Which Saves the Most Money – Dehydrating, Freezing or Canning?

Which food preservation method is the most frugal? Dehydrating, Canning, or Freezing? The answer might surprise you!

With the cost of food going way up, many are choosing to buy in bulk and store for future use.

But is it really worth it?

Many of you know that a week ago I started a series on How and Why to Dehydrate.  In the middle of that series, I had the opportunity to write a guest post at Kitchen Stewardship on Frugal Food Storage (that post is a must read if you are trying to eat well on less money).

Well, all of this talk about food preservation really generated a lot of interest and a lot of questions.

One reader commented that she was interested in purchasing a dehydrator and/or a freezer, but her husband wasn’t sure about the cost savings, once one adds in the expense of the appliance and the ongoing cost of operating it.  Doing food preserving on your own certainly gives you control over the procedure and the quality of the food, and it is a great step towards a more “whole foods” oriented lifestyle, but we all want to know that we can save money while doing it as well, right?

Well, I did a little digging around and found a fabulous resource that outlined the costs in a very detailed manner.

And after seeing the following chart, any of you who have purchased a dehydrator will feel quite affirmed in your decision (and those who have not will have one more reason to do so).



(Of course, costs have changed since this post (and since the book was printed), but I still find this very interesting.)

Food Storage Bags for Freezer

{Photo Credit}


Estimated cost – 16.2 cents/pound

Equipment Needed: Freezer @ $270 amortized over 20 years* = $13.50/year

Repairs: 2% of purchase price = $5.40/year

Packaging: $25.00

Electricity: To operate freezer at 5 cents/kilowatt hour = $35.28
To blanch 250 pounds of food (4 min/pound) = $1.99

Total to process 500 pounds of food:                                                     $81.17

Canned Peaches and tomatoes

 {Photo Credit}


Estimated cost – 5.5 cents/pound

Equipment Needed: Pressure canner @ $65 amortized over 20 years* =  $3.25
Water bath canner @ $10 amortized over 20 years = $0.50

Repairs: 2% of purchase price = $1.30

Packaging: 24 dz quart jars @ $4.39/dz amortized over 10 years = $10.53
24 dz lids replaced each year @ $.49/dz = $11.76

Electricity: To pressure can 140 quarts at 5 cents/kilowatt hour = $1.44
To water bath can 140 quarts =  $2.22

Total to process 560 pounds of food in 280 quarts: = $31.00



Dried Bananas Dehydrator













Estimated cost – 4.8 cents/pound

Equipment Needed: Electric Dehydrator @ $190 amortized over 20 years* = $9.50/year

Repairs: 2% of purchase price = $3.80

Packaging: $500 one-pound plastic bags = $2.50

Electricity: For drying food = $6.50
For blanching 250 pounds of food (4 minutes/pound)= $1.99

Total to process 500 pounds of food:                                                     $24.29

(*If the equipment is used for less than the full amortization period, the cost per pound of food increases significantly.  Also, if smaller amounts of food are processed, the average cost per pound will increase.)

The above information comes from page 5 of Preserve It Naturally (2010), which is available for free with the purchase of an Excalibur Dehydrator through me.   As an authorized dealer, I am able to offer special savings on the dehydrator that I own and love.

The data I use above are from the book, but the costs of energy, equipment, etc. have clearly changed and will vary according to your personal situation, i.e. your energy costs and how good you are at finding bargains on packaging, etc.   Still, I think this is an eye-opening comparison.

Individual situations aside, it’s clear that dehydrating and canning are extremely cost-efficient ways to store food.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that freezing isn’t a great option either.  I mean, if it costs 16.2 cents per pound to freeze something and you can secure the type of deal that I did at a local store about 4 months ago when we got grass fed lamb for about 3.25 / pound, then paying an extra 16 cents per pound still makes the lamb a great deal.  Also, there are just some things that lend themselves better to one form of preservation than to another.  For example, I don’t wish to can or dehydrate meat or chicken broth, but those items both freeze quite well.

