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Unboxing MREs: Everything You Need to Know About ‘Meals Ready to Eat’

Military MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) are special meals, sides, and snack created by the U.S. military for the service men and women. Each meal is developed so as to provide our military personnel with all the nutrients they need while still being handy. This is something that they can tag along with them while they’re on the go.

For one, the military’s standard individual field ration, the MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat), is the well-known and much-discussed entree eaten by service members of the U.S. military when deployed in combat, to remote locations, or when training in the field. The purpose of the MRE is simple; it serves as nourishment for troops.

And because MREs come ready to eat, they are ideal for many different situations, including backpacking, camping, 72-hour kits, and other emergency supplies. MRE meals can be eaten cold, straight from the package, or warmed up in a microwave, camp stove, an MRE heater, and other hassle-free methods.

The MRE is a totally self-contained complete meal that is equivalent to one meal. You can choose from a variety of options, including entrées, snacks, desserts, and drinks. Feel free to go for something that fits your needs as each MRE comes in combos and cases, by complete meals, or by just individual MRE.

The packaging of an MRE is designed to withstand rough conditions and exposure to the elements. It’s generally durable for long periods of time in the harshest conditions. Inside each MRE bag are an entree and a variety of other food and drink items. These are the main operational food ration for the United States Armed Forces. The military makes a few changes to the menus every year so you will find a different menu listing for each year. However, each MRE contains the following:

  • Entree: the main course, such as spaghetti or beef stew
  • Side dish: rice, corn, fruit, or mashed potatoes, etc.
  • Quick Snack: cracker or bread
  • Spread: peanut butter, jelly, or cheese spread
  • Dessert: cookies or pound cakes
  • Candy: M&Ms, Skittles, or Tootsie Rolls
  • Beverages: Gatorade-like drink mixes, cocoa, dairy shakes, coffee, tea
  • Hot sauce or seasoning: in some MREs
  • Flameless Ration Heater: to heat up the entree
  • Accessories: spoon, matches, creamer, sugar, salt, chewing gum, toilet paper, etc.

Generally, each MRE provides an average of 1,250 calories (13% protein, 36% fat, and 51% carbohydrates) and 1/3 of the Military Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamins and minerals. A full day’s worth of meals would consist of three MREs.

According to Business Insider report, MREs are more than just meals. To cite, it can be divisive. Some like them, some hate them but most handle them when we have to. Initially, according to the report, there are ways to deal with a diet of this prepackaged manna.

At face value, the MRE is just a brown plastic bag filled with food, spread packets, and a flameless heater. The individual self-contained meal, however, has emblematic qualities that many may not realize. It is able to withstand cold and hot temperatures.

The MRE is very much a representation of the military veteran.

The MRE is also an unlikely tool used for diplomacy and international relations, where military members from two different nations can establish a friendship by simply exchanging MREs after a long day of combined training.

The MRE is also a symbol of hope.

It gives optimism for people of a foreign nation such as Haiti after a devastating earthquake or residents of New Orleans’s Lower 9th Ward following Hurricane Katrina.

The MRE brings a smile to the face of a child that sometimes can be overlooked, but it represents a beacon of hope when all hope was lost.

The MRE brings a sense of family where brothers and sisters in arms can enjoy a meal together even if it’s only for a few minutes.

MREs also bring a mix of emotions.

Feelings of satisfaction, envy, and sadness. The satisfaction of eating after a long day of training or following a combat patrol. The feeling of envy because your battle buddy’s MRE came with a packet of M&Ms or Skittles and you got the gooey energy bar.

Sadness stems from the fact that you are eating an MRE on a summer day in a faraway land instead of being home for a poolside BBQ with your family and loved ones.

For veterans and their military service, “Life is like an MRE. Some days it’s good, some days it’s bad, you will certainly not miss them but you will miss the people you shared them with.”


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