Modern MREs, or meals ready to eat, are typically well-liked by survivalists. These compact military food rations are self-contained, long-lasting, and calorie dense, making them an excellent source of food for civilian bug-out bags. An average MRE today contains a veritable cornucopia of munchies: an entree, side dish, dessert, cracker and spread, beverage mix, candy, flameless heater, utensils and seasonings.


At the same time, many of us poke fun at MREs due to their less-than-gourmet taste and tendency to cause gastrointestinal distress (“meals ready to excrete“). However, we shouldn't forget how good we have it these days. Back in the 1950s, MREs were nowhere near as sophisticated as they are now. In fact, back then, a military ration wasn't called an MRE—it was known simply as a food packet.

Food Packet 1952 MRE 2

Back in 1952, rations included not one but TWO types of cigarettes.

If you need some evidence to prove how far military food rations have come, we have just the thing. In the YouTube video below, host Steve1989 unboxes an extremely valuable mint-condition food packet from 1952. Unboxing this time capsule in a tin shows all the contents, and Steve then proceeds to taste-test some 64-year-old cookies—don't try that part at home.

Here's a recap of the contents:

  • Date cookie bars
  • “Cocoanut” cookie bars
  • Apple cookie bars
  • Sweet chocolate bars
  • Jelly bar
  • Chicks candy-coated chewing gum
  • Phillip Morris cigarettes
  • Camel cigarettes
  • Matches
  • Bouillon powder packets
  • Coffee and tea packets
  • Sugar cubes
  • Waterproof plastic bag
  • 8-page survival manual

Food Packet 1952 MRE 1

We'll admit we cringed a little seeing Steve consume crumbling, ancient ration bars. Still, it's pretty interesting to put our modern MREs into historical perspective. We'd take modern beef stew in a plastic pouch over chalky food bars any day of the week. Even if smokers miss the free cigarettes, it's hard to deny that survival food has clearly come a long way in the last six decades.

If this sort of thing interests you, Steve has dozens of other vintage military ration videos to watch. Check them out here.

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