Why no MREs?
Meals Ready to Eat, or MREs are self-contained field rations produced for the United States military.
Packed in flexible pouches, they are lighter and more convenient for field use than canned food.
You may have noticed, like the guy who mailed me about it last week, that they’re conspicuously absent from my Top 10 disaster preparedness checklist.
They’re not even on the big 37 food item sold out after crisis list.
Why no MREs for me?
MREs seem to be the obvious choice for your disaster preparedness checklist, right?
OK let’s start with a bit of comedy from the brilliant My Drunk Kitchen Youtube series.
If you ever wondered how to eat an MRE, now you’ve been enlightened.
I bet MREs seem a lot less convenient now.
That’s just for starters though.
The Real Problem With MREs
MRE’s are not designed for long term sustenance. They’re for army personnel who require calory-dense food for a short period of time behind enemy lines.
What if your survival strategy is built around MRE’s and the crisis is not over in a few days, or weeks?
Well, you’ll be fat, grumpy, and will spend a lot of time on the loo.
These packs are not balanced or health oriented in any way, shape or form. Yes they will keep you from starvation and are better than nothing, but you and your family will go ga-ga if it’s your main source of nutrition.
They’re high calorie to serve the the intended purpose. The calories come from fat. Which is not cool unless you move a lot and use them up, like the army guys do.
Relatively high water content makes them heavy for what they are, but you’ll still need to drink plenty of water.
They are high in sodium, usually around 1800 milligrams per packet. Sodium is a preservative, and it’s not good for your health. The daily recommended intake is 2400 milligrams. Don’t plan on eating 3 MREs a day.
MREs are low on fiber. Fibrous greens are low calorie, so they don’t serve the intended purpose of MREs. They are, however required for a balanced diet and for the digestive system to function properly. Remember the military wants short-term high-calorie sustenance. They could care less about your health.
Low fiber means you are likely to have bowel movement issues when consumed regularly. It’s probably not a coincidence that google’s keyword tool brings up bowel issues when typing in mre problems. The army jokes are endless too: Meals Requiring Enemas, Meals Refusing to Exit, and Moral Reducing Elements, just to list a few of my favorites. The last one may have to do with the taste, but you get the idea.
Then there’s the technicalities of buying the stock and rotating it. MREs are relatively expensive for what they are, plus need to be rotated every 3-5-7 years, depending on the type and storage conditions.
Hot storage temperatures reduce shelf life. Refrigerating extends their shelf life but freezing may damage them as the container may come apart. The pouches are made of layered aluminum and plastic, which expand and contract at different rates when freezing and thawing. This creates tension between the layers and may cause them to come apart. Finding a contaminated MRE in your disaster preparedness supplies is not fun in a time a crisis.
The plus side? Well, it’s better than nothing, so if you have already invested in them don’t throw them away just because I say they suck. Also they are loaded with calories, so you can survive on 1 day. (I do mean survive, not thrive.)
My Recommendation Regarding MREs
I recommend MREs as a fill-in, not a real strategy. Definitely no more than 1 a day, for 2 weeks at a time tops. Eat more at your own peril. I believe their best use is for a day of camping or backpacking, when there is a chance to use up those fat calories.
For better choices I recommend checking out the 37 Food Items Sold Out After Crisis ebook. There are lots of smarter alternatives.