Why MREs Make Great Emergency Food
While you might not want to make MREs, meals ready to eat,
your entire emergency food supply, it certainly is a good idea to have a
quantity of them on hand. During a
disaster or emergency, you might have no electric power, meaning that
perishable food will soon spoil. If you
have an electric stove, you will also not be able to cook. MREs are designed to be equally palatable
whether they are eaten cold or hot, although most people will want to warm them
before they are consumed.
When MREs first made their appearance in the 1960s, they
were food for soldiers in the field, and had been developed by the U.S.
Army. These early MREs were considered
to be pretty grim, and were given designations such as ‘meals rejected by
everyone’ and ‘materials resembling edibles’.
Fortunately, by the 1990s, steps had been taken to not only provide more
variety in the MREs, but also to make them more palatable. Today, manufacturers of MREs supply these
meals not only to the military but to the general public.
MREs have advanced far from the days when one of the meals
was referred to as the ‘four fingers of death’, to delicious meals such as
buffalo chicken, spaghetti with meat sauce, pork rib, and beef brisket. These meals are enjoyed even by children, who
are generally fussy eaters. There are
even MREs made for vegetarians such as vegetable lasagna and veggie burger with
Heating A MRE
Although MREs are fully cooked and designed to be eaten
cold, most people will want to warm their meal up before eating it, especially
if it’s cold. MREs (unopened) can be put
into a pot of clean water and boiled for 4 to 5 minutes to heat
thoroughly. You can also use flameless
ration heaters to warm the food up to about 100 degrees F.
Shelf Life and
Commercially dehydrated and freeze dried food has a very
long shelf life, up to 25 years, as long as it is kept in the proper
conditions. MREs, on the other hand,
have a shorter shelf live, and under ideal storage conditions can generally be
expected to retain all their nutritional qualities for up to 5 years. However, this shelf life can be shortened if
the MREs are exposed to higher than normal temperatures. The pouches that contain these meals are
designed to be resistant to damage.
Freezing in itself will not impact the MRE, but repeated cycles of
freezing and thawing can cause the pouch itself to lose its integrity and
render the meal useless because of contamination.
As MREs were originally used by soldiers in the field, they
were designed to provide complete nutrition.
Each complete MRE (appetizer, soup, main course, dessert) provides
approximately 1200 calories, although the individual meals will, of course, be
less. While you might not want to serve
your family MREs on a permanent basis, they do make ideal emergency rations,
especially when normal cooking is impossible.