Watt Watchers of Texas: Texas is Too Good To Waste™

Activity: Food Preservation Techniques and Recipes: Freezing and Dehydration

Grade Level:
Theme:

Grade: All 

Theme: Food 

Time: About an hour depending on the amount of food

Activity Overview: Making sure to consume all the food that you buy is a fantastic way to reduce waste and save money. There are many simple ways to help you reduce the amount of food you throw away and help you get a little more organized. To start off, you can make a list of the food that you and your family eat on a weekly basis, as well as the food that is more likely to get thrown away. Make sure to check out our activity on Make Your Own Food Diary to get more information on organizing your meals. 

This activity is done best at home but can be incorporated into the classroom through research activities on food conservation.

Freeze!

Freezing your food is an excellent and popular way to ensure that your food items stay fresh long enough for you and your family to fully consume. After buying groceries, you could cook your meat, then store it into airtight bags to freeze. This meat can then be easily defrosted and heated on the stove or in the microwave for a convenient easy meal. Additionally freeze a portion of your fruits and vegetables and use later for a stir fry or a delicious smoothie!

Dehydrate!

Dehydrating is a fantastic technique that has been used throughout history to elongate the longevity of produce. This method will allow you to maintain the majority of your food’s nutritional value while creating a convenient and healthy snack that you and your family can enjoy anywhere at any time. 

The most convenient way to dehydrate your produce is to get your hands on a dehydrator, these machines vary in price but can be found in most home appliance stores as well as online. However, if you do not own and/or would prefer to not buy a dehydrating machine, here are some alternative options.

Dehydrating with an oven:

  • Step 1: Wash a batch of fresh fruit of your choice.
  • Step 2; Peel (optional), cut into thin, even slices and place on a nonstick baking tray or with parchment paper.
  • Step 3: Set your oven to a low setting, 200° F is a good baseline but the ideal temperature may vary depending on your oven.
  • Step 4: Place your tray with produce in the oven to dehydrate! Depending on the produce you are using, the time it takes to dehydrate will vary. Fruits with high water content such as apples will take about 4 to 6 hours to be ready. Keep an eye on your produce and flip occasionally when you see fit, once you achieve the desired consistency, remove from the oven and let cool completely.
  • Step 5: Store in airtight containers and enjoy!

*This can also be done using a toaster oven, just set the toaster oven to the lowest setting and keep the door slightly ajar. Keep an eye on your produce and keep in mind that it might take longer for the produce to dehydrate than it would using an oven.

Sun dry:

This is a great technique, especially if you live in a constantly sunny and dry environment and want to save some electricity. However you should also note that it works best with certain produce, such as herbs. If you wish to dehydrate fruit in this way, make sure to keep it covered with a clear glass cover or mesh/cloth to keep flies out. Additionally, if you live in a humid environment, this technique is not very recommended due to the increased chance of developing mold. This technique is only advised for those who live in climates where the temperature can reach over 100° F and there is low humidity (West Texas for example).

  • Step 1: If drying fruits and veggies, wash the produce you wish to use, cut into very thin pieces, pat dry with a clean cloth or towel and place on a rack on a baking tray. The rack is particularly important for air circulation so make sure you do not skip this step!
  • Step 2: Place the rack on a clean surface that receives direct sunlight, cover with a thin cloth to keep away bugs and wait a couple days, checking up on then once or twice a day until you reach your desired consistency.
  • Step 3: Store in airtight containers and enjoy!

*Dehydrated produce can last you about 4 to 6 months depending on the method used as well as the way in which the produce was dehydrated and stored.

Air dry:

This technique works best for herbs and is a perfect method for making your own organic teas and spices.

  • Step 1: Carefully wash and inspect your herbs for any bugs, especially if the herbs you are using are store bought to remove any pesticides.
  • Step 2: Pat dry or spin in a salad spinner to remove excess moisture.
  • Step 3: Separate into small bundles, making sure to remove any dead or damaged leaves and tie with twine or string at the stem. If using loose leaves, place on a drying rack and loosely cover with a breathable cloth.
  • Step 4: Wrap loosely in a thin breathable cloth to catch any falling seeds.
  • Step 5: Hang the bundles a couple inches apart in a part of your house that is dry and does not receive any direct sunlight.
  • Step 6: Check periodically on your herbs. After several days, you will notice that they begin to shrink and harden (you may have to adjust the twine holding the bundles together).
  • Step 7: Remove the leaves from the stems and store in airtight containers away from direct sunlight.
Watt Watchers of Texas is a Partner Program of Smart Energy Education.
Watt Watchers of Texas. Copyright © 2020 The University of Texas at Austin. All Rights Reserved.
envelope-ochevron-circle-rightmenu-circlecross-circle linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram