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Part Three: How to Prepare the Healthiest, Most Nutritious Meals for Home and Camp

Updated: Apr 12, 2023

Why eat expensive “camping meals” that are neither satisfying nor balanced?

In Part 2 of this series, we discussed home dehydration of individual ingredients in your menus. We also covered the reasons why preparing Complete Meals is the easiest way to solve the biggest problems with prepacked camping meals: you pay too much for skimpy portions of foods you would never eat at home. We discussed how it is now possible (with preserved foods and meals) to prepare nearly everything in camp that you can cook at home. In fact, you can eat your favorite meals at home and in the wilderness!

In this third part of the series, I want to discuss the ADDED BENEFIT that substituting dehydrated and freeze-dried foods will actually result in HIGHER nutrition than “fresh food” from your local grocery. Read on, and I hope to prove these statements.

Question: Which foods have higher nutrition, freeze-dried or store-bought produce?

A home dehydrator is a great addition to MOST kitchens, but it has some practical limitations. First, not everyone has the space for a dehydrator. Many small homes, apartments, RVs, and vans simply don’t have adequate food prep areas for bulk produce or room to store a dehydrator. You might even have access to FREE garden produce and have no way to process it. In addition, many dehydration cycles are for 8, 12 hours or MORE. These extended cycles may be inconvenient or impossible for nomads and off-grid situations.

Second, the results of home dehydration are 100% dependent on the quality of the food that you start with. Did you know that most of the fruits and vegetables you buy at the grocery are lacking in the vitamins and nutrients that you EXPECT? Fresh produce begins losing nutritional value the minute it is harvested. The AVERAGE distance from field to table in the U.S. is 1,500 miles! Sometimes less, but often MUCH more. Grocery store produce is now engineered for eye appeal, NOT nutrition! This is opposed to freshly picked produce purchased direct from the grower or your local farmer’s market. Take the spinach you buy in the nice, labeled boxes at the store, for example. Three days after harvest, the pretty green spinach has lost 80% of its Vitamin C content. For comparison, spinach that is harvested, then immediately flash frozen and freeze-dried RETAINS 97% of the Vitamin C.

freeze dried spinach

If you are going to invest the time and money to dehydrate produce, you need to buy freshly harvested local produce direct from the growers and then process it the same day. There is nothing like the same-day freshness of sweet corn or strawberries from a roadside stand. But this availability simply isn’t possible in most locations. And access to freshly picked produce is completely impossible outside of the narrow harvest season. We have come to expect access to produce year-round, but we don’t consider that the fruits and vegetables we buy after the harvest are all many months old. To fill the shelves, “producers” have resorted to gas-infused warehousing of unripe fruits and vegetables, GMOs, artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives on their “fresh produce”.

Rather than dehydrate sub-par produce, I have substituted freeze-dried Thrive Foods in many of my recipes. Thrive Foods are always allowed to fully ripen, providing the required time to reach the maximum nutrition and taste. In contrast, most fruits and vegetables are picked before they reach maturity to allow for weeks of transport and warehousing before they even reach your local store.

freeze dried strawberries

Thrive Life is now the largest food freeze-drying company in the U.S. They buy directly from the largest producers who harvest fruits and vegetables at the peak of maturity for taste and nutrition. The fully ripened produce is first flash frozen immediately after harvest, then freeze-dried to preserve the maximum percentage of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Only the water content is removed.

Fresh foods CANNOT be transported across the country (or from foreign countries), placed in warehouses, and sold to you MONTHS later and still retain the same nutrition! This means, unless you buy your produce from the grower in the Fall for dehydration, you can NEVER match the nutrition of freeze-dried foods.

And this brings us to the main disadvantage of food dehydration: the finished quality. Even IF you start with quality, fully ripened produce, some foods simply don’t dehydrate well. Bananas, for example, lose 40% of nutrients even when dehydrated at only 125-degrees – versus only 3% by freeze-drying at below zero. This INCLUDES the dried banana chips you buy at the gas station!

Even at only 125 to 135 degrees, it is still possible to “burn” fragile fruits and vegetables after 10 or more hours. Fibrous vegetables like broccoli become hard, difficult to rehydrate and lose their taste appeal. No flavor, only fiber.

Some foods simply cannot be dehydrated. Fats, for example, don’t dehydrate. It is impossible to dehydrate oils, cheese, and butter. Likewise, the fat content in meat can’t be dehydrated. Backcountry Eats recommends cooking ground beef and sausage in boiling water, then draining and rinsing with more boiling water to remove as much grease as possible BEFORE dehydrating. Even then, these dried meats are prone to spoilage. Worse, these “double-cooked” dried meats bear a strong resemblance to gravel, before and after attempts at rehydration. The BEST option: substitute freeze-dried meats, which can be found in ground, diced, flavored shredded, and pulled varieties. Freeze-dried meats rehydrate quickly and have a superior taste and texture over dehydrated meats.

Another food that can’t be dehydrated safely is eggs. Eggs have a 10% to 11% fat content. “Powdered eggs” are awful. Backcountry Eats writes, “Freeze-dried eggs are very different that the older style powdered eggs available years ago. Commercially available freeze-dried eggs are pasteurized for safety and the glucose is removed for stability. When rehydrated, freeze-dried eggs look and taste just like fresh scrambled eggs.” The Ultimate Dehydrator Cookbook agrees, “Home-dehydrated egg and milk products are truly inferior to commercially prepared.”

