There are many valid reasons for purchasing bulk dehydrated or dried food, not the least of which is saving money. I'm talking about common foods that we buy often, such as rice, beans, sugar, oatmeal, pastas, instant milk, wheat and other grains.
The same dried foods you buy in the supermarkets can and should be purchased in bulk for your long term storage — and even for daily use.
Purchasing bulk foods is an economical way to save hundreds, even thousands of dollars over time. For large institutions, bulk purchases are a necessity, but the average family can save money every month by doing the same. Instead of paying for wasted packaging in small quantities at much higher prices, bulk food purchases make your dollars really count. Dehydrated and dried products are available in individual cans, buckets or bags.
Shelf life for bulk foods (check here for a chart) in appropriately packed cans or buckets is anywhere from 7-30 years, depending on the product and factors such as temperature, oxygen and moisture content. Kept in a cool, dark and dry environment with give the food a long shelf life.
Dehydrated food retains most of its nutritional value without the added chemicals and additives found in store-bought pre-packaged foods. As long as the bulk foods are packaged in food quality containers with oxygen absorber packets and sealed, there is no need for additives or preservatives to keep the food fresh.
Dehydration is one of the best methods of preservation and retaining the natural nutrition found in food. The loss is only 3 - 5% making this method of food preservation a good choice for natural, healthy eating.
These foods are usually packaged without any seasoning or additional ingredients. The exceptions would be soups, stews and complete meals, which do contain multiple ingredients and can be used without adding anything.
Most dehydrated products used for food storage are single ingredients. For example, rice. It's the same rice that you can buy in the supermarket so the taste is what you are used to on a regular basis.
Dehydrated foods require cooking and seasoning. Cooking times vary, but most are added to hot boiling water. You can also do "thermos cooking" by adding boiling water to a thermos, adding ingredients and letting it sit for a couple of hours. (recipe here) Just forget about it, it will cook itself. This will cook the food slowly using the minimum amount of energy.
Stovetop cooking is easy too. Add the ingredients to boiling water and let it cook until tender. This varies from a few minutes to a hour or so, depending on the product. Whole grains and legumes, such as rice, beans and wheat take the longest, while potatoes, par-boiled rice and other products like pancake mixes are the easiest and shortest cooking time. By adding water, you're rehydrating the food back into it's original natural state before dehydration, but it's still "raw". It still needs to be cooked until tender.
Other items, such as rice, beans, wheat (whole grains) take longer cooking times and can be simmered for 30 minutes to an hour or more. For these products, a pressure cooker is great, drastically shortening the cooking time required. A pressure cooker is a huge time saver and energy saver. Beans cook considerably faster with a pressure cooker then on the stove. (Carefully follow the directions that come with your pressure cooker.)
Pancake mixes, bread mixes, cookie mixes, muffins, etc., require just a little water (cold) to be ready for baking or frying. Scone mixes are an example of fried bread (Indian bread) and are very easy to prepare.
Most dehydrated food will benefit from adding seasoning. Rice doesn't taste like much until you add something to it. You can use anything, dehydrated vegetables, TVP (textured vegetable protein, a meat substitute, real meat, potatoes, whatever you want) and seasoning, such as salt, pepper, Tabasco sauce, garlic, or even ketchup. Pasta is the same, they don't taste like much until they've had something added to them. Spaghetti is everyone's favorite, but it's the toppings that make it so. You can add any ingredients or topping to dehydrated foods. Seasoning is recommended simply for taste.
Pound for pound, and dollar for dollar, dehydrated food costs less than freeze dried food. Nothing comes close to the value of dehydrated food, not even store bought canned food. A single can of dehdyrated green beans, for example, represents 27 cans of canned green beans, which take up a whole lot of space and is mostly water.
But freeze dried foods are the easiest and sometimes, the tastiest foods, especially if you don't like to cook.
A lot of people want to know how fast they must consume the food in an opened container.
We've found that if the the lid is put on or the Mylar bag closed, the food will last several years past the date it was opened. By placing the lids back on and keeping the humidity, moisture and bugs out, the food will last a long time. When you need some food, scoop out what you need and close the container.
As with all food storage, dehydrated bulk foods are best stored in a cold (or cool) dark place out of direct sunlight, preferably at a constant temperature with little moisture. Keep it away from flooding basements or put it on pallets or shelves. Most products have a shelf life of 25+ years. Check this shelf life chart for more detailed information.