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The first time I looked into freeze dried food was on a visit to Space Center Houston with Smalls. They had “astronaut food” and he thought the ice cream was the coolest thing ever. I was more than a little concerned about the sticker price-that ice cream was nearly $7.00 for a little tiny block!
Fast forward a few years, and both of the boys are obsessed with freeze dried fruit. Smalls and The Baby absolutely love freeze dried fruits and veggies so I get them as often as I feel we can afford it.
I usually reserve these treats for car trips, meetings, church or other situations where I need something tasty enough to keep their attention, but not messy.
If you’re like me, kid snacks can be kind of tricky when you are trying to avoid processed foods.
When The Baby was small, I started buying freeze dried yogurt and veggies to help him feed himself. Soon after, Smalls was stealing all of his snacks! This wouldn’t be a problem, but when the price is around $5-6.oo per ounce…it’s definitely not something I can encourage.
Luckily, I found a way to put freeze dried goodies back on the snack list-all of the time. But first, let’s talk for a moment about what exactly freeze drying is, and why its such a great alternative to frozen or dehydrated options.
What is Freeze Drying?
Freeze-drying is a three-step process. The first thing that happens is the food (whatever that is gets flash frozen).
Next the food is placed in a vacuum chamber under low heat (this is my favorite part, so pardon me if I geek out a little). The now-frozen water crystals evaporate directly from ice to water vapor in a process called sublimation.
Then, the food then undergoes something called “secondary drying,” in which any remaining water molecules are removed under slightly higher temperatures. The food is nitrogen sealed for storage to prevent contamination from water or oxygen.
I had a really hard time with this, until I realized that meant that the freeze dried food was likely fresher (and more nutrient dense) than the food that was on the shelves of the local grocery.
How is This Different?
Let’s talk about bananas for a minute. Normally, bananas are picked early, which means they are green. They then get transported to a warehouse where they are boxed up and packaged for transport. Then the unripe bananas take a week or so to reach a cold storage warehouse where they’re cycled through and artificially ripened (this really isn’t good for you) before heading to the store shelves. By the time you buy your bananas, they’re already 17-20 days old…which explains why they turn to brown mush so fast.
YUCK. Now, that doesn’t mean I won’t buy fresh fruits and veggies-I totally will, but I am far more aware of where they were grown (and how) than I was before.
But What About Nutrition?
Gary Stoner, a professor of medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, found that the freeze-dried berries retained 90 percent of their anthocyanins—compounds that give berries their color and are thought to prevent cancer.
Once rehydrated, freeze-dried food is similar in nutritional value to fresh food according to Diane Barrett, a food science and technology prof at UC-Davis. Barrett calls freeze-drying “one of the best ways to preserve food.”
Beyond that, the cans that I buy do not contain BPA or other harmful chemicals. To keep the freeze dried foods crisp (and not soggy), each can has its own oxygen absorber. These packets remove the oxygen from packaging and prevent bacteria growth, rather than using harmful nitrogen to flushing foods (which is actually pretty common-so read your labels).
Studies show that oxygen absorbers can remove oxygen more effectively than nitrogen flushing, as well as continue to remove oxygen even after the cans have been opened to help maintain the shelf life of the products. Oxygen absorbers have largely replaced nitrogen flushing in recent years because many consumers have become concerned with the long-term effects of the nitrogen in their food.
But the Cost…
Yes, the cost can be a little alarming…at first. But let’s really break this down.
Freeze Dried vs. Home Canned Food
If you are comparing regular priced freeze dried produce at $2.50 per cup to home canned or dehydrated garden produce at $0.23 – $0.37 per cup, then YES, freeze dried produce is expensive. If you have the ability, space, and time to preserve your own garden produce, you will save a significant amount of money by preserving it yourself.
But what if you don’t have a green thumb? Or you hate gardening? You won’t get any judgement from me, because I can relate. On top of that, I honestly just do not have the time. And, when you consider that between working full time, caring for my boys, keeping the house clean, and working on my side hustle…I’m plum out of time.
So. IF I had the time, and my time is worth money, let’s say $5.00 per hour, then the time it would take me to can my own produce is far more expensive than freeze dried produce.
Fresh vs. Freeze Dried
Stay with me here because math is not my strong suit-but I did have Ish double check my numbers. Add to that the fact that I saved $200 on my grocery bill last month, and you should probably keep reading.
The average cost of fresh strawberries per serving in the US is $0.57. The cost of freeze dried strawberries per serving is $0.55. The cost per serving for frozen strawberries from the grocery store is $0.53 which is cheaper…but honestly I don’t like frozen strawberries so I’m not going to buy them even if they are cheaper.
Or consider raspberries. They’re a seasonal fruit, but one that both of my boys love to eat year round. If I go to the farmer’s market, I can buy a flat of raspberries for around $30.00. It ends up being 12 cups of raspberries-and honestly we usually throw at least half of them away. The ones we do eat we have to eat fast. Or…I can spend $29.99 and purchase a #10 can of freeze dried raspberries and we can enjoy the same 12 cups at our convenience-without worrying about spoilage.
