this article has been updated March 14th 2018MREs 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.
In this article, we’ll go over a few of the top-rated MRE brands and why they made our list. MREs are very useful for your BOB (because they’re light-weight), as well as your bug out location.
Brands That Made Our List
- Department of Defense MREs
- Grizzly Gear Emergency Food Rations
- Tac-Bar Food Rations by Expedition Research LLC
- Augason Farms 30-Day Emergency Food Storage Supply Pail
These are the 4 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.
- Easy, reliable food source.
- Nutritious, and flavorful with minimal effort to prepare.
- Most MREs are pre-rationed, 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.
- 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.
- They’re pretty expensive compared to regular food with long shelf life.
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), 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!).
Chili with Beans
Contents: Chili with beans main entrée, corn bread (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.
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.
Rib Shaped BBQ Pork Patty
Contents: Pork patty entrée, Santa Fe style rice and beans, ranger bar (trans fat free), peanut butter, wheat snack bread twin pack (trans fat free), jelly/jam, carbohydrate beverage powder, BBQ sauce.
If you like the “McRib” from McDonald’s, you’ll love the BBQ pork patty MRE. It tastes identical (although it’s best when you heat it up), and has enough protein and carbs to sustain you for quite a while. My advice is that you save the wheat snack bread to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with them, and pour the BBQ sauce into the entrée once it’s heated up. Eating just these two things can fill up a small stomach, so you can save your ranger bar for later.
Ranger bars are delicious, and incredibly full of nutrients. They come in two flavors (that I’ve tasted), apple cinnamon and chocolate. Both flavors are great tasting, however their consistency can be a bit awkward. In higher temperatures, they can be sticky and don’t retain shape very well. If this happens, just eat it out of the wrapper, they still hold their nutritional value.
Another perk of DoD MREs, is the uses for the heaters that come in most of them (excluding tuna). They burn very hot, and can stay warm for hours. If you use them, make sure you are in a well-ventilated area, the chemicals that are released can be toxic. After you’re done using your heater, you can use the water left over as an impromptu bug repellant. Don’t put the water on your skin, ever! Use it on the dirt surrounding your foxhole, or in the doorways around your bugout location. It lasts a few hours, and can be a big help when you have an ant problem.
DoD MREs can weigh you down quite a bit if you put them in your BOB, though. Weighing in at 18oz-22oz per MRE, you can see how having multiple can become a weight problem. Therefore, us Infantrymen do what’s called “field stripping” our MREs when we put them in our rucks.
Field stripping an MRE is the process of pulling out the contents from its original packaging, and choosing what individual contents we want to take with us, and what to discard. Once you’ve chosen what you want to take, put them back in the original packaging, fold the top over the packaging, and tape it shut. This also saves room in your BOB.
Being an Infantryman, I’ve gotten sick of eating DoD MREs, so, for my BOB I use Grizzly Gear Emergency Food Rations. They come in a vacuum sealed package containing one 3,600 calorie bar broken up into 9 cubes. One thing I’ll say about these bars, is they taste amazing! They have a vanilla wafer taste (with a hint of lemon), and have a cornbread-like consistency.
They’re incredibly affordable as well, costing $12.95 plus shipping on Amazon per bar. Weighing in at 24oz per bar (about 1.5lbs), they can add noticeably extra weight to your BOB if you bring multiple. However, one 9-cube bar can sustain the average man 3 days! I highly recommend these rations for your BOB, and maybe even to stockpile in your bug out location, due to their shelf life.
Each ration has a shelf life of 5 years, making them an incredible value for preppers. I’m not a salesman, but if you’ve been looking for a simple ration that can sustain you (and tastes great) then you’ve read the right article. The only problem I’ve had with these bars, is when they arrive at my door, sometimes the cubes can get a bit crumbled in their packaging. This doesn’t really matter though, because they still retain nutritional value even if their consistency isn’t the same.
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 make 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.
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.
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 (see my article on foxholes), 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 3.5lbs, 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.