The 10 Best Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) for Preppers

MREs are extremely nutritious and can be stored at extreme temperatures for long periods of time, making them highly sought after from preppers.

In my time as an Infantryman, I’ve eaten my fair share of MREs. Some of them taste pretty good, and some are terrible. Personally, I like to spice mine up with “Tabasco” sauce to add some more flavor.

an MRE next to a bug out bag
an MRE next to a bug out bag

In this article, we’ll go over a few of best MREs from some of the top-rated MRE brands and why they made our list. MREs are very useful for your BOB (because they’re lightweight), as well as your bug out location.

These are the brands that I found to be cost-effective as well as nutritious (and full of flavor) for your MRE needs. There are some effects that MREs can have on your body if you eat them for a long period, so make sure you have a plan to gather food naturally as well.

Everything in the prepping world has cons, so don’t let them steer you away from MREs. Instead, use them to plan accordingly, so you can limit the negative effects they have.

Pros of MREs

  • ✅ Easy, reliable food source.
  • ✅ Nutritious, and flavorful with minimal effort to prepare.
  • ✅ Most MREs have pre-rationed calorie count, to help control your calorie and nutrition intake daily.
  • ✅ Lightweight, good for your bug out bag, get home bag etc.
  • ✅ Some have a surprisingly good taste, though you’d have to try them out before buying in larger quantities.
  • ✅ Some come with a flameless heater, so the only thing you need to add is water.
  • ✅ Can withstand extreme temperatures, though this may significantly decrease shelf life.

Cons of MREs

  • ❌ Poor shelf life, up to 60 months (in an ideal case, when stored under the right conditions).
  • ❌ Long-term consumption can cause constipation.
  • ❌ Some may not taste that great.
  • ❌ Could pose problems to those with food allergies.
  • ❌ You or your family members may not like the taste.
  • ❌ The high sodium content in rationed meals can require your water intake to increase.
  • ❌ May cause stomach aches.
  • ❌ Low in fiber.
  • ❌ They shouldn’t be eaten long-term.
  • ❌ Expensive compared to regular food with long shelf life.

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Department of Defense MREs

MREs are designed to sustain a warfighter in an extremely physically demanding environment, just off of one meal per day. Each MRE contains between 1,500-2,000 (depending on the meal) calories in its contents, but you must eat everything that comes with them.

Military MREs are packed with added nutrition, and (most of the time) flavor. Military MREs have a shelf-life of 3-10 years (depending on the temperature conditions that we’ll go over), making them perfect for preppers who want an easy on-the-go meal when SHTF.

Every MRE comes with a condiments packet that includes tissue paper, moist towelettes, gum (us Infantrymen call it “5 second gum” because the flavor only lasts 5 seconds), and some sort of spice.

Sometimes, you can get lucky and get some instant coffee powder with creamer and sugar, too. The added caffeine helps when you have a long night ahead of you.

Military MREs made in 2016 come in 24 different menus (meals and desserts), that cover both dishes and side dishes so there’s definitely a variety to choose from. Obviously, everyone’s taste buds are different, so what I like might be different from what you like.

DoD MREs usually cost around $100 for a box of 12, so they’re a bit on the expensive side. Due to their long shelf life, and multiple items per menu, I’d say they’re worth it! For the sake of time, I’ll list the top 3 DoD MRE meals I enjoy (hopefully you will, too!). Get them here.

What to Look for When Buying your MREs

Here’s a list of things to look for when buying your MREs

  • Packaging dates: you’ll want to know how long ago the meal was produced and/or packed so that you have an idea of how long it’ll be safe to eat.
  • Packaging: this one’s easy enough. You’ll want to make sure that you’re getting MREs from MODERN packaging. If it comes in a box that comes out of a 1950s commercial, then it’s probably way past its expiration date.
  • Manufacturers and Dealers: you should know where your MREs were produced and packed as well as how they were stored. Ideally, you should also know that the dealer you’re buying from is legit. This makes avoiding fake or older-production MREs easier.

The Best MREs You Can Get

Chili with Beans

Contents: Chili with beans main entrée, cornbread (trans fat-free), cheddar cheese spread, crackers (trans fat-free), cheese-filled snack (like “Combos”), carbohydrate beverage powder.

The chili with beans MRE is packed with delicious flavor (if you like chili). Like all DoD MREs, this menu item is packed with nutrients essential for sustaining an active body. My favorite thing about the chili with beans MRE is that you can combine most of the contents into one big meal, saving you a lot of time if you’re in a hurry.

