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How To Freeze Dry: The Ultimate Guide to Freeze Drying Foods at Home for Survival Prepping

Creating a supply of emergency food with a long shelf life is essential for survival prepping. With a hefty supply of emergency food, you can be ready to keep yourself and your family fed during disruptions to your food supply, like food shortages, natural disasters, or full-blown SHTF scenarios.  

One of the best ways to do that is by freeze-drying food. But how do you freeze-dry food?

Learning how to freeze-dry food is simple. There are three main ways to freeze-dry food at home. In the following article, we will discuss each method and provide step-by-step instructions for how to freeze dry food. 

Benefits of Freeze Drying Food at Home

strawberry freeze dry food

Before we get into the specifics of the three different freeze-drying methods, it’s important to know why you should use freeze-drying as a food preservation tactic in the first place.

Freeze Drying Retains Flavor, Color, and, Most Importantly, Nutritional Value 

When you freeze-dry something, you remove the moisture content from the food. This makes the food shrink in size. With less moisture, freeze-dried foods weigh less. It also changes the texture of the food. 

However, the flavor, color, and nutritional content of the food item remain the same. This is one of the most important benefits of freeze-dried foods.

With freeze-drying, you essentially get the same food nutritionally speaking, except it’s smaller and weighs less. This makes the storage in your prepper pantry easier, and the transport of your freeze-dried foods in your family bug-out bags even more practical. 

Freeze Drying Extends the Shelf Life of Food

Because the freeze-drying process removes upwards of 95% of the moisture content in food, the item you’re freeze-drying becomes much less susceptible to spoiling. When properly freeze-dried and packaged, your emergency food can last for upwards of 25 years. 

The Freeze Drying Process is Very Versatile

Practically anything can be freeze-dried. With the correct technique and enough time, you can freeze-dry vegetables and fruits, meats, some dairy products, desserts like ice cream, and even entire meals. 

However, there are some foods that you shouldn’t freeze dry:

  • Jams and jellies

  • Honey

  • Syrups

  • Butter

  • Peanut butter

  • Pure chocolate

With the Correct Equipment, Freeze Drying is Easy

Below we will talk about three methods for freeze-drying food at home—one of which is, predictably, using a freeze-drying machine. 

This method can prove to be an expensive investment, which is why some people may not find it practical. Nevertheless, it’s the easiest way to freeze-dry your emergency food.

With modern freeze-drying machines, freeze-drying at home is pretty easy. All you have to do is set it and forget it. 

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However, that is not to say that prepping the food for the freeze dryer is not a lot of work—it is! For some people, having the free time to prep food for the freeze dryer and package it after it’s done is impractical.   


How to Freeze Dry Food at Home

how to freeze dry foods at home

When you freeze-dry food at home, you have options for how to go about it. Some methods are a little more complicated and involved than others. However, if done methodically, any of the three methods should render the same result: freeze-dried food containing the original flavor, color, and nutritional content, along with a new shelf life of 25 years or longer. 

The three basic methods for home freeze-drying:

  1. Using a home freezer 

  2. Using dry ice

  3. Using a freeze-drying machine 

How to Freeze Dry Food with Your Home Freezer

Most of you have freezers at home because they come with your refrigerator…and some of you may even have a dedicated deep freezer. 

Either would work, but working with a dedicated freezer is preferred, because freeze-drying at home with a freezer takes up a lot of space and time. Therefore, it may not be practical to take over your everyday freezer with slices of fruits and vegetables; but if you give the process enough time, it should work.

  1. Cut your food items into small slices, chunks, or strips—the thinner and smaller, the better.

  2. Place your processed food items in a single layer on a tray or plate.

  3. Ensure that your freezer is set to its lowest temperature.

  4. Leave the food in the freezer for at least 1 to 3 months.  

  5. When the process is complete, store your food in airtight containers with oxygen absorbers and keep it in your prepper pantry.  

How to Freeze Dry Food with Dry Ice

How to Freeze Dry Food with Dry Ice

Freeze-drying food with dry ice can be faster than freeze-drying with your home freezer. However, it does involve a considerable amount of extra work and dried ice. 

  1. Cut your food items into small slices, chunks, or strips. The thinner and smaller, the better.

  2. Place your processed food items into freezer-safe bags.

  3. Place your processed and bagged food items in a cooler with dry ice. Remember to drill holes in the cooler lid so the CO2 can escape. Also, remember to perform this process outside or in a well-ventilated room.   

  4. Leave the food in the freezer for at least 1 to 3 days.

  5. When the process is complete, store your food in airtight containers with oxygen absorbers and keep it in your prepper pantry.  

