I LOVE my dehydrators! I know I only use them regularly all year round, they are always out, plugged in and 'at the ready'! This will be one of those kitchen tools, I would hate to be without it if I had no electricity. :-) While I got it, you bet ya I am gonna USE it!
I wanted to share some encouraging and informative links on my Homestead/ Food Page about dehydrating, but thought I might post them first. In the midst of this, I took a bunny trail (as I often do) into making my own MRE's (Military term for Meals Ready to Eat). An official MRE would not need to have water added to it...where as mine are designed to be re-hydrated. In MOST desperate times with no access to water, you could just eat the food dry - but it wouldn't be as pleasant. :-)
365 Meals I came across this guy who speaks about food storage and preparedness to LDS churches. He had some great ideas in regards to assembling your own dried MRE's (Meals ready to eat - just heat with water). It got my wheels turning. This has always been one of those things I have had on the back burner of my mind. (I have LOTS of back burners in my mind!) But seeing this video was an inspiration to me to start applying this idea ASAP! In a nut shell, the concept is that you pre-assemble and package 365 hearty dehydrated meals for your family - so you know you have 1 year's worth of ready made wholesome (no brainer) meals at the ready to last you a year. It takes up very little space, and the food value lasts much longer than canned foods. (Like 15-25 yrs done right! Talk about "fix it and forget it"!!) I also liked what this guy said about being able to help people with it. I think it is important to have diversity in all things in what we grow and what we prepare and store. Doing this will allows us to better bless people in need. If you can get past the "bird flu" stuff in this video - I think you will be able to glean some good ideas. :-)
I think dehydrated meal packs in bags is the most practical way to have food stored if one finds oneself in a mobile situation or wants to be ready to feed others in an instant with no strings attached. Doing it yourself does require your personal investment of time, preparing and planning, but it will save you money and you will not have to compromise on food quality if that is a concern for you. You will not put dies and additive in yours (i hope), which is not always the case with the Food Storage Companies that get premium prices for their foods.
I see two approaches to this project:
1. To assemble already dehydrated ingredients into meal kits.
2. Cook meals and dehydrate the prepared meals.
I plan on doing both since I have a supply of dried foods to pull from already - yet want to experiment with dehydrated prepared meals. If you have 30 recipes, than you could have a different meal every day for a month, not bad! I might like to find a little more variety if I can because I am spoiled American. :-)
Here are some books that I recommend if you are able to build your kitchen library in this direction:
Preserve it Naturally - If you have a dehydrator or want to get one, this book is an extensive guide in dehydrating. It is very thorough and covers how to dehydrate individual items and how to use your dehydrator for all sorts of things. It has charts, instructions and recipes. It is a wonderful "foundational book" for dehydrating if you want to dehydrate your own foods and use it to build your meals. If you like a book that has pictures and can be a quick reference for about anything Dehydrated (like an encyclopedia) this is the resources for you.
The Dehydrator Bible If I had to review this book in one word, it would be "SCORE!". That is , if it is a huge selection of simple whole food recipes to make with dehydrated foods is what you want. This book has over 400! These recipes are JUST what I was hoping for, they are creative (not repetitive) and most of these recipes are whole foods you can make yourself in the dehydrator (unlike other books who use commercially made ingredients as a rule). There are some that have fresh ingredients in them...but because of the huge selection...it still leaves you very satisfied with your options for variety and simplicity for emergency food storage. This book makes me want to increase my dehydrated food supplies for the sake of our regular everyday use too. I am really excited about this book! It is the most appealing dry foods cookbook, I have seen yet!
Dinner is in The Jar - This book was written with dried meal storage as it's primary goal. It is a simple but specific book, which contains 30 recipes. The author uses TVP (textured vegetable protein) for some of the meat item in her recipes. She also discusses using Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers, but uses jars as her references. If you want a "plug and play book" that you don't have to "think about" this one might be for you. You can just buy the ingredients at the bulk food store (like milk powder, cheese powder, butter powder, buttermilk powder, dry gravy mixes, etc) than this will be a good book to start with. No dehydrator necessary. Some recipes use "add ons" like a can of diced tomatoes and some fresh ingredients like sour cream and fresh shredded cheese. I am steering clear of these types of recipes, because I want the meals I make to require nothing more than water and fire to make them delicious. :-) Her style is very "American creamy comfort food style". (She has a couple Mexican recipes too.) Most of her recipes, will also have add-ons like a "pint of ground beef" or chicken. Which would need to be canned and stocked ahead of time. You need to know how to do that yourself. So you should know those are elements to her recipes before you buy the book. Personally speaking this book was my not my favorite. I could see how it would be very appealing to some folks, but for my money and needs - It did not make the mark. I returned it.
Consider going to Amazon and searching books that cover this topic if you search words like "trail meals" or "backpack cooking" things like that. They may have more "just add water" recipes or ideas in them than some typical dehydrator books since that is ideal for backpacking. I have the Backpack Gourmet. It gives lots of recipes for you to make and teaches you how to make the meals ahead of time, at home and how to dehydrate them for storage, then how to reconstitute them on the trail! I was a afraid the recipe might only be fore one to two people being a back pack book, but I was excited to find that most of her recipes serve 4+. She uses whole foods (and some TVP, but has lots of recipes with out). This is a wonderful "plug and play" style book for this method of make the meals ahead and dehydrating them. She doesn't require the "add ons" like the Dinners in a the Jar book does, which in my opinion, makes it more inclusive and practical for emergencies situations. This book is a wonderful resource for this method of dehydrating pre-made meals!
Mary Bell's Complete Dehydrator Cookbook - This is one of the newest additions to my dehydrating library. It is a delightful and thorough resource. If you are a food reader, like I am, you will appreciate this book. She explains things and had lots of "tips" through out the book, that you will find as you read it (just for fun!). She has recipes and incites on backpacking foods, she devotes a whole chapter to it. Even though, I have yet too read every page of this book, I quickly found "new things", like dehydrating yogurt like fruit leathers! There are no pictures in this book, it's very plain in that regard, it appeals to the "reader". However, I am pleased to add it to my library. It's a keeper!
I have lots of cookbooks that have small dehydrator sections and they are nice to "give you the gist" but I wanted to "go deep". :-) I am NOT listing any of those here.
These are the books the guy in the video used (and suggests) for his food storage. It is the assemble dry ingredients approach.
Gifts in a Jar: One Dish Meals
Gifts in a Jar: Soups
Here are links for free dried meal recipes FREE and at your fingertips (I have not tried them yet.):
Dried Soup and Chili Recipes
Dried Soup Mixes
Dried Baking and Seasoning Mixes
Now I noticed a lot these recipe use beans as a base, which is GREAT for food storage unless you need to eat fast or on the move. However, after digging around in my cookbooks, I learned the key to "fast beans" is doing the prep work ahead. Cooking them THEN dehydrating them. They become "instant beans" then. They will rehydrate right along with your others items. No worries!
2 Wonderful online resources for dehydrating your own food are:
Dehydrate 2 Store
It is always best to try to find local coops to buy bulk from. However, if you don't have any in your area or want to get food now, here are some links. (Be sure to police your ingredients and be discerning consumers!)
Bulk Whole Foods
North Bay Trading Co
I shared this Post at Preparedness Challenge #17
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