Today I just wanted to provide a couple of tips to help you be more comfortable in the purchase and use of the freeze-dried produce that’s become such a prevalent staple in the life of a “prepper.” In addition, I wanted to provide you with just a couple of quick tips to help you in your organization and use of these same products. I’m going to give you this quick little video to look at for some of this information, but I wanted to go into greater detail to help highlight the actual VALUE that exists in purchasing freeze-dried produce.>
First of all, when I say freeze-dried produce, I mean produce—and almost exclusively PRODUCE—as in fruits and vegetables. The reason being is that I’m not really much of a fan of most other freeze-dried options—my detailed reasons for which will have to wait for another article as they are extensive. But for today, let’s just focus on freeze-dried produce such as strawberries, peaches, tomatoes, potato pearls and celery.
Most folks I speak with are under the impression that freeze-dried produce is “too expensive”. While I admit the freeze-dried entrees and freeze-dried meats are typically priced exorbitantly, I find freeze-dried produce to be an EXCELLENT value. I don’t know if you’ve noticed over the past several years, but I’m sick and tired of the produce I buy at the grocery store going bad less than 48 hours after I get it home. I go to the grocery store primarily for fresh produce, as I have plenty of just about everything else already on hand. But my garden of lettuces, carrots, and tomatoes don’t feed me all year round and that’s what sends me to the grocery store. But thanks to so many of our farms being sold off for condominium projects, our food travels so far before it even gets to our grocery stores. Plus all of the chemicals that are used today on our food hasten their spoilage. In spite of the “shelf-life” of fresh produce going downhill fast, the quality of our produce is diminishing as well. Of course when this starts happening, people, like myself, are able to justify the cost of buying organic produce, even at double the price of their non-organic counterparts. After all, purchasing a clamshell of blackberries at $3.99 but have them go bad before you finish using them, is much more expensive than spending $5.99 for that same size if they manage to stay tasty and plump for an entire week, right? But even the organic market is performing poorly in some instances too and the term “organic” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. As an example, the “organic” market is permitted to use pesticides and such without restriction so long as the components are derived from “natural ingredients.” There are many poisons in the world that occur naturally, of course. One of the most common “organic pesticides” used by “organic farms” is pyrethrum, which is a known carcinogen which the EPA's Cancer Assessment Review Committee chose to assume that even the smallest amount could cause tumors. Rotenone, a natural insecticide squeezed from roots of tropical plants, causes symptoms of Parkinson's disease in rats. Just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean it’s harmless and can safely be ingested without harmful consequences. After all, CO² is natural, but it kills or injures more than 20,000 people a year in the U.S. On top of all this, you also have the fact that the USDA permits more than 20 various synthetic chemicals to be used on organic produce under a variety of circumstances while still allowing the use of the USDA Organic label. Such use occurs when a particular mold or fungal problem occurs on the produce during specific times during the growth and maturation period, but synthetics are synthetics—no matter what paperwork was filed with the USDA. What’s also concerning is that the volume of the synthetic chemicals that’s used under the “special set of circumstances” isn’t ever disclosed to the public either—and that’s IF it’s even tracked or reported by the organic farms in the first place. By way of an interesting little factoid for ya, the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy, stated that the top two organic fungicides, copper and sulfur, were used at a rate of 4 and 34 pounds per acre in 1971 1. In contrast, the synthetic fungicides only required a rate of 1.6 lbs. per acre, less than half the amount of the organic alternatives. In spite of all of this, millions of consumers a year pay 2 to 3 times higher prices for organic produce than non-organic.
Anyway, my purpose in sharing this with you is to give you an educated “apples to apples” comparison—excuse the pun—when considering the value of freeze-dried produce. I do this because when I really dug down to the details of what I was paying for and what I got in exchange for the money, I found that freeze-dried produce is actually a BETTER value, quality, nutrition, and taste than it’s fresh counterparts and yet is comparable in cost AND comes with some highly valuable conveniences. Let’s take a look at these “cost to value” benefits a little more closely.
