Meals Ready to Eat are the main operational food rations created by the U.S. Military for the service men and women of the United States Armed Forces. It originates from the World War II C-Rations and K-Rations that later developed into Meal, Combat, Individual or MCI rations used in Vietnam and Korea. From there the new concept of MRE or Meals Ready to Eat was developed in 1980 and today it is still the primary ration for the U.S. Military. Soldiers can choose from a menu with up to 24 different entrees and more than 150 additional food items.
A critical part of MRE meals is the packaging. The packaging has been scientifically designed to maintain a shelf-life of three and a half years at temperatures up to 80 degrees or 9 months at temperatures up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The pouch must also be capable of withstanding transportation over rugged areas and parachute drops from 1,250 feet. Since 1987 AmeriQual in Evansville is the largest provider of MREs to the U.S. Military. MRE packages are totally self-contained, lightweight and flexible to fit easily into the pockets of field clothing or backpacks. Officially known as “tri-laminate retort pouch”, the sealable pouch is made out of layers of thick aluminum foil and plastic.
MRE Shelf Life
The retort packaging used for MRE meals is not only flexible but also highly durable as it has to withstand rough conditions during transport in a military context. The food should also have an extended shelf life which is why it is pre-cooked, requires no refrigeration, and no water. The shelf life of MRE meals depends on the storage temperature but can last anything from between five to seven years. If kept in cooler conditions it can last even longer. The lower the storage temperature the better, however, freezing is not recommended as the packages may become brittle and the pouch seals may become damaged, causing spoilage and spillage of the contents.
Military Spec MRE Meals for Sale
Originally designed for use by the military to provide sustenance for active servicemen and women engaged in activities such as heavy training or combat situations when normal food services are unavailable, the use of MREs have recently expanded to include campers, hikers, mountaineers, and emergency storage for impending disasters.
These are special meals consisting of an entrée, side dish, snack, spread and dessert to provide military personnel with the nutrients they need in an easy to carry pouch while they are training or in combat. Each meal is carefully designed to provide an individual with 1,250 calories effectively balanced with 13% protein, 36% fat, and 51% carbohydrates and fulfills one-third of the MRDA (Military Recommended Daily Allowance) at each meal time. A full MRDA would require a person to consume 3 MRE meals per day. The food is prepared in bulk and the pouches are filled before being sealed and heated at temperatures high enough to sterilize the contents.
Although component specifications for military MREs are dictated by US military standards, manufacturers may have different recipes for producing the same items. As a general rule, MREs do not typically contain organic ingredients or GMO –free ingredients and may contain allergens such as wheat and dairy.
A typical MRE will contain the following components:
- A main course such as beef stew, chili, or spaghetti bolognaise
- A side dish such as corn, rice, mashed potato, and fruit
- Bread or crackers
- Spread such as peanut butter, cheese spread, or jelly
- Desserts such as pound cake or cookies
- Candy like Skittles, M&Ms or Tootsie Rolls
- Powdered Drink to mix with water
- Seasoning and hot sauce where appropriate
- An accessories pack that contains a spoon, sugar, creamer, matches, chewing gum, toilet paper, etc.
- A flameless Ration Heater
Instructions on how to prepare the meals are provided which tells the individual how much water to pour into the heater before inserting the pouch and how much water to add to a powdered drink. The contents can be eaten heated or cold directly from the pouch with the utensils provided, although it does taste much better when heated by using the ration heater supplied with each pack. These ready to eat meals are designed to be prepared and eaten anywhere at any time and there is no need to set up a canteen or eat at a table.
How to Use the FRH (Flameless Ration Heater)
MRE ration heaters are the most popular method of heating for the military as it is convenient and quick, requiring nothing more than a small amount of water. Instructions are clearly printed on the MRE heater. Simply slide the MRE pouch into the heater’s plastic sleeve, add approximately 1 – 2 tablespoons (1oz) of water to the heater and place it into the cardboard box that is resting at a 45-degree angle against a firm, vertical surface. After 3 – 7 minutes, carefully remove the MRE pouch from the heater being careful as it will be hot. Open the pouch and either eat the contents directly from the pouch or place it into a dish.
MREs for Civilian Use
Because MREs are ready-to-eat they are ideal for many different situations other than the military such as camping, backpacking, emergency supplies, and 72-hour kits. The food can be eaten straight from the pouch eliminating the need for extra utensils such as plates, pots, and pans. There is also no need for fires or other methods of cooking food thanks to the built-in ration heater. However, in certain camping situations, the food can be removed from the pouch and heated on a camping stove or on an open fire with no prior preparation being necessary.
Where to Buy U.S. Military MREs
Someone in the Military
Full-time military personnel and part-time reservists or National Guard members may be able to get you some individual packs from their training or field exercise rations.
Army Surplus Stores
If you live near a military base you can buy them from an Army Surplus Store although they will be more expensive.
MREs are usually on sale at gun shows and the prices are often less expensive than at surplus stores. Some vendors sell individual packs but mostly they sell by the case with 12 components.
