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The 5 Best MRE Alternatives for Emergency Situations

Avatar for Jodie Weston Jodie Weston  |  Updated: August 1, 2022
The 5 Best MRE Alternatives for Emergency Situations

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MRE’s (or Meals, Ready-to-Eat) are compacted meals devised to resist rough conditions and survive long lifespans. They were created for the United States Armed Forces, however, they’ve also found their way into the backpacks of survivalists.

Though MRE’s are convenient, there’s ongoing disdain over how sufficient they really are (check out out this article for more disdain). They’re bulky, heavy, expensive, and highly temperature sensitive.

It’s been noted that leaving an MRE in over 100-degree weather for just one day takes the life expectancy down by an entire month.

On top of this, MRE’s are loaded with an excessive amount of MSG (monosodium glutamate). This chemical has been associated with numerous diseases and poor conditions (as well as addiction).

Due to these offsets, people are looking for alternatives for an MRE. Though there are only products to be compared to, it shouldn’t be forgotten that an MRE is nothing more than long lasting food.

1. Humanitarian Daily Ration

Referred to as HDRs, Humanitarian Daily Ration is a spin-off of MRE. Meant to supply food for large amounts of displaced people or refugees under emergency situations.

They are cheaper (by 1/5th of the cost) and available at places like Salvation Army to aid victims of poverty.

The biggest difference between HDRs and MREs is the fact that they don’t contain animal products or by-products. This was implemented as a way to provide for a variety of people with religious and/or dietary limitation.

Also, HDRs don’t have a flameless ration heater like MREs.

Each HDR is meant to provide a full day’s worth of nutrients, supplying 2,200 calories.

The meal is ready to eat from the package. However, just like with MREs, they’re more desirable when heated in boiling water.

These include the entrees:

  • Lentil or barley stew
  • Yellow or herb rice
  • Red beans and rice
  • Beans and rice with tomato sauce
  • Peas in tomato soup
  • Beans with tomato

The sides:

  • Shortbread
  • Fig bar
  • Vegetable crackers
  • Peanut butter
  • Strawberry jam
  • Fruit pastry

The accessories:

  • Book of matches
  • Salt, pepper, and sugar packets
  • Packet of crushed red pepper
  • Moist towelette
  • Paper napkin
  • Plastic spoon

The only major difference between the two products that might throw consumers off is that HDRs don’t last as long as MREs. Each HDR has an expectancy of around three years while MREs have been known to last for up to a decade.

Still, this is the only product out there that can truly compare to the MRE while complying to a vegetarian’s lifestyle.

If you’re looking for something healthier than an MRE, yet, sufficient in the way MREs are supplied, the HDR is a rational choice. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find HDR’s readily. Online supplies are spotty at best, but you can sometimes find them locally at surplus stores. If you DO get your hands on some, it might be worth stocking up as they are not readily available to the public.

2. Eversafe

One of the civilian products for an MRE. It can be said that it was created for survivalists like you and me.

Due to the fact that Wornick (Eversafe’s manufacturer) was getting so many requests for MREs, they decided to create a product offered to anyone. 

The comparisons between Eversafe and MREs are substantial.

Besides some minor differences (like spoon sizes and beverage options) the two are nearly identical. Though it should be noted, there is less of a variety with Eversafe than there is with MREs.

There are six menu options to chose from. Within each meal, you’ll find instant coffee, creamer, salt, pepper, napkin, and a spoon.

*With these first three meals, you’re given chunky peanut butter, crackers, and cinnamon imperials in each.

Menu 1:

  • Spaghetti with meatball sauce
  • Cran-apple ranger bar

Calorie count: 1,240

Menu 2:

  • Chili and macaroni
  • Granola with milk and blueberries

Calorie count: 1,340

Menu 3:

  • Chicken with noodles
  • Pepperoni pizza cheese crackers

Calorie count: 1,280

*With the following three meals, you’re given pepperoni pizza cheese crackers, jalapeño cheese spread, vegetable crackers, and cinnamon imperials in each.

  • Menu 4: spicy penne pasta
    Calorie count: 1,240
  • Menu 5: chili with beans
    Calorie count: 1,270
  • Menu 6: vegetable lasagna
    Calorie count: 1,220

This is an alternative for those interested in using MREs for their personal explorations. That being said, it might seem like the perfect choice for us survivalist.

It’s affordable, it’s made for the public, and it’s made practically the same as an MRE.

However, there are brands outside of Warnick that have been producing MREs for the United States Armed Forces. Likewise, they’re creating civilian MREs.

3. Ameriqual APack

Ameriqual happens to be the largest manufacturer of MREs for the U.S. military.

The civilian pack they released in 2006, is identical to that which they give the Armed Forces (except for the beverage mix).

Therefore, if you’re a veteran and have been looking for the meals you enjoyed in service, Ameriqual has you covered.

Their product is just as sustainable as an MRE. You can expect it to last the same longevity and resist similar conditions.

Likewise, you’ll find the flame ration heater to be an exact duplicate of the military version.

Unlike with Eversafe, the menu items show much more of a variety.

