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Ranking the best freeze dried foods of 2020

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Freeze dried food is the best solution for easy, long-term stable meal storage to keep you ready in case of a disaster.

Freeze dried food is lightweight, as it’s had most of its water content removed, and it has an impressively long shelf life.

If packages remain sealed, they can be shelf-stable for up to 30 years. As a result, freeze dried food is well-suited for keeping in a home survival kit, even if you never swap it out.

Even if you don’t want to go to this extreme, tossing a few days’ worth of a high quality freeze dried food supply into your survival kit is a very smart idea.

Our team set out to find the best freeze dried food to pick for your survival kit. Here’s what we came up with. 

The big picture

Freeze dried food is lightweight, nutritious, and can stay shelf-stable for 25 years or more. It’s the perfect way to prepare for situations where food access might be cut off for days or weeks at a time, like the aftermath of a natural disaster or during a period of civil unrest.

No home survival kit is complete without a good stock of freeze-dried food. Our team found that the Mountain House Just In Case 14-Day Kit is the best option on the market for freeze-dried food, because of its excellent shelf life and the fact that it conforms perfectly to recommendations for survival kit food needs from top experts.

Rankings

1. Mountain House Just In Case 14-Day Kit

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Mountain House offers a great freeze dried food supply that can last your entire family for at least two weeks. The kit comes with 100 servings worth of freeze dried food that is easily reheated, and comes with enough variety to keep the meals from getting bland. 

Why we like it: The 30-year shelf life guarantee from Mountain House is industry-leading, and the nutrient quality of the meals is great. Having 100 servings on hand is a good balance between storage size and preparedness: at only 13 pounds, the entire kit is lightweight but long-lasting. 

Flaws: Since these freeze dried foods come in a cardboard box (with vacuum sealed plastic inside), you’ll need to supply your own plastic or metal storage container for protection against pests. 

2. Augason Farms 30-day Emergency Food Storage Supply

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Augason Farms has one of the best self-contained freeze dried food supply that comes with its own rigid plastic container. At over 300 servings, it’s enough to last several weeks, and the variety of ingredients is pretty good too. 

Why we like it: Thanks to the rigid plastic container that this freeze dried food supply comes in, you don’t have to worry about rodents or insects getting into your food supplies. The massive size is great for those who want to be prepared for long-term survival, or for people who have a large family. 

Flaws: Fully stocked, this freeze dried food supply weighs nearly 30 pounds. It’s a good option for a home survival kit, but you definitely won’t be able to carry all of this on your own if you have to cover long distances on foot. 

3 Wise Company Emergency Food Supply

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Wise Company makes several sizes of freeze dried food supplies, but the best option is the bucket-sized 120 serving kit. Here, you get a decent variety of meals in individually sealed packages.

Why we like it: The rigid plastic tub keeps out bugs and other pests, so you don’t need to supply your own storage container. Plus, the 25 year shelf life means you can leave this in your survival kit and forget about it for a decade or two, and it will still be good. 

Flaws: A “serving” in this kit is a pretty miserly 250 calories, so 120 servings won’t go as far as you think. This freeze dried food also has the tendency to reheat with a mushy, homogenous texture that’s not the same as the original food it came from. 

4. NorthWest Fork Gluten-Free 30 Day Emergency Food Supply

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Finding good freeze dried food that’s also gluten-free is a real pain. Fortunately, NorthWest Fork has you covered. Their freeze dried food is certified gluten-free and still offers great nutritional benefits in a lightweight package. 

Why we like it: If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, NorthWest Fork is by far the best option on the market. With 90 servings in this kit, you can even feed your whole family for a week or two.

Flaws: Since there’s no standard for what constitutes a “30 day supply,” labels vary considerably when it comes to what counts as adequate food supply per day. The 90 serving size here is actually smaller than some kits labeled “14 days.” 

5. Augason Farms Lunch & Dinner

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Augason Farms Lunch & Dinner makes a pretty good one stop option for long term food storage for your survival kit. At only 11 pounds, this rigid plastic tub is a lighter weight option than some of the other home survival kit options, but still offers pretty good nutrient density and great meal variety. 

