Whether it’s your turn to cook dinner or you’re preparing for an emergency situation; MREs are always handy to have around.
On this page, I’ll show you where to buy MRE meals cheap and answer the most common questions about them, like how long they last, how to read the expiration date, and what each menu item includes.
I will cover everything you could ever want to know about them, including what websites have MREs for sale and exactly where I would buy them. I also want to show some popular alternatives that may better serve you.
You’ll have to decide between Civilian or Military MRE meals (I cover the pros and cons below). I’ll also show you where you can buy them individually, by the case, or in bulk cheap! You might also want to check out my review on long-term food storage and Emergency Food Rations.
Under the first heading, I show you where and how my family gets bulk food with a 30 year shelf life. It’s a hidden gem for bulk food almost nobody knows about.
There is a navigation menu just below this paragraph. If you click a heading will take you directly to that respective part of the article, so you don’t have to read this entire review if you don’t want. So, for example, if you want to know how long do MREs last, or how to read the expiration date, just click on the heading.
Quick Navigation Menu:
- What is a Meal Ready to Eat (MRE)
- How Long do MREs Last?
- Where to Buy MREs
- MRE Meals FAQ
- History of Meals Ready to Eat
- MRE Meals list (Case A and Case B)
It seems like most people that come to this page are wondering where to buy MREs either by the case or in bulk. If that’s you, just click the “where to buy” heading above and it will take and I cover all your options. I also made tables with a full MRE meals list at the bottom of the page. You can see exactly what each menu item includes, so you can decide between whether you prefer case A or case B.
What I Learned While in the Marines
MREs are no home cooked meal, but in terms of utility and shelf life, they’re hard to beat, which is why they’re widely used by nearly every military around the world. They are many types (I’ll show you the most common and best MREs to buy below depending on your budget) and the quality varies greatly depending on the brand.
Generally, each case contains 12 packets. Each packet contains a meal, that is more accurately called a “menu item.” There are two case variations, A and B. Case A contains menu items 1-12, while case B contains items 13-24, so if you find you like one menu selection better, you can just order more of that type of case. We will go over what each menu item at the very bottom of the page.
Some menu items are amazing (Beef Taco), while others I’d advise staying away from… or passing on to your friends/family.
Anyway, this review is going to be long, so like I said before if you don’t want to read the entire thing just click on the heading above to go to the part of the article you want more information about. If are looking to buy MREs, check out the where to buy MREs section to see your options.
What is a Meal Ready to Eat (MRE)
A MRE meal is an individuality packed vacuum sealed meal designed to be lightweight, long lasting, and provide essential nutrition. They contain a main meal, which is identified on the face of the package, along with accessories and beverages. These meals contain a lot of calories (about 1250 on average) to supply the body with energy when conventional food supplies are not readily available.
Although MREs were designed for military members, many civilians stock up on them to use as emergency food in case of emergencies or natural disasters. The world is a crazy place nowadays, so it’s definitely a good idea to have a long term food supply. Some people will think you’re crazy, but that’s ok. These people are usually highly dependent and are the first ones to pass when things go south (natural selection can be a good thing).
Some MREs come with a convenient water-activated heating element. It’s basically a plastic bag with magnesium, iron, and table salt. When these minerals and compounds come in contact with water it triggers a flameless chemical reaction producing heat. All you need to do is tear the plastic bag open and add a small amount of water (there is a fill line marked on the bag so you can’t mess up), and then slip your main entrée into the bag. If you do add too much or not enough water it’s not a big deal, it just won’t get as hot.
How Long do MREs Last?
Per the GoArmy website, military MRE meals “must maintain a shelf life of at least three and a half years when stored at 80 degrees Fahrenheit.” Meal Kit Supply, a company that makes civilian MREs, says their product has an estimated shelf life of 5.5 years when stored at 70 degrees, which I think is a conservative estimate.
MRE shelf life really depends on the temperature they are stored at (storing at cooler temperatures makes them last longer). Most don’t even have an expiration date. I can attest they can be still safe to consume after over 10 years if stored correctly (although I would advise against it).
I remember in basic training we brought to our drill instructors attention that our issued MREs were over 14 years old. He assured us “MREs don’t expire,” which is not exactly right… It is true, however, that they don’t technically have an expiration date, because how long MREs last depends on how and what temperature they are stored. I mean, I never got sick after eating the Meals Ready to Eat that were over 14 years old, and I’m still alive to write this review. That said, I still don’t recommend eating MREs over 10 years past their Julian, or production date, unless it’s necessary. Just buy fresh MREs every 5 years or so, they’re cheap considering how long they last and everything included.
