Without electricity to run a refrigerator or freezer, you’ll need plenty of preserved food to last you several months. Of course, you can choose to store whole foods like flour, cornmeal, beans, and sugar. But those still require some cooking on your end when mealtime comes. In survival and prepping, every minute counts. So the best scenario is to stock up your pantry with ready-to-eat foods.
There are a few options to consider for this. Canned food is a go-to choice. They’re easy to store, organize, and rotate around. MRE or ‘Meals Ready-to-Eat’ pouches which are most popular among the armed forces have since been adopted by preppers and survivalists.
But there’s a less conventional method that offers benefits that you can’t find with canned food or MREs. That’s freeze-dried foods.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the various benefits of freeze-dried food and how it weighs against canned food and MREs.
- The process behind freeze-dried food
- Benefits of using freeze-dried food
- Freeze-dried food vs canned food vs MREs
- Tips for buying freeze-dried food
HOW DOES FREEZE-DRYING WORK?
Freeze-drying preserves food through a three-step dehydration process called “Lyophilization.” This method eliminates 99.9% of the moisture in almost any food. Here’s how it works:
- STEP 1: Freezing the Food — The first step involves freezing the food, which can take up an hour to a full day. This prevents the ingredients from “melting” in the drying process.
- STEP 2: Defrosting the Food — The food is then “defrosted” in a heated vacuum for several days. The low air pressure in the vacuum vaporizes the ice and any remaining moisture in the food. By then, the food is about 95% dehydrated.
- STEP 3: Drying the Food — In the last step, the food is dried again by raising the temperature and lowering the pressure. What we’re left with is a product that can last for decades.
BENEFITS OF FREEZE-DRIED FOOD
Freeze-dried foods fit well into long survival scenarios. They have the longest shelf life among preserved foods in the market. When properly stored, freeze-dried food can last you up to 25 years.
That means it might take you decades before you actually get to use them. This saves you the hassle of throwing out expired food every few years and spending money on new supplies.
Ease of Use
Unlike traditionally dried foods, freeze-dried foods are ready to eat. No hours of prep needed.
How to prepare freeze-dried foods:
- Simply add hot/cold water to your poach.
- Stir the contents.
- Soak the pouch for a couple of minutes, and you’re good to go.
Also, you can freeze-dry just about any type of food, including:
- eggs and dairy
- seafood and meats
- fruits and vegetables
- entire pre-cooked meals.
Flavor and Nutrition
Several preservation methods are often bland or stuffed with preservatives. But freeze-dried foods are tasty and almost indistinguishable from their fresher versions. Think of it as pulling frozen food from the fridge and putting it in the microwave without electricity.
Taste matters, especially when you’re going to eat the same food for months on end. But survival scenarios will push you to your physical and mental limits. So the most important thing to consider is nutrition.
Nutritional Needs to keep up in survival scenarios:
Good thing freeze-drying preserves around 95% of the nutritional value from fresh food.
Size and Weight
There are a couple of ways freeze-dried foods save up on size and weight:
- Dehydration — Around 60-70% of fresh food is water. Freeze-drying removes this moisture, making the food lighter.
- Vacuum-Sealed Pouches — This means more space to load up food in your pantry and a lighter bug-out bag to keep you agile.
You can purchase pre-made freeze-dried foods or freeze-dry yourself with a home machine. Unless you plan to stock large food supplies, we recommend just buying pre-made freeze-dried foods that you need. Either way, these are pricier compared to other options.
But survival is all about the long run. When you consider the next 10 to 20 years, you’ll end up saving more with freeze-dried food than with other types of preserved food.
HEAD-TO-HEAD WITH CANNED FOODS AND MREs
Here’s how freeze-dried food ranks on the following key factors, with 1 being the highest.
|Ease of Use||2||1||3|
|Taste and Nutrition||1||2.5||2.5|
|Size and Weight||1||2||3|
Ease of Use
- 1st — MREs don’t need water. So it’s the easiest to consume out of the three. Just open the pack, and it’s ready to eat.
- 2nd — Freeze-dried comes next in terms of convenience with the addition of hot/cold water to the pouch.
- 3rd — Canned food comes last because you’ll need a can opener to consume its contents.
While these figures are estimates, it’s still important to keep them in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.
- 1st — As mentioned earlier, freeze-dried food has the longest shelf life out of the three lasting up to 25 years.
- 2nd — MREs come next back but are far behind in the game with a shelf life of 5 years.
- 3rd — This leaves canned food at last place with a 3-year shelf life.
Taste and Nutrition
- 1st — Freeze-dried foods are easily the most delicious of the three options. They pack roughly 95% of the flavor and nutrition from the original product.
Plus, there’s a wider variety of freeze-dried food than the others, which helps to avoid “meal fatigue” or that feeling of exhaustion from eating the same food on cycle.
- 2nd — It’s a toss-up between canned goods and MREs for second place in this category. Canned foods are stuffed with preservatives that leave little to be desired. MREs are not the tastiest either. There’s a reason only the armed forces and military veterans can seem to last on these.
Size and Weight
- 1st — Freeze-dried foods are the lightest and smallest among the three as they come in air-sealed and vacuumed pouches.
- 2nd — MREs have more moisture in them, so they come second.
- 3rd — Finally, canned goods come last because they’re bulky and heavy, especially when stored in ample supplies.
- 1st — Canned food is widely available. You can get canned food at virtually any store in the world for a low price.
- 2nd — Premade freeze-dried food comes next.
- 3rd — MREs run third. These are now available in convenience stores but can run your budget dry if you buy a week’s worth of food supply.
But the costliest is purchasing your own freeze-dry machine to DIY food dehydration. We argue though that this has the highest return on investment, especially if you want to freeze-dry in the long run.
A FEW TIPS BEFORE BUYING FREEZE-DRIED FOOD
We’ve run through all kinds of benefits of freeze-dried food and how it compares with canned goods and MREs. Regardless of what type of preserved food you choose, food storage will always be a costly part of prepping your home for survival.
So consider the following tips before buying freeze-dried food:
- Stock your pantry with food that’s functional–light, nutritious, and easy to store.
- Consider the food that you actually like.
- Ensure quality–Do your research on brands and products. It would be good to look up shipping as well.
- Try a few samples before you fully invest in it. Give freeze-dried food a try, and let’s see what you think.