How to Use a Dehydrator to Save Money

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OK, Frugalites! How many of you own a dehydrator? I looooove my new dehydrator. I know that I am already saving money with this wonderful contraption. While I lived off-grid in my tiny house, I could not spare the electricity to run a dehydrator. When I moved into my eco-cabin, which is now on the grid, I started looking for the right dehydrator. In this article, I will share all of the wonderful ways that this kitchen appliance saves me money.

Choose your dehydrator carefully

But first, dear Frugalites, I want to share the importance of buying the right dehydrator if you are new to this gadget. I literally shopped for over a year, watching sales and waiting for the right one to come along. As harvest time was coming on the homestead last fall, I started to feel some pressure to buy one. As a result, I almost bought an underpowered unit at a “bargain” price.

I am so happy I found an in-store (unpublicized) sale in a local hardware store for a high-quality dehydrator. Here are the features that I have found to be important to me: The unit I bought has five large trays that stack on top of each other. It is 500 watts, and I think this power is important to generate the necessary heat for dehydration. As well, I love the auto shut-off feature, which gives me peace of mind.

This is an appliance that generates heat and needs to run for a very long time. You want to be able to trust it. You cannot just start and stop the dehydration process when you need to leave the house, so invest in a unit that you trust. My dehydrator is digital and can run up to 48 hours. I have needed to run my dehydrator for around 18 hours continuously to dry my orange and lemon peels, and there was no noticeable overheating or strain on it that I could see.

The “bargain” version that I was looking for at a local big box store had five small trays but was only 250 watts. It had no auto shut-off feature. When I checked the reviews, many people were complaining that the trays on this unit were cracking after only a few uses. The price for this unit: is just under US$50. By waiting for a big sale, I was able to get my high-quality dehydrator with twice the power and auto shut off, regularly priced at US$100…..drum roll please…..for under US$60! I’m a big believer that buying quality items (for some things) will save you in the long run!

Dry free things

My biggest savings with my dehydrator has been when I have dried free things. Come fall, watch out! It is apple season in this area. My aunt has a friend who has an apple tree. There is another gentleman in the area with a small orchard of trees that offers his apples for free to anyone interested. Some people say that unsprayed apples are “wormy.” I filled my six trays with apple slices over and over again from my aunt’s friend and never saw a single worm!

Talk about savings. Free snacks through the winter, and free apples to make oatmeal, muffins, and cakes!

Dry cheap things

Being a Frugalite, I am also always on the look for inexpensive things. So, with my dehydrator ever at the ready, I can keep my eye out for sales. One high-end grocery store in the nearest city is my favorite. Their markdown racks are legendary.

I went in last fall to look for MORE apples and found the most expensive apples you can buy locally – organic honey crisp – several pounds of them for only a few dollars. They are now very, very crisp in my collection of pint jars filled with dried apples.

Dry expensive things

Sometimes, you can save more by drying expensive things. One example is organic celery. My favorite soup recipe begins with finely chopped carrots, onions, and celery. This is a French cooking tradition called “mirepoix,” where you sauté these vegetables slowly together to create a rich and delicious flavor for a soup or stew.

I prefer organic celery, but it is expensive. My soup recipe only requires three celery stalks. What is the solution? I can dehydrate the extra celery stalks and keep them on hand when I want to make the soup. With organic celery being the most expensive item to make my healthy lentil soup, I can reduce the cost of making this soup each time dramatically.

Dry extra things

Harvest time on the homestead is wonderful! So many vegetables ready for harvest – literally the fruits of my labors. However, this can create a time crunch. I don’t want anything to go to waste.

One example of “extra things” on the homestead was the countless cherry tomatoes still on my “Sweet 100” plant as the frost approached. I gathered them all up and put them in a bowl. Within a few days, they were all ripe. What did I do then? Did I eat them? No! I cut them in half and sprinkled them with a bit of salt…and dried them.

Ah, a dried cherry tomato – how flavorful! How delicious! Once dried, I keep them in the freezer. They last all winter. I am just about to finish the last of them. I put them on pizzas. My favorite use for them is to throw a bunch of them into an omelet with some sautéed onion. Mmmmmm. The flavor!

Dry things and give them as gifts.

OK, I’m so frugal that I can admit to you that I have already given pint jars of my (free) dried apples as gifts to several friends and family. What a great gift! There are other things you could dry and give away. Over the holidays, many people like to mull apple cider or wine.

Two of the main ingredients in mulling spices are dried orange and lemon peels. With some creative wrapping and your own dehydrator, you can give a thoughtful gift that people can enjoy while socializing with their loved ones. This Frugalite article has links to a couple of recipes for homemade mulling spices.

Do you want to encourage healthy eating in your own kids or perhaps nieces or nephews? Many dehydrators come with a fruit leather tray. The young ones would treasure the chance to spend time with you, puree the fruit and then pour it onto the proper tray. Making memories and frugal, healthy snacks – what’s not to love? Maybe you could even sneak some kale in there without them noticing!