Thrive Foods freeze-dried eggs are the same as your fresh scrambled eggs – once you add back the water content. It takes only a few minutes to rehydrate freeze-dried eggs which can then be fried or mixed into any recipe as a substitute for fresh eggs.

As noted above, it is not possible to dehydrate cheese, so it’s best not to add it to your meal before dehydrating. Instead, most hard cheeses can be wrapped tightly and kept without refrigeration for a week or more, then shredded and added to the meal AFTER cooking. As an alternative, freeze-dried shredded Parmesan and Cheddar cheese is also available and is shelf stable indefinitely without refrigeration. Freeze-dried instant milk is available, too. It dissolves instantly and is a vast improvement over old-fashioned powdered milk.

Finally, if you want to dehydrate foods at home, have invested in a dehydrator and the required screens and trays, you must still invest the time to wash, slice, dice, blanch, or otherwise prep the raw foods before drying. I enjoy experimenting with jerky seasonings once a year. But otherwise, my time is better invested elsewhere, especially considering the finished product will be inferior to commercially available freeze-dried foods.

Consider the many benefits of preparing your camping and home-cooked meals with fresh, then flash-frozen ingredients. Now consider your hourly pay rate. What gives you the best return on your investment of time?

For home and at camp, I have found Thrive Foods to be the best option. Thrive Foods is the LARGEST fresh food dehydrator in the U.S. and is continually adding more capacity to keep up with demand. Thrive Foods is also the best value because they only sell direct to the consumer, not adding another layer of costs through retail dealers.

Unless you consider food dehydration a hobby, the cost of fresh produce, dehydration equipment, and the required time will make freeze-dried Thrive Foods the winner in terms of value.

Your BONUS for reading this far: Follow this link for a 15% discount!

Would you like to sample Thrive Foods? Just follow this link to view all the products and save 15% on your order. Note that most are available in “pantry cans” (roughly 1-quart) or #10 cans (roughly 1-gallon) for the best value per ounce. Some foods are also available at a discount for multiple can case lots. Remember, the shelf life of most unopened cans is 25-YEARS*

SPECIAL OFFER: order $99.00 and receive a 27% Discount! Follow this LINK: HERE

If you order over $99.00 you will receive BOTH a 15% discount on the foods purchased, AND free shipping – which is normally charged at a flat rate of 12% for each order. (Canadian readers – FIRST switch the location/pricing at the top right of the website. Canadian customers ALSO receive FREE shipping on orders over $99.00 U.S.)

When you take advantage of the $99.00 special pricing you are placing a “monthly order” but there is NO obligation to order next month or EVER again! Just cancel the repeat order for the following month – until you are ready. The next time you would like to order, you will receive the same 27% discount for every order over $99.00 and can order exactly what you need.

In addition, every customer is automatically provided a referral link like the one above. You can share this with your friends, and THEY can save 15% on their first order – plus YOU will receive a 10% referral credit that can be applied to your future orders! Your friends will also be offered the option to increase their order to $99.00 or more and receive the combined 27% discount. They will LOVE you!

Thrive Foods is the largest food freeze-drying company in the U.S. – and yet you’ve probably never heard of them! Why? They don’t advertise, and they don’t need to! They only reward their customers for telling friends and neighbors about the full selection of freeze-dried foods, then pass the savings along in everyday low prices and monthly specials.

If you would like to enjoy the many benefits of preparing healthy and hearty meals for camping, just go to Thrive Foods by following this LINK.

If you would like to enjoy the many benefits of building a cost-saving, time-saving pantry of premium freeze-dried foods at home, just go to Thrive Foods by following this LINK.

In BOTH cases, you will enjoy the best tasting, most economical, most nutritious foods available!

*The long, 25-year shelf life of Thrive Foods has also made freeze-dried foods the choice of “preppers”. Today, more than ever, freeze-dried foods are a smart investment! ANYTHING you buy today is going to cost less than next month or next year. For that reason, many people who first became Thrive Foods customers in order to prepare camping meals have continued to buy foods monthly to accumulate 3, 6, or 12-months of staple foods for the peace-of-mind.

Follow this link and you can purchase Thrive Foods at any time and receive a MINIMUM 27% savings. That is, a 15% discount on the food plus free shipping equal to 12% of the order when you order $99.00 or more. You are not required to make monthly purchases or limited to only buying once per month. In addition, every month Thrive Foods advertises special offers on selected products, typically at a 25% discount. Twice a year there are also major discounts of up to 50%.

Finally, as a customer you will be provided with a referral link. Thrive Foods does no mass advertising but relies on referrals between friends – in person or online. When you share this link with your friends, and THEY can save 15% on their first order - PLUS you will receive a 10% credit that can be applied to your future orders!

In the last segment of this series, we will look at a few recipes that you can prepare at home using dehydrated and freeze-dried ingredients, and then packed for extended camping trips, backpacking, canoe tripping, RV or #Vanlife travels. Or prepare a double recipe and keep a supply ready for fast and healthy meals at home – a HUGE improvement over junk food and expensive drive-through meals!

Disclosure: Some of the links on this website are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, The Great Out There will earn an affiliate commission if you click on the link and finalize a purchase.


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