Military Life

How certain MRE items become cash money to a service member

M&Ms, cheese spread with jalapeños, and the tasty chili mac are just a few of our favorite items that are included with the famous military meal plan known as the MRE.


At first glance, these items seem to be simple and not worth a whole lot to the average non-military person.

But after servicemen and women have been deployed to a small FOB or patrol base for months, some of the items in an MRE begin to take on a whole new value.

So why are some of the highly preserved and bland tasting snacks worth so much? Well, we're glad you asked.

Related: This is the research and development that goes into producing MREs

It doesn't look like much now, but give it a few months — it'll look like freakin' gold.

We trade the more popular items for other goods or services — if we don't scarf them down first.

Like we mentioned above, a few of the items that come in the rations are tasty and sometimes hard to find. Troops have their favorites but they don't necessarily get to choose which meal they get at chow time.

If you happen to come across a package of M&Ms and cheese spread with jalapeños, you could negotiate with a fellow troop to take one of your assigned duties in exchange for the item — it happens all the time.

This soldier may have traded his chili mac in exchange for being relieved for duty early

Also Read: This is what Mongol MREs looked like

You can sometimes use an item or two to gain information.

In last decade, we've been in conflict with an enemy who isn't known for their nutritious eating habits like most Americans are. In many cases, Taliban and ISIS fighters have quit their posts due to hunger.

When allied forces leave the wire for a short amount of time, we tend to bring the tasty snacks that come in the MREs, like the almond seed poppy cake or the First Strike Bar, to enjoy during a security halt.

When we come in contact with a potential bad guy who looks like they haven't eaten in days, handing over the sweet cake could gain trust and lead to the whereabouts of a nasty IED before it goes off.

Literally a lifesaver.

We gamble with them

When you're on a patrol base that barely has any electricity, you have time to come up with some original games based on your environment. One of our favorites is good-natured wagers. Betting the strawberry shake you didn't drink at lunchtime can make the game much more exciting and kill time.

Let us know what you'd barter your favorite MRE for, and check out the very first full-episode of Meals Ready to Eat to see how military cuisine is created and tested in high-tech kitchens then shipped to the troops on the front lines:

(Meals Ready to Eat, KCET)