Freeze-Dried Frugality

by Kellene

Freeze-Dried Raspberries copyright 2009 Preparedness ProIf you’re new to the Preparedness Pro site, allow me to remind you why I firmly believe that freeze-dried produce foods are ideal for everyday as well as for long-term menu planning—they are nutritious (sometimes even more so than the fresh produce you purchase); they are less expensive than fresh produce; they have a longer shelf-life than fresh, canned, or dehydrated produce; they are super clean (they have to be in order for the freeze-drying process to be accomplished properly); and they are so incredibly convenient—no cutting, dicing, slicing or cleaning necessary.  Having said all of this though,

I feel that it’s important that you pay special attention to that fact that I’m an advocate of freeze-dried ingredients, NOT the whole entrée.  I’m also not a fan of folks being turned on to a particular freeze-dried company and spending their money with them, hook line and sinker.  Not every company is good at everything they produce. Some companies are exactly the same in what they offer.   A lot of companies, for example, purchase their product from the exact same producer in Oregon—the only difference is pricing.  Also, there are a lot of products that freeze-dried manufacturers offer that are typically better off being purchased at your local warehouse or through coupon usage at your grocery store.

First of all, let’s start out with the primary issue of relying heavily on freeze-dried entrées.  Freeze-dried entrées are not all that they are cracked up to be.  For starters, they are weary on the wallet. It’s a LOT less expensive for me to create a “beef stroganoff” from a cluster of ingredients in my pantry than it is for me to purchase a sufficient amount of the same entrée from a freeze-dried entrée manufacturer.

Secondly, when you have a freeze-dried “taco soup” entrée, that’s all you’ve got. You’re stuck in that particular pigeon hole. Whereas if you had freeze-dried taco TVP, freeze-dried kidney beans, taco seasoning, and other such ingredients, you’ve got a whole lot more options.  I beg people not to take the reality of appetite fatigue too lightly.   A very large, global church recently shipped several tons of green beans to a needy community in S. Africa.  The citizens went crazy with delight when the shipment first arrived. However, over 50% of the delivery load still sits there today, amidst hungry families, because they are sick and tired of green beans.  Variety is critical. So please don’t stock up on 52 packages of a particular meal with the intent of providing that same meal for a year.  Most family households should have about 50 different dishes/meals in their repertoire, not to mention the “I don’t feel like cooking” dishes such as the occasional quickie meal. Such a repertoire will ensure that you and your family do not get “sick” of a particular food. Remember, mealtime needs to provide comfort, not stress.  Good dishes that get switched up are important for this very reason.

Speaking of freeze-dried meals…that’s another reason why they aren’t a great idea, they inhibit you from becoming more independent in being able to create, in the true sense of the word. The key is being able to adapt to a variety of circumstances with your existing ingredients.  Being able to take 4 or 5 ingredients to create an enjoyable meal easily will give you a lot more confidence and possibilities to provide quality meals for you and those you care about.  It may sound old-fashioned, but I think too many people have lost their most basic necessary skills nowadays. We just don’t teach them to our children anymore.  All too infrequently does a family sit down and eat together, let alone learn how to prepare a meal together.  And yet if there’s ever an occasion in which we don’t have access to the microwave or our regular stove top and oven, we will need to know a lot more than the skills necessary to just heating things up.

I personally believe that the freeze-dried meals are better for camping and backpacking scenarios rather than your everyday independence pantry. Sure they take up less space, but they fill up less space in your tummy too. *grin* Even more important to my snob palate is the taste of the freeze-dried meals. I think there are a great number of them that taste pretty darn good, but the number of calories are usually too low to sustain you, and the texture of the food is often compromised.  I do much better ensuring the necessary amount of calories, nutrition, and texture using my freeze-dried ingredients as ingredients—not meals. The other day I was testing a freeze-dried meal from a well-known manufacturer.  The taste was fine, but I had to cook it much longer than the instructions required to get all of the pasta done properly, and by that time, much of the pasta was shredded and unappealing.  I ate it anyway—no sense wasting it. But it just wasn’t as beautiful and satisfying as what I would have made in the same amount of time, providing all of the ingredients myself, at a fraction of the cost.

Another downside to freeze-dried meals is that different types of foods will last different periods of time. Pasta doesn’t last anywhere near as long as powdered tomato powder or beef flavored vegetable protein, for example.  And yet when I purchase a beef stroganoff meal, I’m counting on the entire meal to last until I need to use it.  Also, some foods coming in contact with other foods cause their breakdown sooner as well. Pasta mixed in with something acidic or sugary substance such as powdered tomato will cause it to go bad sooner, whereas if I stored the pasta by itself in a tight container and the tomato powder separately, you’ll have a much longer shelf-life on both of them.

I’ve seen several quality freeze-dried food manufacturers sell items such as sugar, rice, corn starch, and spaghetti with their other products.  I would warn you all in purchasing such items from these kinds of companies as I’ve never found any staple products such as these so amazingly priced that I just had to purchase them.  Falling into that snare usually only occurs if one is out of touch with the price of these staple items.  I can always do a much better job purchasing frugally through a combination of sales and coupons at the grocery stores.  Some think that the price is worthwhile due to the #10 can that many of the goods are packed in.  While there certainly isn’t a problem with these items being stored in a #10 can, in fact, it’s a great way to go, I certainly wouldn’t go to greater expense to obtain them this way—especially not when I can obtain most of the staple items for FREE with coupons. When I am able to purchase such items, I simply store them collectively in their original packaging in a 4-gallon square bucket with appropriate preservation material such as diatomaceous earth, bay leaves, or an oxygen absorber.

