How to dramatically increase your food storage



This is a guest post and entry in our non-fiction writing contest  by Garden Mom

For food storage, we have all heard the saying “Store what you eat, eat what you store.” I’m going to tweak that a bit and suggest you “store what you didn’t eat” through dehydration. Almost everything can be dehydrated and if you dehydrate the foods you normally eat, but just didn’t get to finish, you can preserve them and eat the foods you are accustomed to later on. Dehydrated foods can last a very long time if preserved correctly, and they can be mixed in with many foods.

First, you need a decent dehydrator. There are very expensive dehydrators available, but to stay within my budget I needed to spend less than $50.00. I decided on the Snackmaster from Nesco, and found it on sale for $39.99. I added the fruit leather trays and fine mesh trays for another $5.00. After dehydrating for just a few weeks, I really wished I had another dehydrator because I could do such amazing things with it. But now that I have used it for over a year, I have figured out how to get everything done with just this one machine – I use it a lot.

Second, dehydrating is much easier than canning. I have canned vegetables, meat, and tomatoes for years, so I thought dehydrating would be similar. Wrong – it is very easy. If you’re uncomfortable with canning, but want to try preserving your own food, dehydrating is a great way to start, especially if you start with your own leftovers.

Third, the hardest thing about dehydrating is knowing how long to leave the food in the dehydrator. Various books and websites will list times with enormous ranges (4-20 hours) for each food. I didn’t understand this at first, but then I thought about how much humidity there is at my location each time I run the dehydrator and I can plan roughly how long I need to run the machine. In the summer with its higher humidity, it takes almost twice as long to dehydrate the same item in the winter. This accounts for the ranges. I keep notes with dates and times to refer to the next time I dehydrate something.

Here are examples what I have dehydrated:

Batch 1:

  • Fruit leather tray with cottage cheese that was going to expire in a few days
  • Fruit leather tray with leftover plain white rice
  • Fine mesh tray with celery cut into ¼” slices
  • Regular tray with leftover plain pasta

Batch 2:

  • Fine mesh tray with diced apples
  • Fruit leather tray with ½ jar of applesauce
  • Regular tray with banana sliced ¼”

Note that the foods without much smell were all in one batch, and the foods with more pronounced smells were in a different batch. You want to plan for the smells because they can intermingle, especially when you dehydrate a variety of foods. Plan to dry foods that have similar smells together, example fruits, strong-smelling vegetables (broccoli, cabbage), weaker smelling vegetables (carrots, celery, potatoes), foods from one meal (beef roast, carrots, potatoes or refried beans, taco meat).

Temperature – fruits, vegetables, rice/pasta, cottage cheese, already cooked meat all dry at 135 degrees; raw meats (beef jerky) at 145-155 degrees. Arrange each different food on one tray so that there is a little space between each piece. This makes it easier to put the dried food into the little baggies after it is fully dehydrated. Example: beef roast cut into ½” cubes on one tray, carrots sliced into ¼” slices on another tray.

Storage – I label and date small snack size baggies, add the cooled, dehydrated food, then squeeze out all the air. This little baggie goes into a freezer type baggie with other baggies of the same food, again squeeze all the air out, then store in the freezer. Example: “green pepper 12/28/11” on the little baggie, then the larger baggie says “Green Pepper”.

Fruits:

  • Apples – core, cut into wedges about ¼- ½” wide, then slice into ¼” pieces. Great in oatmeal, biscuits, trail mix, etc.
  • Applesauce – spread ¼” thick and dry into fruit leather – can be mixed with other leftover fruit, but don’t add any sugar or honey as it makes the fruit leather sticky and too sweet. Eat as is.
  • Bananas – peel, cut into ¼” slices. Eat as is or rehydrate for banana bread, muffins.
  • Berries – mix with applesauce for fruit leather, or dry whole.
  • Peaches – great mixed with applesauce for fruit leather, or cut into 1/4′” pieces. Eat as fruit leather, mix the pieces in trail mix, oatmeal, biscuits, etc.
  • Pears – core, cut into wedges about ¼- ½” wide, then slice into ¼” pieces. Great in oatmeal, trail mix, etc. Or put in blender with applesauce for fruit leather.
  • Rhubarb – cut into ½” pieces.

Vegetables:

  • Beans (green) – dry in whatever size they were when you cooked them originally. Great in minestrone soup.
  • Cabbage – we dry the grated kind that comes in a bag for making cole slaw.
  • Carrots – cut into ¼” slices
  • Celery – cut into ¼” slices
  • Corn – dry individual pieces, if on the cob, shuck first.
  • Onions – NOTE: smells very strong – place dehydrator outside or in garage. Dice in ¼” pieces.
  • Peppers (green, red, yellow) – dice into ¼” pieces
  • Potatoes – Boiled – cut into ¼” slices or shred, depending on how you want to use them later

Mashed – spread thinly (1/8”) onto the fruit leather tray. Dry until brittle, crush into powder, use to thicken liquids for gravies or soups. (The first tomato soup recipe I ever made called for one boiled, mashed potato to thicken it instead of cream or milk. In an emergency situation you wouldn’t need to use your stored milk powder to have a creamy soup.)

Tomatoes – Mostly we dry tomatoes after they have been made into something else. Everything dries and rehydrates well. Examples: spaghetti sauce, salsa, ketchup, the liquid leftover from canning tomatoes that isn’t enough for another jar, etc.)

Zucchini – Grate and squeeze between paper towels before drying to get out excess moisture. Add 1 tablespoon to spaghetti sauce to add vitamins and help thicken it slightly.

Or, slice into thin (1/8”) slices. Dip in your favorite salad dressing mixed with equal parts water. Drain, then dehydrate. Yummy veggie chips.

Meats:

  • Cut cooked meat into ½” cubes or strips about ½” wide. Dry until leathery.

Jerky is made from uncooked meat, spices, and salt. I buy the packets to mix with ground beef but there are tons of recipes available if you want to try jerky. Meat jerky must be dried at 145-155 degrees until leathery. Leftover jerky can be broken into small (1/4”-1/2” pieces) and rehydrated with other ingredients to make jerky stew or soups.

Dairy Products:

Cheese – grate, then spread out on paper towels cut to fit your trays exactly (no overhang). Dry until hard. Leave pieces as they are or crumble for cheese powder. NOTE: use real cheese, not processed cheese. All the books I have say that you can only dry already hard cheeses like parmesan, but I have had good luck with Cheddar and Colby. I add it to dishes that require the cheese to be melted into it or melted on top. It doesn’t rehydrate into a product like regular cheese.

Cottage cheese – spread on trays. Dry until brittle. Crumble into a powder. Can be added to cooked recipes to thicken them or add flavor. A good example of this is when I made Norwegian Meatcakes and the sauce was just not thickening. I stirred in 1 teaspoon of dried cottage cheese powder and let it simmer for a few minutes. Not enough, so I added another 1 teaspoon of the powder and again let it simmer. Then the sauce was the desired creaminess.

  • Yogurt – plain – add to applesauce or other fruit to make interesting fruit leather. Use about ¼ yogurt and ¾ applesauce/fruit.
  • Flavored – dry like fruit leather, eat like fruit leather.

Grains:

  • Pasta – place on trays with a little space between them. Dry until brittle. Bag gently so they don’t break. These rehydrate quickly in room temperature water.
  • Rice – place on the fine mesh insert, stir occasionally during drying to break them apart. Dry until brittle. Bag gently so they don’t crumble.

Using dehydrated foods

Fruits are very good eaten in their dried form as trail mix or fruit leather. They can be added to oatmeal or other cereal during the cooking process, just add an equal amount of water to allow for the rehydration. To add them to pancakes or other similar foods, rehydrate first by combining equal parts fruit and water. Start with less than you think you will need because they expand to about twice their dehydrated size. For my family of four, I rehydrate about 1 tablespoon of apple pieces with 1 tablespoon water in a little dish while I combine the other ingredients for the pancakes.

Vegetables are used in different ways. Sometimes they are just combined with water to rehydrate (spaghetti sauce, salsa, ketchup, etc.). Sometimes they can be put into your soup recipe (green beans, carrots, celery, corn, onion, peppers, zucchini, etc.). Dried vegetables that have been crumbled into powder can be added to bread or biscuit recipes. Powdered vegetables can also be used to make vegetable broth which will give you a lot of vitamins.

