If you read the comments on this channel and others, you’ll read about empty shelves where once everyday products were stocked. With any shortage or price jump, there are probably one or more reasons you can trace it back to and more than one impact it has on the market as a whole. You likely have seen a shortage of something where you live. The supply chain could correct itself, or it could get a whole lot worse, even collapse altogether. The world economy is in a precarious spot.
While we can probably live without upgrading our major appliances, furniture, cars, TVs, or computers, the instability of our global food supply is something to take note of now. When a shortage in our food supply is because of drought or blight, we can simply shift our eating habits. For instance, though eighty-percent of the Walla Walla Onion crop was wiped out this year because of high heat, as consumers, we simply shift to the Maui or Vidalia onion. When these shortages are the result of a multiple number of supply chain failures, it can lead to panic buying and a rippling effect of other shortages. Nations have risen and fallen on the strength of their bellies, and it is said that people are only three meals away from chaos at any given time. It’s the food production and supply chain we should most be worried about right now.
Beyond your MRE’s and cans of creamed corn, you need to be setting aside food now, as it appears you may need it very soon. In this video, we will take a look at three different methods of food preservation and the pros and cons of each. It’s a challenge to store without refrigeration the food you need to survive until the production and supply chain ships are righted or through the chaos that will ensue if they don’t correct themselves, so you need to know and understand the options we will cover here. Let’s take a look…
Of the three techniques in this video, freeze-drying is the hands-down winner. I rank it as the number one and best method for storing away food. Because of this, it has a heftier upfront cost. The real advantage of freeze-dried food is the long shelf life. When properly stored in a stable temperature and oxygen-free environment, many freeze-dried foods can be eaten up to 25 years after they were packaged. Even after that length of time, the food’s flavor and nutritional value are almost identical to when it was fresh. Heat, water, and oxygen alter the taste of food and the nutritional value of food. Freeze drying removes 99% of the water. When you then package the food in an oxygen-free container, you have a shelf-stable food that maintains its natural flavors and nutritional value. Without moisture or oxygen, the food doesn’t decompose or grow bacteria or mold. The food retains 97% of its nutritional value.
Another advantage of freeze-dried foods is their weight. Ten pounds of freeze-dried meat will reduce in weight by almost 74%. So, if we put this into perspective using 100 pounds of beef or pork or chicken, all of those cuts could be reduced in weight to a mere 26 pounds, would require no refrigeration, would rehydrate in about 20 minutes, and would taste as fresh as the day it was freeze-dried. You could, hypothetically, bug out with over 300 pounds of meat in your backpack, and that’s enough for a whole family to survive for six or seven months. 2 pounds of whole freeze-dried eggs is the equivalent of 160 fresh whole eggs at .2 ounces of powder to 1 whole egg. So, which would you rather have in an emergency, a little over 13 dozen fresh eggs susceptible to cracking and spoilage or a #10 can that weighs 2 pounds but yields 160 eggs as you need them and will store safely for ten years or more. I use eggs here as an example because they are easy to do an upfront comparison with. The average price of a dozen eggs in the US was one dollar and sixty-four cents in June of this year. That 13 and a third dozen eggs would have cost 21.89, and you would have to eat them all before they went bad in 3-5 weeks. For just seven or so dollars more initially, you don’t have to worry about eating four and a half eggs every day for five weeks by purchasing freeze-dried eggs.
Shelf-life, nutrition retention, and weight make freeze-dried food the clear winner over the other methods I will discuss, and if you go this route, there is a final consideration you need to make. Do you acquire freeze-dried food or freeze-dry the food yourself? Either way, you could build up over time enough food to keep you eating well for months or years. Purchasing even one prepackaged freeze-dried food per pay period will result in a well-stocked pantry that can quickly be taken with you in an emergency. All you need beyond that is water. If you are serious about preserving the food you need to survive for years or even decades from now, you will want to purchase a freeze dryer and do it yourself. Your upfront costs are significantly higher, but just looking at the current market prices, it pays for itself in a short time. Five packages of bacon purchased and freeze-dried five years ago at this time would have cost you $26.85. Today, it would cost you $33.40. Six dollars and fifty-five cents more, a 25% price increase. And, it’s not like the price for a package of bacon is going to go down. The same is true for beef. Five years ago freeze drying 50 pounds of steak would have cost you 90 dollars or so. Today, it will cost you 123 dollars– that’s $33 more. Meat prices aren’t going back down. Have you ever seen prices go back down?
