Thomas Northcut/Getty

DCL

Last fall a friend of mine was lamenting the lack of dried fruit available in the town we were living in. When she went home for the holidays, she returned loaded down with her fave wrinkly fruits and was blissfully satisfied...until her stash was gone a few weeks later.

We were students living in dorms without easy access to a kitchen, so drying our own fruit wasn't really an option. But now that I'm out living in the real world, I've started to realize there are tons of commercially prepared foods that I should really be making myself—dried fruit included.

Dried fruit makes for a healthy and tasty snack. Because fruits are dehydrated at a low temperature rather than cooked, the nutrients aren't degraded, so you're getting the most out of your fruit—raw foodists can't get enough of this stuff.

Most stores carry dried fruits these days, but there are benefits to drying your own. Most importantly, you'll know exactly what you're eating. While the odd company offers all-natural, no additives dried fruit, most brands are packed full of the sugar and preservatives such as sulfites. Drying your own fruit is also cheaper than buying dried fruit-and a whole lot cheaper than buying organic dried fruit.

There are also eco-benefits. Drying your own fruit eliminates the carbon footprint of dried fruit-which is hefty when you consider the fruit has to be shipped to processing plants. Then there's the packaging...

If you're daunted by the effort, it's actually more an issue of time than anything else. Can't carve out an afternoon from your busy schedule to dry fruit? Get ready to multitask: have a fruit drying party with friends, spend some quality time with the kids drying fruit and baking, or simply catch up on reading or work as your fruit shrivels up in the oven.

If you're still making time constraint excuses, invest in a fruit dehydrator, which are more efficient at removing water from your fruits. Or make your own solar food dehydrator. Personally, I like making food by hand and I'm short on counter space, so I just dry my fruit in the oven.

How to Dry Fruit