I’ve been canning, freezing and drying foods for years, to add to our food storage. I was also taught not to waste extras and use food that was on hand. These ideas all work for us, plus I’ve “gleaned” ideas from others over the years!
Investing time now will save time later. (When you have too much of any one food to use, dehydrate the rest for later)! This saves time and money. “Waste not, want not” is a saying I’ve heard all my life! So, I hope the following tips will help each of you:
- Make your own bread crumbs by drying leftover bread. Use a small processor to grind the dried bread or use a rolling pin. Add dried herbs and seasonings, if you want. (I like to keep a big container of crumbs in my pantry/freezer and then season only what I take out).Many of you already do this I know but it’s worth repeating! J
- Dry lemon peel, grind and add to black pepper for your own lemon-pepper mixture. (You can also add citric acid for a more “tart” taste but I don’t do this).
- We grow a variety of herbs in our garden and I dry them to use plus give for gifts. Even if you buy fresh parsley or other herbs, use what you want fresh and dry the rest. (I’ve also bought bulk herbs/spices from San Francisco Herb Co., Bulk foods.com and WinCo, which has bulk spices for very reasonable prices).
- Celery leaves can be dried and used in soups, stews, etc. And, I also chop up celery to dry. I make my own celery salt (celery leaves, some spinach or lettuce and salt. Be sure the dried veggies are ground first). (When using dehydrated veggies in soups and stews, re-hydrate first unless you are using a slow cooker). I use a small bowl, microwave the water with the veggies in it for about 1 minute, and then let it sit on the counter. By the time I need them for dinner, they are rehydrated.
- Cabbage, chopped; summer squash and zucchini, diced or sliced; green beans and carrots all work well when added to soups, etc. (I blanch green beans and carrots first). Cabbage darkens a bit over time but is still delicious rehydrated and added to casseroles, soups, stews, etc.
- Also, potatoes can be sliced and dried, just blanch them first. Otherwise, they will turn a very dark color.
- not using it for another use. I also add applesauce and spices to my fruit leather. Applesauce takes on the flavor of any fruit and thickens.
- Store your dehydrated foods in recycled, clean glass jars; zip top storage bags; plastic cans or canisters. (I like to use my recycled glass jars for dried foods but plastic bags or tins work too.
- Also, keep in mind that bargain foods can be purchased from the grocery store in large quantities, when the cost is low and fruits and vegetables are in season. The harvest of summer gardens, and produce from roadside stands, also offer foods to buy and “put by”.
- Dehydration Made Simple by Mary Bell is the book I use most, and I have a book by Deanna DeLong titled How to Dry Foods. There are many books about canning, freezing, dehydrating and food storage that have wonderful information. I use my Ball Blue Book for many canning recipes and one called Food Storage by Carol Happing and the Rodale Staff. Both these books are full of information. All of these books have “tons” of information for putting food by and I’m sure the library has many books also. Of course the internet has useful information too.
- When you start dehydrating, I would suggest fruits such as bananas or apples. (You may want to pre-treat them). Sprinkle some cinnamon sugar on them prior to drying, if you want a yummy treat! Always rotate your trays and turn each piece of fruit every couple hours. Fruit leather is easier with leather trays and pureed tomatoes can be dried on leather trays and then ground to use for seasoning soups and sauces. (I dry my extra tomatoes and grind them, unseasoned, for tomato sauce and using in spaghetti sauce, meatballs/meatloaf, etc.)
- There are several ways to dry food. Besides a dehydrator, an oven can be used (although more expensive). I often use a sunny window for small amounts of food. I recently dried my citrus peel this way. Window screens can be using outside with netting/tulle to cover the food. Just bring your food in at night.
- When drying onions, broccoli, mushrooms, cabbage etc., I put my dehydrator outside on the porch or in the garage. These smell very “fragrant” and I prefer the smell to stay outside! lol
- I have been making my own dry onion soup mix for years. There are many recipes but this is the one I use: 4 teaspoons beef bouillon granules/powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 8 teaspoons dried, chopped onions and about 1 Tablespoon of dry parsley, crumbled. Mix together and store in a small glass jar. (I double, triple or 4x this recipe and I like to powder all the dry chopped onion. I measure it into a small food processor and chop/grind it. I use beef cubes, as it is less expensive than granules/powder, and run them through my coffee grinder first, then add to the onions in the processor.)
- Another dry mix that I always keep in my pantry is the Soup or Sauce mix (SOS) I referred to in my first pantry post. Annabel linked to it in that post and it’s a great way to save money, handy to have, shelf stable and can be used in many recipes. This is how I make my creamed soup, “hamburger helper”, etc. I adjust the dry herbs to our liking and for the bouillon powder; I run the cubes through my coffee grinder.
- When our kids were home, they enjoyed cauliflower/broccoli with cheese sauce. At that time, I bought one #10 can of dried cheese powder to make a quick cheese sauce mix for the pantry. It was cheaper than the packets from the supermarket and I knew it could sit in the pantry. It called for butter powder which I could not find at that time, so I would just add a pat of butter when I made the sauce. I noticed Brandy, at the prudent homemaker blog, put cheese powder on her grocery list for July. It can be used in many recipes, so I will need to check prices again.
- Drying your own food and then using it daily, will save you money, trips to the store, less waste and helps build your pantry! (After cooking a whole chicken last week, I put the bones, seasonings and dried veggies in the slow cooker to make broth. (Later, soaked pinto beans will go into the strained broth for more economical meals)! It’s so easy to pull jars from the pantry and add all my veggies!
- Adding a variety of dried fruits, vegetables and herbs to your pantry will make mealtime enjoyable and tasty!! Keeping the spices your family uses on hand also makes meals/baked goods, etc. taste yummy. Rotation, labeling dates and using our food storage are all very important!
- Because it requires water to rehydrate food, it’s a good idea to store extra, so you will have enough for drinking, cooking and rehydrating.
- If you find packages of frozen veggies on sale at your supermarket and don’t have freezer space (or just want more shelf stable food), put them on your dehydrator, no blanching necessary. I’ve also done this with my excess frozen veggies that I’ve blanched. And, recently, I drained my own canned zucchini and yellow squash, blotted dry and dehydrated. These were ground into powder and added to my veggie mix in the pantry. (We didn’t care for the squash canned as a vegetable, so instead of tossing them, I dried them.) Waste not!!
To me, the possibilities are endless and so worthwhile. What better way to add to your food storage and feed your family snacks and meals with far less additives. While drying food will take up less space, remember to re-hydrate it when cooking (each recipe will be a little different). Dried fruits are a great snack and can be mixed with nuts to make a “trail mix” or tossed into a bowl of granola. Experiment! That’s what I have been doing for years. Some things work, some don’t but you are learning a new skill or adding new ideas! I hope this helps each of you! And thank you for all your wonderful, encouraging comments!! J Teri
(Thank you so much Teri! I am going to be dehydrating many more things. I am sorry the numbers are out of whack, they would not cooperate no matter what I tried!) xxx