If you don’t know anyone in the military, don’t live near a military base, and don’t frequent gun shows, the best place to find MREs for sale is on E-Bay. Here you can find a wide range of different types, quantities, and sell-by dates and you can even take part in auctions to bid on case lots. E-Bay also offers MREs for sale on a “Buy it Now” basis if you don’t fancy waiting for an auction to finish before getting your order.
A word of caution when buying on E-Bay: Despite all the standard E-Bay safe practices in place like checking feedback, not all products labeled MRE are authentic US Military MREs. Here are a few pointers on what to look for when buying MREs online:
- Auctions with lots of information about what you are looking for.
- Auctions with pictures of the actual packaging and the box you will receive. Avoid ordering from vendors that don’t have any visuals of their products as you may not get the genuine military MREs.
- Pictures should clearly show dates like the date of packaging and inspection date as well as menu types.
What to Avoid when you want Genuine Military Spec MREs
- Beware of auctions where they sell “New Sealed Cases” as the contents may be close to or past the sell-by-date.
- Auctions that list “MilSpec” which is usually the civilian brand of MREs manufactured by Wornick. While it may sound like the real thing they are not. Sopakco is another perfectly good civilian brand name but not the real thing.
- Avoid MREs that contain the following lines:
“these are identical to the military rations” (in other words they are not the real thing)
A line that lists the different contents of the pack but omits the Flameless Ration Heater. Real military MREs for sale contain ration heaters while civilian MREs do not.
- Check for the best shipping arrangements with an actual shipping cost and no “handling fee”. When buying on auction shipping costs can work for or against you depending on what the vendor charges and where you live. A flat shipping rate may be more than you should be paying if you live in the same state as the vendor, or count in your favor if you live in another state.
Buying Civilian MREs
Civilian MREs meals for sale are much easier to come by as the commercial sale of these foods are not restricted as is the case with military MREs. Shop around for the best deals and the best shipping. For example, some vendors will have higher prices but shipping is included while others will have lower prices but charge extra for shipping.
Buying from Legitimate Dealers
Buying from well-reputed dealers and not from unknown sellers on eBay you have a better chance that the MREs were stored properly and not left lying in the desert for months. The contents of MREs from brands like ‘Sure-Pak’ and ‘XMRE’ are pretty close to real military style MREs.
Other benefits are:
- If you happen to get food poisoning you will have a legitimate company to sue.
- Better entrée selection per case
- Ready supplies available
- More food per MRE pack
- Better variety of side, dessert, spread and drink-mix
- Costs are often lower
- As an aside, Sure-Pak supplies the only civilian MREs that have the same military spoon as the real ones.
Where to Buy Civilian MREs
Check the civilian MRE pages like Ameriqual, Spakco, MREStar, XMRE, Eversafe, and Wornick. Other reliable sources that stock MREs from the abovementioned suppliers include Survival Foods, Meyer’s Custom Supply, The Ready Store.com, The Epicenter, and MRE Giant.
Brick and Mortar Stores
Army and Navy surplus stores sell civilian MREs and this is a good option if you need them in a hurry and can’t wait for an order to be delivered. Unfortunately, they will also cost you a lot more than you would pay online.
It is just as easy to find civilian MREs as it is to find military MREs on eBay. You are bound to find supplies from all the suppliers listed above, just watch out for fake or homemade MREs and stick to legitimate brands.
How much to pay?
Military MRE meals for sale can cost anything from $65 per case plus shipping. MREs from Army or Navy Supply Stores will cost in the region of $80 per case but bear in mind that you will not have to pay for shipping which could be anything up to $25 for about 24lbs.
Founded in 1987, Ameriqual is the largest of one of only three companies that supply MREs to the US military. In 2006 they came out with their civilian MRE product, “APack Ready Meals”, after being out of the civilian MRE market for a few years. According to the website, their MREs are called ‘APacks’. With exception of the drink-mix, the food components of APacks are the same as the contents in the regular military packs. The spoon supplied is not the same as the military one and is, in fact, a lot wider than a normal spoon. They also do not contain an accessory pack like the military MREs do and the spoon is wrapped in a moist towelette. Other condiments like salt and pepper are loose inside the pack as well as a paper napkin.
Flameless Ration Heater (FRH)
Unlike most civilian MREs, APacks have an FRH (Flameless Ration Heater) that looks similar to the military one but has to be activated by salt water instead of just plain water as is the case with military-style MREs. A packet of salt for this purpose is also included in the meal bag. Standard FRH devices that are regulated by plain water are considered hazardous and therefore can only be shipped by ground transport. By changing the formula to activate the FRH to salt water, APacks do not fall under the same restrictions.