Heat up the main entrée, and the cheese spread, using the MRE water-activated heater. Then, crush the crackers and cornbread while they’re still in their pouch. Finally, combine the cheese, chili, cornbread, and crackers inside the main entrée pouch and you have yourself a delicious meal!

The carbohydrate beverage powder is just a fancy name for “Gatorade”. Save these pouches for when you become dehydrated, as these will help hydrate you and keep you going. The flavor is decent, as long as you don’t dilute them too much with water. If you’re low on water, you can put some powder in your mouth, then swallow it down with a little water.

Get your Chili with Beans MRE here.

Chili and Macaroni (AKA Chili-Mac)

Contents: Chili-mac main entrée, pound cake (trans fat free), jalapeno cheddar cheese spread, crackers (trans fat free), beef snacks (like juicy jerky), candy (usually “Skittles”), carbohydrate beverage powder, crushed red pepper spice.

Chili-mac is one of my favorite DoD MREs because it tastes so dang good. When you’re miserable and hungry, and you eat some chili-mac, it makes your situation suck less for some reason.

Most of the time you’ll get a lemon poppy seed pound cake (like a compressed lemon poppy seed muffin), which taste amazing. I suggest heating up the chili-mac and the cheese spread together, because this makes the cheese melt into the entrée easier. If you’re really wanting to spice things up, add in the crushed red pepper spice.

The beef snacks are a little bland in flavor, but they’re packed with protein. These are a good snack to save for late at night, to help you have energy in the morning.

Do your best to save the candy that you get from MREs, because you can use them for short-term energy for late nights. Altogether, the chili-mac MRE is an outstanding meal that’s packed with flavor and nutrients.

Get this one here.

Beef Stew/Goulash

Contents: Carrots, tomatoes, brown rice, smoked paprika, and, of course, beef. The pack also contains a napkin, towelette, peanut butter, utensils, and a powdered beverage to round out the rest.

Who doesn’t like a nice, hot stew? It’s a perfect meal for a cold winter’s day/night. This beef stew/goulash MRE is a filling (1250 calories), flavorful meal that’s perfect for hikers, campers, and just generally outdoorsy-type people.

You can get one of these MREs here.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Calling all pasta lovers out there! This spaghetti and meatballs MRE takes the Italian classic meal to a whole new level. It’s easy to prepare with a flavorful meat sauce that will make your tastebuds tango! Get it here, and try it yourself.


My mouth is watering already! These can be eaten hot or cold so this 3-pack doesn’t come with a heating pad; that said, they still taste great and are a quick, easy meal. What’s not to love? Get your MRE tacos here.

Beef Strips in Tomato Sauce

Ah, beef strips in tomato sauce, it doesn’t get much simpler than that. This meal packs a savory wallop. A rich, flavorful tomato sauce adds to the flavor of the meat. A simple, but filling meal, get this one here. If you’d like to add something to your MRE you can add noodles.

Beef Patty with Jalapeno Pepper Jack

This is another super simple one for all you cheese lovers out there. A nice beef patty with spicy jalapeno pepper jack cheese. Check it out and give it a try.

Feel free to experiment a bit with sauces. You can try hot sauce or marinara sauce depending on your preference and what you have from other MREs that you’ve field stripped.

Chicken Burrito Bowl

If you’re a fan of burritos, then this is for you. There’s nothing better than a burrito after a bad day. Whether you eat this as a main dish or a side dish, you’re bound to love it. Get this one here and try it yourself.

Tac-Bar Food Rations by Expedition Research

When it comes to pre-packaged rations, Expedition Research LLC goes above and beyond. At the cost of only $70, they offer an outstanding assortment of tools (which we’ll go over), 5 one-day ration bars (2,500 calories each), 10 “Aquatab” 17mg water purification tablets, and a reusable rugged ammo can.

Each ration bar contains honey, whey protein, oats, and coconut. Because of this assortment, each bar contains an incredible number of vitamins and minerals, as well as carbs and fats. According to reviews, the bars taste amazing. Most users compare the taste to granola bars, but with a chewy consistency.

You might be thinking “$70 for just 5 days is a bit expensive”, and understandably so. However, the list of tools that also comes with it makes it well worth the price along with the food, can, and water purification tablets.

Each ammo can contains a metal tin sealed with tape, that has all the tools you would need for gathering more food (given there’s a body of water with fish nearby), as well as starting a fire.

Each tool tin contains stainless steel multitool with case and instructions, magnetic compass, gold emergency blanket, monofilament line, fishing line spool, 2 fishing hooks, 2 lead fishing sinkers, plastic fishing worm, 2 double sided razor blades, steel fire starter and striker, survival whistle, and a candle.

