Shit happens. Floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, riots, and whatever else… And sure, hopefully society stabilizes afterwards, but if you look at Katrina, the Japanese Tsunami, and certain other natural disasters it can often take a while. And the last thing you want to be doing is running out of food or water when something happens.
I’ve been testing emergency foods for the last couple months. All kinds of stuff including camp food, long term storage items like rice and beans, and even emergency rations you can get at Walmart or REI. But every single one has drawbacks! They might require a lot of water, or a lot of fuel, or they might taste unbearable… Well, in my quest, among the things I ordered was a box of 12 MREs from Amazon made by Sure Pak labeled as “Sure-Pak MRE Meals Ready To Eat Case Pack Of 12 For Survival And Emergency, New”
Well, it turns out we have a winner!!! 12 meals for $97 shipped gives you a net cost of about $8.00 a meal. And these meals taste good enough that with a reasonable variety you could pretty much eat them indefinitely. (We’ll deal with the water issue in another post later.)
MRE stands for Meals Ready to Eat, and these are the things we ship to the troops in the field so they can get three squares a day which will meet the nutritional needs of a full sized adult doing rigorous work. They are self contained in bags, and come with everything you need for each meal (as you’ll see below).
MREs typically last around 5 years. If they are stored in a very stable environment they can probably go a lot longer. If they are in the sun in the desert, probably not so long. So it’s important to know when exactly the MRE was packed to know how long to hang onto it.
The dates on MREs are in sort of a coded format as opposed to a standard Month/Day/Year. The box will have a four digit code on it where the 1st number represents the year, and the last 3 are the day of manufacture. So for example, 5250 was made on day 250 the day of 2015. My suggestion is that when you buy these, go ahead and take a sharpie and write the date out by hand on the box so you never forget how to read it and know when to replace them.
What Comes in the Box
When you order the Sure-Pak MREs you’ll get a box of 12 complete meals, each with a heater, consisting of two each of six different kits. Each kit contains an entrée, side dish, dessert item, cracker or wheat bread and spread, beverage powder, and a condiment pack with a spoon, napkin, wet nap, salt, pepper, coffee, creamer and sugar.
Each meal contains 900 to 1,250 calories, and here are the US Government recommendations on Estimated Calorie Needs Per Day.
Here are closeups of the labels from each kit.
MRE Chemical Heating
One of the most important things about these MREs is that we’re talking about hot, prepared meals! These aren’t protein bars or some crap like that. So the premise is that you’ll have some side items, but the main meal gets cooked and you eat it hot. Which would obviously be great when it’s cold outside to help warm you up.
It was interesting to see how the heating mechanism worked. First you put the package of food to be heated into the bag that contains the chemical heater. You add just an ounce or two of water, then fold the top of the bag over and slide it up inside the box the food pack came out of.
Within about 20 seconds, the water actually starts to boil! And you leave it there for 15 minutes till your food is hot and steamy.
In Depth Review of a Meal Kit
I’m not going to document every meal kit, because frankly I only opened one and was convinced that the quality would be good enough to trust them all. But here’s a look at the Chicken Alfredo kit that I randomly selected – and then ATE!
The condiment pack included a spoon, salt, pepper, sugar, creamer, instant coffee, and a napkin. I’m not a coffee drinker, but I suppose I might be if I wanted some caffeine. But I didn’t try it.
Rather than being stuck with water, you can add 12 ounces directly to the bag of Grape Drink, fold it over a couple of times and mix it by hand, then drink it. Tastes just like Kool Aid.
While you’re waiting on the meal to heat up, you can much on an appetizer of crackers and jam. The jam was actually even better than the stuff you get at McDonald’s with breakfast.
The Chicken Alfredo wasn’t the only warm food in this meal. It also came with Santa Fe style Beans and Rice. So I shoved both of those in the heater bag, and after 15 minutes they were ready to go. I’m not gonna tell you it was the best you’ll ever have, but it was certainly more than acceptable. I actually enjoyed all of it. Tasted much better than it looked.
For desert, you basically get 9 peppermint life savers. Which I’m sure would be fantastic if you were really craving a little something sweet.
So, that’s just one of the meals, and I’m going to be ordering a few more boxes so that hopefully I’ll end up with a mix of all 12 meal kits for variety. The good news is that they are tasty enough that if you wanted to hang on to them for a while, and then eat through them to replace before they expire, it’s very doable!
The other option is that you could donate them to a shelter when they have like 6 months – 1 year left before expiration. I’m sure some homeless people would LOVE to have them.