Looking back to my childhood, I remember bins of wheat that we never touched. Yes, it was nice to know it was there in case an earthquake or some other natural disaster knocked out the power for weeks. We’d be able to make something with that wheat. I didn’t know what because we never used the stuff in real life. Recently I started wondering: Is spending money on food we hope to never use the best approach to food storage?
In the last few months I’ve treated food storage differently, and I’m loving the change. I’ve discovered that freeze dried fruits, vegetables, meats, and other cooking basics last a year in my pantry even after being opened, and they taste great. I’ve learned that using food storage can actually be a healthy and fun way to put together a quick dinner on those nights when I don’t have time to chop veggies, brown meat, and spend an hour in the kitchen.
You may have shuddered at the words “freeze dried.” When I first considered that little phrase, a memory flashed in my mind of trying that strange ice cream at the planetarium as a kid. The kind of ice cream that only astronauts would eat because there was no other option in space.
Flash forward to today’s technology—dozens of fresh foods are being freeze dried and, believe it or not, they still taste fresh. In the freeze drying process, foods are simply flash frozen and then the water is removed. What’s left is a food, say a piece of pineapple, that has the same shape, color, and taste as when it was picked. Better yet, in my mind as a health-conscious mom, 95 percent of the nutrition is preserved without any salts, sugars, or other preservatives to make it last.
When I received my first shipment of freeze-dried foods, my kids and I opened all the containers for a little sampling party. We tried strawberries, mangoes, raspberries, green beans, peas, corn, peaches, pineapple, and more. I couldn’t believe how great everything tasted. I knew right then I could use this food for my family every day for snacks, meals, and baking. Here’s how:
My kids love heading to the pantry to fill up a bowl of freeze dried fruit. My son yesterday had a friend over and when they were hungry they went to the pantry to pull out a can of mangoes. That’s the family favorite, but we also love apples, pineapple, strawberries, and peaches. A little bag filled with dried fruit is a great, healthy, on-the-go option too. One friend of mine says her daughter walks around with bags of dried corn. I snack on that too. It actually tastes like corn on the cob. Remember—these are not covered in sugar or salt. What a welcome change from so many of today’s grocery store offerings.
Yes, we live in a busy world. But having dinner together is so important for that daily connecting time that it’s worth finding a way to make it work. There is a solution to the busy-family problem. One option is to go out to eat, like many families do. But going out to eat costs more than eating at home, and typically restaurant meals aren’t as healthy. Freeze dried foods allow me to pull together a quick, healthy dinner that actually tastes good. All I need to do is add water to whatever ingredients I need for my meal, whether that’s green beans, corn, instant black beans, asparagus, mushrooms, tomatoes, carrots, fruit, chicken, taco meat or dozens of other options.
For breakfast we often rehydrate a scoop of berries to throw on pancakes or waffles. Or I love a scoop of dried blueberries in my cereal or oatmeal. For dinners, I can make tacos or enchiladas in ten minutes with my freeze dried vegetarian taco meat—it’s just a matter of simmering a scoop of meat in water for two minutes and chopping my fresh lettuce and tomatoes. (I still buy fresh foods of course. Sometimes it’s just nice to not have to defrost and brown the meat.)
After my first time making tacos with this meat, I asked my husband how he liked it without telling him there was anything different from our normal ground turkey. He just said, “It was great, loved it.” My kids loved it too, which makes me a happy mom (healthy + quick + tasty = win!). I can also make chicken salad or casseroles in minutes with freeze dried chicken, celery, onion or other veggies. One of my favorite side dishes is asparagus and mushrooms stir fried in olive oil with a little soy sauce on top. No extra shopping—I just pull the veggies out of my pantry and don’t worry about unused portions going bad. Those just go back in my pantry.
If I’m really in a pinch at dinner, I simply throw two cans of soup on the stove and then add a scoops of potatoes, asparagus, green beans, and corn to make it a little healthier. I have also found dozens of recipes for food storage meals online.
This is a new concept for most people. I love using powdered butter for baking because it is cleaner, easier to use and, better yet, it has about one-third the fat as normal butter! Now I can eat three times as many cookies! (OK, that’s probably not the best idea, but you get the point.) Powdered butter works perfectly with muffins, breads, and cookies. As a friend put it, “the cookies are just a little less greasy.” I’ve also started using powdered eggs in my baking. One great thing about powdered eggs is that they don’t have the risk of salmonella. Now I can confidently hand the beaters to my kids when I’m done mixing or we can all enjoy a spoonful of cookie dough without hesitation. It’s also nice to have a can of powdered eggs on hand when I have run out of fresh. No more trips to the neighbor’s house when I’m in the middle of baking something and realize I need an egg!
I live in a house where my kids get lots of treats from this or that party or holiday. My husband doesn’t eat them at all. So sometimes I just want my own special treat—a brownie for one. With food storage brownies, all I need to do is add water to the mix in the can. I recently discovered that I can put a scoop of brownie mix in a mug, mix with a little hot water, microwave for one minute, and voila! A perfectly scrumptious dessert for one, ready in a minute after the kids are in bed. Is there a better way to end the day?
Another perk to using food storage every day is that I can save money on my monthly food bill. There are a few reasons for that:
I don’t have to go to the store to buy fresh if I want to make a meal that has a lot of particular ingredients. I have most of them in my pantry. Fewer trips to the grocery store saves me from impulse buys.
I also don’t throw away as much. Ever bought a bunch of celery just to use one or two stalks and throw out the rest? Or thrown a way a half carton of strawberries that have grown a lovely white fuzz? Or watched your bananas turn spotty brown? Or found a bag of mushy, slimy, half-used cucumber in the bottom of your refrigerator drawer? Or thrown out a half-used can of corn? I have. With freeze dried foods, I’m using just what I need. The rest will keep.
We don’t go out to eat as much as we otherwise might, even on nights when time is short. With a family of five, it’s easy to spend $25 or more on dinner if we go out. At home, we can still make a quick meal with all the ingredients from our pantry.