*Within each of these APacks, you’re given crackers and raisins.

Menu 1:

  • Beef stew
  • Peanut butter
  • Strawberry toaster pastry
  • Oatmeal cookie
  • Beverage tube, orange

Calorie count: 1,300

Menu 2:

  • Spaghetti with meat and sauce
  • Peanut butter
  • Strawberry toaster pastry
  • Oatmeal cookie
  • Beverage tube, fruit punch

Calorie count: 1,300

Menu 3:

  • Chicken, noodles, vegetables
  • Cheese spread
  • Fig bar
  • Shortbread cookie
  • Beverage tube, lemonade

Calorie count: 1,180

Menu 4:

  • Chicken tetrazzini
  • Cheese spread
  • Fig bar
  • Shortbread cookie
  • Beverage tube, orange

Calorie count: 1,140

Menu 5:

  • Chili with beans
  • Peanut butter
  • Fig bar
  • 2 shortbread cookies
  • Beverage tube, fruit punch

Calorie count: 1,220

Menu 6:

  • Chicken with black beans and rice
  • Cheese spread
  • Fig bar
  • Shortbread cookie
  • Beverage tube, fruit punch

Calorie count: 1,190

4. Coyote Camp Fireline Chow

Originally created by firefighters for use in firefighting environments, SAR events, and disaster relief efforts, Coyote Camp has created a different kind of alternative to MREs.

The packaging is all very similar to what you’d find in the other alternatives above, however, that is the only similarity.

The major difference between Coyote Camp Fireline Chow and other MREs is the fact that it is entirely implemented of commercial off-the-shelf items. Everything you’ll find in the package is an immediately recognizable brand.

The reason it’s on the list is that I know some people out there will prefer eating something with a familiar look and taste. This is one of the advantages Coyote Camp has over other MREs.

The biggest concern with this product is the fact that it doesn’t have a shelf-life that lasts as long as the other products on this list.

Also, being that you can purchase all the items in any convenient store, you can easily make up your own Coyote Camp Fireline Chow. One with flavors that will better suit your tastes.

There are five different meal options to choose from. It should be noted that the brands contained in each are random.

Therefore, I’ve listed the food you can expect to get with each option.

Standard Meal:

  • One entree of a rotating variety (beef, poultry, pork, vegetarian)
  • Fruit cup and fruit juice
  • Energy component
  • Granola bar and cookie
  • Electrolyte replacement
  • Multivitamin
  • Flatware/napkin

Calorie count: 1,100-1,300

Super Meal:

  • Two entrees of a rotating variety (beef, poultry, pork, vegetarian)
  • Fruit cup and juice
  • Energy component
  • Granola bar and cookie
  • Electrolyte replacement
  • Multivitamin
  • Flatware/napkin

Calorie count: 1,400-1,650

Hotline Meal:

This is the exact same menu as the Standard Meal except for a water-activated heating element.

Calorie count: 1,100-1,300


  • One entree of a rotating variety (beef, poultry, pork, vegetarian)
  • Fruit pouch
  • Energy component
  • Snacks (cookies, crackers)
  • Candy
  • Juice pouch
  • Multivitamin
  • Flatware/napkin
  • Water-activated heating element

Calorie count: 1,100-1,300


This is the exact same menu as the Sportsman-Pac without the fruit pouch and multivitamin.

Calorie count: 650-750

5. Do-It-Yourself MRE

As mentioned above, you can always go to your local market, buy long-lasting food items, and put it together just as you’d find in an MRE (this can be easily done through a Mylar Bag).

However, the purpose of our last option is to give you a list of recipe items with long-lasting shelf-life. Some cooking talent is going to be necessary, but at the end of the day, this is a sufficient means of survival food.

If you’re looking for the essentials of starting your food storage, click here.

First, I’m going to note the four flavorings known for their extensive expiration:

  • Salt
  • Sugar (brown or white)
  • Raw honey
  • Alcohol (whiskey, rum, vodka, etc.)

The following are the foundations common in most cooking recipes and can last for nearly a decade:

  • Buckwheat
  • Dry corn
  • Kamut
  • Hard red wheat
  • Soft white wheat
  • Millet
  • Durum wheat
  • Spelt
  • Barley
  • Oat groats
  • Quinoa
  • Rye
  • Pinto beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Lima beans
  • Adzuki beans
  • Garbanzo beans
  • Mung beans
  • Black turtle beans
  • Blackeye beans
  • All purpose flour
  • White flour
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Cornmeal
  • Pasta
  • White rice
  • Coconut oil

In terms of short-term emergency, the following items will last around half a decade:

  • Canned tuna
  • Canned meats
  • Canned vegetables and fruit
  • Peanut butter
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Ramen noodles
  • Hard candy
  • Powdered milk
  • Dried herbs and spices
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Baking soda

Lastly, all MREs contain non-food items. Usually, instruments for eating.

But being that this is your own survival kit, you can take it one step further and add some basic necessities.

  • Bic lighters
  • Toilet paper
  • Soaps
  • Bottled water
  • Vitamins
  • Medicines
  • Bandages
  • Peroxide
  • Lighter fluid
  • Canning supplies
  • Charcoal

Mixing and matching any of the above listed will ensure your survival adventures just as well as an MRE, if not better.

