Jerky is a favorite snack at my house, not only because it’s delicious but also because it’s practical. You can take it on road trips, hiking, camping, or watching the kids play sports and you don’t have to worry about refrigeration. I also love it because it’s healthy.

The one thing I don’t like is the cost. At over a dollar an ounce, it’s pretty pricey, but if you make your own, you will not only save a ton of money, you will also find that it’s a whole lot better.

My tender jerky is made with ground meat so it’s not leathery and tough and I use spices that are not overpowering and too salty — plus I don’t use any preservatives and other junk you’ll find in the store bought stuff.

I use my food dehydrator and a jerky gun for convenience, but you can use a rolling pin and your oven too. The best thing about it is everyone that tries this jerky claims it’s better than store bought, so saving money is just a bonus.

Belle’s Tender Jerky

1 teaspoon canning salt

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste

1 pound extra lean ground meat (I use beef, venison, or elk)

Mix all the spices together and then add to the ground meat and mix thoroughly (I use my stand mixer). Place the meat mixture into a jerky gun or roll it into very thin slabs using the technique below. Place on the racks of a food dehydrator and cook for about 4 hours at 145 degrees. When finished and cooled completely, place in airtight bags. I freeze the ones I’m not using quickly for use all year.

For using your oven — Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place wire-racks onto baking sheets. Place 1/2 ground meat mixture between two sheets of heavy plastic or wax paper on a solid, level surface. With a rolling pin, firmly roll beef mixture to a thickness of 1/8 inch.

Remove the top layer of plastic wrap, invert beef mixture onto prepared baking sheet, and remove the bottom layer of plastic wrap. Repeat for remaining beef mixture. Bake in the preheated oven with the oven door slightly ajar for 2 hours. Rotate the baking sheet. Bake until jerky is cooked through, another 3 hours. Remove jerky from oven and cut into strips while warm.

Brenda Stanley is the mother of five children, including two sets of twins and a grandmother of eight. She is a cookbook author and novelist. For more recipes and information, visit her website