MRE (Meals Ready to Eat): Knowing its composition, nutritional value, and benefits to us


MRE or ‘Meals Ready to Eat’ are one of the greatest innovation in our lives today. Life is unpredictable. You can never guess the future and one day your stored food will deplete. 

In today’s generation, we experience natural and manmade calamities often because of various reasons. These events can put our lives into danger. We can experience trauma, destruction of properties, and even death of a loved one. To prevent these things to happen, proper preparation is a must.

One of the essential things every home must have is an MRE or meals ready to eat. Let’s discuss it one by one below: 

Understanding what is MREs

An MRE or Meals Ready to Eat are the main food ration of the Armed Forces, especially in the United States. According to the US Army, it originated from k-rations and c-rations used during World War II. They have also used MRE during the Korean and Vietnam war in the 1980s and they still use it even today.

The idea of MREs can be traced back to the government’s need to feed the entire battalion of an army during war times, according to the US Army.  They are being deployed in areas with minimal or no food at all. They might die of famine and not of the wounds during the battle. The responsibility lies with the authorities, thus they devised a plan to address this problem. 

The government researched techniques that can feed armies with good food and complete nutrients. Together with scientists and nutritionists, they processed raw food and make it practical in the field. These packs of food are ready to eat, it is lightweight, and it can last for many years. According to Survivalist 101, an MRE has a shelf life of 3 to 5 years depending on the conditions of the storage.

In the long run, several companies began producing MREs for civilians and it can be distributed during disasters. Although it has been questioned by officials since the contents are specially made for the armies, but the welfare of the people outweighs the controversy on the use of emergency food packs.

What’s in an MRE

These food are not tasty but they are almost complete with nutrients. The package contains the following according to MRE info

  • Entree: This is the main course of MRE. Examples of this are pasta and meat stew.
  • Side dish: It contains various choices such as corn, rice, fruit, or mashed potatoes, and others.
  • Spread: Like cheese spread, jelly, or peanut butter
  • Bread or crackers
  • Dessert: Cakes, cookies, or any sweet pastries
  • Candies
  • Seasoning: Hot sauce
  • Flameless Ration Heater
  • Beverages: Coffee, milk, chocolate, or tea
  • Accessories: Creamer, salt, pepper, sugar, spoon, and tissue

Difference between civilian and military MRE

Civilian MREs

Years ago, civilian MREs don’t contain much food choices in comparison with military MREs, they only have 12 meals available per case. But now, civilian MREs have evolved. For one, the supplies of civilian MREs are readily available in the market. You can buy it at any legitimate dealers, according to MRE info. Some of them are the Meal Kit Supply MREs, Sure-Paks, Wornick Eversafe, MREStar and Ameriqual APack. They store and transport each MREs properly.  These sites can provide you all the information you want regarding the MRE and ensure that what you are eating is always safe.

In addition, civilian MREs are fresher, flat and wide, and can be packed in your bags, according to US Preppers. The civilian MREs costs around $75 per case which is more expensive to $50 to $60 per case on military MREs. However, with civilian MREs, you’ll be assured of the quality because it comes from reliable vendors.

On the other hand, civilian MREs don’t have the complete deal of what you’ve paid for. Sometimes, it is not marked properly and it doesn’t have a flameless heater, especially in private labels, according to Preparedness Advice.  In addition, it has shorter shelf-life, unlike military ones.

Menus and accessories of civilian MRE

Some civilian MREs contain similar contents in comparison with military MREs. It has sides, entrees, desserts, and crackers just like the military MREs. However, the spread and the dessert can be different, just like in Sopacko Sure-Pak. 

Civilian MREs also includes a spoon and napkin similar to what the army uses. On the other hand, some packages don’t include a flameless heater to heat the meal.

