For advanced food storage in an emergency preparedness plan with less budget constraints, freeze-dried foods are by far the way to go.
In addition, freeze-dried foods are very lightweight and space-saving, since they contain very little water.
Most freeze-dried supplies can be purchased on the internet and delivered to your door, ready for emergency storage.
Freeze-dried foods are superior because of the arduous freeze-drying process which they undergo. According to Tom Harris at howstuffworks.com:
The fundamental principle in freeze-drying is sublimation, the shift from a solid directly into a gas.
Just like evaporation, sublimation occurs when a molecule gains enough energy to break free from the molecules around it.
Water will sublime from a solid (ice) to a gas (vapor) when the molecules have enough energy to break free but the conditions aren’t right for a liquid to form.
The freeze-drying process, or lyophilization, involves rapidly freezing the food as cold as -50 degrees F.
This is done to separate the water from the food tissue on a molecular level. The water is still there, it’s just separated out at this point.
Slight heat and lowered atmospheric pressure are then applied which converts the food’s water content directly into its gas form, or vapor.
The vapor is then drawn into another chamber using a vacuum, where it condenses onto a freezing coil.
This removes all the moisture from the air, thus preserving the food‘s integrity.
By removing the water, the bacterial action is delayed, and therefore the spoilage. The process continues for days as the food gradually dries. Once this is done, the food is sealed in an airtight package with an oxygen-absorber.
Freeze-dried food from Mountain House
Mountain House is the best brand, and has a wide variety of foods to choose from.
Choices include pasta dishes such as spaghetti, all kinds of vegetables, various meats, sea foods, desserts, etc.
Nitro-pak is also a good company with a wide variety of freeze-dried foods. You can buy individual meal packs or large sealed #10 cans, which are roughly one gallon in size. You get a lot more for your money with the #10 cans and they have a much longer shelf life, making them ideal for an emergency preparedness plan.
The smaller packs are handier for camping and backpacking.
How long does freeze-dried food last?
Freeze dried foods in an unopened #10 are reported to have a shelf life of 30 years if stored properly at cool temperatures, although some sources dispute this.
Preparation is easy; just add water and heat for 20-30 minutes.
Be advised: these dishes take a lot of water to reconstitute them. The wide variety of common dishes ensures that you should be able to pick items that you family will happily eat in times of stress.
Some would say that another downside to freeze-dried foods is that they require water to cook, which may be in short supply during a disaster.
But if you don’t have ample water as part of your emergency food storage plan, your plan is doomed anyway.
As with home dehydrated foods, you should not rely exclusively on freeze-dried foods in your storage plan.
Instead, make them part of a well-rounded supply of canned goods and dried food such as pasta and beans.
Freeze-dried foods have the best nutrition, the longest storage life, the best taste, and they are familiar foods that we eat everyday which can be critical in a crisis.