So — I think I have now put my inquisitive mind to rest.  And — I am feeling pretty good about our second fridge, chest freezer, dehydrator, and even about the second chest freezer that we plan to buy later this week.  Bring on the sales — I have room to store the surplus!  Now if I can just learn how to can :-)!More posts on dehydrating:

And some great posts on freezing:

If you don’t have a dehydrator yet, I whole heartedly recommend the Excalibur Dehydrator, but a blogger friend of mine told me that she has this dehydrator and loves it:

This Nesco Dehydrator is great for drying herbs, fruits, veggies, and more!

Here is a great book to get to learn more about dehydrating, and it has tons of recipes in it.  I don’t own it yet, but plan to get it soon.

The Ultimate Dehydrator Cookbook - Learn How to Dehydrate and use your dehydrator to store foods inexpensively!

Top Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/galant/

Which food storage methods do you use?  Which are you hoping to try next?

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  1. I enjoyed this post. I do a little of each of these food preservation methods. I have found an inexpensive way to store some of my frozen meat. I buy from a local meat processor that buys the meat from the local farmers, so commercial farms. When I get my meat I asked them about getting a meat locker. They said the cost was 15.00 per quarter. I have bought my meat there for about 5 years, and have yet to have the 15.00 charge. I do have a freezer and keep my chicken and fish in it that I purchase in the stores. I also keep fruits and vegetables and like one of the other comments said, use it to stage my fruits and vegetables. I liked to see the cost comparisons. I would also like to link this on my blog for people that are reading my comments about food preservation. I currently don’t have a food dehydrator, but have been looking for one at the second hand stores. We lost ours when we had a house fire. I liked using it. I’ve been using my oven to dehydrate while I have been without, I’m sure not as cost effective, but it works.

  2. In regard to canning; I have been doing this for a couple of years. There is a lot more to canning than just throwing some food in a jar and processing. If you read the USDA website or any of the University extension offices in your county, you will learn that canning food is a science that takes great care and preparation to accomplish safely and successfully. Just securing jars takes time. If you buy them at garage sales you cannot know the history of their use; if they contained food that spoiled there is a ‘detoxification’ process that must be followe. If uncertain, you have to do this.. Then, there is the washing of all equipment, boiling jars, and keeping lids and rings warm. Most vegetables have to be blanched in fresh water, and jars are packed and filled with distilled boiled water. Then its time to fill the canner-with water. All this water has to be heated, then discarded. If you live in the city–whooo, expensive. In the country you have to make sure your water has been tested and is ok for preserving foods. Then, there’s the issue of processing for your local altitude. For years I didn’t know I live in an area over 1.000 ft. Add an extra minute to processing time for each 1,000 ft. above sea level. If you have never canned before and want to follow approved methods, (remember, only approved and tested recipes are now recommended) it will take you some time (time=money) I have not yet decided if home canned foods are economical given the above, but I do know they contain only the wholesome foods I put into the jars. What is that worth in $$$? Decide for yourself, but when you begin home canning, please take the time to read the publications available on the web for guidelines. The most informative I’ve found, but certainly not an exhaustive resource can be found at: http://nchfp.uga.edu/

    • Thanks much – I need to get on with canning soon :).

    • I’m 45 years old and have been canning my own home-grown produce/helping my mom can food as a child nearly my whole life. I have canned meat, fruit, low acid foods, soups, you name it, and I’ve never encountered any of the problems mentioned in your post. I have a re-furbished canner I bought at a swap-meet for $3.oo that works like a charm. Most of my jars are hand-me-downs from family members or purchased at garage sales. As long as they are properly sanitized, they are perfectly safe. I have never calculated the money I’ve saved by putting up my own produce, but I’m sure it would be in the thousands of dollars. If you’re worried about wasted water, house plants and garden plants love left-over canning water because it’s full of nutrients! Yes, it heats up the house, but we’re very conservative with electricity otherwise so the extra few dollars on our power bill is certainly money well spent. If you have a desire to can your own food, it is certainly a worthwhile endeavor.

  3. We’re selling our house and buying an rv. Guaranteed we’re buying a dehydrator!

  4. Jenn Wilson says:

    I wouldn’t mind teaching you how to can! :)

  5. jonille shepherd says:

    In general I agree in that order. I to would like to know where you buy your canning equip. My canner was $200, Quart jars are $10+ a doz Walmart and lids $1.75 to $2+. That may change things a bit.

  6. What about freeze drying?