The Sopacko Sure-Pak, a civilian MRE includes 12 individual meals of 6 different menus. The example is as follows:

Menu 1 (1,230 calories)

Chicken Pesto Pasta-420 calories

Crackers-180 calories

Clam Chowder-150 calories

Grape Jelly-70 calories

Oatmeal Cookie-280 calories

Lemon Lime Beverage Base-130 calories

Instant Coffee-0 calorie

Menu 2 (1,070 calories)

Refried Beans-180 calories

Veggie Burger in BBQ Sauce-260 calories

Raspberry White Chip Cookie-250 calories

Crackers-180 calories

Apple Jelly-70 calories

Lemon-Lime Beverage Base-130 calories

Coffee-o calorie

Menu 3-(970 calories)

Chicken with Salsa-160 calories

Grape Jelly-70 calories

Crackers-180 calories

Clam Chowder-150 calories

Cookies with Pan Coated Chocolate Disks-280 calories

Lemon-Lime Beverage Base-130 calories

Instant Coffee-o calorie

Menu 4-(980 calories)

Apple Maple Oatmeal-200 calories

Grape Jelly-70 calories

Crackers-180 calories

Apple Pieces in Spiced Sauce-150 calories

Raspberry White Chip Cookie-250 calories

Tropical Punch Beverage Base-130 calories

Instant Coffee-o calorie

Menu 5-(1,010 calories)

Chili and Macaroni-240 calories

Raspberry Applesauce-110 calories

Grape Jelly-70 calories

Crackers-180 calories

Oatmeal Cookie-280 calories

Tropical Punch Beverage Base-130 calories

Instant Coffee-o calorie

Menu 6-(1,090 calories)

Maple Sausage-240 calories

Hash Browns with Bacon-220 calories

Grape Jelly-70 calories

Crackers-180 calories

Raspberry White Chip Cookie-250 calories

Tropical Punch Beverage Base-130 calories

Instant Coffee-o calorie

Military MREs

Meanwhile, the commercial selling of military MREs is not allowed by the US government. Although it has more meals in comparison with civilian MREs, you can obtain it only when you’re in the military.

On the other hand, military MREs has stronger packaging and overall. Moreover, it contains utensils, sides, heaters, condiments, and complete meals, unlike civilian MREs.

Years ago, a military MRE can even last up to 130 months when stored below 60 degrees, according to Preparedness Advice. But now, its storage life can last up to 60 months.

Despite the benefits of military MREs, it is indeed harder to find. Military MREs are also hard to store and as the temperature increases, its shelf life decreases according to Food Assets.

Menus and accessories of military MRE

Here are some of the sample menu of the Military MREs according to MRE Info. This is based on the 2016 menu. They also have a menu from 1985 to 2016, check it out here.

Menu 1

Chili with beans, corn bread, crackers, cheddar cheese spread, cheese snack, and carbohydrate fortified drink.

Menu 2

Chicken with vegetables and egg noodles, wet pack fruits, jelly and jam, peanut butter, crackers, candy, hot sauce, and carbohydrate fortified drink.

Menu 3

Spaghetti with beef and sauce, toasted bread, peanut butter, multigrain bread, dried fruits, cocoa drink, and jelly and jam.

Menu 4

Barbecue beef shredded, jalapeno cheddar cheese spread, seasoned black beans, trans-fat free tortillas, dried fruits, barbecue sauce, and carbohydrate fortified drink.

Menu 5

Taco beef, wet pack fruits, trans-fat free tortillas, cheddar cheese spread, a chocolate disc with nuts and raisins, blend spice for seasoning, and carbohydrate fortified drink.

Menu 6

Trans-fat free bar, chicken chunks, beef snacks, cheddar cheese spread, trans-fat free tortilla, candy, hot sauce buffalo style, and carbohydrate fortified drink.

Menu 7

Meatball with Marinara sauce, mashed potatoes with garlic, jalapeno cheddar cheese spread, trans-fat free cookies, trans-fat free Italian bread sticks, and carbohydrate fortified drink.

Menu 8

Brisket Entree, trans-fat free cookies, trans-fat free bread for snacks, au gratin potatoes, peanut butter, jelly and jam, candy and Irish cream Cappuccino drink mix.

Menu 9

Chili and Macaroni, Jalapeno cheddar cheese spread, trans-fat free crackers, trans-fat free pound cake, beef snacks, candy, pepper spice crushed, and carbohydrate fortified drink.

Menu 10

Beef stew, peanut butter, brownie fudge, trans-fat free multi grain bread for snack, jelly and jam pretzels, hot sauce, and carbohydrate fortified drink.

Menu 11

Pork sausage patty with maple syrup, trans-fat free maple muffin top, trans-fat free crackers, peanut butter, table syrup, nuts, and carbohydrate fortified drink.

