we're in the mid planning stages of our year off to cruise. We plan on the Bahamas, Caribbean and maybe the east coast of the US, maybe Europe. I noticed last time we cruised the Bahamas that fresh fruits and vegetables were in short supply so I was considering buying a dehydrator and storing food up ahead of time. Any advice on how-to, what to buy and is it all worth it i.e. does it taste ok once rehydrated?
I agree with you that fresh fruit and veg in the Bahamas do not meet the expectations of most Americans. You can do better by coordinating your big shops with the mail boat. The locals do, so when you show up two days later not only is the food older but the good stuff is gone. Explorer Charts have the schedule for most of the mail boats to most of the islands.
Local cooking styles and recipes are adapted to the food that is available. You can be a bit adventurous.
Fruit and veg in the Caribbean is a little variable but there are places to stock up that are as good or better than in the US. Europe is more consistent but really good.
My understanding is that backpackers use dehydrated food because it is much lighter and somewhat less volume than fresh. Provisioning a boat isn't so sensitive to those issues. A bigger issue is that so much water is used to rehydrate. I spend much more time lugging water than food already.
There are three approaches to long-term food storage that I can think of: dehydration, canning, and freezing.
Dehydration requires energy to dehydrate and water to rehydrate. Flavor is affected. Pack spices.
Commercial canning usually brings a lot of salt and some preservatives along for the ride. It's inexpensive, good volume efficiency, has some flavor degradation, and adds to liquids aboard.
Home canning allows you to control the salt and preservatives but adds glass which freaks some people out. It requires a pressure canner (although some products can use a hot water bath). My 16 qt pressure canner is also my pasta cooker and has been on many a beach as a crab steamer.
Commercially frozen food preserves flavor well. It adds some volume efficiency. It requires ongoing energy to stay frozen.
Home frozen (and worse boat frozen) often brings some cellular disruption that can make some food mushy.
Everyone makes their own choices.
When we go cruising we load up on frozen meat and veg. We home can a lot of things (pasta sauce, chicken, soups, tomatoes, ...). The only dehydrated food we carry are commercial dried beans and home dried herbs. YMMV.
We actually find freezer space to be a bigger deal than refrigeration space.
Without freezer our choice would be to do more canning vice dehydrating.