Dried fruit is a commodity in many households; it’s a great addition to meals and makes for a delicious snack. Constantly buying dried fruits can become costly, but is drying your own fruits worth it? Will it save you money?
It is cheaper to dry your own fruit than to buy dried fruit. Drying fruits such as apples, strawberries, mangos, or bananas yourself will save you money in the long run. You’ll be spending less money, and you get the added benefit of ensuring healthier dried fruits with no added sugars.
The rest of this article will discuss how drying your fruit can save you money, the materials you’ll need to dry fruits, and how the fruit drying process works. We’ll also be comparing the amount of money that goes into buying dried fruit versus drying them yourself.
What Is Dried Fruit?
Dried fruit is fruit in which most of the water content has been removed. It makes for delicious, healthy snacks and doesn’t go bad after a couple of days, unlike fresh fruit.
Dried fruits have been around for a very long time, dating back to the fourth millennium BC. They’re known for being nutritious, tasting sweet, and storing for a long time. They’re favored everywhere, but unfortunately, they can be pricey.
How Do I Dry My Own Fruit?
Drying your own fruit is a relatively straightforward process, assuming that you have the necessary equipment and the patience to do so. However, there are a few things you need to keep in mind before cutting up your fruit and beginning the dehydrating process.
Prepare the Fruit
Prepare your fruit for drying by washing it, and peel any fruit with tough skin, such as apples, bananas, or mangos. Once you’ve removed any skin, slice the fruit into ⅛ inch (0.32 cm) slices. The thicker the fruit slices are, the longer the drying process will take.
It’s also a good idea to pretreat the fruit slices. Pretreating means soaking the fruit slices in a citric acid solution. The reasoning for this is that, by soaking the fruit, it will have a brighter color, prevent browning, and decrease any bacteria growth.
After properly preparing the fruit, you’re ready to begin dehydrating. You can use several different methods to dry your fruit, all of them with their advantages and disadvantages. Choosing the way that best suits you and your dried fruit needs should be easy. Here are four standard methods to fruit drying:
Using an oven to dry fruits is one of the most common ways to dehydrate fruit simply because most people own an oven. While it’s not as quick and straightforward as a dehydrator–which we’ll discuss in a moment–it doesn’t take too long. Depending on the fruit, of course.
As long as you don’t have plans to use your oven for the next 3-6 hours, this is an excellent way to dry your own fruits.
Place the sliced fruits on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and preheat the oven anywhere between 140°F (60°C) to 200°F (93.33°C).
The temperature varies depending on how long you want to keep the fruit in the oven, but most people prefer using the oven on the lowest possible setting to avoid heat damage and retain the most nutritional benefits possible.
The fruit also needs a little airflow to dry correctly, so be sure to leave a little space between each fruit slice. Also, if your oven has a fan, this is a good time to turn it on. If your oven doesn’t have a fan, leave the oven door slightly cracked or open the door frequently to allow airflow.
The time it takes to dry depends on the fruit you’re drying. For example, apples typically take six to ten hours, while bananas only take around two to three hours. If you want the fruit extra-crispy, it could take longer.
While you might prefer this method because it’s easy, it does take a while, so you won’t be able to use your oven for anything else while the fruits are dehydrating.
Another downside to this method is that the oven will use a lot of energy since it has to dry for so long. Therefore, it might cost you more money than other methods.
Sun drying is a traditional drying method. The sun-drying method beats every other way in terms of cost, so if you’re on a budget but still want some delicious dried fruits, this method might be for you!
A downside of the sun-dry method is that you have to wait until the weather is just right. The best weather for sun-drying is hot, dry, and breezy. 86°F (30°C) or higher. Sun-drying also takes several days, if not longer. So, this method is best for warmer climates or during the summer months, as you need to ensure the weather will remain cooperative.
This method has been around for a long time, and it only works for fruits because of the high sugar and acid content. Trying to dry jerky or vegetables in the sun is not advisable because it has a risk of spoiling during the drying process.
The best way to dry fruits in the sun is to place the sliced, already prepared fruits on a tray made of screen dowels, preferable stainless steel or plastic, as these will offer the most benefits. The fruits should be kept off the ground and covered with cheesecloth to protect them from insects. Don’t forget to bring the fruits back inside overnight!
While the sun drying method has many pros, such as meager costs and ease, it does take several days for the fruit to be thoroughly dried, and it’s not always a guaranteed method, depending on the weather where you live.
