The Pros and Cons of MREs - ITS Tactical
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The Pros and Cons of MREs

By Bryan Black

We’ve received numerous questions in the past pertaining to MREs (Meal Ready to Eat), namely what commercial MREs are the best to purchase.

If you remember our MRE Field Strip article, where we went into how to repack an MRE for space and weight savings, you’ll know we’re all pretty big fans of the venerable MRE.

Having eaten them more times in the service than any man should, I still strangely love eating MREs, and always pack a few with me just in case.

Today, we’ll jump into some pros and cons of MREs, and list some good resources of where you can go to find out more.

MRE Background

The current USGI MRE has been around since the MCI (Meal, Combat, Individual) was phased out in 1983. The MCI replaced the LRP (Long Range Patrol) rations from Vietnam, and the C-Rations your grandfather ate during WWII.

Whether you refer to them as “Meal Refusing to Exit,” or remember the Four Fingers of Death, the MRE has obtained an almost cult-like status in the preparedness community.  Due to their long shelf-life and “appetizing” qualities, they’re often sought for building up an emergency food supply.

Pros & Cons

Military MREsMREs are an acquired taste, or in most cases, a required taste. It’s no fun when you have to eat them for a long period of time, or when its the only thing available. One thing you can’t dispute though is the beneficial 1,250 calories per MRE you’ll consume if you eat everything. That number will decrease if you’re field stripping though.

With civilian MREs you also might not get the exact 1,250 calories, but most are pretty close. In 1997 the Government started adding a warning label to all MREs “U.S. Government Property, Commercial Resale is Unlawful.”  While you can still source Military MREs if you look hard enough, the civilian MREs are nearly as good, and can even be purchased with heaters.

Each military case has 12 entrees in both an “A” and “B” case. Together these make up 24 different entrees for your dining delight. Civilian MREs don’t quite have the selection that Military MREs have, as most only have 6 to 12 different entrees.

While weighing approximately 24 pounds per case of 12, it’s typically not cost effective to order MREs online if you can find them locally. However, there are online stores that offer free shipping on cases. Expect to pay upwards of $16+ if you have to get a case shipped to your doorstep.

mre_storage_life_2Commercial MRE prices can run between $5 and $7 per meal depending on the shipping price, which is still a decent price for meals with a long shelf-life. You do have to be aware of the temperature at which your MREs are stored, as this directly affects shelf-life.

Here’s a great chart showing the estimated shelf-life based on temperature from a recent Natick Study, and I find this to be a better estimate than other charts I’ve seen.


I’ve personally eaten MREs from Menu C and Sopakco and both are nearly identical to Military MREs. I’ve found the Sopakco to be a better deal from The Ready Store with the free shipping and included heaters. Menu C can be obtained from MRE Depot and will require shipping fees. Be careful if you need the included heaters, as these are not in all brands of commercial MREs.

Commercial MREs are a great way to build up your emergency food storage, but just remember that you’ll probably have to make room for them in a climate-controlled area. The good thing is that they’re somewhat easy to store and stack nicely out of the way.

As they do move towards their expiration date, start working them into your camping or outings to ensure they don’t go to waste.


A tremendous resource, for anyone interested in more information than they ever wanted to know about MREs, is MRE Info. They were used as a source in writing this article to clarify some dates, and I even have their iPhone App on my phone.

MRE Info is truly the go-to source for anything and everything MRE related. There are in-depth comparisons between different commercial MREs, as well as reviews and detailed history.

What’s your favorite acronym for an MRE?

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