Thursday, September 15, 2022

How to Store Freeze Dried Foods

Whether you have a Harvest Right freeze dryer or are thinking about buying one, you might be wondering how to store freeze dried foods.  There are several ways for storing freeze dried food, and they each have their pros and cons.  The best way to store you food depends on your needs and when you'll want to consume the food.

Storing Freeze Dried Food

We got a Harvest Right freeze dryer last year.  Thankfully, the machine is very easy to use.  We were able to pretty much jump in and start freeze drying.

Then we realized that we don't know how to store freeze dried foods.

We started packing everything in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers, but that's not the cheapest way to store food for short term use.

So let's look at storing freeze dried food and how to store freeze dried food after opening.

For more information about freeze drying, check out these posts:

Before we get into how to store freeze dried foods, I want to answer some common questions that I see in Facebook groups or from emails that I get.

This post has a lot of information, and it's important to read.  I also created a printable download that you can add to your Harvest Right printable journal for a quick reference.

What is the Difference Between Freeze Drying and Dehydrating?

Both dehydrating and freeze drying remove water from food, but the process is very different.  Dehydrating uses heat and air, so there's some nutrition loss.

Freeze drying freezes the food and then creates a vacuum to remove 99 percent of the water.  It also retains almost all of its nutritional value.

It is not possible to freeze dry in a dehydrator, and this information for storing freeze dried food is not meant for dehydrated food.  If you store dehydrated food like this, it can rot and cause sickness.  

I have an entire post devoted to freeze dry vs dehydrated, so read that for more information.

The Harvest Right freeze dryer is the most common freeze dryer.  4Patriots just came out with one, but I haven't heard much about it.  

Do Freeze Dried Foods Need Refrigeration?

No, you do not need to refrigerate or freeze the food since the water has been removed.  Freeze dried food is shelf stable when stored properly in freeze dried food packaging.

How Long Can You Store Freeze Dried Foods?

Since the water is removed from the food, you can store freeze dried food for up to 25 years!  This is shelf stable and does not need any refrigeration.

We'll talk about how to store freeze dried food in jars and other methods below.  Most of these methods will have a shorter shelf life.

Since freeze dried food lasts so long, it's a great option for your emergency food supply.

Can You Store Freeze Dried Food in Jars?

Yes, you can learn how to store freeze dried food in jars.  However, this is a short term storage solution because the glass lets in light.

Jars are also not air tight, but you can use a mason jar vacuum sealer to extend the shelf life.

Can Freeze Dried Food Be Vacuum Sealed?

Yes, you can store freeze dried food in vacuum sealed packages.  This will give you  a longer shelf life than jars, but it's not as long as using mylar bags.

We have an older model of the FoodSaver vacuum sealer and like it.

Can You Store Freeze Dried Food in a Freezer?

I mean you could, but I wouldn't recommend it.  Freeze dried food is shelf stable as long as it's dry, so you're wasting valuable freezer space and using electricity to store it.

The freeze can also draw moisture to the food, which can make it soft.  

How Do You Know if Freeze Dried Food is Bad?

Just like with any food preservation method, freeze dried food can go bad.  Usually this is due to improper storage (high temperature or light), the food wasn't fully dry before it was stored, or oxygen got into the packaging.  

If the food smells off, changed color, or feels wet to the touch, then it is not safe and should be discard.  Try snapping the food in half.  If it is mushy or soft, then it got moisture in it and should be discarded.

How to Store Freeze Dried Food After Opening

Once you open your freeze dried food, you can switch to a short term storage solution.  I use two different methods, depending on the food.

For very short term use (up to 3-5 days), I store in an airtight container or mason jar.  I do this for freeze dried fruit that we will eat that week.

For longer short term storage like for sour cream, buttermilk, or freeze dried eggs, I store in a mason jar and use my mason jar vacuum sealer.

That said, I've found that egg power and milk powders will last several months on the counter in a mason jar and plastic lid.  

I used to buy generic plastic lids, but I swear they cracked if I looked at them wrong.  I switched to Ball plastic lids and haven't had one break.

Of course, heat and humidity can affect this. 

Tips for Storing Freeze Dried Food

Here are some tips to extend the shelf life:

  • Make sure your freeze dried food is completely dry.  The Harvest Right is pretty good at giving you dry food, but I like to add extra time if I'm drying for long term storage.  To test for dryness, take a large piece of food and break it in half.  Look for ice or feel it to make sure it's not cold.  If it's cold, it's not completely dry.  Put it back in the machine for more drying time.  
  • Store freeze dried food in a sealed container.  It will absorb moisture from the air quickly.  
  • Heat and light are the enemy of freeze dried food.  For longer storage, limit light exposure by using cans or mylar bags. 
  • Store freeze dried food between 32 and 75 degrees F.  You'll reduce the shelf life if the temperature is above or below that.
  • I like to store my freeze dried food in mylar in large totes on a shelf.  I don't like to keep them on the floor because the concrete floor gets colder than the air in the room.
  • Store freeze dried food as quickly as possible after you open the machine.  
  • Freeze dried foods with fat, such as meat, nuts, or milk products, will have a shorter shelf life because the fat will go rancid before the food spoils.
  • Heat, light, moisture, and oxygen will all decrease shelf life.
  • The humidity in your home can affect shelf life.  Mylar and #10 cans are the best storage methods to combat humidity.
  • The suggested storage times listed below are a general guide.  Always check your food for spoilage before consuming.
  • Label your food with what's inside and the date.  You can sign up for my newsletter to get a free set of labels.  I also have the labels in my Etsy shop if you don't want to subscribe.

