It’s Settled; Freeze Dried Food IS Best For Survival

By Just In Case Jack | Last Updated: May 6, 2019

Freeze Dried FoodThere’s a lot of confusion around freeze-dried food in survival and preparedness.

What is it, what it’s not, why you should care, can you make freeze dry food at home, etc.?

That’s why today I’m going to clear the air. I’m going to  share with you everything I know about freeze-dried food, specifically:

Note: You can skip to any article section by clicking any of the links above.

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Reseal Strip and Uncooked Freeze Dried Food

What Is Freeze Drying Anyway?

Freeze drying food is a food preservation method using the science of low-temperature dehydration.

This process results in a lightweight, shelf-stable, and decay-resistant food product.

But freeze drying is only possible by using a tightly controlled series of temperature and vacuum settings. And this can only take place in a sealed chamber that takes advantage of sublimation.

Sublimation is when ice changes directly from a solid to a gas. Skipping over the liquid state entirely.

Once the ice is in its gas form, the freeze dryer extracts it from the chamber and away from the food.

We can break the entire process down into three simple steps:

  • Step 1: Freeze the food
  • Step 2: Decrease air pressure
  • Step 3: Slowly warm the food to allow ice to sublimate, removing water vapor

Repeating this process several times will gradually reduce the water locked within the food.

In the end, the food retains its original appearance, taste, and smell – but with a fraction of the moisture and weight. Resulting in dehydrated food – with nearly zero moisture.

Here’s a quick 40-second video that gives you an overview of how to freeze dry food:

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Dehydrated Mushroooms

Freeze Dry Vs. Dehydration

Now, let’s address the differences between freeze drying and other dehydration methods.

All conventional home dehydration methods depend on warm, dry air moving over food, as opposed to the cold temperatures of freeze drying.

For example:

Countertop Dehydrators

Nearly all outdoor and home goods stores carry all-in-one countertop dehydrators.

These consist of a stackable series of open trays and a combination fan/heater. This fan circulates warm air past the food, gradually extracting moisture.

Solar Dehydrators

Solar dehydrators (sometimes called Solar Ovens) also use gentle heat to remove moisture from food.

This can be as simple as open trays in the sun in a hot climate. In colder climates, an enclosed warm space (i.e., a greenhouse) works best.

Regardless of the temperature, adding air circulation speeds up the dehydrating process.


Smoked meats and fish are a traditional way to dehydrate and preserve a seasonal catch.

Smoke takes advantage of the dry heat and smoke produced by a fire. The natural chemicals in the smoke dry out the food’s surface layers and prevent spoilage.

Smoked meats can have a very long shelf life depending on how dry the end product is (and how well it’s packaged).

Most of these non-freeze drying techniques use similar temperature ranges (100-150 deg). And they’re all easy to do at home (you can even use the oven with the door cracked).

And they provide decent results, especially with sturdy vegetables and fruits. I’ve also eaten at least my own body weight in venison jerky prepared this way over the years.

Unfortunately, they do an unsavory job with liquid foods such as soups.

They are also not a suitable method for delicate foods like berries because they lose their structure with heating.

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mre's for food stockpile

Freeze Dried Food Vs. MREs

Often people get confused between freeze dried foods and MREs. Why? Because they are both considered “survival” or “prepper” foods.

Yes, many people buy and stockpile them for a future emergency, but they are not the same.

The easiest way to explain the difference between MREs and freeze dried meals is MREs require no rehydration. MRE (meal ready to eat) is ready to consume immediately after opening.

With freeze dried meals, you add boiling water to the dried food to rehydrate it. This requires a portable stove and fuel.

With MREs, the main entree often includes a chemical heating pad. This allows you to warm up the food without a separate stove quickly.

MREs also include extra items, such as gum, a spoon, a candy bar, matches, tabasco sauce, crackers, etc.

However, this extreme reduction in moisture and no extras has some significant benefits, especially for survival.

First, it significantly extends the shelf life of the food. With nearly no moisture, freeze dried food can sit on the shelf for 25 or even 30 years (as long as it remains in a cool, dry environment).

However, with MREs, you’re lucky if they last a decade.

Also, freeze dried food weighs much less than MREs on a calorie-by-calorie basis. So if you plan to carry food in a pack, you can carry more freeze dried calories vs. MREs.

So, in my opinion, the only reason to choose MREs over freeze dried meals is if you know preparation will not be possible. This can be the case in battle zones.

