First of all, congratulations on your food dehydrator purchase! You’re going to have a lot of smart food preparation ahead of you. One of the best things about a food dehydrator is that it’s easy to use and fun for the whole family. Here are some easy steps to begin enjoying your dehydrator.
First, buy your food in bulk. This allows you to save money by buying larger amounts of fruits and vegetables and meats and dividing it up yourself. Grocery stores charge more money for food that is pre-packaged. You can eliminate that extra charge by buying larger quantities and packaging it yourself. This is smart shopping at its easiest. A membership in a bulk grocery store can pay for itself if you use your food dehydrator to make usable portions for your family. A lot of people worry that buying in bulk won’t work for them because the food will spoil. The dehydrator will make it easy to store those bulk purchases without loosing freshness.
Second, keep in mind how much money you spend on dried herbs and spices. A small jar of dried thyme can cost up to $6, and thyme is obviously not the only spice you’ll have in your spice cabinet. You can buy fresh herbs and spices, or grow them yourself in your garden, dehydrate them and keep them for a fraction of the cost! If camping is something that your family enjoys, the dried meats and fruits make perfect foods for camping at very little cost to you. Buying those pre-packaged meals is not cheap. Dehydrating your own can save you lots of money that can be better spent on your family camping vacation.
If you’re watching your weight, the dehydrator can save you money and calories. You can look for recipes for nicely sweetened dried fruit and use that fruit to curb your cravings for candy and sweets. Dried fruit is delicious and it won’t have the added preservatives and flavorings that ruin your diet. Plus, it’s a healthy snack for your children.
You do have to remember to keep your dehydrator clean by rinsing the interior trays with warm water after each use. This keeps the sticky fruits and vegetables from leaving a residue on the machine. Don’t dehydrate different types of fruits and vegetables together. This can cause the flavoring to mix and it’s best to keep foods with strong flavors like onions away from your lighter flavored vegetables. Mixing fruits and vegetables is also not recommended, again because the flavors can be compromised. You want your dried fruits and vegetables to taste delicious. Definitely make sure each fruit or vegetable is completely dried before storing it. If there is moisture left in the food, it can mold. In vegetables like corn, carrots, peppers and onions, it’s best to wait until the food is dry and very brittle before storing it.
Make sure you divide your fruits and vegetables into small slices. This allows them to dehydrate correctly. The temperature setting is also very important. Don’t turn up the temperature of your dehydrator hoping to make it process more quickly. This can cause a hardening of the food which makes it impossible to eat. Also, allow your food to cool to room temperature before storing it so that you don’t get any left over moisture in your storage bags. Check the dehydrator frequently and spread your foods evenly. The fruit or vegetables closest to the fan inside can dry more quickly. Take the time to redistribute the foods throughout the drying process.
Dipping your fruits in concentrated lemon juice or ascorbic acid can reduce the changes in color that occur during the drying process. Light colored fruits like apples are especially susceptible to this color change when exposed to air. The darkening of the sliced fruit doesn’t harm the fruit, but it does make it less lovely to look at. Don’t expect the fruit that you make to look and taste exactly like the dried fruits found in grocery stores. Keep in mind that they may use preservatives and color additives to make their fruit look better to the shopper. Your fruit will be much healthier!
Remember to have fun with your food dehydrator. There are lots of excellent recipes available in books and online to give you new ideas.