One way to prepare a meal is to purchase the food from a grocery store and then cook the food on a home stove. But what about situations where you need food to eat but buying and preparing the food is not ideal, such as if you need food to eat on a hiking trip? Meals, Ready-to-Eat, or MREs, are lightweight packaged meals. They are shelf-stable, water-proof, impact proof, don’t need refrigeration and are ready to eat. They also contain all of the vitamins and minerals that a person needs. There are two types of MREs – military MREs and civilian MREs. Civilian MRE Meals for sale, or Meals, Read-to-Eat for non-military, have grown in popularity.
It’s Important to Understand the History of MREs
To understand MREs, we begin with their history. Human beings must eat to survive, and those in the military are obviously no exception. When our troops are out on the battlefield, they need food to eat that is easily accessible and ready to go. Throughout American history, the soldiers have had various ways to sustain themselves while at war. During the Civil War, our troops ate things like salted pork or beef, cubes of mixed vegetables, and beans. By WWI, with food being scarce, the government took the food the troops were receiving and created smaller rations. By WWII, ration specific foods were introduced such as K-rations that contained breakfast foods and C-rations that included lunches and dinners. These were pre-cooked meals, but they were not easy to transport. By the 1950s, Military Combat Individual or MCIs were introduced which included a wider variety of foods that also offered improved nutrition. Despite their name, they were commonly referred to as C-rations. By the 1980s, specifically in 1981, Meals, Ready-to-Eat or MREs replaced C-rations. MREs were designed to be lightweight with no heat required.
Changes were made to military MREs to make them better for the troops. For example, the original products were only designed to last approximately ten days. But when forces relied on the foods for more than that time, it became clear that products needed to be designed to last longer than ten days. In another example, some troop members desired to heat their meals. Therefore a flameless ration heater was developed to accomplish this goal.
In today’s world, ordinary people enjoy outdoor activities such as camping and hiking, but they also have an increasing interest in how to survive natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes or the aftermath of an atomic bomb. It’s become fashionable to store food in basements, for example, in the case of a natural disaster that would make food in grocery stores scarce or unavailable and power, such as cooking on a stove, limited or unavailable. This is where civilian MREs come in. Military MREs are generally not allowed to be sold to the public. So civilian MREs fill that void.
Civilian MREs have brought lots of peace of mind to many people, and today, the only difference between a military MRE and a civilian MRE is the packaging. Various companies on the market provide civilian MREs.
Use Civilian MREs for Outdoor Activities Such as Camping or Hiking
One reason to buy civilian MREs is for outdoor recreation such as camping or hiking. Trying to prepare a meal while you’re hiking, for example, can be difficult. Traditional food choices can weight down a pack, and to hike successfully, you don’t want to carry a lot of weight in your pack. Experienced campers say no more than 30 pounds should be the rule. Finding a store to buy traditional food is also not always possible and can take away from the hiking experience if it means that you have to leave your hiking trail to find a place to shop. Furthermore, trying to find ways to prepare traditional food while hiking is challenging. Some hikers and campers choose a backpacking stove and fuel. However, there are challenges involved with this method including setting up the stove and disposing of the empty fuel canisters responsibly and ecologically. The image of a campfire comes to mind, but a successful campfire is not always possible. For example, there could be restrictions on building a campfire, or, the weather conditions may not be conducive for campfire building.
Also, packing traditional light food to avoid cooking may not be sufficient to maintain health and well-being. A hiker may stuff his or her backpack with granola bars or cheese sticks to eat, for example. However, granola bars and cheese sticks do not contain the nutritional value necessary to meet a person’s daily needs. Civilian MREs are not only ready to eat with no cooking required, but they are also designed to meet the nutritional and caloric needs of an individual. All a hiker would have to do is remove one of the prepackaged meals out of his or her backpack and enjoy. These are lightweight meals that are perfect to carry in a pack. They have also be constructed to taste good and include fruits, meats, vegetables and dairy products, including seasonings and desserts.
Use Civilian MREs in Emergency Situations and Natural Disasters
People who live in locations threatened by hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes, for examples, can choose civilian MREs where food and power are at risk. Therefore, having MREs available in your home can increase your chances of survival. Preppers, or people who make it a habit of preparing for emergencies and disasters, are particularly fond of MREs. Civilian Meals, Ready-to-Eat can be stored in your home for years in the unfortunate case of a natural disaster or some situation where getting to a traditional meal is not possible. Dehydrated and freeze-dried meals may come to mind and can remain in the home for many years, but MREs are not dehydrated or freeze-dried meals. They don’t last as long as dehydrated and freeze-dried, but better taste and quality is possible because the food is preserved to retain its flavor and texture.