How Do You Store Freeze Dried Food?

Now that you know the basics of storing freeze dried food and how to store freeze dried food after opening, let's look at your storage options.

Airtight Containers or Bags

Shelf Life - A few days to a few months

For the easiest way to store freeze dried food for quick consumption, use plastic bags or an airtight container.  I use this for freeze dried fruit that we'll snack on for a week or two.

If you want to save your freeze dried food for a few weeks to a few months, I recommend using vacuum seal containers.  They are a little expensive, but they are very easy to seal and unseal.

Mason Jars

Shelf Life - Several months

For a little longer storage, I store my freeze dried food in mason jars.  I use these for dairy products, sauces, vegetables, and things that I use for ingredients for cooking.

You can use any size mason jar, even half gallon jars if you're lucky enough to find them.  I recommend using a plastic mason jar lid or using a vacuum sealer.

I used to vacuum seal my food, but it was a hassle getting out the vacuum sealer each time I needed to use the food.

Now, I just use jelly jars or pint jars for short term use.  I store the rest in mylar bags and reseal them after I get what I need.

Depending on humidity, my dairy products and eggs last about 6 months before they start sticking.

I do not add an oxygen absorber, but Harvest Right recommends using one for longer storage.

For best results, store mason jars in a cabinet or in a dark location.

Vacuum Sealing

Shelf Life - 1 to 10 years

The next longest method for storing freeze dried food is vacuum sealing it.  I use my FoodSaver vacuum sealer for mid term storage when I find an amazing stock up price or for meal prepping.  

I also use vacuum sealed bags for some fruits.  My kids will eat a bunch of bananas and then not eat them for a while.  This way, I can get out some for a snack and then reseal the bag for later.

A vacuum sealer removes air around the food, but it doesn't remove air from inside the food.  Therefore, the shelf life is shorter.

The clear vacuum bags still let in light and some air, so they aren't the best for short term storage.  Since the bags aren't airtight, it doesn't make sense to use an oxygen absorber.  It will just pull oxygen from the air outside of the bag, so it's a waste.

Plastic Buckets

Shelf Life - 15 to 25 years

We haven't started using plastic buckets for storage.  However, plastic buckets do have some major advantages.

They are more resistant to rodents and pests.  Mice can and will chew through mylar and vacuum sealed bags, but buckets are much harder.    

Plastic buckets are also stackable and easier to store.  We bought containers for our freeze dried food, and that was an expense.  Buckets don't need additional storage bins.

You can store freeze dried foods directly in the buckets and add oxygen absorbers.  Or you can store food in mylar bags with an oxygen absorber and store the bags inside the bucket.

Make sure you get food grade plastic buckets.  A good place to find them cheap is the bakery of your local grocery store.

#10 Cans

Shelf Life - Up to 25 years

Storing freeze dried foods in #10 cans is perhaps the best way to store for long term storage.  The are airtight, block light, and are strong enough to deter rodents and pests.  

Cans can also be stored fairly easily on shelves and stacked if needed.  

The drawback to using #10 cans is that they are large and hold about a gallon of food.  Once you open the can, you'll need to either repackage the food or use it within a few days to a few weeks.

The machine to seal the cans is also an investment.  It can save a lot of money in the long term, but many people don't find it necessary.

The cans are also hard to find right now, so make sure you can source cans before buying.

Mylar Bags

Shelf Life - up to 25 years

Other than mason jars, we use mylar bags the most to store freeze dried foods.  You will need to use an oxygen absorber in mylar bags for long term storage.  

Mylar bags are easy to use.  Just put the food in, add the oxygen absorber, and seal with an impulse sealer.  

The impulse sealer is included with the Harvest Right.  See what else comes with it and my favorite Harvest Right freeze dryer accessories.

Mylar bags can be reused, so I usually buy both the 6x9 bags and the 10x14 bags.  For things I want to store on the counter, I fill a mason jar for short term use and then fill the mylar bag.  

When I need to refill the mason jar, I open the bag and refill.  Then add a new oxygen absorber and reseal the bag.

The thickness of the mylar does matter.  I recommend using a 7 mil or thicker bag.  

I bought some from third parties, but I had some inconsistent results.  Now I buy my mylar bags from Harvest Right.

Mylar is also lightweight, so it's easy to store.  We have heavy duty shelves for canning, but I can put mylar bags in a storage bin and store it on a cheaper shelf.

Now you know how to store freeze dried foods in the best way for your needs.  

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