Today, it is evident to all of us just how easy it is for an emergency situation to occur. Amidst the pandemic, people are more conscious of sustainability and are focused on preparing for the worst. Survival preparation has popularized the longstanding ‘meals-ready-to-eat’ for basic consumer needs. The military has been relying on these for a long time, and outdoorsy types also benefit from their convenience. As food shortages and contamination fears are brought to the surface more and more each day, ready to eat meals are becoming the new normal for families and individuals eager to protect themselves against the spread of infection. Read now to increase your preparedness for the dark days ahead.
How Long Do Meals Last?
It’s one thing to stock up on emergency food, but how long will your rationings last you? These meals allow for longer shelf-lives than many other nonperishables out there. As long as these meals are stored in cool conditions, and better yet, kept frozen, they should last you well over ten years without spoiling. In hotter temperatures, however, the food will only last around one to two months. The typical shelf life for each meal is five years, at a storage temperature of 75 degrees.
Given the inconsistency in expiration, MREs list on their packages an inspection date, rather than an expiration date. Inspection dates range from three to five years following the packaging of the meal. The purpose of the date is to remind the consumer to double-check the conditions of the packaging, looking out for any signs that the meal is starting to go bad. The sellers also want the consumers to be careful, as sick buyers and recall items reflect badly on the company.
In emergency cases, you should use your best judgment and sense of smell to determine if an old MRE is still safe to eat. People vary in their opinions as to how long an MRE can last before it needs to be disposed of, but individual conditions apply, and not all MREs are stored the same way. In many cases, rather than going bad, an MRE that has outlived its shelf-life may simply lose flavor or color but remain edible. Maintaining the mindset that food is meant to sustain life may help determine whether or not you should be eating a leftover MRE. The food does not have to taste good to sustain you. The most important thing is just to not make yourself sick.
Be Mindful About Consumption
To increase the chances that the MREs will last, avoid puncturing the packages in any way. Keeping meals sealed will increase their freshness. Foods that are more susceptible to fermentation should be avoided if you are questioning the credibility of an older MRE meal. For example, foods like applesauce, fruits, cheese, and bread, should be considered mindfully before consumption. These types of foods easily break down into sugars, feeding bacteria and viruses that could make you sick. Some things are more straightforward, like don’t eat the bread if you see blue mold, avoid bruised fruit, and any meats or dairy products with a sour smell are ready to toss.
Don’t Follow the Crowd
Be aware of any false security you may have towards the overall livability of MREs. Although they are designed to withstand difficult conditions and for a very long time, they are not indestructible. The military utilizes ideal refrigeration conditions which allow their MREs to last longer than those who do not have the same accommodations. Make sure you are comparing your MRE information to those with meals in similar storage conditions.
Additionally, there are many diagrams out there that explain how long to keep MREs depending on the exposed temperature. Be aware that not all of these diagrams are modern, so they may not reflect the current meals, preparation practice, storage considerations, and temperature environments that modern MREs utilize. Always check the date that information is posted and look at the most recent data available, in order to ensure that you are storing your food based on the most accurate information available.
Use Your Senses
Just like with canned items, the longer an MRE is in storage, the more taste and nutritional value it will lose once consumed. However, this does not make MREs or canned items useless. In both cases, calories are still provided, and this is ultimately what is needed in dire survival situations. The best steps you can take to keeping your food fresh is to freeze them or store them at very cold temperatures, with their inspection dates in mind. Do not count on taste or color to ensure sustainability, and instead, focus on smell and sight, noting any unpleasant smells or damage done to packaging while in storage. Keeping temperatures cool also helps to slow down the fermentation process, delaying the time it will take bacteria to destroy the edibility of food. If you are in an emergency, be selective in the food choices you make. Fermentation can cause digestive upsets, so it is best to consume foods that are less likely to ferment. Some options include crackers, peanut butter, and any dry processed foods like hard candies and chocolate.
As the world continues to battle the Coronavirus, the need for MRE meals is all the more pertinent. It is important to stay updated on the shelf-life information of these meals, but they are certainly ideal options during times of shortage and crisis. To protect yourself and those around you, stock up on reputable MREs while supplies last. After all, they are selling out fast. Find retailers that utilize ideal refrigeration on-site so that you can rest assured knowing your food is as safe to eat as it can be. If on-site options are unavailable, consider other retailers that accommodate this need for MRE sustainability.
These dark days won’t last forever, but neither will MREs. Find brands you trust and store your items properly.