What’s Inside an MRE?

February 13, 2009

If you’re into preparedness, you may find yourself purchasing Meals Ready To Eat. The ones I have are military surplus, but there are others available commercially. I’ve opened one up for examination. Here are the contents:

  • Chicken, vegetables, and noodles in sauce
  • Sweetened pears (the back of the packet also has a postcard)
  • Pretzels
  • Crackers
  • Cheese spread
  • Cocoa beverage powder
  • Hot beverage bag
  • M&Ms
  • Spoon
  • Accessory pack: instant coffee with creamer and sugar, salt, Tabasco, moist towelette, toilet paper (not necessary for its given purpose, given the notoriously constipating effects of MREs, but would make decent tinder), pack of matches, two pieces gum
  • Chemical heater

Despite the jokes, most of them are reasonably good. They’re heavy, but self-contained. Having said that, unless you’re a 19-year-old lugging 75 pounds of gear in the 120-degree desert heat, that’s a big “meal.” In a survival situation, if food is scarce and you’re not overly active, ration them out throughout the day. For example:

  • Have pears and coffee for breakfast.
  • Pretzels at mid-morning
  • Crackers and cheese spread a couple of hours later
  • M&Ms in mid-afternoon
  • Entree and cocoa for dinner
  • Gum before bed

Now, in a situation where you’ll be exerting yourself, that’s not a lot of calories for a whole day, and you’ll want to supplement with other foods. I’m just suggesting a way to make the food last throughout a day so you wouldn’t be dreadfully hungry at any given time. In a bad emergency, think creatively about the many layers of packaging: could you use the very heavy plastic bag for something (water bag–may hold up to a quart)? Save the cardboard packaging and toilet paper for tinder. Save matches, always. If you don’t use your Tabasco, save it to trade with another traveler further on down the trail. If you take your coffee black, save the sugar packet anyway. If you get a stomach bug with diarrhea, you can mix it and a pinch of salt in some water to make a field-expedient rehydration drink. Never throw away the moist towelette or spoon (finger splint in a pinch, as well as many other uses).

Store in a cool, dry place for long storage life.

Thus endeth the lesson on the care and feeding of Meals Rejected by Ethiopians. 🙂

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