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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Home Freeze Dryers - Are They A Viable Option?

There are two ways that preppers can bolster their food storage.  Many will use home preservation methods such as canning or dehydrating while others will simply purchase food in various forms.  Dry goods such as rice and beans can of course be put up simply by sealing in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers, however most foods will require some processing.

Purchasing foods offers the advantage of having the processing done for us, but there is often a trade off in longevity when storing canned or packaged goods from the supermarket.  Most of these foods, even though they are considered shelf stable, will only last with their intended quality for a couple years.  From that point, taste, texture, and nutritional value begin to degrade.  This is where freeze-dried foods come in.  There are many brands available to us on the market such as Mountain House, Wise, Thrive, and Legacy just to name a few.  The advantages are that these foods retain texture, taste, and nutritional value for a very long time, usually in the twenty to thirty year range.  The biggest disadvantage however is selection.  Menu choices are usually limited and often these meals are loaded with carbohydrates and short on protein and vitamins.




Home preserved foods will overcome the selection issue as preppers can put up the foods they eat on a regular basis and menu choices can easily be tailored to specific preferences, dietary concerns, and personal tastes.  However, home food processing for storage does have its disadvantages.  Home canning can reduce nutritional value in foods by as much as fifty percent for some essential vitamins, where as dehydrating can reduce nutrition by as much as seventy percent.  Texture and taste can also be affected.



The ideal situation seems to stand somewhere in between.  Ideally, preppers could take advantage of home preservation and store the foods that they want to and eat regularly, while at the same time keeping the quality and storage time of freeze-dried foods.  Enter the home freeze dryer.  The Harvest Right brand of home freeze dryers has bursted into the market in recent years partly due to the relative affordability of the units.  While many of us would consider this a major purchase and likely go into credit card debt or dip into valuable savings in order to purchase one, the investment may just be worth it.



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The freeze-drying process preserves the original texture, appearance, and nutritional losses are negligible.  Properly packaged, freeze dried foods can last an average of 25 years.  Combine these advantages with those of home preservation and you get a perfect storm of a long term, nutritious, customised menu of stored food.

Of course, no matter the advantages, things have to make economical sense.  Home freeze dryers are not cheap!  Today's prepper can get into home canning or home dehydrating with an investment of only a few hundred dollars.  Home freeze dryers can run about ten times that price, and then there is the cost of running the machine.  Let us address that here:

Sold primarily from the US, the smallest size home freeze dry unit sells for about $2000 US.  It's difficult to say just how much that will translate to when you consider exchange, shipping, taxes, duty, etc., but one Canadian source of these machines prices the same small unit at about $3200 CAD with free shipping...let's use that number.

The cost to run the machine is the first factor to look at.  A popular You Tuber, Retired at 40, tested the Harvest Right with a Kill A Watt Meter and found that a 47 hour cycle (which is about as long of a cycle that you would ever use) consumed 29.1 KWatts.  Using a national average of 11.85 cents per KWatt, we can calculate that the machine would cost an average of $3.45 per cycle.  Your actual cost may be more or less depending on electricity rates.  

Let us take a popular item such as freeze-dried strawberries.  A popular Canadian retailer sells a 200g can of these delicious fruits for about $40.00.  Since freeze-drying reduces weight by about 90%, we can see that this would be 2000g of fresh produce.  This gives us a total of 2 cents per gram.

Fresh Strawberries are available in my area this week at a price of 3lb for $5.00 or .4 cents per gram.so 2000g would cost $8.00.  Let us now add the cost of running the machine ($8.00 + $3.45) and we see that home freeze-drying 2000g of strawberries would cost $11.45.  Let us be super generous and add $2.00 to that for storage gear such as mylar bags and oxygen absorbers, so a total of $13.45.  We realize a savings here of $26.55.

Now, let us assume you are a strawberry fanatic and freeze dry one batch of 2000g of strawberries every week.  That's a savings of $1380.60. If this were all you do with a freeze dryer, it would take only 2 years 4 months to pay for this machine.  A really aggressive prepper who runs this machine 24/7 could pay it off in savings in only a few months.

To sum it all up, home freeze drying your storage food seems to offer the best of both worlds.  You get nutritious foods that last 25 years, taylored to your tastes at a significant savings.  Of course, you can freeze dry simple foods like fruits, vegetables, and meats individually, but also completed and assembled meals such as chille, pasta dishes, stews, you name it!  Is there an investment to be made, well yes, but that cost can be recoverd.  Not to metion that having stored food for emergencied gives you priceless piece of mind.



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