How to Freeze Dry Food with a Freeze Drying Machine

If you are going to freeze-dry food at home, your best bet is to use a proper freeze-drying machine. Investing in a freeze dryer can be expensive; however, it is by far the most reliable method for adequately freeze-drying emergency food for long-term storage.

  1. Turn on your machine 30 minutes before loading to make sure it’s already cool before loading your food items.

  1. Cut your food items into small slices, chunks, or strips. The thinner and smaller, the better.

  2. Place your processed food items in a single layer on a freezer tray.

  3. Then just let the freeze dryer do its job—the process is automatic. Typically, the process will take 24 to 50 hours, depending on what’s being freeze-dried.

  4. After it’s done, check if the food is completely freeze-dried by breaking the largest piece in half. If it needs more drying time, turn the machine on for 2 to 3 more hours.

  5. Afterward, store your food in airtight containers with oxygen absorbers and keep it in your prepper pantry.  

[product_render product-handle="harvest-right-at-home-freeze-dryer"]

Advantages of Investing in Pre-Made Survival Food

If you cannot rationalize the time it would take to freeze-dry food at home with your freezer or the price tag that comes with modern freeze dryers, then you might want to consider investing in professionally made and packaged freeze-dried survival food. 

The Freeze Dried Food is More Consistent

Let’s be honest, you are a passionate prepper, but you are not a professional. That means your freeze-drying processes may be imperfect and perhaps incomplete. 

And unfortunately, if something goes wrong in the process, from freeze-drying to packaging, you could lose a lot of food to premature spoilage—and nobody wants that.  

That’s why sometimes, it’s best to leave some things up to the professionals.  

Professionally Packaged Food Stands the Test of Time

professionally packaged dry foods

One of the most important factors in determining how long does freeze dried food last is its packaging. The packaging must protect the food from exposure to oxygen, light, moisture, insects, and other pests. Proper packaging plays a crucial role in preserving the quality and longevity of freeze-dried food.

When you invest in pre-made survival food, you can rely on the fact that your food will be packaged with the utmost care and the industry’s best practices. 

That way, you can have peace of mind that the food you purchased will be as fresh as ever when you finally open it during an emergency five, ten, or twenty years down the line.   

Your Prepping Process is Less Time Consuming

When you invest in pre-made survival food, you don’t have to worry about going grocery shopping, prepping food for freeze-drying, or packaging it correctly for long-term storage. 

Instead, all you have to do is select products that sound delicious and wait for them to arrive in the mail. Then you prepare a safe space for your survival food in your prepper pantry.   

You Can Avoid the Cost of the Freeze-Drying Machine

Simply put, freeze dryers are expensive. If you plan to process enough food, they can make a lot of sense, but if you don’t plan to take advantage of the purchase and practice a rigorous food-prepping routine, the large financial investment may not be worth it in the long run

Instead, you may be better off spending a similar amount, or less, on professionally prepared and packaged freeze-dried survival food. Then, you won’t have to worry about where to locate your massive freeze dryer, nor the upkeep and additional expenses to keep it running properly. 


Tips for Freeze Drying Survival Food

Freeze-drying food at home can be a rewarding experience and a great way to preserve food from your garden, or food you can get a great deal on. Here are some tips to consider if you want to try it out: 

  • Fruits and vegetables should be peeled or halved before freeze-drying. But if you leave the skin, slice in half and place skin side down on the tray.

  • Place a handful of grapes or cherry tomatoes between two lids and cut between them with a bread knife.

  • You should blanch potatoes before freeze-drying; otherwise, they will oxidize and turn black.

  • If using a machine, it is not a problem to pour liquids onto the trays, such as soup, milk, raw eggs, and broth.

  • Freeze-drying times are not set in stone. Some foods, like freeze-dried meats, take longer to freeze-dry.

  • Ensure that fish, meat, or eggs that haven't been cooked are labeled—freeze-drying does not kill bacteria.

  • If you can, buy food in bulk when it's on sale. Freeze-dried foods last for up to 25 years.

Final Thoughts on How to Freeze Dry Your Food at Home

Freeze-drying food at home using the freezer or dry ice methods can be impractical because of how long the two methods take. A professional freeze drying machine can be a great addition to your house, but only if you can freeze-dry enough to make it worth the initial investment.

That’s why investing in professionally prepared and packaged freeze-dried emergency survival food can be so effective. It’s more affordable, takes a fraction of the time, and gives you the same results: delicious and nutritious freeze-dried food that will stay fresh for over 25 years.  

However, remember that regardless of what you do, any prepping is good prepping.

We hope you found this article insightful. For more helpful information related to food prepping, visit our Practical Prepper Blog.