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I’m sorry I was awaaaayyyyy…

So I shot all this footage of cooking potatoes, and then I was overwhelmed by putting it all together and just stopped. This is a very bad plan, because then I didn’t have stuff to post.

I apologize, CookCheap readers.

I intend to spend some time catching up, but here’s where I am with my own food:

As you may recall, I personally try to base my eating on vegetables and protein and healthy fats. Our farm share started delivering at the beginning of June and I have been in, as they say, hog heaven.

I realize now how lucky I am with my farm share since I bought one for my brother in Columbus and I have been disappointed in it so far. They’ve delayed deliveries and begged for help clearing weeds instead of delivering huge amounts of fresh food every week, which is what my farm share does. My mother-in-law still can’t believe our farm share is so productive and delicious, since apparently she tried one in Arizona where she lives once and the produce was limp and unattractive. There are bad farm shares out there and my friends share their horror stories too. But MY farm share, from GoldenEarthworm here in New York state, provides fantastic, fresh food every week.

In fact there’s so much of it that my challenge has been to figure out how to eat it all. I’m usually the only person eating it, as only one stepkid eats actual food and she’s only here every other weekend. (My husband eats very, very few veggies.) So in the interest of cooking cheap and eating local and NOT throwing away food, I acquired a dehydrator this spring.

This is my new favorite toy. We wore ourselves out drying berries when they started coming out here – I have strawberries, blueberries, and cherries stocked up against the winter. And I’m starting to learn how to preserve other things with it. Six random zucchini that showed up unannounced in my farm share (stealth zucchini! They’re everywhere) have been turned into dried zucchini strips and put in a jar for a future veggie lasagna. I’ve also done kale chips (YUMMM!) and some beet greens which a girlfriend assures me are great to add to soups in the winter.

Here’s the thing, though: I’m not sure how a dehydrator fits in with the CookCheap mission. My goal here has always been to show you how to make basic foods so you can cook them and therefore eat more cheaply than if you depend on processed foods. Now a dehydrator makes great sense from the homesteading point of view. You grow or buy foods when they’re in season, and dehydrate them for use in later seasons. The power use is low to do the drying and even lower to store since they don’t require freezing (I unfortunately have no space for a freezer).

However, there’s an upfront expense to owning a dehydrator. On the advice of homesteading books and websites, I bought an Excalibur, the top of the line, but I bought the smallest one, with only four trays. That one was $105 on eBay from a reliable vendor whom I believe is still selling them. There are of course cheaper dehydrators. Amazon.com will sell you the round Ronco five-tray home machine for $39, which includes shipping. The reason I went with the top of the line right away (albeit the cheapest one) is that I read reviews that stated that machines from other brands sometimes didn’t dry as evenly or as effectively, and I didn’t want to waste the food or my time getting it wrong. But a lot of people will tell you that they do just fine with these consumer machines, and if you’re interested but can’t spring for an Excalibur right now, then start with the Ronco.

You don’t even have to buy one new. These are the kinds of things people buy and leave in their basements and never get around to using. Check yard sales over the summer and see if you can find one cheaper. I bet you can. Craigslist right now shows five more expensive ones in my immediate area but also two cheaper ones slightly farther away – possibly reachable by train or car.

If you can get past the upfront expense, and you can cook (and if you can’t, that’s what we’re here to show you how to do, right?), I feel sure you can significantly reduce your food bill. I like putting dried fruits in my pancakes and cookies – but it costs THE EARTH in the winter. Buying the fruit when it’s fresh and cheap (and local!) and drying it myself is allowing me to stockpile precious resources now rather than doing it in the winter at top prices. And as I said, any veggies around that I buy but don’t happen to eat can also be saved now instead of having to try to freeze them or (more often for me) just throwing them out.

I can see that a challenge is going to be learning how to cook with these kinds of foods. If six zucchini become one jar of zucchini noodles, how much will/may they expand when I use them to make lasagna? This will all be very interesting to find out.

Anyway, so you can see, the thing is, I can talk about this new dehydrating kick forever. But for a lot of you, that’s not helping you to learn how to cook cheap. So I’ll try to also continue to provide you with basic food recipes and thoughts on simply How To Cook, so that you can cook for yourself as cheaply as possible. But I needed to explain why posts on drying may slip in here – or why dried foods may be making appearances.

I have lots more other things to talk about too, though, so don’t panic.

2 comments to I’m sorry I was awaaaayyyyy…

  • That one was $105 on eBay from a reliable vendor whom I believe is still selling them.

    Who is…? Because I’m still sniffing around getting a dehydrator myself.

  • Aha, here is the dehydration info I was looking for. This is intriguing.

    Problem is, I don’t have a farm share nor a dehydrator, and don’t have the upfront for it now. But I am still interested in this, and also in freezing things (I still remember your cheese freezing advice and mean to try it). I also need to find ways not to spend a fortune on groceries in Manhattan, but that’s beside the point.

    🙂

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