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Prepper Freeze Dried Food: 16 Freeze Drying Questions Answered

We´ve created this comprehensive guide to help you understand all about freeze dried survival food. In this article we answer 16 questions preppers may have around freeze drying.

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When it comes to creating a survival food stockpile, we´ve all heard the same advice. Store the food you eat and rotate through it. But what if you want to put up a cache of food that you might not crack into for 5, 10, or even 20 years? You´ll want the best foods for long-term storage.

If you´ve been doing your research, you have probably heard about freeze dried food.

There is some conflicting information out there about freeze dried survival foods. Some preppers love them, others hate them. If you are looking to diversify your long-term survival food stockpile, you are probably wondering, is freeze dried food a viable option?

Here at Telson Survival, we believe that it is not only a viable option, but that it is actually one of the best options available for long-term food storage.

Freeze dried food boasts the longest shelf life of all processed foods. They conserve the majority of their vitamin and mineral content, providing meaningful sustenance years after storing them away. Additionally, they are easy to reconstitute into satisfying meals simply by adding water. 

We´ve created this comprehensive guide to help you understand all about freeze dried survival food. We've dug deep to help answer some of the questions you may have around freeze drying for preppers:

  • What are the different kinds of freeze-dried food available?
  • Are freeze dried foods healthy?
  • Can you really survive off them?
  • Is it possible to freeze dry food at home? 

And we´ll even address that most important of questions… Why is it so expensive?

Prepper Freeze Dried Food - Is it Worth It?

Like most people, you are probably a little put off by the cost of a freeze dried meal. On the cheap side of things, you´ll find meal pouches that cost around $5 - $6. The price can easily run up to $11 or $12 per meal, depending on the brand and the ingredients.

Why is freeze dried food expensive? 

It's important to understand that freeze drying, as a process, is very energy intensive. The equipment involved is very specialized and uses a lot of electricity. If you add the costs of production to the costs of the food, you are looking at around $1 to $2 per 100 calories at the retail level. This translates to roughly about $20 - $25, minimum, a day for 2000 calories if you are purchasing prepackaged meals.

So, is it worth it? With so many options available for the long-term storage of food, why in the world would you want to choose an option that is so expensive? 

Here´s the deal: With freeze dried food, you are not just purchasing a meal. You are purchasing all of the advantages that this modern food preservation method brings with it.

These freeze dried food advantages include:

  • A near indefinite shelf life.
  • Being ultra-lightweight and portable.
  • The complete nutritional profile, preserved, as if the food were fresh.
  • Being palatable upon rehydrating.

So, are freeze dried foods worth it for preppers? Absolutely. 

If one of your main concerns about stockpiling freeze dried food is how expensive it is, take note. There are ways to reduce the price per meal cost. 

Consider saving the more expensive pre-packaged meals for your bug-out bag or get home bag, and consider stocking up on bulk, single ingredient freeze dried options for bugging in.

You not only lower your cost per meal, but you also have more control over the meals you will eventually be preparing. There is an incredible variety of ready-to-store bulk fruits, vegetables, meats, and grains that you can choose from.

Can Preppers Live Off Freeze Dried Foods?

If SHTF, and you had to rely exclusively upon your prepper stockpile of survival food, would you get sick eating exclusively freeze dried foods?

It's a good question. And as with most things in the survivalist world, the answer is not always black and white. The simple answer is yes. If you have a steady supply of clean water, you can live off of freeze dried foods.

There is one really important consideration to keep in mind though.

High sodium content in commercial survival meals can make you ill. In just one packet of a popular brand´s fettuccine alfredo with chicken, you can count on 62% of your daily sodium intake (if you eat it all as one meal). Multiply that by three… and well, you can see where this is going.

Eating too much salt in a short amount of time can make you feel bloated, can raise your blood pressure, and cause unrelenting thirst. That's no good in a survival situation. Over the long term, too much salt can cause chronic blood pressure issues which could lead to heart disease. There is also a higher risk of developing stomach cancer.

Aside from salt, you will also want to pay attention to the fat and sugar content of premixed instant meals, which can also be very highly concentrated. 

So, while a prepper can live off of freeze dried food, we do not recommend it.

