Food is a key resource in all emergency and survival situations. Ensuring that you have ample food stores to endure a shortage, natural disaster, or apocalypse is essential to be prepared for everything.
Dehydrated food is an efficient source of nutrition when faced with dire straits. So how long does dehydrated food last, and should you be using it? Continue reading to discover the benefits this survival staple.
What Is Dehydrated Food?
Dehydration is a process utilizing low heat and consistent airflow to remove 75% to 95% of moisture from food via evaporation. This prevents major contributors to food deterioration, such as bacteria, yeast, and mold, to prolong the shelf life of your food stores. This food preservation technique is descended from the thousands-of-years-old practice of sun-drying food. Now, dehydration can be done in an oven or food dehydrator.
Is Dehydrated Food a Good Emergency Food Source?
Dehydrated food is a low-cost resource for your budget-friendly needs. Compared to freeze-dried food, which limits the moisture content in food to 1%, dehydrated food is less costly. It can be stored in cool spaces and at room temperature, and will generally remain edible after years on the shelf. Pre-packaged dehydrated foods cost approximately $0.05 an ounce, meaning that rationing dehydrated food can help you survive for about $1.50 a day. So, a $100 investment in pre-packaged dehydrated food could feed one person for roughly 67 days.
The dehydration process concentrates the flavor of the food you’re storing. Its texture depends on the method of dehydration and the type of food. Fruits are chewy and sweet when dehydrated, while vegetables are crispy, and meat becomes jerky. It also preserves more nutrients than canning food.
Why Store Dehydrated Food?
Dehydrating food is an affordable option for survivalist homemakers seeking to stretch their budget. Campers and backpackers loaded with dehydrated food can enjoy the freedom to roam and focus on outdoor recreation, without needing an elaborate outdoor kitchen setup.
Additionally, surviving any long-lasting disaster requires abundant access to food in order to thrive. Survivors whose reserves of canned goods (which last less than five years) are complemented by dehydrated foods will be more prepared than those relying exclusively on canned food. The more food you have in storage, the less risky maneuvers are required to locate and cook new food.
For all interested parties, dehydrated food is a compact, lightweight solution for preserving perishables that would be otherwise impossible to transport on high-intensity excursions.
How Long Does Dehydrated Food Last?
Depending on the type of food, dehydration technique, and storage method, dehydrated food can last longer than 20 years.
Foods that are dehydrated at home will have a shorter shelf life than those that are professionally packaged. Here is a reference for the shelf life of manufactured foods stored at room temperature:
- Legumes: Seven to 10 years
- Mushrooms: About one year
- Vegetables: Eight to 20 years
- Fruits: Five to 20 years
- Grains: Eight to 12 years
- Dairy: 10 to 20 years
- Eggs: About 10 years
- Meats: Half a year to one year
Best and Worst Dehydrated Foods
Best Dehydrated Foods
If you’re asking yourself, “How long do dehydrated foods last?” then it’s important to know that not all foods dehydrate equally well.
Most fruits and vegetables are hardy candidates for dehydration. Legumes, such as beans and lentils, are also great shelf survivors. Grains, including rice and pasta, will last well when dehydrated. Herbs are also a prime choice for your long-term storage needs.
Low-fat meats and seafood will not last quite as long as vegetarian options but still enjoy extended edibility through dehydration. Dehydrated sauces also stay in good condition, provided that they are free of fats, oils, dairy, and eggs.
Worst Dehydrated Foods
Fats do not evaporate through dehydration. The resulting moisture causes food spoilage and even rancid products. For this reason, nut butters should not be dehydrated. Nut powders are a safer option for those who want to include them in their stores.
Avocados and olives are examples of high-fat fruits that are not suitable for dehydration.
Eggs not ideal for long-term storage. Eggs are dangerous to dehydrate, as salmonella reproduces in the temperature range suitable for dehydration. Trust professional manufacturers to provide your long-term egg products.
Storing milk via dehydration is also a recipe for food poisoning. Dairy replacements for long-term storage include: butter powder, sour cream powder, powdered milk, and powdered cheese.
Factors in Storing Dehydrated Food
Understanding proper storage methods will help you better determine, in your own scenario, the answer to “How long does dehydrated food last?”
Storing dehydrated food at room temperature (65° F to 72° F) is generally acceptable. However, it is best to store dehydrated food in the coolest temperature possible. Storage at 60° F doubles shelf life compared to storage at 80° F.
It is also important that the temperature remains stable, as fluctuations lessen the quality of the food.
Freezing dehydrated foods that have been properly prepped and sealed will help them remain edible almost indefinitely. So when someone asks you, “How long does dehydrated food last?” You can say, “Forever!”
Oxidation degrades the flavor and shelf life of food. Reduce oxygen levels by using airtight containers or vacuum sealing. You can also eliminate this variable entirely with oxygen absorber packets.
Exposure to light also deteriorates the flavors, nutrients, and ongoing edibility of dehydrated food.
Keep your storage area dry, and use desiccation packets if you have any doubts about humidity in your containers. A well-ventilated storage space will also prolong the food’s shelf life.
No answer to “How long does dehydrated food last?” is complete without a thorough understanding of the best packaging for your goods.
Canning Mason Jars
Glass jars with good lids, or lids with silicone inserts, are excellent for storage when well-sanitized and dry. They can be amended with oxygen absorber packs or desiccant packs if necessary, and they come in a variety of useful sizes. Some can even be vacuum sealed for better storage. Only insert the amount of food that is proportional to the size of the jar.
Vacuum Sealing and Mylar Bags
Vacuum sealing dehydrated food not only reduces oxygen exposure but also helps to maximize the long-term vitamin and nutrient content of your food.
