The hottest trend in food preservation right now is freeze drying. And while it does offer the longest life for your food storage, there are a number of things to consider.
Let’s first address the elephant in the room: cost. A good quality freeze drier will cost you around $3,000. This is the first thing to consider; what is your food storage budget?
Three thousand dollars will buy a lot of commercially packaged foods. You can buy from the big names in the freeze dry industry like Mountain House, or you can do it all at your local grocery store. Both of these have their pros and cons.
The biggest thing to keep in mind is to store what you eat! This will make it a lot easier on you and your family when that day comes that you must rely on what you’ve put away.
For the sake of this article, we’re going to say you have decided to go the freeze dry route and pulled the trigger on a machine. You’ve unpacked your shiny new freeze drier and set it up. The reality of this situation is that the expense of your food storage has just begun, and future costs will outweigh what you just spent.
So, what are these costs? Obviously the first, and largest, expense is the food you will run through the machine. And while it may be the largest expense you will face, there is an upside. You can pack exactly what you want. When you’re storing your own food, you can literally store what you eat. I run a lot of leftovers through my machine. And sometimes we even make a large, very large, dinner just so we can.
One of the hidden costs of freeze drying is the learning curve. You don’t just throw some food in and turn it on. So, you must take into account your time. Your time is worth money as well, and you will invest far more of it into freeze drying than you would hitting Amazon for an hour or making a few trips to the store.
Every food behaves differently in a freeze drier. Fruits, veggies and meats all need a different amount of time in the machine.
Also, one of the most important things to remember when running one of these machines is to make sure you’re watching it and that you’re home when it completes its cycle. Because if you’re not, you’ll have to run another dry process again and that takes at least two hours. And if you miss it again, well, you get the idea.
Now that your food has been processed, you have to store it. For this you need mylar bags, O2 absorbers and desiccant packs. Everything you’ve freeze dried can be stored with O2 absorbers, unlike some other foods. I add the desiccant packs just to ensure no moisture is present. Moisture is the enemy of freeze dried foods.
And the last true hidden cost of freeze drying is vacuum pump oil. This is one most people do not consider. The typical pump holds just over a quart in most cases.
Manufacturers recommend changing the oil every three cycles. However, those using these machines find it is smarter to change it after every use. You can either recycle your oil by running it through a filter or just replace it. The oil runs about $28 per gallon on Amazon.
So, let’s recap the costs of freeze drying.
There’s the cost of the machine. That’s the biggest one-time expense. Then there’s the food, which will be an ongoing cost. You will have to keep storage materials on hand to package everything. Then there’s the cost of the pump oil. And lastly, your time. Your time is worth money as well, so keep that in mind.
Even with all this, you may well find that packaging your own freeze dried food is worth it to you. You’ll be able to package what you want. You’ll know what’s in it and will be comfortable feeding this to your family. Personally, freeze drying is one part of my food storage system and one I rely on quite a bit. For me, it’s worth the expense.
This article was originally published in Survival Dispatch Insider magazine Volume 2 Issue 10.
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