Dear RV Shrink:
I noticed in the comments of last week’s column that a reader named Tumbleweed suggested RVers stock up on freeze-dried food. Have you ever tried the stuff? Is that a good idea? Does it taste like cardboard? I’ve never heard of it before, but have been looking into it. Just thought I would get your two cents’ worth. —Future Prepper in Peoria
I was first confused as to why you wanted my two cents’ worth instead of a penny for my thoughts, but now I get it. The way we are printing money right now, hyperinflation has doubled the cost of my advice.
I actually have tons of thoughts on Tumbleweed’s great advice. I can nickel-and-dime you to death with information. Besides being a lifelong RVer (did I ever mention I was conceived in an RV shortly after WWII?), I have also been an avid backpacker, and long-distance hiker, for more than 60 years. I have hiked most of the long National Scenic Trails in North America and consumed more than my share of freeze-dried food.
It will be almost impossible to buy reasonably priced freeze-dried food at this time. Some of the larger producers like Mountain House have shut their website down and are concentrating on filling orders to their long-term wholesale customers. I was buying a dozen or so #10 cans of meat, vegetables, berries and entrees in January. I was preparing for a thru-hike of the Arizona Trail. I noticed that the prices were much higher than I am used to paying, but I figured it must have been inflation. As it turns out it was simple supply and demand.
When many people were thinking about stocking up on toilet paper, some were miles ahead of them thinking about stocking up on food. Like toilet paper, freeze-dried food will last for twenty years in storage. The only reason I can think people started hoarding toilet paper is the fact that Sears went bankrupt. Whoever thought digital online retailing would wipe out discretionary catalogue recycling.
In normal times you can find #10 cans of freeze-dried food items in many grocery stores, many online company websites, and dedicated freeze-dried food stores in large cities. I just look for the best deals. I use Amazon, Walmart, Mountain House, Emergency Essentials, Wise, Thrive and Augason. I usually only buy sale items when I see them. Remember, the expiration date will most likely be long after mine, so I’m not worried about spoilage.
Okay, let’s talk about taste. First, the freeze-drying process is much superior to the dehydrating process. Better shape, color and nutrition are preserved in the freeze-drying process. An example of what I carry on a backpacking trip, or RVing, would be entrees like Sweet & Sour Pork or Beef Stroganoff. I repackage into smaller meal portions of the entree, then add additional freeze-dried meats and vegetables from additional #10 cans I have purchased of those items.
I usually buy 14 different entrees as my base stock and typically only have the same meal every two weeks. In my opinion, they are delicious. Just add boiling water, let sit for 8 minutes and enjoy. I also use Ova Eggs. These are crystallized freeze-dried eggs. If you have tried other freeze-dried egg products, you have most likely come away thinking, “I just had cardboard for breakfast.” Not so with Ova. They are better than hauling your own chicken coop behind the motorhome.
How about powdered milk? Doesn’t sound appetizing, does it? Try NIDO. You will find it in the refried beans aisle in most grocery stores. It’s as close to the cow as I have found in powdered milk. As for weight and storage, you won’t find another food source lighter or more compact.
I used to joke that when they started throwing Nukes I wanted to catch the first one, while Preppers wanted to sit around and eat freeze-dried food for a couple of weeks and watch each other smoke. But they have all ended up with the last laugh: Instead of Nukes we got the silent invasion of a scourge we may be dealing with for a long time.
I also said last week that everyone has a theory. What’s yours? As selfless first responders beg people to be patient, and armed protesters storm capitol buildings, America is on the verge of do or die – maybe both. You may want to just drop a couple of grand and buy your own freeze drier. If we keep printing money at the pace we are, the machine is cheaper now than a #10 can of freeze-dried ground beef may be by the end of the pandemic.
That’s my two-bits, so I guess the buck stops here! [Editor: Talk about inflation! It started out as his two cents’ worth!]
—Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink
Can’t get enough of the Shrink? Read his e-books, including Book 2 in his two-book series: Dr. R.V. Shrink: Everything you ever wanted to know about the RV Lifestyle but were afraid to ask or check out his other e-books.