MREs can last so long without preservatives because of the retort packaging which has been in a wide variety of situations such as for camping, in space, in combat, etc. What is retort packaging? It’s a pouch made of a combination of metal foils and flexible plastic. It keeps its contents dry and sterile for extended periods, such as up to five years. This kind of packaging is highly durable. It’s impact-resistance, which makes it suitable for situations such as air drops. It’s also waterproof and pest resistance.
An example of a full civilian MRE is food and beverage, with a shelf life of approximately five years, including a main dish, a side dish, crackers with spread, a dessert, an electrolyte beverage mix, coffee with creamer, and everything else that you would need for your full meal. Those would include utensils, pepper, salt, sugar, a napkin and a wet wipe. Although the meals are designed ready-to-eat, you may choose to heat up specific items with an MRE heater.
There are civilian MREs that are considered standard and official. The other civilian MREs are private label. Therefore, they aren’t official MREs, but they serve the same purpose. The responsible brands make it known to the consumer that they are private label. Brands from companies that are not upfront may try to trick a consumer into thinking their product is a military MRE.
Private label MREs are often cheaper than the official civilian versions. However, you may not know exactly everything that is included in the meals you buy. In other words, you may be told that you’re receiving ten full meals, for example, but you don’t know precisely what the ten full meals consist of.
What is an MRE Heater and How Do You Use It?
Although civilian MREs are designed to eat as is, there may be situations where you want to heat up your food. MRE foods typically eaten cold include crackers, cheese, energy bars, and pudding. However, if you’re camping in cold or rainy weather, for example, eating an MRE beef stew may be more enjoyable hot rather than cold. An MRE heater is a flameless heater designed to warm up MRE foods. These are heaters that are designed to use anywhere, with no equipment. It is made of powdered magnesium metal, salt, and iron. The process is known as an oxidation-reduction reaction. To use the device, you just pour water into the chemical heater, and it is designed to go from 0 to up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit in 12 minutes. The water used with the heater does not have to be clean water. It can be from a lake, a pond, a puddle, from snow, from your water bottle, etc. The time it takes for such a device to heat is faster than a campfire or a grill. These heaters do not produce carbon monoxide, there is no flame, and they can be safely and ecologically disposed of. An MRE heater is included with military MREs, and they are also typically included with civilian MREs. They are a perfect solution for flameless heating that also does not require electricity, gas or clean water.
What Are Examples of Civilian Meals, Ready to Eat?
When you buy civilian MREs either as the standard MREs or as a private label you can buy packets of full meals for the entire day, including snacks or you can separate the times of day that you want to focus on meals.
Breakfast Foods Example
Breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day and a breakfast MRE kit may include wheat bread, hash browns, oatmeal, a toaster pastry, peanut butter, fruit punch, and coffee and cream.
Lunch and Dinner Examples
Moving on to later in the day, your lunch and dinner options could include beef stew, meatballs in marinara sauce, a brownie, and a grape beverage, for examples.
For snacks, you’re likely to see crackers, a cheese spread, and pudding options.
In today’s times, you can get civilian MREs in vegetarian options such as vegetable lasagna, crackers, and an orange drink, for examples.
Civilian MREs come with utensils, salt, pepper, napkins and wet wipes. In other words, everything that you need for a meal is included.
Where Can You Buy Civilian MREs?
The big difference between buying military MREs and civilian MREs is that purchasing military MREs is restricted. Technically, civilians are not allowed to buy military MREs commercially. When you buy the civilian variety, you want to make sure you’re buying from a legitimate seller. If you purchase these kinds of products from unknown sellers, you risk buying products that have expired or that were stored improperly. Also, if something were wrong with your civilian MREs, you have a recourse. Buying from a legitimate seller means you can go directly to the seller with a problem. Buying from an unknown seller means you likely have no recourse if something were wrong with your MREs.
The place to find the most variety for Civilian MREs is at online stores that have dedicated MRE product pages. Here is where you will find the most extensive range for the best prices. But before you purchase check the reviews of such stores to make sure they are good sources to work with. Then, once you know the reputation of the stores you are reviewing, check to see who has the best price, including the best shipping price. For example, do they offer free shipping? Balance the shipping price with the cost of the MREs.
Brick and Mortar Stores
Buying from a brick and mortar location is another option, but it’s not always easy to find MREs in brick and mortar locations. You can try an army/navy surplus store or an outdoor sporting goods store. However, the cost of the MREs could be higher than what you would find online, and you are likely not to find as wide of a selection in a brick and mortar store.
