Feb102010

37 Comments

My Top 9 Reasons for Dehydrating Food

Yummy dehydrated pears. Image by norwichnuts.

My food dehydrator has been working up a storm this past week as I’ve been transforming pounds and pounds of tomatoes and jars of applesauce into very, very dry versions of their former selves.  I love dehydrating foods, and here are just a few of the reasons why.

  1. Dehydrated fruits and veggies have intense, INTENSE! flavors!  Each thin slice of dehydrated tomato packs a wallop of flavor that you don’t find in a fresh slice.  Something amazing happens to the flavor once all the water has been removed.
  2. It offers something different in the healthy snack category.  My kids are loving the applesauce fruit leather they made themselves.  They never get bored because one day it’s apple-cinnamon leather, another day it’s apple-peach leather, and a tasty apple-strawberry version is on tap for tomorrow!  A #10 can of applesauce from Sam’s Club or Costco provides sheets and sheets of fruit leather, one of the easiest snacks in the world to pack in a lunch bag or backpack.
  3. Something is always in season!  The best bargains in produce are usually found when a particular fruit or vegetable is in season.  Farmer’s markets, food co-ops, fruit stands, and pick-your-own-produce farms can offer amazing bargains.  All that fresh goodness is easily transformed into dehydrated versions at a cost far less than commercially dehydrated foods.
  4. Food dehydration is simple!  Basic dehydrators can be picked up on Craigslist or eBay.  You don’t need anything fancy.  My dehydrator is very basic, but it does the job just fine.  Unlike canning, you don’t need a lot of additional equipment, and the internet is filled with websites that give directions for dehydrating every type of food imaginable!
  5. Variety!  One day you can dehydrate apples and the next, pasta sauce!  Cook up several pounds of ground beef and turn them into, “hamburger rocks”!  When you find #10 cans of a fruit or veggie on sale, pour out the liquid, and place the food on your dehydrator trays for a few hours.  Bags of frozen vegetables dehydrate just as easily. 
  6. Dehydrated foods don’t lose their nutritional value and maintain water soluble vitamins and minerals. 
  7. Dehydrate your own herbs and you’ll never have to pay top dollar for them again nor watch them rot in the fridge.
  8. If space is an issue, dehydrated foods are your friend!  Twenty pounds of fresh tomatoes filled two large glass jars in my pantry once they were sliced and dehydrated!
  9. You’ll never have to run to the grocery store at the last minute for carrots or onions or potatoes or celery or green beans if you have jars of the dehydrated versions in your pantry.

If you have a garden and expect a decent harvest this year, put food dehydration on the top of your To Learn list!  Once you’re past the initial purchase of the dehydrator, it’s just a matter of looking for bargains at the grocery store and then getting busy!

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.

(37) Readers Comments

  1. I have to add home made jerky, good stuff. Easy to make, high in protein, good food on the go.

    • Did you make your own marinade to soak the meat in first? How long did it take to dehydrate?

      Has anyone dehydrated potatoe soup? I know how to dehydrate potatoes but how do I dehydrate the soup part? Any ideas?

  2. Well lisa, you know I have been having fun with my dehydrator.

    • Yep! Have you tried dehydrating sweet potatoes? I want to try those next, I think.

      • I havent, but my boyfriend has. He says clean them, cut out the bad spots and slice them up (he likes to leave the skin on, but that is optional, but the skins have a lot of vitamins in them). Then take the slices, put them into a pot, and bring the pot to a barely a boil. When it starts boiling, turn the heat off, put on the cover and let them set for 15-20 minutes till they are fork tender. Once tender, take a slotted spoon, lift them out and put them in your dehydrator and dehydrate them. When done they should be crisp. They should look orangy brown.

      • Lisa;
        Dehydrate2store has a great youtube channel and shows how to do Sweet Potaoes..
        I was wondering what kind of wheat grinder do you have??

        • I have an old Magic Mill, which they don't even make anymore. It's electric. I would like to also have a manual grinder as a back-up. A friend who has a manual grinder says that it is just inconvenient enough that she procrastinates grinding wheat. I know that would be me, so for now I'm sticking with my electric mill until I have the extra $$ for a manual grinder.

      • We have been drying yams over two years now. My husband was buying these rawhide chews for our dogs and I noticed they said they were stuffed with yams. So I said why pay almost $12 a bag for the rawhide chews when I can dry the yams myself for treats. I didn’t like them eating the rawhide and I didn’t like products from China. The dogs love them like candy! Of course our dogs love fruits and veggies anyway. They don’t care for dried carrots or fresh bananas. But they really like dried bananas, I guess because they are higher in sugar taste than fresh ones.

  3. I also love my dehydrator, which I bought last summer and used the heck out of till winter, when there's nothing in my garden that wants dehydrating and there haven't been any great sales on produce in my area for things I like to dehydrate, like celery, peppers, mushrooms.

    Question:
    Do you peel those tomatoes before you dehydrate them? If not, is that a problem with the texture either in the dehydrated state or when re-hydrated?

