Dehydrated vs. Freeze Dried Foods

February 19, 2012, by Lauren (Mrs. MSB)


We are sometimes asked, what is the best food for my survival storage, dehydrated or freeze dried? Let’s start with a basic understanding of what each process does to the food.

Dehydration simply means, the process of removing water from a substance or a compound. This is something you can do right in your own home with extra food from your garden, or vegetables and fruits you have purchased at the market for a great price. Dehydrators come in a variety of sizes for a variety of prices. We own a Excalibur 3900 dehydrator, and we love it.

Dehydrated foods have a ‘typical’ shelf life of about six months to a year. This is usually the time frame given to those who dehydrate at home. However, shelf life depends on different factors. It depends on what type of containers your food is being stored in, what temperature are they encountering and what percentage of the water has been removed from the food. Ken and I eat ours before the next gardening season so we’ve never experienced older foods.

One of my favorite ways to use our excess garden bounty is in soup. The hot broth in your soup will rehydrate your veggies. It’s delicious to use dehydrated potatoes, green beans and squash in your soup! And after they’ve been simmering in soup for awhile, you can’t hardly tell the difference from ‘fresh’. Dehydrated tomatoes make a very delicious tomato sauce to be used with pasta. Adding your spices and seasonings to your dehydrated foods will make delicious meals for you and your family.

Now let’s talk a little bit about freeze dried foods. Freeze drying is a dehydration process as well. The foods are cooked, processed and then they are frozen. During the freezing process, the surrounding air pressure is reduced (vacuum chamber) to allow the frozen water in the meal to go from a ‘solid phase to a gas phase’ to remove even more moisture. Freeze drying removes more water than dehydrating, so it lengthens a food’s shelf life. Many vendors of freeze dried foods claim the shelf life is 25 years. Since they are well packaged with almost all of the water and air removed, I can believe that 25 years is a realistic claim.

Ken and I have tried some freeze dried meals and they were absolutely delicious and easy. Just a little time in hot water to heat and rehydrate them and you get a tasty meal. These freeze dried meals are already seasoned, cooked and mixed together to make a delicious and nutritious meal.

So, both types of food have a decent shelf life, about a year for homemade dehydrated and up to 25 years for the freeze dried if packaged well and sealed. The freeze dried variety is obviously the best choice for long term storage between the two. Both are very light weight to store or carry. I would say the freeze dried takes up less space in general for your storage. The advantage of dehydration is that you can do it yourself and preserve your own garden bounty, but freeze dried requires special and expensive professional equipment.

We have lots of freeze dried foods for our long term storage, along with other foods, and we also take advantage of dehydrating our own foods during the growing season.


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