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MRE Meals: How Long Do They Last?

If you’ve ever been camping, hiking, or just need a convenient meal on-the-go, you might have heard of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). As their name implies, these meals are designed to provide an easy and nutritious way to get food when travelling. But how long do MREs actually last for?

In this article, we’ll explore the shelf life of MREs, what affects it, and how to make sure you get the most out of your ready-made meal.

What Is the Shelf Life of MREs?

The shelf life of MREs varies depending on their type, storage conditions, ingredients, and packaging. Generally speaking, however, MREs can last from 12 months to up to 5 years if stored at temperatures between -4°F (-20°C) and 80°F (27°C).

To get the best out of your MREs, they should always be kept in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. Your refrigerator or pantry is likely the best spot for them.

Factors That Affect MRE Shelf Life

There are several factors that will affect how long an MRE will last. These include:

  • Type: Different types of MREs have different shelf lives. For instance, freeze-dried meals have a much longer shelf life than cooked MREs, which can last anywhere from 6-12 months.
  • Ingredients: Certain ingredients like oils, fats, or processed meats can reduce the shelf life of an MRE. Look for MREs made with fewer additives and preservatives for the best results.
  • Packaging: The packaging of an MRE also plays a role in its shelf life. Look for MREs that come in vacuum-sealed packages or special insulated pouches as these will help keep the contents safe for longer.
  • Storage Conditions: Storing your MREs in warm, damp areas can significantly reduce their shelf life. Try to keep them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

What Can You Do To Make Sure Your MREs Last?

Here are some things you can do to make sure you get the most out of your MREs:

  • Check Expiration Date: Always check the expiration date on your MREs before consuming them. If they expire within the next few weeks, it's best to avoid eating them.
  • Store Properly: Storing your MREs in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight is key to prolonging their shelf life. Remember to keep them away from heat sources such as ovens, stoves, and radiators.
  • Avoid Extreme Temperatures: Extremes of temperature can cause the contents of your MREs to spoil faster. Avoid storing them in refrigerators or freezers as this could have an adverse effect.
  • Rotate Stock: It's important to regularly rotate your stock of MREs. Keep track of when each package was opened and try to consume older ones first, so that you don't end up wasting any expired food.

Are MREs Safe to Eat After Their Shelf Life?

Even after their shelf life has expired, MREs are generally still safe to eat. However, they may not taste as good or be as nutritious as they were when fresh. It's best to check the expiration date on the packaging before consuming them, as some components may start to degrade over time.

It's also important to note that while MREs may remain safe to eat after their shelf life expires, they are not designed for long-term storage. It's therefore recommended to rotate your stock regularly and replace old meals with fresh ones as necessary.

Ultimately, MREs can provide a convenient and nutritious way to get food when travelling. However, it’s important to understand the shelf life of these meals, as well as the factors that affect it. By following the above tips, you can ensure that your MREs remain fresh and tasty for as long as possible.

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