    Also, rather than pour out the liquid in fruits and vegetables, whether for dehydrating or any other reason, I now like to pour the liquid into a tupperware or plastic bag and stick it in the fridge or freezer where it's handy the next time I make soup, stew, a casserole or crock pot meal, or any other savory (not sweet) recipe that calls for water or broth. It's even good for adding that extra bit of moisture you need when reheating a lot of dishes, especially those with pasta or rice. Lots of vitamins and flavor in that water, and it makes me feel good to be doing something else toward reducing our food waste.

  4. Lisa,
    What's your best method for re-hydrating veggies for cooking?

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  6. Dehydrating is great. We rotate our deer meat and anything more than a year old becomes jerky. We also do dried fruit, parched corn, and hard tack for days that I don't have time to grab a lunch. A dehydrator is very handy in preparedness.

  7. I just bought my first dehydrator from a guy on Craigslist. I asked why he was selling it, and he said he now has his own smokehouse so he no longer needs it. We met up, made our trade, then I thanked him and told him to "drive safe." Then he said he was off to "get supplies" for the house. I thought "Hey! He must be a prepper." Who else would have a personal smokehouse and call their shopping trip '"getting supplies?"

  8. This is my first time reading one of your articles, and i must say it makes me want to get on Ebay and Craigslist and buy a dehydrator right now. I had always heard about the benefits of dehydration, but never paid too much attention to it, but this list made me change my mind. Great post.

    • Dehydrated foods take up so little space. It's definitely worth learning how to do this on your own. I haven't been happy with my attempts at dehydrating potatoes, so I've been buying those in #10 cans already dehydrated, but most everything else is simple, and I get great results. Hey, thanks for visiting my blog!

      • Potatoes are easy to dehydrate. They first need to be cooked a bit. then slice them however you want – a slice for stews or diced for soups. Then place them on the dehydrator and let them dry until they are very hard. If you do not cook the potatoes, they will turn black when dehydrated.

  9. I LOVE dehydrated pineapple. It is super easy to do (but I don't store it because I eat it way too fast). I heard a tip about tomatoes that works great. I put the fresh tomatoes in the freezer until they are frozen then I put the frozen tomatoes in hot water in the sink. The skins bust open and then you can just peel them off. It works well with cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes. I also love to sprout tons of wheat and then dry it in the dehydrator and then grind it. It is super healthy and way more digestible when it is sprouted. But it tastes the same as regular wheat flour (better I think).

  10. I use my dehydrator like crazy too. I swear that watching the how-to videos athttp://dehydrate2store.com/ changed my life! Sad, I know, but true. I already had the dehydrator, just didn't have the know how. Last week I rehydrated cherries in orange juice and cinnamon, then tossed them in a simple cinnamon bread. My kids loved it. Dehydrating has really helped me preserve my garden all year long and gives my kids more snack options. This week I ran out of dehydrated onion and I am almost out of dehydrated bell pepper. Last summer it seemed like I dehydrated too much, but I used it all the time. This year I will make sure I have enough to get through to the next harvest. My daughter uses the dehydrated lemons and limes in her tea all the time. I only use them in hot tea, but my daughter puts them in iced tea or ice water. My mom and I came up with some hot tea mixes. It was all ground spices, mint leaves, and dehyrdated fruits. Easy and tasty. This year I have convinced my mom to harvest the yarrow from her yard so we can make tea to help her arthritis. We will see how that one goes.

    • I have a few bags of frozen veggies I'm getting ready to dehydrate today. I love how dehydrated foods take up so much less space. It's amazing to see an entire bag of frozen corn, for example, shrink down to just a cup or so. Could you convince your mom to let you post one of her tea mixes? That sounds delicious!

  11. I learned how to dehydrate potatoes from the dehydrate2store website. My family loves them in stews and au gratin dishes. The potatoes boil up really well and you would never know they were dehydrated. Whenever I use them in a new recipe, I don't tell my family. I let them tell me if they liked it or not, then I break the news. My husband is now sold on the idea. I have seen recipes for using them in potato salad, but I am not that brave yet. My sister and I are going to try to make a homemade version of instant potatoes pretty soon. If we put the dehydrated potatoes in her vitamix, grind them up and experiment with different recipes, it could work.

    • I've learned TONS from Tammy! She really is an amazing pioneer in the field of food dehydration and takes it way beyond anything I've seen elsewhere. In fact, I'm going to use one of her recipes at a food dehydration class I'm teaching this weekend at Cabela's.

  12. I'm dehydrating frozen strawberries and making fruit leather from applesauce today. Tonight / tomorrow morning, I'm going to look for instructions on dehydrating the beef I'm browning today. Then, beef rocks tomorrow!

  13. I bought an Excalibur dehydrator a few months ago and just began dehydrating some of the early foods from my garden. I dehydrated spinach, sliced apples, cantelope and i just pulvarized the oranges and lemons i dehydrated to make a powder…i did save some whole to use in teas and such. i love it…am learning daily.