Simple Grid-down Recipes(2 servings):

Tuna Salad

  • Drain 1 14 oz. can of peas, measure the liquid. Add enough water to equal 1 cup.
  • Put 1 cup dehydrated pasta in a medium bowl, add the 1 cup of liquid. If desired, add 1 teaspoon dehydrated celery.
  • Drain the tuna (I don’t use this liquid).
  • After the pasta has rehydrated for a 5-10 minutes, check one piece to see if it ready, if so then drain any leftover water. Gently stir in the peas and tuna.
  • Add 1-2 packets of mayo until desired creaminess.
  • Salt/pepper, parsley to taste. A little fresh or dehydrated onion is good too.
  • Chicken Soup with Rice
  • Drain 1 10 oz can chicken, measure liquid. Add enough water to equal 4 cups.
  • Put ½ cup dehydrated rice in a medium pan. Add 1 teaspoon each: dehydrated celery, green pepper, carrot, onion. Add ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon of the 4 cups of liquid. Let rehydrate for 5 minutes.
  • Add the chicken, remaining water, 4 teaspoons/tablespoons chicken broth powder (Note: soup powders vary in intensity – read your package to determine amount to add), spices like bay leaf, parsley, sage, salt/pepper. Heat until warm.

Alternate Method:

  • Drain 1 14oz can carrots and 1 10 oz can chicken, measure liquid. Add enough water to equal 4 cups.
  • Put ½ cup dehydrated rice in a medium pan. Add 1 teaspoon each: dehydrated celery, green pepper, onion. Add ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon of the 4 cups of liquid. Let rehydrate for 5 minutes.
  • Add the chicken, carrots, remaining water, 4 teaspoons/tablespoons chicken broth powder (Note: soup powders vary in intensity – read your package to determine amount to add), spices like bay leaf, parsley, sage, salt/pepper. Heat until warm.

Beef and Potatoes

  • Drain 1 14 oz can of sliced potatoes, measure liquid. Add water to measure 1 ½ cups.
  • Beef: Either tear beef jerky into bite size pieces or put ½ cup of dehydrated beef roast pieces in a medium pan. Add ½ cup of liquid. Allow about 15 minutes to rehydrate.
  • Add the sliced potatoes, 2 tablespoons dehydrated cottage cheese, 1 teaspoon/tablespoon beef soup powder (Note: soup powders vary in intensity – read your package to determine amount to add), remaining water, parsley, salt/pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer until creamy.

Mexican Dinner

  • Rehydrate ½ cup of dehydrated leftover Mexican flavored ground beef and ½ cup refried beans in 1 cup water in a medium pan. Let sit for 15 minutes.
  • In a small dish, place ½ cup dehydrated rice and ½ cup water. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, then add to the meat (or meat/bean) mixture. Gently warm the meat/bean/rice mixture.
  • In the now empty rice dish, place 1 tablespoon dehydrated salsa, add 1 tablespoon water. Let sit for a few minutes, stir.
  • To serve, scoop the beef/bean/rice mixture onto your dish, then add salsa.
  • If you have it: add a little dehydrated cheese after adding the rice to the meat/bean mixture.

There are a lot of good dehydrating cookbooks available and many of these are written for backpackers, so the menus include meals that use very little fuel. Typically the recipes call for all dehydrated food and water. I’ve tried to create recipes that use a mixture of canned and dehydrated foods.

Good dehydrating cookbooks:

Mary Bell’s Complete Dehydrator Cookbook by Mary Bell Great book for first time dehydrating. She gives examples on how to dry almost everything. Also has some recipes for using dehydrated foods.

Trail Food by Alan S. Kesselheim - easy to prepare and tasty recipes using dehydrated foods. I checked this one out from our library first, then decided to buy it.

Making and Using Dried Foods by Phyllis Hobson - she has information on both drying and using the dried foods. Good section on herbs.

The Dehydrator Bible by Jennifer MacKenzie, Jay Nutt and Don Mercer - a complete guide with both dehydrating and cooking with dried foods. They use a wide variety of foods which would help prevent food fatigue in difficult times.

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Comments

  1. I think at least some (all?) vegetables should be blanched before dehydrating. http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09308.html

    • Garden Mom says:

      I don’t blanch celery, green/red/orange peppers, zucchini, etc.
      Green beans, carrots, potatoes are already cooked and I am dehydrating them as leftovers.

    • Your right, water cannot escape thick skinned (impermiable) vegies like corn or peas which is why most food storage companies “freeze dry” those vegetables. Imagine trying to blanch every kernal of corn or pea.

      • granny mae says:

        It is easy to blanch corn and peas for dehydrating. Simply cut corn off the cob and place in a wire colander over simmering water, place a lid on top of all and time for several minutes and the place on dehydrator trays and dry ! Peas are easy too. Simply shell and then follow the same directions as for corn! Blanching stops the enzyme action that causes foods to spoil. It sets this enzyme action and stops spoilage and sets the color .

  2. Excellent article. Loads of ideas I’d like to try; thank you for the time and trouble in sharing the findings of your experiments. I love soups and these are going to feature even more on my table now.

    One tiny quibble – you mentioned vitamins in the veg broth. Vitamins are destroyed by processing such as drying and cooking so what you will get is a great source of sustenance by way of energy and protein, but only the fresh stuff has the vitamins. We still need to grow/ forage some fresh stuff no matter how well stocked our store cupboards are.

    If you consider doing any follow up info, it would be useful to hear about the failures, to give us a better idea of the limitations.

    • Garden Mom says:

      According to Mary Bell’s book, food dehydrated at home loses a minimal amount of nutrients. Food dehydrated commercially loses more nutrients. Vitamin A is retained (store carrots, green peppers, and others in a dark location because light destroys it.) Vitamin C is lost a bit due to cut and the air flow. Calories remain the same. Dried foods are high in fiber and this stays the same when dehydrated.
      I once let beef jerky dry too long, but my husband sprinkled a little water then in the baggie, which it seemed to reabsorb. We tend to eat the jerky fast, so no mold. But I have been more careful since then.

      • Mike Undercofler says:

        The reason for the higher losses in commercial drying is the higher temperatures used. Commercial outfits work on profits, so need higher volume, so they, basically overcook, rather than dry foods.

        Food that is dried by a high flow of cold air looses very little, other than water weight.

      • granny mae says:

        You are right about vitamins. Some are lost into the water so it is important to use the water from canned and rehydrated veggies. Also some vitamins are lost due to high heat but not all , so there is always something left that is good for you, however please remember to stock some vitamin tablets to take every day when worse comes to worse. If you can’t use the liquid from the veggies in one dish then use it in another, such as making gravy, use in stuffing as a side dish or even to help in making your instant mashed potatoes. Do not waste any of it. Another thing not to waste is your sour milk ! If you have some that has soured then use it in pancakes, biscuits, corn bread or even make a chocolate cake ! You cannot taste the sour milk but it is wonderful in these items and has a lot of enzymes and friendly bacteria in it for our internal systems !

    • Garden Mom says:

      I thought of another failure – only use clear liquids to rehydrate foods (ex. water, clear liquid from canned vegetables and fruits, fruit juice). One time I used the liquid from diced tomatoes, but it was thicker than water and the food did not rehydrate completely. Maybe if I had used the tomato liquid with additional water it would have worked, but then the measurements would have been different. I’ll have to try it again that way.

      • granny mae says:

        Garden Mom,
        Maybe the problem had to do with the acid in the tomato water and not just the liquid. I don’t know but it is a possibility ! I do know that tomatoes will hinder dried beans from rehydrating and cooking quickly, so we leave them out till the beans are about done and then add tomatoes or their liquid. It is just a suggestion.

        • Garden Mom says:

          I didn’t know that about tomatoes and beans. Interesting and thanks for sharing that. I have used apple juice to rehydrate oatmeal and that was really yummy, so maybe it is a tomato thing.

  3. MtWoman (N Texas) says:

    Garden Mom…some great ideas and info here….thanks!! I, too, dehydrate leftovers…a good feeling in this time of rising food prices.

    As far as storage, I use a vacuum sealer (“Food Saver”) and keep the bags in their own bin, sorted as to vege, fruit, snacks, etc. Any meat I dehydrate goes in the freezer just to be double sure. I’ve made some really good venison jerky with my dehydrator.

    I did an experiment recently with some dehydrated vegetables of different types: i ground them up together and made an ‘instant’ soup powder. Came out ok. Could be good for camping or BO.

    The other thing I found is that it takes a LOT LESS dehydrated veges (by weight) to fill a pot! Found that out by trial…and error: I put so many veges in the pot (to make soup) that I had to keep adding more liquid and it filled the (big) pot. We were eating re-hydrated vege soup for days, much to the chagrin of my father (who I take care of).

    I am SO happy to have a dehydrator (a gift from a friend)!

