of Defense began developing Meals Ready to Eat in 1963. Three years later, a dehydrated meal called the LRP (Long Range Patrol) ration was distributed. 

It would be the 1980s before the MRE was a standard issue with 12 entrees. MREs now feature items including heat-stable chocolate and shelf-stable bread. Packaging is strong enough to withstand parachute drops from 1,250 feet and non-parachute drops of 100 feet. 

What they include

Today’s MREs usually include a main entrée (such as beef stew or spaghetti), a side dish (like rice, corn or mashed potatoes), a starch (cracker or bread), a spread (peanut butter, jelly or cheese), a dessert (cookies or pound cake), a piece of candy (Skittles, M&Ms or Tootsie Rolls), and a beverage (coffee, tea, dairy shakes, cocoa).

Keeping MREs shelf-stable in extreme weather conditions is a big challenge. Unfortunately, the only solution is to make the food highly processed. This is a concern for soldiers (or anyone, for that matter) with long-term use.

Probably the best pro when it comes to MREs is in their name. They’re ready to eat on the spot. Having a self-contained food source is important for someone on the go, such as a soldier or someone bugging out in a hurry. They provide enough calories to keep moving.

While there is some variety with MREs (24 different meals as of last count), you can’t mix and match. You get what’s in your container and that’s it. They contain roughly 1,300 calories per meal with 55% of the energy coming from carbohydrates, 35% from fat and 15% from protein.

Other “MRE” options 

While the following items are not MREs per say, they are ready-to-eat foods that taste good and have nutritional value and store well:

  • Peanut butter. This is something you can eat right out of the jar, although spreading it on healthy crackers will make it more filling and provide a taste variety.
  • Grains, nuts and legumes. This trail mix item is very popular, and for good reason. Everything in it is delicious and nutritious. The freeze-dried form will last longer. 
  • Dehydrated fruits and vegetables are nutritious, lightweight and easy to store. The taste is close to fresh veggies and fruits, and they’re perfect when you need a zero-prep snack.
  • Cereal/powdered milk. Cereal is another item you can eat right out of the container. You don’t really need milk to enjoy it, but powdered milk can do the trick. 
  • Granola bars. Most don’t have a long shelf life, so you’ll want to frequently rotate your supply. But they are tasty and can really hit the spot when you’re hungry. Make sure the sugar content is not high. 

Ready-to-eat Food Bars

Speaking of food that’s ready to eat, have you tried the 4Patriots Food Bars yet? They certainly qualify as a meal replacement in an emergency.

These delicious, ready-to-eat “survival cookies” have a lemon-shortbread flavor our customers can’t get enough of.

Designed to last five years under proper storage conditions, they can withstand extreme temperatures and are non-thirst provoking.

Sealed in Mylar pouches, you can keep them anywhere you might get stranded. Such as your car, boat, RV or cabin.

Here’s how to get yours…

Leave a comment

*Required Fields