Whether it’s fruit, vegetables, meat, or eggs, prices continue to rise. If you freeze-dry your own food, you can store away the food you will need before inflation or shortages drive prices up. If a crop suffers from drought or blite, your preps just became a valuable commodity driven by everyone else’s scarcity and desire. If you have an apple, fruit tree, or active garden, you know how hard it is to harvest, process, and keep everything you grow. I once grew so many tomatoes off just six plants, I had trouble even giving pounds and pounds of them away. I had so much tomato sauce, dried tomatoes, tomato powder, pickled tomatoes, and still had plenty to force on neighbors, friends, and people I just met. Freeze-drying allows you to have copious amounts of food on hand before the price increases. The massive drought in California — the country’s biggest tomato producer — will make tomato yields short by about 5% to 10%. A third of the world’s canned tomatoes are grown in California’s Central Valley. This means the price of everything from marinara sauce and salsa to ketchup could be on the rise in the next few months. If you grow your own food and you are able to freeze-dry it yourself, your cost savings are exponentially increased.
Instead of paying three or more dollars a pound for tomatoes, you’re simply pulling out what you grew five seasons ago. The USDA projects citrus production across the country will be down more than 7 percent this year, mainly due to smaller crops in California and Florida. The Texas winter storm also wiped out a large portion of citrus and fruit growers’ crops. Orange production across the U.S. dropped 11 percent compared to last. Absolutely none of that matters to the person who freeze-dried oranges or lemons or grapefruits when they were on sale and deeply discounted years before. If you grow your own or can recognize a good deal, the upfront cost of a freeze dryer is quickly recouped in the years to come. That makes it the clear first choice when it comes to food preservation.
The final advantage to freeze-drying is that you can easily freeze-dry an entire pre-made meal. Whether that’s a complex stew, a piece of pizza, or a whole Thanksgiving plate of food, your prep time for rehydrating and heating a meal goes from hours to mere minutes. The process allows you to freeze-dry a complete pre-assembled meal and all the sides and store them in a vacuum-sealed bag for decades. There just isn’t any other method out there that allows you to do this. Instead of cooking for hours a mix of pinto beans and plain white rice after a disaster, you could be eating, in just a few minutes with just some warmed water cilantro lime shrimp, salmon, or beef fajitas with a side of avocado, fresh salsa, corn, and charro beans. Freeze drying doesn’t change the look or the taste of the food. If you freeze-dry a turkey dinner that includes big slices of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and corn, when it is rehydrated and ready to eat, it will taste and look the same as if you had just made the dinner even if that is ten years after you freeze-dried the meal. That kind of combination of nutritional diversity, an abundance of flavor, preservation, and meal readiness make freeze-drying the number one method of having the food you need after a disaster.
CANNING AND PICKLING
The second technique to set up long-term storage for yourself is the art of canning and pickling. I call it an art because it requires some studying and general knowledge of food and food safety. Properly processed and packed canned foods in two-piece metal lids can have a shelf life of up to three years. Active canners will tell you that’s on the low end. The big fear instilled in most of us is botulism. Foodborne deaths from botulism in the United States average around 3. Eight times as many people, a whopping 24 people per year, die from being hit by champagne corks. When food is properly handled, controlled, and canned or pickled, the chances of dying from Clostridium botulinum food poisoning are very minimal.
Your upfront costs include the equipment, proper jars, possible weights, and air venting lids. Still, it is under 20 dollars to get started from scratch. City Prepping has shown you on this channel and the website how to make Sauerkraut, for instance. We specifically chose that because it’s an easy first step into lactobacillus fermentation and food preservation. The method doesn’t require heat or pressure canning and can be applied to a range of foods from pickles to beets to green beans or asparagus. Any vegetable you can think of is perfect for canning. Advanced canners can use pressure canners for the longest possible shelf life and more acid foods or even meats.
Canning allows you to stretch out the life of what’s available to you and does offer a shelf life easily between three and five years, but it also has some drawbacks. Your food, often stored in a brine of salt and water, is going to weigh more and take up more space. It will be more susceptible to temperature fluctuations. Though some may want to argue with me, you can’t can just any food. You are limited to what you can put in a mason jar that is more susceptible to breaking than a mylar bag is. Finally, you lose some of the food’s nutritional value and alter the flavor of the food slightly through the canning and heating process required for long-term storage. When calories count after a disaster, that may be a critical deal breaker.
