Freeze-dried food is a tasty way to fill your long-term food storage cache. It’s light, portable, and easy to cook, and with a shelf life of 25+ years, freeze-dried food is a good way to invest today towards future preparedness.
The year 2020 was a wake-up call for people all over the country, as supply chains struggled and stores closed. Experts suggested that everyone store at least 2 weeks’ worth of food, and just about everyone went out to fill their pantries, stripping shelves bare.
Most people only had a few days worth of food on hand, and a shutdown lasting even a week meant they’d go hungry.
Survival food companies quickly sold out of freeze-dried food, and just about everyone suddenly wished they were better prepared.
Since the spring of 2020, we’ve had plenty of reminders of how fragile our supply chain and food supply really are. Hailstorms destroyed a large portion of the corn crop in the US, and then the Suez canal was blocked by a single ship run aground.
Even small issues can have ripple effects that have long-lasting effects on store shelves.
In my house, we always have several months’ worth of pantry staples on hand, and we keep bulk food like flour are stored in 5-gallon buckets with gamma seal lids.
A single bucket holds about 35 pounds of flour and is enough to supply my family of four with bread, pancakes, muffins, and all manner of baked goods for about a month. Seems like that’d last longer, but since we do all our baking and cooking from scratch we run through it quickly.
(And that’s when grocery stores are open and we have plenty of fresh food in the fridge. We’d run through it faster if that’s all we had.)
The thing is, you can only eat so much bread and pancakes before you miss variety (and nutrition) in your diet. Storing freeze-dried food means you can cook all of your family’s favorite meals, today and 25 years from now, no matter when the disaster hits.
The key to storing freeze-dried food is keeping a variety of useful pantry staples on hand that can be incorporated into your cooking to add variety to your other non-freeze dried stored food.
Why Store Freeze-Dried Food?
Why store freeze-dried food instead of other types of preserved food (canned, frozen, dehydrated, etc)?
- It stores for 25+ years without losing quality or nutritional value (dehydrated food only lasts 1-3 years).
- Just add water and it rehydrates back to the same texture, size, shape, and flavor of the original food (dehydrating food changes texture and flavor).
- It doesn’t need power or temperature control to keep. Store it at room temperature without using electricity (unlike frozen food) and it can withstand extreme cold and heat (unlike canned food).
- Freeze-dried food is incredibly versatile, and you can use it just like fresh ingredients once it’s rehydrated. (Or, in the case of prepared freeze-dried meals, just add hot water end eat.)
You’d be amazed at what you can make with shelf-stable emergency food. Simple, straightforward things are easy even if you’re not an experienced cook. For example:
- Soups and Stews using freeze-dried beef and freeze-dried vegetables (like potatoes and carrots).
- Sausage and Eggs using freeze-dried sausage crumbles and freeze-dried whole eggs.
If you do know your way around the kitchen, there’s no reason not to cook all your favorite foods using long-term storage foods and incorporating freeze-dried meat for flavor and nutrition.
These are some of our favorites:
- Beef Fajitas using freeze-dried beef cubes, freeze-dried onions, and freeze-dried peppers. I make the tortillas from scratch (it’s easier than you think) by using flour, salt, water, and rendered lard we make from our pigs (or purchased in jars). Properly made lard is shelf-stable for years, but you can also use olive oil or canola oil which lasts even longer. You can even add freeze-dried cheddar cheese if you’d like.
- Homemade Pizza topped with freeze-dried sausage crumbles and freeze-dried bell peppers. Mozzarella cheese freeze-dries readily, and then the sauce can be made from freeze-dried tomato chunks or tomato powder, or you can just use home-canned tomato sauce instead (which lasts 18 months in the jar). The crust is made from flour, salt, olive oil, and sourdough starter (or yeast which stores 2-3 years in the freezer).
These come right out of our shelf-stable food storage, and they’re on hand for busy weeknights this week…or a decade from now.
(Note that at the time of this writing in early 2022, freeze-dried cheese isn’t available anywhere, though I have plenty in my basement from when it was in stock. I’ve talked to the suppliers, and they’re not planning on making it again until the dairy supply chain becomes more stable. Freeze-dried meat is also hard to come by, and a lot more expensive than it once was…thanks to inflation and availability issues. Fruits and veggies are still readily available in most places, but they’re going in and out of stock as the supply chain fluctuates. Right now, you’ve just got to go with what you can get, and watch for things to come in stock…or purchase a home freeze dryer and make your own freeze-dried food with homegrown or store-bought supplies.)
