The time has finally come
Yes! The time has finally come for me to put together individual meals from the dehydrated spaghetti with meat sauce! As you can see in the photo below, the hamburger meat (hamburger rocks), sauce leather, and spaghetti were all dehydrated and packed separately. I've also got my scale and spice ready to go.
Since it's actually been a while since I dehydrated the ingredients for the meals, you may want to refresh your memory by going back to the Dehydrating spaghetti with meat sauce article. The ingredients used are for four good sized servings.
The first thing I did to prepare for putting the meals together was to set everything out (as you can see in the photo above) onto the counter top. I got out a box of zip lock baggies (quart size) to put the divided individual ingredients into; and pulled out the amount of bags I would need. Then, I washed my hands and put on disposable kitchen gloves. There are two reasons I use the gloves when working with dehydrated foods. First, is to make sure I'm not touching things that might contaminate the food (the gloves remind me not to). And secondly, to make sure I don't get any oils from my fingers on the food.
I divided up the hamburger rocks, which was originally one pound, dehydrated to 3.06 ounces, into four different baggies. They weren't all the same weight, but fairly close. The rocks actually came to about four one-fourth cup servings (just a little under). I added my one spice I was allowed to use to the hamburger rocks in the individual baggies. I could only use crushed red pepper, lol. However, you can add any spices you want in with your meat at this point. I suppose I could have added the spice(s) to the single baggie of hamburger rocks before dividing it up, but I wanted to make sure each individual serving had the same amount of spice(s).
Then I crunched up the dehydrated spaghetti pasta to make it easier to divide. I didn't pulverize it or make it into powder, I just broke up the noodles a bit. The dehydrated pasta weighed 5.3 ounces all together and I divided it into four individual baggies; approximately 1.3 ounces each.
The sauce leather was already in individual baggies so I didn't have to do anything with it other than take the individual baggies out of the sealed jar.
I left the zip lock baggies open (did not zip them closed), rolled them up, and put them into piles for each individual meal (see photo on right). The reason I didn't zip up the baggies is because I would be putting them into vacuum sealer bags and vacuum sealing them. If left unzipped the air can be sucked out of the individual baggies as well. If you zip them up, there will be air left inside them which could cause them to lose a lot of their shelf life. We're talking going from around 10 years storage down to 1 year storage.
After this, I took a break. I can't stand very long in one place because it causes me to have lower back pain. So, I took a little break, lol.
Once my break was over, I got my vacuum sealer and bags ready to go. I divided up the individual baggies into groups of four. Each of the four groups containing one baggie each of the hamburger rocks, sauce leather, and dehydrated pasta.
While stuffing the baggies into the vacuum sealer bags I realized that I should have used a different type of zip lock baggies. I used the kind that actually have a zipper on them, as you can see in the photos, but that made it a little more difficult to fit them into the vacuum sealer bags. I used quart size vacuum sealer bags, which were the same size as the zip lock bags. So, having to fold the zip lock bags on the ends to fit into the vacuum sealer bags would have been easier without the zippers at the tops of the baggies.
The photo to the left shows all three dehydrated ingredients (in their individual zip lock baggies) vacuum sealed. The individual vacuum sealed meals weighed in at around 3.77 ounces each. Which is really a good weight for backpacking, camping, and your bug out bag!
At this point, I had to decide if I was going to take it a step further and put the individual meals into mylar bags. I probably wouldn't have normally used the mylar bags if I hadn't used the zippered zip lock baggies. But, since they were kind of protruding in the vacuum sealed bags I thought it best to have an extra layer of protection just in case the zippers punched a hole in the vacuum sealed bags.
So, I got out my oxygen absorbers (left in above photo) and quart size mylar bags. Using a sharpie I wrote what the meal was, along with the month and year on the mylar bags. Then I put the vacuum sealed meal, along with one 300 cc oxygen absorber, into each of the mylar bags. I have mylar bags that zip to make them easier for re-hydrating the meals right in the bags, so I zipped the mylar bags closed. I got out my flat iron for straightening hair to use to heat seal the mylar bags. The funny thing is when I went to the store to buy the flat iron I felt really weird. Why is that? you might ask. Well, because I have such straight hair naturally that I can't even get it to curl. Well, truthfully, it will curl but the curls only last about a half hour to an hour. It just felt weird to be buying a flat iron.
Anyway, I used the flat iron to heat seal the mylar bags, but you can use a regular household clothes iron as well. Once I had the mylar bags heat sealed, the job was finally done!
It was so much quicker and easier to put the meals together than it was to dehydrate everything and get it ready. But, it will be well worth the time spent when we get those meals out and eat them! I can't wait! In fact, we are going to do a trial run of these spaghetti with meat sauce meals sometime within the next month or so. I personally believe it is better to test the food now rather than wait until you have nothing else to eat and find that re-hydrating it may not work out the way you planned, or it may not taste good enough to eat. I'll let you know the final results!
I will be storing these meals in a Rubbermaid tote, with a lock down lid, in a cool dark place. Their shelf life when stored properly should last 10 plus years. Well, future ones should, but not these particular ones since we plan to use them soon!
Oh, and one more thing...when using an oxygen absorber (as in with the mylar bag) the oxygen is not absorbed right away. It can take up to three hours for the oxygen to be completely absorbed. So, don't think it didn't work if there is still air in it after only a few minutes. Also, when using oxygen absorbers you want to keep the unused absorbers vacuum sealed so that they will last. Do not leave them exposed to air any longer than absolutely necessary because they will lose their ability to absorb any more oxygen. You can either keep them in a vacuum sealed bag or in a canning jar with a good (not old) lid; storing them in a dry dark place just as you would your dehydrated/canned foods.
Overall, my first experience with dehydrating an entire meal and getting it ready for long term storage went very well. In the future, I will use the zip lock baggies that do not have an actual zipper on them for making these types of meals. But, that really is the only thing I might have done differently. My future dehydrating long term storage meal experiments will include boxed macaroni and cheese, hamburger stroganoff, chicken alfredo, and maybe chicken and rice. I really want to have foods in our long term storage (as well as our MREs) that our family will actually eat, and this is one way that I can accomplish that.
Meals like this aren't just for MREs, they can also be stored in your pantry as long term storage food for you and your family. You could skip the dividing into individual servings and put the full contents into a single vacuum sealed bag or a mylar bag. Or, you could fit them into a canning jar and seal it. Then, you could cook the ingredients all together for one big meal.
Until next time...happy prepping, and God bless!
Spaghetti with meat sauce meal
1 pound dehydrated hamburger
1 24 oz jar spaghetti sauce, dehydrated into sauce leather
8 oz spaghetti pasta, cooked and dehydrated
Spices to taste