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Why a Food Dehydrator Is a Game Changer for My Family’s Snacking

April 8, 2024
Courtesy of Fresh Off the Grid

In nearly 20 years of marriage, my husband has had one request for our family’s kitchen: To get a food dehydrator. For ages, he made the case that, since he’s a beef jerky aficionado and our whole family enjoys dried fruit, this appliance would make a useful addition to our kitchen. But I resisted for years, thinking this bulky appliance would sit in my pantry unused. (Haven’t we all had buyer’s remorse over some kitchen gadget that didn’t live up to its hype?) 

Still, when I recently had the opportunity to try one out — the 10-Tray Digital Dehydrator from Excalibur — I finally caved.

Friends, I have to admit it: I was wrong.

Not only have I used this food dehydrator a ton since it arrived three months ago, it’s actually been a game changer for my family’s healthy snacking. Here’s why.

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A food dehydrator makes it easy to create healthy snacks

With three teenage athletes at home, we can barely keep our kitchen stocked with enough snacks to fuel their activities, let alone healthy snacks they like. When my kids get home from school ravenous, it’s all too easy for them to turn to something packaged and highly processed to fill their bellies. 

But the food dehydrator makes it simple to create more nourishing post-workout snacks. Homemade jerky provides my kids with plenty of protein for muscle growth, while dehydrated fruits give them much-needed carbs for refueling. And these snacks aren’t just for kids — we grownups enjoy having nourishing noshes on hand, too.

A food dehydrator saves money

I’ve also been impressed with the money-saving aspect of owning a dehydrator. Yes, there’s the initial investment on the appliance itself — but you’ll make it up quickly and then continue to save. By snagging meats and fresh produce on sale, we can create minimally processed snacks at home for a fraction of the commercial price. 

It does take some extra work to create your own dehydrated snacks, but once you’ve spent an hour or so on prep, you can have a large supply that lasts for weeks. In fact, dehydrating is one of the most efficient food preservation methods. Dehydrated food can keep for 4 to 12 months in a cool, dry place. 

Create high-quality snacks 

As a nutritionist, I don’t generally worry about food quality. I know the USDA and FDA keep tight regulation on the U.S. food supply. Yet there’s something reassuring about purchasing my own meats and fresh produce to make snacks for my family. Doing so allows me to confirm their quality for myself. It’s a small tweak I’ve found surprisingly meaningful as I select firm, crisp apples or the exact cut of steak I want for jerky. 

5 food dehydrator recipes for beginners

If you’re game for starting your own dehydrating journey, try these simple snack recipes. 

1. Classic Beef Jerky

Beef jerky

Courtesy of Jerkyholic

This one is my husband’s favorite. The red pepper flakes give it a kick, so just go easy on them if you’re not a fan of spice.

Get the recipe from Jerkyholic.

2. Dehydrated Pineapple

Dehydrated pineapple

Courtesy of Fresh Off the Grid

If you think you like pineapple, just wait til you’ve tried the dehydrated version. It’s a delightful mix of tropical, sweet, and chewy. Start with canned pineapple to make prep even easier.

Get the recipe from Fresh Off the Grid.

3. Salmon Jerky

Salmon jerky

Courtesy of Alaska From Scratch

I know it might seem like a shame to suck the moisture out of luscious salmon, but hear me out: Salmon jerky is a portable protein that makes a delicious change from beef, especially when you flavor it with soy sauce, molasses, and liquid smoke.

Get the recipe from Alaska From Scratch.

4. Cinnamon Apple Slices

Cinnamon dried apples

Courtesy of The House and Homestead

Pop them in a trail mix, stir them into your morning oatmeal, or eat them by the handful — dried apples are a healthy snack with innumerable applications. This cinnamon-y recipe is perfect for dehydrator newbies.

Get the recipe from The House and Homestead.

5. Carrot Chips

Dehydrated carrot ribbons

Courtesy of Perspective Portions

Crispy, crunchy dried carrots are the flavor addition you probably never knew your salads needed. These are seasoned with ginger for a unique twist.

Get the recipe from Perspective Portions.

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