The acronym MRE stands for “Meal, Ready to Eat.” An MRE is usually packaged as a full meal, including a main dish, crackers or bread, and some kind of spread like peanut butter, cheese or jam. They usually also contain a snack, dessert, spoon, gum, salt, pepper, instant coffee, cream, sugar, and even toilet paper. Newer MRE’s also usually have a special heater that is activated by pouring a small amount of water into a plastic bag, which can be used to heat the food when the weather is cold. (Some MRE main dishes taste much better warm than cold!) MRE’s can be stored for up to three years at 80 degrees Fahrenheit, although they can last for years longer than that, stored at lower temperatures. Although they are heavier than most freeze-dried backpacking meals, they are sometimes quite handy because they don’t require any cooking or boiling water.
In recent years, it has become very difficult if not impossible to obtain surplus military MRE’s, although they are available legally from various distributors. For short-term, easy-to-prepare, high-calorie meals that require no additional water or preparation, MRE’s are hard to beat!