Best Freeze-Dried Foods to Store
The best freeze-dried foods to store are foods that are easy to cook and can be incorporated into your regular meal plan. If you’re cooking in an emergency, you definitely want to stick with your family’s well-loved comfort foods.
At the beginning of an emergency, you’ll want to stick with freeze-dried prepared meals, saving time and energy for dealing with the issue at hand.
If things drag on past a few days, freeze-dried fruit, vegetables, eggs, meat, and cheese will help you add variety into your meals and give you a sense of normalcy (even if you’re hunkered down at home).
I’ll walk you through the best options, and how to use:
- Freeze-Dried Meals (Already prepared, just add water)
- Freeze-Dried Fruit
- Freeze-Dried Vegetables
- Freeze-Dried Meat
- Freeze-Dried Milk, Eggs & Cheese
If you click on the links above, it’ll take you to that particular section so you can skip ahead if you’d like. Or, just stick with me and read right on through to know about all of them.
I’ve sampled and reviewed just about every type of freeze-dried food available for purchase, and I’ve found that overall, Valley Food Storage produces the highest quality freeze-dried food. They make most of the staples you’d need, along with tasty freeze-dried just add water prepared meals.
If you’re looking for an easy option that takes all the thought out of preparing and just gets the job done, I’d suggest one of their long-term storage food kits.
There are a few things they don’t make, however, and a few absolutely spectacular meals made by other freeze-dried food companies. I’ll take you through the absolute best choices in freeze-dried food, both ingredients, and prepared meals from every manufacturer on the market today.
Freeze Dried Meals
Pre-made just add water freeze-dried meals are incredibly convenient, and they’re commonly used by backpackers as lightweight, easy to prepare food. It couldn’t be simpler, just pour boiling water over the food and eat.
Most even come in convenient packages that allow you to pour the water right into the container without dirtying dishes beyond your spoon.
The thing is, most companies produce meal kits that are inexpensive to make starchy bombs containing little more than pasta or instant oatmeal.
Pasta and instant oatmeal store for years on their own, even if you’re just buying it from the grocery store. There’s absolutely no reason to pay an upcharge for “survival” pasta.
If you’re going to invest in freeze-dried meals, choose nutrient-dense meals that incorporate ingredients that would be perishable if they weren’t freeze-dried. Things like eggs, meat, fruit, and vegetables.
Of all the freeze-dried meals on the market, these are the absolute best freeze-dried meals to store…
Homestyle Scramble from Nutrient Survival
A mix of eggs, hash browns, peppers, and seasoning, this meal is both filling and satisfying. I always have at least 3 cans on my basement shelf and I’ll even pop them out on busy weekday mornings my kids sleep through the alarm.
A full breakfast in just a few minutes, and it’s absolutely delicious even when all is right with the world.
They also sell a 30-day kit, 60-day kit, and 90-day kit if you’re looking to add variety in a single kit, or a “grab and go” bag full of a variety of single-serve just add boiling water emergency food meals.
I’d encourage you to read my full review of Nutrient Survival, where I take you through every single one of their meals (with pictures). Their breakfast scramble is my all-time favorite freeze-dried meal, and their other meals are pretty spectacular too.
Granola with Milk and Blueberries from Mountain House
You might think this one is a bit on the “starchy” side but the granola is surprisingly rich in protein.
When you add in freeze-dried milk and blueberries, you get unbelievable comfort food that’s satisfying for the whole family. This is one of the most calorie-dense meals out there, and it’s just under 400 calories per cup.
I personally like to prepare this cold, but my kids like it made with hot water. It’s tasty enough that my daughter asked for it as a special breakfast on her birthday.
Beyond those freeze-dried emergency meals, I’d also recommend:
- Mango Habenero Chilli from Valley Food Storage – Much more flavorful than most emergency meals, this dish will really spice things up.
- Mac and Cheese from My Patriot Supply – Pour the pouch into a pot, add water and simmer until done. Tasty and easy to prepare with no colander and no separate cheese packet. A great option for comfort food.
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Meals from Nutrient Survival – These are a bit like long-term storage protein bars, flavored as “cookies” to help you get both nutrition and a treat. They are really good, and my kids actually pick them over regular cookies given a choice.
While freeze-dried meals are great for a quick meal during a short emergency, they’re not my first choice for longer-term food stores. If things last longer than a few days, what you need is quality ingredients that you can use to make homemade meals.
