What is the difference between freeze dried and dehydrated food and which is better to store? Where do I even start with building a long-term food storage for my family? How much food storage do I need? All your long-term food storage questions answered!
This Coronavirus epidemic has the entire world freaked out over their food storage (or lack thereof).
Shelves are empty, stores have signs with limits on basic needs, and lines extend well into parking lots. While there are a billion different topics we could talk about in regards to this current pandemic, I settled on long-term food storage.
I haven’t tackled this topic yet, because it is really daunting. For everyone. But given the current state of the country (and the entire world, for that matter), I think it’s time we talk about it.
**This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you**
What is Long-Term Food Storage?
Basically, long-term food storage is any and everything that can be stored for a long time. When I say long time, I mean years. We’re not talking about a block of cheese in your fridge that lasts for 3 months. We’re talking about a can of freeze dried mangos that lasts 25 years on your shelf – no refrigeration required.
**A note: short-term food storage is just as important as long-term food storage, but it’s a topic for another day. It covers everything that you use on a weekly basis, but that would go bad within a couple months (back to the cheese example). Everyone’s short-term food storage would look different, and can be accumulated one trip the grocery store at a time. But this article is about long-term food storage, so let’s get to it.
How Much Food Should I Have in My Long-Term Food Storage?
This is a loaded question, and different for everyone. But I believe a year’s worth of food for your entire family is an incredibly awesome thing to aspire to. I have known people who, once acquiring one year’s worth, set out to double it. DON’T FREAK OUT! Basically, with emergency preparedness, you’re never done. There’s always more you could do. So don’t stress out so much about the end result. Just start today. That’s the biggest thing. And here’s what’s great about my favorite company to purchase from: they help you do it one month at a time! More on that later – keep reading.
What Kinds of Food Should I Have in My Long-Term Food Storage?
Everything! You should have meat (or other sources of protein), dairy, fruits, vegetables, baking items, herbs, seasonings, ETC!
Can I Just Buy a Pre-done Package of a Year’s Supply of Long-Term Food Storage?
Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Yes….and no.
There are tons of different options and companies out there with different package deals. Some of them are awesome. Some of them are really lame. So just go into this knowing that all food storage packages are not created equal.
Pros of Buying Pre-done Long-Term Food Storage Package Deals
If you are looking for a way to just drop a big chunk of money and not invest any time in the process, these package deals are a wonderful way to get the bulk of it out of the way.
- Decent variety
- Usually have a price break to purchase a pre-done package, meaning that if you add up the cost of each individual item, you would spend more money by purchasing each of those items individually, than the cost of the total package
Cons of Buying Pre-done Long-Term Food Storage Package Deals
If you purchase a package, there will be some food that you will likely never use, and there will also be holes that you will want to fill. I say this for 3 reasons:
- A food storage company can’t possibly know your family’s preferences. For instance, a value pack will likely come with a bunch of different fruits. But there are sure to be a couple favorites (and not so favorites) in the pack.
- A food storage company cannot possibly anticipate exactly what your family will use and exactly how much of it to include to last you a year on the dot, and run out of everything on Day 365.
- There are some things that these food storage companies just don’t have. So in order to truly have a year’s supply of everything you would want, you would need to supplement one of these packs with things from a traditional grocery store (example: a jar of mayo).
If you are like me, you want to hand pick every single thing. So it just depends on your personality, and how much money/time you are willing to dedicate to this process.
**PS – A great time to purchase one of these would be when you receive a large chunk of money, like a bonus or a tax return.
Why Purchase from a Food Storage Company?
You don’t have to purchase all of your food storage from a food storage company. In fact, some things aren’t even available through these types of companies anyway. (Remember the mayo example?). But for a very large portion of your long-term food storage, purchasing food from a company that specializes in this is a good idea.
- You will not find a longer shelf life on most of these foods, than the shelf life you get when purchasing food from a company like Thrive Life (affiliate link).
- Take pasta for example. Pasta from the grocery store has a decent shelf life. Let’s say you can find a box of spaghetti noodles that doesn’t expire until a year from now. That’s wonderful! Thrive LIfe’s pasta lasts for 25 years. Boom. Now that’s cool.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables last weeks at best, but usually only days. So how on earth can you have a year’s supply of fresh fruits and vegetables? You can’t. Most of Thrive Life’s fruits and vegetables last…yep, you guessed it…25 years.
