You can have a number of motivations for wanting to buy military grade MRE rations. It’s possible you’re a veteran of one of the branches of service, and you’re very familiar with how handy these things are, and you want to have some on hand. Even if you’ve never served, you might know of them and just how useful they can be if you want easy, light nutrition to take with you hunting, hiking, or camping, or even fishing or boating. You might even want to get a case of them to use as emergency supplies in the event of a natural disaster or power outage.
These rations are designed to be single meals that come complete and ready to go, but that’s if they’re military-grade MREs. If you look on the market, you’ll find quite a few things listed as MREs, but not all of them are actually military grade. The confusing thing about many of them is that they might be actual military surplus, but some of them might be civilian variants. In between, you might find units that are actually military grade without being military stock, as they were manufactured on the same production lines and standards to produce units for the Department of Defense. Others will claim to be equivalent or ‘like’ military grade, and they might be close, but they might not be an exact match.
It’s critical to know exactly what you’re getting when you buy MREs. Civilian-grade MREs might fit your needs just fine, but if you’re looking for military-grade options specifically, then you have to do your homework. Actual military-grade stock is going to come with FRH, which is the acronym for flameless ration heater. It uses a water-based chemical reaction to warm up the selected contents of the package, and without it, you’re eating cold or even solid food. Some freeze-dried or dehydrated rations might be safe to consume as-is, but most military-grade MREs have water content in them that needs heating up. The nutrition might be there, but the taste and easy digestion might not be. Many ‘near military’ items might have the food items you expect, but not the FRH, leaving you high and dry if you open one in the wilderness or when the power is out and have no way of ‘cooking’ your food.
What Is A Military-Grade MRE?
Do you know what a military-grade MRE is? The acronym short for Meal, Ready to Eat. It’s designed to be a complete meal in a self-contained package. So, one MRE is, therefore, one meal. The packaging is designed in such a way as to withstand any rough conditions military personnel might be in, as well as exposure to nature and the elements.
Every MRE bag has an entree inside it, alongside a number of other drink and food items. MREs are often packaged in cases of 12, with two dozen different menus or varieties available. A case designated as Case A has the first dozen menus, and the other half get packaged in Case B.
The United States military uses MREs as a main operational food ration. World War II vets might remember k- and c-rations. Those morphed into MCI rations. The Meal, Combat, Individual rations were used in the Korean and Vietnamese theaters. The MRE got developed after that and has been the primary ration for the military service members of the United States since then.
What’s In Them
The exact list of components of every MRE changes each year, but there is a general list of components every MRE is going to contain if it’s military grade:
– Entree: this will be the main course, such as beef stew or spaghetti.
– Side dishes: these might be things like mashed potatoes, fruit, corn, or rice.
– Bread or Cracker
– Spread: this might be a cheese spread, jelly, or peanut jelly.
– Desserts: pound cakes and cookies are common.
– Beverages: you might find choices such as coffee, tea, dairy shakes, cocoa, or powered beverages similar to Gatorade.
– Seasonings or hot sauces: these are in some but not all MREs.
– Accessories: these vary but often include a spoon utensil, matches, creamer, sugar, salt, toilet paper, a wet napkin, and chewing gum.
– FRH: flameless ration heaters are used to heat up your entree. These do not come in civilian-grade MREs.
Every MRE is supposed to give the diner just over 1,200 calories. 13 percent of that is protein, 36 percent is from fat calories, and just over half is carbs. One-third of the military’s recommended daily allotment of minerals and vitamins is also fortified into the food. Three MREs should make a full day’s worth of food.
Eating an MRE should be a simple affair, considering that the very name implies ‘ready to eat,’ so you should be able to eat one without heating or cooking. However, beverages are a lot better to taste and drink if the mixes have water. Entrees and sides are things you can eat cold, but they do taste far better if they’re boiled in water or heated with the included FRH.
MREs are supposed to have a shelf life of 36 months when stored at conditions around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. They can be stored at higher temperatures, but they will have shorter lifespans. If they’re stored at lower temperatures, they can last much longer. Some MREs last more than a decade, and while they might discolor or darken, they still taste fine.
Buying Military-Grade MREs
It’s a safe assumption that if you found this article, then you’re not looking for any and all MREs, but specifically military MREs, or at least military-grade rations. Fortunately, this section of the article should help you with any of these cases, even if the emphasis is on military surplus.