  14. I got a dehydrator for Christmas and want to try making some soups. How do I dehydrate my potatoe soup? My sauce is a mixture of Chicken Stock and Cream..can it be dehydrated?

    Also, how do I make Butter Powder myself?

  15. I'm a newbie….. I want to purchase a dehydrator – any suggestions? In addition any suggestions about storage.

    • Virginia, I always advise a newbie to start with a dehydrator found in a thrift store, garage sale, or on Craigslist. I have an American Harvest, which is several years old, and it works just fine. I do want the more expensive Excalibur brand someday, but for now, I'm happy with my $35 purchase.

  16. I have had a dehydrator for some time, but my cheap one takes longer than I would like to do the job. I finally got up the courage to spring for a nine-tray Excalibur, and my kitchen smells YUMMILY of dehydrating bananas as I type. I'm so excited to use my new machine, as I got such good service from my cheap one, and think this one will be even better!

  17. I'm using my mom's Excalibur that she bought in the 70's when I was a little girl. It works great and has lasted forever. They are worth the investment! We dehydrated strawberries and used them in homemade granola as end of the year gifts for the kids teachers. We made labels that said, " Thanks for a great school year. We hope you have a 'fruitful' summer." We are having so much fun with the dehydrator…beware, it's addicting!

  18. I didn't think about it but dehydrated fruit is technically always in season. Great article. I am going to start dehydrating my own food to save me some money. Thanks for talking me into it.

  19. I’ve been absorbed in reading your blog all week, thank you for all your tips and strategies!

    I know this thread is old, but I wanted to add a site that I came across recently while looking for dehydrated food recipes: the backpacking chef He has some really great recipes and good tips for making and storing single serve portions (perfect for bug out bags!)

    • Liz, you beat me to posting the website! I am about to try my hand at dehydrating food and the backpackingchef.com site gave me some good instructions as well as ideas for making up 1 person meals that only need hot water. As a retiree, making a meal for one is often a challenge so am looking forward to trying some of his recipes & ideas.

      1 person meal packets also sound like a good way to stockpile foods that would be lightweight and easy for an older person to carry, should they need to leave their home. I would be able to put many of these in the freezer, to extend their life.

  20. Do you have any suggestions of a good cookbook for dehydrated foods that have alot of wonderful recipes? Amazon has alot of books on the subject and some have 4 and almost 5 star ratings. however whenever you read the 1 star i find tat the book may not be what I am looking for. I want to make veggie chips like the ones you spend a fortune on in the store. dehydrated green beans,yucca,taro,sweet potato, wasabi peas ect. fruit as well.

  21. I do not take the skins from my tomatoes when I dehydrate them. I find that the flesh tends to stick terribly to my trays. so I just dehydrate smaller tomatoes and cut them in wedges which sit on thr trays skin side down. I love home dehydrated bananas. I slice the ripe (no green on the skin) bananas into a bowl containing water with a little bit of lemon juice and some vanilla extract. Then fish the slices out and dehydrate. Yummy chewy. It can be done without the lemon water but the banana slices get very dark. still sweet and chewy tho.

  22. Just started using my new dehydrator. I started with green, red and yellow bell pepper. What a surprise….they are so sweet and we have been eating them as snacks.
    Next I sliced some early strawberries in half and then pureed some for fruit rollups. The pureed fruit was spread too thin on the plastic so they had a few holes, will pour it thicker next time. Not sure which way I like them best….and again, the flavor was really concertrated and sweet. The halved weren’t the prettest fruit in the world, but they do retain the red color. The strawberries didn’t last at our house. So tonight I was at Whole Foods looking for more strawberries.

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  24. I just found you on Pinterest and am loving your website! I, too, am a big dehydrator. I’m a Flight Attendant by trade, and I can take 5 days worth of food with me from home that weighs no more than a medium paperback book! Rockin’, right?

    For those that wondered about dehydrating potato soup, it’s really easy! I talk about doing so on my blog (http://cradlerockingmama.com/traveling-on-a-ted-step-2-preparation/) but here’s the gist: cook your soup, let it get nice and thick, then refrigerate it! If you’re using a homemade broth (which you should) it will get sort of gelatinous in the fridge.

    Then lay out either the silpat sheets or a layer of Saran Wrap on your dehydrator trays and use a soup ladle to pour out cup sized servings on the trays. Use the ladle to sort of flatten out the soup until its relatively thin, put the sheets in the dehydrator and let ‘er rip! Takes me about 12-15 hours, depending on humidity, at 125.

    Rehydration is simple: cover with hot water! I usually do my rehydration on the road, so I use a thermos for most of my rehydration. So I put the dried soup in the thermos, cover with hot water, put the lid on, and after about half an hour enjoy a delicious, healthy homemade soup!

    Hope that helps someone! Thanks again for your awesome website. :-)

  25. this is awesome! thank you so much for all the information. i am attempting to dehydrate whole meals so i can have easy meals to take along camping. you should also check out the website http://www.hungryhammokhanger.com he gives all sorts of recipies to make…good luck

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