- Rotating your food storage suuuuuuuuuuuuucks.
- Let’s go back to the pasta example. So you buy a year’s worth of spaghetti noodles that don’t expire for a year. But that means you’d have to consume all of those spaghetti noodles within the next month, and then go buy another year’s worth of spaghetti noodles next month. See the problem there? So instead, you would need to set up a rotation system where you always have a year’s supply, but you are constantly using it and simultaneously replenishing it. That way you are only buying one month’s worth of each item, while using the box of pasta you bought 11 months ago that only has one month left until it expires. While this is what you would have to do with the things that aren’t available with a longer shelf life, it would be exhausting to do this for every single item your family eats.
- When most of the food that you get from a place like Thrive Life lasts 25 years, you don’t have to rotate your food quite as often as you would if you were trying to do everything with normal shelf life at a grocery store.
- They are professionals. If you want to save more money on car insurance, you switch to Geico. It’s what you do. If you want to have top-of-the-line, kick-butt, delicious-tasting food storage, you buy from Thrive Life (affiliate link). It’s what you do.
What Is the Difference between Freeze Dried and Dehydrated Food?
What is the Process of Dehydrating Food?
A dehydrator circulates hot, dry air around the food, removing most of the water (about 90% of it) from the food.
What is the Process of Freeze Drying Food?
The food is placed in a vacuum chamber where the temperature is lowered to below freezing. The temperature is slowly raised, along with some pressure, causing the water (which is now ice) in the food to break off from the food. Then the air is sucked out of the chamber, lowering the pressure, causing the water to change from the solid state of ice, straight into water vapor which collects onto freezing coils, while the rest of the food stays intact. So it literally just extracts the water (99% of it)! Pretty cool, huh?
Freeze Dried Food …
- Has a longer shelf life
- Is healthier because it locks in the vitamins and nutrients (the dehydration process sucks a lot of the nutrients OUT of the food)
- Is tastier (for the above reason)
- Is lighter (so easier to carry and move and hoist to the highest closet shelf for storage purposes)
- Typically costs more, because the process is more expensive
Dehydrated Food …
- Has a shorter shelf life
- Is crunchier and shriveled (think banana chips)
- Is heavier
- Is typically less expensive
What is the Shelf Life of Food Storage?
As a general rule, freeze dried food lasts longer than dehydrated.
Each can of food has a shelf life unopened, and then a shelf life once it is opened. I have found that most products have an unopened shelf life of about 25 years, and a shelf life of one year once opened. There are definitely some exceptions to this rule, so be sure to check!
With All of the Different Companies out There, Why Thrive Life?
Because I like them.
When I got into the whole emergency preparedness scene, I was obsessed with getting a can rotator system, and ended up signing up as a consultant and purchased my dream can rotation system (found in the Accessories section of their website). So I was naturally most impressed by them (at the time, they were Shelf Reliance). I will admit, at that time there were only a handful of companies out there who sold freeze dried food storage.
I haven’t researched all of the companies out there, and I am sure most of them are great! So if you want to do some digging, feel free. I can only speak for Thrive Life (affiliate link), because I have been a loyal customer of theirs and have never felt the need to go elsewhere for my food storage.
Here are a few reasons I highly recommend them (but again, this isn’t to say that other companies AREN’T great in these same areas necessarily)
- They harvest their food at its nutritional peak
- They flash freeze their food within hours of being picked, usually on the farm itself, before getting it back to be freeze dried (optimizing flavor, nutrients, freshness, etc)
- Their customer service is wonderful
- They have always replaced any cans damaged in shipping without a problem
- They have a monthly option – see below!
Is There a Monthly Option?
Thrive Life (affiliate link) has a monthly system that allows you to build your food storage one month at a time and you don’t even have to think about it. This is also the cheapest way to purchase their food, because you get 15% off of the retail price when you purchase it through the monthly delivery service.