As I said above you won’t technically know when a MRE expires. Sometimes, however, the accessories inside, like the candy, will have an expiration date. Not too long ago I ate a pack of sour skittles from an MRE that was over 5 years expired, and they still tasted good. That said, when you’re in the middle of the desert everything tastes good.
If you buy from a reputable supplier and store your Meals Ready to Eat in your basement or a cool area, they should be safe to eat for a very long time (10 years or so) after the Julian date, although around 5 years is probably more optimal.
For more information on how to read MRE expiration date, visit the FAQ section at the bottom of the page.
Where to Buy MREs
If you’re looking to buy high quality MREs that are actually fresh, unlike a lot that are being sold online, I recommend checking out the MRE suppliers listed below.
I recommend these suppliers because they store them correctly, which means they’ll have years of shelf life remaining.
They also have pretty cheap prices and shipping is fair considering the weight of the box being shipped.
I cannot stress enough how important enough it is to buy MREs that where stored correctly. If you want to know more about shelf life, I made some easy to read info-graphics above. That’s why sometimes buying packets that were actually once in a military theater isn’t a smart idea.
Because they might have been baking in a 100+ degree storage container for a long period of time. That’s uncommon nowadays, but you get the idea.
With the suppliers listed below, you can rest assured you’ll receive fresh MREs.
Where to Buy Military MREs:
You can find case A MRE meals below menu items 1-12), they’re a reliable supplier.
The same supplier also sells case B MRE meals (menu items 13-24), I recommend the picking them up at the site below.
Sometimes if you buy case A and case B together you can get a slightly better price, but check the seller’s page to verify you’re actually getting a better deal. You can buy case A and case B together below.
Here is another good supplier on Amazon that sells MREs with a 2017 pack date and 2020 inspection date, which means they should be good until around 2022 or longer.
If you want to buy civilian MREs, I recommend buying Meal Kit Supplies meals ready to eat. They are high quality and made in the USA. They look and are packed a little different than military food packs, but the contents are very similar. They have a typical shelf life of around 5 years. Another big plus is they are pre-cooked, contain a healing element, have vegetarian meal options, and contain no preservatives. These meals are great to take backpacking, adding to your car emergency kit, or other emergency food supply. The manufacturer notes the estimated shelf life when stored at the various temperatures on their website.
Looking to Buy in Bulk? See Below
Meal Kit Supply Civilian MRE Shelf Life:
70 degrees – 5.5 years
80 degrees – 4 years
90 degrees – 2.5 years
100 degrees – 1.5 years
Note for Meal Kit Supply MREs: Menu items for Meal Kit Supply MREs will not match the menu items at the bottom of the page. I have listed the Meal Kit Supply menu items directly below. Each meal also contains a heating element, 6″ spoon, instant coffee, creamer, salt, pepper, sugar, wet nap, and napkin. Each case also contains 7 cocoa beverage powder mixes and 4 hot sauce packets. See the menu list below. There are 8 dinners and 4 breakfast MREs in each case. You can see a full list of menus at the bottom of the page.
- Beef Taco
- Chili Macaroni
- Spaghetti and Meat Sauce
- Vegetarian Taco Pasta
- Vegetarian Cheese Tortellini
- Meatballs and Marinara Sauce
- Beef Ravioli in Meat Sauce
- Vegetarian Vegetable Lasagna
- Beef Ravioli in Meat Sauce
- Sausage Patty with Hash Browns
- Apply Maple Oatmeal
- Sausage Patty with Hash Browns
- Apple Maple Oatmeal (Vegetarian)
Mountain House Classic Meals (Best MRE Alternative)
If you’re looking for lightweight meals that are perfect for something like backpacking or camping, these are a very solid choice to consider and they actually work very similarly to a regular MRE. Of course, these are not military-style MRE’s but I think for a lot of our readers who are outdoorsman, these will fulfill a very similar role and might actually save you a bit of money.
These buckets are available in a 12 pack or 24 pack and consist of beef stroganoff with noodles, chicken teriyaki with rice, beef stew, lasagna and meat sauce, chicken and noodles, and blueberry granola with milk.
The way these are explained and marketed is kind of confusing so let me try and clear things up in terms of meals and servings. The way these are sold is in “servings”, hence the numbers being used as 58 or 29, when in reality, the servings of each of the foods listed above come in quantities of 12 or 24 total. For example, in the 58 serving bucket, you would receive 24 total pouches with two of each of the meals I listed.
