You may have seen the commercial on television for an in-home freeze-drying unit. The market audience is Preppers and/or survivalist.
A home freeze-drying unit requires a significant up-front expenditure (Thousands of dollars for a quality unit). If you are only interested in occasionally freeze-drying left over foods, then you may want to consider simply buying your foods already freeze-dried, however, because it would be difficult to recoup the upfront expense.
Some people, of course, raise their own livestock, or buy beef on the hoof, for example, and then have it butchered or they hunt large game such as moose or elk. If you are trying to put enough meats and other foods away for the winter and have limited freezer space, a freeze-drying unit may be well worth the price. Those with large gardens could benefit as well because canning is laborious and it requires considerable space for the jars.
Freeze-dried foods are shelf stable for years, thus eliminating the need for refrigerators or freezers. Freeze-dried foods are ideal, it is just a question of whether you want to do it yourself, or build up your stockpile by buying the foods already dried.
Mylar bags and #10 cans that can be sealed are ideal storage units for freeze-dried foods. Keep in mind Mylar bags do not offer much protection, against damage. Freeze dried foods, in particular, meat, is brittle and breaks easily. Store the bags inside of another unit like a heavy plastic storage bin.
You can control your finances better in some cases when you buy as you go along versus spending anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 dollars on a unit. Once the money is spent on a unit, you, of course, will want to get your money’s worth, and thus, will buy large quantities of foods to process. The expenses can get out of hand if you do not plan carefully.
According to the food science department at UC-Davis, freeze-dried foods retain most of their nutritional value.
The units themselves take up a lot of counter space. The compressor that would come with the unit is typically detachable and it does require maintenance and regular oil changes. You should have a space set up just for the unit in a garage or shop. Keep in mind if you are processing hundreds of pounds of meat you will need a place to store the meat that is waiting to be processed because obviously, you cannot freeze-dry large amounts at one time at home, so meats and certain other foods will need to be stored under refrigeration until ready to process.
Most people freeze-dry meats and vegetables that have been already cooked, so all you have to do is reconstitute along the trail, at a campsite or at home, if the power is out and your ability to cook is limited. Most raw meats and other foods can be freeze-dried, however. Fruits, eggs (raw or cooked), cottage cheese, and real cheese products, for example, can be freeze-dried with excellent results as well.
It takes anywhere from 24 to 36 hours to freeze-dry most foods. The units can be noisy and of course, it does require electricity to operate one, and the cost compared to other appliances in your home may be higher, some estimate it at $2.50 a day to operate a freeze dryer. Of course, most people do foods in batches so you may only run the unit for three or four days at a time, so the power consumption overall is not detrimental. The cost of the power to operate is not that significant, but it does need to be factored in.
If you raise your own livestock and grow your own produce and fruits a home freeze-drying unit may be ideal. However, if you have to buy a unit and then have to buy the foods at a big box store to freeze-dry, what have you saved? You do have the satisfaction of knowing, you did it yourself and thus have control over the ingredients and the process itself. If you can get deals on large quantities of meats and vegetables it may be worth the expense of a unit, but put pencil to paper before getting your checkbook out.