MREs: Best Prepper Food or Waste of Money?
If you are reading this article, I would imagine that you have never eaten an MRE before. Why do I say that? Well, for anyone who has eaten MREs you probably already have a strong opinion about them or at the very least, your experience might be based upon military service years ago. I had eaten more than my fair share of MREs when I was in the Army, but things have changed as you would expect with the passage of more years than I want to think about so I decided to take them up on the offer and while I was at it, share my opinion on what if any place MREs have in the food storage plan for preppers.
My military experience was let’s just say in the last century and MREs have gone through some pretty decent changes and updates since the time I was chowing down. For those who don’t know what an MRE is, the Acronym stands for Meal Ready to Eat and this is what is given to our soldiers when they aren’t near a mess hall. When I was in the field we would usually get an MRE for lunch. Breakfast and dinners would be a hot meal, or it started out as hot when we crowded around the mess tent or the insulated containers they drove out to us on the back of a jeep. By the time you got somewhere to eat your meal it was usually cold. We would only go to the field in the winter time naturally.
MREs at the time were pretty much like they are now, but the menus have improved and some minor details have made this meal in a bag much more palatable if you can believe that. I served before they had things like M&M’s or skittles for dessert and hot sauce to flavor your food. We also didn’t have a built-in heater like they do now. If you wanted your MRE warm you were limited only by your creativity. MRE food packets are foil so they are both waterproof and allow you to heat them on almost anything. We would use the heater vents in our trucks, lay them on our stoves in the tent or on the block of our engines.
MREs come in boxes of 12 and each MRE is a different meal. You quickly learn which meals you like and which ones you don’t. If you were unfortunate enough to be the last one to the box you got what everyone else passed over. When I was in the service I think the worst meal was the beef patty. There are some similarities between the meals. They all come with an entrée, some side and a dessert. You get crackers and peanut butter or cheese, a condiment packet and usually a drink mix. We would even come up with our own names for meals that displayed our disdain for the contents. One meal, Meatballs with barbecue sauce was affectionately called ‘Meat nuts with Barf A Shoe’ sauce by myself and the guys in my unit. I am sure there are millions of other creative renames. I actually liked that MRE and I think it was pretty much my go-to meal as long as I could beat everyone to the box.
I opened up a box looking for some differences in the contents on the bag and searching for my old favorites because I was definitely getting the best MRE and I wouldn’t be stuck with the Beef patty. I was surprised at the options. For starters we didn’t have anything vegetarian when I was in the service, but this box had Vegetarian Ratatouille, Vegetarian Lasagna and Apple Maple Rolled Oats. Breakfast?? They also had the old standbys of Pork Sausage Patty and it looked like my Meatballs with Barbecue sauce was changed to Meatballs in Marinara sauce. That is what I decided to taste first.
What do MREs taste like?
Before I get into what the MREs from Meal Kit Supply tasted like, I wanted to set expectations here. When you tear open a bag like this, you aren’t getting fresh ingredients from the garden prepared by a classically trained French chef. You are getting food that was designed for the military to pack enough calories in there to keep them alive, be waterproof, tolerate being mistreated and last for 5 years sitting in a warehouse most likely. If you are expecting Ruth’s Chris here or maybe even Golden Corral, you might be in for a surprise.
I opened my MRE and noticed that everything was still pretty much the same. You have food in foil packets although my packets weren’t in separate boxes. They did include the nutritional insert though and I never understood why they had the extra boxes anyway. Another thing we didn’t have when I was in was the handy ration heater. The ration heater is activated by placing a little water in a bag. The water mixes with an element and causes a chemical reaction that generates heat. You wrap your entrée in the bag, and in 10 minutes you are supposed to have a hot meal. It didn’t work that way for me.
I followed the instructions or so I thought but my heater didn’t warm up. I waited the 10 minutes but finally decided to eat my meatballs cold. They weren’t bad at all, but I know they would have been so much better warm. My survival dog certainly loved the taste too when I gave her one of the small meatballs to taste. When I finished eating, I noticed that the warmer was finally getting warm so I placed my Au gratin potatoes in there. Yes, they had Au gratin potatoes and although they didn’t have the slightly burnt edges from being in the oven but they were cheesy and filling. They only needed a little salt and pepper to doctor them up. The heater worked just fine after-all.
So far so good. I broke out the crackers; literally because they came apart in my hands. This wasn’t the fault of the manufacturer I don’t think. I was just clumsy. Regardless, once I had my peanut butter on them they were great. I finished up with the dessert, Vanilla pudding which to prepare you needed to mix a little water in the bag and shake the bag for 60 seconds before it was ready. This was definitely good!
How do MRE’s fit into a Prepper Plan?
Any prepper plan has to take into consideration what food options will be best in various situations. Usually we recommend different types of food for different scenarios. If the power goes out you look for food that doesn’t need to be cooked. Canned tuna, MRE’s and snack bars fall into this category of course so do a lot of other foods. You want to store foods that your family will eat but there is also a need to have long-term storable food that you can take with you in a bug out bag. Frequently I will recommend freeze-dried foods for bug out bags, but those do require some preparation. For starters they need hot water or else you are eating rocks. MREs do not need water (except the pudding) and you don’t even need to heat them up.
There are some weight considerations in that MREs weigh more than freeze dried food but they do have their advantages. I have a few boxes stored as part of my food storage plan because they are an easy way to get the calories you need for survival. I also have food stored in buckets, canned food and freeze-dried food. I am an equal opportunity food storage person and there is something to be said for having variety. Are MREs the the best prepper food? I don’t think there is ever a single best food for all prepper situations, but MREs are proven reliable. If our military uses them you can bet that you could find reasons to use them too. They are more expensive than other options but you don’t have to prepare anything, they even throw in the salt, pepper and a little moist towelette to wipe your face and hands when you are done. They used to come with toilet paper and chewing gum but apparently that is not part of these MREs.
You can get a box of 12 MRE’s yourself and try them out or just place them aside for an emergency. MRE’s are another good food option that will store for a long time and could save your life.
If you are reading this article, I would imagine that you have never eaten an MRE before. Why do I say that? Well, for anyone who has eaten MREs you