The Ins and Outs of MRE’s

Ready Nutrition – by Tess Pennington

Within days after Hurricane Katrina struck the coast of Louisiana, unprepared inhabitants were given MRE’s (meals ready to eat) and high calorie bars by emergency agencies to avoid starvation. This emergency food provided the hungry population with1,200 calorie/a day meals to not only alleviate the hunger, but to provide needed calories and nutrients, and regulate body functions. As unhappy as some of these individuals were for getting MRE’s and high calorie food bars, it saved their lives.  

The Ins

MRE’s and high calorie food bars are an excellent altervative food source if no food is available. Although this type of food source is meant to be a temporary source of food and has an acquired taste, it is handy to have on hand when you are in a pinch. During emergency situations, your activity levels significantly increase, if not double. Therefore, more calories will need to be added to the daily diet.

Ideally, in an emergency situation we want to have foods on hand that are high in calories, vitamins, nutrients, and proteins; but in certain cases, we must turn to alternative emergency foods. MRE’s and high calorie bars not only provide a body with high calories, but are a light weight alternative to use in bug out bags, carry in vehicle bug out bags, and to have on hand in case the primary emergency food source is unavailble. As convenient as these meals are, they should not be your main emergency food source. I like to think of MRE’s as my back-up for my back-up. When purchasing these types of food sources, ensure that you find MRE’s or high calorie bars that are:

  • Between $5-$7 per meal
  • Are non-thirst provoking
  • Provide high calories (at least 1,250 calories)
  • Have a long lasting shelf life (5 years or more)

The Outs

Because MRE’s are high in fats and low in fiber, they have a tendency to constipate the consumers. Ensure that you have some stool softeners in your medical supplies to help with this problem. Store MRE’s in a cool, dark area where you would normally store your food reserves. If MRE’s are exposed to temperature fluctuations, their expiration dates decrease by 50%. Buying cases of MRE’s could be on the expensive side due to the bulkiness of the MRE’s. On average, a case holds 12 MRE’s. If a person is going to buy a case of these, they should not plan to spend more than $50-$60.

Some of the more popular MRE’s and high calorie food bars are below:

  • 3600 Calorie ER bar – This bar has 3 days worth of nutrients and calories, thus being a great light weight alternative food source and is also non-thirst quenching. This bar is ready-to-eat and does not require any water to consume it.
  • Datrex bars – These are very popular and come in 3600 calorie units. Each bblock of the bar gives you 200 calories each (18 blocks). Datrex food rations are used by the American Red Cross and the U.S. Coast Guard. They are immune to heat or cold and the taste resembles a coconut cookie.
  • Mainstay Food bars –  These bars come in 3600 calorie units. But each bar in the block gives you 400 calories (with 9 bars) instead of 200 calories as with the Datrex bars. These food bars are approved by the US Coast Guard and Department of Defense. These have a very popular vanilla/lemon flavored ‘cookie dough’ taste and have been rated #1 for taste according to Nitropak. Mainstay is Kosher-approved and it meets the dictates for Halal. Another benefit is that each bar exceeds the RDA requirements of vitamins and minerals.
  • MRE’s – MRE’s are completely self-contained, easy-to-prepare meals you can take with you anywhere on the go, in a boogie-bag or even backpacking or camping. MRE’s have a decent shelf life of 3 – 10 years so they are also a good option for emergency food storage. MRE’s are durable and give you a high calorie meal  – which is needed for intense physical situations like camping, relief work or emergency situations.
  • Mayday bars – This bar offers 2, 400 calories, which is equivalent to having meals for two days and is ready-to-eat.
  • Make your own –  An alternative to the alternative is to make your own 2,400 calorie survival bars. This recipe is easy enough to include the kid’s help. In fact, have them pick out their favorite jello flavor for a customized survival bar. Click here for the recipe.

Having a supply of MRE’s and high calorie bars in your preparedness supplies can help assist in sustaining your immediate needs if you happen to be in an emergency situation where you are away from your supplies or in a bug out situation.

Prepper's Cookbook

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Cookbook: 300 Recipes to Turn Your Emergency Food into Nutritious, Delicious, Life-Saving Meals. When a catastrophic collapse cripples society, grocery store shelves will empty within days. But if you follow this book’s plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply, your family will have plenty to eat for weeks, months or even years. Visit her web site at

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

2 thoughts on “The Ins and Outs of MRE’s

  1. About a year ago I bought 6 cases of MRE’S and checked the contents. Well they were stripped out by whoever got them and was charging people FULL PRICE for stripped out cases of foods.

    The condiments were missing . The extras that are in them from the forks knives (plastic) to toilet paper can opener,salt/pepper,and all the little extras that are packed had all been taken out by Someone.

    Things Missing

    Side Dish
    Desert snack
    Toilet paper
    Cheese peanut butter and jelly
    Instant coffee and tea
    Beverage mix bag
    Accessory pack
    Chewing gum
    Water resistant matches
    Napkin / toilet paper
    Moist towelette
    Seasonings, including salt, black pepper,sugar, creamer, Tabasco sauce.

    So be sure that anyone buying MRE’S get the address and telephone numbers BEFORE ordering and someone’s name.
    It is shame to pay anywhere from $65-80 dollars a case of MRE’S and getting ripped off.

Join the Conversation

Your email address will not be published.