When I first looked into freeze-dried food, I was met by some serious sticker shock. I initially thought I could never be able to afford it.
Last week, we talked about different methods for storing produce and meat long term. Freeze-dried food very clearly came out to be the most expensive.
But is it really as expensive as it seems at first?
Two Quick Notes:
- In today’s post, I am only comparing the cost of freeze-dried products to other options. If you want a full comparison of all options including the health, shelf life, ease of use, and time investment, you can find that information here: Which Type Of Food Storage Is Best?
- All pricing is based on Thrive Life‘s regular (nonsale) Aug 2015 pricing. You can get freeze-dried foods at other places, but Thrive is my personal favorite. While actual prices may vary, the price comparison results shouldn’t.
Freeze-Dried Foods Vs. Other Types of Products
Deciding whether or not freeze-dried food is expensive depends on what you are comparing it to.
1. Freeze-Dried Produce Vs. Canning or Dehydrating Garden Produce
For example, if you are comparing regular priced freeze-dried produce at $2.50 / cup to home-canned or dehydrated garden produce at $0.23 – $0.37 per cup, then YES, freeze-dried produce is expensive! It costs nearly 11 times what home-canned produce costs!
Even if you buy your freeze-dried produce during a great sale, you will likely still pay around $1.10 per cup which is 3 – 5 times what canning or dehydrating home garden produce will cost you.
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 instead of buying freeze-dried produce or freeze-drying it yourself at home which (is around $2 – $3 per cup).
(There are other things to consider such as health, shelf life, ease of use, etc. Find details HERE).
2. Freeze-Dried Produce Vs. Canning Store-Bought Produce
But what if you don’t have the time, space, or ability to grow your own produce? Then, $0.23 / cup isn’t even possible. You have to buy your produce at the grocery store/farmer’s market and then preserve it.
Canning or dehydrating store-bought produce will likely cost you $1 – $1.25 / cup or just about the same as what you can get freeze-dried produce for on a really great sale.
3. Freeze-Dried Produce Vs. Your Time
For those who truly enjoy gardening, canning, and/or dehydrating as a fulfilling hobby and “escape,” the amount of time they spend doing those things likely doesn’t bother them. Personally, I see my time as money and consider that when deciding which is more expensive.
While I LOVE to garden and find it relaxing and fulfilling, I find preserving food myself stressful (though I see it as an essential skill to have). In addition, since I work full time, serve heavily in my church and at my kids’ school, and care for four young (4-7-year-old) children, my time is precious. It is just as precious as my money and I budget it accordingly.
Even if I estimate my time to be worth less than minimum wage at $5 / hour, that brings the cost of preserving my garden produce above the cost of purchasing freeze-dried food.
That may or may not be true of you! If you enjoy canning and dehydrating, have the time to do so, and don’t earn money with your time (like I do blogging or some do in full-time jobs, etc), then your situation is different. $0.23 – $0.37 per cup maybe your true cost for preserving your garden produce!
4. Freeze-Dried Vs. Grocery Store
But what about how freeze-dried food compares to the food you buy at the grocery store. Are there any savings there?
I use my food storage daily, so I want to compare it to what I might purchase instead. If I wasn’t using my freeze-dried food, I would have to purchase it at the grocery store. So let’s take a look at how it compares there!
Ways to Save Money with Freeze-Dried Foods
No Waste: Unfortunately, much of what I buy at the grocery store is wasted because I don’t actually use everything that I buy. It goes bad before I can get to it. But with freeze-dried products, there is much longer shelf life. I don’t waste anything! Here are two examples:
1. Freeze-Dried Green Onions
Green onions are currently $0.69 / bunch at my grocery store. Once I chop them up, I get about 1 1/2 cups by volume from each bunch. Final cost = $0.46 / cup
Freeze-dried green onions don’t shrink, but they do flatten. I counted (yes, I actually did) the number of pieces I could fit into one cup freeze-dried vs fresh. I was able to fit nearly twice as many freeze-dried into the same volume. One $14 #10 can hold 11.5 cups freeze-dried or the equivalent of about 21 cups fresh. Final cost = $0.67 / cup
However, I rarely use all the green onions I purchase. In fact, I almost always through away a few slimy green onions each time I purchase them. If we estimate that I toss 1/3 of what I buy, now my fresh green onions cost me around $0.69 / cup and the freeze-dried is actually slightly cheaper.
2. Freeze-Dried Tomato Paste
A recipe calls for 3 T tomato paste. I open a $0.79 6 oz 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 $0.79 for 3 T of tomato paste or $2.12 per 6 oz can!!! Even if I used half the can, my true cost per 6 oz can is $1.58!
If I instead use 2 T tomato powder (which has an 8-year shelf life) plus 3 T water to make my 3 T tomato paste, my cost would be just $0.34 for the 3 T or $1.36 per 6 oz.
I’ve also found I”m saving money (or at least coming close to the same price) by not wasting things like celery, mushrooms, bell peppers, and berries.
Also, no “extra”: When you buy food at the grocery store, you are often paying for more than you will actually use: peels, stems, fat, pits, etc. When you buy freeze-dried produce, it is already peeled and chopped up for you. Freeze-dried meats are cooked and drained.