You can see why the $70 is worth it now, right? I would highly recommend storing one of these in your vehicle, in case you need to bug out fast and you don’t have your BOB on you.

This way, you’ll have the essentials to survive while you head to your bug out location to resupply. For everything that comes in one ammo can, I’d say the $70 value is well worth it.

Augason Farms 30-Day Emergency Food Storage Supply Pail

For long-term sustenance needs, Augason Farms is a great solution. They offer 307 servings of food, 40 servings of preserved milk, and a “FireOn” fuel disk (to assist you with fire starting) all for a small price of $90.

If unopened, the contents inside of the supply pail have a shelf life of up to 20 years (1 year if opened). This makes the supply pail a great option for long-term preppers, just buy it and store it in your bug out location, and you don’t have to worry about replacing it for 20 years.

According to the reviews, the food has excellent flavor. The milk has mixed reviews, but some people aren’t used to preserved milk (they expect it to taste the exact same as milk from the store).

Each pail comes with a meal-prep chart to help you conserve your food into portioned meals. If you follow the chart, you can sustain yourself with 1,822 calories per day. Remember, the 30-day meal plan is only for one person. One pail can feed a family of 4 for only a week.

Each pail contains: Cheesy broccoli rice (40 servings), creamy chicken rice (48 servings), creamy potato soup (48 servings), elbow macaroni (15 servings), cheese powder (15 servings), hearty vegetable chicken soup (32 servings), maple brown sugar oatmeal (60 servings), “Morning Moo’s” low-fat milk alternative (40 servings), instant potatoes (8 servings), and banana chips (16 servings).

As you can see, there are plenty of options to choose from for meals. This gives you the opportunity to mix up your meals every day, so you don’t get bored of your food when you’re in a miserable environment.

Get them here.

Special Items

MREs are a great way to ensure you’ll sustain your body with food for long periods of time, however there are other essential items you’ll need if you wish to survive after they’re gone. Fishing line and hooks (included in the Tac-Bar box) are a great, lightweight solution for finding food post-collapse. Fish are easy to clean, and full of protein.

For an easy solution for clean water, you can use water purification tabs (included in the Tac-Bar box), boil water, or use a “LifeStraw”. Whatever solution you decide to use, make sure you make the right decision.

Drinking unsanitary water can be lethal, or at the bare minimum give you an extreme case of diarrhea. Neither of which you want when SHTF, my highest recommendation is a LifeStraw. For extremely contaminated water, boil it first, then use the LifeStraw.


For the MREs that I included in this article, I included them because I have either tried them and loved them, or they have the best reviews from preppers like you.

If you consider yourself an extreme prepper, I suggest having at least 2 boxes of DoD MREs, and an Augason Farms Supply Pail in your long-term bug out location. This ensures that you’ll have enough food and variety to feed yourself and others for a decent amount of time.

I highly recommend having the Tac-Bar box in your BOV, because it has tools for everyday survival and enough food to feed one person for 5 days (split that up for however many people you have with you).

Since it weighs 7lbs, I wouldn’t count on carrying it to your bug out location. If you’re not comfortable with putting it in your BOV, you can always store it in your pre-dug defensive foxhole position, because these cans are weather-resistant.

For your BOB and other portable emergency kits, I recommend bringing 1-2 Grizzly Gear ration bars. The total weight for 2 bars will be a little over 3.5 lbs., but you’ll have enough food to sustain yourself for a week in case you get sidetracked on your way to your bug out location.

For those of you with families, this can be a life saver compared to packing enough MREs to sustain them in your BOB. With the great flavor that the ration bars offer, your family will have one less thing to complain about when SHTF.

MREs definitely get my stamp of approval for preppers, for many reasons. The biggest reason of them all, is dependability. With most MREs having shelf lives of over 5 years, they’re an extremely useful source of food for long-term prepping.

Think about it, if a catastrophic event happens, do you want to explain to your family that you need to find food because you didn’t want to spend less than $100 for food? I wouldn’t, and you shouldn’t either.

3 thoughts on “The 10 Best Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) for Preppers”

  1. DAN-

    Thank-you for your service and for compiling this well thought out plan!

    I served 3 years with 556 LMC (DS) unit as TTY repairman during Viet Nam followed by 10 years as an Army Medic.

    I’ve made notes and will go shopping soon. I will be living onboard my sailboat indefinitely in the not too distant future. Take care, Bob

  2. The Health Ranger is recommending MREs that are pure junk food loaded with white flour, corn sugars and seed oils.

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