Where to Buy Meals Ready To Eat


Developed for the military for soldiers out in the field during the Revolutionary War, a meal ready to eat contained enough food for a soldier to eat for an entire day. This food was of high enough calories to sustain them but the quality was poor and the food quite bland. The troops would complain and they had many hilarious acronyms that they referred to the Meals ready to eat as.

Measures were taken to step up the flavor of such plain and boring rations and it wasn’t long before better options became available. By the time the Civil War rolled around, the military made a move to use canned foods. This worked out however, the canned foods were bulkier and more challenging to pack. They were quickly replaced with lighter weight freeze dried foods so that soldiers could take the food with them on foot and carry the foods in their backpacks.

When World War II came to be, the military began to disperse Mountain Rations or Jungle Rations as they were sometimes referred to. This would continue through the Vietnam era and soon be replaced by what we today know as meals ready to eat.

Meals ready to eat, or MREs as they’re frequently referred to, are in continual development and always being upgraded. In the 90s a Flameless Ration Heater or FRH was created. This FRH was a water-activated exothermic product that would emit heat upon activation and heat up the packaged food. Placed inside of an opened meal ready to eat package and the proper amount of water added, a hot and ready meal would be at the ready within about 15 minutes. This allowed the servicemen the opportunity to heat up their meal while they were out in the field so that they could have a hot and healthy meal.

History of MREs from XMRE on Vimeo.

Unfortunately, the meals were still only available for the military and it was considered illegal for them to be sold to civilians. That is because as an MRE the food was the property of the U.S. government and designated for troops.

As Y2K came closer people were beginning to panic and seek out means of finding easy to prepare meals that would last on the shelf should there be any serious issues during Y2K. Manufacturers that were preparing the meals ready to eat for soldiers quickly saw a way that they could fulfill this desire for such preppers and made meals ready to eat available for civilians with a few minor tweaks to the products and the packaging.

Thus, a new revolution was born and preppers around the world quickly jumped on board and the new meals ready to eat were quickly in demand. These manufacturers began to mass produce their ready to eat foods as meals ready to eat for the general public and consumers quickly jumped on board.

For the military, the packaging requirements were very strict. They must be able to withstand drops from helicopters and without a parachute. This meant that they had to follow some stringent guidelines. While this wasn’t a requirement for civilian rations, the meals would be required to be stored for long periods of time and must be able to withstand a variety of elements.

For this reason, meals ready to eat have a shelf life of approximately five years. While the products may last as long as 25 years, they will be best in flavor and nutritional value if they’re consumed within the first five years of their shelf life. There are many places that a person can buy meals ready to eat. Here are some to get you started. Each particular manufacturer has their own way of denoting the manufacturer date on the packing. To find this go to the manufacturer website and you can find the details there that explain how to read the manufacturer date.

Big Box Stores

Meals ready to eat are often available in Big Box Stores. Here you can find them in two different locations. You can either find them where they sell bulk foods or larger sized foods for larger sized families, or you can find them where they sell camping supplies. Often, they will sell them in both areas. You’ll pay a typical price for meals ready to eat that you purchase here.

Keep in mind what the manufacturer charges for the products and make sure that you’re not overpaying for the convenience of being able to buy your meals ready to eat at the big box stores. Rarely will big box stores sell the meals ready to eat individually, typically they will be sold by the case.

Sporting Goods Stores

Here you’ll find a wide variety of meals ready to eat. They usually are sold in their own area, however, sometimes they will be in the camping section. There will be a good selection of the meals here and there may be a few specials such as you buy a particular camping item and get a discount on a particular meal ready to eat.

Sporting goods stores, such as REI or NL4S, will offer a variety of deals on meals ready to eat and you can stock up and save. These are ideal to take when camping as they are lightweight and portable and you’ll be able to pack them in your backpack and not add any serious weight to your backpack. Sometimes the meals ready to eat will be sold individually here.

Military Surplus Store

Technically, this is a questionable place to buy your meals ready to eat, but there are many military surplus supplies available in a store like this including meals ready to eat. Be sure to check the date on the package as these may be older and have outlived their shelf life.