Why we like it: If you want a lot of variety in your meals but still want good nutrient quality, Augason Farms Lunch & Dinner is a good pickup. It can even supplement a larger freeze dried food supply by adding alternative meal options. 

Flaws: The quantity of food available in this kit (only 92 servings) is somewhat lower than many of the other options on the market, so it won’t last as long as some of the larger options. 

6. Legacy Emergency Preparedness Entree Meal Supply

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Legacy Emergency Preparedness supplies a calorie-dense and lightweight sample of meal entrees that are easy to prepare and have a long-lasting shelf life. They’re great to stash in your car or to double as backpacking food. 

Why we like it: These freeze dried meals are specifically designed to maximize calorie density and minimize weight. They are good if you need a small supply of meals to keep in your bug-out bag. 

Flaws: At only 60 servings total, this freeze dried food supply can last a family for several days at best. Longer-term survival calls for a larger supply with greater meal variety. 

7. Backpacker’s Pantry Freeze Dried Food

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Though this brand is designed with long-distance hiking in mind, Backpacker’s Pantry makes a pretty good emergency food supply product too. These meals are designed to be nutritionally complete and high in calories, which makes them an excellent choice for places where space is at a premium, like a mobile survival kit. 

Why we like it: At 660 calories per pouch, you know you are getting an energy-dense meal. Plus, the variety of meals available through Backpacker’s Pantry is much better than many other freeze dried food brands. 

Flaws: Backpacker’s Pantry does not offer bulk sized food kits, so it is not as well-suited for large home survival kits meant to feed multiple people for weeks at a time. 

8. Nutristore Freeze Dried Fruit

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Nutristore specializes in freeze drying specific ingredients as opposed to pre-prepared meals. They offer a great selection of vegetables, beans, and meats, but perhaps their most helpful line of products is their freeze-dried fruit variety pack. Fruit is hard to come by in many freeze dried food supplies, and is the best source of concentrated vitamins and minerals. While this won’t be an adequate food supply on its own, it is a great supplement to your primary freeze dried food supply. 

Why we like it: Fruits are likely to be in short supply in survival situations, which is a real shame because they are such a great source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Keeping a few tins of freeze dried fruit on hand can go a long way towards boosting the nutrient content and taste profile of your normal freeze dried food supply. 

Flaws: Obviously, you can’t sustain yourself for very long on fruits alone, so you’ll need another freeze dried food supply to handle your main meals. 

9. Harmony House Foods Deluxe Sampler

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If pre-made meals are not what you are looking for, consider Harmony House Foods Deluxe Sampler—you get many different types of vegetables, beans, and meat, all freeze dried and stored in individual plastic pouches. With this kit, you can make your own recipes instead of relying on pre-mixed ingredients.

Why we like it: The one disadvantage of freeze dried food is that you typically do not get much control over the composition of your meals. Harmony House solves this problem by allowing you to make your own meals. 

Flaws: Because of the do it yourself approach, you’ll need more cooking space and cooking supplies to prepare these foods. Those might not be readily forthcoming in a survival situation, so this kit is not well-suited for anything but a well-supplied home survival kit that also includes the cooking supplies necessary to prepare entire meals. 

10. Peak Refuel Freeze Dried Meals

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Peak Refuel Freeze Dried Meals is another brand that straddles the gap between survival oriented food supplies and backpacking oriented freeze dried food. Their freeze dried meals have the advantage of being high in protein and very lightweight, making them a good option for mobile survival kits. 

Why we like it: Often, survival oriented freeze dried meals are heavy on basics like beans, rice, and corn, as these are cheap and stable on the shelf for long periods of time. Peak Refuel adds substantially more meat and protein to their meals, which is good if you want an energy and protein dense meal option. 

Flaws: Like other freeze dried food supplies that cater to backpackers as well as survivalists, it’s hard to get bulk amounts of Peak Refuel, so these freeze dried foods are better suited for short-term survival kits or a bug-out bag than for your home survival kit. 

Who should buy freeze dried food?

