Aug172010

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Dehydrated Dinners, part 2: 20 Tips for getting started

Welcome to the second in a series of article that will teach you, step by step, how to create your own dehydrated meals suitable for long-term storage.  You can read Part 1 here.

Freeze dried and dehydrated main dishes, such as those made by Mountain House, are on many a prepper’s To Buy list.  However, for some families, the extra expense or unwanted additives place these commercially produced meals off limits.  With a little planning, you can make your own.  Here are a few tips for getting started.

image by Nina Matthews Photography

  1. Although you can definitely include your own dehydrated foods, keep in mind that putting together numerous meals using the same recipe will require a lot of each ingredient.  Therefore, it might be worth spending a bit extra to purchase commercially dehydrated or freeze dried foods for this project.  DIY dehydrated foods have a shorter shelf life than do their commercially dried counterparts.  Keep that in mind.
  2. Three good resources for dehydrated and freeze dried foods are Shelf  Reliance, Honeyville Farms and Harmony House.
  3. The shelf life of your finished dinners will be equivalent to that of the ingredient with the shortest shelf life.  For example, a recipe containing pasta will have a shelf life of about seven or eight years, maximum, because that is the shelf life of pasta.
  4. Some freeze dried vegetables are more delicate than their dehydrated counterparts.  You may want to place those veggies at the top of the mix to prevent them from being crushed over time or use the dehydrated version.
  5. Dehydrated eggs, sour cream, butter and milk will have to be purchased.
  6. IMPORTANT!  If you’re making a mix from one of your own recipes, your first batch will be experimental.  Combine the ingredients, keep a record of the amounts, and then prepare the recipe as a meal.  How much water did you add?  How long was the cooking time?  Be sure to record this information and make adjustments before preparing the remaining meals.  Make sure to have your family do a taste test!
  7. It makes sense to prepare several batches of each recipe rather than just one.  Be sure to have enough of each ingredient on hand.  You may be surprised by how much is required, but keep in mind you’re preparing many future meals.
  8. In addition to ingredients, you’ll need some sort of storage container.  Canning jars and mylar bags are your best bet.  Use oxygen absorbers if you plan on storing the mixes long-term.  If a camping or backpacking trip is in your future, the mixes can be kept in large zip-loc bags.
  9. A Food Saver system works as long as none of the ingredients are likely to puncture the plastic bag.
  10. For storage, keep in mind the five enemies of food: heat, humidity, oxygen, light, and pests.
  11. Here’s a tip for organizing your mixes.  Store mixes of the same ingredient in a labeled food-grade bucket.
  12. To get started with your own recipe, choose a soup or a casserole.  The ideal recipe will contain ingredients that can all be converted to a dehydrated version.  Be prepared to do a bit of tweaking.  Choosing the right recipe is the hardest part of this process.
  13. Recipes that contain a lot of cheese aren’t good candidates for Dehydrated Dinners.
  14. If a recipe contains an ingredient that is normally canned, such as diced tomatoes, it’s perfectly fine to omit that ingredient in your dehydrated mix and then plan on adding that canned item when it’s time to prepare the meal.  Just make a note of it, and then be sure to have enough stored in your pantry.
  15. One dehydrated recipe to master is marinara sauce.  Combine tomato powder with garlic, herbs, and salt.  Taste test small amounts with a bit of water until you have a combination you love.  You can store the mix in jars or mylar bags or use it in recipes that call for prepared marinara sauce.  Emergency Essentialscarries tomato powder or you can make your own by processing dehydrated tomato slices in a blender until completely powdered.

    image by WordRidden

  16. Start searching for recipes!  Here are a few I found at AllRecipes.com that have a lot of potential as Dehydrated Dinners: Chili Bean Soup, Pasta Bean Soup, Flatlander Chili, and Homemade Pizza Supreme.
  17. If you only convert five recipes to Dehydrated Dinners and prepare eight of each recipe, that’s forty dinners!
  18. Dehydrated Dinners will only be one part of your food storage.  They’ll come in handy when you’re too sick to cook or the family needs a really quick meal.  Their main purpose is convenience.
  19. It’s better to give than receive.  Having multiple Dehydrated Dinners will allow you to share them with others in need.
  20. Jump right in!  The more practice you get in spotting suitable recipes, the easier it becomes.  Once you have a recipe your family enjoys, it’s just a matter of converting it to a dehydrated version and assembling all the ingredients.


There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

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I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 5 years. Come join me on my journey to becoming more prepared to handle everyday emergencies and worst case scenarios.

(8) Readers Comments

  1. Great article, thank you Lisa!

  2. I am so glad to see this series, thank you. We are a gluten free family, which limits our choices for commercially prepared MREs. I will also try the book you recommended in Part 1.

  3. You can get a jar sealer that works with the Food Savers and store your dehydrated meals in quart jars! They work wonderfully and you can even reuse the jar lids! I also use this to seal chocolate chips, nuts, candy, etc. to add to my food storage!

  4. I hope this isn't out of line but have you heard of the company that is giving away $20 worth of emergency food for FREE? Just pay p&h. I'm not making any money from this, just wanted to pass it along for others. http://tinyurl.com/2dqul9h

  5. Pingback: Homemade MRE's - Outdoor Basecamp Forums

  6. Pingback: Homemade "instant" meals - Brew Plus Forums

  7. I enjoyed this article very much. Where is part one located?

  8. I’m in south Louisiana where the humidity is awful year round. Any tips for extra protection?

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