I frequently go to the farmer’s market to get in season produce. I love getting it home and canning it or dehydrating it and splurging on some fantastic treat or two with the fresh produce. Obviously, when I get the flat of beautiful produce home I’m going to have some bruising, some unusable portions, and some stems and such. This year I went to my local farmer’s market and got a nice, big flat of plump blueberries. I was eating them like candy on the drive home. (So much for being concerned about “clean” produce, eh. I know. I know. Bad idea.) I paid $25 for this flat. (keep in mind that farmer’s market prices can be as much as 25% less than what one finds in their local grocery store.) Not a bad price, right? It's even better sometimes at the "pick your own" farms and of course, growing your own. Farmer's markets are great to use that way for IN-SEASON produce purchases--assuming that you can and will preserve the produce for later use. But let's see how freeze-dried produce can be an asset in our households otherwise.
In my cupboards, I have #10 cans of blueberries that cost me as little as $9.98 for 1.25 pounds of freeze-dried blueberries to as much as $25. (Like everything I purchase, I buy in multiples when I can leverage my money the best.) Today I look around for pricing on #10 cans of whole blueberries—real, not the “flavored” garbage—and see pricing of $40 on Five Star Preparedness for .70 net weight can of freeze-dried blueberries; so we’re looking at about $53 for a pound of freeze-dried blueberries. I can understand why some may gulp in shock seeing a #10 can of produce, that feels so light, but seemingly costing so much! You see this simple little can and a price tag of $40 and just about have a heart attack. But that's because most of don't purchase a summer's supply of blueberries at one time. Even more importantly, it seems so pricey because most folks don’t pause to do the math. You see, what many people forget is that each pound of freeze-dried produce is equal to 10, to as much as 20 pounds, of fresh produce—depending on the kind of produce. For blueberries, one pound of freeze-dried equals 10-12 pounds of fresh. So that #10 can contains a pound of freeze-dried that expands into 10-12 pounds of fresh produce which brings the price per pound to $4.41 to $5.30 a pound—and that’s without a special sale.
As I look online at the weekly circular highlighting the sales going on at my Sprouts Market this week, they have 6 ounces of non-organic blueberries on sale for $1.67, which is equal to $4.45 a pound. I can tell you from experience that when I bring home those clamshells of blueberries, they are going to start going moldy in 2 days—I know this because I’ve taken produce back many a times before when it’s spoiled quickly. So, for as little as 17% more in price, I can get produce that will last at least 7,300 days on my shelf-unopened, and about 540 days after I’ve opened it before it has to be used up! That’s a minimal increase of 270% more shelf-life than fresh produce! That's worth the money, isn't it?? But wait...there's more! *grin*
In order to properly freeze-dry produce, it must be done at the time of perfect peak harvest season, so you won’t get any of that “off season” lackluster taste—like the grapes and watermelon you buy in August. AND the freeze-dried technology used to create freeze-dried food is done in such a way that the chemicals and pesticides have to be entirely cleaned from the produce, so you're typically getting CLEANER produce when it's freeze-dried than you would with "organic" fresh produce without having to pay 2 to 3 times more than regular produce, AND the technology also means you get to retain 95% of the nutrients as you would have with fresh produce! You see? Freeze-dried produce isn’t the bad deal that you might have previously thought it was. In fact, it’s fast becoming a BETTER deal than what we’re being subjected to in the grocery stores.
So save your Farmers Market trips to get in-season produce that you want to use immediately or can or dehydrate, and give your freeze-dried friends a place in your cupboards more regularly. That way you're not trying to financially duplicate your entire household of needs by buying freeze-dried food and just packing it away in a dark corner. That's an expensive way to "prepare." Perhaps NOW you can appreciate why freeze-dried produce and I get along so well on a regular basis in my household. It can do wonders for your budget AND your taste buds.
1.National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy, National Pesticide Use Database. Available from http://www.ncfap.org (Viewed 19 Nov, 2009)