If you are planning on stocking up on an emergency food supply, what is the best way to store freeze-dried foods so that they keep for 25+ years?
The last thing you want is to do all this work prepping and stockpiling foods to use in an emergency, only to find that half of your reserve is spoiled when you need it most. Imagine you and your family hunkered down, trying to survive some cataclysmic event, and when the time comes to prepare a meal, you open a package of freeze-dried eggs just to find them rotten. What’s the use of storing foodstuffs and emergency supplies if they aren’t there when you most need them?
The most effective way to store freeze-dried foods for 25-plus years is in sealed containers (mylar bags, sealable cans, or containers with oxidizers added). The storage area should be free from direct sunlight, dry, temperature-controlled, and free of infestation from pests and rodents.
The freeze-drying process eliminates the natural moisture in the food and is an excellent method for extending the life of many foods. Still, correct storage methods must also be applied. Your choice of location for your food pantry can make the difference between a reliable source of supplies during a crisis and a full-blown aggravation when you find yourself battling mold, mildew, and unwanted pests.
This article will assume that you have mastered the basics of freeze-drying and will discuss some of the best storage methods for your pantry so that you can keep food for 25 or more years.
What Exactly is Freeze-drying?
The technique of freeze-drying foods removes about 98% of the moisture content from the food item. In most cases, freeze-dried foods can store up to 25 - 30 years. While some items have shorter shelf lives, this particular method of food storage has become quite popular.
Freeze drying is a technique for preserving food by subjecting the item to colder temperatures below zero and placing the item into a high-pressure vacuum. The item is frozen to sub-zero temperatures and then subjected to a drying process through a vacuum. The solid ice crystals are turned into a gas through sublimation.
What to Consider as You Choose a Location for Storage?
Location doesn’t just apply to real estate. It can also make a huge difference in food storage. , What factors can affect the longevity of storage?
Pick a Spot With Enough Space
It is hard to imagine, but the more cramped items are in your storage area, the harder it is to keep on top of everything. You should pick a spot with ample room to build shelves and store the various kinds of food items that you are freeze-drying. Depending on how large a supply you want to horde, you could dedicate a spare room/office or walk-in closet to make a well-functioning pantry.
Pick A Spot that is Dry
Moisture is the enemy of food storage. Avoid areas with mildew or moisture. If you live in flood-prone areas, a basement would not be an ideal place.
Pick A Spot that is Temperature Controlled
Extreme temperatures can also affect the longevity of food. If you live in an area with extreme temperatures (either hot or cold), you will need to make arrangements to minimize the fluctuations so that your food stays unaffected. Consider an interior space that you know will be air-conditioned or heated along with other home areas.
Pick A Spot That Avoids Direct Sunlight
Generally, a dark place is better than an open area with direct sunlight. The heat from the sun can break down vital components in food and cause fruits, vegetables, or other items to lose nutritional value. Keep your pantry lights off or keep the sunlight out of the area. Many preppers use large cabinets or other storage containers.
Pick A Spot That Has No Infestation
You want to be sure that your pantry avoids bugs, spiders, or other unwanted guests. The best way to ensure this is to pick a spot that critters cannot reach (interior space). A storage unit that attracts mice will attract snakes and other critters, and if you are not careful, your food pantry will be feeding the forest creatures whether you want it to or not.
What Kind of Container is Best for Freeze-Dried Foods?
There are several options for preppers who want to store freeze-dried foods for long periods adequately. Whatever method you choose, the container should be air-tight. Otherwise, the foods will begin to reabsorb moisture, which could lead to spoilage.
The least expensive way to store freeze-dried food is to purchase mylar bags. Mylar is a chemical compound (BoPET (Biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate) used in balloons and other applications. Most preppers use an oxidizer to remove any residual oxygen from the air in the bag, and this aids in keeping any moisture from contaminating the product.
One of the advantages of mylar bags is that they come in several different sizes. This option allows preppers to freeze-dry items in smaller portion-controlled units, using and opening only the amount they feel they might use. This prevents having to repeatedly reseal any unused portion of food when the product is stored in a larger container. For a review of 5 top mylar bags, see amazon.com.
Number 10 Cans
These are the size of bulk vegetable cans or coffee cans. They can be an excellent way to do long-term storage, but they require a can sealer investment. Again, oxidizers are used to eliminate any excess oxygen in the air. The trouble with #10 cans is that they are bulkier and take up more room in your pantry. In addition, once opened, the contents will need to be used, whereas the portion control is easier with the smaller containers mylar bags usually employ.
Clear Storage Bags
Clear storage bags with seals should not be used to store free-dried foods. These bags are not always air-tight and are prone to puncture. Try to keep an item in one of these bags, and you will find that you are battling spoilage. Some preppers have had good luck with plastic storage bags, but these items are not intended for long-term storage.
Air-Tight Jars or Mason Jars
For items you know you will be consuming more quickly than long-term storage, any simple mason jar or air-tight glass jar with a rubber seal will work fine. These jars do not require oxidizers and can hold up for months. Just make sure that any container you use seals properly.
Do I Need To Use My Freezer for Freeze-Dried Foods?
It is not necessary to store freeze-dried foods in the freezer to increase their longevity. Since these types of pantry items can be stored on a regular shelf with 25+ years of life, the better and safer bet is to place them in your regular pantry. Leave your freezer open for other items you know you will consume sooner. In addition, if your freezer is like mine, it is already crammed full of items. There is always the chance that a container would tear or break, allowing moisture to enter, and causing spoilage. Store freeze-dried foods on the shelf and leave the freezer for other things.
How Long does Freeze Dried Food Last Once Open?
Once you have opened a container and begun to use freeze-dried foods, remember that the more you use it, the more exposure to moisture it receives. It is best to re-store opened freeze-dried foods in an air-tight container with an oxidizer. Freeze-dried foods that have been opened should be used within a six-month to a year if you do not plan on using them immediately.
Can You Repackage Freeze-Dried Foods Once Opened?
The answer is yes, and you should. If you do not use the item in a few days, you should reseal the unused portion and place it back on the shelf. Be sure to mark the can or bag as opened with a date - most of the time, re-sealed items can last for up to a year from opening.
Another answer is to repackage the unused portion into smaller mylar bags (basically allowing for portion control). This system will allow you to use the items regularly without having to constantly reseal the item every time you reach for the container.
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