The price for the buckets may seem high but these are excellent quality meals that offer quite a bit of calories without much addition in terms of weight to your pack. These are purpose-built for those of you trekking long distances and burning through mass amounts of calories that need low weight options to replenish your energy.
Something really awesome to consider is that these don’t necessarily have to be “cooked” entirely to be edible. Of course, you’d sacrifice a bit of taste quality but in a pinch, these can be mixed with water and eaten after about 20 minutes with no heating element applied.
Mountain House Breakfast Bucket
Similar to the standard Mountain House breakfast buckets, these are simply outstanding methods of bringing easy to prepare breakfast meals with you on the go. I think these would be best suitable for those of you venturing out on multi-day high-intensity hikes with the absolute necessity of a high-calorie boost before setting off.
These buckets offer 30 servings inside of 16 total pouches of ultra-lightweight meals that are ready in less than 10 minutes at a price under a hundred bucks. In simple terms, that’s a steal and I’m actually buying some right now, so, yeah, they’re certainly Marine Approved!
So, what’s for breakfast? As someone who has lived on MRE’s for long periods, I can certainly back up the claims of them getting old very quickly and becoming more of a forceful habit than a pleasurable meal experience, however, Mountain House breakfast pouches are a totally different ball game and offer meals that actually rival the quality of what I cook at home. You’ll get a variety of the following four options: Peppered eggs and ham, Blueberry granola and milk, a pork and egg skillet with hashbrowns and other vegetables like peppers and onions, and finally a good old’ egg and bacon delight.
Big fan of biscuits and gravy? Yeah, me too. Unfortunately, the breakfast variety bucket doesn’t include them but Mountain House gives you the option to buy them yourself, which can be found as individual packs on Amazon here. If you’re like me and you like variety but you also like pretty much everything, I’d suggest buying the breakfast bucket and picking up a few pouches of biscuits and gravy to further exemplify variety!
I didn’t mention the bucket itself in this review or the aforementioned one so let’s talk about that. In buying MRE’s, you usually just get them in a cardboard box that ends up being more of a nuisance than a reliable method of storage and transportation. The bucket idea Mountain House has going on here is really great because it’s tough and sealable for those of you going camping in bear country. Of course, you wouldn’t want to hike around with the bucket, but for storing the excess meals you aren’t bringing along with you at base camp or leaving the bucket in your car is a really great method of utilizing these MRE-wannabe’s.
MRE Cookie Packs
If you’ve been searching for an ultra-lightweight option to carry around a method that satisfies your sweet tooth, these are a great option to consider! What you get in the box is 12 packs of a variety of cookies including oatmeal, oatmeal with chocolate chips, traditional chocolate chip, and banana nut muffins.
I’m usually a minimalist when it comes to loading up my pack before a long excursion, however, nothing raises morale and brings a smile to the face of a weary traveler like a pack of delicious cookies! I often end up using these as bartering tools with other hikers to score stuff I either forgot or new types of trail foods I haven’t tried before!
MRE Bread Packs
I literally put everything on a solid slab of bread or wrapped up nicely inside a tortilla, even when cooking at home, so these packs work out great for me. I usually like to bring these along and use them in tandem with other MRE style meals to provide a more home-cooked style of meal situation without worrying about humidity ruining my carbs or the additional weight of regular bread-like products.
What you get here is 12 assorted packs of good ol’ carbohydrates. Each pack contains 3 of the following: Tortillas, Multigrain bread, white and wheat bread, and Italian breadsticks.
Just something from my personal experiences, I really like using these bread packs with those Mountain House Breakfast pouches to make myself some easy on-the-go breakfast burritos and breakfast sandwiches or as an addition to a standard MRE meal, because, well, those get boring by themselves fairly quickly!
Want to Buy MREs in Bulk? Here Are Your Options
Buying MREs in bulk is a little harder, you need to make sure you’re getting fresh cases. A lot of times you can find MREs for sale in bulk, but they’re expiring soon or were stored incorrectly, for example, I’ve seen military surplus ones for sale (really cheap too) that were most likely baking in a 100 degree storage container for months/years. Like I said above, this situation is less common nowadays since a lot fewer troops are being sent overseas, but you get the idea of why it’s important to be cautious.
I also know a lot of places where you can buy MRE pallets pretty cheap, but the brand sucks (poor food quality, flavor, shelf life, etc).
To my surprise, you can actually pick up bulk MREs deals on Amazon and a couple other places. Here are some options below, I’ll list the price per case so you can compare them, and I’ll let you know what I think each particular brand.
Option 1 (Best Brand): Genuine Military MREs – $72.81 per case
With this option, you get the highest quality MREs (in my opinion) but the price isn’t that amazing. You get a pallet with 48 cases containing 12 meals per case.