- Select things that you want (eventually)
- Select a budget
- Receive a shipment of items from your list each month
- They even send you an email 5 days before shipping, to remind you that your shipment is coming up
- You can delay or skip a shipment any month you want 🙂
- If you spend $100 or more, you get free shipping
- You get 15% off of retail price
Where and How Do I Even Start on My Family’s Food Storage?
If I had one suggestion, it would be this: JUST. START.
- Don’t wait til you have time to make a master plan.
- Don’t wait to figure out every single thing you ever want to have.
- Don’t wait until you can afford it.
- Just start.
I have 2 suggestions.
- If you have a chunk of money (like a tax return or a work bonus), make a big purchase. Get a good start. You will feel so good.
- Start with the more expensive foods if you have more money – meat is usually the most expensive
- If you are going with Thrive Life, you save money if you buy things in 6-packs
- If you don’t have a chunk of money to start with, start THIS MONTH with the Monthly Delivery Service. If you don’t start now, you never will. And you will be amazed at how fast your food storage grows.
What is a Pantry Can and How is it Different from a #10 Can?
These are pretty dang cool. They are the same diameter as a 29-ounce can of tomato sauce, but about 3/4 of an inch taller.
The idea is to be able to use these in your pantry for more of everyday use, and refill them from your #10 cans, since #10s are so big. They take up less space, making it much more convenient to incorporate your food storage into your everyday cooking (more on that below).
Another absolutely BRILLIANT way to use this size can is in your 72-hour kits. It is a perfect way to pack snacks for kids and adults alike, that have a shelf life of 25 years, requiring NO ROTATION FOR 25 YEARS!! 🙌🏻
#10 cans are more traditional for long-term food storage. They are fairly large, hold a lot of food, and are a lower price per ounce than the pantry cans. This is what comes to mind when people hear long-term food storage.
What Else Makes This Stuff so Amazing?
Other reasons I seriously love this stuff:
- I always have it – no emergency runs to the store for an onion
- It’s already washed
- It’s already peeled
- It’s already cut
- It’s already chopped
- It’s pretty much every mom’s dream in a can
What Are Melanie’s Favorites to Have in the Pantry ALL THE TIME?
1 – Freeze Dried Onions
These are my NUMERO UNO. I use them on a weekly (almost daily) basis. I scoop them out of the can, pour a little water in the cup, and voila. Ready to go into any recipe that requires chopped onions. If it’s a soup, you don’t even have to add water – just throw them in dry.
- No need for keeping fresh onions in the house
- No peeling onions
- No chopping onions and crying for 20 minutes afterward
- No smelly hands
2 – Egg Powder
The best thing about this: zero salmonella risk. So we use it in our cookie dough and then we can eat as much cookie dough as we want. Need I say more? (However, we used them once in snickerdoodles and they tasted really weird – not sure if it was the egg powder or something else, but I’ve never had the guts to try it again because it seems like too big of a risk to possibly ruin a whole batch of snickerdoodles. So, there’s that. It has worked great in all other cookie recipes).
3 – Sour Cream Powder
While this is not my favorite way to eat sour cream necessarily, it IS my favorite way to use sour cream in recipes. It is SO AWESOME to not have to keep fresh sour cream in the fridge all the time. My family doesn’t use plain sour cream for anything (like, to slap in a taco), so the majority of the sour cream that I use is for things like hamburger stroganoff. I absolutely love the fact that I can just whip up some sour cream by scooping out some powder, adding water, and throwing it in my recipe. This is a lifesaver in our home!
4 – Freeze Dried Yogurt Bites
These. Are. Amazing. So freaking delicious. My personal favorite flavor is the Pomegranate. Strawberry and Vanilla are great too. The Passion Fruit Yogurt Bites are good but have a teeny bit of a weird aftertaste to me. But I still love them. Anyway, these are gold. A few of us chose these for our snack food for our 72-hour kits.
5 – Freeze Dried Fruits
The rest of us chose freeze dried fruit for our snack food for our 72-hour kits. Our favorite ones are:
- Banana Slices (freeze dried are sooooo good – not crunchy like dehydrated banana chips – they are more airy and fluffy)
What Are Melanie’s Favorites to Have in Food Storage?
I will be honest. I have not loved every single thing I have tried.
