What are Civilian MREs? Survival Food Storage

What is an MRE?

MRE’s, or ‘meals ready to eat’, are pre-cooked, vacuum sealed meals. They have been used by the United States military since 1980.

Each year the military feeds over 35 million MRE’s to its soldiers. Each 20 ounce meal contains 1300 calories. They are great for emergency preparedness.

MRE’s are also called retort foods because the food is sealed air-tight in a tri-laminate (three-layer) thermal pouch and then cooked in a huge pressure cooker called a retort.

Hot or cold

In 1993 a small chemical heater was introduced to MRE’s.

This heater allows soldiers to heat their food in the field and is now enclosed with each meal. To use the heater you simply remove the entree pouch from the box and insert it into the small heater bag.

Next you add about 1 ounce of water (clear instructions are provided with each MRE) to the level indicated by lines on the bag.

Each bag contains magnesium and iron dust. Adding water to the bag initiates a exothermic chemical reaction which oxidizes the metal dust and generates heat. The temperature in the bag rises to over 100 degrees F.

If you don’t have the chemical heater, just put the sealed food packet into boiling water for about five minutes to heat.

The tri-lamiate pouch is very durable and is unaffected by boiling.

Due to the method of cooking and packaging, MRE’s retain a high percentage of nutrition, texture, moisture, and color of the food. Most MRE’S have an excellent taste as well.

They are very handy in a disaster and each MRE comes in a pouch full of neat stuff: the entrée, a chemical heater, a powdered drink, crackers, a spread (peanut butter, jam, or cheese), a dessert such as M&M’s, Skittles, brownies, chewing gum, candmre packages come in great varietyy, hot sauce, toilet tissue, and other accessories.

The exact contents of the pouch will depend on which accessory packet is included.

Like your other disaster supplies, MRE’s should be stored properly in a cool place with your other emergency preparedness stuff.

The Wornick website states that MRE’s have a shelf life of three years when stored at 80 degrees F, and that cold storage can extend the shelf life.

After about 8 years stored at outside temperatures, the peanut butter and the cheese spreads begin to separate out into layers and the crackers and desserts get a little stale. The entrée is usually the last item to become inedible. None of this will be a problem if you will merely rotate them every three to four years and store them in a cool environment with your other emergency foods.

MRE’s are great for 72-hour kits and camping or hiking trips. Their composition of high energy foods, their convenience and their ease of use make MRE’s perfect for the short-term part of your emergency food storage plan.