Dehydrating Food For Long-Term Storage: Quick Tips, Best Foods

Over the years I have tried dehydrating various foods.  I have done fruits, vegetables, meats, and shrimp.  Some of the items I will continue to dehydrate and some I will write off as a learning experience.

When thinking about dehydrating food for a survival situation, you most likely will be planning for the “Extended” and/or the “Long Term” levels in the Survival Food Pyramid.  When I first began dehydrating, I started with small batches and vacuum bags for storage.  From my experience, this seemed to be very inefficient and the vacuum bags are expensive.  This has led me to where I am today.  I use 5-gallon buckets, gamma seal lids, Mylar bags, and oxygen absorbers.

SHTF Food Storage

Best Foods to Dehydrate For Long Term Storage: My Recommendations

To get you started, below are some food options for dehydrating at home. 

Meat

When it comes to dehydrating meat, pieces with the lowest fat content should be selected. Meat with higher fat content will increase the chances of the meat going bad. Examples of good meat to dehydrate are:

  • Fish 
  • Deer 
  • Duck 
  • Goose 
  • Rabbit 
  • Beef 
  • Elk
  • Bison 
  • Turkey 

Vegetables 

Dehydrating is an excellent way of saving excess food from a garden. When your garden is bursting with produce consider dehydrating the following items to save for later as a quick snack or to add into recipes. 

  • Potatoes 
  • Onions 
  • Tomatoes 
  • Green beans 
  • Peppers 
  • Cumbers 
  • Broccoli 
  • Mushrooms
  • Cauliflower 
  • Peas 

Fruits

Dehydrated fruits are a great addition to any breakfast meal, for making homemade trail mixes, or to simply eat as a quick snack. Some fruits to consider are:

  • Apples 
  • Bananas 
  • Oranges 
  • Pineapple 
  • Strawberries 
  • Blueberries 

Herbs

If you grow your own herbs don’t forget about dehydrating them so they can be ground up later for spices!

  • Oregano 
  • Chilli 
  • Onion 
  • Thyme 
  • Basil 
  • Black pepper
  • Cumin 
  • Garlic
  • Nutmeg
  • Mint 

Pasta

Consider dehydrating cooked pasta. This will make it last longer and drastically reduce future cooking time. 


Are Fruits Worth It?

SHTF Food Storage

Doing fruits is not technically difficult.  However, when taking into consideration that you will be dehydrating potentially years’ worth of food the labor involved may be more than you will be willing to perform.  Imagine how many banana slices it will take to fill a five-gallon bucket.

Therefore, I have decided that I will purchase most of the fruits for long term food storage.  The one exception is pineapples.  With a good corer, you can quickly prepare a pineapple.  I also like the smell in the winter.

SHTF Food Storage

I have dehydrated chicken, turkey, ham, and pork. The dehydration process is simple and they seem to come out fine. I do get concerned that the remaining oils will turn rancid. Therefore, I vacuum sealed the meats and kept them in the freezer. Since my goal is for decade-plus storage I decided against dehydrating meats and purchased meat products specifically designed for long term storage.

Here are a couple of other items I will purchase freeze dried instead of dehydrating.  Potatoes, they are inexpensive to purchase and mine tended to turn black.  Onions and shrimp both turn out fine.  Unfortunately, they will create odor problems in your house.

So, what dehydrates well, is easy enough to do in bulk, and will store for generations?  Corn, broccoli, green beans, peas, green chilies, and many other vegetables will dehydrate well and have an indefinite shelf life.  I like the 5lb bags of vegetables.  In a matter of minutes, I can have them in my dehydrator.

SHTF Food Storage

When they are done I simply pour them into the Mylar bag.  I make certain I dehydrate them until they are crisp. Leaving moisture may allow your product to decay. Remember, you are dehydrating for the long term, not next week’s backpack trip.  Put the O2 absorber in the bag with the vegetables. You can substitute hand warmers for O2 absorbers.

Close the Mylar bag and try to remove as much air as possible. Tighten the gamma seal and place it in a dark cool location.

To give you some idea of the benefits of dehydrating I can put 35lbs of green beans in a 5-gallon bucket, 50lbs of peas, and 55lbs of corn.


Other Things to Store and Notes

SHTF Food Storage

Flour, beans, rice, and pasta can be placed in a Mylar bag, which is inserted into a 5-gallon bucket with an O2 absorber.

For flour, I use a plate to remove air and to pack as much product in the bag as possible.

Storing sugar does not require an O2 absorber.  Don’t stack the bucket that contains heavy items (sugar, flour, beans, etc.) more than 3 high. The gamma seal lids will break compromising your food storage.

Recommended Reading: The Dehydrator Bible

All Photos by Dave H.




Written by Joel Jefferson

Joel is one of the original founders of SurvivalCache.com. After college, he joined the USMC where he served as an (0302) Marine Infantry Officer. Joel is an avid outdoorsman and spends much of his free time in the mountains. Joel’s hobby is researching survival gear & weapons as well as prepping. Read his full interview here. Read more of Joel's articles.

14 thoughts on “Dehydrating Food For Long-Term Storage: Quick Tips, Best Foods”

  1. Here's a tip for dehydrating potatoes so they don't turn black:

    * Boil the potatoes with the skin on until they are completely cooked through.
    * Next put the potatoes in the refrigerator overnight so they are cold when you cut them.
    * Make sure you are using a stainless steel knife when you cut them.
    * Finally, toss them in the dehydrator.

    Reply
    • I simply peeled, sliced thin with my vegetable slicer, placed in a colander, and put into hot boiling water for about 2 minutes.
      They are gorgeous, white, and so healthy looking. They are actually transparent.
      Sealed in a mason jar.
      Using the colander makes less work.
      Hope this helps.

      Reply
  2. Carbon dioxide is heavier than straight air, oxygen, or nitrogen. So if you put a chip / block of DRY ICE in your package (especially buckets), it would drive all the air out as it melted (CO2 pools in the bottom, pushing out the lighter air/oxygen.
    This would be a bit more difficult to do with packages you are trying to seal, but something could be done, maybe. Put your smaller bag inside a bucket, add the dry ice, let it drive out all the air, wait til fully melted, then seal. No air, no oxygen.
    This from a chemical engineer in a former life.
    No moisture either. So this trick would work with sugar, salt, and any other foods that can’t stand moisture. You just have to wait long enough for all the original air to be displaced. But I don’t know how long you have to wait before sealing after adding an O2 absorber either.
    Also a great way to store your O2 absorbers with no oxygen around.

    Reply
    • Dry ice is a great way to go. I met a guy that stores 48gal drums of food staples. He uses CO2 tanks and just opens the valve until a Bic lighter next to the drum opening won't hold a flame. I wish I had to resources to take advantage of economy of scale. Soon, though…soon.

      Reply
  3. Haven't started dehydrating food yet because there seems like a lot of information to know first. Have been doing a ton of research & felt I learnt more in this one short article than many hours & sites I've been to. Thanks ! 🙂

    Reply
  4. I've heard that you should put bay leaves in with the dried beans, flours, grains, in order to help reduce chance of bug infestation. Can use the leaves later for seasoning.

    Reply

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