I’m always looking for ways to save money on food. We try to limit our purchases of food to what is on sale, but it’s not always possible to wait until vegetables go on sale. For example, cauliflower doesn’t go on sale very often, or at least not as often as I’d like. This week Sprouts has cauliflower on sale 88 cents for a large head! What a great deal! I would love to stock up on that but there’s only so much room in my refrigerator and freezer, and I can only eat so much cauliflower at once.
What’s a girl to do?
Enter the dehydrator. A kitchen appliance which I have not utilized until recently. Currently I own this model: Nesco FD-75PR Food Dehydrator. I have taken advantage of it in the past couple of weeks to dry zucchini squash when it went on sale for 50 cents a pound, which is pretty much an unheard of price nowadays, even when it goes on sale! I ended up dehydrating 15 pounds of zucchini. It took 12 hours for each batch. Each batch consisted of ten pieces of zucchini and weighed about five pounds. Each five pound batch dehydrated down into a mere five ounces. I can store the entire 15 pounds of zucchin in a half gallon jar.
One of my favorite foods since being on the GAPS diet is faux-tatoes, which is cooked blended cauliflower. They are very much like mashed potatoes! You just steam the cauliflower until it is fork tender, drain it to make sure there isn’t any excess liquid, add in some salt, pepper and butter and hit it with an Immersion Hand Blender. You could also use a food processor. The longer you whip the cauliflower, the fluffier and more like potatoes it becomes. Some recipes also include cream and or cream cheese. If you were trying to transition your family to mashed cauliflower from mashed potatoes I’d go with the cream cheese addition first. You almost cannot tell the difference. Yum!
But back to my point. Now I can stock up on cauliflower while it’s on sale because I can put a head or two into my dehydrator to dry. Once it’s dry, I’ll pulverize it and then vaccum seal it. Then I can store it in the freezer, or dark cupboard for up to one year.
You can also make your own beef jerky with a dehydrator. I did that before we left on our trip to Washington, DC. I bought the meat on sale for $1.99 and was able to use my own flavorings so that I didn’t get preservatives or MSG.
I also recently dried four quarts of strawberries, purchased from American Discount Foods for twenty-five cents a quart. Yes, I said 25 cents. For one quart. I had to buy eight quarts to get them for a quarter a quart, but that’s okay, Mr. A enjoyed eating the other four quarts of strawberries. Those four quarts of strawberries dried up to about one cup worth.
If you are someone who likes to go hiking and backpacking, you must look into dehydrating. You can make your own trail mixes, which can made a lot healthier not to mention less expensive than what you find in the store. Instead of a nut and fruit trail mix, maybe you might want to make one of dried vegetables, like peas and carrots. I did dry some carrots into strips and after they were completely dried they tasted sweet! At last for my palate, which hasn’t had sugar for nearly one year. I bought Mary Bell’s Complete Dehydrator Cookbook which was recommended to me by a friend. It is excellent. It lists fruits and vegetables and how to prepare them for drying. Did you know you can even dry cooked ground beef (hamburger) and canned tuna? You can scramble eggs and dry those. There are so many ideas and recipes in this book, I never considered drying so many foods. Ms. Bell even includes recipes for how to use your dehydrated foods which is important because there are certain ways to use dehydrated foods. For example, I learned in the book that you should let zucchini soak in liquid for several minutes until it expands to normal size before cooking; otherwise, it could become tough.
This is the dehydrator I’ve got my heart set on: Excalibur 9 Tray Dehydrator. It is square, which allows for better positioning of foods. For the time being, my round dehydrator is working well for me. Some people keep their dehydrators going 24 hours a day. I managed that for two days while I dried my zucchini!
Another bonus: A solution for when my garden overflows with produce! I learned in Mary Bell’s book that you can even dehydrate leafy greens, like spinach and Swiss Chard.
The last thing you have to look into when dehydrating foods is a way to store the food. Mary Bell suggests several methods: canning jars, plastic bags and vacuum sealed systems. My boss gave me the FoodSaver Vacuum Food Sealer; vacuum sealed dehydrated foods can last at least a year, if not longer. Once vacuum sealed, you then need to place the dehydrated food into a dark place, such as a sealed plastic five gallon bucket in a dark closet.
Using a dehydrator is one more way to save money on food, it’s another way to stock up on items that are sale and preserve them for later use. Have you ever used a dehydrator? Would you?
This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links.