Storing Food

A friend is giving a presentation to her church group about storing food.  She asked me to share my thoughts. It might be of interest to others.  Here is what I told her:

I am pretty opinionated on this topic, but use what works for you. Here are my thoughts:

  • my food storage is about being prepared, but more than that its about producing our own food and/or buying bulk amounts of the best quality food available.  I do not take the easiest or cheapest route, but always the best nutritionally
  • as you know, I buy organic and local whenever possible.  if I can grow or produce it myself, even better
  • I don’t think everyone is going to become a farmer like me, but I do feel strongly that local and fresh is better
  • food should be purchased when in season and at its nutritional and flavorful best.  Asparagus is a great example.  We LOVE it, but do not eat it any time other than when it is in season.  It tastes so much better!!  When it is here, enjoy it.  Paco and Lily eat at least a pound a day.  Just when we are getting our fill, the season is over.  It does not freeze or can very well, so we just eat and eat.
  • I do not think commercially canned goods are good food, even though they are so convenient.  I use a few canned goods, but strongly believe that commercially canned goods have high levels of BPA in the lining and are not safe
  • cream of chicken soup is a great example. Here are the ingredients (from their website): Chicken Stock, Water, Wheat, Flour, Modified Food Starch, Cooked Chicken Meat, Cream (Milk), Contains Less Than 2% Of Chicken Fat, Salt, Monosodium Glutamate, Soy Protein Concentrate, Dehydrated Cooked Chicken, Yeast Extract, Lower Sodium Natural Sea Salt, Flavoring, Autolyzed Yeast Extract,  , Potassium Chloride, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Huanylate, Spice Extract, Beta Carotene For Color, Soy protein Isolate, Sodium Phosphates, Chicken Flavor (Contains Chicken Stock, Chicken Powder Chicken Fat), Chicken Flavor, Butter Milk, Cream Powder Cream Milk Soy Lecithin, Enzyme Modified Butter Milk Nonfat Dry Milk, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean And cottonseed Oil, Liplyzed Butter Oil, Oleix Acid Butter Oil, Lactic Acid, Butter Flavor
  • That is a heck of a lot of ingredients and some very unhealthy ones.  particularly hydrogenated oils
  • I don’t think preparedness that consists of processed canned and boxed goods is good at all.
  • buying local, responsibly raised foods also keeps money in our community and supports those who are making a living responsibly
Grass fed meat and local organic produce is a bit pricier than Wal-mart, but worth every cent. grass-fed steaks down at the farmer’s market will run you $15 or more per pound.  A side of beef will last our family for a year and costs me $3 a pound–quite a remarkable deal.  You need to educate yourself about how farms work and the seasons.  Spring is not the time to go looking for a side of beef. The best window of opportunity for meats is late summer-early fall.  Spring is birthing season and fall is slaughter–after all that good grass consumption and farmer’s are looking to pare down their herd before winter feeding costs come on.

An extra freezer is essential to food storage.  It is the one must-have tool.  I have 2 dedicated freezers and 2 fridge/freezers. Changing over to local, grass-fed proteins is the #1 thing, in my opinion, you can do for your family’s health and your carbon footprint.  Much homegrown or local produce can be frozen as well.  I freeze LOTS of fruit, corn, green peppers, and squash.

I store a bushel of potatoes and a bushel of onions as well as a big basket of home-grown garlic. I also store winter squashes and apples.  Butternut, in particular, stores great and is my favorite. This can all be  purchased at the end of farmer’s market season.

Farmers at market do give great price breaks on bulk buys.  For example, when it is blueberry season, I buy 3 cases (my own bushes need about 4 more years of growing) and then have frozen blueberries year round. Talk to farmers and let them know you want produce for canning or freezing. They will let you know the right time to buy as well as gather the culls (the not so pretty ones that are just as good for canning) for you.

A good dehydrator is also worth its weight in gold.  We dehydrate lots of fruit, green peppers, tomatoes, onions, corn, kale, swiss chard, spinach, zucchini, etc.

