Preserving food at home is how you win. It’s how you start detaching yourself & your family from the system. And it’s how you expand the runway of food security between today & the next emergency. Because being prepared isn’t a question of “should I…”, rather it’s the answer to “when will I need…” But you need to make a plan for preserving food at home that matters to you & your family. That’s what enables you to succeed & stay organized. So, let’s think through the deep things together because around here, it’s always preservation season.
- How you can start preserving food at home
- Final Kitchen Preservation Tips
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If you’re not convinced that preserving food at home is something you need to be doing to increase your self-sufficiency, you should really probe more into it. What’s keeping you from stepping into building food security? This isn’t about fear-tactics or panic-stacking.
This is just the harsh reality of our world. And since preserving food has been done throughout the centuries, it’s safe to say it will continue to be something valuable to learn and do. Although women have been preserving food at home for their families for generations & for various reasons, the quality of store-bought food has significantly declined in the last century.
Our food isn’t getting better just because it’s getting faster. Think on that.
As you read & learn more on this topic, you’ll understand why preserving food at home is a great thing to do. You’ll catch the spark. And having the right tools to start preserving will make it easy to start. Now, although there are lots of techniques they all end up in the same place – so you’ll just need to choose which to begin first.
But that’s part of the plan. So, let’s just hop into it shall we?
How you can start preserving food at home
Step 1: List your favorite food items & meals
I mean foods you actually enjoy eating. Not the, “I should eat more of X” foods, because that can come later down the line. If you don’t regularly eat carrots, don’t write it down here. You don’t get kudos points for preserving foods you don’t actually like just because they’re healthy for you or easy to preserve. That methodology is going to result in wasted food more than likely.
But if you can’t think of things you actually really love eating, keeping a food log will help. Track what you eat for about a week. Or use bank/credit card statements to see where you frequently swipe your card.
If that’s not helpful, take a look at a couple of your most recent grocery store receipts. This is the scary tactic because you’ll begin to remember things you bought but ultimately threw out or just didn’t like. And so still threw out ahahahah. The items may be sporadic, but at least it will jar your memory as to what you’ve been keeping around your kitchen.
Step 2: Identify the top 5-10 food items you want to preserve
Go with gusto. These should be some of the most essential pantry staples, yes. But they should also be the items that lend themselves naturally to any number of meals too.
While you most certainly can preserve those delicacy pickles into a one-of-a-kind relish from your favorite takeout joint, do you really want to right now?
My own home canned sweet potatoes, fresh out the pressure canner! Yummy!
Why not go for preserving potatoes. They’re pretty inexpensive to buy (or grow!). And if they account for a hefty bit of your diet in the form of breakfast hash, lunchtime french fries or dinner baked potatoes seems like a clear choice.
Here’s a few pointers to help you choose:
- Is the food a novelty item that will be hard to replicate?
- Is it ridiculously expensive to buy or hard to find?
- From 1-3, how much do you love this item? (1 = tolerate it / could live without it, 3 = absolutely have to have it)
- From 1-3, how likely are you to prepare it the way you love it each time you want it? (1 = not likely at all, 3 = extremely likely)
So then you take your data and compare it to your foods. You should quickly begin to see the ones worth preserving at home immediately.
Any food that is an absolute favorite – preserve it! Anything remotely multi-stepped, time-sensitive or complex to make also makes the cut for me because those requirements mean I’m unlikely to prepare that item each time I want it.
Foods that are regionally unique, expensive or hard to find also make the cut for me. And here’s why.
You often save some money buying in bulk. So as a wise man once told me,
Mmmk. These items are no-brainers because preserving these foods at home will save me time in the future. Making the meals we love to eat easy & quick to put together.
So putting forth the effort & doing a little heavy lifting upfront means we enjoy the benefits for several meals to come because you do the work but end with a handful of jars or bags of food. Hello multiple meals! That’s an incredible ROI (return on investment) if you ask me!
Step 3: Assign a preservation method to your top 5-10 choices
Once you’ve identified the best 5-10 foods that you should preserve (because they suit you), pair them with a home food preservation technique. Remember, there are many ways which means lots of opportunities for you.
Your only option may be long term pantry storage or freezer storage. And that’s totally fine. Most foods can be preserved in one of these two ways very easily.
If you’re unsure how to best preserve a certain food item, do some research on that specific item first.
The last thing you should do is preserve something one way then not really enjoy eating it that way. OR it doesn’t last as long as you intended & you end up losing it.
But for this exercise, let’s say carrots, potatoes, sausage, cheese and peaches are the Top 5 food items you want to start with. Based on the tools available to you, you could do something like this.
|Pantry / Dry
|Ferment / Pickle
This isn’t exhaustive & you can play around with preserving food at home in ways not outlined here.
Produce can usually be preserved any number of ways making it an excellent option for bulk-buying and preserving. Meats are usually easiest to preserve frozen or canned, though some cuts work well for jerky (a dehydrated method)! And dairy is best preserved frozen.
So if you don’t have the ability to properly can your meat or the space to freeze much dairy, these should be items to consider preserving at a later date. Or on a smaller scale than you originally thought.