Most of my freeze-dried emergency food is in the form of ingredients that are rehydrated and used just like fresh foods in the kitchen. But then again, we cook all our meals from scratch and rarely go out to eat.
You have to know your limits, and if you don’t cook often, it’s not going to happen in an emergency (long or short). In that case, I’ll again recommend just getting a long-term storage food kits from Valley Food Storage, as they’re my favorite emergency food supplier and it’s a quick way to put a bit of peace of mind in your pantry.
If you’re looking for the very best budget option for freeze-dried emergency food, I’d recommend My Patriot Supply. All their food is quite tasty, and they’re by far the most affordable high-quality option on the market.
You can read my full review of My Patriot Supply, where I take you through every single one of their meals. They’re all better than most supermarket canned or packaged food (ie. Chef Boyardee or Kraft Mac & Cheese), though they’re not quite grandma’s home cooking.
I DO NOT recommend the following providers:
I’ll be writing individual reviews of those companies soon, but for now, they’re not the best option for freeze-dried meals.
Tasty without any preparation, freeze-dried fruits are some of the most accessible types of freeze-dried food. You can actually buy freeze-dried fruit at most grocery stores these days since they make amazing snacks and taste a lot better than dehydrated fruits.
Since these can be eaten without any preparation, they’re a good place to start if you’re just stocking an emergency pantry with freeze-dried food.
When I pull out the freeze-dried strawberries, it’s pretty much impossible to keep my little ones’ hands out of the bowl…
If you do choose to cook with freeze-dried fruit, combining freeze-dried fruits with your other stores means you can make things like muffins, cakes, and pies with fruit flavor.
As an example, I made these frosted strawberry donuts entirely out of shelf-stable pantry ingredients, including flour, freeze-dried strawberries, egg powder, and butter powder. I ended up using those ingredients to create a just add water donut mix that’s a pretty amazing easy comfort food made right at home.
Most fruits freeze-dry well, and I keep a number of them on hand.
The best for fresh eating are:
I’m particularly fond of making savory dishes with freeze-dried pineapple. Things like stir-fries, salsa, chili, and Thai curries work wonderfully and really add variety to cooking with stored food.
Freeze Dried Vegetables
Pressure canning vegetables at home is one option for storage, but glass jars don’t work everywhere. They’re especially vulnerable in earthquake-prone areas, and they have to be protected from freezing temperatures.
Canned goods also only store for a few years, and anyone whose eaten canned green beans knows they’re not nearly as good as fresh.
Freeze-dried vegetables are much more like fresh vegetables, and once rehydrated they cook in exactly the same way.
Serve them plain as a side dish, or add nutrition to soups, stews, omelets, and other meals.
Not every vegetable works well when freeze-dried, and I’ve found that some actually taste pretty horrible. Cruciferous veggies like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and others in that family have an intense sulfur taste that’s hard to ignore.
I actually love broccoli, and so do my kids, but there’s no way any of us are going to enjoy freeze-dried broccoli.
The very best freeze-dried vegetables are:
- Freeze Dried Diced Potatoes ~ These are perfect for hash browns and mashed potatoes. You can also get freeze-dried hash browns or freeze-dried mashed potatoes already prepared, and they’re convenient but less versatile.
- Freeze Dried Onions ~ They rehydrate better than dehydrated minced onion from the spice aisle, and last 25+ years.
- Freeze Dried Peppers ~ They add flavor and color to just about any dish, and they rehydrate beautifully.
- Freeze Dried Mushrooms ~ They have a better texture than dehydrated mushrooms when rehydrated, and they add amazing umami flavor.
- Freeze Dried Tomatoes ~ Rehydrate them into sauce, salsa or chili easily without losing flavor or texture. It also comes as freeze-dried tomato powder, which is great for smooth sauces or soups.
- Freeze Dried Peas ~ They rehydrate beautifully and are sweet and tender.
- Freeze Dried Carrots ~ Perfect for soups or as a side dish.
The worst freeze-dried vegetables are:
- Freeze-Dried Broccoli ~ They have a nasty sulfur smell as it’s concentrated in the freeze-drying process.
- Freeze-Dried Green Beans ~ They’re both soggy and rubbery when rehydrated, and it’s hard to enjoy them. They might do ok diced small into a soup or stir fry.
- Freeze-Dried Cauliflower ~ Sulfur tasting like broccoli, and soggy like rehydrated green beans, kind of the worse of both worlds.
