Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dried Foods

Reader 'Zen Forest' asked "Do you vaccuum seal your dried goods?"

The answer is "sometimes".  In the picture here, cheddar cheese is vacuum-sealed in a small bag, then placed in a larger bag and vacuum-sealed again.  This was done by our friend, David.  When we've done it we haven't always double-bagged it.  We double-bagged dried apples slices one year, and the rest of the time we fill the bag nearly full, then vacuum seal it.

I've spent the last couple hours going through files of pictures for the last couple years and can't find pictures of our own vacuum-sealed dried food.

Sometimes if we're going camping I fill ziplock bags with various dried foods, but they're things we expect to eat in the short term.  I went on an 1,100 mile bicycle ride two years ago and took primarily home-dried foods and spent almost nothing on food while on the trip.  I plan to make a poast later about "Poverty camping and other adventures!"

If I were storing dried food for long-term storage I would double-bag and vacuum-seal them, then stack them in an airtight bucket.  The main reason I like buckets is that it keeps rodents out of the food.  If you're storing it in your house, a cardboard box or other container could be used to keep it all together, or you could take advantage of the small sizes and cram them in all kinds of spaces for storage!  I'm sure the rodent problem is less likely in your house.  A lot of our dried food is stored in our barn, so we go to lengths to protect it.

I using glass jars for most of my dehydrated foods.  When I'm canning I set aside jars that have chips out of the rims or other reasons to not use them for canning, and I use them for dehydrated foods.  I also save other glass jars, such as from mayonaisse, salsa, spaghetti sauce, or anything that comes in glass.  More and more often, food is being sold in plastic jars.  Sadly, a lot of the food still in glass jars is out of the price range of those with little money. 

Glass jars with a good lid are airtight.  I pack the food in as tightly as possible to reduce the air space.  Some vacuum sealers come with jar sealers, and you can buy them as assessories for most newer models, in both regular mouth and wide mouth.  I haven't been able to afford to get them, but I have a friendly and generous neighbor who has the attachment.

I never reuse lids when I'm canning, but I save the lids when I open a jar, and use the lid later for a jar of dehydrated food, or for when I store leftovers in a canning jar. 

The jars of dried food keep best when stored in a dark, cool place.  Light will shorten their shelf life.   

These dried celery tops are stored in a plastic juice bottle.  When I chop my home-grown celery for dehydrating, I spread all the tops (leaves) on another screen and let them dry.  I cram them into a jar and over the winter I crumble them into soups, stews, and casseroles.  They're sort of like using Parsley leaves. 

Plastic is slightly permeable and over a long period of time your food could lost some of it's nutrients, color, and flavor.  I use them for things I plan to use over the upcoming year.

There are carrots from my garden, chopped and dried.  I keep adding them to a jar until the jar is full.

If you have the money, you can order oxygen absorbers and put them in your jars, buckets, and other containers.  I seriously couldn't afford to do that, and in small jars it would probably be overkill!

Vacuum-sealing does elimimate the air in the bag with the food, and as long as the bag doesn't lose it's seal and/or leak air into it over time, it had advantages over using jars.

Another thing I like about using jars is that you can open and close them easily while you're working on a particular jar.  A quart jar of dried carrots makes a lot of meals.  It might take a couple months to use it up.

These are cooked and dehydrated pinto beans and rice.  It's a handy way to have "instant" food.  In the winter, when our woodstove is heating our house and therefore hot anyway, I cook up things like beans and rice, then spread them on screens and dehydrate them.  It costs me nothing to cook and dry them.  Then in the summer time I have food that is quick to reconstitute and eat, without using up propane for the range to cook them for a long period of time.

 The potatoes on the jars near the top of this post were also cooked and dried.  In the spring when the potatoes in the root cellar are starting to sprout I dice or shred them, then dry them.  I take some of them and run them through the blender and have homemade instant potatoes.  The potatoes have to be cooked first for this.  The shredded and cooked potatoes make really good quick breakfasts.  The key is to cook the potatoes until they're almost-but-not-quite done, then dry them.

Another important thing for potatoes, to keep them their natural color, is to crumble a vitamin C tablet into a bowl of water and dip the potatoes in it before drying them.  You can also use lemon juice, ascorbic acid, or products like "Fruit Fresh" to keep their color.

It's nice to have eggs with the dried hashbrowns, but in our climate, the chickens stop laying in the winter.  We live off-grid with solar power, which is reduced in the winter by our short and often-cloudy days, so we don't put a light in the chicken coop.  We don't get many, if any, eggs in the winter.

In the summer we get more eggs than we can use.  I dehydrate the extra.  I break the eggs into a bowl, four eggs at a time, whip them with a fork, then spread them on wax-paper lined dryer racks.  I have 6 racks, so I can do two dozen eggs at a time.  When they're dry they look like peanut brittle without the peanuts.  I dump the racks into a cake pan and crumble it.  Then I cram it into a jar. 

Because eggs have a higher fat content than fruits and vegetables I store the jars in our root cellar to keep them cook and dark. 

We save our canning jars mostly for things like meat, cheese, and butter, which are foods that are difficult to dry and store for long periods of time.  Our fruits, vegetables, and herbs are dried and stored, as well as some pre-cooked beans and grains.


  1. Thank you muchly for your response. )This is "Zen Forest" by the way, I just changed my name on here to make it consistent with my usernames on other sites).
    I've only started prepping a few months ago, so it's very overwhelming since we're only in our late-20's with low income... but your blog is helpful. I'm trying to think of all I can do to stock up on things we need as well as implementing systems to MAINTAIN (grain, eggs, seed saving, etc.)

  2. Well, Zen, it sounds like you've got a good start! It's wonderful to hear about young people like you who are thinkinb about things like this!

  3. Thank Susan, the encouragement is helpful as our friends and family seem to think we're loony. I'm thinking of starting a blog on here about our preppeing and homesteading ventures as we sure do stay busy with projects. But, I'm a bit concerned about the visibility - I don't want anyone thinking they'll come our way when TSHTF ;]
    Looking forward to your next post.
    x- Tiff

    1. Tiff, I haven't been ignoring you! I've actually planned out a whole post related to your comment about starting a blog and worrying about visibility! Watch for it! Thanks for your comments, and best wishes as you work your way through your projects!

  4. I just bought your e-book, and find it helpful to keep my thought processes in some order. Thank You. I was starting to do things with no real "vision" or plan. The book info. will make the whole process easier.
    On your blog, you mentioned that you got less eggs in winter because you didn't have light for the chickens. Did you know about this? ~Barb

  5. Thanks, Barb! I'm glad the book will be helpful to you! I've seen the video before on the bottle lights, and it's amazing. I encourage everyone to go to Barb's link and watch the video. I can't really offer a good explanation about why we've never tried it. I guess so many other things have crowded in ahead of it on our list of "to do" or "to try"!

    Best wishes in your prepping!

  6. Wow. I am reading your blog and we sound a bit alike with our joy in experimenting. It's thrilling to see I am not the only 'extreme frugal' gal out there. Great job! I liked your book too. I'm going to review it for an article soon. :)

    I added a link to your page here on this thread in my Frugal Living forum:

  7. i can't wait for your poverty camping installment!! thanks for a great website

  8. I'm using foodsaver gamesaver duluxe to preserve food and to make salad in a jar. I'm satisfied with the best vacuum sealer which is not only cheap but also has the high quality.