If you get interested in survival, one of the first things you’ll discover is the list of priorities to keep you alive in a survival situation: first aid, water, shelter, and food.

Food is ordered lower than first aid, water, and shelter in terms of priority, because you can survive for quite a long time without food—most people can last a few weeks without any food whatsoever. In contrast, you can bleed out in a few minutes, die from dehydration within a few days, or get hypothermia from exposure in an equally short amount of time.

However, just because you can survive for a few weeks without food doesn’t mean you’ll be able to function at anywhere near full capacity. Your physical and mental performance will start to suffer within a few days without food, and long-term survival is definitely out of the question if you don’t have readily-available food supplies. 

Keeping freeze-dried food in your survival kit is an absolute must, even if you are only preparing for a few days: if unrest or disaster lasts longer than you anticipate, you can mete out your food supply and reduce the temptation to recklessly leave safety to seek out food, which could be a dangerous proposition indeed.

Since freeze-dried food is so light and lasts for so long on the shelf, it’s hard to justify not including it in your home survival kit. It’s perhaps a little more understandable if you don’t want to keep any in your car, as you’ll presumably be making your way to a more permanent shelter location. 

However, for home kits or stashes at a remote shelter location, freeze dried food belongs right next to your first aid kit and drinking water supply. You can buy some, stash it in your survival kit, and forget about it for the next ten years—and it will still be ready to eat a decade from now if you need it. 

How we ranked

Our metrics for rankings were centered on shelf life, nutrient quality to weight, and taste. Shelf life was the most important criteria, because it dictates how long you can leave freeze dried food in storage before use.

However, we didn’t only look at the date on the box: We also looked at factors like the stability of the packaging to unfavorable storage conditions or resistance to insects or rodents.

While you always want to do your best to store your freeze dried food in ideal conditions, it never hurts to have a product with better resistance to heat, moisture, or pests.

As far as the actual shelf life, the longer the better: top-rated products were those that had shelf lives of a decade or more, since these freeze dried foods are suitable even for stashing in a long-term survival shelter in a remote location. Ultra-long shelf lives mean you don’t have to rotate out your food supplies after a few years. 

When it comes to nutrition quality, we looked for freeze dried products that offered a full range of essential vitamins and minerals, as well as meals (or combinations of meals) that provide all nine essential amino acids. That’s as much as you can ask for in a freeze dried meal that needs to stay shelf-stable for a decade or more at a time.

Since you may end up having to transport your freeze dried meals, we also considered the nutrient-to-weight ratio in addition to just the raw nutrition facts.

One of the reasons freeze dried food is so great for survival compared to canned goods is that it pushes the weight of food down by removing water in the freeze drying process. It makes sense to push this advantage as far as you can go in order to maximize your nutrient content while minimizing the weight you may have to carry.

While taste can get pretty subjective as a review criteria, there are a few things that most people can agree on: to the greatest extent possible, freeze dried foods should retain their original consistency, taste profile, and texture.

That means that vegetables should not be overly mushy and mealy, noodles should not be crumbly or dissolve on touching with your fork, and meat should be savory and tender, not tasteless and rubbery.

While more practical considerations like shelf life and nutrient quality were the biggest factor in our rankings (survivors can’t be choosers, after all), we still factored taste into account when calculating overall scores. 

After scoring each product on shelf life, nutritional quality, and taste, we weighted the scores and aggregated them to come up with our overall rankings. Our team believes these are the best options available right now for freeze dried food if you are looking to complete your home survival kit. 

Benefits

Freeze dried food is more nutritious than dehydrated food. One of the oldest procedures for preserving food is dehydration: passing warm, dry air over foods will draw out a substantial proportion of the water, which reduces weight and increases shelf life.

Freeze drying is a relatively recent innovation that is able to drive out even more water and retains more nutrients because of its avoidance of high temperatures. Freeze drying involves, as the name suggests, freezing food, but under a special low pressure environment that draws out the water as a vapor.

Because the freeze drying process does not expose foods to high temperatures, it does not destroy as much of the nutrient content. A study published in the journal Food Research International in 1998 demonstrated this effect on carrots: compared even to air drying, freeze drying carrots retained a greater proportion of nutrients (1).