The Department of Defense has long had a policy of not allowing military MREs to be put up for sale. It’s been printed on the individual rations for some time, and in 1997, the government included a notice on MRE boxes. It reads “U.S. Government Property: Commercial Resale Is Unlawful.” Despite this, the laws surrounding this are few and far between, also seeing a lack of enforcement. Many exceptions also exist, except for active military personnel to sell them on an individual level, so there are still many rations that make it onto the secondary civilian market. The volumes and amounts available are not as high as they once were, but it doesn’t take much work to find them for sale.
How Much Do They Cost?
Wondering how much you should budget for them? Prices vary according to supply, demand, and market conditions, but as a general rule of thumb at the time of writing this article, you could expect an average case to run from $45 to $60. You’ll always find sellers asking for more, but you’ll also find some sellers asking less. If someone is asking $54 for the case, plus shipping, where 24 pounds of rations might run a dollar a pound for shipping, then you’re getting a fair deal.
One trick you can use is to go for slightly older MREs. Military-grade rations should have a minimum shelf life of three years, although it can be higher depending on the storage conditions. If you look for MREs this year, then the 2017 rations are likely to cost more than the 2016 rations available. They might go for $10 less per case given that a year of their use has already passed.
Do keep an eye on the shipping, especially among eBay sellers. Some sellers use flat-rate shipping fees that look simple but are actually inflated. Aim for sellers that have honest shipping policies or even list actual shipping charges based on your address. Flat-rate shipping might go to your advantage if you’re ordering a lot from the other side of the country, but if it’s just one case from within your own state, then you’re probably getting ripped off.
Where Should You Look For Them?
Military personnel: If you know someone serving actively in the military, there’s a small chance they can provide you MREs. Full-time active duty personnel regularly receive MREs during field and training exercises. National Guardsmen and part-time reservists sometimes get them too.
Army/Navy surplus stores: These retailers nearly always have MREs in stock. So, you have your best chance of finding them. On the other hand, their MREs might also be the most expensive ones you’ll find. It’s not uncommon for military surplus stores to be selling their cases for twice what you might pay online. It’s a good choice to visit here if you’re looking to try a few specific things, but for volume shopping, it’s not ideal. The exception would be a surplus store close to any military base or facility. With more people selling things to the store in such a location, they’re more likely to have more stock to move.
Gun shows: MREs are often available at any expo or convention that caters to hunters, survivalists, and the like. You can actually find better prices that surplus stores here most of the time. You might even find vendors that have the individual components of MREs for sale so you can pick and choose what you need. It’s a great chance to pick up heaters if you wound up buying MREs that had everything but them. Of course, if you have a particular side or snack you like, you can stock up on those too.
eBay: Other than living near an actual base or personally knowing someone in uniform, this auction website is going to be your best bet for selection and price. You’ll easily find a broad range of all grades of MRE, spanning many types, quantities, dates, cases, and more. With the ‘Buy It Now’ option, you can also often find a reasonably priced case and just purchase it without going through a weeklong auction that gets ever more expensive and you either pull your hair out or get sniped at the last minute.
Hopefully, you already know how to shop for things on eBay, because you have to be super careful when it comes to MREs. Always check the seller’s feedback for their honesty and the accuracy of their listings, as well as shipping complications and speeds. Also, not everything that has the MRE label is actual rations from the United States military.
What You’re Looking For In Military-Grade MREs
Pictures: If you’re buying online, be it eBay, Amazon, or an individual e-commerce site, then you need to see lots of pictures. They should be of the actual case that you’re going to get. If there aren’t pictures, don’t bid or buy; you might get anything.
Pictures with specific information: If you see anything that has dates, such as date packed or date inspected or even menu type, then you have a goldmine of information. You can discern the source of the rations, as well as the age.
Listings with lots of specifics: The best auctions and sellers are going to fill the page with information so you know just what you’re going to get. If they’re used to selling MREs, then they know that the consumers and enthusiasts looking for them know there are various kinds, and they’ll tell you exactly what they’ve got.
What You Should Avoid
If you want actual military MREs, then don’t go for Sopakco, Ameriqual or XMRE. All of them are actually good brands of MREs, but they’re civilian variants. Also look out for generic boxes or anything that might be private label. Also avoid anything labeled ‘Mil-Spec,’ as their MREs usually have everything but the heater, which costs more. True military-grade MREs always have the FRH.
Now that you’ve read this article, you’ve learned a brief history of the military-grade MRE, where you can find them, how to get good deals on them, and a good idea what each one will contain. The information presented here should help you find military-grade MREs over the civilian-grade or faux equivalents as well on good deals on shipping or per case.