If you ask preppers around what type of food they have on hand and what preservation techniques they use, you’re gonna a get a lot of answers. MREs, canned food, dehydrated food, freeze-dried… these are all proven to stand the test of time as long as the foods in question are stored in good conditions (which usually means in cold, dark places).
But there’s one type of food preservation technique that’s preferred by a good portion of the preppers: freeze drying. It has some huge benefits but it does have an Achilles heel. I’ll tel you what that is in a minute but first I want to tell you what freeze-drying is and what’s so great about it.
Freeze-drying is a unique dehydration process in which you first freeze the food you want to preserve and then you reduce the pressure to allow the (already frozen) water/ice inside it to sublime. That’s just a fancy way of saying the water is going from solid to gas. Once this is done, the food needs to be sealed to prevent water molecules from entering (as you know, there’s always moisture inside the air that we breathe).
And that’s what it pretty much is. now, you may be looking at the above over-simplification of the process and think to yourself: ok, this is odd. Does this really work?
Well, yes, it does. In fact, the benefits of freeze-dried food are important enough for anyone to consider them when building your food stockpile.
Benefit #1: it retains much of the food’s flavor and nutritional value
The other dehydration methods that use high temperatures can cause damage to the food and its nutrients. When you reconstitute a food preserved using the technique in question, however, you’re going to be amazed to notice that it tastes almost exactly as it should.
For example, as study done at the Medical College of Wisconsin concluded that wild berries retain 90% of their anthocyanins.
Benefit #2: long shelf life
Having foods that last a very long time is crucial for any survival pantry. Freeze-dried food will typically last you twice as long as the food preserved using traditional methods. This means you don’t have to worry as much about when your stuff is about to expire so you can rotate it. Let’s not forget that canning, dehydrating and even freeze-drying is not something you do in 10 minutes so, the less you have to worry about it, the better.
Benefit #3: freeze-dried food is lightweight
Why is this important? Because carrying cans of food in your bug-out bag is not feasible. Every ounce counts so having free-dried foods is going to save a ton of space and shed off several pounds. Keep in mind you’re gonna have to walk and run with that thing on your back and, unless you’re a pretty fit guy, you’ll typically last a lot less than you imagine.
The Achilles Heel of Freeze-Dried Food
There’s one big problem with the food stored using this preservation technique. In order to consume it, you have to add water again.
It’s not the actual process that’s problematic but finding the actual water. Since we’re looking at this whole thing from a survivalist perspective, clean water may or may not be available to you. If you decide to pack some extra bottles in your bug-out bag just to use them to reconstitute your food, you end-up back to square one from a weight perspective. Water is heavy, you know.
To overcome this obstacle, you have to make reasonably sure that you’ll have enough water on hand when it hits the fan. I’m talking about clean, potable water OR not-so-clean water that you can filter and purify. Eating freeze-dried food without adding water first is probably going to dehydrate you.
Are there any other disadvantages to freeze-dried foods?
Yes, they’re pretty expensive, for one. And the reason for that is the second downside, that the entire freeze-drying process takes a lot of energy. The solution is to do your own-freeze drying at home but, depending on how well you do it, you’ll end up with food that may have less shelf life than expected.
Here’s a neat video of how to freeze-dry at home:
DIY can be fun, but for most of us, it may be easier just to grab some freeze dried food online, here’s a few link to some great deals on Amazon:
Mountain House – Essentials Bucket: http://amzn.to/1KWzrEU
Mountain House – 72 Hour Kit: http://amzn.to/1T71mVj
Mountain House – Singles: http://amzn.to/1F43Jx9
Are Freeze-Dried Foods for You?
As with anything, it depends. If you have a car as your bug-out vehicle, they are a good option as long as you also pack extra water. If you’re bugging in and you already have a huge water supply and/or alternate water sources such as rivers, wells and ponds, freeze dried foods are a good option as well.
However, if you live in the desert where water is going to be a problem, you’re much better off with canned food. Pink salmon and spam are just a couple of the canned foods with 5+ years of shelf life (you can find a full list of canned foods here).
The choice is yours but it’s probably best to not go into extremes. A combination of freeze-dried, canned and dehydrated food is probably better as it will allow you to experiment with different the types of preservation methods.
Dan F. Sullivan