How Long Do MREs Last

In an emergency situation, it may take days or even weeks for some places to get fresh food. Roads may be blocked, utility lines may be shut down, and in the event of a power outage, everything that needs to be cooled will fail within a few hours or days, so it is very important to have food stored long-term. That means remembering to store MRES so that you have long shelf life MRE supplies on hand.

What is an MRE?

MRE stands for “Meal Ready to Eat” and are standard military field rations. Due to MRE shelf life, they have been welcomed in the prepper community and are gaining wide popularity in the recent years. The popularity of MRE has to do with its versatility: They come ready to eat, have lightweight packaging, can withstand cool temperatures and tough storage conditions. No refrigeration required either. Storage space isn’t much of an issue either since you can cram an MRE packet of beef stew just about anywhere. Whether it’s for disaster preparedness or just to eat meals during hikes, MRE manufacturers make MREs so practical that they are usually an essential part of emergency rations that you should always take with you. Just check the manufacture date, although it’s unlikely you’ll get sick even from older mres or damaged packaging. These things are tough. The food can be tough to eat, too. Most MREs are thought of as a military food, since it was originally developed by the military, but there are a lot of companies out there who want you to eat their mres.

Most MRE has two types, wet and dry. The wet version can be eaten without heating or as a hot meal, and the dry version is a dehydrated food that must be added with water. The texture and taste might not be the best, but you’re looking for good calories, not fine dining. Of course, camping on weekends and sharing your MRE military rations with friends may sound like a pleasant experience, but if you live on them for weeks or months, they can become tiresome.

However, the standard MRE has a very important purpose. It provides essential nutrients and energy that can be easily supplied. An MRE is fast, easy to use, and will help you survive. Of course, not everything tastes great or looks particularly good, but when things get tough, some sacrifices must be made. This is a normal case in the military, whether it is training or real life situation. This is the case when you use MRE and not just for prepping to sit at home and eat high-calorie foods.

Testing Out Some MREs!

We went out and bought some MRE’s and tried them so you don’t have to. Surprisingly, some of them were pretty darn good. Not that we’d rather have one of these instead of a home-cooked meal, but these made for some surprisingly good camping food. Not the most scientific test, but we are buying MREs for the taste right now!

What Do MREs Contain?

Every MRE contains essential nutrients and calories you need in a meal.


You might be pleasantly surprised. Usually, it includes a main dish, side dish, maybe pound cakes or desserts, then sweets and hot beverages (such as instant coffee, milk powder and sugar), and some snacks or candies.


They can also include spoons or forks, napkins and flameless heaters for warming up main dishes.


Military MREs contains approximately 1,250 calories, although the civilian equivalent is sometimes a little less. Three meals a day still give you with more calories than what most people require.


How Long Do MREs Last?

Many stores sell military MREs these days. Many MREs are available from civilian sources as well, they aren’t just for military use. Although they have no specific shelf life, MRE (meals ready to eat) stored at 80 degrees Fahrenheit should be safe to consume for up to three years. Still, check the estimated expiration date since shelf life depends on storage condition and manufacturing date. On the label, you’ll be looking for the MRE inspection expiration date, the manufacturing date, or an inspection date. One of those dates should be displayed on your MRE so you can get a good idea of your MRE shelf life. If you keep your MRE in cool temperatures and in the dark, you can count on them lasting up to ten years. That’s quite a while.


When stored at a significantly lower temperature, like in the freezing cold, part or all of the contents can be stored for up to five years. On the contrary, if allowed to bake in the Texas sun, they can only last for a month or two. Extreme weather conditions are not a good thing for MRE shelf life. Neither is direct sunlight, despite MREs being blocked from the sun.


If you are not sure about the storage conditions of MRE, the date of manufacture may not be meaningful. Just because MRE has passed the three-year mark for a few months does not mean that it is unsafe to eat.


However, most prepping experts recommend replacing the MREs after five years. The longer they are stored, the worse their taste and nutritional value becomes. Some foods, such as cheese and peanuts, will deteriorate despite disinfection and preservatives. Furthermore, if the MREs are exposed to extreme temperatures that can damage the food, it should also be tossed away.


Many preppers eat MREs that are ten or fifteen years old, even older. This is not impossible, but MRE consumption exceeding the five-year mark may be a risk. Contrary to popular belief, it is impossible to judge whether food is safe to eat based on smell alone. It doesn’t make sense to keep a box of emergency food that will later cause food poisoning, so pay close attention to your MRE and understand when this happens, it’s time to throw away the old packages and replenish your supply.


How to Properly Store your MREs to Extend its Shelf Life?

MREs are not cheap, so preppers need to make sure that they last as long as possible, especially if you don’t use them often. MREs may be durable, but not bulletproof under all circumstances. If stored in an unsuitable environment, they may deteriorate early before the expiration date, which will make users feel disheartened when the package is finally opened. Owners should take care to store them properly to extend their shelf life as much as possible.


You can extend the shelf life by buying a new containers of MREs. At that time, buying second-hand groceries seemed like a saving a few bucks, but if you had to replace them after two years instead of five years, you would still end up spending your money.


Like most foods, MRE is best stored in a cool temperature, dry place away from direct exposure of sunlight. Although they are tightly sealed and should not be damaged by water, they should be kept away from the floor to avoid possibly pests.


Generally, it is not well recommended to freeze MREs. Freezing can damage laminated bags, especially when thawing and refreezing the contents multiple times (for example, in the event of a power failure). Though, freezing would be a huge factor to extending its shelf life and this may be a risk you want to take if you have a long-term power supply.


You don’t want to reach your MREs in some kind of an emergency, only to find out that they are several years past its prime. Therefore, always check your supplies and set a rotation of your meals as needed.


What I think About MREs

MRE should be mainly used in emergency situations. Although they are rich in energy and nutrients, they do not need to be consumed often. MRE is most suitable for emergency situations such as fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and other natural or man-made disasters where most foods are not available. Some hikers and tourists who love adventures also carry MREs with them during their trips, because they do not need to be refrigerated and contain many vitamins and minerals to conserve their energy throughout the day. That’s just fine if you can afford it, but MREs are usually best saved for emergencies and survival situations. That’s why they are an essential part of prepping. 

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