I’ve pretty well disappeared for some time around here...and I really miss writing. Partly because of life. Partly because of family trips and a crazy July. Partly because of some lifestyle changes and spending more time working to implement healthier eating. And partly because it’s summer, and all the fresh bounty is in!
Several years ago I started canning for my family, and for a few years, we were pretty faithful about doing a few staples….tomatoes, peaches, applesauce, apple pie filling (for syrup). We also froze, and still do, green beans, blueberries and some other things depending on the year. But somewhere in there it got to feeling like so much work that we weren’t really saving money, which at the time was the primary motivator. Tomatoes got dropped, though my family’s continued doing the apple stuff, since it’s something they use that’s easy and for which the taste difference compensates for time. I haven’t really done anything (except blueberries and green beans) since we got married….till this year.
This year, healthier living has become a front-line priority for us, and one of the steps we’ve taken is eating as much local as possible. We’ve been feasting on lots of fresh stuff, and have slowly been putting stuff away as it’s come into season. August will really be the big month! Now, I have a better motivator than saving money, which makes the effort feel so much more worth it….I want to feed my family the best of the best- the very healthiest I can. I want to support local farmers and help them continue to thrive as they provide us with high-quality produce. Not to mention, the stuff tastes awesome. An added bonus, I am saving quite a bit of money on at least most of the stuff I do. (Side note: the focus of this article is mostly on produce, but we also do local meats, milk, eggs and butter- most of those we have done for some time. My meats and milk are cheaper than the grocery store’s sale prices (as long as I buy in bulk), which makes it super easy to justify!)
We are currently eating only local produce, with the exception of cherries (one of Ben’s favorites) and bananas (not many, but they’re an easy fruit Vivi loves). That beans that what we eat depends on what’s at the market….it’s also meant less variety in each week’s fair, and instead, a continual move of different foods. It’s been so much fun to feel healthier and to eat stuff that tastes SO good. I don’t know what we’re going to do come October…I would imagine that after our feast this year there will be some foods we just won’t really eat until they’re in season again next year- the taste would just be too disappointing. And some things we’ll get used to making do with, for the sake of still getting raw stuff. Fruit wise, we’ll start enjoying tropical fruits again, and we’ll also eat a lot of smoothies (from fruits I’ve frozen this summer) to count towards our fruit consumption. Raw veggies will be the thing we’ll just have to deal with. Although I’m wondering lately…would slightly cooked local produce (say, green beans) be as healthy as/healthier than veggies grown in mass quantities on a mega farm who-knows-where? I don’t know….but it’s something I’m curious about.
So far, we’ve preserved 5 gallons of strawberries (from our patch, and without encroaching on eating as many as we desired!), 1 gallon mulberries (from a neighbor’s tree), several bags of rhubarb (also unused of a neighbor’s), 50+ lbs of blueberries (mostly frozen, some dehydrated), 6 gallons sliced peaches, 2 quarts dried peaches and 15 quarts canned peaches. I’m still debating about whether or not to do more peaches…another affordable option for getting peaches has arisen, but I need to decide and act in the next week. So, we might also just call that good for the year and see how it lasts us. Next up will be green beans (probably about 20 quarts frozen). We’re also planning to do around 10 lbs each of tart cherries and raspberries (frozen). Then tomatoes should be ready….we’re planning on cut tomatoes (around 20 quarts/20 pints), tomato sauce (same) and if I find recipes we enjoy, spaghetti sauce (14 quarts) and pizza sauce (10-14 pints). I’m really excited about the latter two because it’ll be so fun to have fresh, healthy convenience foods that I’ve never had access to…and that are healthier than the homemade stuff I’ve done in the past using store bought canned tomatoes. We’ll also be trying a V8 type recipe that came highly recommended…only 7-14 quarts. With all the fresh stuff, it sounded good although I’ve never drank veggie juice, and it seemed like a good way to incorporate more veggies, something we’ve talked about doing. If I have space, I’ll do 5-10 quarts (frozen) of corn. This isn’t a huge priority, so we’ll see what space looks like….we don’t eat corn plain since it isn’t that nutritious (and if we’re splurging on a food, there’s other things we’d prefer), so I just need it for the occasional soup we enjoy it in. I’m okay with buying organic frozen corn for that purpose this year, if need be. Then we’ll be into apple season, where we’ll do applesauce (21-28 quarts), apple pie filling (14ish quarts) and dried apples (4+ quarts). We may or may not do other things as produce or inspiration becomes available….but that’s the current general goal.
It’s a really exciting journey! We’re having fun focusing on our health, and it’s fun to think that after these next couple months, I’ll have lots of local produce stored up for my family and little or no need for any canned/preserved/processed stuff this coming year. It also seems most ideal to start now, while we’re a small, growing family, who doesn’t need a whole ton of food, so that the idea of canning/freezing for all our needs when our family’s bigger doesn’t seem so overwhelming….it’ll just be a gradual process of adding a small number of cans to what I do each year. We’re excited to see where all God will lead us on our journey to better health.