  4. MtWoman (N Texas) says:

    PS: I made good pumpkin “candy” by cooking the pumpkin in sugar water, then sprinkling with sugar and drying in the dehydrator. Yum.

    I’ve also made candied lemon and orange peel…a great “waste saver”.

    Dried garlic works really well too.

    • Garden Mom says:

      Great ideas! I saw a recipe for candied citrus peels in Mary Bell’s book, but I haven’t tried it yet.
      Pumpkin candy – wow – that sounds great too.

      • granny mae says:

        Pumpkin candy sounds good to me too ! Yumm, Yum !
        I love this blog. So much to learn even for an old granny like me ! Keep up the good work and God Bless !

        • MtWoman (N Texas) says:

          Here’s the recipe I used for Candied Pumpkin:

          One 5# pumpkin
          5 cups sugar
          1 TBL baking soda
          water

          Peel & seed pumpkin; cut in 2 X 4″ strips.
          Stir baking soda into enough water to cover strips, and let soak for 12 hours.
          Drain and wash strips in running water.
          Drop pumpkin pieces into pot of boiling water, and cook until tender, but not soft. Watch this step…more firm is better than more soft.
          Remove and crisp in ice water and drain well.
          Mix sugar with 1 C water and boil 10 minutes.
          Add pumpkin pieces and simmer in covered pot until syrup is thick and strips are harder.
          Spread strips to dry.
          (After I let them dry for a couple hours, I decided to put them in the dehydrator, and dried them until they got hard on the outside, with sugar crystallization, and yet soft inside.)

          I will be experimenting with spices added to this recipe and trying it with different squashes. It’s pretty neat stuff.

          • Mt. Woman,
            Oooooooo! This sounds delish! Thank you. I have 3 pumpkins that are looking for a home. And this is it.

  5. My dehydrator is one of my best friends. Usually, after Thanksgiving, I end up putting the turkey into bags in the freezer, where they sit until I need to take them out for more room and feed it to the dogs.

    This year, I chopped the leftovers into cubes and dehydrated it and added it to my food stores.

    I recently decided to move my freezer from the deck to under the house, where it will experience less extreme temps – however it is FULL. I still have a couple of turkeys in if from over a year ago, and vegetables from the garden – which are coming out and being dehydrated until it is empty enough to move.

    Dehydrated food is lighter and takes up less space in your stores. My suggestion to Garden Mom is to buy mylar bags to store the baggies of food in. It is less likely that critters will be able to smell your contents and decide to help themselves to your stores. You can buy mylar bags from a Mormon Bishops warehouse if you have one close (these are really nice thick bags) , or from ebay.

    Mylar bags are easily sealed with an iron. I was worried about this because I have a really nice iron and was afraid it would leave some residue – but it doesn’t. Set the iron to Cotton, put the end of the bag against something that is solid and can take the heat (I use a wooden dowel), making sure there are no wrinkles where you are sealing, then run the iron across the bag for a few seconds.

    If you also placed an oxygen absorber in the mylar bag, it will look vacuum packed overnight. The oxy absorbers for the gallon bags run about 10 cents each. However, you need to keep them in a tightly sealed container if you buy them in bulk like I do and again, the Mormons have thought of everything, and have a bag clip that seals the packages down tight for $1.90.

    • Hunker-Down says:

      Michelle,

      Veggies from garden, to freezer, to dehydrator: what a concept!
      That idea will allow us to shift work to a more relaxed time. Us old folk cant put in a decent days work anymore. Trying to keep up with tomato and zucchini garden production, all going directly to the dehydrator is too much labor all at once. With your idea we will go from freezer to dehydrator during the long winter months. THANKS!

    • When bagging dehydrated food in Mylar bags, along with the O2 Absorber, it could be useful to also include a dessicant package to absorb any latent moisture, and keep things dehydrated.

    • Garden Mom says:

      Good ideas – I keep my dehydrated foods in the freezer, but it is getting full! I haven’t tried mylar bags yet – time for me to learn something new.

    • granny mae says:

      Michele,
      Very good suggestions. I use the mylar bags and my vacuum sealer. I place what I’m going to store in the bag and then I iron the top to just a space large enough to stick the plastic hose from my sealer in it, then seal right up tight to the hose and turn on the vacuum sealer and suck all the air out; quickly pull the hose out and slide the iron over the opening and you are good to go. I have even done this with my corn and wheat that I get in bulk and seal in big buckets ! Works well for me. I also put some oxygen absorbers in the bag of grains when I’m sealing them when I have them !

  6. Great information.

    I never thought about dehydrating foods I had already cooked. I thought mostly about fruits and some veggies. It makes me want to go out and buy a dehydrator and get busy!

    • granny mae says:

      Please do get a dehydrator. Once you have trained yourself to use it instead of setting it on a shelf, like I did for a couple years, you will love it and it will make a lot of things so much easier for you. I won’t be without my dehydrator or my vacuum sealer. I love them both. Another thing I won’t be without is my presure cooker canner ! I have been canning for over 40 years now and learn something new all the time.

  7. Thank you Garden mom. This inspires me to pull my dehydrator out and give it another go. I almost threw it through the window last year when I tried to make jerky and I realized I didn’t give the meat long enough to dehydrate because when I sealed it up mold developed within a couple days. I was so angry because I had wasted about 2 pounds of venison. Thank you for the inspiration and recipes.

    • Jennifer (Prepping Wife) says:

      YIKES! I would have been super upset too! Good luck to you next time. I havent tried this yet but I really want too!

      • I realize now that I needed to slice it much thinner and let it dehydrate much longer. I am just timid to try it again because I wasted such fantastic meat. I will try again, but start out with a much smaller amount.

        • granny mae says:

          remember that there are a lot of factors that can influence how long to dry something. Such as is it raining outside or maybe even just high humidity? Are you doing something else in the house that might cause the humidity to be higher than normal inside. It is not a big problem as long as you keep in mind that you will have to dry it longer. Another thing, if you put the food in the dehydrator and it turns off before you can get to it , it will absorb moisture out of the air. This doesn’t have to be a problem as long as you think to turn it back on and run it until it is very dry again. Once the food is dry take care of it quickly so it doesn’t reabsorb more moisture ! I had to learn this the hard way myself ! One good thing though , lessons learned the hard way are seldom forgotten !

    • MtWoman (N Texas) says:

      HBMom…I put my venison (after marinating) in a low temp oven for awhile before putting it in the dehydrator.

      I’m glad the mold showed up, so you knew it was bad!

    • Garden Mom says:

      The timing was the hardest part for me to understand. I was used to canning with the very precise times. Try something that can be overdried and crumbled into powder – tomato sauce, for example. That way you will have a success. I grow zucchini every year because of this same reason ;-)

  8. Hunker-Down says:

    Garden Mom,

    Thank you for sharing your expertise on dehydrating. It is very timely for us as I am (no longer) wondering what to dehydrate to support Gayles recent article on Oatmeal. We plan to buy rolled oats because of the 15-20 year shelf life and want to expand the variety of ingredients to the limit, to avoid diet fatigue.

    Your methods open up a whole new arena of opportunities in dehydrating food for long term storage. I especially like the examples you provide at the end of each topic, they put pictures in my mind of how, and what to do.

    We have the Excalibur book, “Preserve It Naturally”, subtitle, “The Complete Guide to Food Dehydration”.
    Well, if anyone prints your article they can skip the book: you blew them right out of the kitchen!

  9. Great article. Thank you.
    I do have one question. Why are you dehydrating pasta and rice? Unless you have fresh pasta it is already dehydrated (dry). Rice always comes dehydrated (dry). If you are cooking them first, that would be a waste of time as rehydrating them is virtually the equivalent of cooking since you will need some heat for it to be fully effective. In other words, if you just want to save on the reheating, jar or can the pasta and they can be eaten cold with no additional work.

    • tjg,
      I had the same question. The LDS information lists properly stored pasta and rice at 30 years with nothing more than an O2 absorber. Cooking and dehydrating does sound like additional time and energy.

    • Garden Mom says:

      I dehydrate the leftover (already cooked) pasta and rice to save on cooking times. I don’t cook extra to dehydrate intentionally, but our teenage son is learning to cook and he often makes more than he needs.
      For pasta – you don’t need to cook it at all to rehydrate it. If there is a grid down situation, my fuel will be very limited. This way I can make pasta salads without any cooking of pasta first. I didn’t know that you could can pasta – my canning recipes suggest that you make the soup or sauce without pasta, then cook the pasta when you use the canned soup or sauce. Do you have a recipe for canning pasta? I am happy with the results of dehydrating, but I think it is smart to have options.
      For rice – I rehydrate it and then warm it,usually in soup. I haven’t been successful rehydrating rice and eating it cold. It seems to taste better warmed also. Does anyone make rice pudding? I have heard of it but never made it, maybe this rice would work cold(rehydrated) for rice pudding?