In closing, I just want to encourage you to select your freeze-dried ingredients wisely. Be sure that you are aware of how much reconstituted food the product will yield. Be knowledgeable of the shelf-life. I personally like to price products by the ounces of yield, not the price of the can. I’ve even found one food manufacturer that illegally put the GROSS weight of the product in the container, not the net yield of the product the can contained. Some manufacturers will not even provide a food yield of their product claiming that it will divulge “confidential freeze-drying process” by doing so. Um…that’s sooo not ok with me.  Still some companies, such as the highly advertised Daily Bread, won’t even provide you with the ability to compare product shape, ounces, prices, etc. The only way you can get their product information is to permit a salesperson into your home and purchase packages rather than specifically what you want.  I’ve heard from many folks that the Daily Bread product tastes quite good.While I can appreciate that their products taste good, don’t try to spin me and tell me that you can only afford the prices you offer by requiring people to purchase packages when you’re advertising during the prime time Glenn Beck Show!  I’d rather skip the Glenn Beck advertisement, skip the salesperson’s commission and employment taxes and benefits, be able to peruse your abundant information on the internet, NOT take time out of my day to meet with a salesperson two weeks after I’ve contacted the company, and have more money to buy more of that which feeds my family, thank you.

Well, that’s my spin on freeze-dried entrées, folks. Take it or leave it, but I hope for your enjoyment, comfort, peace of mind, and ease that you take it.

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I really apprieciate this info on the vegies and fruits. I always thought they would be out of reach cost wise but now I have learn they are a great buy.

My husband and I are having a disagreement on how "clean" freeze dried food is. He use to launch the space shuttle and is a scientist. He tells me that they freeze dry the astronuts poop and pee when they are in space. He tells me fruits and veggies do not have to be super clean to freeze dry properly. Many of the fruits and veggies that are freeze dried come from countries I would not buy from.

Preparedness Pro's picture

Ok. This is kind of funny on so many levels. I assure you that the "freeze-dry process" that the astronauts used on human waste was not for the intent of feeding it later to humans. :-)
And yes, you're correct, MOST of the freeze-dried produce does come from countries (about 90%+) that one would be reticent to purchase from for whatever reasons, however, that's why I would only do so if it's a freeze-dried process which is performed in the U.S.--that's the process that is so critical in order to mitigate any undesirable issue that may be present or perceived. The U.S. simply does not produce enough produce to meet the demand for freeze-dried and fresh and canned produce for ourselves and the other nations that we export to. For example, the freeze-dried product that Five Star Preparedness offers is Kosher, and "circle U certified" and they specifically use the same freeze-drying process as NASA does for food which will be consumed by humans, not waste which will be expelled by humans. Hope this helps.

Hi Kellene, could you comment on the nutritional value of food dehydrated at home versus pre-packaged freeze-dried (as opposed to dehydrated) items? I'm only buying a few freeze-dried items for my food storage that I can't make as easily at home--tomato powder and banana chips are two of the main items. But like you said, preparing food yourself allows you to be in control of what goes into it and how it comes out. I think I may have mentioned on another one of your threads that I've posted a series of articles on my blog as well about food dehydration and storage.

I'm glad to see someone else as passionate about food storage as I am. I think it will really help ease some of the coming hard times for myself and my family.

Preparedness Pro's picture

ahhh.... did he say "food storage"? my eyes! eyes!...

Nick, I have other articles on here which address the hierarchy of the nutritional value of most produce. Just do a search on "freeze-dried"
Once you read a bit more of what I've written Nick, you realize that I don't believe in "emergency preparedness, or food storage." I believe in a well stocked everyday pantry and that usually the difference between an emergency and "just a part of life" is how well you're prepared for it.


Have you ever purchased the bulk packages of freeze dried fruits - such as a 30 pound box of strawberries from the Wheat Lady? How would I store them without crushing them all to powder? Also, how long would they last, since they aren't canned? How about vacuum sealing them?

On another note, I tried to vacuum seal some pesto using the Univeral jar attachment on the container the pesto came in. Some pesto was sucked into the vacuum tube (and the plastic container warped due to the vacuum pressure, and the seal broke). Is my jar sealer ruined now? ? ? What did I do wrong, am I supposed to put the contents in a mason jar to vacuum seal it? How can you avoid getting wet contents sucked into the jar sealer? Should I be asking the food saver company this question?

Preparedness Pro's picture

You should only use the FoodSaver jar/vacuum sealer for dry items. If they are a fine powder, then you also should not use the jar sealer.

The only way I vacuum pack wet ingredients is via the FoodSaver bag when I'm putting it in the freezer or the refrigerator.

Thank you for breaking it down like that. I've never really given thought to the way the foods break down. You're doing such a great service to everyone. Keep up the good work!


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