Other scientific research shows that, while freeze drying does result in some loss of nutrient content, freeze drying in a vacuum is the best food preservation method by a good stretch, even compared to more conventional methods of preservation like (regular) freezing in three common types of vegetables: carrots, broccoli, and spinach. 

Freeze dried food is lighter than canned or dehydrated food. Freeze drying draws out over 95% of the water content of a typical food, compared to more like 90% for standard dehydration (2).

That means you are getting a substantial weight savings if you use freeze dried food, compared even to dehydrated food. For canned foods, the comparison isn’t even close: canning removes no water content (in fact, it often adds water), and you have to factor into account the weight of the packaging too: freeze dried food is usually packaged in vacuum-sealed foil, while canned foods need to be stored in steel cans or glass jars.

Weight is not a huge issue if you are only planning on keeping your food in your home, but if there is any chance you’ll need to travel during a survival situation, weight is a matter of critical importance.

Canned foods definitely won’t cut it, and even dehydrated food comes up a little short compared to freeze dried food, both on weight and on nutrient quality. 

Freeze dried food lasts longer than dehydrated or canned food. Dehydration and canning are the two biggest competitors to freeze drying when it comes to long term food storage, but of the three methods, freeze drying will result in the longest shelf life.

That advantage can be directly traced to its ability to drive out the vast majority of the water content of food, as discussed earlier. Canned foods can last anywhere from one to six years, depending on the food and the storage conditions—as you might guess, cool dark places are best for food storage.

Dehydrated food can last for ten to twenty years in ideal conditions, which is great, but freeze dried food can do even better: in ideal conditions, freeze dried foods can last for twenty five to thirty years. Practically, that means freeze dried foods can be left alone for decades before being opened, and they’ll still be just as good as they day you bought them.

If you intend to prepare a remote survival location, for example at a cabin in the woods, freeze dried foods are an ideal solution. They’re also great for survival caches buried underground (in a watertight and rodent-proof container, of course), thanks both to their shelf life and to their light weight. 

FAQ

Q: What is freeze dried food? 

A: Freeze drying is a process by which almost all of the water is removed from food, while keeping the temperature low. Freeze drying, as you might guess from the name, uses cold temperatures, but also at a low atmospheric pressure.

Under low pressure, the water in foods will turn to vapor instead of freezing, so instead of ice crystals, the water gets pulled off as a gas. This drops the water content of food drastically: after the freeze drying process, foods typically contain less than five percent water.

Since the freeze drying process happens so fast and since it does not expose foods to high heat, it has the advantage of preserving nutrients to a better extent than dehydration. For this reason, it’s a favorite both among survivalists and among long-distance hikers, who value both its nutrient content and low weight. 

Q: How long does freeze dried food last? 

A: Freeze dried foods can last up to 30 years on the shelf if unopened and stored in reasonable conditions. A cool, dark place is best: try to avoid extremely hot storage conditions like the attic in the summertime, or places where your freeze dried food will get exposed to direct sunlight.

The very long shelf life of freeze dried foods is one of its distinct advantages compared to other methods of food preservation. One final aspect of freeze drying to consider is protection from rodents and insects: it’s a very good idea to store your freeze dried food in a thick plastic or sealed metal storage container, to prevent pests from getting access to your food.

The vacuum sealed plastic or foil that your freeze dried food is protective enough to keep oxygen and moisture out, but it’s easily chewed through by mice, rats, or raccoons. 

Q: Can you make freeze dried food yourself? 

A: For a long time, freeze drying food was only viable in an industrial setting: do it yourselfers had to settle for dehydration instead. Today, a small number of home freeze drying units are available, but with some big caveats: they still only accept small batches of food, and they are extremely expensive compared to a home dehydrator.

You’d have to be preparing pretty large amounts of food for it to be cost-effective to buy your own freeze dryer: probably over a year’s worth of food once you factor in the cost of both the food and the freeze drier itself. Dehydration is a cheaper alternative, but doesn’t offer the same low weight and nutrient value that freeze drying offers. For most people, buying commercially made freeze dried food is the best option. 