Freeze Dried Survival Food Health Tips

If you want to be able to survive exclusively off freeze dried food, and like the convenience of prepackaged meals, we suggest that you mix your own. This will help you control the quality of the ingredients as well as the salt, fat, and sugar content.

Your health, after all, is priceless. You should do everything within your power to preserve it.

If you purchase freeze dried ingredients individually you can then mix your own meals. Some really great recipes can be found online with a little digging. Package each meal in a mylar bag, pop in an oxygen absorber, and seal it. The shelf life is comparable and the savings for both your pocketbook and your health are considerable.

If you are serious about taking your prep to the next level, you may want to consider purchasing a home freeze drying machine.

Is a Freeze Dryer Worth it for Preppers?

Having the capability to freeze dry any food in the comfort of your own home comes with a price.  A home freeze dryer is, admittedly, on the expensive side. It's only natural to think twice (or three or four times) before taking the jump and making such an investment. 

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A home freeze dryer for preppers is an amazing tool to help bulk up your emergency food supply and is absolutely worth every penny. With the smallest model, you can put up nearly 850 lbs of fresh food in a year, at a cost of around $1 a load!

Freeze drying at home allows you to put your favorite pre-cooked meals into long-term storage. You can also freeze dry fresh meat, vegetables, and an array of fruits, sauces, salsas, dairy products,  and desserts. You have absolute control over the quality of the food you put up.

If you want to be able to live off of your stockpile of freeze dried food with no long-term health consequences, consider investing in a freeze dryer for preppers. 

Freeze Drying Machine Costs

As of right now (early 2021), there is only one company that manufactures freeze dryers for home use. Harvest Right is based out of Salt Lake City, Utah, and carefully manufactures each unit in their small production facility.

A small unit will cost you about $2200 while a medium sized one runs around $2700. The largest units, capable of processing around 2,500 lbs of fresh food in a year, cost about $3500.

If you are worried about how much it costs to run a freeze dryer, the folks at Common Sense Home did a fantastic cost analysis. According to their calculations, it only costs around $200 a year to run the machine if you do an average of two loads per week. 

Best Freeze Dryer for Preppers

As a prepper, how do you choose which is the best freeze dryer for you? First, take a look at how many people are in your family and how many people you will want to build your survival food stockpile for.

For a small family, you should be fine with the small unit, which is capable of processing up to 7 lbs. of food per batch.

If you have a bigger family, or simply need to process large quantities of food, consider going with the largest unit. This size is capable of processing up to 16 lbs. of food in one cycle. The midsize model can freeze dry up to 10 lbs. of food per batch.

Can You Build a Freeze Dryer?

Building a freeze drying machine is a fairly complex task, but the science is actually fairly simple. If you are the engineer type, or simply like a good challenge, consider making a DIY preppers freeze dryer.

It is a little complicated to explain in writing how to build it, so we decided to share this great video that thoroughly explains the process.

How Do You Freeze Dry Without a Freeze Dryer?

If the thought of building your own DIY freeze dryer seems a little overwhelming to you, we understand. If anything, after watching that video you have a better appreciation of the costs and practicality of a commercial freeze dryer.

But did you know that it is possible to actually freeze dry food without any specialized technology?

Before the Spanish arrived in South America, the indigenous communities there had developed a process for preserving potatoes in the high Andes. The freezing temperatures combined with a blazing sun at high altitudes create the perfect conditions for rudimentary freeze drying. The final product, chuño, could keep for decades and was used to feed Incan armies.

If you want to try freeze drying at home without the power of the Andean sun, there are a few different techniques you can try.

The Freezer Method

You can actually freeze dry food by simply placing the food you want to process onto a lined tray in your freezer. The food should be uncovered and unsealed. After about three weeks, all of the moisture should have evaporated out of the fruit which can then be stored in airtight containers.

The Dry Ice Method

If you place 1lb. of food under 1lb. of dry ice in an unsealed cooler, your food will be freeze dried after all the dry ice has evaporated. Make sure to put your food into freezer safe bags and vacuum seal it after it has finished processing.

How Long Does Freeze Drying Take?

Freeze drying with a machine is a fast and efficient process. Most batches take between 13 - 18 hours, depending on the moisture content of the food and the cycle you use to process it. 

