Tests With Drying Food

Bugger had me a nice well thought out piece of writing done then a fuse blows and kills everything, so onwards and sod the writing aspect.

Got tired of trying to justify the price of some of the brand bought dried meals you can get as at around £6 for a main meal they are just crazy. Added to this is the fact they are a business and as such I’m skeptical about the nutrition claims they make. I can’t see how they are not actually using similar processed food as most supermarket quick meals etc.

So I have recently looked into the various ways of making your own dried meals and the method that gave me the best weight/cost/convenience factor was simple home dehydration. Doesn’t work with everything but things like stews, curry, bolognese are just fine and give plenty of variety.

I started with a simple enough portion of a shepherd’s pie as I wanted to see how well home made mash works when I know there is a perfect instant solution. The weights for everything are as follows.

Starting weights.
Mince, carrots, & gravy part = 620g
Mash part = 630g

Finish weights.
Mince, carrots, & gravy part =150g
Mash part =140g

These are rounded weights for ease and the finish weight includes the mylar bags. But I still get a total weight saving of 960g. This is handy too as it is just under 500ml of water lost from each part and so quick and simple to know how much to boil for use. I’ve bought mylar bags mainly as they give a light weight simply eating platform. The theory behind them being you get a good rolling boil of the same amount of water as lost during drying. Water being a nice substance has a density of 1g per 1ml, so you can do a straight conversion for weight lost. Once the water is at a good rolling boil add it to the bag of dried food, fold the bag down and leave to sit for 15-20 minutes. This should rehydrate the food ready to eat, and leave no messing about with pots trying to cook it up.

If I were heading out on a nice gently camp with lots of gear and a big fire I would probably just throw stuff into mess tins and use them as a stewing pot. However I am aiming to use this method with a new GSI cook set that consists of a single 600ml pot, so it will be a case of boil water and add it to food and keep the pot free for use at all times.

So onto a cost comparison. My method cost me around £8 (a very generous guess) for both the food and the electricity to make. This produces me 5 portions of just over 1200g of food for each portion. So £1.60 total cost for each meal. Using current site prices Cotswold sell a Mountain House main meal for £5.50, I think that is about the same as pretty much any retailer.
That is a total dried weight of 100g, compared to my dried weight of 290g. Having seen and handled enough retail dried food in my life I am willing to argue they do not have a near 3x more effective weight reduction method. Thus the main mean for one of these must be far less than 1200g when it is rehydrated for eating. If anyone has one of these types of meal and wishes to get it make up and weight it, I would love to know just how much food there is there. For now I’m going to argue that I am making up a meal that is 1.5 times more than a retail product.

So doing the math we have a retail product:

£5.50 per 100g dried
+ £2.25 for the added 50% I think my meal contains in food weight.
Giving a total of £7.75 for each full sized main meal, compared to my own £1.60 per meal. Thus I am getting almost a ratio of nearly 5:1 on food for cash. In addition I know exactly what goes into the food, I can tailor it for any specific task or any dietary requirement. Most importantly though I know before I even put the packet into my pack that I have a meal I will enjoy eating, I find nothing worse than being out on a hill cold and wet just to discover the packet I have purchased has a taste level on par with a pot noodle, it can be a real morale killer.

I haven’t yet tested how well these hydrate but will be doing so today, for now here are some pictures on the basic before and after process.






Original post is here. With thanks to Rich.H.

This entry was posted in General Outdoors, Outdoors Advice.

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