Q: How do you store freeze dried food properly? 

A: Freeze dried food is pretty easy to store: keep it in a cool, dark place, like your basement or root cellar. Try to avoid keeping it somewhere that gets exposed to direct sunlight, and try to avoid very hot environments like the attic, garage, or your car.

The packaging that your freeze dried food comes in should be enough to protect your freeze dried food from the elements, but it won’t be enough to keep it protected against pests.

Keep your freeze dried food supply in a rigid plastic or metal container to keep out rats, mice, raccoons, insects, and anything else that might want to dig into your food supplies in storage.

This is especially important if you keep your freeze dried food in a remote location, like a cabin in the woods. If you will be away for long periods of time, invest in a rodent-proof container to store your freeze dried food. 

Q: How do you rehydrate freeze dried food? 

A: Rehydrating freeze dried food is extremely easy: all you need is hot water that’s safe to drink. For freeze dried foods like pasta, potatoes, or vegetables, you can add in hot water slowly until the food reaches the right consistency, then stop adding water.

If you have a solid type of food, like a slice of steak, you can soak it in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes, then pull it out. The right amount of water to add will depend a bit on the food in question, but it’s extremely easy to figure out. Just make sure that the water you are using is drinkable: if you’re unsure, boil it for at least one minute to kill any possible pathogens. 

Q: How does freeze dried food work? 

A: Freeze drying works primarily because it removes almost all of the water content of food. Bacteria that cause foods to spoil require two things: nutrients and water. Of course, removing nutrients isn’t going to work very well if you still want nutritious food, but if you can remove the water, you can prevent food from going bad.

And if you vacuum-seal food after removing the moisture, you stop one of the other culprits, which is oxygen. Freeze drying is better than dehydration because it removes more water, and does not expose foods to high temperatures, which destroy nutrients.

It beats out regular freezing by reducing the water content, and avoiding damage to foods from ice crystals. The actual water removal in freeze drying happens because of a process called sublimation, where water ice turns into vapor in the low-pressure environment used in freeze drying. 

Q: How long does freeze dried food last after opening? 

A: After you’ve opened freeze dried foods, you should use them within a week or two: now they’re exposed to oxygen and bacteria in the air, so they are much more susceptible to going bad. This is why freeze dried food is usually packaged in individual portions, even if you buy a product that has dozens of servings. 

Q: What is the difference between freeze dried food and dehydrated food? 

A: Both dehydration and freeze drying are procedures that are designed to vastly increase the shelf life of food by removing its water content. Freeze drying is the more effective of the two, as it can drop the water content down to 5% or less. In comparison, dehydration usually brings the water content of food down to 10% or so.

Dehydration can make foods last for a decade or more before going bad, but freeze drying can more than double this shelf life. Freeze drying also tends to preserve a greater proportion of the nutrients in foods like fruits and vegetables, because high temperatures tend to degrade antioxidants and phytonutrients. 

Q: What kind of food can’t be freeze dried?

A: The only kinds of foods that cannot be freeze dried are foods that are very high in oil, fat, or sugar. Honey, jam, jelly, and syrup don’t tend to freeze dry well, nor does butter or nut products like peanut butter.

Thick slices of meat tend not to freeze dry either, because their surface area is so low compared to the amount of meat included. Shredded or ground meat will work better. Fortunately, high-sugar foods like honey and jam are amenable to canning in Mason jars instead, which can last for a year or more when canned at home. 

Recap

If you want a long term food storage solution that is lightweight, has great nutrient density, and an incredibly long shelf life, freeze dried food is the best way to go.

The freeze drying process removes almost all of the water content but preserves nutrients since it does not expose foods to high temperatures. Rehydrating freeze dried food is very easy; all you need is hot, potable water.

Since freeze dried food can last up to thirty years, it’s the most versatile option for food storage for survival situations. As long as you store it in a cool, dark place in a container that’s protected from insects and rodents, freeze dried food can take care of all of your nutrition needs in a survival situation. 

For SurvivalAtHome’s #1 freeze dried food recommendation, click here.

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