— and the list goes on.
I consider canned and frozen foods as short-term food insurance - because of their relatively short shelf life. But freeze-dried foods? Definitely long-term food insurance.
The question we each have to answer is: How long do we want our food insurance to last? Six months? One year? Two years?
The pouches are a favorite of hikers and some campers because they are lightweight and quick preparation — just add hot or cold water. For these same reasons, it makes this method of food processing ideal for long term food storage. Sealed in #10 cans or buckets, either nitrogen flushed and/or oxygen absorbers, they have these great survival food benefits:
Many times you might have heard someone say that if you need to suddenly eat only freeze-dried or dehydrated food in an emergency, and your body isn't used to eating that sort of food, your digestive tract may really struggle.
Is that really true? Let's take a look at the ingredients.
Ingredients of a freeze-dried food dinner:
INGREDIENTS: Enriched Macaroni Product (Durum wheat semolina, Water, Salt), Modified Corn Starch, Freeze-dried Chicken Dice, Dried Milk, Whey, Sunflower Oil, LUX, Maltodextrin, Corn Syrup Solids, Imitation Butter (Butter [cream, salt, annatto extract], Non-fat dry milk, Maltodextrin, Buttermilk, Partially hydrogenated soybean oil, Salt, Sour cream [cultured cream, non-fat dry milk], Di-sodium phosphate, Natural and artificial flavors, Lactic acid, Citric acid), Natural Flavors, Garlic, Onion, Salt, Sugar, Spices
CONTAINS: Wheat, Milk, Soy Manufactured in a facility that processes tree nuts, wheat, soy, and milk.
Ingredients of frozen dinner from the store:
Which would you choose to feed your family? The ingredients of freeze-dried and dehydrated foods are shown on the cans of nearly every preparedness website. If you buy a #10 can of vegetables, you will get ONLY vegetables — nothing more. No additives — no preservatives. The same is true for fruits. That is definitely NOT the case with canned foods.
So the idea that these foods upset our digestive systems is entirely a myth.
There is one caveat however. If you eat enough of this food right out of the can (and it is tasty enough to do that), without consuming enough water, it will hydrate and swell in the digestive system. But this is true of any dried foods, such as Cheerios or dehydrated fruits bought at the store.
Maybe. But what if I told you that it could be less expensive. Let's just talk about produce for a moment — fruits and vegetables. How many times have you thrown out spoiled fresh produce before you had a chance to eat it? How old is that "fresh" produce by the time you bring it home from the store? 1 week? 2 weeks? More?
And how was it grown? And where? Did they use pesticides (which will go into your body)? Is it truly organic (meaning, hopefully, no pesticides)?
But it's nice to have complete meals you can prepare in a few minutes with a little water during a crisis. Whenever you look at the prices of full meal #10 cans on a preparedness website, get out your calculator. They always state the number of servings in a can. Divide the price by the number of servings. For instance: the ingredients listed above are from a can of Saragoga Farms Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo. Right now the price is $31.00 per can. Dividing #31.00 by 20 servings = $1.55 per serving. Is there anywhere you can purchase frozen or restaurant chicken fettuccine alfredo for $1.55 per serving? Not to my knowledge!
It's true that different brands may list a different number of servings, a different size of servings and, of course, the prices will differ. It is up to you to do the math to get the most for your money. I try to never buy any food unless it's on sale. It takes diligence and careful watching for the sales.
A couple of years ago I was able to attend the Self Reliance Expo where I taste-tested many different brands of freeze-dried foods. This is my review of some of the varieties I tried.
Mountain House® freeze-dried food is probably the most well-known brand. They are located in Oregon and have been in business for over 40 years. They have three manufacturing plants and provide over 60% of the freeze-drying capacity of the U.S. They have Kosher and Halal certifications and produce over 400 different foods and beverages. (The Nutri/System weight-loss products are private-labeled by Mountain House.)
So far, there isn't a Mountain House product that I didn't like (haven't tasted all of them).
Saratoga Farms - The taste is every bit as good (or better) as Mountain House but they have some different full meal varieties that are excellent. At the Expo I tasted the corn and the peas. These were not rehydrated — they were right out of the can — and they were delicious. The peas tasted slightly sweet but the corn was almost like candy! Tasted like fresh veggies . . . but . . . umm . . . dried.
Saratoga Farms usually has more servings per can than other brands (depending on the product). If you prefer real meat rather than TVP (textured vegetable protein), be sure and read the labels (available online) as some meals have real meat and some have TVP, which is true of every brand.
SOLD AT: The Ready Store
Emergency Essentials® - This brand includes both freeze-dried and dehydrated foods. There are plenty of the usual fruits, vegetables, and meals, as well as shortening, butter, potato slices, instant chocolate pudding, gourmet mixes, legumes, grains, pasta . . . and much more.
At the Expo I attended, Emergency Essentials cooked up some of their full-meal varieties to taste, as well as samples of some of the freeze-dried foods right out of the can. Cooked or not, I found them both to be delicious — especially the fruits — great for snacks any time.
There is a smaller size can that is perfect for camping, or just to try before investing in the larger (#10 size) cans. They have the same long term shelf life as all other freeze-dried and dehydrated foods in #10 cans and include pretty much the same products as the #10 cans, such as butter powder, instant milk, whole egg powder, fruits, vegetables, spices, etc. What the small cans don't have are full meals. They are perfect for filling your pantry with essentials.
Freeze-dried foods retain more of the nutritional value than canned or dehydrated, without the added chemicals and additives found in store-bought foods. Because many bulk foods are packaged in an oxygen-free environment, there is no need for additives or preservatives to keep the food fresh.
You may find that freeze-dried foods are the "best of the best" when it comes to food storage or quick meals while camping. Why? Because some contain all the ingredients and seasonings needed for a complete meal. Nothing more is needed, just a little cook time in hot water and they are ready to eat. The whole meals are pre-seasoned, pre-cooked and pre-mixed with other ingredients, making them the fastest, easiest and tastiest foods available.
There are many package sizes to suit your budget, your space requirements, and your needs, whether you're using freeze-dried food for storage, camping, boating, hiking, or even brown-bagging at work.
If you choose to fill your food storage with freeze-dried foods, you might want to try the pouch size or the small cans first to find out what your family likes. You may actually have to eat it some day should a crisis arise and it's best to be sure you have the varieties everyone likes.