The Pros and Cons of MREs - ITS Tactical

Shop the ITS Store!


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?

Are you getting more than 14¢ of value per day from ITS?

Thanks to the generosity of our supporting members, we’ve eliminated annoying ads and obtrusive content. We want your experience here at ITS to be beneficial and enjoyable.

At ITS, our goal is to provide different methods, ideas and knowledge that could one day save your life. If you’re interested in supporting our mission and joining our growing community of supporters, click below to learn more.


  • Hammac

    Meals Rejected by Ethiopians.

    (nothing against ethiopians, thats how I’ve always heard this acronym)

    I personally can’t see HOW my brother loves them. I tolerate them but some parts are a pleasant departure from the usual DFAC food. Very versatile and light compared to carry of other food stuffs.

  • No acronym, but I’ve heard them called “MREs: Three lies for the price of one.”

    • Conner

      yep, they arent a meal, they arent ready, and you cant eat them.
      I always heard how MRE’s are like the bush terms, they get thrown in there in a hurry with no exit strategy
      (just a joke nothing against the war)

  • Mark

    Meals Refusing (to) Exit
    All kidding aside, this article was a good bridge between civilian and military. It shows that is widening their scope and showing itself as an applicable transitional platform. Keep it up guys, two good days in a row!!!

  • Greg Whited

    I always enjoyed them, even better than the hot breakfasts they would give us in the field. We try to keep a good supply on hand, and have an occasional MRE dinner night with the kids to help keep them from going to waste. On the other hand, my wife says I have no taste buds and will eat anything (except liver and beets… please don’t make a liver and beet MRE!).

  • Graham Monteith

    Hahaha Funny acronyms guys. Yea I’ve heard it “Meals Refusing to Exit” or “Meals Ready to Exit” LOL

    Good article ITS Tactical! 😀

  • JLS

    Meal Ready to Exit is the other one I’ve heard in addition to what Mark said. I enjoy them and try to keep them on hand of camping and emergencies.

  • tacdrivrnc

    Mr. E?
    Never really sure what it is going in, or when it’s coming back out.

  • Failure Drill

    meals rejected by enemy

    • tierrrabessard

      i need some cons about MRE

    • They stop you up and don’t taste as good as real food LOL!

  • Lesane

    I dont know if it is common knowledge or not, so I figured I would share. A week ago, my unit had a pallet of MRE’s for an event we had, and it came with a DoD warning about the salmonella contaminated Dairy Shakes. Everything else is GTG, just dont eat your dairy shakes (and share that info).You can find more about it by doing a search for “Salmonella dairy shake”.

  • Brockb

    I try to always keep a few around. Keep some for preps in case something happens. I’ve also used them a lot when we go caving, nothing beats a hot meal when you’ve been down in the dark and wet all day.
    I’m down to one case left from when I was in, I’ll have to get some of my buddies to pick some more up for me.

  • ned

    I store mine in old coolers, stablizes the temp, keeps unwanted guest from feeding, and store in a cool dry place, I have eaten on over 12 years old and it was fine, when stored properly

  • onetwitchsniper

    are there any glutten free mres?

  • Alex

    My favorite of the new ones are chicken fajita(with “real” tortillas) and beef enchilada. The best though is the new sloppy joe. You take the bread and crumble it into the sloppy joe mix and dumb the cheese in it. The most rib-sticking MRE out there. I kept the necessary components in my camelbak in Iraq so if I ever got somewhere without food I would at least have that. That mixture can last a guy a full day if not two.

  • Lasse

    The Norwegian “MREs” are more like “Meal Ready to Eat (IF YOU HAVE BOILING WATER)”. They should also blend for 5 minutes after you poured the water into the pack. Not a quick meal.

    But they taste good (most of them), which is a +. Only major problem I have with them is that I A: Get the shits or B: Get clogged up if I eat them for more than 3 days.

    They are made by Drytech ( And they have a military version and a civilian version.

  • Genzeka

    I tell for all the MREs I’ve bought online. It makes sense to get them off of eBay. I save a ton of money getting them off there. Plus picking them up locally, they charge an arm & a leg, Whereas online I saved good money. I vote ebay purchase only.

  • James

    I quite enjoy the British Army ratpacks. They do clog you up, but they’re tasty and come with proper chocolate 🙂

  • Scott

    Anyone know if the Cocoa Beverage Powder is commercially available? I mean the exact product. I loved mixing a little water with it for a ‘pudding’. No other powder mix that I’ve tried from the super market tastes the same. It had a unique and deeply rich taste that I miss.

  • theblackknight

    “Pain is MRE leaving the body”

    “Eating at Mr. E’s tonight?” “Fuck you!”

    I havent had one yet but they have Buffalo Chicken now!

  • John

    They’re not that bad, I don’t know why people complain about them so much. It’s like kids complaining about the school cafeteria food, it seems like it’s the cool thing to do even if the food is OK.

  • McDoomsday

    I know why that got the bad rap, but in the last 15 years MREs have become quite good. One thing most people forget is that, due to the higher caloric values and the heavy processing, you have to up your fluid intake to avoid the “unpleasant exit phenomenon”… Most adults don’t take in nearly enough water to begin with so of course they get it in the end. Thanks for the tips on where to purchase… I’ve been out for some time now and need to restock for camping and the inevitable “big one” that the PacNW is entering it’s due date for.

  • Brent

    I think the Omlet entree is still th least eaten meal, usually our guys will go with skipping a meal instead of eating it.

    • LOL The guys left holding those after the boxes were cracked open always got laughed at. I was fortunate enough to have never been stuck with that one.

  • Pingback: Chow time: Field Rations in Afghanistan « Strike – Hold!()

  • painisprogress

    Yeah, I have no idea why the powers that be decided an omelette would be a delicious edition to the warfighting effort. That and Thai Chicken. Never got a taste for it. With all that being said… B for life!!!

  • Dustman

    My first experience with an MRE was in 1991 while at Marine Corps boot camp. Our DI’s would confiscate the heaters if thy came with one and for some reason the packets of instant coffee. We always ate them cold. I can remember that the “Ham Slice” was quite tasty and that the “Potatoes all Rotten” was one of the dreaded ones to get.
    I must admit, I rarely had a hot MRE the eight years I was in the Corps. Probably explains why I really do not care for them to this day.
    I still have three cases of them that I keep just for the heck of it, The date of MFG on the box was in 1994 for all three cases. They probably are not any good for human consumption, but maybe have collector value someday.
    Semper Fi

  • zen_realized

    MRE (Meal Ready-to-Eat) Facts

Do you have what you need to prevail?

Shop the ITS Store for exclusive merchandise, equipment and hard to find tactical gear.

Do you have what you need to prevail? Tap the button below to see what you’re missing.