      • Garden Mom,
        What I mean by canning in this instance is essentially the same as what you do with Mylar bags. You place dry pasta into a #10 can, add an O2 absorber, place the lid on the can and seal it. This is done generally at the LDS cannery where they have the can sealing equipment available. You can do a similar thing with Mylar bags and O2 absorbers with nothing more than an iron.

      • granny mae says:

        My experience with canning pasta has been that it turns out mushy and does not result in a good product. Now the dry canning is not necessary. Just store it away in glass or metal containers and it keeps very well. I have many boxes stored in a large plastic tote. The dehydrating it from a meal is a great idea and I am going to do this myself. It is new to me ! Thank’s
        As for Rice pudding I make it all the time when I have left over rice but I don’t use a measure !!! I take a couple cups of cooked rice and add a cup or so of milk to which I have beaten an egg or two in the milk. I add sugar to my liking and some nutmeg and then bake it at 350 degrees for maybe 45 min.to an hour ! Sorry but I do a lot of things like that, by guess and by golly !

        • granny mae,
          How long will it keep in a glass or metal container with no other prep. Dry canning or bagging with a O2 absorbers will keep for 30+ years.

    • Dry pasta out of the bag or box is not cooked. This is not the same thing as “dehydrated” pasta. I have been dehydrating cooked pasta and then packaging for long term storage. While cooking dry pasta in boiling water can take 10-15 minutes or more, rehydrating (the dehydrated) cooked pasta takes much less time. If your water is hot a 5 minute or so soak will return the pasta to it’s cooked state and is ready to serve. If cold water is used it might take 20+ minutes to fully rehydrate. I am doing this now when clean water is easily available, I can cook in my house on my stove and not over a campfire. Rehydration is quick versus bringing water to boil and waiting for it to finish. Roughly a cup of dehydrated pasta needs less than a half cup of water to rehydrate. Less fuel, water, and heat is required to prepare the meal when you want it. Think of people displaced by hurricanes, tornadoes, power grid down, etc. and have to fend for themselves out in the open. Wouldn’t you need fewer precious resources (water, fuel) to get your family fed if you had your pasta ready in 5 minutes? I have bags of pasta waiting for the stovetop and dehydrator. It’s also much easier on the nose during the winter months when the house is closed up. No lingering strong aromas. And it adds moisture to a dry house, an added bonus since I won’t be doing this during a muggy August day.

  10. I have been dehydrating for about a year mainly because I do not have a lot of storage room ( no basement) and needed to maximize space. The initial investment for a dehyadrator was steep $249 for a 9 tray Excalibur with timer ( timer is important) but it has been wonderful. The more you use it the more your creativity will reward you. I love Mary Bell’s book, a bit old school but it’s reasonably priced gets you moving. Garden Mom did not mention the need for pretreating (blanching and treating with citric acid soluntion to preserve color…you eat with your eyes first), these concepts are very important if you are going to hold food for a long period of time. I have found using quart canning jars with O2 packets and a Food Saver quart jar attachment works well. You can easily see what you want, open the container and then reaseal with the attachment. There is no reason for anything to ever go to waste…ever! You can take advantage of store sales and seasonal produce (peak is best)…rehydrate it. You can even dehydrate those huge 4-5# bags of frozen corn and peas, (don’t care for the way beans turned out). For the campers and backpackers out there you can create your own meals at very little cost, pack in mylar bags and put Mountain House to shame. Just saying…it opens up a whole new world. Thanks Garden Mom for bringing up a topic that hasn’t been given adeqated attention.

    • Garden Mom says:

      I don’t pretreat. For fruits there are some who use a citrus dip like you mentioned or sulphuring (which sounded scary to me). I am fine with my apple pieces being tan in color. Mary Bell wrote that dipping was optional, so I just dried the apples without dipping.
      Another reader asked about the blanching, but as I use already cooked vegetables, I haven’t blanched either. If a reader comes across a good price for fresh veggies and wants to dehydrate them, check the little book that comes with the dehydrator to read about blanching.

      • granny mae says:

        The citrus dip is done with fruit fresh and all it is , is citric acid, better known as vitamin C. You can also use lemon or lime juice or even orange juice. I stay away from sulfer ! I have even heard of different ones using vitamin C capsuls when they were out of fruit fresh. I guess they pull the capsuls apart and empty the powder in a dish of water and stir to dissolve . I haven’t done this but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work.

  11. JeffintheWest says:

    Dehydrating really is an excellent and easy way to preserve some foods — at least as long as you have electricity for the dryer. So maybe the best idea is to invest now, experiment a bit and then start drying the foods you really like that way.

    For some excellent beef jerky, try investing in a good medium quality steak (say club or porterhouse) which you will cut into strips as suggested above (you can tenderize the steak before cutting, but it’s not really necessary) and then soak it for about 12 hours in Claude’s Marinade (hard to find, but worth every penny — it used to be sold only in Texas, but lately I’ve seen it in places like Fry’s and Smith’s). When cutting the strips, I’ve found it best to cut “with the grain” of the steak. You’ll be soaking the steak strips in the refrigerator to avoid any spoilage, so you’ll need to clear a shelf in there for your tub(s). Use a medium size plastic tub (it will handle a medium sized steak) and just lay your steak strips in it so that they are flat and don’t overlap too much. Put enough marinade in to make sure there is plenty to go around, but you don’t need to cover the strips. Turn the steak strips over about every 3-4 hours to make sure all sides of the steak are marinated. After about 12 hours (you can go longer if you want) lay the steak strips in your drying trays and set them in the dehydrator. I position each drying tray so that the steak strips are at 90 degree angles to each other to increase the air flow. I then set the drying temp (Garden Mom’s suggested range is good — I shoot for the lower end of that range and increase the time for this recipe) and let it dry overnight. The whole house smells like beef jerky and I’ve actually had neighbors come over to find out what I was “cooking,” so survivalists beware — if you do this after the SHTF, you may be inviting the entire countryside over to your secret location. In the morning I check the strips and let it continue as long as necessary to get that nice leathery look. The jerky tastes fantastic and will keep for quite a while if stored properly (I’ve never had a batch go “bad” on me, but then I’ve never had a batch last more than a month or two before it was eaten). I used to occasionally give this jerky as a Christmas present to my ex’s family and I don’t think a bag of jerky ever survived Christmas day — including a five-pound bag I gave to her Grandfather one year!

  12. Great article. I want to start dehydrating also. I learn so much from everyone on here.

  13. Thank You Garden Mom!
    I have been canning and preserving food for years. Since I have literally run out of room for jars and buckets, I have started dehydrating like crazy. I have not tried the dairy, but will certainly do it now. I think I will try some today.
    I do everything BIG, in bulk, because I have a large family and put up for others in our retreat group. It is a normal day for me to put up a hundred quarts out of my 2 acre garden. So, I need to work efficient and fast.
    I have 6 dehydrators, I bought at garage sales and thrift stores. I didn’t pay more than 5.00 each. We have been experimenting with solar dehydrators and I found a large homeade one thats works but takes a too long for some items and I was forced to add a small fan to keep the food from cooking and/or spoiling.
    We have four hunters in the family. I get so much venison and elk, I usually turn at least one whole mule deer into jerky. I use my house oven on the lowest setting and use a wooden spoon to hold the door open a crack to let moisture escape. I use the racks from the solar oven mentioned above with foil on the bottom to catch drips. I can process and dry one in 2 days.
    I will be experimenting this summer with a gutted van. No kidding, I need more room. We will install bread racks and replace one window with a screen. If it works, we will be installng it permanently and of course I will have to do something cool, like paint it and turn it into yard art. Plant herbs around it and make it look pretty. :)

    • Garden Mom says:

      Wow – you rock! I have two little chicken legs and three stalks of celery in my one dehydrator right now. I can just imagine your wonderful setup.

      • granny mae says:

        Wow , I do things on a large scale too because I too have a large family but not quite on the scale that you do. Good for you !

        • granny mae says:

          Plus I have to do all my preparing from a mobility chair ! It was hard at first but now I whip around real well. Takes time to get things arranged to suit but it is all good now ! LOL !

          • Go Granny Mae!
            I’ll be right there with you one day. I already told my DH that he was going to have to build us some raised beds so we can garden from our chairs.

    • And I though I had it together. You ROCK Mama J!

