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). You'll also see what is the cheapest way to preserve food.
Food Preservation Cost Comparison
(Of course, costs have changed since this post (and since the book was printed), but I still find this very interesting.)
Freezing is also a great option for storing up food. And there are so many things you can freeze.
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
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
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
Dehydrating is one of my favorite ways to preserve food, and there's so much more you can do with a dehydrator too.
Before we get into the costs, here are some posts showing how we like to use our 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), a book about dehydrating that you can purchase from Excalibur Dehydrator.
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:
- Saving Money with a Dehydrator
- Easiest Sun Dried Tomatoes
- Boosting Nutrition with a Dehydrator
- Super Yummy Kale Chips
- Save Time and Space with a Dehydrator
- How and Why to Soak and Dehydrate Nuts and Seeds
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:
A Helpful Dehydrating Book
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.
Another Option--Freeze Drying
Since initially writing this post, another option for food preservation has come onto the scene--Freeze Drying.
I hope to add the cost comparison here in the future, but it will for sure be the highest, with the trade off being that the food retains an amazing amount of nutritional content, tastes like "the real thing" when eaten, and lasts a very long time.
This is the freeze dryer that we have--we need to branch out more with what we preserve but it's great to be able to freeze dry guacamole when avocados are on sale. Freezing avocados is an option, but freeze drying is SO much better.
Did you expect dehydrating to be the cheapest way to preserve food?
Which food storage methods do you use?