Convention Meals: Getting More Bang for Your Buck

So with convention season reaching a fevered pitch during the spring and summer I thought that it would be fun to introduce the finer points of one of my convention staples, the MRE. Now I know that the thing says COMMERCIAL RESALE IS ILLEGAL, but there is no actual law that I have seen and they sell the things at the Travis AFB commissary anyways so if one wanted to one could get these things, even the manufacturers sell them directly though you have to buy a whole case at a time. Still at about $7.25 (there is a Tailored Operational Training Meal that goes for about $4.22 that has less calories, though is not nearly as impact resistant) a pop it’s not nearly as bad as those hotdogs, hamburgers, and small bowls of chili that the hotel or convention center tries to sell you, I am sure usagijen is going to have a fit at what I am about to say, but there certainly are benefits to having a light weight lunch that is rated to be shoved off C-130s. Besides it tastes just as good if not better than the standard convention food, and at least when you make it is fairly hot and not mildly warm to cold. If you can get a hold of these and your venue won’t have reasonably priced food I’d recommend getting an MRE especially if your schedule is packed, less time spent eating means more time doing other stuff. Besides it’s a better option than eating fast food at every meal or getting that $1.50 1 oz. bag of chips. So yeah I had one that was getting a bit old and decided it would be fun to open it up just for fun.

They call it beef steak, I call it mystery meat…

Despite the jokes of MRE meaning Materials Resembling Edibles, Massive Rectal Expulsions, Meals Rejected by Everyone, etc. it’s sort of like canned food, though the meat patties are often tough there are superior menus like the pot roast, rice, and beef stew. Other than the main course which can really be hit or miss the rest of it is usually good. The cookies are dry but edible and it tastes like a cookie, the pound cake is better, and I personally thing the crackers are okay since they have a high fiber content so that it won’t clog your system, plus they usually give you cheese spread or jam to go with it. I don’t like the wheat snack bread all too much but it does fill in for the crackers. Otherwise the fruit tastes like canned fruit and you do get candy like Skittles and M&Ms. If you are lucky you get one of the prized milk shake powders which are pretty much a meal in and of themselves and are often the most palatable part., otherwise they are excellent trade items in the field. Just be sure to drink plenty of water since you will need it… They also come in vegetarian and have fewer problems than the chicken for the most part.

Yeah my kitchen was a mess that day…

When I first saw these things in high school I though that they were the coolest things since I expected canned spam. That flameless ration heater isn’t much nowadays but back in the late 1990s I thought they were something, the thing relies on the oxidation of magnesium which produces hydrogen gas which you don’t want to get a good whiff of. The water gets really hot and is undrinkable but it gets the job done. The tiny bottle of Tabasco sauce is standard and is a god send if you need to add flavor to something or if you just like spicy foods. Just keep in mind these things really pack the calories averaging about 1200 for a full MRE since soldiers burn more calories running jumping and shooting.. The thing also comes with waterproof matches that usually work when dampened so if you need to burn those loli doujins in a hurry you can do it fairly easily and even in the rain! Still the flameless ration heater really isn’t allowed to go on a plane nakkid so you will need a sealed MRE if you are planning on flying. Otherwise boiling is a good enough method of the heater fails or you lose it. You also need a small knife or some sort of cutting device because the pouched can be really tough and even then you don’t want to peel it at the notches. Better to cut laterally so it’s more accessible and easier to eat.  If nothing else you can laugh at what passes for food for poor bastards like me during the first few weeks of hitting the ground.

More like any beans…at least they got rid of those lima bean dishes.

Opening an MRE is like opening a present, you don’t know what’s in it and even when you open something with a weird name you might find that it is something you normally eat any way, such as the fruit pastry which is really a pop tart. If nothing else get some for the zombie invasion or a natural disaster kit.

Uncle Sam is not bound by advertising laws, because he bought them not you…

The modern hard tack.

These actually taste pretty good.

Though it’s not the healthiest thing in the world…

Yeah those are real tootsie rolls, Uncle Sam like to have fun with words.

Ah it feels like the public school lunch program all over again.

Just make sure not to eat these at before you rack out.

Unlike Akiko’s Jammu it won’t kil you.

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  1. Ryouichi
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 4:01 am | Permalink

    Heh, my friend in the Army (and former Marine tryout) speaks of the MREs as godsends and says that sometimes he prefers it to normal food, especially certain types of MREs which are considered highly valuable/tasty, and certain ones which you should avoid like the plague, etc… I’ve personally never tried one but want to someday.

