I’ve been using my food dehydrator for several years as a way to make delicious snacks and occasionally dried herbs. After a recent move, we’ve begun growing our own food and I’ve gotten more interested in how to preserve our bounty without spoilage.
As we’ve done more research, I’ve been amazed by the number of things that can be preserved through drying. Most surprisingly, was the amount of money that can be saved.
I’m excited to share the many ways that I’ve found for saving money with a dehydrator.
1. Make your own Meals and Reduce your Grocery Bill
The wide variety of foods that you can make with your dehydrator can greatly reduce your grocery bills. My primary savings has been for long-lasting fruit and vegetable snacks, but you can easily include various other food types and vegetables to make complete meals that are easily rehydrated.
Fruit leather and dried fruit slices are an amazing replacement for pricey pre-packed fruit roll ups from the grocery aisle, or a sweet addition to homemade trail mix. We frequently purchase fruits and vegetables while they’re in season (cheaper) then preserve them with the dehydrator.
Dried vegetables make great additions to soups, stews, casseroles, and they’re great for on-the-go snacks. If you have a home garden or sunny window for growing herbs, you can grow and dehydrate them yourself providing yourself a year-round supply of dried herbs for only a few pennies.
There many amazing dehydrator recipes you can easily get started with to experience endless cost saving benefits.
2. Preserve Food for Long Term Storage
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross recommends having a two-week supply of food to account for an interruption in services as a result of natural disaster. (FEMA, 2004 – Food and Water in an Emergency)
During times of economic uncertainty, it can be useful to have a supply of long-term food storage. The cost of buying pre-packaged survival foods can be staggering. By dehydrating food as we have it available, we turn our would-be leftovers into an emergency food supply that is steadily growing. Just be sure that if you do this, be sure you use proper storage containers, like mason jars, mylar bags and add oxygen absorbers to preserve the food and help retain freshness. Then put these containers in a food-safe storage bucket that can be put away for future use.
Here’s a great video on how to dehydrate and store apricots for long term food storage.
3. Create your own Homemade Gifts and other items
Thanks to ever-useful canning jar, you can turn your dehydrator into a gift-giving machine in your kitchen.
Make a variety of soup mixes, salsa mix, and teas using fresh herbs and vegetables. Print a cute label and package in a mason jar for a unique giveaway at holiday parties.
Non-food items can also make great gifts. Flowers can be dried to make fresh potpourri in wide varieties.
Dry homemade salt dough cut into shapes to make ornaments. Be sure to dry the ornaments again after painting and let them cool down before handling. These are easy projects to get young children involved in as you won’t have to worry about them getting hurt on a hot oven or other kitchen equipment.
4. Eat Healthier and Cut Back your Medical Expenses
Eating healthy can be a challenge for those with especially busy schedules. Our schedules can lead to increased fast-food or take-out consumption. This is not only more expensive, but can also have significant health consequences due to a high intake of processed foods, salt, fat, low nutrient diet.
By dehydrating food, you can keep a steady supply of ready-to eat foods that are easy to grab and take with you quickly. I keep a few packages in my bag and a few more in the car for quick snacks on the go.
Adding more plant-based food options to your diet is also a great way to promoting healthier eating habits. Try going vegetarian and vegan for a while to cut out the expensive cost of meats. Then try making your own plant based meals options like a vegan jerky.
In addition to saving money by not eating unhealthy foods, we expect the healthier food options will reduce our medical bills in the long run.
5. Reduce Wasted Food
There are a broad range of foods that can be dehydrated to reduce waste from leftovers and expiration.
Often times, bananas are just left lying around until they eventually get thrown away. Instead of letting these bananas go bad, cut them up into small rounds and dehydrate them to turn them into banana chips.
You can dehydrate mashed potatoes, cooked beans, tomato soup, and condiments. These can then all be ground into a powder or left solid as a ‘bark’. Lightly steamed or raw vegetables can easily be dehydrated and used as mentioned above.
Complete meals such as pasta dishes and soup can also be dehydrated to reduce waste and save you money.
6. Buy Food in Bulk
Buying food in bulk can be a great way to save money…unless that extra food goes to waste.
Preserving the food through dehydration is an easy way to solve this problem. A variety of fruits and vegetables are the most common items to buy in bulk. You can easily take the bulk food items, dehydrate them and store them for later on.
Not only will this save you money and a trip to the store, but you’ll have a long lasting supply of food that can be used at any time.
7. Reduce your Energy Bill
Dehydrators are very energy efficient when compared to other kitchen appliances.
Most home dehydrators operate between 600 and 800 watts. At a national average of 12 cents per kWh, it would cost between $1.73 and $2.30 to run it for a full 24 hours. That’s less than half of the average refrigerator and one third the cost of running your microwave.
I hope this list of money saving tips was as useful to you as it has been for me. If you own a food dehydrator or plan on getting one, give one of these tips a try at first and see how things work out with your budget. Then apply another tip and keep track of things to see if you’re getting closer to your money saving goals. Feel free to share these tips around with your friends and family.