Menu 12 (Vegetarian Menu)

Veggie crumbles with pasta in taco style sauce, trans-fat free bar, wet pack fruits, peanut butter, trans-fat free crackers, nuts, chili lime hot sauce, and French Vanilla Cappuccino drink mix.

Menu 13 (Vegetarian Menu)

Cheese Tortellini in Tomato Sauce, Peanut Butter, Dessert Powder, Trans-fat free crackers, raisins, nuts, hot sauce, and beverage powder with carbohydrate electrolyte

Menu 14 (Vegetarian Menu)

Elbow macaroni with tomato sauce, trans-fat free bread snack, cheese spread, raisins, nuts, candy, hot sauce, and chocolate protein drink.

Menu 15 (Vegetarian Menu)

Trans-fat free bar, spinach mushrooms and fettuccine with cream sauce, peanut butter, trans-fat free crackers, pretzels, hot sauce, and chocolate protein drink.

Nutritional value of MREs

According to the US Army, each MREs can provide an average of 1,250 calories and 1/3 of the recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals for the military. Three MREs is equal to a full day of meals. Furthermore, it contains 51% carbohydrates, 36% fat, and 13% protein.

MREs are designed to be eaten by armies with heavy physical activity, thus its content is high in sodium, high in fat, and high in salt according to Food Assets.

There are various ingredients in the MRE. In general, it is not GMO-free. It doesn’t contain any organic ingredients and may include something that can trigger allergies for some consumers.

How to eat an MRE

According to the US Army, MRE is indeed meals that are ready to eat. However, they taste much better when applied with heat. You can do this in various ways such as using the flameless ration heater that is included in the MRE or you can cook it in saucepan, oven, or microwave.

Using the flameless ration heater

MREs includes a flameless ration heater on it. The first thing to do is to remove the MRE pouch in the cardboard box. Next, slide the pouch in the plastic sleeve of the flameless heater.

Then, add one ounce or one to two tablespoons of water to the heater and place it in the cardboard box. The cardboard box will protect your hands from the heat.

Place the cardboard box on any vertical surface and allow the pouch to heat for about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove one by one the pouch and the heater at the cardboard box. Open the MRE pouch and your food is ready to eat. The meals are designed to be eaten anywhere, at any time, according to the US Army. You don’t need to use plates for MREs.

Heating MREs in Boiling Water, Saucepan, or Oven

When you have an access to electricity or fire, you can also cook MREs on it. To do this, just remove the MRE pouch on the cardboard box and open it. Pour the contents into the saucepan and put water on it. Let it simmer for 5 minutes and make sure to cook it in low fire.

MREs can be heated at oven too. Open the pouch of the MREs, place it on the pan evenly, and set the oven or the microwave at low temperature. It can be cooked at about 5 minutes.

Tips on buying MRE

MREs are indeed very useful in our lives. We can buy one and store it in our homes and use it during emergencies. If you are an adventurer, bringing MRE is best because you’ll be prepared to whatever circumstances awaits you in the wild.

When buying civilian MREs, make sure that you buy it in a legit seller. You can check their websites, read the product information, and the reviews from past customers. Some MREs have been exposed to different weather conditions and could be harmful when consumed, so be aware of that. Always read the labels of the MREs and know their manufacture and expiration date. In addition, always determine the storage conditions of the MREs you wish to buy.

Legit military MREs can be obtained at army surplus stores and gun shows according to MRE info.  You can also have it when you are in the military or if you know someone in the military.

Some of the legit civilian MRE providers according to MRE info are Ameriqual Apack, Meal Kit Supply, MRE Star, Sopacko Sure-Pack 12, and Wornick Eversafe.


In a nutshell, MREs are beneficial not only to the military but also to civilians. You can use it during outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, and mountaineering. It is handy and lightweight and it can fit in your backpacks.

MREs are also useful during emergencies and catastrophes. It can save you from hunger and provide you with nutrients that your body needs. There are various meals to choose from and companies are constantly innovating their menus to suit the consumers’ needs.

Find a legit seller of MREs such as the above-mentioned, there are many sellers online but be aware of those that sell expired products. It must be remembered that in buying MREs, always check the product label such as the manufacture and expiration date, ingredients, and the preparation instructions so you’ll be safe in its consumption.