While this doesn’t always make them less expensive than what you’d find at the grocery store, it does bring the cost down, making them less than you might have originally thought. Here are two examples:
3. Freeze-Dried Chicken
The average cost of decent quality chicken at my grocery store is around $3 -4 / lb. (I did get it through Zaycon recently for much less). 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 around 1 1/4 – 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 / lb. That is pricey, but for chicken that truly tastes just like fresh that I can use anytime over the next 25 years, it is worth it for me!
Plus, you can get chicken in an unadvertised package for $34 a can or $4 / “pound”
4. Freeze-Dried Pineapple
Hands down, the most popular freeze-dried fruit (when I sample them at classes) is freeze-dried pineapple. It is very tasty dry and reconstitutes very much like fresh.
A fresh pineapple costs around $3.50 at my grocery store. When I remove the top, skin, and center, I get about 2 cups of fruit from one pineapple. This comes to around $1.75 per cup.
A $34 can of freeze-dried pineapple has around 11.5 cups in it, but it is already cut up and you aren’t paying for all that “extra” stuff. It comes to around $2.95 / cup. Obviously, it is more than the fresh pineapple, but not by as much as it may originally seem, and you can have it anytime…even when it isn’t in season.
Plus, you can get pineapple in an unadvertised package for $21 / can or $1.82 / cup.
Why Freeze-Dried Food Is Worth The Cost for Me?
Bottom line: Freeze-dried food is at least as much, and oftentimes even more than an equivalent product at the grocery store.
But for me, it is worth it. It doesn’t cost me any time like canning and dehydrating might. Yet, it still brings me peace of mind! I love having extremely healthy, easy-to-use, tasty food filling my shelves year-round: even when it isn’t in season! That peace of mind is worth a lot.
In addition, having food that is so close to the fresh equivalent stocked at home keeps me out of the grocery store. A friend needed mushrooms for a recipe the other day. She didn’t have any and she didn’t want to take the time or spend the gas to go to the grocery store. Plus, I highly doubt she would have left with just mushrooms!
Instead, she called me and I brought her a couple of cups of freeze-dried mushrooms. She saved gas money, time, and money on probable impulse purchases.
I also eat out less b/c I am able to quickly create a healthy, tasty meal for my family even on the busiest of nights. That saves money too!
My “Six Rules” for Affordable Freeze-Dried Food
I never, ever pay full price for freeze-dried foods, and I suggest you refuse to as well. Here are six ways I get my freeze-dried foods closer to the cost of food at the grocery store. I call these my “six rules,” and I very rarely purchase freeze-dried food outside of these 6 ways:
1 – Thrive Life Unadvertised packages
I’ve mentioned these already, but Thrive has packages that they don’t offer on their website. They are a “perk” of ordering through a consultant (like me!). You can save nearly 50% off retail with some of these packages. And don’t worry, they still ship directly from Thrive Life.
2 – The Thrive Q
Thrive offers an auto-ship program for their food called the Thrive Q. There are two “perks” to this program: (1) Each month there is ONE item that is discounted below the other sales (called the Q-Pon and only available to Q customers). Fill your Q with JUST that one item each month. (2) Those with a Q budget of 100% earn 1 point for each purchase. This works much like credit card rebate points, only you redeem your points for free food. It ends up being a 3% rebate. I cash this in every 6 months or so for some completely free food!
3 – Spend over $400 with Thrive.
When you spend $400+ with Thrive (through me as your consultant), I will share my benefits with you! I will give you 10% of your order in additional free products and $100+ in additional 50% off products. Just shoot me an email if you want to take advantage of this.
4 – Shop the BIG sales!
Thrive Life and Emergency Essentials both have big food storage sales each Black Friday, and Thrive has the 2nd one each spring. Save up your money and then stock up during these times in order to stretch every dollar as far as you can.
5 – Shop Emergency Essentials Group Buys
Each month, Emergency Essentials offers incredible prices on certain items if you buy them in bulk. You can buy a lot of one item yourself, or get a group together and split the cost and product!
6 – Host a Thrive cooking class or become a consultant.
I know of consultants all over the US and can likely put you in contact with someone near you. Just email me! Most class hosts earn around $100 in free products and $100 in 50% off products.
If you choose, you can also become a Thrive Life consultant and earn commission and free products that way. I’ve been a consultant since November 2010 and I have not paid more than 50% off retail for my freeze-dried food since then. Being a consultant isn’t for everyone, but if you are interested, let me know!
Do You Freeze Dry Your Food?
Last but not least, a quick “testimonial.” This is Tammy. She tracked her grocery budget before and after using (Thrive) freeze-dried foods regularly. By only paying for the edible parts of her food, avoiding waste, using just what she needed when she needed it, avoiding impulse buys, and eating out less, she feels she save 24% on her grocery budget:
So, freeze-dried foods can be expensive, and are certainly always far more than canning or dehydrating your own garden produce. However, if you are willing to put in the effort and shop the sales, you can get them for around the same cost as grocery store foods. And if you factor in less gas, impulse buys, and fast food costs, they may just save you a bit of money!
Finally, tell us everything about your experience with freeze-dried foods in the comment section.
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