You may have seen my articles on dehydrating and re-hydrating corn and wondered why anyone would want to or need to dehydrate food. Dehydrating foods for long term storage just makes sense! "But, why?" you may ask. Well, hold on to your seat because I'm about to tell you!
First of all, I may have done things a little backwards, but that's just me. I should have explained the benefits of dehydrating food for long term food storage before I posted my articles on dehydrating/re-hydrating frozen corn. I was just so excited to have my new food dehydrator and so anxious to use it and share the experience with you that I got ahead of my self. It was just me being me.
The history of food dehydration
Before we get started on the benefits of dehydrating food, I want to give you a little bit of history on it. Food dehydration is actually the oldest form of food preservation. A long, long time ago (way before electricity and refrigerators/freezers were invented) people needed to store their food. They didn't go to the store and buy their food, they hunted and killed their own meat and grew their own vegetables. At some point in time they learned that if they ate the meat several days after catching and cooking it, it would make them sick and some would even die from eating it. Somehow (I believe it was God who showed them) they learned that if they cut the meat and set it out in the sun on a flattish hot rock it would dry it up and they could eat it for days and not get sick. The heat from the sun and the wind circulating around the meat would remove the moisture from it (dry it out) and it would remain consumable for quite some time.
Then along came the Native American Indians, who lived in the Northern United States, and they learned that they could dry their meat out faster by allowing smoke to circulate around the meat. They also learned that they could use this method with their herbs, vegetables, and fish. Today, we refer to that as "smoking" food. The low heat, smoke, and circulating air would dry out their food and preserve it long enough for them to make it through the hard winters.
And that's a small glimpse at how food preservation by the method we call dehydrating today began. I'm pretty sure that our available method of dehydrating foods today is safer than it was for our great-great-great grandparents.
Dehydrated food is healthy
Dehydrated food is one of the healthiest forms of food preservation there is. There are no preservatives or additives (unless you use processed foods). The best way to ensure that your dehydrated food is healthy is to choose the right kinds of food to dehydrate. You should use natural, non-processed foods as much as possible. If you don't have access to fresh vegetables and fruits, frozen would be the next best alternative.
One of the things that really got me to thinking about dehydrating food was when my daughter and I were putting together our homemade MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) for our BOBs (Bug out Bags). I watched countless YouTube videos on homemade MREs and saw that a lot of people actually used Ramen Noodles in their MREs. I know Ramen Noodles are not healthy and provide very little nutrition, so I opted to buy other foods that were more bulky. Well, the bulky foods (small cans of fruits and vegetables, prepared Hormel meals, etc.) were not very practical for carrying in our BOBs because they were bulky and heavy. I just happened to run across a video where a couple was planning their meals for an extended hiking excursion. They were dehydrating the food they were going to take with them. You can see that exact video by clicking here.
Anyway, that video sold me on the idea of dehydrating our food for our MREs! After seeing that video I watched another countless videos regarding dehydrating food for backpacking. Then, I made the very important decision of buying a dehydrator. I am starting a new journey on my road to prepping by using it. Not only will we have healthier food choices in our MREs, but they will be way less bulky and lighter for carrying in our BOBs. Sorry, I got a little (but not much) off topic there. If you've read any of my previous articles you will know that I tend to do that on occasion. (If I could put emojis in my articles, I would add a "wink" here.)
Long term food storage
Most canned and boxed foods that you buy in the store will have a 1 to 1-1/2 year shelf life. Foods that are dehydrated properly will have a 10-20 year (or longer) shelf life. As you can imagine, dehydrating food will save you from having to rotate your food as often. Once it's stored, it can stay there for a long, long time compared to store bought food.
I plan on using my dehydrator to dehydrate main dishes such as spaghetti, beef stroganoff, chicken alfredo, and more. Since there are a few picky eaters in my family, I figure why not make/dehydrate the foods they normally like? You can't really do that and have the means to cook 3 or 4 different meals very easily in an emergency situation without dehydrating the meals and having them in your storage. I know, because I was having a hard time figuring it all out before I was introduced to the idea of dehydrating for our long term storage.
You can even dehydrate side dishes and vegetables to go with the main dishes. I know my dehydrated corn tasted way better than any can or frozen corn I've ever cooked.
If you are planning a camping or hiking trip dehydrated food is the way to go. It takes up less space, and is much lighter than regular food. I wish I had known about dehydrating back when we took our 4 kids on a vacation cross-country and back and stayed in a campground each night (in a family sized tent, nonetheless). It would have saved so much space and would have made cooking way easier! We wouldn't even have had to worry about keeping the food properly stored by buying ice every day.
You can even take dehydrated food along on a "regular" vacation trip and save some of the expense of the trip. Most hotel rooms have at least a microwave in them nowadays, and even if they don't, they usually have coffee pots. All you need to "cook" the dehydrated food is boiling water. You can even dehydrate main dishes (as I mentioned above) to take along. Can you imagine the money saved on the trip by not having to eat at restaurants all the time?
It will save you money
If you have the money you can buy foods that are already dehydrated/freeze dried for your long term storage. But those are so expensive for the average household. My first food storage purchase was a case of 12 military MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) . I paid around $80 for it. When you break the cost down that's close to $7 per meal. That's not so bad until you realize that's just one meal per day per person. For $7 I can put together 3 meals a day for all four of us; not $7 each, but total cost! I did buy one more case the next time I could afford it, but soon discovered we were going to have to go a different route with our long term food storage.
I'm just saying that dehydrating our food for our long term storage is going to save me a lot of money, and it will save you money too if you give it a try.
Another way dehydrating can save you money is if you have children (or adults) who like fruit roll ups. You can make those in your dehydrator! Not only will it save you money (because they aren't exactly cheap) but it will also give you control of what's going into your children's or your body. Dehydrating isn't only for long term food storage, as you will see in the next paragraph.
It can save waste
One of the great things about having a dehydrator is that it can help you save waste; another way of saving you money. If you have fruit that's getting soft or close to going bad, you can dehydrate it and have a yummy snack. If you have leftovers from a meal, dehydrate them and "cook" them up later...it will save you from eating the same meal multiple times, or from throwing it in the trash. Even vegetables that are getting soft, ie. celery, peppers, etc. can be diced up, dehydrated, and be ready at hand to use in making future dishes.
These are just a few reasons why dehydrating your food (especially for long term food storage) makes sense. If you want to learn more about dehydrating, a good place to start is on YouTube. Just enter "dehydrating food" in their search bar and see what all comes up. If you specifically want to see videos for "dehydrating long term food storage" simply enter that into the search bar.
Stay tuned for an upcoming article on how to properly store dehydrated foods. I think I've mentioned it a couple of times and want to give you the ideas and resources I have come across for storage.
Until next time...happy prepping, and God bless!