The U.S. Government has recently put down some stringent rules on meals ready to eat that were prepared for military troops but for some reason, these are allowed to be sold in many of these establishments. These may be older so keep this in mind if you’re planning to stock up. Meals ready to eat will usually be sold individually here and you may not have a great selection to choose from.


You can also find meals ready to eat on eBay. However, it’s again important to find out the manufacturer date when buying your meals ready to eat on an auction site. You want to ensure that the meals were manufactured less than five years ago.

To do this, you’ll need to go to that particular brand’s website and learn how to read the manufacturer date on the end crimp. Then you’ll go back to the auction site and locate this number and read it carefully before you bid on the auction. The goal is to avoid food that is older than five years. While it still may be nutritious, it will be blander and may be stale. When you buy meals ready to eat on eBay, you’ll typically be buying them by the case.


You’ll also find meals ready to eat online at Amazon. Here you can buy cases of a variety of products. You’ll also be able to sign up for different plans where you can have the product shipped to you on a specific schedule. You can order more than one case and you can order from different manufacturers here as well.

You’ll have a wide array of flavor options here as well as the option of buying meals that have the full deal or just snacks in them. Always find out if they include the flameless ration heaters or if you’ll have to buy those separately to heat your meals. You’ll find both individual packages as well as case packaging here. Some will be designated for specific dietary requirements such as gluten-free and other needed products for specific dietary requirements.

Manufacturers Websites

All of the meals ready to eat companies have websites, such as XMRE, Eversafe or MRE Star. You can sign up for their newsletters and take huge advantage of products that are on sale on any particular month. This will net you some savings but you’ll have to wait for the sales of the particular kinds that you want to come up.

Signing up for the newsletters will also get you a discount of as much as 30 percent when you first sign up. Take advantage of as many of the discounts as you can and stack them to ensure that you’re saving as much money as you possibly can. You’ll have a wide variety of menu items that are available here so browse through what they have to offer and always check the clearance and the sales sections out carefully.

This is where you’ll find the most selection of meals ready to eat. You’ll find individual servings, samples, snacks, entree’s, full meals, flameless ration heaters, drinks and desserts and more. Always watch for specials and deals like buying a full meal and getting a free sample of something else. This is a great way to stock up and save.

Gun Shows

Since preparing for disasters often involves guns, you’ll also find meals ready to eat at gun shows as well. You can usually find them in their own section of gun shows and occasionally a weapons dealer will also have a small supply of the meals ready to eat as well.

Many people will frequent gun shows and hang out until the end in hopes that vendors will give a discount so that they don’t have to tote such products back home after the show. It’s always worth a shot to try this to get some great deals on meals ready to eat.

Some will also be the manufacturer themselves and you can order from them and have the shipment made directly to your home or any other location that you desire. You may also find samples here as well as case sales. Take advantage of all the deals and stock up and save.

Disaster Preparedness Locations And Websites

As more people become preppers there are more and more of these types of businesses cropping up all over. They’re in brick and mortar stores as well as online on various websites, such as MRE Giant, MRE Zone or MRE Mountain. These Disaster Preparedness stores offer up a variety of meals ready to eat and other items that may be required for food storage.

Some will have discounts and sales so be sure to sign up for newsletters and notifications so that you can take advantage of such stores without having to pay full price. It’s well worth the time it takes to sign up for these newsletters and focus on finding great deals.

Prepper Groups

There are many prepper groups springing up around the country. This is a group of like-minded people that have gathered together to help prepare for any type of disaster. This could be a natural disaster or it could be an act of terrorism.

Regardless of the cause, this group of people will be actively seeking out ways to prepare for any such scenario and have plenty of food (and other supplies) on hand. These groups will seek out larger sized purchases and take advantage of bulk buying discounts. When the orders arrive they will have to be divided among the members unless there is a central storage location where the foods are kept for emergencies.

Church Groups

Many churches also preach preparedness. This includes having the pantry stocked to the point that there is a one to seven-year food supply on hand at all times. To do this, groups of people in the church will gather together to buy such meals ready to eat in bulk.

This affords them the opportunity to save a lot on their purchases and stock their pantry’s well for any emergent situation. Group purchases take advantage of savings as when you buy in bulk you can often pay far less for products.