In my experience, MREs tend to be more expensive as well.

So weighing all the pros and cons, I prefer investing in freeze dried meals over MREs for my survival and preparedness needs.

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7 Reasons Why You Should Choose Freeze Dried Food

1. It Tastes Better!

Canning and dehydrating can be great options, but they can also leave a bland end product. Freeze-dried food tastes FRESH!

2. It Looks Better!

Look and taste are not the same thing. Adults have learned this through experience. Sometimes food may look gross but taste amazing. Or the other way around…

But it’s easier to get a kid to eat a strawberry that “looks” like a strawberry instead of a sad, dried nugget.

3. Better Nutrition!

The nutrients in fresh foods are often damaged or lost in preservation. Luckily, freeze drying retains nearly all the nutrients and no added preservatives!

4. Less Food Waste!

You can freeze-dry small portions – even leftovers from meals you didn’t finish.

5. Amazing Shelf Life!

Freeze dried food can last decades with proper packaging. That’s compared to months for freezing and a couple of years for canning.

6. Lightweight Storage!

You can store freeze-dried food on regular cabinet shelves. You don’t need heavy reinforced steel can storage racks for mason jars and #10 cans.

Plus, freeze-dried food meals travel exceptionally well in your survival pack or bug-out bag.

7. Easy Preparation!

With freeze-drying, you don’t have to add anything extra to your food before processing.

For example, I’ve seen an entire lasagna freeze-dried directly in a pan!

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The Story Behind Pre-Packaged Freeze Dried 

The easiest way to get into freeze-dried food is to buy some online. Nowadays, the selection of commercially-made pre-packaged freeze dried meals is incredible.

Many companies provide a vast menu of options, so there are flavors to suit everyone.

But not all freeze-dried food companies are equal. Some are reputable and provide an excellent product and customer service experience. While others are “fly-by-night” operations, who are good at marketing but not much else.

These quality brands have delicious menu offerings with lots of time-tested favorites:

Choosing The Right Meals

As for which meals to choose, there are a few things to look out for:


Taste is, of course, a huge factor in which meals you’ll want to select.

Sure, after a long day on the trail or post-emergency, it is easy to wolf down just about anything. But eating a tasty meal makes life a little easier. This is especially true if you’re eating a meal during times of emergency or chaos.

So my advice is to stick mostly with meals you’re confident you’ll enjoy. For example, if you love lasagna or beef stroganoff, get several of those meals with your order.

But also, try to add in a few new options as well. You’ll never know unless you give it a try. The “safest” way to do this is to buy as small a quantity of the new meals as possible.

So if you have a choice between a 4-serving package or a 2-serving meal, go with the smaller one. Then if you love it, you can always buy more next time.


Serving size and ingredients help determine how many calories a meal can provide. If a package claims to be 2 servings, be sure to see how large those servings are before purchasing.

Just be sure you order enough calories to replace what you’re preparing for…

Whether it’s a backpacking trip or for a dire national emergency, you don’t want to run out of calories…

Going hungry – even for a short duration is not an enjoyable experience. Not to mention the horrors of starvation…


Mountain House Ingredient List

Mountain House Ingredient List

One of the common gripes with many freeze-dried meals is the high sodium content.

While your body loses salt during exertion, the amount in many meals is quite high. Higher than necessary for typical replacement.

Unfortunately, you cannot do much about the sodium level in most of these meals. You can’t remove it. But it’s worth noting which ones are lower if you’re concerned about the extra salt intake.


Unfortunately, pre-packaged freeze dried meals aren’t cheap.

The price can add up fast if you’re planning for a long excursion or an extended emergency backup.

Some manufacturers (i.e., Mountain House and Valley Food Storage) have bulk packages. These deals can help to keep the cost down a bit.

But these deals generally come with pre-determined menus. So you don’t have a lot of options if you don’t like the selection.

They also often include stand-alone vegetable sides. These can sometimes be disappointing in both taste and texture. But they offer balanced, often with a better nutritional profile than ala carte meals.

Also, some vendors offer a small discount if you buy a given item by the case (generally 6-10 packages per case).

Pack Size

As we discussed before, freeze drying removes a considerable amount of the weight from a meal. But they can still take up a lot of space – especially if air remains in the packages.

That’s why some manufacturers take the extra step of using vacuum sealers after freeze drying. This can significantly reduce the package size.

