Complementing Your Food Storage Pantry with Dehydrated Foods

The overall goal of our emergency food pantries is to have a wide array of nutritious foods stored away in order to carry us through an emergency whether it is from Mother Nature or if we have hit a rough patch in our lives. That said, the cost of emergency preparedness foods can be a little overwhelming when one first starts out.

For centuries, dehydrating food has been used as a means of survival. Many consider this to be the most affordable preservation method, and the best way to preserve the flavors of foods. Dehydrating vegetables and fruits for long-term storage is a great way to get needed nutrition into diets with minimal investment. The dehydration process removes moisture from the food so that bacteria, yeast and mold cannot grow. The added benefit is the dehydration process minimally effects the nutritional content of food. In fact, when using an in-home dehydration unit, 3%-5% of the nutritional content is lost compared to the canning method which losses 60%-80% of the nutritional content.  Additionally, vitamins A and C, carbohydrates, fiber, potassium, magnesium, selenium and sodium are not altered or lost in the drying process. Therefore, the end result is nutrient packed food that can be stored long term.

Pros

Of course, the greatest aspect of this food storage method is anyone can do it. You set it and forget it! Dehydrating food can be a way to circumvent the costliness of large quantities of already-preserved food, while complimenting your existing preparedness pantry at the same time. Not to mention, due to the drying process, dehydrated foods condense in their size thus creating a more efficient use of storage space.

Dehydrated foods are the original just add water meal! Think of the possibilities – don’t limit yourself to only dehydrating your surplus vegetables and fruits. You can dehydrate meals, soups, meat and cooked grains. They can then be combined together to create a delicious, nutritious, life saving meal.  Moreover, pre-cooking and then dehydrating your beans, grains and pastas and then rehydrating them will drastically cut down on fuel usage during emergencies. You can dehydrate pasta meals and have them on hand for quick meals or to add to backpacks. All one needs to rehydrate their meal is to add boiling water and cover with a lid for 20-30 minutes to expedite the process.

Home dehydration has one more bonus: unlike the purchased dehydrated foods, it’s not loaded with sodium unless you choose to do so – this is great if anyone in your group suffers from high blood pressure or a heart condition. It is recommended to add salt after the re-hydration process has been completed.

Use this chart for rehydrating your dehydrated food.

Cons

Keep in mind that the drawback to this food preservation method is that you will need a large amount of water in order to rehydrate the dried food. Depending on the situation, that could be a problem in an emergency. Further, when rehydrated, some foods will not take on their original shape and form. The long drying times could also pose as a challenge if you plan on dehydrating large quantities of food. Some vegetables need to be blanched before you dehydrate them. Use the following chart as a guideline:

Vegetable

Blanching method

Blanching time

Dehydrating time

Asparagus, cut

Steam or water

4–5 minutes

8–10 hours

Beans, green (cut)

Steam or water

2 minutes

12 hours

Broccoli, small flowerets

Steam or water

3–3½ minutes

10 hours

Brussels sprouts, halved

Steam or water

4–6 minutes

12+ hours

Cabbage

Steam or water

2 minutes

8–10 hours

Carrots and parsnips, sliced

Steam or water

4 minutes

12+ hours

Cauliflower, small flowerets

Steam or water

4 minutes

12+ hours

Celery, sliced

Steam or water

2 minutes

12+ hours

Corn, on cob (cut kernels after blanching)

Steam or water

2 minutes

12+ hours

Eggplant, sliced

Steam or water

3 minutes

12+ hours

Peas, shelled

Steam or water

3 minutes

12+ hours

Potatoes

Steam or water

7 minutes

12+ hours

Spinach and collard greens, trimmed

Steam or water

2 minutes

12+ hours

Summer squash, sliced

Steam or water

2 minutes

12+ hours

Winter squash, cut in chunks

Steam or water

2 minutes

12+ hours

Storing Dehydrated Food is a No-Brainer

Dehydrated foods are among the easiest to store. All you need is to find an air tight container to hold the dehydrated food. Many preppers use what they have on hand – glass canning jars, Tupperware or even cleaned soda bottles are among some of the popular storage choices. You want to ensure that your food is 95% or more dehydrated because the more moisture your food has the more likely molds and microorganisms can grow. Like all emergency food sources, ensure that you keep your dehydrated food away from natural elements.

