Food dehydrators are more than the subject of late-night infomercials. Although you can buy them from a TV pitchman, they're actually legitimately useful kitchen tools that help you to preserve all kinds of food. Whether you're making your own beef jerky, drying your own spices or creating your own fruit leathers, when you're using a food dehydrator, you're also saving money.
One of a food dehydrator's great strengths is making dried snack foods such as beef jerky and fruit leathers. These products are usually very expensive on a per unit basis, since you usually only eat a couple of ounces at a time. Plus, if you're buying them at convenience stores, you pay an even higher markup, but if you make your own, you can bypass this expense. Dried fruits are frequently sweet enough to replace candy, saving you from buying candy at a quickie-mart as well.
Dehydrating extends the shelf life of food items, so you can save even more by taking advantage of buying in bulk when items go on sale. Dehydrators also let you save food that you've already bought and had planned to use but that you won't have a chance to use before it goes bad. Given that research from the National Resources Defense Counsel shows that the typical American family throws out about 25 percent of the food that it buys, dehydrating even a portion of it would lead to significant savings.
When you preserve food by freezing it, storing it is both space and energy intensive. You need to stack it, at its full size, in a freezer that is powered 24 hours a day to keep it cold. Dehydrated foods are much smaller than their original size because all of the water has been removed. They're also usually shelf-stable for months, meaning that you can throw a few jars in your pantry, instead of needing to buy a freezer, make room for it and run it.
Potential Health Savings
With your own dehydrator, you control what goes into it and, ultimately, what you eat. Furthermore, dehydrators typically work with healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables and lean meats. As you increase the amount of dried food you eat, you're effectively increasing the amount of healthy food that you eat. This should pay for itself in reduced health care costs over time.
Multiplying Your Savings
The amount that you can save by using a food dehydrator is limited by what you pay for the food that you put into it. If you pay high prices for food, your dehydrated items will be expensive when they come out of your dehydrator, as well. While shopping on sale and in bulk is a good start, you can save even more. By growing your own fruits and vegetables to dehydrate, you can essentially make your own food for nothing but the cost of seeds, water and fertilizer. Furthermore, since the dehydrator is so good at shrinking and preserving food, you can grow more without having to worry about it spoiling.
Steve Lander has been a writer since 1996, with experience in the fields of financial services, real estate and technology. His work has appeared in trade publications such as the "Minnesota Real Estate Journal" and "Minnesota Multi-Housing Association Advocate." Lander holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Columbia University.