Option 2: Sopakco Meals – $51.97 per case
Another company that sells bulk MREs is Sopakco. You get a pallet with 48 cases (each case contains 14 meals). This isn’t a bad option, I recommended buying a single case to see if you like them or reading reviews before you buy a pallet.
Option 3: A-Pack Meals – $37.39 per case
If you’re wondering where to buy MREs cheap this might be your best option. I haven’t personally tried these and there aren’t a lot of reviews on them. But like the brand above I would recommend buying a case to try them out before you spend that much money.
If you find a better place to buy MREs please let me know in the comments so I can share it with others!
Option 4: Explore Other Ration Types (Often Overlooked Alternatives)
There are a ton of other great alternatives to MREs, I wrote an entire page about some great alternative ration types. I recommend checking out the first option through the link below, which is about buying from a Mormon food distribution center. We are not Mormon, but it’s where my family gets the majority of its bulk food. It’s part of their religion to be self-reliant and have a large supply of emergency food, so they sell it for cheap!
Option 5: Case A and B Together – $82.50 per case
This isn’t going to be as cheap as some of the other deals under the bulk section, but if you just need around 6 cases and you don’t want to drop a lot of money, here is a decent option.
Option 6: MRE Star Preparedness Packages (Either 20 or 60 case pallets) – $83.25 per case
MRE Meals FAQ
How to Tell if an MRE is Expired?
Most companies don’t list an expiration date, so you’ll have to determine yourself if the MRE is still safe to eat. As long as you store the MREs in a climate controlled area around 70 degrees or below, they should be good for at least 5 years after their packaging date. If you don’t know how to read the packaging date. Keep reading, and I will explain that in detail.
How do I read the expiration date on MREs?
The production date, or Julian date, is stamped on the MRE meals box and package. Once you know what you’re looking for they are easy to find. You will see a 4 digit code that indicates this date. The first number represents the year it was produced, and the last 3 numbers represent the day of the year.
Let’s look at the this box, it reads 5041. The first number (5) would stand for 2015, and the last three numbers (041) would represent the 41st day of the year. So this case was packaged on the 41st day of 2105. Because MREs are not usually kept for over 10 years, the first number is a representation of the year in that decade. Still confused? Keep reading.
You might be asking so how did I know the first digit, the 5, stood for 2015 and not 2005? Well the look of MREs is usually very different from decade to decade, so it’s easy to tell. Also, as long as you buy from a reputable supplier, you shouldn’t have to worry about your MREs being over 10 years old. If you’re really concerned, you can always reach out to the supplier and ask for the Julian date.
Difference between a MRE Meal and MRE Entree?
The Entrée can be thought of as the main item within the meal. So say you are eating a Chili Macaroni MRE, The Chili Macaroni would be the main entrée, and the combination of everything inside the package would be the meal.
Are MREs Good for You?
MREs were designed to supply the body with essential nutrients and calories to keep going. You can eat MREs for a very long period of time and stay healthy.
There some important things to note. Meals Ready to Eat are very high in sodium, fat (saturated and trans), and have little fiber. They were designed this way on purpose. They are high in calories to meet the caloric needs of individuals who are very active. The fat provides calories (energy for the body). The high sodium content replaces lost salt lost through sweating.
If you do eat MREs for an extended period, make sure you read the labels and consume the entire meal, not just the parts you like. They can be used stand-alone or in conjunction with conventionally cooked meals.
History of Meals Ready to Eat
The United States Department of Defense began developing the MRE in the 1970s after recognizing the need to meet the nutritional needs of service members with a balanced meal that was sustainable in diverse combat theaters for long periods of time. The MRE replaced the canned Meal Combat Individual ration (MCI) shortly after Vietnam. It is a revised version of a field ration called the LPR (long range patrol ration), developed by the US Army. The LPR was used by Special Operations and reconnaissance teams that would patrol deep into communist held Viet Cong territory. These rations allowed troops to move quickly and compress their packs without having to take along bulky and heavy canned food. MREs have continued to evolve over time, giving us what we have today.
What are Meals Ready to Eat Good for?
MRE rations are used by civilians for many things. They are great to take along on hunting, hiking, and camping trips. They contain more than just food. They have some other useful accessories, such as matches, tissue paper, and beverage powders. It’s a good idea to have a least a 3 month supply of long term emergency food ready in case of natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, etc. They have a long shelf life (see MRE shelf life section for details), so once you buy a good supply you shouldn’t have to worry about emergency food for a long time.