Vacuum-sealed food can extend its shelf life to 30 years. Low-fat and fat-free meats, seafood, and poultry can also be vacuum-sealed, although these will still only last for three to five years.
Mylar bags are a storage method that reduces the risk of food degradation due to light and oxygen. They can be vacuum sealed, but they are not puncture-proof or rodent-proof.
Ordinary vacuum-sealed bags are mostly, but not totally, oxygen-proof. Mylar bags are almost entirely impenetrable by oxygen. Thus, Mylar bags are most well-suited for long-term storage compared to normal vacuum-sealed bags.
These are an ideal choice for long-term food storage. Examples include sealable food-grade buckets and airtight glass jars.
Fats and Oils
These are highly perishable products and should be avoided in dehydrated food. The presence of fat in jerky can cause it to go rancid. Store jerky in glass mason jars or vacuum-sealed bags for best results.
Store dehydrated foods in a cool, dry, dark location. Closets, cabinets, fridges, freezer chests, and cool basements are all suitable storage locations.
If freezing your food, the container must be airtight to prevent smell exchange. It is also essential to consume these foods as soon as they are thawed, to prevent spoilage due to moisture from ice crystals.
Refrigerating dehydrated food is usually unnecessary. It can be beneficial, though, for jerky or other fatty foods. Simply ensure that they are stored in airtight containers to avoid humidity-causing moisture problems.
Additional Considerations for Storing Dehydrated Food
How Long Does Dehydrated Food Last with Additives?
Many manufactured dehydrated fruits contain preservatives such as sulfur dioxide, sodium benzoate, and potassium sorbate. These discourage bacteria and prolong shelf life for an additional six months or more. Some individuals with sulfite sensitivities or asthma may want to avoid foods treated with sulfites
Do not allow fruit containing sulfur to make contact with metal, or else the chemical reaction between the two materials will discolor the fruit. Place fruit treated with sulfur in bags before placing in a metal container.
Dehydrated Ingredients and Dehydrated Meals
As with certain ingredients, some cooked foods are more easily dehydrated than others. However, soups, rice dinners, and baked goods can all be preserved and stored for years to come. A wide variety of pre-made survival meals are available from commercial dehydrated food providers. How long does dehydrated food last when stored as ingredients or meals?
The shelf life of individual ingredients will depend on the food, but ingredient storage tends to last longer than meal storage. This difference is due to the added variables of ingredients dehydrating at less ideal temperatures when cooked together, and the possible presence of fats. oils, dairy, or eggs in a dehydrated meal.
Pro Tips for Consuming Dehydrated Foods
How Long Does Dehydrated Food Last Once Opened?
Only open as much dehydrated food as you can eat in a short time window. Once opened, recently dehydrated food will last longer than older foods.
Oxygen, moisture, and light pose an immediate threat to the ongoing quality of dehydrated food. If you have leftovers, freeze them for best results.
Does Dehydrated Food Go Bad?
Under ideal conditions, dehydrated food will last for the periods described above. However, certain risk factors are involved in food storage.
How long does dehydrated food last? Not long if bacteria, mold, and microbes decide to consume it. These are some of the most common vices in long-term food storage. Proper dehydration practices can prevent unpleasant surprises when you open your future meal.
Avoid botulism growth by eliminating moisture in your containers, and refrigerate or freeze dehydrated food that has been vacuum-sealed. Desiccant packs eliminate moisture while storing food.
Various pantry pests are attracted to dehydrated fruits. They will establish habitats, and even lay eggs, in containers that are not completely airtight. An insect infestation can also occur if insect eggs remain on the fruit after dehydration. This is what makes proper pretreatment so essential for food storage.
Oxygen absorbers can help prevent infestation, as the critters involved cannot survive without oxygen.
The best storage for dehydrated food is oxygen-free, airtight packaging placed in a cool, dark place. Vitamins A, B, and C, as well as antioxidants, are all heat-sensitive They will degrade in high temperatures. Ideal storage reduces but does not prevent nutrient loss.
The longer food is stored, the fewer nutrients it retains. So if you’re reading “How Long Does Dehydrated Food Last?” it is important you know that “lasting” longer may include losing nutrition.
Dehydrated foods absorb the air around them, as well as their contents. Do not store food near chemicals or other strongly-scented items. For similar reasons, keep meats, fruits, and veggies stored separately so that they do not exchange aromas.
Signs of Spoilage
Visible mold, discoloration, or moisture are each a sign of spoiled food. Bad smells or tastes are also clear indicators that the food is inedible and should be discarded. If a chewy food is crunchy, or vice versa, this is also a sign to stay away.
Double-check the sensory characteristics of the food before trusting the expiration date if you’re looking at the package and wondering “How long does dehydrated food last?”
How to Rehydrate Your Food
To rehydrate your food, place it in a pot with an amount of water equal to the quantity of food. Let it soak for about five minutes, then bring the water to a boil before reducing the heat to a simmer. Allow the mixture to simmer for two to 10 minutes. Turn off the heat (or remove your pot from the heat source) and cover the pot with a lid. Allow it to rest for 10 more minutes, or until the food appears tender.
Try to finish your full portion or share it with those who can help finish the meal in one sitting. If you’re stirring your pot wondering “How long does dehydrated food last once rehydrated?” know that the answer is “Not long at all.”
Wrapping Up “How Long Does Dehydrated Food Last?”
You are now more informed as to how long dehydrated food lasts, and the proper methods for storing dehydrated food. This knowledge can help you to reduce food waste and maximize your nutrition in recreational and survival scenarios. You’re ready to invest in your own survival with dehydrated food.