An MRE is simply a Meal Ready to Eat and when most people think of one they usually think military meals, but there are any numbers of civilian versions on the market that are available virtually anywhere in the world that are comparable.
MRE’s the Good the Bad and Are There Alternatives
There is a distinct difference however, between the so-called Mil-Spec meals versus meals that are actually issued by the military. The meals are ideal for home emergency kits and survival packs and they are a favourite of many Preppers. The typical meal contains roughly 1,200 calories and it is recommended that each adult consume two daily to maintain adequate caloric intake. Remember that during a crisis situation or a survival scenario, your activity level will increase and thus you will need more calories. The shelf life of an average MRE is from five to seven years – these are under normal conditions. The shelf can be extended if kept cool and it is recommended you store them at 15ᵒC (60ᵒF) or below if you want to extend the shelf life. According to the U.S. Army’s Natick Research Laboratories, a meal stored at 15ᵒC (60ᵒF) can have a shelf life of up to 130 months (10.8 years). However, they can be stored at virtually any temperature but keep in mind the shelf life will be reduced if stored at higher than normal temperatures. For example a Meal Ready to Eat that is designed using the standard protocol and stored at 32ᵒC (90ᵒF) you can expect a shelf life of 55 months, and a shelf life of 22 months when stored at 37ᵒC (100ᵒF).
Acceptable Design Standards for an MRE Package
- The outer layer is polyester
- Next layer is nylon for durability, which helps prevents damage when dropped or bumped around in your pack
- Middle layer should be aluminium foil, which acts as a moisture barrier, and prevents damage to the product from light and oxygen
- The inner layer next to the food is usually polypropylene which is food grade safe material that is compatible with all types of foods and prevents any unwanted tastes transferring to the food such as what you get with canned foods or foods packaged in certain plastics, and it also allows the foods to be heated without bursting the package
Non Military MRE packs
The typical civilian meal will include an entrée, dessert and sundry pack along with eating utensils and a heat pack in some cases. The pack shown here is Self Heating Field Ration Pack Ready To Eat Meal and comprises of the following:
- Complete self-heating ready-to-eat ration meal
- Contains a main meal with dessert, snacks, and accessory kit
- more than 1200 kcal of energy per pack
- light-weight waterproof re-sealable packaging
- weighs less than 750 grams
- more information, reviews and prices on self heating field ration packs – click here
Single portion MRE packs
Expect to pay, on average around £5 per meal for the single portion packs. That’s a breakfast, dinner or dessert pack. However, a typical case will contain 6 or 12 meals in single packages and give a full days rations [breakfast, lunch and tea] and will give you plenty of calories for physical work. This works out very good value coming in around £12 – £15 per day per person and contains all the food essentials for survival when it’s not possible to hunt or fish or you have to keep moving and do not have time to set up a camp, hunt and build fires.
Typical day pack will contain:
- Six complete day ration packs menus 1 through 6
- 3000 Calories per ration pack – 18,000 calories in total
- All the meals are fully cooked and ready to eat
- Can be eaten hot or cold
Pros and Cons
An MRE is not a diet meal.
Bear in mind that military personnel are, for the most part, extremely very active so the calories contained in the meal packs do not create a dietary dilemma, but if you are someone who leads a sedentary lifestyle, you may well find the high calories, fat and carbohydrates a problem to digest properly – eaten regularly, without expending those extra calories WILL increase your body weight – these are survival foods designed to keep you very active and give you energy to do all the work expected in a survival situation.
There are a variety from which to choose from – normally labelled, menu A,B,C etc – and most people would be able to find their ideal meal.The meals are self- contained full meals and as stated earlier they can be stored and carried under any conditions.
There is no need to carry any condiments, utensils or desserts because each package has all that is needed for each meal. The packaging in a survival situation can be used to store or carry water and military issued meals will have matches and/or heat tabs for fire starting along with water purification tablets in some cases.
This pack has a main meal with a dessert, various snacks, some powdered drink and an accessory kit. There’s a neat little flameless heater that’s included which means you can heat the main meal and don’t need a fire or stove.
Everything comes pre-cooked and is complete, ready to eat and can be eaten hot or, if you prefer, cold.
These survival MRE packs will give you over 1200 kcal per. This is in line with standard military requirements for highly active soldiers.
Typical Contents: Menu A: Ready to eat main meal –
All Day Breakfast Dessert – Apple Turnover Snack Bar Boiled sweets Drink – powdered electrolyte Flameless Ration Heater – single use Accessory Kit: instant coffee, tea bag, 2 x sugar, 2 x whitener, 10 x tissues, chewing gum, bio-degradable spoon, wet wipe Menu B: Ready to eat main meal – Chicken Curry (Massaman Potato) Golden Oatie Biscuits Dessert – Cherry pie Snack – Tooti Frutti Drink – powdered electrolyte Flameless Ration Heater – single use Accessory kit: instant coffee, tea bag, 2 x sugar, 2 x whitener, 10 x tissues, chewing gum, bio-degradable spoon, wet wipe. Menu C: Ready to eat main meal – Vegetarian Thai Green Curry Snack – Whole-wheat Bread (long-life) Snack – Peanut Butter Squeeze tube Dessert – Dried Fruit & Nut mix Drink – powdered electrolyte Flameless Ration Heater – single use Accessory Kit: instant coffee powder, tea bag, 2 x sugar, 2 x whitener, 10 x tissues, chewing gum, bio-degradable spoon, wet wipe Long life – Guaranteed at least 12 months shelf-life on all components from the date of sale.
Click here for more information, reviews and prices – pack of Three Self Heating Field Ration Packs – Ready To Eat Meals Menu A, B & C
Remember, heating these meals is not required. If you prefer, you can also eat them cold.
The packaging is lightweight and it would be quite easy to carry a week’s worth of meals in any survival pack or bug out bag – Some people carry their emergency Meals Ready to Eat in their vehicles for emergencies and some even have one or two in their everyday carry kits.
Can You Make Your Own
Canning is common for those that have gardens and want to preserve their surplus produce, and often time’s people will buy large volumes of produce at the market to “put up” for the cold winter months.
Which makes it a very cheap especially if you grow your own or get your supplies when they are at their lowest price, or better still, free.
Meat and fruits can also be canned but meat processed for shelf stability will require a pressure canner that is capable of increasing the water temperature beyond that of the typical boiling point of 100ᵒC (212ᵒF). You usually have to increase the temperature of the water for meat processing to 115ᵒC (240ᵒF). This is to ensure all microorganisms in the meat are destroyed.
The food would typically be canned in glass jars, which can create a problem if you have to pack them in a survival kit or transport by vehicle. Then there is the variety, you typically cannot mix products in the jar so one jar would be meats, one vegetables and one of fruit. The recommended daily diet for an adult is one tin or jar of protein (meat), vegetable and one of fruit daily.
An MRE is not difficult to make but you would have to buy the product unless you can raise it, and then have the equipment to can it or otherwise preserve it. Meats, fruits and vegetables can be dehydrated, but if done at home you can expect a shelf life of six months and it will take large volumes of product to ensure you had enough variety to sustain you and your family for any extended period. Freeze drying foods would be difficult at home.
Bought in survival packs are the best choice
All in all, the equipment required to give a good quality emergency food pack with the calories required for a survival scenario is best left upto the big boys! You simple cannot produce a cost effective survival meal at home unless very dedicated.
The MRE survival food pack offers preppers exactly what we want for many reasons and including then in you bug out equipment and prepping plans is essential AND they even taste nice..!!!