MRE Code Expiration Calculator

MRE Code Expiration Calculator

This dynamic MRE code calculator is used to determine when MREs were manufactured and when they expire. It is constantly being updated with up-to-date and accurate information, so please check back frequently for updates.

MREs or Meal, Ready-to-Eat are amazing self-contained food rations with water-activated cooking pouches all in a convenient large pouch. There are several ‘menus’ available with different entrees and items inside. But since 2003, all MREs have a mysterious date stamped on the outside of the box, pouch, and items: the MRE Date Code.

We’ve developed an MRE Code Calculator to help you decipher when your MREs were manufactured and then when you might expect them to expire based on storage temperature.

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MRE Code Expiration Calculator

MREs were first printed with date codes in 2003. While not exactly intuitive, they aren’t that difficult to decipher either. We’ll show you how to read codes and interpret the date further below, but we’ve made it even easier with our MRE code calculator:

How to Read MRE Codes

MRE Date Code Explained Year Julian Days

The first number represents the year manufactured.

It represents the single digit at the end of the year (ex: 2021 will show up as 1). As you can see above, this can cause issues with older MREs manufactured after 2003 but before 2013. To further examine those, you’ll need to compare specific MRE Menus with the years they were available.

The next three digits represent the days since the beginning of the year.

This kind of date is commonly called the Julian date. 192 days into the year happens to be July 11th in the example above.

You should be able to find date codes on MRE boxes, pouches, and individual ingredients.

Gshultz9 does a great job of showing where to find the codes, how to interpret them, and the potential issues you can run into.

MRE Expiration Times Affected by Temperature

Higher temperatures, especially over 80°F drastically reduce the shelf life of modern MREs.

Today’s MRE meals are less reliant on freeze-dried food (likely due to the cost of freeze-dryers and the freeze-drying process). But this added moisture content makes them more volatile with temperature changes.

If you use our handy calculator above, you can see just how drastically the shelf-life can fall off when temperatures get over 80°F. On the other hand, you can extend the shelf life beyond the military-expected three years by lowering the storage temperature.

Some specific menu items with higher moisture content can have a tough time with shelf-life, specifically applesauce and cheese spread. You’ll want to inspect all items for bulges and signs of spoiling, like off colors and smells out of the pouch. On the other hand, items like crackers and peanut butter aren’t as adversely affected by temperature.

Storing MREs

Most MREs are stored in mobile survival kits, or ‘go bags’. In the military, they are distributed and assigned to troops in remote areas or training exercises where a Field Kitchen (FK) or Battlefield Kitchen (BK) are not feasible to provide hot meals.

The downside to using MREs for mobile kits is that they are more susceptible to temperature variations than other types of emergency food available. As we showed above, high temperatures (like storage in a car survival kit) can drastically reduce their shelf life.

Some preppers opt to mix MREs into their home survival kits (Rusty included). This allows you to have convenient grab-and-go options paired with a long shelf life with low-temperature storage.

Keep MREs in their boxes (they are labeled and have the date code on the boxes as well) for easy stackable storage on pantry racks:

G-Rack 2000lb Adjustable Shelf
CAT Industrial Racking

The Next Step

Food security should be a priority for everyone and is one of a few core ideas in prepping. If you are unfamiliar with prepping or what preppers are, check out: What is Prepping and What is a Prepper?

Hopefully, our MRE code calculator helped you determine how much shelf life you have left with your MRE supply or helped you determine how many you need.

Once you have MREs down, check out what else you need to round out your preparedness with our survival food list guide.

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MRE Date Code Calculator