With extreme weather – heat, fires and floods – hitting much of the country and civil turmoil keeping semi trucks from making their deliveries, there's never been a better time to build up your food storage. Freeze dried meals are a classic emergency preparedness food, but new options can make freeze dried food a practical choice for every day meals. We've been test tasting and reading labels for over a year now, trying out different brands of ready to eat foods. These are our top choices for the best freeze dried foods. (To those who have been waiting for us to get done testing, thanks for your patience!)
Best Freeze Dried Foods Option #1 – For Whole Meals – Valley Food Storage
I like Valley Food Storage because they have no GMOs, no MSG, no fillers, and no hydrogenated oils. They have gluten free and dairy free options for those who need them, and you can create custom food storage kits by selecting only those food items you prefer. If you want to build up your food storage over time, they have monthly purchase plans that ship a set amount of feed each month. For the best pricing, you can purchase bulk kits designed for 1 month, 3 months or 1 year.
Like many prepackaged long term storage meals, these meals are light on meat. I plan accordingly for our family, supplementing with fresh, frozen, canned or freeze dried proteins as appropriate.
Best Freeze Dried Foods Option #2 – For Whole Meals – Numanna
Numanna offers food storage that is free of GMOs, HFCS, MSG, aspartame, soy and chemical preservatives. They have gluten free and organic options, as well as a Defender Nutritive Pack, which includes quinoa, chia seeds, brown rice, spelt, parboiled rice and a sprouting seed pack in addition to the meals for more calories and extra nutrients.
Best Freeze Dried Foods Options #3 – For Whole Meals – MaryJanesFarm
MaryJanesFarm features 100% organic meals. Bags can be ordered as singles online from Amazon.com, or directly from their online store. The ingredient lists are short, which I like. The meals are popular in with those involved in backpacking and other outdoor activities because they are packed in an EcoPouch. This packaging allows you to heat and rehydrate the meal in the pouch by adding boiling water. No pot or extended cooking required. This would obviously be a plus for emergency situations, too, because you wouldn't need to wash extra cooking vessels.
Best Freeze Foods Option #4 – For Specific Foods, Such as Vegetables, Fruits and Meat – Augason Farms
Augason Farms stocks an assortment of meals, but some of them contain ingredients that we try to avoid, like hydrolyzed soy protein. I like their basic freeze dried vegetables (broccoli, peas, and corn) and fruit (apples and bananas). They also stock real meat – freeze dried beef and chicken chunks. No monthly subscription is required, unlike Thrive Life Freeze Dried Foods. They are available online and through a variety of retailers. Foods come packed in #10 cans, which can be resealed, but for best quality you may want to vacuum seal leftovers if they are not expected to be used in a short amount of time.
Best Freeze Dried Foods Option #5 – For Meals and Specific Foods – Home Freeze Drying
By far the widest range of freeze dried foods can be found from your own home freeze drier. Earlier this HarvestRight Home Freeze Dryers gave me the opportunity to purchase a home freeze dryer at a discount. For the past several months, we've been experimenting with a variety of foods. The results have been delicious.
The dried strawberries taste like candy – light, sweet and bursting with berry flavor. Asparagus rehydrates to taste like freshly cooked asparagus. Fajita meat tasted like meat flavored “cheetos” when freeze dried. It rehydrated in minutes for a fast supper that tasted like fresh cooked. Almost any food can be freeze dried at home – even dairy such as milk, sour cream and cheese. (We freeze dried some shredded cheese. It turned out intensely cheesy and tasty, great for soups and casseroles.)
In online freeze dryer groups, people are freeze drying everything from flavored oatmeal to jumbo shrimp – all with good results. The only foods that don't freeze dry well are those that are extremely high in fat – like butter – or very high in sugar – like jam. There's very little water to be pulled out of oil, and the sugar binds to the water in high sugar foods so it cannot be pulled out.
While we have stocked up on an assortment of pre-made meals, from this point forward the majority of our freeze dried food storage will be home freeze dried food. We store our home freeze dried items in mason jars or Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers.
How Long Does Freeze Dried Food Last?
Matt from HarvestRight shared: “Low fat content foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meat, rice, noodles, etc. have a shelf life of 20+ years when packaged properly. The industry recommends 7 mil Mylar bags or #10 cans with a high quality oxygen absorber. Higher fat foods have a 10-15 year shelf life. When fat reacts with oxygen it can cause the food to spoil….hence the importance for proper packaging.”
How Does Freeze Dried Food Taste?
Freeze dried food tastes like food. The better the quality you start with, the better the finished product. Herb flavor profiles stay true, so make sure to look for ingredient lists with food that you like. For instance, the dried potato soups were pretty universally bland, but other dishes can be loaded with cilantro or jalapenos, or high in sugar. Label reading is still a good idea.
Unlike standard dehydrated food, freeze dried food is light and airy when dried, not leathery. Freeze dried food also tends to rehydrate more quickly – although we often eat plain fruits and veggies without rehydrating.
The meal sizes are not huge. They are not intended to be a substitute for a 1250 calorie MRE or 3600 calorie emergency food bar. When we were testing meals, we often paired them up with additional meat and veggies for our family of four (including 2 teen boys).
Which Food Storage Option is Best?
My family and I use a variety of food storage options – including root cellaring, canning, freezing, and dehydrating – as well as freeze drying. I really like the super long shelf life of freeze dried foods. Nothing else can match it. The food tastes good, and I expect to keep freeze drying for many years to come. Experiment with different food preservation techniques and food storage brands and find the combination that works best for your family.
Have you tried freeze dried food? What's your favorite option?
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- Home Food Preservation – 10 Ways to Preserve Food at Home
- How to Can Food at Home – Quick Guide to Safe Home Canning
- Home Food Drying – 6 Things You Need to Know to Dehydrate Food at Home
- Getting Started with Solar Cooking
- Root Cellars 101