Online Sites Such as eBay or Craig’s List
These can be legitimate options, but it requires a higher degree of care on your part. It is easy to be tricked by an unknown or illegitimate seller on sites such as these. For a site like eBay, be sure to check the reviews of the seller. If most or all of the reviews are complimentary, you can likely be sure that the seller is reliable. For a classified advertisement website such as Craig’s List, you’ll need to be even more diligent and trust your instinct on what is being offered.
What are Some Pros and Cons of Civilian MREs?
Civilian MREs are ready-to-eat. They require no cooking, no refrigeration, and no heating. When you need a meal on the spot, without worrying about getting the meal or for preparation, MREs serve that purpose.
Civilian MREs are diverse and pleasant tasting. Today you can find a wide variety of options including pasta, oatmeal, rice, applesauce, beef, chicken, pork, desserts, spices such as pepper and salt, beverages and vegetarian meals, for examples. There are options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. You can buy kits that include everything or kits that focus on certain times of the day, such as a breakfast kit or a dinner kit.
The food and beverage choices are not all that these kits contain. Many packages also include toilet paper, chewing gum, Tabasco sauce, and more. Today’s civilian MREs include a wide variety of options for whatever your needs may be.
MREs come with a flameless heater so that you can warm up your meals if you choose. Therefore, buying a separate heater is not necessary with almost all of the civilian MREs. If you find yourself without electricity in your home, if you find yourself out in the middle of the forest where there are no stores or easy ways to make a campfire, these heaters come in handy.
Civilian MREs are lightweight and designed to be easily carried, such as in a backpack. They are also designed to be easily disposed and non-harmful to the environment.
You may find civilian MREs high in caloric content. Just like military MREs each civilian MRE is designed to contain approximately 1200 calories, enough to sustain an individual who has no other access to food, a situation that a soldier in combat may face. However, consuming 1200 calories in one meal is a lot of calories and therefore, eating an entire MRE at one-time could be hard on the stomach and other organs and therefore, not ideal.
Although MREs are designed to be lightweight, they do weigh more than freeze-dried meals. If weight is a final consideration, you’ll have to determine if MREs will work for your situation. In addition to possible weight considerations, MREs cost more than traditional food and freeze-dried food.
Unlike traditional food, you cannot find civilian MREs everywhere. You can find them at online sites and unique stores, such as a military store or an outdoor sporting goods store. Finding MRE resources, therefore, may take some research on your part.
Meals, ready-to-eat must be appropriately stored. Yes, they can last up to five years, but if they are not correctly stored, the shelf life will be reduced. You should not, for example, store your MREs in the trunk of a car in hot weather. Therefore, MREs are not designed to be vehicle emergency kits. And unlike dehydrated or freeze dried food, MREs can also be destroyed in freezing temperatures. The only way to get the proper shelf life for civilian MREs is to be sure and store them properly.
Tips for Civilian MREs
Civilian MREs are excellent products for outdoor enthusiasts, preppers, and emergency situations. Here are some tips for using the products.
Always store MREs in a climate-controlled area to extend the shelf-life.
Be cognizant of the expiration date of your MREs. They are designed to last approximately five years in most situations. If you are past the four-year mark, be sure to check the expiration date and dispose of any products that have past the time. Replace the products with new products.
Be cognizant of the caloric makeup of MREs. They were initially designed for soldiers in combat and were intended as a one-meal-per-day system. Eating more than one MRE meal per day can lead to weight gain and disturbances to your system, such as water retention and constipation.
Try to have plenty of bottled water available along with your MRE kits. Drinking water while consuming MREs helps to keep your system regulated. When using water in your flameless heater, whether it is water from a bottle or any other source of water, do not overfill the heater. It requires a specific amount of water, usually only a couple of ounces. Overfilling the heater can burst open the pouch.
Remember that you can spice up your meal entrees with the extras included. These include Tabasco, salt, and pepper, for examples.
Since the onset of Military Meals, Ready-to-Eat, the civilian variety is new and improved which means they are even easier to use and better tasting than ever before. These are not traditional meals and are not designed to replace regular meals and regular meal preparation. Instead, look to civilian MREs for outdoor activities, such as camping and hiking. Or look to them to add to your enthusiasm as a prepper who puts a focus on being proactive in the case of emergencies and disasters. By placing MREs in your basement in a climate-controlled setting, you can have these meals available, for up to five years, if anything were to happen where traditional meal buying and preparation is no longer possible. The best place to find these meals is online where you will find the most extensive variety and a variety of prices. However, to avoid potential shipping charges, you may find these meals at army surplus stores or stores designed for outdoor enthusiasts. The selection options for these items, however, may not be as desirable when purchased at a brick and mortar location.
Find the best civilian mre meals for sale on the market with our little help today.