      • Aw shucks~kickin the dirt with my boot~Thanks girls. I think it is called OCD and lots of years of paranoia mixed with a healthy dose of prepper fever.
        Actually when you get set up right, it is very easy to deal with that much food.
        Well, and a hubby that does whatever I ask, who likes to build stuff, like outdoor canning kitchens. And still thinks I am sexy covered in sweat, with a dirty apron on.

        • granny mae says:

          Mama J,
          LOL ! I love your sense of humor. If your like me sometimes that is al that carries you through. I too have a hubby that is good at helping and very good with projects!
          We are so blessed !

    • The Blue Ghost says:

      Sounds like you may want to go the next step like a friend of mine. She runs a 2 acre organic farm, with a shop selling fresh and processed food, as well as a full range of organic products. She has recently got into the “raw food” arena, and is moving from a group of home dehydrators to a huge operation. She got the back off an old refrigerated truck (although I think a refrigerated shipping container would be about the same size), and is now fitting it out with racks and fans. It uses solar-heated water as the heat source, pumped around inside each cabinet – radiator style. It will all be electronically controlled using thermostats. My husband helped design it, and it is now partially in operation. Eventually it will have PV panels supplying the pump electricity, and captured rainwater circulating in the radiators. All seriously eco-friendly!

      • Blue Ghost,
        Holy smokes! That sounds incredible! What a great business. I am a terrible business person because I want to give everything away.
        We allow up to six families a year, to spend a summer with us and learn to grow. Every family has moved on to grow there own large gardens. Most living in town. In slow years, when I don’t have alot of people joining me. I sell the produce. I have a little shop in front of our farm. And post a sign for fresh produce available. I do OK. I sell ALOT OF EGGS! I can’t sell my jellies, and canned goods, Dang USDA! So I barter. I can get just about anything I need with Jalapeno Jelly as currency. It is funny actually.

  14. Exceptionally good post.
    Good inspiration to use my dehydrator.
    Thanks Garden Mom.

  15. sw't tater says:

    Like Tricia, I do not have much storage space…so I was blesssed to find two dehydrators this past year at the Goodwill stores. One is a 12 tray model that has no thermostat, and the other has a it.But at 5$ each I could not pass them up.
    There are detailed instructions ,online at several sites, which give which vegetables require pre-treatments.. Some do, like potatoes…but ….cucumber( good for dipping chips),okra, yellow squash, zucchini,carrots and celery do not. These were what I was had the most access to this year, and I am planning to plant more of these the coming year. All of these can be eaten raw, or rehydrated and or cooked if desired..the zucchini and yellow squash are very sweet. I also dried some spearmint and everlasting.
    I reused Bama jelly jars and other”throw away” but resealable jars for these purposes, keeping my true canning jars open for canning needs. I placed moisture absorbers from pharmacy products into each jar. I have used some of them, just enough to test, and months late have had no spoilage.

    • Garden Mom says:

      Great to know this idea about your jars. I have everything in the freezer, but it is taking up too much room. I will try your idea.

      • granny mae says:

        Garden Mom,
        Have you tried to seal your jars with a vacuum sealer? I don’t have the attachment for mine but I think it would be a good investment especially for things like herbs or dried goods that are taking up space in your freezer !

  16. One of my favorite thickeners for soups, stews and chili is ground, dried, smoked tomatoes. I slice tomatoes (fresh from my garden), dry them, then run them through the smoker. When I need some I use a dedicated coffee grinder to powder them. Roma’s work best for this. I have used tomatoes bought from the farm down the road ($5 for 25 pounds when they are picking) but they grow the store tomatoes that are so full of water that a whole box of them dehydrated fits in one gallon freezer bag.

    • Garden Mom says:

      This sounds really good. I haven’t dried fresh tomatoes yet, thanks for the recipe.

  17. Great article – thank you! What is the shelf life of dehydrated foods?

    • OnlyMe,
      I suspect it would depend on the food. The only one I know for sure are dehydrated apples which I purchse from the LDS Storehouse. Stored in cans with O2 absorbers these are listed at 30 years. My understanding is that when using Mylar bags for such things the storage life may be shortened to as little as only 20 years.

    • Garden Mom says:

      For your own dehydrated foods, Mary Bell recommends one year. I keep mine in the freezer to extend that, but other readers have suggested mylar bags or reusable jars with O2 absorbers to increase the shelf life.
      Commercially dehydrated and sealed foods (like from Emergency Essentials) has a much longer shelf life – 30 years I think for most products.

      • granny mae says:

        The shelf life of all dehydrated food depends on how cool you keep them and also sometimes if they are kept in the dark. Do not store your food storage in the garage if it gets over 60 degrees because it will shorten the shelf life of your food sometimes , down to one year from 20 or 30 years. Storage sheds are also a no, no. Unless you can afford to air-condition the shed. The major factor here is the cooler the better always.
        You also may want to protect some things from freezing such as home canned foods. My friend had her food storage in her garage and lost all of it because of the heat ! She lives i Florida !
        I wish I had known she was doing that or was going to do that, I could have saved her a lot of money !

  18. Muddy Fork says:

    Garden Mom
    Great post! I have been dehydrating frozen vegetables for some time now. One pound of most veggies fit nicely on each tray of my dehydrator. Since most recipes call for a pound this is great. After dehydration is complete I measure each tray (pound) of product so I can accurately scoop out an appropriate amount for the meal. The conversion rate from dry to rehydrated is written on a gallon zip lock and filed in a metal file cabinet. A gallon bag will hold about 8-10 pounds of product depending on the veggie. I have used vacuum bags with very good success and will soon try mylar with o2. My DW filled several mason jars which we use for decoration. We also use the jarred product to cook from and refill the jars as needed from the filing cabinet stock. The jars are not vacuumed sealed but could be very easily.
    I tested complete meals like hamburger helper and chili in the dehydrator. I was shocked at how easy it was to dehydrate and rehydrate the items and the taste was perfect.
    The frozen veggies I normal do are corn, peas, mixed vegetables, hash brown potatoes (cubes), green beans and carrots. Since all the products are blanched prior to freezing I save some labor and time. I have found that lining the dehydrator trays with a close knit plastic mesh called plastic canvas helps in drying time and keeps the items from falling through to the next tray. I found the stuff at Hobby Lobby.
    A cup of the dried mixed veggies and a cup or two of the dried hash browns makes a great vegetable soup. Be sure not to add the potatoes until the soup is almost done. They tend to breakdown fast and over thicken the soup. I don’t recall how much water I used but you can always add some during the cooking process. Since my garden failed so miserably last summer I’m very glad to have these long term vegetables stored.
    After reading Garden Mom’s posting I plan to fire up the dehydrator for leftovers this weekend. Thanks again for the ideas.

    • Muddy Fork,
      You can also line the trays with simple nylon screen of the type used in windows and doors. It is available from places like Lowe’s, Home Depot, and your local hardware store, and is fairly inexpensive.

    • Garden Mom says:

      Muddy Fork, Thanks for the tip on conversions between original weight and dehydrated. I love that you have it recorded twice – another item for my “to do” list. I had only dehydrated meals as separate pieces, but I will also try them as complete meals. It is a great way to make a MARE (Meal Almost Ready to Eat). Cubed potatoes are new to me also. Thanks for sharing.

  19. Garden Mom,

    This is a great article. Thanks for writing it. I want a dehydrator. I can’t decide if my next major purchase will be a Berkey or a Excaliber. (I have a filtered water bottle that I got from the LDS Store online.)

    I would like to hear more about your two acre garden. Wow. I wish I had that much space.

    • Mother Earth says:

      I would also like to hear about your garden. I grow a garden (50x60ft) maybe? Would love to know what crops you grow. I’m looking for some new ideas…always!

    • Garden Mom says:

      Mama J will have to give us the details on her 2 acre garden – I only wish for that much space.
      If your oven can get a temperature as low as 130-140, you can start dehydrating that way and buy the Berkey.

  20. Thank you Garden Mom. This came out at the perfect time for me, as I got a dehydrator for Christmas. I was hoping it would come with maybe a recipe or two at leas, but it came only with the basic instructions. So thank you for the great ideas.

    • Garden Mom says:

      You can also check online sources, especially backpacking websites, for recipes. Backpackingchef.com is one site I have used for recipe ideas. This was where I first read about dehydrating rice.

  21. Chonte' in MD says:

    Garden Mom,
    Thanks for this article. i live in a small apartment and i have VERY minimal storage space left, i was thinking about getting a canner but i would have no where to store all the jars. i see dehydrators on sale locally ALL the time and have always debated buying one. my daughter loves fruit leather and it great that i will be able to make my own in all her favorite flavors! thanks!!

