Category Archives: Dehydrating

Cheap, dehydrated meals

I find that specialist backpacking food and meals such as Fuizion foods to be extremely expensive for what they are, yet I find the cheaper alternative like Super Noodles to be a bit bland and lifeless. At the end of last year, I purchased a Dehydrator, with a view to dehydrating my own ingredients to make my own cheaper meals.

I’m starting to make up my meals for the Speyside Way, so I figured I’d share some of them with everyone. They’re based rather heavily around the cheap ready meals, such as Super Noodles, but with added ingredients, to give a bit of life to them. Here’s some of the ones I’ve made so far.

Savoury Rice with added ingredients

This one is based around a Bachelor’s Savory Rice (Beef flavour, in this case).

It’s quite simply a case of putting the savoury rice in a Ziploc bag and adding extra peas, broccoli and some beef jerky, as shown below

Savoury Rice

Now, in terms of weight, we’re looking at 168g. Yes, it’s heavier than the 110g Fuizion food meal, but not by much.

In terms of cost – that’s where the big difference lies. The savoury rice comes in at 68p, I paid £6 for 255g of Beef Jerky at Costco, and I reckon I’ve used about 25g here – so another 60p. The peas were £1 for 100g (before drying – became 35g after drying), I’d guess about 20p worth. The broccoli is much the same. So… a total price then of £1.68 compared to an average of £6.50 for the Fuizion.

Now, for calorie content. The Fuizion meals vary quite a bit in calorie content, so for this purpose, we’ll assume 575 calories, as an approximate average.

The calorie content of the Savoury rice is 438, The Beef Jerky packet advises 55 calories per 25g of Jerky, and I reckon 50 calories for the peas and broccoli seems reasonable – but since these have been dehydrated by me, I have absolutely no grounding for this. It’s purely a guess. So, total calorie content of about 540 calories. Not too shabby, I reckon.

Stick it in a pan of boiling water for 10 mins, at there you have it – one full meal, easily prepared.

Super Noodles with added inredients

The next one is simply a packet of Chinese Chow Mein Super Noodles, with added Broccoli, Cauliflower, Beef Jerky and carrot, as shown below.

Super Noodles

At 141g, still heavier than a Fuizion meal, but still not by much.

In terms of calories, this one is slightly higher than the savoury rice. 524 for the noodles, assume 30 for the jerky (less of it), but 50 for the vegetables – 600 calories or so.

In terms of price, 68p for the noodles, assume 20p each for broccoli, cauliflower and carrot, and 35p for jerky – £1.63 for a complete meal.

Like last time, put in a pan of boiling water, let it cook, drain, add the sachet of flavouring, mix and eat.

Tuna & Sweetcorn with Rice or Pasta

This one is slightly different from the others, in the sense that it comes in 2 different bags (though I fit one inside the other, as shown below). The one pictured is based around Uncle Ben’s Boil in the Bag Rice, but various types of pasta could also be readily used. I’m using the rice because I have specific info on price and calorie content for the purposes of this blog. This one includes a cheese sauce mix, which is cooked separately from the rice/pasta, hence requiring two bags.

Tuna & Sweetcorn with rice

Ok, in terms of weight, this one is easily the heaviest at 197g. Quite a bit heavier than a freeze dried meal! I suspect it would be lighter with regular pasta, or slightly less rice, too (I assume that I’ll eat 2 regular portions, so I have 2x 62.5g bags of rice in there)

In terms of calories, it’s also more interesting, and hopefully a little easier to calculate. The rice is 430 calories, the tuna has been dried (by me), and is approx half a 185g tin – approx 60 calories. The sweetcorn, assume about 30 calories. Then add approx 100 calories in the cheese sauce. 635 calories, approximately, in this one.

As for cost, it’s 69p for 2 bags of rice (they come in packs of 8), 50p for half a tin of tuna, approx 8p of a value tin of sweetcorn and approx 16p worth of cheese sauce mix (I’m using Bisto cheese sauce granules) – £1.43 ain’t too shabby for a meal!

To cook this one, simply boil the rice for 10 mins, put aside once cooked, then cook the sauce for a few minutes – mix and eat.

__________________________________________________________________________________

I think it’s fair to say that this is definitely a cheaper way to provide meals when backpacking, at very little gain in terms of weight, and using slightly fresher ingredients, too.

Sure, it doesn’t have the convenience of buying a freeze dried meal. No argument there – and spending a whole day with the dehydrator on can be a pain at times, too.

Then add the cost of the dehydrator itself and the electricity. Even when taking that into account, you’re looking at no more than £2 a meal. Half the price of even the most basic specialist meals (Wayfayrers tend to be about £4 each – but also about 300g). I’ll definitely be sticking to this as my means of making cheap, easy meals for backpacking, and I’m sure I can come up with new recipes and ideas as I go. When I do, you can be sure I’ll post them here!

 

First forays into Dehydrating

When backpacking, I’m not really a big fan of the pre-made, freeze-dried meals, as I find them a bit lacking in most areas. I’d much rather have ‘proper’ food, whether it’s a rice dish, noodles, potato or pasta based (I tend to find these best as the main ingredient, due to a reasonably high carbohydrate level vs weight) dish. Now, the main ingredients are light enough already, and easy enough to take with you (in the case of potato, in ‘instant mash’ form), but other ingredients, such as meat and vegetables are a bit trickier.

The obvious answer is to buy fresh when you’re out there, but that isn’t always an option, as you could be days away from civilisation and the food won’t keep for long, and fresh food tends to weigh a fair bit when carried, too.

After reading several blogs and books, I’d been led to dehydrating ingredients as an option. I’d looked online, and it seems a dehydrator wasn’t going to be particularly cheap… until I found this one from the German company, Westfalia. At £38.98 (including postage), it was within my meagre means.

The dehydrator arrived yesterday, and as I’m off work today, I’ve decided to give it a go!

Pics below are some of the ingredients I’m attempting to dehydrate.

3 carrots
150g bag of peas
some brocoli florets

The dehydrator comes in 5 layers, so I’ve got the 3 ingredients above, plus some cauliflower florets and some baby sweetcorn, to see how they go.

In the case of the carrot, broccoli and cauliflower, they spent 5 mins on the hob in boiling water, to soften them up a little before going into the dehydrator (once drained and dried, obviously!)

The guidelines for the dehydrator advise up to 12 hours for dehydrating to work. It’s been 6 hours so far, and I’ve already taken off the peas and carrots (shown below). I’m guessing that smaller items will dehydrate much faster. I’ve now got another 5 carrots in there, dehydrating along with the other ingredients (which are still nowhere near ready)

The finished article

The peas now weigh a total of 36g (including Ziploc bag) 1/5 of their original weight, and about the same amount of reduction in space! The carrots are coming in at 18g just now. That’s a pretty massive saving in terms of weight, really!

It’s not all good, though… you really need to have an understanding family for this one, as the dehydrator is really rather noisy – and for 12 hours at a time, that’s a whole lot for the family to put up with!

Still, if you do it in decent sized batches, you’ll not need to use the dehydrator very often. Apparently, dried vegetables can keep for up to a year, so I don’t see why larger batches would be an issue, either.

At this stage, I can’t comment on how well they work in a cooked meal, but you can be sure I will, as soon as I find out for myself. I’ll also update on any issues that occur, such as mold, etc…

I’m thinking this might just work out for me. It’s definitely cheaper than buying pre-dried foods and pre-packed meals, too!