But what about vegetables? I am obsessed with green beans-but I’m not a huge fan of canned or frozen, and the string beans you buy at the grocery are a lot of work between trimming, chopping, steaming…. Been there? Canned green beans (which is what I was buying) run around $1.79 per can, which is about .51 cents per serving.
THRIVE green beans are $15.59 per #10 can, or .31 cents per serving. And they are delicious.
I made chili the other day using “1 pound” of store bought ground beef. The ground beef was $5.49 per pound-which comes out to around 12 ounces of cooked meat. This makes that same pound of beef a whopping .48 cents per ounce or $7.68 per pound if I want a true pound of cooked ground beef (plus draining the fat, rinsing, and all of that work).
Alternatively, a #10 can of ground beef is $35.00, and contains 23 1 ounce servings (dried-4 ounces reconstituted). At 4 servings per pound, that means I can get 5.75 servings per can, which makes the cost of THRIVE ground beef $6.08 per pound. And it tastes better, too.
How about tomato paste? How many times have you opened a can of tomato paste only to need a small amount? What happened to the rest? If you’re like me, you likely threw it out. Not cool.
I open a $0.79 6 oz can can and use 3 T. I put the other 4.5 oz in the fridge, but forget about it and eventually just throw it out. That means I spent .79 cents for 3 Tablespoons of tomato paste.
Instead, I’ve been using THRIVE tomato powder plus 3 Tablespoons water to make my 3 Tablespoons tomato paste. My cost would is just .34 cents for the 3 Tablespoons.
My favorite example is the THRIVE chopped chicken. The average cost quality chicken at my local grocery store is around $4-5 per pound. When I take that chicken home, trim it, cook it and then shred it into the same tiny little pieces that chopped freeze dried chicken comes in, I get about 1 1/2 cups of chicken.
Each $53 #10 can of freeze dried chopped chicken has around 11.5 cups in it or the equivalent of 8.5 lbs of chicken at just over $6.00 per pound-and I’m not paying for bones, skin, and fat (not to mention the time I save shredding and cooking!). For chicken that truly tastes just like fresh that I can use anytime over the next 25 years, it is worth it for me!
Beyond the nutritional value, there are other benefits that go along with purchasing and using freeze dried foods.
No Food Waste
Did you know that the average person throws away 25% of the food they purchase (food has gone bad, trimmings of vegetables, peels, pits, skins, fat) each month? Think about the pineapple skin, chicken fat and bones, apple cores, and the fruit in the container that you have to toss because it was already turning.
With THRIVE there is no waste because you only use what you need when you need it.
No Added Sugar
It’s so hard to find healthy snacks that aren’t high in sodium and sugar! Thankfully, freeze dried fruits and veggies don’t need it to be delicious! The freeze drying process really enhances the natural sugars for each fruit.
If your family deals with food allergies, then you are going to love high quality freeze dried foods. Every can in our pantry is truly gluten and dairy free-and I know exactly what is in each one. There’s no risk of cross contamination between the kid’s snacks and our regular food because there are no contaminants or hidden ingredients.
Some of my favorite THRIVE products are their meats. We regularly purchase #10 cans of the chopped chicken (for the best chicken salad you’ve ever tasted), sausage crumbles, pulled pork, and ham. When its rehydrated no one even knows the difference-and when I use the sausage crumbles in my taco soup I don’t even have to rehydrate. My Instant Pot takes care of that for me.
Plus, the chicken meat is hormone free. Growers’ use of antibiotics is limited to therapeutic treatments as needed. The chickens that are used are not genetically modified during the breeding and growth process. This makes me feel better about feeding it to my boys.
The TVP, fruits, and vegetable products are all free of animal products.
Long Term Storage
If you can keep your freeze dried goodies stocked, you’ll be one up on me! We live in hurricane country, which means we do need to have some long term storage available. For that, we have a 2 week supply of THRIVE that will not only get us through-but allow us to eat our normal, healthy diet of minimally processed foods.
If you’re wanting to try it out-I highly recommend starting with their Snackies-which allows you to buy a small pouch of some of their foods to see how you feel about them. Once you have tried them, keep them on hand! I keep Snackies in my purse, the diaper bag, my computer bag, my car…basically anywhere the kids (or I) might get hangry.
Once you’re hooked, you can graduate to the pantry or #10 cans like I have. If you want to ease in (or go whole hog like me-no judgement, remember?) this is a great way to try some different options without diverting a large portion of your food budget.
Is it Worth It?
I would never recommend something to you that I wouldn’t recommend to my own family. So my answer is YES!!! It’s worth it! (Assuming you want to offer healthier options to your family and save money on food!)
You’ll have to actually use the foods to see the benefits, but there is an amazing recipe section that will keep you (and me) busy for literally YEARS.