There is a lot of interest in MREs. I am going to try to compare a few over the next few months so that you can see a little more of what you might get. This post is going to show you the vast difference between actual military MREs and ones that are made for the civilian market.
MRE Comparison: MRE Star Vs Western Frontier Warfighter
This is an actual for government use only MRE I found at a local discount grocery store. It was a mere $4 despite having a few years left before expiration.
What you get:
Beef Brisket Slices and Gravy Entree 210 calories
Au Gratin Potatoes Side 180 calories
Twizzlers Nibs 220 calories
Sterling Foods Chocolate Chunk Cookie TFF 280 calories
Sterling Foods White Wheat Snack Bread TFF 190 calories
Fortified Peanut Butter 250 calories
Grape Jelly 70
2 packets Irish Cream Coffee in pouches you can drink from 2 @ 120 calories=240 calories
Raspberry Beverage Packet for 20 oz water 5 calories
Total 1420 calories so someone working hard would need two of these and maybe more.
Other Things Included
Big Salt Packet
This was actually a decent and filling meal for an emergency if you don’t mind a lot of sugar and salt. Of course, if you are really hungry anything is going to taste good.
Matt and I both thought the snack bread, peanut butter, and jelly were good. The peanut butter has additional vitamins in it so that you have what you need in the bush.
I really wish I could have eaten the whole cookie. It was actually really good but I cannot eat a bunch o of wheat products. That doesn’t mean I didn’t taste it and wish I could have split it with Matt. It is a big cookie but it was broken when we opened it. I expected it to be really crumbly though considering that it is made to last a long time.
Beef Stew With Potatoes and Carrots 290 calories
Military Crackers 170 calories
Orange Drink Mix 90 calories
Spoon and regular napkin
Calorie Count: 550 versus 1420!
First of all the amount of calories is ridiculously different. The price of the MRE Star is very high for what you get. My cost was $7.50+ tax for a single MRE. There may be a little discount if you get a case.
If a person is working hard then they would need 4-5 of these to keep their body condition. That is not a good deal for those trying to put back food.
The actual military Warfighter MRE has enough calories that you would only need two of them to get through a day in most cases. I managed to get the Warfighter MRE on discount for $3.99 which is an amazing deal. I found the Warfighter MREs on Amazon. Please follow this link for the current pricing for a 24 meal case. As you will be able to see, they are a much better deal than the MRE Stars.
The important extras in an MRE can make a big difference in your quality of life
One of the big differences between the two MREs was that the Warfighter included items like gum and toilet paper that could help morale out in the field. Toilet paper is something that you really miss when you don’t have it. The MRE Star brand just contains a wet wipe and a tiny napkin.
Hygiene is important to your health so the extra toilet paper, wet wipe, and gum in the Warfighter could help out in that area. While gum is no replacement for brushing your teeth, a sugar-free gum like that included can help clean them at least some. A wet wipe can be used to wash off with and having enough toilet paper can prevent a variety of problems.
The Warfighter MRE tasted quite salty but they also included a large salt packet while the MRE Star just had a packet similar to what you get in take out food containers.
While we both considered the entrees from both plenty salty for us, it is important to remember that when you are sweating a lot and times are tough, you may need a lot of salt. Having some extra salt on hand could make a big difference when your body is under stress. Also if you find other food to eat or forage for food, extra salt could help improve the flavor.
The MRE Star had no caffeinated beverage. The Warfighter MRE included two cups of Irish Cream flavored coffee. The flavor is quite sweet and not what I am used to for sure but it would be a lot better than nothing. Having a little caffeine to help with fatigue can be very helpful.
Manufacture dates and codes
The MRE Star simply said it was good for up to 5 years if kept sealed. That is fine but I could not find any manufacturing date or expiration date stamp on the package. So how long is 5 years? Was the MRE made in 2018 or 2019? I could not find a way to see how much shelf life was left at the time of purchase.
The Warfighter MRE has a stamped code that you can look up online to see when it was manufactured. While a simple date would be easier, at least there is something I can go by to determine how much shelf life is left on my discount MRE. Without a date or stamp, I would be hesitant to buy any food in quantity for storage or SHTF.
It is important to note that MREs technically do not expire, they just go down in quality. Just because an MRE is past the recommended shelf life doesn’t mean it is not okay to eat. There have been many cases where people have eaten war ration foods many years after the recommended date.
How you store MREs is a major factor in how well they maintain quality and how long they will last. Too high temperatures, as well as freezing temperatures, can all have a negative impact on your shelf life.
Always check dates and codes before purchasing
If you run into a good deal on MREs you should take the time to double-check the date of manufacture. You can get some exceptional deals sometimes but part of the reason for this can be that the MREs are an older manufacture date so technically they have less shelf life.
I am not saying that it is not worth it to buy them necessarily, just that you should use them up faster and make sure you are getting a good enough price to make up for the fact that they are older.
My experience using MRE heaters
This comparison is my first time using MRE heaters. Both MREs had the same heater or so it seems. While the instructions say to give them 10-15 minutes to heat your food, I think that is awfully hopeful. In the case of the Warfighter MRE, the entrees were so large it was hard to fit them in the heater. I have to say that the larger the entrees, the longer you can expect it to take.
After 15 minutes the food in both the Warfighter and the MRE Star was lukewarm. It will take the cold edge off but if you want your food really hot before you eat it, you are going to be waiting a while. Maybe I did it wrong or just got impatient. I will be trying out others and making a note of the results of heating entrees.
Personally, if I was in a rough situation, I might not even bother using a heater unless it was so cold outside that I really needed to add some heat to a very cold MRE.
A trick that Matt read about for heating up an MRE when it is sunny and a bit warm is to just leave the entrees in the thick plastic coating and sit it in the sun to warm. Solar energy can heat up an entree pretty fast. Consider how hot the water in your garden hose is after laying in the sun for a short period of time and you will see how well this could work.
Conclusion: So far, civilian MREs appear to be a bit of a rip off that do not provide adequate calories or value. I cannot justify spending nearly $8 on 550 calories. Perhaps some of the other MRE Stars contain more but they would have to do a lot better for me to even consider them for any emergency. I have some other MRE Stars to test that are packaged more similarly to the Warfighter MREs. I am hopeful that these will be better even though they cost about the same as the MRE Star we taste-tested in this post.
I would advise either making your own fast meals to seal up or making an effort to find true military MREs. I will be testing out other MREs in the future and showing you how to put together your own MRE style rations.
For those on specialized diets or that have food allergies, I don’t recommend a lot of MREs. These are made with ingredients that a lot of people are sensitive too. In the MREs we tested for this post there was a significant amount of salt, sugar, peanuts, wheat, soy, etc. If you are not used to eating typical commercial foods and ingredients, it will probably take some time for you to adjust to the diet change if you have to eat MREs for any length of time.
The day of and the day after we tested these we didn’t feel that great. The meals were very salty, particularly the Warfighter Beef Brisket Slices and Au Gratin potatoes. We had parched mouths all night and they made us bloated. I imagine some of these symptoms would go away after we adjusted to eating this way.
Do you have any MRE recommendations? Have you had any luck with non-US Military MREs? If you are on a specialized diet, have you found any varieties that are compatible with your diet?