What’s an MRE?


It’s funny to me when I mention an MRE in conversation and people don’t know what they are. Sometimes I really have to go in depth with people and they get so intrigued as to what an MRE is. I ate so many of these while I was in the Army over the years and I thought everyone at least had seen them in movies and television shows.

An MRE is a Meal Ready to Eat. They come in these really tough, vacuum sealed plastic bags in a case of 24, and there are two different cases. One case is “case A” with menus 1-12 and the other is “case B” with menus 13-24. Now I have never taken inventory of one, but I do know there is an assortment of menus in each case.

As soon as you open the brown outer bag you have this clear plastic pouch sealed with all your goodies inside. Each menu has different items in them, like cookies with pan coated chocolate discs, or as everyone else would call them, an M&M cookie. The cookie literally has M&M’s on it, and you can read the little white m that we all have seen on M&M’s. But the wrapper says cookies with pan coated chocolate discs. I get that the companies packing the MRE’s don’t have the legal rights to call them M&M cookies. First time I saw it, it stumped me as to what kind of cookie was inside.

There are all sorts of delicious main entrees. And when I say delicious, I say it with heavy sarcasm. The food has not seen the light of day in a long time. An NCO (noncommissioned officer) would select me an MRE, and by that I mean he would reach in the case, grab an MRE and toss it in my direction. If you ever got stuck with eggs, good luck trading it, although I have met a few crazy guys that actually like the egg menu, but its rare that people would ever trade for the eggs.

There is beef stew, chicken and dumplings, sloppy joe mix, beef patty, spaghetti with meat sauce and the list goes on.

If you get the giant square crackers, you will get a cheese spread of some sort or peanut butter spread. The cheese spread comes with or without jalapenos. Otherwise the crackers  are cheeze-its. Which ever spread you get, put it in your pocket, let it warm up and it’s easier to spread. These giant crackers have more uses, which I’ll tell you about later on.

You will always get a muffin top or some sort of cookies. The muffin top is disgusting if you ask me, it’s always dry as hell and really chalky tasting, not a fan of these things. Some come with a candy too, like M&M’s or Skittles and they come in their original factory packaging.

You get this great and awesome brown spoon. And I say awesome, because it has more uses in the field than you know. You can use it to hold up your mic on your mole system when you break the clip that the mic comes with because that clip always breaks.

There is usually a beverage too, either coffee or a Gatorade-style mix. And there is a hot beverage bag with marked lines on it reading different ounce levels for your proper mixing needs.

There’s the heater in a green bag. The heater is a water activated food warmer; you just pour in a little water up to a fill line marked on the bag. It’s ideal to get the warmer in the middle of your food to heat it evenly. I used to eat MRE’s cold, depending on what I got. But cold beef stew for breakfast is not recommended; heat breakfast up always, it starts your day just a little better.

The warmers can be used for multiple purposes as well. If you choose to not heat your food, you could activate the warmer and dump the water out after it has had enough time to activate properly, and boom you’ve got a foot warmer all night in your sleeping bag.

You can save up all your little bottles of tabasco sauce and dump them all into a container, and then dump that into your heater pouch and you have instant tear gas. Very important to dump the bottles into a container first, or you will start the activation while dumping the tabasco bottles into the heater.

Once you have warmed up your meal and you are ready to eat, this next step is handy for mixing. The food is in this rectangular pouch. Hold it sideways, length running parallel to the ground, and slice open the uppermost part of the pouch to expose the food. This will create a larger mouth in the pouch to access your food, opening it the other way will create a long pouch you have to dig your food out of and is more of a pain that it should be.

Just because you were given all these delicious choices to eat doesn’t mean you have to settle for what you have. Remember the crackers I was telling you about? Well, they seem to be able to change the food entirely, if you have beef stew or beef patty, even the buffalo chicken works for this. If you what to change it up, take your crackers, crush ‘em up, toss in your cheese spread and mix it up. This isn’t five star dining, I know, but sometimes the change makes a difference.

Ranger pudding. The best of the unwritten recipes. Cocoa beverage powder, creamer from your coffee, a little water and mix. This is probably the best thing you can have out of an MRE.

MRE’s have a lot of calories in them. They are designed for soldiers on the move that are burning a lot of calories walking around the desert. The calories in these can range from the 900’s to the 1400’s.

I went home on leave once and brought with me four MRE’s for my family to enjoy. I told my mom I was going to take care of dinner for the night and for her to not worry about it. As dinner time got closer my mom started to get a little worried that I wasn’t prepping anything for dinner. I asked her what time she wanted to eat, she told me around six o’clock is fine. It was almost six and my mom asked me what the hell was going on and if she had to start something for dinner since I wasn’t doing anything from the looks of it.

I told everyone to go to the table. I came out with a jug of water and placed it the middle and everyone was puzzled as to what I was up to. I went back and pulled out the four MRE’s I had brought home, and then returned to the table and handed everyone an MRE. This is where it got interesting. Still puzzled as to what they were supposed to do, I told them I wanted to share what this crap is like. My mom tried a little of everything but wasn’t in the mood to eat an entire MRE. My sister didn’t like the looks of it and was very timid to try much it; she tried the desserts and crackers, but not much for the main course. Then there is my dad. Good ol’ dad was willing to try it all and he ate his MRE without much fuss, and tried the other foods without hesitation; he just wanted to know what it was before he ate it.

MRE’s have a great shelf life if stored properly and are great for camping and hiking. I got my sister to eat the tuna fish meal on a hike once; I brought it especially for her knowing it was probably the only one she would eat and is one of the better ones.

MRE’s are ready to go anywhere and fun for the whole family!

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I am a senior here at NEC majoring in business administration with a concentration in marketing. I am from Henniker, NH and served six years in the U.S. Army as Tanker, 19K. I love college football, especially The Ohio State Buckeyes.
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