Besides these, you can download a quick-view card of other factors to consider regarding food preservation.
Step 4: Find simple recipes to use
An excellent tool for any small-scale kitchen preservation activity is Preserving by the Pint by Marisa McClellan. If you want to try something but literally only want to make 1-2 jars, this book is for you. Test a recipe, see if you like it. And you know, if not, fine. The great thing is you won’t have made much you need to eat through or gift away!
Maybe you can’t recreate that fast-food version of marinated carrot slaw you love so much. Hey girl, that’s fineeeee. There are a million other great recipes online. And super simple ones too! If you stay stuck in this mindset, you risk never starting.
This is what you do.
Critique a recipe by the other ingredients it uses.
And remember, the less you use, the more the food you are trying to preserve will shine through.
This is my highest recommendation about preserving food. Do it in its most basic state – almost neutral. That ensures you aren’t painting yourself into a corner when it’s time to use it. And two you’ll learn to appreciate foods for their true flavors. Home kitchen pro-chef tip #35 right there.
If you pickle all your carrots but then need some plain for a specific dish, you might be tempted to go buy carrots. Check it.
That defeats the whole purpose of using food preservation skills to be more self-sufficient.
Step 5: Start preserving food at home
Let’s say you can store as much meat and cheese in your freezer as you desire. And you can dehydrate foods using either a dehydrator like my Nesco FD-50 or the oven.
I recommend doing small-batch testing before you buy the 50-pound bag of carrots though. Unless you’ve had home-canned carrots and know that you like them, it might be worth testing a few methods first. If you got 5 pounds of carrots, try dehydrating some and canning some.
Less is more. Skip the overwhelm here & go small to start.
Step 6: TAKE NOTES
My food storage bag drying rack turned into a mini book-stand houses any current kitchen reads & one of my kitchen logbooks.
Every self-sufficient kitchen needs a logbook. When you are recipe testing or doing any sort of experimenting like what I just suggested this becomes a HUGE must.
You’ll never remember all the spices you used, the brands you enjoy best or the prices you paid if you don’t write it down. Ok? And that is Kitchen Preservation Tip #101.
You might be thinking, “Yeah, Claire I hear you but I’m not running a major operation or anything.” And I get that. I’m not either. But if you had trouble remembering all the food you ate last week will you really remember what you added to that jar of pickled onions in 6 months time?
Using a kitchen logbook is everything you need to really fine tune your processes. It incorporates data on the day-to-day (like simple menus). Houses your pantry inventory. And any notes about what/how much/cost of things you bring into your kitchen too. In return, that data supports how much you need to prepare for the following preservation season/activity. It also reveal how much money you may be losing by preserving foods you don’t like. Ouch.
As you use this journal, when you sit down to reflect on it (because that’s something you should do too), you might read something like this:
“In Winter 2022 I canned 16 quarts of sweet potatoes.”
(This comes from your preservation log that you keep in your kitchen logbook.)
“We used 1 quart of those potatoes each month.”
(This comes from the simple menus you might keep in your logbook.)
“I have 4 quarts still on the shelf.”
(This comes from the basic kitchen inventory worksheets you keep in your logbook.)
“But baby girl is bigger now & we really liked those potatoes so I can’t ration them again.”
(This is an example of how you might incorporate your life circumstances & any changes.)
“I’ll add an extra quart or two throughout the year. So, this winter I’ll can at least 24 quarts.”
(This is the glorious revelation you now have after reading over your notes in your logbook.)
Write it down. That’s all I’m sayin.
Final Kitchen Preservation Tips
- Small batches reign supreme – stick with small batches until you get the hang of it. Especially if you’ve chosen a food preservation technique that’s new to you.
- Pickling / Fermenting – Experiment with different brines and spices for unique flavors. And boost your gut health with these tangy treats too!
- Jams & Jellies – turn your favorite fruits into endless possibilities by mixing and matching these beauties
- Freeze for Ease – it’s simple yet effective. Freeze in portions you use regularly and kick the freezer burn by using vacuum seal bags!
- Dehydrating – Free up cold storage with this method that’s perfect for soups, smoothies and sauces. Using these for homemade sauces, is a level up in the basic cooking skills arena!
- Canning – start with water bath canning high acid foods like tomatoes. No fancy equipment necessary. In fact, it’s one of the 5 most simple ways to preserve produce at home.
- Label, label, label – at a minimum, use a permanent marker to write the food item & month/year.
- Quality ingredients – Use the best quality you can find and afford or support local artisans & farms!
- Share the love – Invite friends over to help. Take a bag or jar to your next event. Show off your hard work & encourage someone else to be more self-sufficient by starting with their food.
Now step back and start preserving food at home & see how your kitchen becomes an incredible powerhouse of food security. Starting never felt so good.
You’ve got this, lovely.
🌱 Start Small. Start Now. Start where you are with what you have. The rest will follow.🌱
Is being more self-sufficient is something you’re interested in but you’re not sure where to begin?
Then check out the Self-Sufficient Living Roadmap!
I designed it to help you eliminate some of the overwhelm of starting an incredibly massive journey.