*Freeze-Dried Food (Part 2)*
28 March 2012
I have been preparing for three years and my storage contains many methods. I store using vacuum sealed bags, vacuum sealed jars, cans and canning jars. I also have MREs. Having several methods for storing, I believe, is a smart move because, if any one method fails, there are other methods to fall back on. Most of my methods are great for short-term (several years), and have to be continuously rotated. But I began to consider freeze dried as an additional method, in particular for long-term storage. I have heard some Cons against freeze dried products like digestive concerns. But I like the idea of long-term storage without having to constantly rotate.
This is Part Two of my two-part article on freeze dried food. In Part One, I went over a little history and the process of freeze drying. I also covered a little about the availability of this type of food. In Part Two, I will cover several vendors I dealt with and the results I found.
I started my inquiry into freeze dried food after hearing a radio advertisement on a well-known radio talk show. The company is called Food Insurance. I also wanted to choose two other vendors so I could compare what they all had to offer. I chose Shelf Reliance and Nitro Pak. The product line for Shelf Reliance is Thrive and for Nitro Pak it is Mountain House.
In checking out each of the vendors, I wanted to get samples so that I could try out various types of food that they offered. Before I bought a large amount, I wanted to make sure that freeze dried food was a method I wanted to use.
I first checked with Food Insurance. I browsed through their web site and could find no samples available. I sent an email to their customer service and asked if they offered samples. They responded and said yes, but samples can only be ordered by phone. So I called them to inquire about the samples. I was told they offer five different sample "pouches" at $5 each. I asked for two of each type of sample and was told that there is a limit of one sample pouch per order. I ordered Chicken A La King but ended up receiving Lasagna with Beef.
The next vendor I checked out was Shelf Reliance. They had samples but the so-called samples involved numerous #10 cans of various types of food. I really wanted small examples that I could check out.
Nitro Pak had exactly what I wanted. On their web site, I found that they offered a #10 can called "Sample Food Pak". For $19.95, this can contained various types of food such as veggies, potatoes, a meat, dairy and fruits.
Food Insurance deals mainly in bulk. Their main focus is in long-term meal plans where you can purchase bulk anywhere from 632 to 3792 entrees. The entrees provided are what the set entrees are for the particular bulk package being purchased. Next, there are short-term meal plans called "kits". These kits offer emergency essentials as well as a two-week and one-month package. Next, a la cart is offered where you can buy cans, but again in bulk - 6 can cases. I also could not find individual entrees being offered.
Both Shelf Reliance and Nitro Pak offer a wide variety of food available in pouches or #10 Cans. Both offer meats, vegetables, fruits, dairy, desert and entrees. However, Nitro Pak had a far better selection of entrees and even offers various breakfast meals. The great thing about these two vendors is that you can mix and match smaller quantities to customize your food storage plan.
Without exception, every sample I reconstituted and ate tasted and looked almost exactly like normal food normally would. And it was easy to prepare. The Lasagna sample from Food Insurance was about the same as eating a can of Chef Boyardee Lasagna. I was pleased with the vegetable samples and the meats I tried from Shelf Reliance and Nitro Pak. I used diced ham in an omelet and it tasted great!
In my opinion, all freeze dried products are expensive! But, for the sake of extended long-term food storage, I believe it pays to have it as part of your preps.
As I mentioned, Food Insurance deals mainly in bulk. I calculated the average cost for the various long-term serving kits and then averaged them. The average cost for the entrees was approximately $2.75 per serving. One incentive they have is that they "give" you free kits, depending on what bulk package you buy.
I selected several entrees from Shelf Reliance and averaged the cost at about $3.30 per serving. And Nitro Pak averaged at about $3.20 per serving. Shelf Reliance seems to always show a regular price and an "on sale" price. The sale price is probably the regular price. Nitro Pak usually has great incentives of getting free cans with certain amounts purchased and also offers free shipping.
I did not care for the way Food Insurance handled samples. They want you to buy large amounts of food but offer only a one-serving sample for me to decide? I don't think so! And Shelf Reliance had no samples at all, but at least you can buy several individual cans of whatever type of food to try it out. Nitro Pak had exactly the sample kit I wanted to try.
I also didn't care for the selection at Food Insurance. With the bulk plans, you are stuck with a preselected array and amounts of entrees. Shelf Reliance had a moderate selection of entrees, but Nitro Pak won out with a wide selection of meats, entrees and breakfast meals.
I was very pleased with the looks and taste of every sample I tried from all vendors. Unlike dehydrated food, freeze dried food, when reconstituted, looks and tastes like it would normally.
Food Insurance ended up having the best cost, but at the sake of buying predetermined bulk plans. Between Shelf Reliance and Nitro Pak, Nitro Pak won out with a better cost per serving and a better incentive plan, with the free foods usually offered with larger quantities... and the free shipping!
The vendor I liked the best overall was Nitro Pak. They had a better selection, best overall cost and the most incentives for buying from them... free food and free shipping. Since I started this article, I have made several large purchases from them and am very pleased. And just a final note - I have NO vested interested in any of these companies.
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