What’s in an MRE and how does it taste?

I used to go urban exploring. A lot. Ever since I bought a house… not so much. Back when I did go out a lot I worried about possibly getting stuck in the middle of nowhere. I’ve actually been stuck in the sands of the Pine Barrens and if it weren’t for a very helpful Wrangler owner, I would’ve been stuck for a while as I was far from the main road at the time. Combine my outdoor exploits with my fear of a zombie apacolypse and it would make sense to be prepared to survive on your own for at least a few days. I stocked up my car with food, water, first aid supplies, emergency blankets and the like. This was 5 years ago.

I remembered I still had this food in my trunk. I started thinking about expiration dates. Most of the food fit into one of two catagories. Military MRE’s and food stuffs that you mix with water. That and dried fruit like raisins. I figured that the food was maybe 5 years old but there were no expiration dates listed on the MRE’s. Were they still safe to eat? I’ve heard MRE’s aren’t terribly good to start with, but after 5 years? In a car that’s gone thru hundred degree summers and 10 degree winters?

I decided to open one up. I would start with the grilled chicken since it sounded the most appetizing of all the ones I’d bought. (the others were meatloaf, beef ravioli, vegetarian and spaghetti and meat sauce) I had bought these from a military store near me. Apparently these are honest to goodness MRE that would be served to our troops as it says “manufactured for US Government, Resale is unlawful”.


When i opened up the sealed pouch the entire inside seemed… dusty. Turns out there was a package of M&M’s, just like you would buy in the store and it had cracked open, spilling M&M’s everywhere. in the 5 years since purchase they had been ground to pieces and there was chocolate dust everywhere. I had to clean the powder off everything before I continued.

Here is what’s in the MRE:

one cardboard box containing grilled chicken in a vacupouch
one cardboard box containing minestrone soup in in a vacupouch
2 packets of apple jelly
wheat snack bread in a vacupouch
one brownie in a vacupouch
the heater pack
cocoa beverage powder
one spoon
a packet of supplies including
moist towlette
iodized salt
breath mints
spiced cider apple flavor drink
instant iced tea power drink
salt free seasoning blend

Now, first off, I heard every MRE comes with a tiny packet of tabasco to help with the taste. WHERES MY TABASCO? As it happens, it would’ve helped greatly. I read the directions on the heater pack and was confused. The way it reads it heats one item. But there are two things that need to be heated, the chicken and the soup. i tried to stick both in the heater pack but then it wouldn’t close. I removed the soup, poured in water and waited 15 minutes after placing it up against *some thing*, in this case, a water bottle.

While I waited for my chicken to heat, I examined the rest of the items.

Next up: the fudge brownie. It had dried out, and was one step shy of being crumbly. I took a bite. It was barely edible. I threw the rest away.

Next up: the wheat bread snack and apple jelly. First of all the apple jelly was practically pure corn syrup. I spread some on the bread. The bread was in excellent shape. It looked like hard tack, the stuff they gave WWI soldiers, except that stuff is hard as a rock. This wasn’t exactly moist, but it was quite tasty actually. It was markedly better when I added butter, which is technically cheating, but IDGAF. I ate it all.

Next up: powdered iced tea drink. I had a half empty water bottle so I poured the powder in there and shook it up. It tasted better then snapple in a can. I drank it all. I normally am not a fan of powdered drinks because they usually have an aftertaste. As powdered beverages go, it was pretty good.

Next up: the chicken. The way the heater pack works is you stick the vacupouch in the heater bag and add about an inch of water. You fold the top of the bag over and wait about a minute till the packet starts warming. You then stick it in the cardboard box for 15 minutes. I was unsure about the process, but it worked. I removed the vacupouch and debated how I was supposed to heat the minsetrone soup. I decided jsut to add more water and do the process again as instructed.

I tore off the top of the chicken pouch. Since there’s no knife or fork, jsut a spoon, I broke off a piece of the chicken. I know they sell chicken in a vacupouch in the grocery stores and this was pretty similar. It smelled more like tuna then chicken, and texture wise it reminded me of tuna as well. if you’ve ever had chunk tuna that was large pieces and didn’t eant to flake apart, this was the same deal. The chicken was rather bland, but for a 5 y.o. MRE it was… acceptable.

My cat was intrigued though.

Last up: the minsetrone soup. The process for heating it didn’t really work. I emptied the soup into a bowl and microwaved it. Let me first say I’m not a fan of minestrone soup. I took a bite. Let me say again, WHERE’S MY *)@#)@! TABASCO! I could’ve eaten the rest of it I suppose. If I was stuck in the wilderness and had nothing else to eat. Maybe. or if my alternative was go cannibal on the body of my friend who died yesterday. Needless to say, neither was the case here, so it went in the garbage.

Overall opinion:

For a 5 y.o. MRE, the contents were edible. I didn’t get the runs or get violently ill. It’s purpose in my life would be emergency rations if i was stranded somewhere. It would fulfill that role but barely. I would say that if I had any other options, I would go with them first though. You can see all the photos here Also, after I went thru this process I examined some other food items that had been stored in ym trunk. They expired in 2005 and 2006. That means these MRE’s are probably 7 years old.

I decided to try the other MRE’s and I posted what it was like here


4 responses to this post.

  1. […] worth a read because it can get you thinking about the subject. If you read my entry where I tried out a bunch of different MRE’s, I think that’s all the inspiration one needs. My other issue is that if you look carefully […]


  2. […] Timeshare for Rent « What’s in an MRE and how does it taste? […]


  3. Posted by dude on November 28, 2010 at 9:21 PM

    roll /= role


  4. Posted by gypsywanderin on November 28, 2010 at 11:29 AM

    I have eaten a few of those… some even older…
    have seen photos from mammoth cave of the park volunteers eating real old ones… they found cleaning up inside the cave in the bomb shealter.
    I would rather go to a camping store like Ramsey or Campmor and then you could pick out your own meals,soups, etc of the freeze-dried dinners. fully cooked but you have to add water… I have even ate one by placing in mouth then taking a swig of water… then chewing. (was hiking above the timber line in the rockies …late october)
    a can of spam is the way to go… never goes bad .. ate one that was a few years old after traveling thru the southwest US during August’03
    never had a problem finding food or getting stuck 4WDing … even the general store in Death Valley had frozen Steaks AND BEER (only had one beer cause I know better) and boy was it hot there!
    the problem with the freezedried is in the fat content


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