DIY methods are much less precise. The freezer method takes weeks, and the dry ice method takes at least a day. The indigenous Andeans freeze dry their potatoes in five days or so.

If you are going to freeze dry your survival foods without a home freeze dryer, make sure to plan for some trial and error to perfect the process. It is worth investing time and energy into getting it right. You want to avoid your survival food going bad.

Best Freeze Dried Food for Long Term Storage

Whether you decide that you want to do it yourself or buy commercially pre-packaged options, there are certain freeze dried foods that every prepper should have in their long-term emergency food stockpile.

Freeze Dried Meat and Eggs

Consider stocking diced beef, ground beef, diced chicken, and pork sausage. If you are a vegetarian and want to secure a safe source of protein, a TVP meat substitute is a good option.

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If you want to go fancy and plan for an extravagant meal after SHTF, consider including some sirloin steak! Another valuable source of protein that you may want to stock in your emergency food supply is freeze dried eggs.

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Freeze Dried Vegetables

The best veggies that you can include in your survival food cache are those which can be used to make a wide variety of tasty dishes. Potatoes are an obvious choice, but you should also consider bulk supplies of sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, sweet corn, peas, and green beans.

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Don´t forget to pack away lots and lots of tomato powder. With this single base ingredient, you can make staples like ketchup, marinara sauce, and salsas. It is also excellent for adding flavor to any recipe.

If you have a survival garden and are freeze drying at home, don´t forget to put up zucchini, squash, peppers, and a whole assortment of herbs and spices. If you can grow it, you can freeze dry it!  This includes watery vegetables, too!

Freeze Dried Fruits

The most popular freeze dried fruits are the ones that you can eat straight out of the can as a delicious snack, no reconstitution required. Bananas, apples, strawberries, pineapple, and mangos are all popular options.

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You can also stock up on raspberries, blackberries, peaches, and blueberries. According to taste tests, and customer feedback, the freeze dried texture of these fruits is not quite as appealing as it is with others. Don´t let that stop you from stocking up on them though, because they are delicious when reconstituted and mixed in with other recipes.

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Freeze Dried Dairy

Freeze drying is a great way to put up cheese, yogurt, and even milk. Commercially, there are fairly limited options available. If you will be freeze drying at home, however, you can process practically any dairy product except for butter.

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Freeze Dried Meals and Mixes

With a home freeze dryer, you can process nearly all of your favorite homemade foods for long term storage. These comfort foods will keep your spirits up if times are tough and you are surviving off your food stockpile.

If you want to purchase ready-made meals, we recommend that you read the label and be strategic in your purchasing. Try to buy options that are lower in sodium and other highly processed ingredients.

Bulk options like scrambled eggs and bacon, vegetable soup, and macaroni and cheese are good solid staples. Remember, stockpile food that you like and will enjoy eating.  

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Survival Food that Can't be Freeze Dried

You may notice when you are looking for freeze dried foods that there are certain things that you can´t find. This is because some things simply cannot be freeze dried.

High Sugar Foods

Wait a minute… ice cream, one of the most famous freeze dried treats, is absolutely high sugar. So what gives?

Well, we´re talking about things such as jam, jellies, and other fruit spreads. You should also note that honey or syrup is impossible to freeze dry. These foods do not have enough non-sugar structure to support the freeze drying process.

High-Fat Foods

Things like butter, bacon, and sausage are really hard to process.  Avoid freeze drying peanut or other nut butters, as well. Fats are a type of moisture that just will not evaporate. You can, however, dehydrate whole milk, sour cream, and cheese.

Luckily alternatives exist if you want to stockpile emergency supplies of products like powdered peanut butter or butter. As for the fatty meats, consider laying in and rotating through cured sausages or salamis. 

Remember, honey never goes bad, and with enough sugar in your emergency food supply, you can easily make jams with reconstituted freeze dried fruits.

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How Do You Rehydrate Freeze Dried Food?

Rehydrating your freeze dried food is really easy. All you have to do is add water.