Dietary Needs

Many meals ready to eat manufacturers are beginning to recognize that there are specific dietary needs that crop up and must be addressed. A good example would be gluten-free meals ready to eat. While during a disaster a person who is simply avoiding gluten for a way to lose weight, a person who must avoid gluten due to health reasons may wish to stock up on foods that they can eat without hesitation.

As more meals ready to eat manufacturers recognize this need they are beginning to address such situations and work toward being able to expand the market and include foods that they can eat.

When Should I Use MREs?

Meals ready to eat are ideal for many situations. Not only do they help feed a family during an emergency, they can also be used when there are too many after school and after work activities that may keep a family from eating properly.

Take them along to the next sporting event, eat them when running between meetings, take them camping, fishing or hiking. Use them in place of fast food dinners that may be outrageously priced. They’re ideal to take along in many situations and since they’re so lightweight you can pack plenty to take along.

Fit them in the car, the bottom drawer of a desk, backpacks, camping gear, the RV, in the pantry and more. Even the youngest members of the family can tote their own supplies along when carrying a backpack with a few of these.

Meals ready to eat offer all of the required nutrients and calories for a days supply. Again, developed for the troops they had to have everything accounted for in the nutritional requirements and the manufacturers carried this over to the civilian styled versions of the meals ready to eat.

Saving On Meals Ready To Eat

There are many great ways to save on meals ready to eat. Always calculate the cost per serving and determine if it’s a real saving or not before purchasing.

Watch for sales on products. Some companies will offer sales on a monthly basis so sign up for as many newsletters as you can and focus on watching to see what is on sale during any given month.

Buy in bulk and save that way. Group discounts can often net huge savings and when groups buy in bulk those savings can really add up. Many of the manufacturers offer 3, 6, 9 and annual food supplies and there are huge savings in these deals if you watch for them. Also you can get wholesale prices from some of the manufacturers.

Take advantage of buy one get one deals. Many will offer deals like this and you can watch carefully for them. You’ll find these on the manufacturer sites as well as many of the other sites that are mentioned above.

Use coupons for specific stores such as sporting goods stores. If you get a $50 coupon for a store use that to buy your meals ready to eat. It’s money that you didn’t have and was given to you and you’re investing in your pantry when you spend it this way.

Sporting goods stores and other stores may offer to toss in a few single packages of meals ready to eat when you make other purchases. Watch for deals like this as well. You never know how easy it will be to stock up until you try to watch for such deals.

Become an affiliate and save money that way. When you’re an affiliate you’ll earn a commision on your sales and you can then reinvest that commission into your own food storage supplies. It’s quick and easy to sign up and if you have the right kind of website you’re sure to make a few sales and earn some commissions on your sales.

Combine any and all of the above-mentioned savings methods and you’ll find that you can save a small fortune on your food supplies. The more savings methods that you can combine the more savings you’re going to have. It’s not cheap to feed a family and these savings tricks will go far in helping you to prepare for any scenario and have plenty of food on hand for your family.

Keep in mind that the packaging of the meals ready to eat should last for many years. Don’t open them when they arrive until you’re ready to eat. This will ensure that they’re being protected for as long as possible prior to eating them.

Whenever possible store them in a sealed container and you can stack several in a sealed container. This is also ideal if you need to grab them and go should you have a bug out scenario present itself. Of course, it’s ideal to simply grab them this way if you’re going to go camping also.

Meals ready to eat have a variety of options and are a great addition to any food storage for an emergency. Whether that emergency is simply a storm with the power out, or an all-out disaster or bug out situation, meals ready to eat offer you a great way to feed your family without having to break the bank.

From snacks to entrees to beverages and full meals you’re sure to find some things that you can add to your emergency food storage and enjoy. There’s something that everyone will like the flavors and a variety pack is an ideal solution for those who have picky eaters.

By taking advantage of the above-mentioned savings ideas you’re sure to have a few on hand for any emergency. Just keep at it and eventually, you’ll have a great food storage for your emergency food supplies. Watch for sales and take advantage of them.

Knowing when and where to buy your meals ready to eat will go far in helping you to save as much as possible on your emergency food budget. Now that you know how to do it you can get started on your food preparation budget and save money.

Keep in mind that different manufacturers will offer different flavors so if you’re seeking a particular flavor you may have to search through a few manufacturers to find exactly what you’re looking for.

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