Originally created and designed for military troops who were deployed and out in the field, MREs or Meals Ready to Eat, were designed to supply all of the required nutrients of a soldier in the field. Full of nutrition, these virtually tasteless meals (often called cardboard or meals rejected like everyone) these were not the most flavorful meals. Yet, they did supply all of the required calories to keep a person healthy while out in the field.
Fast forward to doomsday prepper eras and others who like to store food, these meals caught on fast. Unfortunately, since these were prepared by the military for the military, these meals weren’t legal to sell to the general public. As the manufacturers began to realize that civilians were wanting to buy these meals, they began to create civilian versions of the meals. This began a whole new revolution.
Meals ready to eat were not available to the general public and they couldn’t have been more popular. As people flocked to buy them for their food supplies groups began to form that would incorporate food storage and food preparation that wouldn’t require a lot of storage space or ways to heat. Meals ready to eat fit the bill perfectly. Consumers were delighted that they could purchase these meals in bulk and store them in their pantry’s and other food storage areas.
There are many places to find meals ready to eat for sale. Manufacturers have made it easier than ever to find these at a discount. Here are some ways to find them on sale and begin stockpiling your food supply.
Buy directly from the manufacturer. Here you can go to their website and sign up for a monthly newsletter. This monthly newsletter will also give the list of everything that is on sale that particular month.
Sometimes, if you buy one item, you’ll get another at either a discount, or at least a sample of something to add to your food supply. Many also offer discounts of up to 10 percent for first-time buyers and those who recommend the site to another person and that person buys something. Both are great ways to save a lot of money on food.
There are also sample sales that will get the buyer some great discounts and help them to save a lot of money. There are also groups that will get together and buy in bulk which can also save a small fortune in costs on food by spreading the cost of the products out over a larger group of people. The more you buy, the lest the cost per serving is.
Big Box Stores
Big box stores will have these in one of two sections, or sometimes in both sections. You’ll find them in the camping section or in the bulk foods sections. These are ideal for campers, hikers, kayakers, boaters, doomsday preppers, emergency food supplies, and those with large families.
Big box stores may or may not have them on sale depending on the particular month. Be sure to watch ads and ask sales clerks if these will be on sale in the near future. Also, many big box stores have coupons that come in newsletters and local papers that will give you a percentage off of your overall purchase.
Big box stores will also sometimes have MREs that they give away free with the purchase of some other camping supply item. Always keep this in mind and never be afraid to ask for deals. The worse that they can say, is “no”.
Military Surplus Stores
Although MREs aren’t supposed to be sold to the general public, the military supply stores are allowed to sell them. Keep in mind that the MREs that are available here may be outdated.
To find out the date read the printing on the crimped end of the MRE. You’ll have to take this information and go to the manufacturer’s website and understand how the date is printed. The goal here is to not buy any MREs that are beyond the 5 years from manufacturer date.
This may mean that you pass some of them up. While MREs are shelf stable for up to 25 years, they will begin to lose their nutritional value and their flavor after 5 years. Since these are freeze-dried it may not be as noticeable however when compared to a fresh version, the flavor is very noticeable.
Sporting Goods Stores
Sporting goods stores have a little bit of everything including meals ready to eat. You’ll find these over near the camping supplies where camp cookware and tents are sold.
Often you’ll see a display and be able to buy them individually, sometimes, if you buy a specific camp stove model you’ll be able to get a few for free (never hurts to ask).
Many will also allow you to order them in bulk and then you can go in and pick them up when they arrive. Ask the sales associates if this is the best that they can do for the price and don’t hesitate to ask if they’re going to have them on sale in the near future.
Online Auction Sites
There are several online auction sites. The most common of these is eBay. Here you’ll find a variety of MREs on sale or for bidding. Again, learn how to read the manufacturers date on the side of the products. Ask the seller if this information isn’t disclosed.
Also, keep in mind that you don’t always know the source of the products that are sold on online auctions. They may have been sitting on a shelf for over a decade. They may be from a deceased family member and the family is attempting to dispose of them. While that, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing, you don’t want a product that is at or near the five-year date.
