These might be a bit familiar but that is because they came into use in the United States from 1958 to 1980 to replace the C-rations. They were just a modest improvement though, as they were designed to weigh a bit less and had an added variety of meals, but were otherwise just a tiny upgrade to the C-rations and were called Meal, Combat, Individual (MCI) meals.
The added meals contained meatloaf, tuna, beef slices with potatoes, beans and frankfurters, boned chicken or turkey, pork steak cooked in juices, and a few others that were similar to the old ones, together with peanut butter, chocolate pudding, pound cake, fruit cake, and more dessert varieties.
They were designed for infrequent use, but due to the long periods people were on a mission they were used more frequently, especially during the Korean and Vietnam wars. Due to this, some of the items ended up getting nicknames due to how bad the food in the rations was (beef and potatoes ended up being called beef and rocks or beef and shrapnel, because of how bad the potatoes were) or they would repurpose part of the ration( the peanut butter was so bad and oily it was kept and used to make makeshift smoke candles to heat water.
They were still very bulky and soon replaced with a better version.
The MRE stands for Meals Ready-to-Eat and they were made to replace the MCIs and crowned the death of C and K-rations. They are still used today in the military and there is an ongoing effort to make them more palatable. Despite the ongoing effort, there are lots of people who call these barely edible and there are recipes from the past that were discontinued very quickly.
It is an ongoing joke that people on international missions who meet other nationalities will try to trade their rations with others, and the MRE abbreviation has brought along a number of quite funny other meanings: from the general Meals Rejected by Everyone, to more crude ones as Meals Refusing to Exit. They are also sometimes called the three lies at the price of one as they are “not a Meal, not Ready and you can’t Eat it”. Needless to say, the criticism is endless.
Regardless of the criticism, some of them are not that bad. They come up to 1,200 calories per ration and they include a main dish (which is more advanced than the basic ones before), a side dish, dessert, crackers or bread, spreadable cheese, jelly or peanut butter, a powdered beverage, and the utensils needed to make the meal and eat it, together with seasonings.
Despite the improvements, there are veterans who ate both the C-rations and the MRE’s and they have nostalgia over the C-Rats and prefer them over MREs. Sometimes nostalgia beats everything.