Dehydrate Foods for Long Term Storage

Bulking up on food for long term food storage is always a good idea in the case a long term disaster were to occur.  However, those who are preparing for long term disasters know that purchasing long term food sources such as freeze dried foods have the advantage of lasting for 10 years, but it can be costly.  There is another method that is both cost effective, and more nutritious.

For centuries, dehydrating food has been seen as a survival necessity.  Many believe this preservation method is the safest, most affordable and best way to preserve flavors of foods.  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.

How Can a Person Use a Dehydrator

There are multiple ways that one can use a dehydrator.  They can dry vegetables, fruits, make jerky, make fruit or vegetable leather, dry herbs, make spices, dry noodles, and even make crafts such as dough ornaments.

Dehydrating vegetables and fruits  to use for long term storage is a great way of including needed nutrition into diets with minimal investment.  When dehydrating food, one should use fresh produce or meat.  Typically, when overly ripe fruits and vegetables are dehydrated, the texture is not as crisp.  For example, if one were to dehydrate over ripe bananas, the end result would be a chewy banana chip as opposed to a crispy banana chip.  If a person were to use the ripe fruits or vegetables, they could puree the produce and make fruit or vegetable leather to use later.

How Long Does Dehydrated Food Last

In most cases, dehydrated food can be stored for up to a year.  Once dehydrated, the food does not take up a lot of space, and can be stored in a more organized fashion.

  • Fruits and vegetables can last for up to 1 year, if properly stored.
  • Dried meats should be consumed within 2-3 months.  However, it is suggested that if dried meats have not been consumed after 1 month, they should be stored in the refrigerator to prolong the freshness.
  • Herbs can last for years.
  • Noodles should be eaten within 1 year in order to enjoy the freshness.

If a person wanted to rehydrate the food to use in cooking, add boiling water and cover with a lid for 20-30 minutes to expidite the process. It is recommended to add salt after the re-hydration process has been completed.

Storing Dry Foods

Once food has been dehydrated, it should be stored in an area not exposed to a lot of light, such as a pantry.  It is recommended that any food that contains vitamin A not be exposed to light.  According to James Talmage Stevens’ book, Making the Best of Basics, Stevens recommends these general storage suggestions:

  • Freezer-weight, zip-lock bags are excellent for packaging dried foods.  Force excess air from bags as they are sealed.
  • Procure heavy-duty, food-grade, storage-quality, sealable plastic bags from local commercial packaging wholesalers.
  • Store dried food products in a cool, dry location out of direct sunlight.  Use a Kraft paper bag inside larger plastic bags to shield dried foods from sunlight.  Paper used outside the plastic bags provides a nesting place for bugs or spiders.
  • Store only one kind of food in each individual package to avoid mixing flavors and possible cross-contamination should molds or spoilage occur.
  • Another method for storing dried products is to place dried food in a food-quality, plastic bag, then put i tin an airtight glass or metal container.
  • Discard moldy food.  Don’t take chances on botulism or a debilitating sickness over a few pennies or dollars.  Don’t feed mold foods to pets, either!
  • The problem of a few bugs in dried foods may be solved by spreading the infested dried food on a cookie pan, placing in tn a 300 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.  Bugs and eggs die, and the food is edible again. (Protein content is higher too).

In planning for a long term disaster, people are always trying to find foods they can look forward to that will give them optimum nutrition.  Having the necessary vitamins and nutrition will give a person mental clarity, and strength to carry on during a disaster.  After all, surviving and being healthy is what matters.

Prepper's Cookbook

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Cookbook: 300 Recipes to Turn Your Emergency Food into Nutritious, Delicious, Life-Saving Meals. When a catastrophic collapse cripples society, grocery store shelves will empty within days. But if you follow this book’s plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply, your family will have plenty to eat for weeks, months or even years. Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published March 31st, 2010
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  • Joe

    you say dehydrated food lasts about a year.  Some sites say it last 10-20 years. What’s going on?

    • Terry

      Actually,  I have dried fruits and vegtables and then charged them with a vaccum sealer.  It has lasted up to 18 years for me.  Possibly longer I just had to open them to find out how they tasted.  My life experiance.

  • http://www.readynutrition.com Tess Pennington

    Joe,

    I believe you are referring to freeze dried foods which have a life expectancy of 10-20 years.  Typically, depending on the correct storage methods and the type of food your are drying, dehydrated foods last anywhere from 9 months to 3 years.  

    In the Dehydrator Bible, the author says you can maximze storage life by properly drying the food and storing it under the best possible conditions.  By comparing the quality of a dried food with the record you kept about its preparation and storage, you may be able to determine an appropriate expectation for its shelf life.

    Hope this helps.

    Tess

  • Michelle

    I’ve heard the same thing as Joe …multiple times and was for dehydrated foods, not freeze dried.

    What I’ve read is that if the dehydrated food is vacuum sealed with an oxygen absorber, you can keep it for years & years.

    I am very hesitant to use dehydrated in a long-term plan because the info seems so varied.

  • don

    I have done a lot of research and have also heard that dehydrated foods packed in a canning jar with oxygen absorbers will last for 5-8 years. see youtube.com for many articles on dehydrating foods.