Beyond that, the quality of the freeze-dried vegetables really depends on the quality of the original produce. Freeze-dried corn tastes horrible when made with low-quality starchy corn, but is spectacular when made with super fresh from the garden sweet corn.
If you really want the best freeze-dried vegetables, I’d strongly suggest investing in your own freeze dryer so you can control the quality of the produce going in.
Freeze Dried Meat
Most people store meat in the freezer, but then it’s vulnerable to power outages. It also has a limited life in the freezer before it gets freezer burned.
Canning meat is another option, and it works well on tough cuts, especially if you’re caning beef. Canned meat also has a limited shelf life, and works best in soups/stews when the dish is quite wet anyway.
Freeze-dried meat, on the other hand, rehydrates into perfectly cooked meat and lasts 25+ years at room temperature.
To rehydrate freeze-dried meat, simply pour boiling water over the top of the meat until it’s plumped back up. Strain out any excess water and use it just like cooked meat.
Freeze-dried sausage crumbles are great for breakfast and in omelets, and I particularly love how wonderful the texture comes out when you rehydrate freeze-dried chicken.
Freeze-dried beef makes great tacos, chili, and fajitas (or it’s good rehydrated just eaten as is).
I have a complete guide to cooking with freeze-dried meat, and it takes you through the ins and outs of working with this incredibly versatile and tasty long-term storage protein source.
Sourcing freeze-dried meat can be tricky these days, as it’s in high demand, and supply chain issues are creating trouble at slaughterhouses. The meat pictured above comes from Valley Food Storage, and I can vouch for their quality…but it often sells out as soon as it’s restocked.
You can also try getting freeze-dried meat from Emergency Essentials, which seems to be able to keep it in stock more dependably. The quality of all their other products is impeccable, I just haven’t tried their meat (yet).
Freeze Dried Eggs, Milk & Cheese
Dairy can be tricky to store, especially in the long term.
Milk is pretty much impossible to store for any length of time, and canned evaporated milk doesn’t taste anything like fresh (though it works for baking).
Freeze drying is by far the best option for the long-term storage of milk, eggs, and cheese. No question.
Once rehydrated, they can be used just like the fresh version.
Unfortunately, due to supply chain issues, absolutely no one is making freeze-dried cheese anymore. I have a number of varieties in my basement, including mozzarella and cheddar, and they really are lovely for adding variety and flavor to food storage meals. I’m really hoping they come back at some point.
You can, however, still get freeze-dried milk and eggs. My favorite supplier for these is Nutrient Survival, and I keep them on hand for when I can’t get to the grocery store.
There are also specific recipes that actually require dried milk (instead of fresh). A good example is King Arthur Flour’s Classic Sandwich Bread, which they’ve tested both with milk powder and with fresh milk and it comes out better using milk powder every time.
We cook a lot of international food at our house, and I’ve used the dried milk from Nutrient Survival to make Gulab Jamun, a type of Indian donut. The fritters themselves are made out of mostly dried milk powder, so they almost taste like fried cheesecake balls. I particularly love that they can be made completely out of shelf-stable pantry ingredients, and it’s an incredibly tasty way to use freeze-dried milk.
(Of course, you can also just drink the milk out of a glass-like a normal person, no need to go crazy…)
Resources for Cooking with Freeze-Dried Food
I’d always suggest practicing cooking with your freeze-dried food stores on a regular basis because going from your regular routine to long-term emergency food can be a lot all at once. If you’re experienced cooking with your stored food, it makes the transition much easier.
Still, it’s helpful to have guides and resources on hand as you work through the transition.
- Rehydration Calculations Made Easy is a reference book that tells you how to rehydrate and cook with every freeze-dried food imaginable. Every type of freeze-dried food you can buy, plus quite a few you can’t. It includes so much variety that many are only available if you have a home freeze dryer and are making your own freeze-dried food. If you’re storing freeze-dried food, you should have this book on hand.
- The Preppers Cookbook: 300 Delicious, Nutritious and Life Saving Meals covers cooking with your food stores, including freeze-dried food and other more common pantry staples. Plenty of recipes keep things interesting so you never have to cook the same meal twice.
- The Meal in a Jar Handbook provides recipes and guidance for making shelf-stable meals in a jar from your long-term food storage. Pre-mixed soups, casseroles, baked goods, and more allow you to create your own meal kits for a fraction of the price of buying ready-made emergency meals.
Looking for more ways to keep your family healthy and fed in an emergency?
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