When it comes to preserving your food, there are a variety of options that can extend the life of your harvest or bulk purchases. It is widely accepted that freeze drying is the preferred method above dehydration or canning, for a few different reasons.
Freeze drying retains 97% of nutrients in food
- The shelf-life of freeze-dried foods is typically 25+ years
- The taste and texture are superior
- Freeze-dried foods are very lightweight
However, that’s not to say that freeze drying doesn’t have its drawbacks. The biggest one is cost. Purchasing freeze-dried food is expensive, because the machinery is expensive. Harvest Right is currently the only company that manufacturers freeze drying machines for home use. These start at about $2,200, so for most people it’s an investment you have to think about.
So is it worth it to freeze-dry your own food?
Factors to Consider
As always, you’ll have to weigh your commitment to freeze drying, as well as consider a few other elements, such as if you are purchasing food or harvesting it from your garden. Before you even consider purchasing a home freeze dryer, ask yourself:
- Do I have room for the machine? It’s at least the size of a small refrigerator.
- Do I have somewhere to install it that can minimize the noise? It’s about the volume of a vacuum cleaner and runs for 20-48 hours at a time.
- Am I prepared to maintain the machine regularly? This means changing the oil, power flushing, and manually cleaning the interior.
- How much food do I plan to freeze-dry each year? The smallest Harvest Right unit will be able to freeze-dry 840 lbs of fresh food into 195 gallons freeze-dried each year at maximum capacity.
- Am I purchasing all of the food to be freeze-dried, or harvesting it from my garden? The cost of food can add up significantly depending on where you live.
- Am I prepared for the electric bill? Electricity to run this machine for 48 hours at a time is not free (in most cases); have you considered how much your bill will go up?
When Is It Worth It?
If you’ve decided that the size, noise, and cost are not deterrents to you, consider this: It is only worth it to purchase a home unit if you:
- Use it more than once per week
- You grow your own food or buy fresh foods in bulk at a discount
- If you are freeze drying meals, since these are more expensive per weight than single ingredients.
And you will only start to see the savings after a full year of using the freeze dryer on at least a weekly basis.
How the Math Breaks Down
Cans of freeze-dried food on average cost $7.30 per pound of rehydrated food.
If you use your Harvest Right machine to freeze-dry 8.5 lbs of food once a week for a year, that’s 8.5 x 52 = 442 lbs.
With an average supermarket cost of $3 per pound for food, that’s 442 x 3 = $1326.
The cost of the machine is at least $2,200, so add that in: 1326 + 2200 = $3526.
The same 442 lbs purchased freeze-dried would be 7.30 x 442 = $3226.60.
Now factor in the cost of electricity, maintenance, and any additional food costs.
For the average person, it makes much more sense to purchase freeze-dried food rather than freeze dry your own.