Online auctions will often sell at a steep discount so buying MREs this route is an ideal way to save a small fortune on your Meals ready to eat. There are many who buy MREs this route and stockpile them. As long as you’re putting them in date order they should still taste fresh and be full of nutrition.
There are many prepper groups that are both online and in communities. Join a group like this and take advantage of bulk buying and you’ll save a lot of money on meals ready to eat. Many of these groups only have the requirement that you work together with them to buy things occasionally and you’ll be able to reap a lot of benefits.
This makes the meals ready to eat far more affordable as they take advantage of bulk buying and you can mix and match flavors by swapping them with other group members. Since many manufacturers only sell these by the case, this is a great way to expand your stockpile and avoid only one flavor.
Preppers also have access to many great deals and by purchasing in bulk they can really save a lot of money. Some deals will also allow for buy one get one free deal or BOGOs as they are often called.
A lot of church groups also have groups that ensure that the members of the congregation are all stocked up on food supplies for emergencies. Each church group tends to operate slightly differently but they all have the same goal in mind.
Working together they can again save by buying in bulk. They can also mix and match entree flavors and thus keep from having all one flavor on their menu. Church groups also often stockpile on other emergency supplies.
Many manufacturers will also work with groups like this to ensure that they are getting special deals and that they hear about deals first. It also helps to be able to make the delivery to one central location and not have to worry about being home when the delivery arrives. Then members can come to the church or storage location and pick up their portion.
Some food pantry’s also buy in bulk from the manufacturers. If you find one in your community that does this you can see what you need to do to get signed up for more food. You may be required to pay a percentage and the food pantry pays the remainder through their funds.
Not all food pantry’s do this but for the areas that do, it’s nice to have this option. You can ask the local food pantry if they participate and if they do, you can sign up.
Check with your local food pantry and find out what they offer. You may be pleasantly surprised. Some people volunteer at the local food pantry to get their portion paid for.
While not necessarily high on the list of places to find deals on meals ready to eat, sometimes thrift stores get them in. Again, these are likely from estate sales and may have been on the shelf for a very long period of time.
If you’ve learned to read the labels and find out the manufacturer date, you may be able to pay pennies on the dollar for these as long as they’re not past the five year mark.
If they are past the five year mark, but only barely, you may still be able to get a good deal and have some great taste in your meals ready to eat. Check back frequently to find such deals as thrift stores have a frequent turnover rate with products and you never know what may come into the thrift store.
By mixing and matching the above-mentioned ideas, you can often take huge advantage of buying meals ready to eat and saving a small fortune. Keep in mind that the more sources that you can buy from the better as you’re far more likely to get a varied menu.
Not all Meals Ready to Eat are alike. Some will have more calories than others. Some may have the FRH or flameless ration heaters and others won’t. keep this in mind when you’re purchasing items from “used sources” such as thrift stores, eBay and estate sales.
You can buy the FRHs at the same places that you buy most of the meals ready to eat. Read all directions and be sure that you’re following them closely.
Military MREs were designed to include a few extras that aren’t found in the civilian versions of meals ready to eat. Military rations included toilet paper, condiments, utensils, and frequently hot sauce to help make the meals more palatable.
The civilian meals ready to eat obviously don’t include toilet paper and the condiments will vary. Some will include utensils and others won’t so be sure to find out what the particular entree you’re buying includes.
Also, you can find meals ready to eat in as few as 100 calories for snack sizes all the way to 3000 calories for a full meal or a full day’s supply of calories. Be sure to read your options and make your choices wisely.
Most meals will include condiments and utensils but make sure to read the fine print to ensure that the meal includes what you desire. Not all entrees are created equal.
Watch for sales, sometimes, there are huge sales on annually or semi annually and you can save a lot buy buying during these times. Meals ready to eat will store for as long as 25 years however, keep in mind that the fresher the product the better the flavor. For this reason it’s recommended that you use products that are manufacturered within the previous five years.
This will ensure that you’re getting the most flavor and the best possible nutrition for your meals. You may wish to try several different brands and entree flavors before you settle on the ones that you like. These store easily and are easy to pack for trips such as camping and hiking trips.