    • http://www.readynutrition.com Tess Pennington

      Don,

      I have dehydrated foods and stored them in canning jars. I’ve stored them for about 1.5 years and they are still good.

  • Lisa

    Can you take frozen food like carrots, green, peas… and put them on food dehydrator?

    • http://www.readynutrition.com Tess Pennington

      Lisa,

      You certainly can! I would defrost them before you throw them into the dehydrator to speed the process up.

      • Pat

        No need to defrost. I can fit four pounds of frozen corn in a one quart jar once it is dehydrated.

    • Sandra

      Lisa, Yes you can. I have done it and then add them to soups, stews or just as a vegetable and they are fine.

  • Jennifer Harris

    I am particularly interested in long term storage for dehydrated meats.  If I dehydrate my lean beef far past the point of jerky, to the point of being crispy, then vacuum seal it in mylar bags, roughly how long is its shelf life?  Then when ready for consumption, can it be reconstituted in a soup, stew or casserole?

    • http://www.readynutrition.com Tess Pennington

      Hi Jennifer,

      Over dehydrating the meat is not going to make your meat last longer. Once it’s dehydrated, it’s ready for packaging. You can reconstitute the meat in water for meals for added protein and nutrient content. They say that jerky’s shelf life is about 18 months, but I have had some stored for up to 2 years. As long as the food is in an environment where it isn’t subjected to natural elements (heat, moisture, etc), then it’s shelf life will be extended.

      The longevity of meat is contingent on a few things:

      1. How lean the meat is. The leaner the meat, the longer it will last. This is because the fatty part of the meat is what leads to it going rancid after time. Consequently, if the meat used to make the jerky is low in fat to start, the resulting shelf life should be fairly high.
      2. Your preserving method (cure, salt, smoke)
      3. Packaging method. To ensure your jerky last for years, ensure that you packaging method is clean (new bags, latex gloves, vacuum packaged).

      Hope this helps,

      Tess

  • http://www.thesurvivalbag.biz frank

    great article and I liked the discussion about the foods as well. The advantage of using dehydrated foods over freeze dried foods is at least two fold.
     Dehydrating at low heat preserves natural enzymes used in digestion. Dehydrated foods are typically higher in nutrition as well. The other advantage is that Dehydrated foods have no added chemicals, not so with freeze dried foods, which are mass produced and the chemicals are added to speed everything up. 

  • Aaron

    If you vacuum pack the dehydrated food will it last longer than a year? What can you do, if anything, to extend the time dehydrated food will last?

    Thanks, 

    • http://www.readynutrition.com Tess Pennington

      Hi Aaron,

      Yes, vacuum sealing dehydrated foods will extend its shelf life. Another way to extend it is to ensure that your foods are stored in a dark, cool area where it is not exposed to sunlight.

  • Taylor Alameter

    Our family used to have a food dryer, and we stored a lot of great fruits and things in our pantry. Unfortunately, it broke a while back, and we just finished off our last few cans. It looks like <a href=”http://www.motherearthproducts.com/”>freeze dried foods</a> are the next best thing; I’ll have to try it out!

  • Christen

    Can dehydrated foods be put in a freezer and used years later or will it collect moisture again? Is putting it in a container and keeping it out of the sunlight the only way to store dehydrated food?

    • http://www.readynutrition.com Tess Pennington

      Hi Christen,

      As long as dehydrated foods are kept away from moisture, they do not need to be frozen. However, if you are dehydrating meat, I would recommend that you put it in the refrigerator to prolong it. After 1 month, jerky can start going bad if it is left in room temperature due to the fat content. In fact, it is advised to dehydrate meats that are low in fat content. Keeping it refrigerated, or even frozen can make last for an additional 6 months.

  • Lindsey

    Can u dehydrate meat and veggies/fruits in the same dehydrator? Not at the same time neccassrily but in general? Thank u!

    • http://www.readynutrition.com Tess Pennington

      @Lindsey,

      Absolutely! Ensure the dehydrator surface is cleaned well after dehydrating meat.

  • lauren c

    how do I make and dehydrate oatmeal to make granola for a 3 month hiking trip?

    • http://www.readynutrition.com Tess Pennington

      Hi Lauren,

      Here is the recipe that I use for granola. You can make it ahead of your trip and it should last for 3 months… if you can wait that long to eat it. My family devours granola rather quickly. Enjoy!

  • Sue Cook

    Tess, 
    I have a question.  I have an EXCALIBUR  dehydrator and must say it is fantastic!  I live in the costal south where the humidity is sooo high. I am on disability and have a very limited income and cannot run my central air unit below 78-79 degrees in the summer.  I have a vacuum sealer also.  What is the best way for me to package and store my dehydrated foods?

    • http://www.readynutrition.com Tess Pennington

      Sue,

      Great question! The best way that I have found is after you dehydrate your food, you can either seal them in a food storage bag and add a desiccant pouch and oxygen absorber or you can store them in a tight fitted jar (canning jars, etc.) along with a desiccant pouch. I’d like to ask the community to answer this one too. What ways do you store your dehydrated foods?

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