Final Word

These are what I have chosen as my top MRE alternatives. I made my decisions to comply with the majority of people.

I have an option for vegetarians, affordability, similarity to MREs given out in the U.S. army, brand-named MREs, and a personal collection of what’s necessary for survival.

Also, if you are looking for some mid term food options, be sure to check out out this review of Mountain House.

In fact, there are a whole bunch of great survival food companies here that you should check out. While these meal options are not MREs per se, they are another good long term emergency food solution

What About Gluten Free?

If the DIY option is not feasible, see this post here on Gluten free meal pouches.

Otherwise, the ones discussed in this article are the most versatile, giving options to everyone’s circumstance.

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15 Responses to “The 5 Best MRE Alternatives for Emergency Situations”

  1. I have a couple of MREs in the go-bag I keep at home, but not in the bugout bag I keep in the car at all times – they are too sensitive to heat for that. The vehicle emergency kit contains (as far as food goes): a cooler full of cartons of water (DON’T keep plastic water bottles in your car, the chemicals leach out and cause cancer!) with various freeze dried snacks on top (Trader Joe’s Freeze Dried berries; Moon Cheese; pemmican bars; bouillon, instant oatmeal, cuppa soups; dried seaweed snacks), and a Mountain House “Classic” bucket which contains 12 large meals – along with a large bottle of “Survival tabs” and “Survive amino”. The advantage of Mountain House is that you can cook and eat right out of the same envelope, you don’t need a mess kit as you do with MREs. I also carry a cook kit containing a 750 ml titanium cook cup, small compressed sponge and 1 oz bottle of Camp Soap, titanium folding utensils, smallest Solo stove, and Esbit folding stove with fuel tabs, along with my Lifestraw and water purification tabs. I have also made up a large plastic tote full of homemade accessory packs (each one in a ziploc bag): disposable utensils wrapped in a paper napkin (a good one, not those fast food ones that dissolve), a packet of tissues, 2 wet naps, a floss pick, a multivitamin, a book of matches, a hard candy, and 2 beverages (breakfast packs have instant coffee and Tang, lunch have coffee and an electrolyte drink, dinner have an electrolyte drink and either hot chocolate or apple cider). The bugout bag I keep in the house for quick escapes has lighter weight options – Mountain House meals, shelf-stable sandwiches, “Survive amoni”, “Survival Tabs”, jerky, and freeze dried fruits.

  2. I would like to see information on pricing. I would expect MRE alternatives to be less expensive than an MRE. And as for Vegetarian options, I just bought a few recently packaged Ratatouille MREs for $12 each.

    Are you presenting lower-cost healthier options, or are you just advertising products?

    • Where did you find these?! Definitely not trying to just advertise (see the DIY option – actually the “best” option if you can do it). We are planning a follow on piece entirely dedicated to DIY MREs ideas.

  3. I’m curious if you are going to inform the readers about free ebooks for kindle as Ms. Levy had done going forward?

    • Yes, we will continue to do these giveaways both on site and alert followers via the same Facebook fan page about relevant kindle promotions.

  4. The link for eversafe and Humanitarian Daily Ration both point to the same place on amazon. both point to eversafe.

    • Fixed! These are actually super hard to find, but if anyone has a good source online let me know and I’d be happy to link to.

  5. Interesting and informative article. Can’t wait to delve into the links for additional research/resource.

    • Updated with a link to Gluten free freeze dried options at the end (previously published).

    • Sue, don’t worry about gluten-free options When SHTF, individuals with real or imagined food sensitivities will not survive more than a few days.

    • First off i have celiac disease it is a real auto immune disease. I wish it was a fake thing, but when i eat something with gluten I generally end up in the hospital And yes when shtf I will survive. There are may other company’s that do make gf emergency foods. I also have made my own etc. Just the way this was written said its for everyone! Certainly is not. Also i can purchase simple things such as vegetables, fruits, meats, beans and rice etc. Easy to do. But this food/company is NOT for everyone.

    • There are definitely different options. 1) there are gluten free food pouches. 2) DIY options can account for any diet restriction, medical or otherwise. Lastly, if you have a survival garden you can sustain for long term. More to follow on this! Will have series on planning and sustaining gardens down the road.

      Anyone who has eaten MREs for an extended period of time knows that while they “check the box” in terms of calories/nutrition, it’s less than ideal. Personally, I think of MREs as a mid-term strategy and/or emergency food to consume on the go. Ideally, you have a fallback position where you can hunker down for the long haul.

    • Exactly, I have a huge garden each season, I have chickens, and ducks. For MRe’s yes, if you have to bug out for a while they are a convienent food. But to be told that someone with a real or imaginative disease would not survive was out of line and upsetting.

    • Agreed. I’ll leave the comment because I think the response has been educational. Let’s stick to evidence-based statements in the future. For example, I’d be fascinated to learn “why” that would be case? Perhaps it could be the subject of a longer form article. There are plenty of ways to survive.

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