    • Garden Mom says:

      I have to warn you about fruit leather – none of mine makes it to long term storage. The kids (and DH) find it and eat it up!

  22. SrvivlSally says:

    Garden Mom,
    Absolutely enjoyed your article with all of the excellent ideas. With a reduction in the size of stored food, allowing for more to fit in the freezer…now that is a survival tool that no one can pass up. My printer is going to enjoy waking up to your article. Thanks, Garden Mom.

  23. I have had such fun with the gifted Ronco my sister bought me. I have made jerky and dried lots of store bought tomato’s, bell peppers, etc. Onions when they finally start to dry stink, but it goes aways as they continue to dry.
    I tend to dry all the things rather crispy. I figure that way there is no moisture to worry about.
    Everyone has mentioned blanching, frozen vegi’s don’t require it.
    Also the reason I love my Ronco if there is no electricity I can use the trays outside in the summer. I love duel-purposing.
    I hope to invest in another Ronco. That way I will have double now and later with the idea of duel use.
    I think I will try cheese sometime when I have energy and thinking power working at the same time.
    Thanks for the article.

  24. Great article! I picked up two small, round dehydrators at a yard sale and at a thrift store, 5 bucks apiece! needless to say they’ve been worth their price many times over!

    I have a recipe to share. Mushrooms dry well, so any time I get surplus mushrooms I dry them. All I do is rinse them and pat them dry, add a little salt, onion powder and garlic powder and put them in the dehydrators. I’d love to tell you they are great in recipes, as I am sure they are, but to tell the truth I don’t know. In all my many attempts to try them, they never made it to a recipe. The kids think they are the best chips in the world. :)

    • MtWoman (N Texas) says:

      I am going to try those mushrooms!!! I love mushrooms, and this sounds good!

    • Those mushrooms do sound good! Have you tried it with sliced mushrooms or just whole, Rhenda?

      Garden Mom, thanks for your expertise and insights. I’m another proud new dehydrator owner and look forward to putting it to good use, with your helpful tips.

    • I gather around 30 (or so) lbs of wild mushrooms every (wet) summer and they are stored best dehydrated. They are fabulous!
      I have coaxed some Royal Oyster and Shaggy Manes to grow on hay bales and the garden.
      All mushrooms are great rehydrated. My fav….I soak Chantrelles in water and mix into scrambled eggs. Throw a handful of any kind into soups, stews, rice and pasta.

  25. Thanks for the great article. I buy frozen veggies on sale and have been dehydrating them, but never thought to do leftovers or cheese. That will be my next project. I buy roasts when they are buy one get one free and have the store slice them for my jerky.

  26. Ridge Runner says:

    Great article, but MD, what happened to the link that allowed us to convert articles to PDF’s? Maybe I’m blind, but I thought it used to be at the end of each post just before the comments link.

    Thanks MD and thank you Garden Mom

    • Ridge Runner,
      The plugin messed up so I had to remove it until I figure it out…

      • Try “Cute Writer”. It’s the same type thing. I’ve had it a long time
        and it works great. :)

      • Get the free application PdfCreator. When installed it just shows up as another printer selection, allows you to enter a file name and a directory to store the files, and you have a pdf. Unlike the plugin, it allows you to convert anything you would normally print into a pdf.

  27. CountryGirl says:

    Your dehydrator will pull air from your house through/past your food. Every germ, mold spore, dust particle, hair, pet dander, dead skin cells, smoke, etc. will be stuck to the surface of your food. Depending on how long you run your dehydrator the total volume of air (and pollutants) may circulate past your food 10-20 times. Good luck.

    • Hunker-Down says:

      What about all the gorillas that coughed past the grocery store food that you bought walking a half hour behind them? That’s why God gave us an immune system, then a dehydrator.

      • And what about the pickers?

        We live in a food bowl area and have a huge influx of seasonal workers at harvest time. They are not hygenic, the food goes straight from their hands to the packing shed where it’s packed by hand. Then it goes through a varying array of transporters to arrive at the supermarket to be coughed on.

        We breathe in our home contaminates constantly and babies and small children eat more than their fair share of dust, hair, dirt and bugs.

        I wouldn’t be too concerned about this, er, contamination.

    • MtWoman (N Texas) says:

      Country Girl…people have been using dehydrators for a long time, without problems like you say. And, some dehydrators have filters the air goes through…and some don’t even have a fan…it just heats the food stuff.

      Besides, if the air in your house is full of all that stuff you mentioned, and that bad to begin with, you’ve got problems other than how the dehydrated food will be.

    • AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!! That must be why my gramma only made it to 101 years old!

    • So do you suggest any mitigating steps (installing an air filter, only dehydrating foods that would be cooked, using a solar dehydrator) or do you just not advocate dehydrating at all?

      I wouldn’t think the little blower on my dehydrator would have the power to move the air volume of a whole house; seems like most of the air sucked in the back would be the air it just blew out the front. . . .

    • Country Girl,
      Really? What a bizarre thing to say.

    • SrvivlSally says:

      CountryGirl,
      Where there is no moisture, germs cannot live, feed, breed or grow. Dehydrating removes all of the moisture so there is little to worry about. When it goes into the freezer, everything stops and then the food is going to be cooked when it is used anyhow so it is not likely that anything is going to survive. And, when the stuff hits the fan and people are hungry, very few of them are going to be thinking about germs when their stomachs will not leave them alone.

      • SrvivlSally says:

        Pork rinds, yuuuummmmmm! Ain’t their skin tasty?!! What an ideal dehydrated food source they are.

    • Country Girl,
      I have to admit that your cup~half~empty response got me worked up. But, in a good way.
      First of all, let me remind you that EVERYTHING that comes to you as food is grown, fed or created from a wonderous thing called soil. One cubic yard of this miracle fluff has more worms, arthropods and micro organisms in it than all the pollulation of human beings on the planet. Included in that mixture are eons of decomposed animals, human bodies, minerals, chemicals, and some man made nasties that make all of that sound down right pleasant.
      I am happy to say that in my completely organic garden I add tons (literally) of horse, cow and pig manure. Yum. The micro nasties LOVE it and grow the most beautiful produce you have ever seen.
      Our digestive flora is the most important part of our immune systems, and literally feeds the mechanical parts of our bodies to live. Children should be allow to play in dirt and as adults we should not live in fear of dust, pet dander, and germs. It is what what we are made of.
      I have no animals in my house even though I live on a farm. I clean my house top to bottom weekly. I sweep. mop. and vacuum everyday. My kitchen is always immaculate. All while running a family farm and growing 80% of my own food. Why clean so much, you ask, if I love dirt so much? Well, I like to be organized and ready for the next dirty project.
      By nature everything you that you decribed is supposed to be there and I DO consider it good luck. We are truly fortunate.

      • granny mae says:

        Mama J,
        Very good post ! I too do my cleaning in what seems to be a constant mode. I would be very upset if someone thought my house was dirty. I too put all kinds of manure on my garden, why this last summer we even got several free loads of Donkey do ! We walked in it shoveled in it and the hubby even picked up a clump and threw it at the dog a time or two. Guess what? I can’t remember the last time he was sick and I’m doing just fine too ! No worries at this house !

  28. I’ve heard that the fruit leather trays can also be used to dehydrate stock for bullion. I have some rather gelatinous turkey stock that I could experiment with.

    I also think that I should make some cheese powder in the name of lazy. So far, the only “Mac and Cheese in the rice cooker” experiment that worked was when I dumped an envelope of Lipton cream-sauce noodles in.

    We also used the fruit leather tray for the onions since they were diced so fine. I wish I could remember what we wanted the onion powder for.

    • Garden Mom says:

      I love experimenting. And when you use leftovers, well, the food was going to be thrown away, so why not?
      I haven’t tried dehydrating stock, but it sounds like a great idea.
      LOL – about the onion powder.

      • granny mae says:

        LOL !

        I haven’t done stock but I did do milk !!! Turned out just fine except , with me sitting lower than my dehydrator I ended up with some of it spilled out of the tray befor I could get in in the dehydrator ! My dehydrator is on the same order as the Excalibur only it is an oldie from monkey Wards ! Still works great so it is staying. That will tell you I have had mine a long time ! I am loving all the info . on here and have learned many new things. Who say’s you can’t teach an old dog new tricks ? This is a wonderful sight so thanks to all. Keep up the good work and keep experimenting.

        • I find it easy and cheap enough to buy powdered milk. They use nonfat where I use 4%.

          Dehydrating turkey stock was a success. This was a very “soft set” gelatin, melted so that I wouldn’t overfill the tray, and then dried on the highest setting. (Jerky) Since I had a little fat residue, I’m storing it in the fridge.