The meats are really hard for me. I am a chicken snob through and through – I can’t eat microwaved chicken, or even leftover chicken. It’s disgusting. So it was no surprise when I was not impressed with their cooked chicken slices.
The hamburger is doable, if there was nothing left, and it was heavily disguised with a lot of spaghetti sauce or something.
The sausage crumbles are awesome. They are great to throw in soups!
Thrive Life (affiliate link) milk is the best food storage milk hands down I have ever tried, by a long shot! Now I wouldn’t choose it over normal milk from the grocery store, but, if I had to drink milk from food storage, this is the one I would want.
As I mention in the next section, I am not a fan of the carrots.
I do love the freeze dried onions, peas, and the sweet corn is AMAZING. I could eat that stuff by the handful for a snack!
What Should I Keep in Mind When Ordering?
- Make sure you pay attention to the size of can – pantry or #10.
- Thrive Life (affiliate link) still does sell some dehydrated items, so make sure you know if it’s freeze dried or dehydrated. For instance, they don’t offer freeze dried carrots – only dehydrated. So they are pretty hard and I feel like they are chopped super teeny. So while I have some in food storage, I don’t choose to use these on a weekly basis.
- While MOST of the food has a shelf life of 25 years, some has a shorter shelf life, so be sure to check, just so you know.
What is the Cheapest Way to Get This Food Storage?
- Pantry cans, while convenient, are more expensive than #10 cans, as far as price per ounce of food
- If you purchase a 6-pack of #10 cans, you get an extra 5% off
- If you purchase through the monthly delivery service, you get 15% off the retail price
So the absolute cheapest way to get this food is by purchasing 6-packs of #10 cans through the monthly delivery service.
Is a Lot of Food out of Stock Right Now?
Another consultant for Thrive Life said this:
“Around the country, so many people have seen the need for the foods that Thrive Life has increased their sales by over 500%. They are doing their best to keep up with the demand, but a lot of their foods are out of stock. The Ruvi drink powders are available, as well as many other items. They are currently offering a few Family Size Can 6-packs of select items that will be available to ship in 8-12 weeks. They are restocking items as quickly as they can. Many are available as “snackie” sizes that come in a smaller bag. These don’t have as long of a shelf life, but are perfect for on the go or snacking from the pantry.“
What are a Current Consultant’s Favorite Foods?
I asked that same consultant to describe a few of her favorite Thrive Life items, and how she is using them during this time.
“One thing that has helped keep me calm throughout all of this, is the food storage I have grown through Thrive Life (affiliate link).”
“These foods are freeze dried and can last in the can, unopened, for up to 25 years. Some items are less, but all of the fresh items that are hard to find at the stores right now are safely in my pantry waiting for me to need them. That has brought me a lot of peace.”
“Thrive Life foods are also really tasty! My kids love snacking on the fruits and even some of the vegetables. My favorite meat on hand is the sausage crumbles. I add those to egg casseroles, and my favorite Creamy Tuscana Soup. Sometimes I even snack on the sausage crumbles in their freeze dried form, without rehydrating them, in a trail mix of sorts. You can consume these foods right out of the can, or you can rehydrate and add them to your favorite meals. Thrive also has new drink mixes, called Ruvi, that are pure fruit and vegetables with no additives. You just add them to water, shake it up and drink! They are packed with vitamins and nutrients that our bodies need. You can also add the powder to your yogurt, muffins, etc. These are especially handy right now when it’s hard to find produce available in the store.”
How Can I Order???
Do it now, girl! Even if you don’t have a large chunk to buy a bunch – get started on the monthly delivery service today!
Click here and get started NOW!!!! (affiliate link)
If you want to get started on the monthly delivery service (which I HIGHLY recommend) here is how to do that:
- Click HERE
- Click on SHOP
- Add things to your cart (even if you want to do one large purchase now, still follow this process, because the monthly delivery service gives you a discount!)
- At checkout, select “MONTHLY DELIVERY SERVICE” rather than RETAIL – this will set up your monthly service (again, even if you’re making one big purchase now – STILL DO THIS to get the better price!)
- Go in and edit your current month, future monthly shipments, add things, move things around, go shopping for future months, etc!
And let me know if you have any questions that I didn’t answer here! I want this article to be as helpful as possible ❤️