Alternative Choices: Canning Food And Eating Healthy on a Budget
Each time I go to the grocery story I end up angry. The prices keep rising, the quantity gets smaller, and the quality, well - it's just not there. We are a generation feeding ourselves on over-processed, preservative-stuffed, hormone-injected foods. We are killing ourselves and being robbed in the process. That little not-so-still, not-so-small voice inside is nagging me to consider alternative options.
I live in the city and I have no space for a garden. For sixteen years I've tried to grow tomatoes in containers on my patio. Now I can grow a damn big plant but at best I'll get two or three marble sized tomatoes. Last year I planted three varieties. All three plants grew to over seven feet tall and I didn't get the first tomato. Obviously I am dependent on someone else for my food but I need it to not be a grocery store chain where foods have little color and even less taste. The frustration has me looking at options for buying fresh produce from local farmers and exploring options of storing/.preserving summer produce for the winter. My theory is that I will eat better, be healthier, and save money too.
Organic or Not?
Since I can't grow my own garden, the dilemma is whether or not to pay higher prices for organic foods or to just focus on locally grown or raised foods. For health reasons I would like to go totally organic but for now, it's not financially feasible. Organics cost more and although I know they are definitely worth it, it may have to wait for my finances to catch up. Why do I say that organics are worth the extra cost? Taste them and you'll agree.
Several years ago a friend introduced me to a local food co-op. Horse & Buggy Produce is a Charlottesville, Virginia based company that buys produce from Mennonite and other organic farms in the area and sells it in food shares to subscribers. The video below explains how it all started.
So, my friend started sharing her Horse & Buggy subscription with me, hoping to convince me to join the group. Wow! I think I tasted potatoes for the first time ever and I was 50 years old. The flavor was amazing. I can't write this without talking about the carrots and beets. Talk about stimulating your taste buds. The flavor just burst in my mouth. The carrots were tender and sweet and the beets, oh so earthy and meaty. Next, came eggs. Real eggs! if you've never tasted eggs from free ranging chickens, you are missing something amazing. The yolks were so yellow and the flavor, well, if you're still buying eggs from the grocery store, you are missing an amazing experience.
Well, I'm still not a member of Horse & Buggy but it's on my bucket list. I need a job first. So, organic or not? For now, for me, it's a not. But once I have an income again, organics look out.
Clearly my budget won't allow me to subscribe to a co-op right now but that doesn't mean I can't eat healthier and save money too. To do it though, I need to buy in bulk and learn how to store food properly. I need to learn about canning, freezing, drying (for herbs), and cold storage.
I've started asking around and find it interesting that none of my close friends know anything about food preservation. Each time I've asked we have ended up having the same conversation and it always comes down to us being a lazy generation of people who want it now and don't want to work for it. Now don't go off on me. I know there are plenty of people growing their own food and storing it. They just happen to not be in my immediate circle of friends and they are relatively few in number compared to our population. Most of them come from generations of farmers and have just always done it. It's second nature to them.
I know it has to be less expensive to buy local and store it for out-of-season use. Think about all the things you don't have to pay for if you do it yourself.
- chemical preservatives
- associated grocery costs (clerks, stocking, shipping)
The Primary Investment in Eating Healthy is Time and Materials
Leaning to can has been on my mind for a while now. The only thing holding me back is that I haven't yet made the primary investment of time and materials. To get started, the only materials I really need are:
- a big pot for boiling jars
- lid rings
That's it. Obviously that won't cost me an arm and a leg. Time, well, that's a different story. Canning takes a lot of time. You have to prepare the produce. That may include coring, peeling, chopping or slicing, and sometimes, cooking. Then the jars have to be cleaned, filled, capped, sealed, and cooled. You can't do it in a hurry and because it's a process, you can't really clean up as you go like I normally do when cooking. I know canning isn't hard but it is time consuming.
Freezing is much the same. The food has to be prepared, sometimes cooked or blanched, cooled, and packaged. Again, it's not hard but it takes time. Once you start, you have to finish before you can do other things.
Why do we have such a hard time making a commitment of time? I think we're just spoiled. We do what we do because we want to, not because we have to.
No More Excuses
My reasons for not buying good produce and preserving it myself are varied.
- I haven't made the commitment
- I don't know how
- My friends can't teach me.
- Those that know how don't have time to teach me.
Well, it's time for me to stop making excuses. Nothing else makes sense. I can keep paying high prices for food that tastes like crap or I can start buying healthy food that tastes great; food that I can buy cheaper and store longer. There are hundreds of articles on the Internet on canning and freezing so I'm going to learn. I'm going to use this time that I'm unemployed to learn the lost art of preserving food. On the bright side, if I screw it up or make a total mess, it's just another hub in the making.
© 2012 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.
More on Preserving Food
- Preserving Food, Basic Methods
There are a variety of ways to preserve foods from drying to pickling. Find out the pros and cons of each.
- Home Canning - Preserving Nature's Bounty
Home Canning and Preserving; Use Granny's tried and true recipes for delicious, home preserves, and prevent food from going bad due to improper packaging. Home-made jams and home-made jelly; home-made pickles and preserves; Preserving fruits and vege
- Beginners Guide to Home Canning