MRE Meals list (Case A and Case B)
Case A (Entree 1-12)
|Menu 1||Menu 2||Menu 3||Menu 4|
|Main Meal||Chili With Beans||Shredded Barbecue Beef||Chicken with Noodles||Spaghetti with Beef and Sauce|
|Side Dish||None||Seasoned Black Beans||Wet Pack Fruits||Infused and Dried Fruits|
|Cracker/Bread|| || ||Cracker (Trans Fat Free)||Multigrain Snack Bread|
|Other||Cheese Filled Snack Food|| || || |
|Beverage Powder||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder||Cocoa Beverage Powder|
|Menu 5||Menu 6||Menu 7||Menu 8|
|Main Meal||Chicken Chunks||Beef Taco||Brisket Entree||Meatballs in Marinara Sauce|
|Side Dish||Wet Pack Fruits||Au Grain Potatoes||Garlic Mashed Potatoes|
|Cracker/Bread||Tortillas||Tortillas||Snack Bread||Italian Bread Sticks|
|Desert||Nuts and Raisins with Chocolate Disks||Cookies||Cookies|
|Other|| || || || |
|Beverage Powder||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder||Irish Cream Cappuccino mix||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder|
|Menu 9||Menu 10||Menu 11||Menu 12|
|Main Meal||Beef Stew||Chili and Macaroni||Veggie Crumbles w/ Pasta in Taco Style Sauce||Vegetarian Elbow Macaroni and Tomato Sauce|
|Side Dish||Wet Pack Fruits||Nuts and Raisins|
|Cracker/Bread|| || Crackers || Crackers || Snack Bread |
|Desert||Fudge Brownie||Pound Cake|
|Other|| || || || |
|Beverage Powder||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder||French Vanilla Cappuccino Mix||Chocolate Protein Drink|
Case B (Entree 13-24)
|Menu 13||Menu 14||Menu 15||Menu 16|
|Main Meal||Cheese Tortellini in Tomato Sauce||Vegetarian Spinach Mushrooms and Cream Sauce Fettuccine||Maple Pork Sausage Patty||Rib Shaped BBQ Pork Patty|
|Side Dish||Nuts and Raisins||Santa Fe Style Rice and Beans|
|Cracker/Bread||Crackers||Crackers||Crackers||Wheat Snack Bread Twin Pack|
|Desert||Dessert Powder||Maple Muffin Top|
|Other||Hot Sauce|| || || |
|Beverage Powder||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder||Chocolate Protein Drink||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder|
|Menu 17||Menu 18||Menu 19||Menu 20|
|Main Meal||Mexican Style Chicken Stew||Beef Ravioli in Meat Sauce||Grilled Jalapeno Pepper Jack Beef Patty||Hash Brown Potatoes w/ Bacon|
|Side Dish||Wet Pack Fruits||Cherry Blueberry Cobbler||Peppers and Onions|
|Cracker/Bread||Vegetable Crackers||Wheat Snack Bread||Twin Pack Wheat Snack Bread||Crackers|
|Desert||Muffin Top Chocolate Banana||Cookies||Granola w/ Milk and Blueberry|
|Other|| || || || |
|Beverage Powder||Chocolate Hazelnut Cocoa Powder||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder||Sugar Free Orange Fortified Beverage Powder|
|Menu 21||Menu 22||Menu 23||Menu 24|
|Main Meal||Lemon Pepper Tuna||Asian Style Beef Strips w/ Vegetables||Chicken Pesto Pasta||Southwest Beef and Black Beans|
|Side Dish||Fried Rice Chunky Peanut Butter||Spiced Apples|
|Cracker/Bread||Tortillas||Snack Bread||Snack Bread||Chipotle Tortillas|
|Desert||Pound Cake|| ||Pound Cake|
|Other|| ||Jelly/Jam||Cheddar Cheese Spread||Meat Snack|
|Beverage Powder||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder||Chocolate Cocoa Beverage Powder||Carbohydrate Fortified Beverage Powder||Mocha Cappuccino Drink Mix|
If you have any questions or know of a better place to buy MREs online, feel free to let us and everyone else know in the comments!
Corporal Wabo is a former Infantry Squad Leader with 3rd Bn 4th Marines that specialized in Mortars. In his free time, he enjoys hunting, hiking, running, shooting guns, and reviewing gear. He started this website while transitioning out of the Marines, and since has recruited several other Marines to help him work on the Marine Approved website. We are currently looking for former Marines that like to talk tactical gear, survival gear, hiking supplies, etc. For more information about us or to join the team, check out the “About Us” tab.