Dehydrated Food vs Freeze Dried Food
When you begin creating your emergency food supplies, you will want to concentrate on nonperishable foods. Even if you have a large freezer, frozen foods will be unsuitable for an emergency supply simply because a loss of power will mean that the foods will spoil within a relatively short period of time. You will want food that will have a shelf life of months, at the very least, if not years. Both dehydrated and freeze dried foods are good for building an emergency food pantry, and there are advantages and disadvantages to both.
Dehydrated food is made by exposing food, usually vegetables and fruit, to heat. This process, if done commercially, removes about 98% of the moisture in the food, leaving it much less likely to spoil. Dehydrated food is much lighter than the original, and takes up considerable less room, which is important if storage space is limited. Some of the flavor will be lost when any food is dehydrated, but generally the results are acceptable. You should be aware that dehydrated food is chewy, however, and will need to be cooked before being eaten, as food is dehydrated raw. Dehydrated food is a single food, such as carrots or apple slices, and is not a complete meal. Dehydration can be done at home, however, using a small dehydrator. Not as much moisture will be removed by a home dehydrator, which will mean that the shelf life will be only 6 months to 2 years, rather than the 3 or more years that commercially dehydrated food will allow. This food is less expensive than freeze dried food.
Freeze Dried Food
This process is not available for home use, as dehydration is, it must be done with specialized equipment. Freeze drying also relies on cold to remove the moisture and can be used with raw or cooked food. A complete meal can be freeze dried, rather than only the separate ingredients. Basically any food can be freeze dried, allowing for a much wider range of food than is available by dehydration. The taste and texture of freeze dried food that has been rehydrated is much closer to the original than is provided by dehydrated food.
To begin the freeze drying process, the food is prepared and then frozen. After it has been frozen, it is put into a vacuum chamber where the ice (and hence the moisture) is removed by vacuum. Once this part of the process has been completed, the food is placed into packaging that will protect it from moisture. Freeze dried food can have a shelf life of up to 25 years if it is stored properly. Freeze dried food is more expensive than dehydrated food, but will be not only more convenient to prepare, but also more flavorful than dehydrated.
Storing Your Emergency Supply
Although both dehydrated and freeze dried foods are quite stable over a long period of time, to get the maximum quality and shelf life, they must be stored properly. These foods should be stored in a cool, dry place – the closer to 55 F the better. Keep them away from light, moisture, heat, and vermin, so that these emergency foods will be ready when you need them.