  2. random passing dude
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 4:49 am | Permalink

    what did u try to draw with the jam?
    it could be used for some what’s it called rorsach-test?

  3. blind_dead_mcjones
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    I remember reading about those some time ago, and i must say i’m intrigued, not sure if one can actually get them over here though.

    on the subject of rations and whatnot have you heard of or seen the australian army’s Field Ration Eating Device? (or as some put it the fucking rediculous eating device)

  4. Kherubim
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    @Crusader: I keep the rations I get after each field exercise, when everyone else dumps theirs, good stuff to keep in the office when working late. At least you get a FRH, we still have to put up with fuel tablets and tommy cookers if we even get a chance to heat up our food. Drink mixes are trickier, us old reserves still have the field cup and canteens, the young-uns have hydration packs instead. High point in the SG stuff are the baked fruit bars (similar to Fig Newtons). Try trading a pack or two of MREs with the SG one if you get the chance, might be surprising. :D

    Did you ever try the infamous 4 fingers of death?

    @random passing dude: Crackers from pack. Jam. No relation to Rorsarch. I’m sure of it. :D

    @blind_dead_mcjones: FRED? Didn’t the Aussies retire it since it cost money to make? A captain even wrote a poem eulogizing FRED.

  5. Posted February 26, 2009 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Haha those calorie counts look horrific, but I guess they are supposed to be energy filled.

  6. blind_dead_mcjones
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    @ Kherubim

    that they did, which is a shame cos they’re actually pretty nifty, it’s replacement is those utterly useless folding plastic spoons that come in Yo-Go packs.

  7. GT
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    i actually really like those. especially the crackers.

  8. skoll
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    I’m told MRE’s are alright tasting, other than the fact that you get sick of them in the field. I’ve got a friend in the Marines, and he got quite sick of them while he was doing survival for School of Infantry at Parris Island.

  9. Posted February 26, 2009 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Hahaha, that’s not a bad idea… though usually at conventions, I just skip eating altogether… It’s three days of no sleep and no food! And I always have classes or work at 8am the following Monday! S’great! 8|

  10. Raindogjcs
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    wow you were either bored or needed to post so the devil (from what people tell me), Impz will leave you alone

    i rather like grilled mushrooms….. my gramps,cousin,cousin,cousin, 2nd cousin are all in the military and bring a lot home

    side note anyone wanna guess what my parent want me to do?

  11. Posted February 26, 2009 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Back when I was a wee lad, me pop always used to bring home a box of MREs in case me mum was too busy with work to cook.

    I had developed a palette for these otherwise dreaded brown-plastic-packets, and I always wondered how adding water to a bunch of tablets could somehow make it boil. (When you’re 10, you’re not likely to have a decent grasp of chemistry.) These also introduced me to Tabasco sauce–a dinnertime staple ever since.

    Then again, I never had to rely on them as a regular meal.

    A thought. The Strawberry Dairyshake was Nestlé Strawberry Milk mix combined with powdered milk, wasn’t it? I’m willing to bet an internet and a half.

  12. cspdelta
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    Ummm MREs, delicious…

    Right, after a while, probably anything for 10 days straight will start to feel a bit old. The lengths you guys will go to for animu conventions (I can already envision astronaut diaper analogies…)

    The Canadian equivalent is the IMP, Crusader you may want to trade for one and see how it is (bring your own flameless heater, ours don’t come with). Nutritionally, you cannot stay on them for more than 30 days, as it does not contain certain essential vitamins…

    For less adventurous convention goers, what have other ppl tried? I imagine cup noodles, or Chunky’s soup in a microwavable can may be more palatable/safe if you do not require your food air-dropped from the C-130 =)

  13. LurkerJay
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    Kherubim: you eat the stuff voluntarily? i always took eating the dreaded green packets as a matter of discipline rather than liking. its the mains really… the desserts rock under all temperature conditions. the sides are pretty okay, of note as mentioned are those fruit bars. the hot drink powders ended up being consumed dry straight from packet.

    i think the key issue was always temperature. my unofficial rule on mains was that if you could raise the temperature of the food by 10 degrees celsius, flavour would double. since when do they allow infantrymen to light fires in the field and cook with solid fuel? even tabasco sauce won’t lighten up a cold SG combat ration (tested!).

