The Cost of Convenience


July 25, 2015 by JImbo

Having to ORDER the meals we use here in the unit, I get to see what they COST.

I found this interesting and not unexpected if you think about it. Keep in mind that this is MY experience and I claim no other beyond what I’ve seen. The figures are also for the NYARNG (New York Army National Guard) so may vary from place to place.


The “raw” breakfasts made from scratch from basic ingredients take the most time but are the cheapest by far. As you move to semi-prepared UGR-A meals to “heat and serve” meals to the ubiquitous “Meals, Ready to Eat” they get increasingly easy to “cook” but also increasingly costly.

In fact, it’s higher than this if we just compare ration costs. I used Dining Facility (DFAC) customer costs for the “hot” meals at the left side. This factors in non-food prep costs.

If we were to just use the cost of FOOD for those, the results are even LOWER.

For example, the Army charges $3.45 for a hot, fresh meal from scratch in a chow hall. The actual FOOD cost of that is only $2.07 on average… or within a certain percentage.

Ironically our Brigade thought that they were saving money by switching out the UGR-A meals for Heat and Serves this year on Annual Training. Now they can’t figure out why they’re behind budget.


Then again, who thinks to ask the cooks about food?

Heck, lots of units I’m finding don’t even USE their cooks at all! The higher level slots (E-6 and E-7) are seen as dumping grounds for old soldiers about to retire who don’t want to do any work. The lower enlisted are then used for “gophers” and on details.

Meanwhile, the unit claims hardship and that they can’t find enough people to cook so they order “catered” meals on the economy. As you can expect, those are even MORE expensive!

A catered meal should be a rare occurrence. You only cater meals when you don’t have cooks (they’re on another training exercise) or the kitchen is being renovated or maybe there is a family readiness group exercise and it’s not fair for the cooks not to be with their families too.

THOSE are times you cater meals. Not EVER DRILL. That’s a no-go.

You’re also supposed to look for the best deal from a caterer in the area. However, the unit too lazy to do their job aren’t going to shop around for a good deal. They are going to pay whatever the rate is. In this case, the difference is staggering.


Type of Meal Cost
Hot Breakfast $       2.07
Hot Dinner $       4.18
Hot Lunch $       4.18
UGR-A $       6.00
Heat and Serve $       6.84
MRE $       8.33
Catered Allowance $       9.60

Not only does the Army get screwed, the taxpayer gets it in the wallet too!

Likewise, the SOLDIERS get screwed… those eating and those cooking!

Soldiers join the military to serve, but also to serve in a specific capacity. If you’re a mechanic you joined to learn to fix things. If you’re a pilot you joined to fly. If you’re a cook you joined to COOK!

And they wonder why there is such a high turnover rate.

Huh…well maybe if they let troops do the jobs they are TRAINED for they might stay!


One thought on “The Cost of Convenience

  1. pat russell says:

    You have to pay for your meals?? That is crazy! Bureaucracy rules.


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