As far as using the food you stored, I have learned a lot.  Buy, grow, and preserve what your family likes to eat.  Plan with the meals in mind.  Being a locavore is pretty easy in winter if you have meals in mind when you are storing.  I make weekly menus so that I can buy as little as possible at the grocery store and I can wisely use my stores. I am getting better at this as time goes on.  what my focus has been this winter is making menus in advance and it has made a huge difference.  Have a plan.  For instance:
  • meatloaf—I defrost ground beef and ground pork and then add lots of nutrition packed dehydrated veggies–peppers, corn, onions, tomatoes, and dried greens.   Dehydrated kale especially is awesome.  It crumbles down into being nearly invisible and it is one of the most nutrition dense foods on the planet. I use home canned tomatoes as the basis for the sauce
  • cabbage rolls–similar to meatloaf.  ground meat of choice, rice, dehydrated veggies, home canned tomatoes
  • soups and stews–easy and perfect winter fare.  we raise our own pastured chicken, lots of veggies (dehydrated perfect here as well)
  • an easy fast dinner—canned peaches, grass-fed pork chops, frozen corn, green salad (from the high tunnel)
  • we love Mexican food and my equivalent to hamburger helper is enchiladas.  I use home canned tomatoes as a basis for sauce and our own chicken  (I keep shredded chicken meat–our own-in the freezer)
  • crustless quiche–another quick and easy meal, pastured eggs are an easy and healthy protein and we have no shortage of them
  • pot roast—grassfed beef, potatoes (stored), carrots (high tunnel), tomatoes (canned)
  • *****I take stock of what I have and look for recipes to best prepare it.  When you buy a side of beef, or a whole hog, or whole lamb, you will end up with some cuts you may not be used too.  This winter we have braised short ribs and oxtail stew for this reason and they were both great.
Being a locavore is even better in summer
  • The farmer’s market and/or your backyard is better than any grocery store
  • Eat what is in season.  feast on locally and organically grown produce or your own.
  • summer is so busy with farming and preserving that I adore that sliced tomatoes are a side dish and berries are dessert.  it is very easy.
  • but warm weather is when you have to be a “squirrel” and stock for the winter.
  • bulk dry goods are just as important in summer so you have a stock of easy to grab ingredients.

This is what I store:
  • home canned goods including pickles, beets, tomato sauces, salsas, applesauce, fruits, jams, grape juice, apple juice, and our own maple syrup, apple cider molasses) (I do not have a pressure canner.  I am adding that to my arsenal for this year)
  • lots of bulk-bought 100% grass fed meats.  we get a half or whole hog and a side of beef.  We have our own chicken and this year I am going to buy a lamb.
  • dehydrated veggies (grown by me or bought local organic produce)
  • bulk dry goods (this is where The People’s Elbow (wholesale buying club) comes in very handy)—rice, quinoa, beans, olive oil, canola oil, agave nectar, local honey, oats, nuts, etc.
  • some boxed goods and dairy products (TPE again)–butter (I buy by the case when the good pastured butter is available and then have for the year), crackers, cereals, rice milk, tortillas, breads) I bake a lot too
The People’s Elbow is a local natural foods co-op.  The best way to explain it is —It’s a wholesale buying club that offers the types of products you can find at Nature’s Pharm.  There is a VERY broad offering (much more than Nature’s Pharm) and many of the products are natural, organic, etc.  There is a lot available to those who have allergies—gluten free, soy free, etc.  You order online and pick-up is once a month. Members take turns helping receive and sort deliveries and hosting pickup in their home.  The discounts are quite good.  To join, you need to join the online yahoo group:
Once into the yahoo group, there is info for new members.  Contact member Denise Weerts to get a password to the order site as well as be hooked up with a “buddy”  to mentor you.  It is a bit confusing at first, but once you learn the ropes it is very easy.

One thought on “Storing Food

  1. And your photos are beautiful! I will definitely be using those. Thanks again for your input. I know others will benefit from your knowledge and experience.

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