-Ten Tips for City or Country Gal - Food Storage-
· Just because your not growing your own food doesn’t mean you can’t put it up. When fruits and veggies are in season and cheap, - stock up!! Does your grocery store put out ‘old’ produce with a reduced price? Grab it!
· Slice sale peppers (and onions ) and freeze in quart bags to use in fajitas- add some meat and spice and your done!
· Last year when fresh Cranberries were on sale for thanksgiving, - I bought a bunch and simmered them in water to create my own unsweetened cranberry juice to have on hand. They are acidic like tomatoes, so I was able to water bath half pints of my cranberry juice to have all year long. Now at first sign of bladder trouble I am ready to go!
· When they are super cheap and in season, Slice up Strawberries and place on cookie sheets and put in freezer for several hours, (so they freeze separately) then dump into freezer bags and enjoy strawberries for cheap all year!
· If you buy meat on sale, - cut or portion the way you like to use it (I get my chickens whole so I freeze boneless chicken breasts, and legs and thighs on cookie sheets till hard, then put in freezer bags for individual use, - or buy family packs of ground beef then freeze in smaller portions, (raw keeps longer than cooked)
· You can still ‘Can’ things you buy from the store! Jams are quick and easy and a great way to use sale or bulk fruit… and you can even control the sugar content!
· Don’t forget about drying as a fun snack option for fruit as well.
· I know many of you probably already make your own baby food (pureed fresh cooked or even canned veggies) And maybe you already know you can freeze it in small portions by putting it in ice cube pans so you can pull out the perfect amount.
But here is another great tip. – After pureeing the food, - dry it in your dehydrator like you would a thin fruit leather. – When dried till crisp, - blend in the blender to make a dried baby food that needs only purified water to reconstitute it. I think it would work fabulously for families who camp and ‘rough it’ with no refrigerator, - or even as an emergency stash in the diaper bag….If kept dry the powdered baby food will keep for a very long time.
· If you want to store dry items like beans or rice, - first freeze it for at least 24 hours, to kill any creepy crawlies that may have been packaged inside… then put in tight sealing containers in a cool space.
· Make sure you keep track of what you have, and put the newest items in the back or on the bottom. Inventory and Rotate!! Our goal is to bless our family, - not waste money!
For GREAT cheap bulk storage containers… Go to your local grocery store or Wal-Mart deli and ask for extra food buckets with lids- they get everything in buckets, icing, etc. These lids still have the seals on them, and are food grade. (They are food grade if they have a #2 on the bottom) I have access to two sizes, about 2 gallon, and about 4 gallon. Some will give you theirs for free, my Wal-Mart charges $1.00 a bucket. LOVE these.
How do you know how much of something to put up? – Well, - I guess the best answer is to be super organized… and have a year’s menu. LOL Juuuust kidding! The way I do it is just to think about things in terms of how many times a week I’d like to have something. – I’d like to have peas as a veggie side at least once a week, - so 50 quarts /cans is a reasonable base for a year. Some veggies you will want to have extra to use in soups or casseroles. Remember that things like tomato sauce can be used for pizza sauce, spaghetti, chili, etc. So factor that in. Maybe you use a lot of some things seasonally, - (like fruit smoothies in summer) so you need to account for that. Finally, remember to think about having extra food for company, - guests, - meals to take to others, - and give yourself a little cushion.
Wondering how long food will keep? – The Blue Ball Canning Book is an excellent resource on food storage, - with chapters on freezing and drying as well as canning. –It will tell you how long you can keep frozen items, and how to prepare them. I use it all the time. Also, most prepackaged foods have a -best-used-by- date stamped on them.
A last and final thought. – Once again, as with many things I found the process of starting food storage to be a very convicting one. I wasn’t necessarily happy with all the foods that I realized we ate far more regularly than I thought. – However, instead of storing drastically ‘healthier’ foods, - I kept with what we use and like, and in the meantime have been trying to increase my knowledge and working better things into our diet. –
A book that has been hugely helpful, both in trying to change our diet for the better, and learning about more sustainable foods should the worst come (seriously, - there won’t be Fritos if the world ends? L) is Sally Fallon’s Nurishing Traditions. This book is pretty heavy in my opinion, - but good. If you get to where you are really ready for some big changes, this is the book for you.
Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats