I have had plenty of MREs (Meal, Ready-to-Eat) in my lifetime, having served in the military for several years. They toss you your first ones in basic training and you get to sample the many types throughout the training, exercises, and deployments you experience. They are compact with lightweight packaging and include a chemical heater. These make them great for bug out bags and other survival kits. It is also a good idea to try the different types and decide which you like best. Even though it is not as bad as not having any food at all- a batch of MREs you can hardly stomach will not boost your morale in an emergency. In this article, we will look at some of my experiences with MREs and list out some of the best pouches you can get your hands on. Feel free to chime in with your favorite MRE number too.
MRE Variety Can Help
Some people complain that MREs are bland and not palatable, and that this gets worse as you continue eating the same ones. Sometimes, boxed batches would only include a single type of MRE, which made eating them a bland task. Even some of the most popular MRE options will be unexciting if you are sitting down to eat them for the 10th time in a row. William Cowper put it best in some poem he wrote; “Variety is the very spice of life.”
The Latest MRE Menu List
MREs are constantly havening their menus updated for taste preferences, nutrition, and calorie count. Here is the latest menu, in order:
- Chili with Beans, Corn Bread, Cheddar Cheese Spread, Crackers, Cheese Filled Snack Food, Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder
- Shredded Barbeque Beef, Seasoned Black Beans, Jalapeno Cheddar Cheese Spread, Tortillas, Dried Fruits, Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder, Barbeque Sauce
- Chicken with Egg Noodles & Vegetables, Wet Pack Fruits, Peanut Butter, Crackers, Jelly, Candy, Carbohydrate Electrolyte Beverage Powder, Hot Sauce
- Spaghetti with Beef and Sauce, Toaster Pastry, Peanut Butter, Multigrain Snack Bread, Dried Fruits, Fortified Cocoa Beverage Powder, Jelly
- Chicken Chunks, First Strike Bar, Cheddar Cheese Spread, Tortilla, Candy, Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder, Hot Sauce, Buffalo Sauce
- Beef Taco, Wet Pack Fruits, Cheddar Cheese Spread, Tortillas, Nuts and Raisins with Chocolate, Carbohydrate Electrolyte Beverage Powder, Seasoning Blend Spice
- Brisket Entrée, Au Gratin Potatoes, Cookies, Peanut Butter, Snack Bread, Jelly, Candy, Irish Cream Cappuccino Drink Mix
- Meatballs in Marinara Sauce, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Cookies, Jalapeno Cheddar Cheese Spread, Italian Bread Sticks, Beef Snacks, Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder
- Beef Stew, Fudge Brownie, Peanut Butter, Multigrain Snack, Jelly, Carbohydrate Electrolyte Beverage Powder, Hot Sauce
- Chili and Macaroni, Pound Cake, Jalapeno Cheddar Cheese Spread, Crackers, Beef Snacks, Candy, Carbohydrate Electrolyte Beverage Powder, Crushed Red Pepper
- Veggie Crumbles with Pasta in Taco Sauce (Vegetarian), Wet Pack Fruits, First Strike Bar, Peanut Butter, Crackers, Nuts, French Vanilla Cappuccino Drink Mix, Chili Lime Hot Sauce
- Elbow Macaroni and Tomato Sauce (Vegetarian), Cheese Spread, Snack Bread, Nuts and Raisins, Candy, Chocolate Protein Drink, Hot Sauce
- Cheese Tortellini in Tomato Sauce (Vegetarian), Cheese Tortellini in Tomato Sauce, Dessert Powder, Peanut butter, Crackers, Nuts and Raisins, Carbohydrate Electrolyte Beverage Powder, Hot Sauce
- Spinach Mushrooms and Cream Sauce Fettuccine (Vegetarian), First Strike Bar, Peanut butter, Crackers, Pretzels, Chocolate Protein Drink, Hot Sauce
- Maple Pork Sausage Patty, Maple Muffin Top, Peanut Butter, Crackers, Nuts, Table Syrup, Carbohydrate Electrolyte Beverage Powder
- Rib Shaped BBQ Pork Patty, Santa Fe Style Rice and Beans, Ranger Bar, Peanut Butter, Wheat Bread, Jelly, Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder, BBQ Sauce
- Mexican Style Chicken Stew, Wet Pack Fruits, Cheese Filled Snack Food, Jalapeno Cheddar Cheese Spread, Vegetable Crackers, Candy, Chocolate Hazelnut Cocoa Beverage Powder, Crushed Red Pepper
- Beef Ravioli in Meat Sauce, Muffin Top Chocolate Banana, Cheddar Cheese Spread, Wheat Bread, Meat Snack, Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder, Hot Sauce
- Grilled Jalapeno Pepper Jack Beef, Cherry Blueberry Cobbler, Cookies, Cheddar Cheese Spread, Bacon, What Bread, Nuts, Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder, Ketchup and Mustard
- Hash Brown Potatoes with Bacon, Peppers and Onions, Granola, Cheddar Cheese Spread, Crackers, Nuts and Raisins, Sugar Free Orange Fortified Beverage Base
- Lemon Pepper Tuna, Pound Cake, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Tortillas, Snack Food, Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder, Mayonnaise
- Asian Style Beef Strips with Vegetables, Fried Rice Chunky Peanut Butter, Snack Bread, Jelly, Candy, Chocolate Cocoa Beverage Powder
- Chicken Pesto Pasta, Bakery Item, Sugar Cookies, Cheddar Cheese Spread, Snack Bread, Carbohydrate Electrolyte Beverage Powder
- Southwest Beef and Black Beans, Spiced Apples, Pound Cake, Cheddar Cheese Spread, Chipotle Tortillas, Meat Snack, Mocha Cappuccino Drink Mix
I have had most, although probably older versions, of everything on this list. The few standouts that I know I have tried include most of the vegetarian options (I avoid them), and the 21- Lemon Pepper Tuna. Notably missing is the Scrambled Egg MRE, which usually got a strong reaction from people. They either loved it or hated it, and I was firmly in the ‘hate it’ crowd. My favorites include Menu 10: Chili Mac, and Menu 1: Chili with Beans. I prefer to stay away from anything chicken, since it is a little chewy. Personal preference is obviously a big factor here, since there are so many to choose from.
Cracking the Code of Generic Names
They like to list out things generically, but you can pop open an MRE with ‘candy’ listed and it will have a bag of M&Ms. Pop Tarts are usually the ‘toaster strudel.’ They do actually go the generic route when it comes to the drink mixes, but the ‘carbohydrate electrolyte beverage powder’ is basically Gatorade mix.
The Power of Condiments
The title entrée for each MRE menu item may drive your choice, but it is important to consider the items that come with it as well. Many times in the field, bland MREs became savored meals with peanut butter or cheese spread. Luckily, one of these is included in most of the MREs offered. Salt, pepper, and hot sauce can go a long way in making a Chicken Pesto Pasta taste good.
A Brief History of the MRE
MREs were introduced to the military in 1981 to replace the canned MCI (Meal, Combat, Individual rations) and the LRP (Long Range Patrol Food Packet). The bagged chemical heater added in 1990 was a huge improvement to provide warm food compared to other options- without the use of fire. Dr. Abdul Rahman is credited with inventing the modern MRE and even was awarded a civilian service medal for it.
The Flameless Ration Heater
These flameless heaters use a water-activated chemical to cause an exothermic reaction to get very hot. Set a pouch of whatever you are trying to heat against this heater, and you’ll have a hot meal in less than 15 minutes. They do not like to typically pack these heaters in MREs sold to civilians because they off gas and present a dangerous explosion hazard if they are not stored properly. They also can put off enough hydrogen gas to be a hazard in a confined space, so be sure to use them with plenty of ventilation.
Buy MREs Single or in Bulk
You can find MREs in surplus stores, both sold by the pouch or by the case. Make sure you check the expiration dates, because some of these MREs were pulled out of the back shelf in a military logistics warehouse and dumped on the surplus market. You can also find good deals online that let you pick which menu you get- which is great for trying out various menus to find the one you like best. Even still, a variety is best to keep meals interesting and buying in bulk is usually cheaper. You can find online deals here:
The Final Word
What is your favorite menu number MRE? Have you tried a few of the older ones that are not around anymore? Do you keep any in your bug out bag, or do you go for a different food solution? Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.