With food prices rising, you’ve decided to stock your pantry with items just in case things get worse. How long does freeze-dried food last after opening?
As times get more chaotic, many Americans are stocking up on supplies and bulking their pantries like never before. While you may not be building a bunker in the backyard, there are some advantages of having a plan and being prepared for the unforeseen. But the last thing you want to do is make your family sick by feeding them freeze-dried food that has outlived its shelf life. Many say this preservation method has the best results in maintaining the structure and integrity of staples like fruit, meat, and coffee. But what about after it is opened? Will you have to throw food out because you can’t be sure you should eat it?
Most freeze-dried foods can be consumed 6 to 12 months after being opened if sealed adequately against the elements. Improperly sealed containers containing foods (or food prepared with water) should be considered perishable and eaten as soon after opening as possible.
While most preparedness advisors suggest having a three-month supply of freeze-dried foods in your panty, many Americans are stocking up on survival packs to supplement the high cost of groceries. Nowadays, you can get almost anything freeze-dried, from fruits and vegetables to basics like coffee or even macaroni and cheese. But what are some things you should know if you use freeze-dried foods as part of your pantry or as the beginning of an emergency preparedness closet?
This article will explore the growing trend of stockpiling freeze-dried foods. When the time comes, and you are eating (or sharing) these foodstuffs, you can have the confidence you need. And more importantly, no one will become sick by eating a product that is years old and should have been thrown out ages ago.
What is Freeze Drying, and What Are the Advantages?
Freeze drying is a method of removing water from a food product through a process of sublimation. The process removes moisture from the food and vacuum seals the meat or staple to prevent and slow the process of decay. The product retains its shape and form with a minimum molecular breakdown and extends the item's shelf life, sometimes up to 25 years.
Two things contribute to the deterioration of a piece of food you might purchase at the store - moisture and oxygen (Air). To create bacteria, the two things work in tandem to attack the item’s molecules (meat, fruit, etc.). The bacteria, fungi, and micro-organisms present begin to grow because they feast on the food source, breaking it down. (The food lasts longer in the refrigerator because the colder temperature slows this process down). Freeze-drying turns the moisture into a gaseous form, as the vacuuming and sealing remove the oxygen. While it does not kill pathogens, it renders them dormant, and for the most part, this method prevents the ability of microorganisms or anything else nasty to get started growing. Once thawed or used, the bacteria can come to life and begin thriving again, which is wise to treat all exposed items to the same standard as any freshly prepared meal.
The military and space programs have been using freeze-dried packaging for years. Many hikers and outdoors people love the convenience of carrying freeze-dried foods as an energy pickup when they find themselves in places where cooking a meal from scratch might not be possible.
In addition, many companies are offering many freeze-dried foods as a part of survival packs for families preparing for a national emergency. In interested in exploring this avenue, check out the website at mypatriotsupply.com.
What kinds of Foods Can Be Freeze-dried?
There are lots of applications for freeze-frying, including many household staples. Some examples of foodstuffs that are often freeze-dried are as follows.
- Meats or Seafood
- Instant foods (noodles or powdered soups)
- Coffee or Teas or Fruit juices
- Ready meals like stroganoff or chicken noodles
- Cooked rice, and other grains
- Fruit and smaller vegetables
- Herbs and Spices
Some items do not freeze-dry well. Items that have an oil base will likely be worth attempting to preserve. Here’s a list of items you should NOT try to freeze dry.
- Peanut Butter
- Pure chocolate
- Salad Dressing
How Long Will Freeze-Dried Food Last If Opened?
Depending on how the item is packaged and whether it can be resealed, the shelf life of most items after opening is 6 to twelve months. However, suppose the item needs water being added or is unable to be repackaged. In that case, it should be treated as any other perishable food source and eaten as quickly as possible.
For example, you pull out a package of freeze-dried raw meat to cook for dinner. You place it in a bowl of warm water to help it and throw it on the grill. You should treat any leftover meat like any other perishable item.
However, suppose that you are opening a can that contains an item that has been freeze-dried. Once opened, you should be able to return to the can and use or eat the product for six-to-twelve months. It is not necessary to refrigerate the can as long as you are storing it in an air-tight seal.
Please use caution; any products containing dairy, nuts, shellfish, or brown rice should be consumed one to three weeks after opening.
What are the Signs of Freeze-dried Food that Has Gone Bad?
There are some tell-tale signs of food that is unsafe to eat once it has been opened or if the freeze-dried process didn’t work correctly.
An Odor that Seems Spoiled
The nose knows. Just as you can tell if a piece of fruit or meat is spoiled when you purchase it fresh, the same principle applies to freeze-dried foods. If there is a foul odor that seems unnatural or moldy - discard the contents.
Use Your Eyes to Look for Mold or Bad Color
Visible signs of fermentation are evidence of mold, fungi, or other kinds of bacteria working their way through the foodstuffs. You do not want to eat frozen, dried food that exhibits these tell-tale signs.
If the foodstuff in the can you open is supposed to be powdery, it should be the same consistency when you open and inspect it. Any kind of texture that seems abnormal or chewy, or clumpy the food needs to be discarded.
Should An Oxygen Absorber Be Used?
An oxygen absorber is a small packet of iron and salt placed into the same jar or can as food that is being freeze-dried. The packet absorbs the remaining oxygen in the can, and the chemical reaction with iron creates nitrogen. The lack of oxygen prevents the growth of bacteria, microorganisms, or pest infestation and can increase the longevity of certain foods for decades.
What’s the best place to store Freeze Dried Foods?
While you can store these kinds of products in the freezer, it is not necessary to do so. If a vacuum sealer is used, then storing them on a shelf in your pantry is perfectly acceptable. Many homes have designated a large portion of a closet or pantry so that they can have easy access to the materials.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker