Thursday, May 22, 2008

Preserving foods

There is more than one way to preserve the fruits and veggies of summer. You can either can, freeze or dehydrate just about any kind of produce to save it for later in the year. I use all three different methods not only to save money, but also to control the quality of the food my family eats.

The dehydrator is a wonderful appliance for drying fruits and veggies for later use. It allows me to buy fresh food when it is on sale and use it later. I have dried onions, bell peppers, corn, strawberries, cantaloupe, fruit leathers, potatoes, whatever I have that will spoil before I can use it all. Just the onions alone save me a lot of money over buying the dried onion flakes. The strawberries are great in breakfast cereal, and the kids just love the dried fruit and the fruit leathers as a snack. I can store the fresh foods in the pantry instead of in the refrigerator so it take a lot less space and I know that they are eating something healthy instead of junk food.

The freezer, for us at least, is a must. I store everything from fresh veggies and meat to bread and grains in my freezer. Most foods can be frozen without loss of nutrition and it is extremely easy to do. And you do not need any special equipment to do it. All it takes are some good quality freezer bags. Just look in the frozen food section of your local grocery store to see the wide range of fruits and vegetables that can be frozen.

Canning is more time intensive and requires an investment in equipment and supplies. But once the initial investment is over, you can save loads of money on food by growing your own. We have such a tiny yard that we only grow high yield foods like beans and peas, but we do get a larger selection by going to farmer's markets and roadside stands. We also hit up relatives who garden for their extra produce. It is cost effective and delicious.

Some foods can be processed into jars without the use of a pressure cooker. Things like fruits generally do not have to be canned with pressure. Jellies,jams, pickles, and most tomatoes do not have to be pressure canned.

There are lots of resources online to find recipes for canning. Or you can buy a Ball Blue Book of Preserving. It will tell you how to preserve just about everything by several different methods. You can get one on Ebay for a couple of dollars or on Amazon for anywhere between $5-25 dollars. They are an extremely valuable resource for anyone who wants to preserve their own food.

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