Home freeze dryers are all the rage in the food storage world, and for really good reason. But is it really worth buying your own home freeze dryer?
Are home freeze dryers worth the cost? A small-sized home freeze dryer costs about $4 per use (for power and the mylar bags to store the food) and can freeze dry 4-7 lbs of food at a time. Given its $1995 price tag, it takes about 51 uses (approx. 282 lbs of food) before it’s less expensive to buy a home freeze dryer over just buying freeze dried food.
But believe it or not, 282 lbs of food isn’t that much for the typical gardener and/or canner. So if you’d buy freeze dried foods anyway, your own home freeze dryer may be a great idea.
If Freeze Dried Food Better than Other Preserved Food?
Honestly, in most cases I’d say yes.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my canned peaches, pears, applesauce, salsa, even apple pie filling. I love canning. Sure it’s a ton of work, but it’s something I can do with my family and the finished product is amazing!
But if we’re talking about long-term food storage, canning doesn’t even hold a candle to freeze drying.
Shelf life, for one, is a big issue. Even commercially canned fruits typically only have a shelf life of about 3 years. Freeze dried fruits have a shelf life of about 20 years. Dehydrated fruit that’s vacuum sealed only gets to the 10-15 year range and let’s be honest, most fruits are more fun to eat when freeze dried rather than dehydrated.
Meats have the same issue. Canned and dehydrated meats can’t approach the shelf-life of freeze dried.
Now let’s talk about edibility.
Freeze dried food is fun to eat even in its dried state. Fruits taste like candy without all the water in them. Freeze dried pineapple is awesome. But, you can also just rehydrate whatever you freeze dried and voila! you have a meal that’s almost identical to what you freeze dried years earlier.
That’s why, in most cases, I like freeze drying for my food storage over other methods of food preservation, especially for long-term food storage.
Last, let’s talk about nutrition.
According to the American Institute of Cancer Research, freeze dried foods retain almost all (about 97%) of their nutrients. Dehydrated foods lost substantially more nutrients. Canned foods (especially that delicious fruit) often require large amounts of sugar or other preservatives.
When it comes down to being able to store delicious, nutrient-rich foods for a long time, freeze drying is the way to go!
Home Freeze Drying vs. Buying Freeze Dried Foods
I mentioned earlier that it takes about 282 lbs of food (before freeze drying) before it’s financially better to freeze dry at home rather than buying freeze dried food. Here’s how I worked that out.
Assumption 1: On average, freeze dried foods tend to cost about $28 for a 12 oz can. Looking at some of those cans with varying types of food, I found that each can holds about 4/5 of a gallon of food.
Assumption 2: The small Harvest Right home freeze dryer can freeze dry 4-7 lbs of food at a time and takes 1-1.5 days to do it. That amount of food, when freeze dried, is about 1 to 1.5 gallons of food.
Assumption 3: The small Harvest Right home freeze dryer uses energy that costs $1-2.80 per day depending on your utility rates.
Assumption 4: Harvest Right mylar bags cost $29.99 per 50 bags and it takes about 2 bags to store 1 gallon of freeze dried food.
Based on all these numbers, it costs about $4 per batch (1-1.5 gallons) of freeze dried food. Accounting for the $1,995 price tag of the freeze dryer and the $28 per can price of freeze dried food, it takes 64.35 gallons of processed freeze dried food (51.5 batches or about 282 lbs of food) before the home freeze dryer was less expensive than buying freeze dried food at the store.
But cost isn’t the only factor to consider here.
I think there are a few questions worth asking yourself before making the commitment to buy a home freeze dryer.
Do you want to take the time to process your own food?
Home freeze drying requires you to prepare your food, then dehydrate it, then put it in mylar bags with an oxygen absorber, and seal it up. If you’re already a food preparer type (canner, cook, etc.) then you probably don’t mind. I quite enjoy the work, honestly. But make sure you’re willing to do it, or you won’t and that freeze dryer will just become a really expensive (and really big) paper weight.
Do you have the extra space to store an additional appliance?
The small home freeze dryer from Harvest Right weighs 96 lbs (with the vacuum pump) and is 16.5 inches wide by 18.5 inches deep by 25 inches tall. It’s not exactly tiny.
Which Home Freeze Dryer Should I Get?
The big name in home freeze dryers is Harvest Right. It doesn’t take more than a few seconds in searching home freeze dryers online before you find these guys. In fact, it takes a much deeper search to find anyone else.
The real question is which of their freeze dryers you should get.
I based all the numbers in this article on the small freeze dryer. It can do 4-7 lbs of food at a time. That’s 1-1.5 gallons of food when dried. Honestly, that’s going to be plenty for most people.
However, the medium home freeze dryer can do 60% more food at a time, which if you garden or buy bulk fresh fruit (we do both) it may be nice to have a little more capacity since each batch takes 1-1.5 days to complete.
The large home freeze dryer can do batches almost 3x as big as the small one. Honestly, I think that’s probably more than most people would need, especially given that it’s bigger, heavier, and for that one, it needs its own dedicated electrical circuit.
How Do I Use a Home Freeze Dryer?
Harvest Right actually has a great video here showing how their home freeze dryers work.
As someone who loves to be prepared for anything and who grows a sizable vegetable garden every year, a home freeze dryer just makes a ton of sense.
I honestly struggle to use all of my fresh produce and I feel like half of my garden goes to waste. But with a home freeze dryer, I can easily store my freshly grown fruits and vegetables to be used year-round. It helps so much with healthy eating, and makes it easy for me to keep my long-term food storage fully stocked with fresh, healthy foods.