APack cases contain 12 individual meals with six different menus in each case, making two of each menu. The menus seem to be fairly set and the 6 main entrees include:
- Beef Stew
- Spaghetti with Meat and Sauce
- Chicken Tetrazzini
- Chicken, Noodles, and Vegetables
- Chili with Beans
- Chicken with Beans and Rice
APacks can be purchased at Ameriqual’s website or from the following reliable dealers:
– The Ready Store.com
– The Epicenter
– Survival Foods
Each dealer supplies the same civilian MREs but may offer different prices and shipping options.
The MRE Market
Buy MREs the right way so you know what you are getting. MRE Market is a top source for premium MRE meals from the most reliable and reputable manufacturers in the MRE industry. Companies who wish to list on the MRE market have to guarantee their menu items as well as freshness. Most orders are shipped the same day but normal orders take about 2 – 5 days to deliver.
What makes MRE Market Different
Because MRE Market deals directly with the manufacturers of civilian MRE products, they are able to guarantee that the products they supply are high quality and are upfront about shelf-life. They provide Julian date codes and up-to-date menus that leave no room for guessing what you get or the shelf-life you paid for.
Why Buy MREs from MRE Market?
Because packaged food and emergency supplies are not things you would want to take any risks on, you want to deal with a supplier that provides high-quality food with a full shelf-life you can rely on. If you are looking for emergency supplies you want to ensure that you and your family will be properly sustained for a period of time when disaster strikes without worrying about the quality and freshness of your MREs. Their wide price range allows you to take care of all your emergency needs within your budget.
MREs from Walmart
Walmart stocks the Sopakco Sure-Pak brand of MRE meals for sale. Sure-Pak contains genuine GI military spec MREs direct from a US Government contractor. A case contains twelve delicious ready-to-eat meals in various different menus. Each pack contains a main entrée, a side dish, crackers, dessert, spread, a beverage mix, coffee and an accessory pack. Ideal for emergency situations and disaster preparedness, the food packs are GSA compliant, nutritious, and great tasting. The range entrees may include:
- Beef Ravioli
- Cheese Tortellini
- Grilled Chicken Breast
- Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
- Beef Stew
- Chicken with Noodles
- Penne Pasta
- Chili Macaroni
Sopakco has been one of the top suppliers of MREs to the US military for over 30 years.
A military MRE is a single meal ration, nutritionally complete with 1,100 to 1,300 calories. It requires no water to reconstitute a meal and can be enjoyed hot or cold. MREStar only uses the finest ingredients in the preparation of MREs for service personnel of the US Armed Forces. To further increase the nutritional profile of each entrée, a pharmaceutical-grade nutritional compound is added. A typical case contains 12 complete meals with a ration heater or without a ration heater (FRH). Each meal is fully hydrated and ready to eat without requiring any water to make it.
What is a Military Spec MRE?
Ready To Eat Meals for the military are self-contained rations that are nutritionally balanced and includes a variety of food components, a flavored drink, coffee, and an accessory pack with all the necessary condiments, sauces, and utensils required. They require no water and include a flameless ration heater. This allows an individual to consume a nutritious meal while on the go.
Behind each MRE meal from MREStar, there is an expert culinary team making use of extensive testing and research to create delicious meal options that are reminiscent of old-style American home cooking as well as multi-cultural tastes from around the world. The very best ingredients go into formulating a nutritional meal profile for each meal that also tastes great. The nutritional mix added to each entrée is fortified with Vitamins A, D, C, E, K, B6, and B12 along with essential minerals such as iron, copper, zinc, niacin, magnesium, and thiamin to pack a powerhouse of nutrition into each serving. MREStar has also eliminated all trans-fat from their meals and reduced sodium content.
When you purchase an MRE from MREStar you are assured that you will get a fresh meal that will exceed your expectations in quality and taste.
MRE meals for sale fromMREStar can be customized in large quantities to meet certain calorie requirements, religious certification, dietary requirements, and price points. MREs can be produced as single complete meal units or full day rations with breakfast, lunch, and dinner contained in one unit. They can be packaged with flameless ration heaters or without. Customized personalization allows you to have full color printed inserts with the insignias of a department, military branch, or agency on the packaging.
Because the US government has such a diverse employee base in all departments ranging from government agencies to the military stationed at remote locations throughout the world they need to have MRE meals that satisfy and comply with the various religious and other needs of different cultures.MREStar facilities are Kosher and Halal certified and religious certifications are available. They follow all HACCP regulations and their meals are all approved by USDA, FSIS, FDA, FSSSC 22000.
With more than 10 years of supplying meals to all branches of the government, their clients include:
- State Department
- US Embassies worldwide
- US Marshall
MREStar also provides Emergency Relief and Refugee assistance. They support Emergency Relief Workers and First Responders worldwide with customized options and discount pricing. They supply large quantities of high quality, low-cost MRE rations to feed the teams of these organizations.
MREs are no longer confined only to the military and many people have started using them regularly for their own specific needs. Individual MRE items are available for short-term use such as camping, hiking, etc. and many folks like to order their favorite individual items such as vegetarian only or all-meat options. However, if you purchase a larger quantity you will have a wider variety of assorted options that you can store in a cupboard or add to your emergency food stash.