This can be a game-changer, depending on your situation and how tight you are on space.

Cooking Instructions

Most commercially available pre-packaged meals come with detailed cooking instructions. This usually includes precisely how much water to add and how long to let them rehydrate before eating.

This may seem like a small detail. But an extra quart of water, or overcooking, can make a delicious meal not taste its best.

Plus, at the end of the day, it’s nice to have fewer things to remember when you’re hungry and tired – just read and follow.

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Can You Make Freeze Dried Foods At Home?

Yes, you can.

But if it were easy to do, everyone would be freeze drying the produce from their gardens each autumn. And there would be cookbooks targeting the best freeze dryer meals.

So what’s the problem? It’s expensive and/or complicated.

Commercial manufacturers can afford massive, efficient, high-quality freeze-dry chambers. Most of the freeze dryers targeted to home users are considered expensive home appliances.

How About Without A Vacuum Chamber?

Sure, there are some sites out there that claim to show how to freeze dry food at home without a vacuum chamber. I’ve read enough that their methods are; to allow things to get “freezer burned.”

They all discuss leaving food exposed in the freezer on wire racks for days or weeks. And while this does extract some moisture from foods, it’s also prone to many problems.

Dense foods will never completely dehydrate this way. Delicate items will suffer texture and consistency changes and won’t rehydrate properly later.

Have you ever eaten meat that’s been severely freezer burned? If so, chances are it wasn’t that great…odds are it was straight-up terrible.


I hope you agree that drying without a vacuum chamber is not really freeze-drying. So what about building your own freeze dryer?

Well, it’s complicated.

You can forget about advanced DIY projects if you’re not into advanced DIY projects.

However, if you feel like you have the skills and you’re up for a challenge – here’s a detailed DIY freeze dryer video for your enjoyment:


All this to say – yes, freezing dry food at home is possible.

However, it usually involves either buying an expensive unit or building a complicated drying chamber. Either way, this is NOT simple or inexpensive.

For example:

The popular Harvest Right brand starts around $2,000 for a freeze dryer about the size of a small toaster oven.

Prices rise exponentially with the larger models.

I can place a large bulk order of commercially produced freeze-dried meals for $2000!

So unless you’re planning to start your own small freeze dried food operation, it’s hard to justify. The capital it takes to DIY freeze dry food with a vacuum chamber is cost-prohibitive.

With that said, if you plan to freeze dry a ton of food and want ultimate control, it may be a price you’re willing to pay.

As A Way To Introduce You To Skilled Survival, We're Giving Away Our #78 Item Complete Prepper Checklist. Click Here To Get Your FREE Copy Of It.

Best Foods To Start Freeze Drying At Home

If you DO decide to try freeze drying your own foods, remember not all foods are created equal. It’s always best to start with fresh foods.

Use fresh fruits and vegetables. Stick with fresh herbs and spices – mushrooms and meats (cooked or raw).

Also, try freezing liquids such as coffee, soup, and stew. And even whole meals (seriously, try lasagna!) or bread & pasta.

There are some things to avoid as well, such as high-fat foods. Also, avoid freeze drying watery fruits like watermelon or cucumber.

Leafy vegetables also produce poor results, like lettuce and spinach. As well as high-sugar foods such as jam and jellies.

As A Way To Introduce You To Skilled Survival, We're Giving Away Our Family First Food Planning Guide. Click Here To Get Your FREE Copy Of It.

How To Rehydrate Freeze Dried Food

While freeze-drying can take as long as 24-48 hours to remove all the moisture, you can prepare a meal in mere minutes!

For most foods, you soak them in hot or boiling water for a few minutes before draining them. That’s it.

If you need to heat them further, a few minutes in the microwave should do the trick.

If you’ve dehydrated something more delicate, like bread or pasta, it’s often best to steam them gently. That way, they keep their shape and texture.

I like to rehydrate meals on the trail in an insulated mug with a close-fitting lid.

Rehydration is fast, easy, and convenient, so there is nothing to worry about.

Final Thoughts

Freeze drying isn’t as simple as dehydrating or as quick as canning. That’s why I like to think of it more as a valuable complement to your overall food preservation plans.

Whether you decide to buy freeze-dried survival food kits or invest in a home freeze dryer, the results are the same. Excellent prepper food at the ready you can store for the long term.

Lightweight, shelf-stable, easy to use, and tasty, freeze-dried food is a winner!

Jason K.

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