    • Perhaps as flavouring for soup or stew? Or to sprinkle on a roast?

  29. Garden Mom says:

    I just have to say thanks to everyone here. I have had a hard time with my mother’s death this summer and this being our first Christmas without her. I have been a bit of a bummer around the house. Work today was a big drag, so I was down even more.
    Then, I came home to find that MD had posted my article and all the wonderful comments and suggestions – well, I just about cried. What a great evening! Thanks again to everyone. You are the greatest.

    • Garden Mom,

      God bless you… I’m so sorry to hear about your mother – I did not know her personally, but I’m sure she would not want you to be sad. Try not to think of her not being there, or that she is gone. Nope, instead think about the time you both spent together. No one can take that away…

    • Your mom would be really proud of you for overcoming your grief and writing such a clear, informative article to help your friends here. I bet she was looking down, grinning ear to ear as you drove home, waiting for you to discover how well received your effort was.

      Hang in there, dear. You are in our thoughts and prayers.

    • Garden Mom, many thanks to you for the time and effort that went into this post. Always learn something new. Everyone has so much info to contribute.

      My dehydrator is a huge money saver, space saver, nutrition saver, weight saver, time saver…could just keep on going. And I vac seal most of the produce.

      And I too store remainder in recycled glass jars.

      My apples and bananas don’t seem to last long at all – so healthy and easy to munch on. I don’t add any sugar – however I do toss them into a bowl of lemon juice and drain, and then just into dehydrator.

      Have dried lemon, lime and orange peel – and add a handful to steep in a teapot. One day, may grind this peel into powder to stir/add to a cold drink.

      The money savings by buying fruit/veges by the case when in season – and then dehydrated – I just had no idea before buying my 15 stack Ezidri Snackmaker 500.

      My dehydrator has earned its right to take up the space it does in my little ‘home’.

      And so impressed by the comments where pack have found dehydrators for a few bucks…wow. That is a huge return on investment.

      Had to buy mine new, and it has already paid for itself many times over and it is still going strong. Whereas I am already into my 3rd new vacuum sealer.

    • granny mae says:

      Garden Mom,

      I’m sorry for your loss and I understand where you are coming from. I went through a similar loss three years ago. Lost my father and my baby sister just a month apart and it was devestating. I know it is hard but there will come a time when you can put this where you will be able to live with it and even look back with fond and happy memories. Just hang in there and know you are not alone in this kind of suffering. God Bless.

  30. Wouldn’t it be a huge waist of time and energy to store dehydrated food in the freezer if the power to the freezer goes out? I thought the reason for dehydrating food was to be able to store food without having to freeze it?

    • Linda, since the author emphasized dehydrating leftovers, my impression was that these foods would have more fat and that the freezing would slow the onset of rancidity.

    • Mike Undercofler says:

      Correct Linda.

      The concept of dehydration is to remove ALL the water from a food item, and in doing so, you remove the basic thing that ALL life forms (including harmful bacteria) need. Done properly, dehydrated food needs no freezing.

      Stored properly, dehydrated food will keep well until it gains moisture. In plastic vacuum seal, that’s… well… longer than I plan for me and my wife, our son, or any grandchildren to be alive. Kept in an open container on a pantry shelf, probably a few months, depending on the relative humidity of your pantry.

    • SrvivlSally says:

      Linda,
      Lantana is right and so, anything that has fat in it should be stored in as cool an environment as you can find. Garden Mom has the right idea and that is to dehydrate uneaten foods and store them in a freezer. You have to appreciate the fact that her knowledge will help everyone save money, space and time. What a way to stretch the food dollars right now and when tshtf, it will be necessary to save all the uneaten goods that we can. If we only knew how much money she actually saves, it would probably be amazing.

  31. Southern Blonde says:

    Garden Mom:

    Great article! I must get a dehydrator! You have inspired us all to give it a try. What a great way to store for long-term. Also, I like the idea to make your own MRE’s. What a great idea. I watched several videos on Youtube and it seems pretty easy.

    Please tell us more about your 2 acre garden. That must be a dream come true. I want to get into gardening, but have only grown tomatoes a few years back. We would love to know what you grow, tips for successful crops, keeping critters away, insects, etc. Maybe another post for us? :)

    Ridge Runner–I just copied and pasted this article into Word, and it turns out nicely. This article is a keeper for future reference.

  32. Southern Blonde says:

    Garden Mom:

    I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your Mom. Holidays and especially AFTER the holidays are always hard when a loved one is gone. I just want you to know that your wonderful article has made many of us very happy and inspired us to try some of your great tricks of the trade. Although you are sad, please know that you just gave a wonderful gift to all the readers—a bit of yourself and sharing your knowledge. Bless you, and please know that you are not alone, especially on this wonderful blog.
    I lost my 16 year old son around the holidays several years ago, and my parents died 12 days apart six months after I lost my son. I know how you feel. It took me many years before I could even celebrate. MD is right–think of the good times and know that you have family here at this blog.

    • Garden Mom says:

      Southern Blonde – I am so sorry to hear about your loss. You do know how I feel, but I can’t imagine your extreme loss. I will keep you in my thoughts. Thank you for your kind words of encouragement.

  33. Garden Mom says:

    I think I am still a little nervous about dehydrating, especially since I have been canning for so long with everything so precise. I think I will try some suggestions from today by using “other” jars and an O2 absorber or the mylar bags. I hadn’t tried either of them.
    The other reason I keep it in the freezer is because I do use it, much more often than I had thought I would. Having the closeable bags right there in the kitchen (but in a cold spot) allows me to “use what I stored.”

  34. I love dehydrating bananas in bulk for camping etc. My biggest problem is I can’t replicate the tastless cardboard that passes for banana chips at the local supermarket! Mine actually taste like bananas, hmmmm.

  35. templar knight says:

    Great article, Garden Mom. You’ve inspired me to go out and get a dehydrator. I printed this one up for my folder, and I plan to start learning to dehydrate as soon as possible.

    I’m really sorry to hear about your mom. I know how rough that is as I lost my dad at an early age. Time will heal, and memories of the good times will make you smile. Thanks again, Garden Mom.

  36. We dry our field mushrooms and I powder them to add to soups and stews. None of the mushroom haters knows they’re there and we get an iron boost.
    I also dry vegetable peelings – like carrots- to powder and add for extra flavour.

    In winter I put a cake rack on top of our combustion stove. I’ve dried apple and tomatoes very well. You just need to turn the fruit every couple of hours and take off ones that dried quicker than the rest. When I had a new baby last winter I was up and down all night anyway so it was the perfect time to do it. Not much made it into jars though as I was constantly ‘testing’ to see if they were ready lol.

    • granny mae says:

      I know how that is when getting up with the baby in the middle of the night ! LOL ! I did several bushel of apples into apple sauce this fall and saved the pealings for two diffeent things. I made apple vinegar from most and then dried a bunch to powder up and add to tea this winter ! Good stuff !

  37. Mike Undercofler says:

    Excellent article; well written, and good information!

    I use a different method for drying (high volume cool air) and tend to dry my foods till there is no water (other than ambient humidity, of course) left, but agree with you, other than those two points.

    • Garden Mom says:

      Mike, Can you explain the drying method you use? Is there a particular brand of dehydrator that uses cool air? I hadn’t heard of this method – it sounds interesting. Can you make jerky using this method?

      • Mike Undercofler says:

        Jerky was the first thing we made. And the dryer is the simplest cheapest thing you could think of, a 20 inch box fan and two cotton furnace filters held by a couple bungee cords.

        The wife saw it in a show on food network, several years ago, and we decided to try it. It worked really great, so started trying other things, such as fruits.

        I have to admit, I’ve not tried left overs, we mainly use it for camping supplies.

  38. SurvivorDan says:

    Great stuff. Like to try it but I am a bit overwhelmed already with all that I do. Maybe I can get Mrs. S.D. on board. She stills snickers at the prepping though. Perhaps no mention of prepping but a nice dehydrator for her birthday……

  39. Excellent! M.D. thank you for giving people like Garden Mom the chance to teach us. I thought I used my dehydrator a lot, little did I know. So sorry to hear of the loss of your mother, G.M. I am grateful that she was a person who raised her daughter to be such a blessing to others. She must have been someone special.

  40. This has a lot of great tips here. Last spring I dehydrated a lot of strawberries and would like to make a batch of freezer jam. I am drooling just thinking about it. I can’t seem to find a recipe for using DH fruit for this jam. It calls for using 4 cups fresh, chopped fruit. Would I rehydrate 2 cups fruit (how much water?) to get my 4 cups fresh? when I get the right amount do I get rid of the water or leave it in? Please help!