My de-hy-GREAT-er way to save!

My dehydrator is my new Frugalite Friend. Do you own a dehydrator? If not, could you see yourself buying one in the near future? If yes, what is your favorite thing to dry and save? Please tell us in the comments below.

About Colette

Colette is passionate about sharing her knowledge of thrifty living and self-sufficiency. She has developed her skills in self-reliance living in the suburbs, the city, and more recently, on her own Half-Acre Homestead. Colette lived five years completely off-grid and without running water in an eight by 24 foot tiny home while designing and building her own 18 by 24-foot eco-cabin. She has just launched her website, Half Acre Homestead. Colette invites you to stop by and visit this work in progress! Coming soon in 2022 is her exciting new online program. Interested in Resiliency, Preventative Health, and Self-Sufficient/Off-Grid Housing (to name a few!)? Stay tuned for more details! 

How to Use a Dehydrator to Save Money
Colette

Colette

Colette is passionate about sharing her knowledge of thrifty living and self-sufficiency. She has developed her skills in self-reliance living in the suburbs, the city, and more recently, on her own Half-Acre Homestead. Colette lived five years completely off-grid and without running water in an eight by 24 foot tiny home while designing and building her own 18 by 24-foot eco-cabin. She has just launched her website, Half Acre Homestead. (www.halfacrehomestead.ca) Colette invites you to stop by and visit this work in progress! Coming soon in February 2022 is her exciting new online program. Interested in Resiliency, Preventative Health, and Self-Sufficient/Off-Grid Housing (to name a few!)? Stay tuned for more details!

12 thoughts on “How to Use a Dehydrator to Save Money”

  1. I have two five tray dehydrators. One is the very expensive type and the other is a bargain brand that I picked up at the agriculture store from $100. I love both of them. I always shop the quick sale racks at my local, non big box grocery store. On Tuesday I scored 8 pint boxes of sliced baby bella mushrooms for 29 cents a pint. I have about 4 gallons of dried mushrooms. I also dry onions, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, potatoes, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, various fruit and other veggies. I can get quick sale pre sliced coleslaw mix for 39 cents and now have two gallons of that. I use ‘The Dehydrator’s Bible”. This spring and summer will be the time to have the dehydrators running full blast.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing, OkieRanchWife. You are truly a dehydrating inspiration. Very glad to hear that you love both your dehydrators. Wishing you the best with the coming dehydration season!

  2. Great article! My wife and I dehydrate. Like you she loves the apples. We were using one of the basic plastic dehydrators which worked ok but my wife found a better one just like yours that was for sale locally and had only been used twice. It was like brand new and it came with some extra recipe books. A machine that costs $150 new cost us $70 and it is so much more efficient than the plastic one. And like you said it offers better control and more space. Great article and I’ve passed it on to my wife. Thank you!

    1. Hi Paul. Thanks so much! Wow! You did great with your frugal find of your new/used dehydrator. Wishing you lots of dehydrating fun using your recipe books!

  3. I have a Dehydro, sadly without the temperature control, but it works very well! I dehydrate extras of many things, including mushrooms. I’ve yet to have any problems leaving it run overnight. An added benefit: dehydrated items store in less space. 10 pounds of blueberries fit into 2 quart jars last year, and I just finished them. They were delicious! I’ve been getting much more use of this item than I initially thought I would, and I’m very happy to have it!

    1. Hi Amy, Oh yum yum! I am now planning to do blueberries, too! You make a great point about storage…it sure is great to store MORE food in LESS space these days! Many thanks!

  4. Jennifer Harvey

    At this time of year, we are still getting the occasional snow in Ontario, and only the crocuses have poked up their heads. Soon, the first early dandelion leaves will appear. I dehydrate large quantities of these, especially the earliest ones which are tender and far less bitter than they become once the flowers have formed. I grind the dehydrated greens into powder, which I add to soups, stews and smoothies throughout the year to add a nutrient boost. In glass mason jars, the greens powder stays fine for at least a year.

    1. Hi Jennifer, I’m in Eastern Ontario…we have no crocuses yet. I look forward to seeing them. You have shared such a valuable tip in how to save the goodness of these early dandelion leaves. Just today, I was craving some. If I can restrain myself from eating all of mine on Half-Acre Homestead, I will definitely give your tip a try. It is an excellent health boost, I am sure! Much appreciated!

  5. I have a Presto Dehydro (mine does have temp control). I bought an electric timer that I can plug it into. I have run it all night with mo issues. I have also turned it off at night and resumed drying in the morning with no issues. I have dried herbs, fruit, veggies, as well as fruit rinds/peels. I have a feeling Old Reliable will be used a lot more often this year.

    1. Hi Grammyprepper, So glad you are happy with your Presto. Adding an electric timer is a BRILLIANT idea. Good for you! Yes, I am feeling the same….likely lots and lots will get dried on the homestead this year, too! Wishing you the best with your drying!

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