MRE’s, Why Waste Your Money on Them?


It seems like I see many people that I encounter on the internet and in real life storing MRE’s.  Now MRE’s like most things, have both good and bad sides.  They are designed for military operations.  Because of this, they are high in calories and well packaged.  They are available in a variety of menus and the taste is ok.  For conventional military units they work well.  However, the military also stocks food like LRP’s (Long Range Patrol Rations) for special operations.  The biggest pro that I see is that they are always ready to eat.

The down side to MRE’s is one they are expensive.  I checked prices on the internet today and found the military MRE’s from about 85-100 dollars a case of 12 meals.  They are cheaper ones that are knockoffs and contain some civilian products.  These are often misrepresented as military rations.  MRE’s are heavy and bulky even when stripped down.  They are low in fiber and high in sodium.  They can cause constipation.

Shelf life is also another big down side, as MRE’s have evolved over the years the shelf life has gotten shorter.  The industry standard for the shelf life of MRE’s has been cut in half.  The latest chart shows that the MRE’s have a shelf life of 36 months stored at 80 degrees.  MRE’s have always been quite temperature sensitive.  At 120 degrees, a temperature that can easily be reached in the trunk of a car in summer, the shelf life is reduced to 1 month.

MRE’s are made for young healthy men, who are physically active.  Young children and older people will not fare well on them for periods longer than a few days.

Now Let’s Discuss Options to MRE’s

Suppose you were to purchase one case of MRE’s.  That gives you 12 meals, allowing yourself 2 a day you have 6 days worth of food.  Now supposing that you paid 85 dollars for the case, what else could you have purchased with the money.

If you went to the LDS Dry Pack Centers, you could have purchased the following in #10 cans.

  • One case of Pinto Beans                             31.2 lbs   cost  $28.20
  • On case of rice                                            34.2 lbs   cost  $21.60
  • Two cans of powdered milk                            8.2 lbs   cost  $17.20
  • Two cans of dry apple slices                          2    lbs   cost  $11.40
  • Three cans of oats                                         8.1 lbs   cost  $  7.50

This gives you 83.7 lbs of long-term storage food for $85.90 the cost of one case of MRE’s.  This food all has a minimum of a twenty-year shelf life if stored under reasonable conditions.  These cans contain approximately 102,000 calories.  This would provide you with 2000 calories for 51 days.  That is a big difference from the 6 days the MRE’s would provide.  Here is a link to their prices.   Now I am not necessarily suggesting that you buy from this site, but look at all your options.

For the same or slightly less money, you can buy Mountain House bug out buckets, that last for twenty-five years and are lighter in weight.  Other than, for convenience or maybe a special op I can see no reason to buy the current MRE’s.


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6 Responses to MRE’s, Why Waste Your Money on Them?

  1. Common Sense says:

    I agree certainly, however having a FEW MREs available is a good idea, if you buy enough for one or two meals for your party and keep them temperature stable. The major drawback aside from shelf life is weight. However the often forgotten piece is that the weight is due to water- meaning that you can drink/eat all of the sauces and juices in the meals at any temperature and without prep. You also can digest them more easily then prepping mountain house in cold water. I would say this is only useful if leaving an area in a hurry, or travelling by vehicle for long hours.

    They are terrible for long term, but for speed and convenience they are useful- depends on your “worst day ever” plan.

    • Common Sense says:

      I should note that I am talking about the food juices in the main meals themselves- the fruit juices are powdered and still require mixing in a bottle.

  2. ke4sky says:

    If you want a few days of emergency meals which have dependable shelf life, which can be prepared simply, a sample pack assortment of Mountain House backpacking food makes sense. An adult male needs 2000 calories per day for moderate activity. An average Mountain House meal is 125 calories per ounce. (The chili mac meal is 139 cal/oz.) So, 2000 calories X 7 days = 14,000 calories; 14,000 calories / 125 calories = 112 ounces; 112 ounces / 16 ounces = 7 lbs. Which works out to 1 lb of freeze dried food per day, which is a VERY convenient Rule!

    Through hikers on the Appalachian Trail manage well by selecting among common items available at grocery stores in the small towns along the trail. Several books and DVDs available from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harper’s Ferry, WV contain example menus with nutrition and caloric breakdowns as well as interviews with successful “through hikers” who have walked the entire trail from Maine to Georgia, which are a treasure trove of useful information. From my own experience hiking sections of the trail, you can do very well in terms of weight and bulk by repackaging grocery store items in reuseable plastic jars and ZipLok bags. Staples in my pack are peanut butter, fruit jam, instant oatmeal, powdered milk, tea bags, instant potatoes, boullion cubes, raisins, rice, beans, tortillas and assorted spices. When you get into a town buy some fresh milk vegetables, fruit and meat, butter, cheese and a loaf of bread. Gorge on the fresh stuff while it lasts and then tough it out on oatmeal, hot tea, beans and rice until the next town 20 miles away which has beer, pizza and a salad bar!

  3. Herk Mulligan says:

    MRE’s should be part of your preps – they are extremely useful if you are patrolling or having to go after some cannibalistic San Franciscans – or even bugging out. Use them when doing tactical efforts when you don’t have the time to cook and you want to maintain a low profile. Strip them down to the bare essentials and duct tape the packs together to minimize room in you ruck.

  4. Veteran Who Is Preparing says:

    I try to pick up a few more cases of MREs each year, primarily mil surplus. I buy them because of the number of calories per meal. And because you don’t have to stop, pull out the water jug, and set up a fire to prepare them when on the move. The cases of MREs we have are priority for grabbing for food if we have to bug out. I also try to get LRPs and Mountain House pouches to supplement the menu in the MREs, which get packed in everyone’s ruck sacks because of their weight.

    As for primary food we have grocery items (cans and dried goods), home canned and dehydrated, and store bought freeze-drieds. The old saying of not putting all your eggs in one basket is a good way to set up your preps. Grocery items can be eaten at first and also used to help family and friends. Home canned to supplement the grocery items. Freeze-drieds used after the other items run out or start to run very short till after the next growing season is complete and harvest complete. The days of $10 cases of MREs for primary food source are long gone.

  5. JeanneS says:

    I have to hide the MREs from my kids because they think eating them is fun, and they absolutely love some of the desserts. I was the same way in the 80’s when my Navy dad brought a few home and let me eat them. 🙂

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