The dehydrator method is excellent if you don’t mind spending some money on a good-quality dehydrator. Ovens and dehydrators might have similar drying methods. Still, many people prefer to use dehydrators because it doesn’t take up space in the oven for hours.
The temperature stays regulated at 140°F (60°C) with proper air circulation, giving you the best quality of dried fruits.
Depending on how thin you slice the fruit and the type of fruit you’re dehydrating, a dehydrator will dry fruits in around six hours. The amount of time doesn’t differ much from the time it takes to dry fruits in the oven.
However, with the dehydrator, you get the added benefit of not checking on the fruits constantly, and you can still use your oven for cooking other food throughout the day.
Dehydrators will have racks to put your sliced fruit on and instructions on how to operate it. As usual, evenly spread out the sliced fruit and make sure there is not overlapping for the best results.
Another pro to the dehydrator method is that it uses less energy than the oven method because of the overall lower wattage. Therefore, you’ll save money!
The dehydrator method gives you the best benefits of dried fruit or any dried food in general, and is considered the best method. It takes around six hours to dry your fruit. However, every method is going to take around that time anyway.
The only downside is having to buy a dehydrator. Luckily, there are some dehydrators of excellent quality that are affordable – but we’ll get more into that later.
The freeze-drying method differs significantly from the oven and dehydrator methods; however, the result is similar. The main difference between the methods is that the freeze-drying method uses cold temperatures rather than heat.
Dehydration takes away most of the entire moisture content of fruits, but it doesn’t take all of it. The freeze-dried method, however, takes all the moisture content.
This process requires a deep freezer. Put the sliced fruit on a baking sheet and allow the fruit to sit in the deep freezer until it’s frozen, which is typically around 24 hours. Allow the fruit to thaw at room temperature and check to ensure the fruit has retained its color. If it hasn’t, then you didn’t freeze it long enough.
This process, like the dehydrator, is minimal. It doesn’t take up unnecessary space in an oven, there’s no need to check on the fruit constantly, and it saves you money on electricity. However, it does require a deep freezer, and if you don’t already have one, it can be costly.
Prices of Pre-Packaged Dried Fruit vs. What It Costs To Dry Your Own
For many people, drying fruit isn’t worth the time and effort it takes. However, if it can save you a lot of money over time, the effort just might be worth it.
It’s hard to determine how much drying fruits will cost every person, as prices differ depending on where you live. However, in this example, we’re going to compare the average prices of fresh and dried bananas, as they’re one of the cheapest options of dried fruit (strawberries are another).
Pre-Packaged Dried Fruit
On average, buying already dried, non-organic bananas costs 35¢ per ounce or $5.60 per pound on Amazon. The organic dried bananas cost significantly more. It’s important to remember that dried bananas won’t be the same price everywhere you go.
The average cost of non-organic dried strawberries is around 85¢ per ounce or about $13.60 per pound on Amazon. Just like bananas, this price will differ everywhere you go.
Drying Your Own Fruit
The average pound of fresh bananas is 57¢ per pound as of 2020. You still have to factor in that the bananas will shrink in the drying process. However, it will still be significantly cheaper to buy your bananas and dry them yourself rather than purchasing the pre-packed ones.
According to a 2016 statistic from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the average cost of a pound of fresh strawberries was $2.51. Like bananas, strawberries will slightly shrink during the dehydrating process, but it’s safe to say buying fresh strawberries and making your own dried fruit will be cheaper than purchasing the pre-packaged version.
What Fruit Is Best for Drying?
Most fruits are great for drying, but it’s essential that you only dry fruits ripe and in good condition. While you want the fruit to be ripe, you might run into difficulties trying to dry overripe fruits. Some fruits that are best for drying include:
- And many more!
There aren’t any fruits that you can’t dry. However, choosing fruits with higher moisture content, such as grapes or strawberries, might dehydrate more efficiently.
Are Dehydrators Expensive?
Dehydrators range in price from $70 to $300. The cost varies depending on the number of trays the dehydrator has and the wattage.
Dehydrators with more trays allow you to dehydrate more fruit at a time, which for some might be essential. Since it takes a while for fruit to dry, you probably want to make bigger batches.
I recommend the Colzer Food Dehydrator available on Amazon. This dehydrator is one of the pricer options, but it has 12 trays to make large batches of dried fruits. Therefore, you won’t have to struggle with only making small batches all of the time.
For a cheaper option, I recommend the OSTBA Food Dehydrator Machine, also available on Amazon. This dehydrator only has five trays but works well for people who don’t need a large amount of dried fruit and is more affordable for people on a budget.