Meals Ready to Eat – like any military ration – are a frequent subject of ridicule. But for a high calorie, long-lasting source of quick energy, they might be just what you need in your emergency gear.
by Leon Pantenburg
I have bought many cases of MREs. I was not paid to do this review.
I ran into MREs as a public affairs officer for the Idaho National Guard during Desert Storm in 1990. I would sometimes accompany troops on training exercises into the desert around Gowen Field near Boise. Meals were MREs, served up in a sealed brown plastic envelope.
I didn’t eat MREs every day, so I thought they tasted OK. But I talked with soldiers back from deployment in the Middle East who loathed them. After a month or so, with nothing else to eat, some claimed everything started to taste the same.
I could get MREs by the case fairly cheaply at the Mountain Home, Idaho PX, so I stocked up for elk season. My hunting buddies and I would backpack into remote, hard to access areas, and every ounce counted.
Food was fuel, and MREs supplied the calories to keep going. We always had real food in the truck at the trailhead, so that first meal back was something to look forward to!
Today, MREs are widely available, and they might be a good choice for inclusion in a car emergency kit or bug out bag. They’re also not bad for desert hiking, if you’re in an area where you have to pack water.
A new twist is the self-heating packages. With minimal effort, you can have a hot meal without carrying a stove, cooking pot or utensils.
I checked out the MRE Three-Course Meal, Ready to Eat with the flameless ration heater, distributed by Meal Kit Supply
Here are the specs:
Weight: Each MRE weighs in at 20 ounces in the unopened package.
Size: Each package measures about eight inches by 12 inches, and is about three inches thick.
Includes: Each MRE has an entree, side dish, bread, spread, drink mix, dessert, condiments, instant coffee, spoon and a napkin.
Here’s the good stuff:
Before heading out on a backcountry elk hunt, my brother Mike and I would open the packages, take out the entree, desert, bread (which is a hard cracker, much like Pilot Bread) and the peanut butter. That reduced weight even more. Nobody liked the omelets, so we’d generally leave them in the box. At the end of the season, we had a case of just omelets!
High calorie foods are a necessity when you’re burning several thousand a day doing strenuous activities.
Packaging is designed for extreme situations. The outer envelope is heavy duty flexible vinyl, which appears virtually bullet proof. Every food pack inside is also sealed in thick vinyl. The packaging is waterproof, and will stand up to a lot of abuse.
Donations to hungry people are easy. I won’t give money to that person with the sign on the street corner, but I will give them a MRE. They can save it to eat later, or keep it for future meals. Either way, the packaging assures they can eat when they want to. Want to help the homeless? Always carry several MREs for donations in your car.
The expiration date on many MREs is about five years. Find the expiration date before you order, and make sure you don’t buy three or four year old packages. Order from a reputable distributor, who has high turnover.
High sodium is a given. I don’t know why some food manufacturers must dump high quantities of salt in everything they manufacture. I wish the sodium was just left out. Include salt packets so people can season according to their tastes. For short term use this might not be a problem, but consider other long term food storage if high sodium is an issue.
Like any survival product, MREs might not be for you. Or they could be just what you’re looking for. Try a few before you stock up, and remember, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Get other sources of long term food storage.
Personally, MREs are a part – but not all – of my emergency preparedness food storage. Maybe they will work for you, too.