    • Garden Mom says:

      Cat,
      What an interesting question. I have been looking through cookbooks and websites trying to find a recipe. It would be awesome to be able to make jam from dehydrated fruits. Here is link to a recipe at Emergency Essentials for mixed berry jam, but it calls for freeze-dried fruit. The amount is 4 cups, so I copied it here:

      http://beprepared.com/recipes.asp_Q_ai_E_66_A_name_E_Berry%20Blend%20Freezer%20Jam

      If you feel experimental, maybe you could adapt it to dehydrated strawberries. I will keep looking. Let us know if it works.

  41. Garden Mom, what shapes of pasta do you favor for dehydrating?

    The pasta I’ve set aside is mostly orzo, acini de pepe and angelhair because you can get more food/less air in a container (plus, we mainly eat pasta in soups and couscous-style salads). The volume by weight of bow ties, for example, was just 25% of what the container held when filled with a grain-shaped pasta.

    But shaped pastas seem more suitable for dehydrating since they could be spread out more easily. I like how the water-conserving prep option adds flexibility to the pantry, as well as variety in diet.

    Hmmm, maybe those bowties deserve some shelf space after all!

    • Garden Mom says:

      Lantana,
      Well, this is going to sound goofy, but I just dry whatever my son makes because he always makes a little too much. He mostly makes bowties, small and medium shells, rings, and elbows. The Dehydrator Bible suggests that you use “open” pasta so the air can get everywhere to dry them evenly. I suppose the elbows don’t fit this rule, but they seem to dry fine – I haven’t seen any mold. I use the small shells to make the pasta recipe I posted in the article. I am going to be more purposeful with my cooking and plan for leftovers to dry – so many great ideas from everyone.

  42. excellent article! i wish i was as accomplished with the dehydrator has you are.

  43. Awesome post! I just obtained a pressure canner over the holidays and am now looking for a dehydrator. I want to be able to do both. I have been searching the thrift stores for one for months and I refuse to give up. I may finally break down and buy a new one but I do hope to find a good used one.

  44. Mike Undercofler says:

    Garden Mom.

    I found a video of the show I mentioned. It’s on youtube at…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIK4DVLHf7Y

    • Mike Undercofler says:

      Well crap.

      I’m sorry, I didn’t notice that video was under the ten minute law. I found the full episode. It is here.

      http://youtu.be/0dG3NstIX7g

      Sorry about that.

      • Garden Mom says:

        Wow – that was really interesting. Have you dried other foods using this method? I would think you could and probably reuse the filters for things like veggies/fruit – if you used them right away for the next batch.
        Anyway, it was great and really got me thinking. Thanks for sharing.

  45. I thnk this is great info, but it requires power. What we would need Post-SHTF would be a 100% solar power dehydrator. Re-learn how to build an old fashioned Hot Box? Could this be done easy or convert an existing item like a mini-van? In the even there is no longer fuel and sufficient sunlight converting items like this would be a high priority (IMHO).

    • Bryce,
      I wrote on an earlier post that we bought an econoline van and gutted it. Put a screen in one window, drilled holes in the floor for drainage after cleaning, slid bread racks in it and will test it out this summer. I will document the data and share, probably in August. I am excited to see how well it works.

      • Your results will be of great assistance. I was also thinking something like this could be uses as a giant oven as well. We get a powerful tropical sun here 365 days year. Seems a shame to waste that.

      • granny mae says:

        Mama J
        You may want to put a little screen over the holes you drilled in the floor to keep out fly’s and other bugs that smell your goodie drying ! Gnats are a real pain ! Keep up the good work and it will work !

        • Bryce,
          We live at high altitude and have almost zero or little humidity most of the time. The sun shines an average of 350 days, so I hope we can make this work. We do get some summer afternoon rains in late July and August, so that will be interesting.

          Granny Mae,
          Yes, Mam. DH slid a rubber pick up bed truck liner on the floor after he drilled the holes. Put holes in the liner an inch from the holes in the van floor. So all I have to do is slide the liner over an inch, the holes are exposed, side it back and the holes are covered.
          He is a smart fella!
          Oh, I do have problems with the wildlife, I include bugs in that catagory. I have gone to great expense to protect my food from them.

    • Mike Undercofler says:

      Bryce

      Have you read any of the “Foxfire” books? There is a ton of good information to be had. Almost all of it deals with skills and methods that require nothing but what is available in the natural surroundings.

      There are a number of good “old timer” books that give good description of doing exactly what you want.

    • Bryce, I recently bought a very basic solar dehydrator (hanging shelf unit enclosed in mesh fabric) online, from a seed company I think.

      Here’s an article by an engineer who has designed more sophisticated solar hydrators. The article doesn’t go into design details, but does have a link to his book of designs. HTH.

      http://www.motherearthnews.com/Do-It-Yourself/2006-08-01/Build-a-Solar-Food-Dehydrator.aspx

    • There’s a great website – instructables.com – that shows how to make just about anything. It has many different dehydrator designs.

  46. Carl in W.V. says:

    this is a very cheap dehydrator that I found on the internet I made it and it works super well. I use it for jerky, mangos and strawberry slices

    http://www.traditionaltx.us/images/JerkyDrierInstructions.pdf

  47. Garden Mom, thank you for a much needed kick in the seat of the pants! My dehydrator has sat idle for a couple of months. Time to start using it for some of the great sales that will be coming soon.

    I don’t think I saw this mentioned, I know some will shutter, but I’ve looked into lots of information before proceeding. We dehydrate our extra eggs, they re-constitute very well. for omelets, and scrambled eggs. They will keep dehydrated for about 3 years. Some say 5 but I’ll just keep mine rotated. You can also use them for cakes.

    Agreed, another source to dehydrate would be great if the grid goes down. But, I think the intent of the post was to add to your food stores while you can with the left overs you have, which we have also been doing.

  48. Someone mentioned that a timer is “necessary.” My opinion and experience differs. If one opts for a dehydrator with built-in timer, it’s just like any other multi-machine; only one part of it may fail to function, but the whole thing will need fixing. On an experiential note, I dry most things at least overnight, usually at lower temp. When crispy, I know they’re ready for vacuum sealing. If timing were important to me, I would use a separate timer.

  49. sw't tater says:

    I can’t remember who posted yesterday with questions about rehydrating strawberries.
    There are instructions I pulled up from a Georgia economics site. I typed in re-constituting dried fruit. It comes up in search as a” HOw To” site. General instruction for berries says to cover dehydrated fruit with warm water and allow 1 to 8 hours for rehydration, depending on the thickness of the berry.
    I did dehydrate some eggs this summer. we don’t have chickens or an appropriate place to keep them, but we have a neighbor we buy from during part of the year. I fully cooked them with no oil and stored them in 10 ounce jelly jars. each jar holds approx 2-2/12 dozen eggs, and reconstitute with 1 table spoon, egg to two tablespoons of water. My daughter has had need to use some I gave to her, and she said her picky eater did not know the difference.
    Garden Mom, thanks for this informative post, it’s a new way for me to consider using up any leftovers..generally I just eat them for two or three meals, but sometimes I just don’t want it right away.
    To whole wolfpac, I really appreciate all the comments…and Ideas I read on this site…and Thanks M.D. for making it possible. I have had to take a temporary stop to prepping, due to an unscheduled move to East Tn…but my planning is going on.

  50. sw't tater says:

    Sorry that should read… 2- to 2 and a 1/2 dz..

  51. Garden Mom says:

    Too funny. I grew up in Wisconsin, so I knew that, from shucking corn in the summer too. What was I thinking? Is there a term for cutting it off the cob?

    • granny mae says:

      LOL ! This reminds me of what everyone teases me about. Instead of saying taking the silk off the corn I just say take the hair off of it ! Boy do I get some looks ! Happened one day when my mind couldn’t find the word silk in time so I just said hair and it has stuck ! Weird I know ! LOL !

  52. gschnauzer says:

    Great article. Will be looking to purchase a dehydrator soon.

  53. Although expensive, you can’t beat an Excalibur dehydrator. One day I would like to build my own passive solar dehydrator and really ramp up the process!

  54. I was already leaning toward dehydrating because it needs the fewest “store supplies” (cans, jars, lids, steady heat source) to use. I think that the electric dryers will run on cheap (modified square wave) inverters.

    Definitly gonna get one – after I finish making a fridge.

  55. I recently found canned mushrooms on sale for .50 a can. Wonder if those can be dehydrated (the cans take up a lot of storage room)