How Long Are MRE Meals Good For?
MRE stands for Meal, Ready-to-Eat, and they are a favorite among survivalists, campers, hikers, military personnel, and more. These self-contained meals are vacuum sealed, shelf-stable, and can last up to several years with proper storage in the right conditions. But how long are MREs actually good for?
In this article, we’ll explore the answer to that question and discuss key points to remember when it comes to storing and consuming MREs. We’ll cover:
- The Shelf Life Of An MRE
- Factors That Affect The Shelf Life Of An MRE
- Recommended Temperature For Best Taste & Freshness
- Best Practices For Storing MREs
By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know everything there is to know about keeping your MREs fresh and delicious! Let’s get started.
The Shelf Life Of An MRE
The shelf-life of an MRE (Meal Ready-to-Eat) depends on several factors, including where they are stored, and the temperature in which they are stored. Generally speaking, if an MRE is properly stored in a cool environment, it can last anywhere from 2–5 years, depending on the type of MRE.
To understand why different types of MREs have different shelf-lives, it's important to know what is inside them. Most MREs contain items like crackers, cheese, peanut butter, pork patty, beef stew, spaghetti and meatballs, tuna salad, or even dessert items like cakes and cookies. All of these ingredients require different levels of preservation.
For example, crackers will usually last longer than pasta because it takes much longer for bacteria to form on it. On the other hand, baked goods like cake and cookies might not last as long due to their high moisture content.
This is why it’s so important to read the expiration date on the package of any MRE you buy. If you plan on using the MRE in the future, check the expiration date before purchasing to make sure you get the longest-lasting option available.
Factors That Affect The Shelf Life Of An MRE
It's important to know the various factors that can affect the shelf life of an MRE. Here are some of the most important ones:
One of the most important factors that affects the shelf life of an MRE is temperature. Ideally, an MRE should be stored in a cool, dry place like a pantry, closet, basement, or garage. This will help ensure the longest shelf-life possible.
If an MRE is stored at too high of a temperature, it could spoil more quickly and potentially become unsafe to consume. In general, an MRE should not be stored above 70°F.
Another factor that affects the shelf life of an MRE is light exposure. Direct sunlight or strong artificial light can cause the components of an MRE to break down over time, resulting in a shorter shelf-life.
Ideally, an MRE should be stored in a dark and cool area away from direct sunlight or artificial light sources.
Humidity is another key factor that affects the shelf life of an MRE. Too much humidity will cause the food inside to spoil quickly due to the growth of mold and bacteria.
On the other hand, too little humidity can cause the food to dry out and become stale. Aim for a relative humidity level between 40% and 60% when storing MREs.
Recommended Temperature For Best Taste & Freshness
When storing MREs, it’s best to keep them at a temperature between 55°F and 70°F. This range is ideal for preserving taste, texture, color, and freshness.
At temperatures lower than 55°F, the MREs may freeze and become damaged. At temperatures higher than 70°F, the MREs may spoil more quickly due to the growth of bacteria.
However, it’s important to note that each individual component of an MRE has its own recommended storage temperature. To get the optimal flavor, texture, and freshness out of an MRE, it’s best to consult the manufacturer’s packaging for information on specific components.
Best Practices For Storing MREs
Now that you know the basics of storing MREs, here are some best practices to consider when storing yours:
Store In A Cool, Dark Place
As previously mentioned, the best way to store MREs is in a cool, dark place like a pantry, closet, garage, or basement. This will help preserve the flavor, texture, and freshness of the food components inside.
Additionally, light exposure can cause some of the components of an MRE to break down faster, so it's best to avoid direct sunlight or bright artificial lights when possible.
Store At The Right Humidity Level
It’s also important to store MREs at the right humidity level. Too much humidity can cause the food to spoil quickly while too little humidity can cause them to dry out and become stale.
Aim for a relative humidity level between 40% and 60% whenever possible to get the best results. Additionally, an airtight container can help keep the humidity level consistent.
Check Expiration Dates Regularly
Finally, it’s important to regularly check the expiration dates of your MREs. Even under ideal storage conditions, MREs can still expire after a certain period of time.
Consult the manufacturer’s packaging for specific expiration dates for each component of the MRE. If you plan to use the MRE in the near future, always check the expiration date before purchasing.
Keep Away From Extreme Temperatures
Extreme temperatures can damage the components of an MRE and reduce its shelf-life significantly. Try to avoid storing MREs in very hot or very cold areas, as this can cause spoilage and make the food unsafe for consumption.
In conclusion, MREs are a favorite among survivalists, campers, hikers, and more. When stored properly in cool, dark places with the right relative humidity level, they can last up to several years. It’s important to check the expiration dates of any MRE you purchase, as well as pay attention to the temperature and humidity levels of your storage area. By following these basic guidelines, you can get the most out of your MREs and enjoy them for many years to come.