  14. Posted February 27, 2009 at 1:22 am | Permalink

    Canadian IMPs come in various multicultural flavours also. Not in the Canadian Forces myself, but I’ve heard friends testify to fare such as Tandoori Chicken and Beef Chop Suey. Not quite so big on beans up north, I guess… Like cspdelta noted, not self-heating, but they’re precooked and apparently safe to eat without heating. Don’t think they include Tabasco though…

  15. Kherubim
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 2:55 am | Permalink

    @LurkerJay: Hey, my taxes pay for this stuff, of course eating too much is still “heaty”. It’s much better fare than during my active days, sometime between the old canned stuff (everything was green, even when it came out) and the first lot of rations (with solid blocks of plain rice in the packets, yucks!). The only other army rations I’ve tried were the NZ ones, much plainer than ours (the ANZAC biscuit was nice though).

    I’m not in infantry, but I agree on the light and smell discipline. Those of us with vehicles have it somewhat better (unless they started a rule against using the radiators as heaters, which I haven’t heard of). The Tabasco sauce is drowned out by the preservatives, btw…

  16. Skane
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Given the variety of ration packs in Singapore, it will probably be a hit or miss based on your taste-buds. Personally, I found the pasta ones to be “tear-inducing-ly” good in the field.

    Ho-hay on the spicy ones though, since I can’t tolerate spicy stuff. Sadly… the Singapore army seems to be of the opinion that chilli is a dietary requirement for soldiers. It’s not easy to get non-spicy rations here.


  17. Posted February 27, 2009 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    Indeed many try to go for the beef stew and pot roast first, so there are desirable MREs if your cooks suck.

    @random passing dude
    Nothing actually. But it looks like Jesus. ;)

    Nope never seen the Aussies use the things, but I have the old mess kit for some odd reason…

    I avoided the four fingers of death so far, I have tried the hated Country Captain Chicken… If I get the chance I’ll trade bits and pieces instead I don’t like rude surprises…

    I know a former Tanker he never used the FRH, only certain parts of the engine…

    Indeed you cannot diet on these things…

    I prefer the crackers over the wheat snack bread myself.

    Yeah that is the most common complaint, they get boring quick and I have heard that back in the old days they just ordered pizzas for field exercises after week 1 of MREs. The good ones taste like commercial canned food, the worst entrees though are simply awful. If nothing else they get the fruit cocktail and applesauce right. The Crackers are always edible and the cheese and jams are hard to mess up.

    So you run off on otaku musk?

    Oh, let me guess, a sailor?

    @Dorian Cornelius Jasper
    It probably is that though the milkshakes are one of the better items in the MRE and they are useful for trading.

    The Tabasco is the thing that makes almost any MRE edible.

    The 30 days is probably a suggestion… ;)

    I guess that FRH really is something then as it seems not every one gets on in NATO.

    Depends on what mains you get some are superior to others…

    The other thing I tend to do is hoard the sides and drink powders I don’t need 3 full MREs a day. I also take unwanted Tabasco too, add enough and even the bland chicken patty will have enough zing to it.

    We’ve had Beef Teriyaki in the MREs before… there is a reason why they were phased out, just because it sounds like ethnic cuisine don’t mean that it is. I have seen USMC Yakisoba, it was a spaghetti dish…

    If we ever end up in the field together I will be more than willing to trade you our notoriously bland meat patties for some of your spicy stuff. :D

  18. Posted February 27, 2009 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    I screamed. This brings back horrible memories. :p

  19. cspdelta
    Posted February 27, 2009 at 9:01 pm | Permalink


    Well, we do get the flameless ration heater (supercedes the toxic hexamine fuel tabs), it just has to be ordered separately from the rations in the supply system.

    Welcome to the wonderful world of logistics =)

  20. Posted February 28, 2009 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    @The Sojourner

    Wow and I thought our supply system was screwy…

  21. LurkerJay
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Skane: i thought the true atrocity was chestnut rice… killer of appetite and inducer of constipation. my troopers used to tear open the packet, give it a sniff and then heave it, claiming that the smell was a fantastic appetite surpressant.

    Kherubim: whoa, you’re betraying your age! lemme guess… artillery?

  22. leoh
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    I remember back in middle school this kid had an older brother who was in the Army (or Marines, can’t remember) and he was sharing these around for everybody in the classroom. Mine had jambalaya and it was quite tasty. However did this kid get access to the meals is beyond me…

  23. Posted February 28, 2009 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    Each guy gets three in the field per day, not every one eats all three, and then there are menu items that no one wants…

  24. Posted November 27, 2009 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    It must be such a tough thing for all the defence personals to have such kind of ready to eat meal….

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