I think the most significant upside of even knowing just a little about canning and pickling is that you’ll learn how to process the food you can find after a disaster. If you have salt and water, you can do some miraculous things with what you can find. Have you ever had a cattail stalk pickle or pickled sunchokes? Probably not, but you probably had an apricot or berry preserve. If you can harvest it from nature, you can probably can it or pickle it and keep it for a year or more without refrigeration. That’s an ongoing survival strategy for food independence.
The final technique for long-term food storage is dehydration. I have ranked these by the cost associated with them, and dehydration is the least expensive. Drying foods on screens in the sun, a commercial dehydrator, in a smoker which is actually curing, or even on a hot rock by a fire costs you very little to absolutely nothing. Dehydration is probably the oldest method of large-scale food preservation. The earliest recorded instance of dehydrating food dates back to the Romans and the Middle Eastern populations around 14,000 years ago. As the name suggests, the objective of dehydrating food is to simply reduce the moisture or hydration content from the food to the point that it can no longer rot effectively. The shelf life of dehydrated food is typically between 1 and 5 years if it is kept moisture-free in a stable temperature environment.
A countertop dehydrator is the most common means for dehydrating foods because it is a low-powered oven that heats to about 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Some people achieve similar results by setting their oven on the lowest setting and propping the door open slightly with a wooden spoon, but it is hard to do this method and keep the temperature less than 175 degrees. At that temperature, you will still be able to dehydrate food effectively, but it may become too dry or brittle. When it comes to dehydrators, I have had top-of-the-line dehydrators and less expensive Ronco and Presto dehydrators. I won’t do an extensive review of them here, but I will tell you my go-to dehydrator is my simple three food tray dehydrator.
Because dehydration takes longer and, for the most part, limits you to essential single ingredients that you can mix later, you are more limited on what you can dehydrate. You can’t effectively dehydrate ice cream like you could in a freeze dryer, but you could undoubtedly dehydrate a pickle and achieve the same flavor profiles when rehydrating or eating it. Even at the lower temperature, the dehydrator is slightly cooking and altering the flavors. A little nutritional value is lost, but you gain a long shelf life and the more remarkable ability to use more of the food and waste less. If you then vacuum seal the food in a mylar bag with an oxygen absorber, you will boost the shelf life of the food to a full ten years, depending upon the food, and some say as long as thirty years. Again, this would depend upon the food. If preserving your food in this manner, it is best to wrap the dehydrated food in parchment paper, then insert it into the vacuum seal bag along with an oxygen absorber for sealing.
Dehydration is the option for most of us because of the low cost associated with it. Dehydration removes about 70% of the water, whereas freeze-drying will take out 99% of the water, but the goal is the same: remove as much water as possible from the food and prevent the natural decomposition and mold processes. As you begin to stretch out your secondary processing of the food for longer-term storage through vacuum-sealing mylar bags and oxygen absorbers, obviously, the costs start to go up considerably, but so does your shelf life. You are investing for a longer shelf-life.
Whether you start buying each payday a few foods that are freeze-dried, canned, pickled, or dehydrated, or you make the initial investment in a freeze dryer, canning supplies, or a dehydrator, you need to cultivate all three of these methods in your food preservation strategy and long term food reserves. When it comes to shelf life, freeze-dried foods will be the best of the three methods discussed here. Nutrition retention and weight are apparent plusses, as well. That’s why you see so many commercial MREs and survival foods that are freeze-dried to give them that excellent, long shelf life. You don’t need to worry about rotating them out of your inventory. Pickling, canning, and dehydration have their place in the food preservation pantheon, so it’s essential to have some combination of all three of these methods in your long-term food strategy.
Two things that I can guarantee you are that in our future there will be more food shortages and rising prices. Prices are soaring, and we learn about a new shortage or possible shortage almost every day. It’s just a matter of time before the minor problems we see today boil over into more significant food scarcity disasters. Both prices and shortages have been increasing, while the average person’s knowledge of preserving, storing, and even cooking their own food has been declining. Develop your personal food strategy prepping plan now, or redouble your current efforts. Paying a little more for a tomato is a minor inconvenience. Not having the food you need to survive is a problem that can swiftly spiral out of control and alter the world as we know it.
What do you think? What food shortages have you seen lately? What plan are you implementing to address these shortages? I love to hear what you are doing to prepare for what’s coming our way as much as I like to share what I’m doing and recommending.
As always, please stay safe out there.