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Category Archives: Ironmongery

Old MREs?

Not every post can be a whiny screed about some facet of life or politics or economics or sociology or anything else that makes me grumpy. There should be a balance of practical thinking as well. So…let’s try something different and dig out an old MRE to test.

While by no means scientific, I have – at great personal risk – obtained some data for consideration by those who may be storing MREs as long term disaster preparations. Canned foods really are your best choice for that sort of thing, along with bulk grains and beans (if you know how to use them), but MREs and freeze-dried foods can make for simple and lightweight variations on a theme, and can be ideal for bug-out bags, if you like that sort of thing. The question arises, naturally, as to how long MREs last.

While living in Korea between 1995 and 1998 I bought several MREs for a BOB. I am told that the date code on this one indicates that it was probably assembled around the end of 1994, making the thing – and likely the others in the box – almost 17 years old. They have been stored in varied conditions since then, near-freezing temps to garage-in-Portland-summer levels of heat. Enough delay. Let’s break out the cutlery and good china, and see what we have:

Oh boy. Escalloped potatoes and ham.


Brown wrapper is not bulging, nor does opening it reveal any smells. Contents look like this:


The fruit punch in the upper left corner mixes up with no problem, tastes like Nutra-sweet flavored fruit punch. Fortified with that, it’s on to the main meal. It does not, however, appear we will be having any Tabasco with it. Bottle is cute, contents are nasty:


This is a reported problem with the early MREs, as I understand it.

Looking at the main meal, the package is not bulging, nor is there any obnoxious smell when opened.


Let’s open and dump it on a plate:


Doesn’t smell bad. Looks worse than it is. Tasting – needs salt, but otherwise no problems. And 24 hours later, here I still am with no gastrointestinal distress going on. So let us move on to the applesauce:


No problems with the package, again, open and pour:


It looks a little darker in the picture than it actually was. Tasted just fine. Again, 24 hours later and no problems. So let’s open up the crackers:


Bland, just a touch of what might have been staleness, but otherwise edible. I wouldn’t mind stocking up more of these. So far so good. Until we get to the cheese:


Oh hell no. 😯

It’s actually browner than it looks in the photo, and while it didn’t smell bad, a small taste was not pleasant. I’ve got canned cheese that looks and tastes better – so other than a small piece, the rest of this, along with what got rinsed out of my mouth, went bye-bye. Which leaves us with dessert, the brownie:


The chocolate outer shell tasted much like the candy bars I remember from C-rations. But there was a hint of something unpleasant underneath – while it could have been a residue of the cheese taste, not being willing to become a martyr for science, it got tossed.

I did not use the cocoa powder nor any of the stuff in the specialty packet. Nor did I try firing up the heater, since those things generally last forever.

So, in conclusion:

Main meal, drink, and fruit seemed just fine. Cheese and Tabasco were clearly out of bounds. Brownie – may have suffered from oral proximity to cheese, but better safe than sorry. Part of the problem is that I’d never had any of the issue-when-fresh ones, so I’m not completely sure what the stuff should taste like when it’s right. It could well be that the cheese is supposed to taste like crap and that the brownie wasn’t much better. I would leave that commentary open for those who were in after I was and have a better baseline.