If you are making a soup, for instance, just toss everything in the pot, as is, and it will rehydrate and cook simultaneously. There is no need to pre-rehydrate anything. If you want to reconstitute fruits or veggies, simply place them in a bowl of water for about half an hour. You can then cook them as if they were fresh. The same holds true for meat.

The great thing about freeze dried food is that you do not actually have to rehydrate it to enjoy it. Freeze drying creates a crunchy texture and intensely concentrated flavor in any food. Feel free to eat it as is, directly from the bag. Just remember to drink plenty of water.

Is Freeze Drying the Same as Dehydration?

Freeze drying is a completely different process than simple dehydration, though the goal is the same: remove the water content from food to preserve it.

Freeze drying works through a process called sublimation. Basically, taking advantage of the laws of physics, it is possible to adjust temperature and pressure to force solid water to evaporate, bypassing its liquid form. 

To freeze dry food, it needs to be frozen. The pressure is then lowered and the temperature adjusted to force sublimation. As a result, the water evaporates out of the food without affecting its color, size, or shape. Because the food has never been heated, its nutrient content stays the same.

The moisture content of freeze dried food is reduced to nearly zero. This means that if stored properly, it can be shelf-stable for 25+ years.

Dehydrated food, on the other hand, typically requires heating the food you will be preserving.  The heat speeds up evaporation, reducing the moisture content to somewhere between 10% - 20%, depending on what you are drying down.

Because of the heating process, the nutritional profile of dehydrated food is slightly different than its fresh version. Dehydrated food typically has a shorter shelf life, as well. It is recommended that you consume dehydrated foods before five years have passed, though with proper storage they can last up to 10+ years.

Be sure to check out our three-part guide on dehydrating survival food to get the complete lowdown on dehydration as a way to preserve food for long-term storage.

What Survival Food is Cheaper: Freeze Dried or MREs?

If you are looking at your budget (which is completely normal and very important) you are probably wondering if maybe MREs are a cheaper option for your survival meal stockpile. Let's compare.

MRE´s, if bought in bulk, typically cost around $10 - $12 a meal. Each meal typically contains between 1200 - 1500 calories. If you eat two MREs a day in a survival situation, you will be spending around $20 a day per person.

Freeze dried meals, also cost around $10 (this is a rough average) per pouch. Finding the less expensive options, you would need to consume about three pouches of food to reach 2000 calories.  Those freeze dried meals will cost you about $25.

So, yeah, MREs are a cheaper option. You get more calories for less money. But you also get more bulk and more weight. Sometimes, cheap can be expensive.

The Takeaway - Is Freeze Dried Food a Good Idea for Prepping?

All in all, it is our opinion that freeze dried food is a great option for preppers who can count on a stable source of clean water. There is no survival food on the market that is quite as versatile. You can easily prepare your get home bag or bug out bag with hearty, filling meals that will not weigh you down or create unnecessary bulk. 

You can stock your survival caches with food that will not go bad if you don´t get to change it out regularly. You can prepare an emergency food stockpile at your bug out location that you won´t have to stress about rotating through.

And you can fill your pantry at home with freeze dried food that you know you can live off if SHTF and things get really bad. Being prepared comes with a cost. Securing your long-term emergency food supply is worth investing in.

Freeze Drying Frequently Asked Questions

Does Freeze Drying Kill Bacteria?

Technically, freeze drying does not actually kill bacteria, it inactivates them. By removing nearly all of the water from food, microbes have no way to grow or prosper. 

It is interesting to note that scientists actually freeze dry bacteria to preserve them for future study.  Freeze drying ¨reversibly inactivates¨ microbes, meaning that if they are exposed to moisture and are allowed to reactivate under the right conditions, they could potentially pose a health risk. 

This is why you must handle your reconstituted freeze dried food, particularly meats, with the same precautions you would use for fresh food.

How Do You Know if Freeze Dried Food is Bad?

So can you really trust a package of food that's been gathering dust for 20+ years?  Most of the time, when it comes to freeze dried food, yes. It is a good idea though to have an idea of what to look for so you can know if your food has gone bad while in storage.

Pay attention for signs of moisture. Your freeze dried food should be crisp and crumbly (it should shatter readily or easily grind into powder) even after 25 years in storage.  If it is chewy, soft, or squishy then you should consider it lost.

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