An MRE or Meal, Ready to Eat is a military designed food ration that is designed to be compact and self-contained. They can be purchased in the civilian sector as well. Civilian MRE’s are often different than military MRE’s but carry the same basic components and shelf life.
They are a self-contained, one meal package that provide around 1,200 calories if they are eaten in their entirety. Generally, they have a shelf life of 3-5 years, depending on the storage circumstances, and are designed to withstand many abuses. They are also lightweight; weighing in at only 13 to 18 ounces depending on the entrée. They are not as light as a freeze-dried or dehydrated meal due to the water content.
They can be purchased by the case, typically with 12 meals in a case, and some contractors offer bulk sales when purchasing entire pallets as well. There are usually 48 cases on a palette. This is not always recommended, however. The meals only keep for a specific amount of time and some argue that it is not wise to eat more than necessary. While the high sodium content is largely a relic of past menu options, there is still the possibility of constipation, and a limited menu may be less than appetizing if you’re using them in succession. The main manufacturers of MRE’s recommend a maximum of 21 consecutive days of consumption.
Contractors who offer bulk sales on factory fresh MRE’s can only offer the “civilian” version. Typically the manufacturer will have a minimum order quantity to qualify for bulk order discounts. This most often starts when purchasing a full pallet and the discounts get better from there. If you buy a whole truck worth you’ll get the best discounts (and shipping terms) but you’ll also need an army (almost literally) to be able to use all the meals in the 5 years before they expire.
The military strongly discourages the sale of the meals made for their use. In fact, military MRE’s are labeled with, “U.S. Government Property Commercial Resale Unlawful,” though there is not a specific law prohibiting their sale. Always be aware that conditions of storage and the amount of time spent in storage alter the shelf-life of the product. While they are designed to withstand parachute drops, significant hot and cold temperatures and various other conditions, that doesn’t mean that certain extremes don’t decrease their shelf-life. Make sure you understand how to read and understand the inspection and pack dates of the meals you purchase.
Bulk MRE’s are a great way to prepare for emergencies and use in various situations; should the need call for 100’s of meals. Also, in some cases, it can decrease shipping cost and in relation, cost per meal. Campers, emergency preparedness (both for the home and car) and military operations have found use for MRE’s and their continued use will continue to improve their development. However, caution on length of storage and over-use should be kept in mind when purchasing in bulk if you want to get the maximum value from your purchase.