“Best Used By” Guidelines for Dehydrated Food 

Spices – 1-2 years

Vegetables/Fruits – Up to 12 months

Meats – Best at 1-2 months, but can be stored for 6 months.

Food dehydrators prices range from a very modest investment to a few hundred dollars. If you do not feel that a dehydrator is worth a monetary investment at this time, you can use your oven at a low setting. There are also dehydrators and mesh lined hanging nets that can be used outdoors to harness to sun’s power. Solar dehydrators are a good investment for those planning to go off-grid.

If you have a surplus of fruit or vegetables, dehydrating them is a great way to preserve their nutrition. For instance, a family favorite over here is fruit roll ups. Dehydrating vegetables for soup mixes is a great easy-to-store “just add water” meal to have on hand or to add to your 72-hour bags.

In my book,The Prepper’s Cookbook: 365 Recipes to Turn Your Emergency Food into Nutritious, Delicious, Life-Saving Meals, I have provided lots of spice blends that preppers can use to prevent food fatigue. One of my favorites is an all-purpose seasoning blend using dehydrated vegetables and bouillon.

Homemade Vegeta All-Purpose Seasoning

(Makes 2 cups)

  • 3 medium onions, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 5 celery ribs, diced
  • 3 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 medium red bell peppers, diced
  • 3 large green bell peppers, diced
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 large parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 8-10 garlic cloves
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • 4-5 tablespoons chicken bouillon granules
  1. In a saucepan over high heat, add diced potatoes and carrots in enough water to cover them. Cook for 5 minutes until soft. Drain.
  2. Combine all the ingredients except the bouillon in a blender or food processor and whirl until fully processed. Place on a jelly roll tray in food dehydrator at a setting of 135-145 degrees for 5 hours or until dried and crumbly. Once the mixture is thoroughly dried, add bouillon granules to taste. Store in a jar for up to 1 year. 

Don’t limit yourself to dehydrating only vegetables and fruits, you can dehydrate meat for emergencies too. Any meat can be used for dehydrating. When dehydrating ground beef, I recommend using only lean or extra lean ground meat, either beef or poultry. Meat with high fat content produces beads of oil as it dehydrates, and these have to be blotted off throughout the drying process. Look for meat that has less than 15% fat content, preferably in the 7 to 10% range.

Ground Beef Crumbles

(Makes 4 cups dried meat crumbles)

  • 1 pound lean ground meat (beef, turkey, or chicken)
  • ¾ cup dry breadcrumbs
  • salt and pepper

1. In a bowl, combine the ground meat and breadcrumbs.

2. In a skillet over medium heat, cook the meat mixture thoroughly, breaking it up with a spoon; season with salt and pepper to taste. Drain off the excess grease and allow the meat to cool for a few minutes.

3. Transfer to dehydrating trays and set the dehydrator to 145°F. Dehydrate for 2 or more hours, until the meat is completely dried. Dried meat crumbles can be safely stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark, low-moisture environment for up to 1 month, or in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month or in the refrigerator for up to 6 months to a year.

Some preppers use dehydrated foods as their sole source of food for their pantries, and there are some who use this preservation method to compliment their existing preparedness supply. In either case, this preservation method is one that can provide much-needed variety for a low investment in a small amount of space.

 

The Prepper’s Cookbook: 365 Recipes to Turn Your Emergency Food into Nutritious, Delicious, Life-Saving Meals is available Amazon.com and bookstores. This preparedness resource can provide you with more delicious recipes and information on dehydrating food for your emergency pantry.

 

 

The Prepper's Blueprint

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published September 1st, 2013
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