Many homes are getting more accustomed to using food dehydrators and vacuum sealing their food so it lasts longer, but recent developments have given everyday folks more reason to invest in a freeze dryer to make their food last considerably longer.
What is freeze-drying?
The word itself sometimes sounds tricky and totally different from what we’re used to buying at the store. We aren’t used to buying freeze-dried foods at the store since most items are either fresh or from the frozen section. The truth is that you often buy more freeze-dried stuff than you might think you’re buying. Take for example your instant coffee granules or your ramen soup with little veggies in it.
Many foods that are meant to sit on the shelf are packaged so they last for many months, but it might surprise you that freeze-dried foods can last several years way beyond the typical dry foods that most of us come to expect. This is why freeze-dried coffee and instant ramen soup are perfect for stocking up on to last more than 5 to 10 years. If it’s packaged correctly it can last more than 20 years!
Freeze-drying is a process that tends to get very technical but is actually a combination of extreme cold and a vacuum that removes excess moisture and air. To give you an idea of how this works, think about the mummies that have been found on the high Alps of the Andes. These mummies are so perfectly preserved that the color of their skin, hair, and even tattoos are still perfectly visible after nearly 500 years!
Not that we’re saying that eating people is a good idea, but this gives you an idea of how extremely cold and dry conditions can preserve items no matter what they’re made from. This is what a freeze drier does in less than 20 hours to freeze dry food that you decide to store for long periods. Which is one more reason why people are starting to wonder why freeze driers aren’t in their homes?
What’s the biggest problem to buy a home freeze dryer?
Most people will argue that a freeze dryer unit is so costly that it doesn’t make sense to buy one for an average household. Here’s some info that will immediately start to make you scratch your head wondering why you didn’t think of buying one of these machines sooner.
The machines are too expensive
This is going to be the issue that most people bring up well before they consider buying a freeze dryer. The average cost of a home-based freeze dryer is between $2000-2500 and uses an oil-based vacuum pump. If you buy the same version that’s using an oil-free pump, the cost will increase to a little bit over $4000 just for a home unit. So this is the biggest issue? Well before you scoff at the concept just yet, this is what it can handle per batch.
A small unit can handle 4 to 7lbs of veggies, fruits, and meat any yield 1-1.5 gallons after it’s totally freeze-dried. This brings us to a total of 840lbs of food per year that can be freeze-dried to yield 195 gallons. Now, why do they convert this into gallons? Well, the space that this food will occupy is not exactly shrunken despite being freeze-dried. If you have 1 gallon of dried food, it will likely take up the amount of space within a one-gallon milk jug.
Of course, you’ll want to place freeze-dried food into vacuum-sealed bags and stored it in a nice cool place such as a pantry closet. To give you another reason why the cost of a machine makes sense is breaking this cost down to what it costs per day to own a freeze dryer. For a little more than $5.00 per day, your machine is capable of saving food that will last more than 20-25 years!
If that’s not enough reason to consider that you don’t have to use it every day, but the sheer volume of food you can put aside is a cost-savings. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated, it doesn’t need to be kept in a freezer, and it can be stored on a room temperature shelf for decades until you need it! This includes meat, fish, fruits, veggies, and many other items that you enjoy every day.
What can’t you freeze dry?
There are some drawbacks to freeze-drying that you should know also. Most veggies are better if they’re blanched beforehand since they tend to be too tough when they’re freeze-dried. Fruits that are high in sugar take longer to dry since there is more sugar content, but they do work just as well either way. When it comes to leafy veggies including spinach, kale, and lettuce, these aren’t so great for freeze-drying.
Tomatoes and fruits need to be cut in half so the moisture can escape while it’s freeze-dried. Anything that’s thick needs to be cut up so it will be easier to get out the moisture. Meat that has a lot of fat does need to be trimmed including the skin on chicken so it won’t have that layer of fat preventing proper dehydration. In general, very fatty foods aren’t great for freeze-drying.
The same goes for foods with high sugar content or are any kind of sauces, jams, or relish. These would be better for being stored in a vacuum-sealed jar or vacuum-sealed plastic bags.
Other issues with owning a freeze dryer
The smallest home unit is roughly the size of a mini-fridge which isn’t normally an issue, but if you have the space in your home, it’s not taking up so much space. The noise is another problem for some who say it’s too loud. It does sound as loud as a small vacuum cleaner which isn’t so bad if you place your unit in the basement or garage while it’s in use. The last issue does include replacing oil if you get a machine that comes with an oil pump.
If you spend the extra to have an oil-free pump, you don’t need to worry about replacing the oil every 5-7 batches. Oil pump machines also need flushing every 10-12 batches, so this is another reason why an oil-free pump is a bigger advantage. Needless to say, maintenance is going to be part of owning a freeze dryer.
Is a freeze dryer good for you?
It’s a great option for those who want to start saving money on food that can be stored for longer periods than you’re used to. To really start seeing any advantage to the outgoing costs can often take up to a year to see. But if you split the cost difference with close friends or neighbors, you’ll find that you can supplement your cost that first year with drying food for them is worth that price split.
Considering that freeze dryers have been a staple of food preppers who are waiting for some unknown zombie apocalypse, the word is quickly spreading to average folks. But consider that the cost of everyday food is also going up and will continue for years to come, so cost-savings are your ultimate advantage. The biggest advantage is that 98% of the nutritional content is perfectly preserved along with the original taste of that food.
You will need to have additional vacuum sealing bags and jars that allow you to store your freeze-dried foods. You will also need to have enough room to store your foods that should be kept in a cool dry place. But for food that can be rehydrated, reheated, and even cooked, will give you plenty of advantages if there ever is a food shortage or hard times happen to arise.