Tips to Preserve Produce for Winter

Tips to Preserve Produce for WinterOne of the things I liked about having produce in my backyard was the ability to preserve some of it for the future. I learned the value of food preservation while growing up. My parents had a huge garden, and we froze and bottled vegetables every harvest to preserve food for winter.

If you want to preserve produce for winter, it doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are some tips for making sure that you can enjoy your garden year-round:

Get the Right Equipment

While you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg, the truth is that a small, upfront investment in the right equipment now can save you a great deal of money over the long haul.

If you want to bottle your produce, the easiest method is to use a hot bath. All you need is pot large enough to hold five jars. However, you want to make sure that you purchase high-quality jars, and that you get new lids that will seal. You can re-use jars and rings, but you should buy new lids (with fresh seals) each time.

A simple cake rack at the bottom of the pot works, as does a pair of long tongs. However, if you plan to make this a regular thing, it makes sense to get a canning basket, which simplifies the process of submerging your jars (and getting them back out).

It can also make sense to spend a $150 to $200 to get a cool contraption (and attachments/accessories) from Victorio meant to help you make applesauce and salsa. Much easier and faster than doing it all by hand.

When freezing items, make sure you have sturdy freezer bags that seal properly. There are sealers that heat-seal bags, but it’s also possible, in some cases, to get heavy-duty Ziplock bags to take care of the job.

Finally, if you plan to dry fruit, get a good dehydrator. The right equipment now can make a big difference, and you will quickly recoup most of the expense.

Have a Storage Plan for when you Preserve Produce for Winter

Make sure you have adequate storage for your produce. Whether you keep your stores in the freezer or in a fruit room, you need to make sure that you have a place, out of the light, to store your produce.

Plan for the Time Investment

If you want to preserve produce can be a great way to save money, and live more sustainably. However, you also need to be prepared for the time investment. It’s a tradeoff. Even using a some of the great tools available today, it still took me half the day the last time I bottled applesauce, and another half day to make raspberry freezer jam. Realize that you might need several days to get through your produce, depending on how much you plan to preserve.

Consider Borrowing the Equipment

If you know you don’t have a lot to supply to preserve produce for winter, or you aren’t sure that this is something you want to do, consider borrowing the equipment if you can. Borrow the equipment from a friend or relative (make sure you share the results as a thank-you) so that you can get a feel for the process before you spend on your own equipment.

You can also work out an arrangement, depending on what you are likely to do more of, for sharing your equipment. If you know that you will use a dehydrator, but you aren’t sure about the hot bath, get the dehydrator and let your neighbor use it in return for letting you use his/her bottling equipment.

What are your tips to preserve produce for winter?

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Green Back to School Tips

Summer is almost over! It’s time to reclaim your sanity and send the kids back to school. But before you head to the store for your back to school shopping, take a few minutes to consider how you can make this time of year a little more eco-friendly. Here are a few tips that can help you get back to school the green way:

School Supplies

First of all, find out what school supplies you are responsible for, and which the school will provide. There is no point in doubling consumption by buying what the school is already providing. Get a list from the school, and avoid over-buying.

Next, before you buy items that are on your list, check to see if you have some of them already. You might have some leftover supplies from years past. There’s no reason to purchase those items you already have.

For items that you do end up needing to buy, see if you can get post-consumer products that are made — at least partially — from recycled materials. Binders made of cardboard or canvas can be purchased; you don’t have to get plastic. You should try to avoid plastic, especially those containing BPAs, whenever possible with your school supplies.

Lunch Time

You can make your child’s lunch time greener, and healthier, by following a few tips:

  • Use a reusable bag or box. There are plenty of bags and boxes that come BPA-free.
  • This applies to drink containers as well. Send a thermos, instead of sending something in packaging that has to be thrown out.
  • Food can be kept in reusable containers as well. Just wash each day.
  • Send reusable utensils, rather than disposable forks and spoons.
  • Consider buying a few high-quality cloth napkins. These can be washed with the laundry, and reused.

You can make lunches healthier by using locally-sourced food when possible. Additionally, if you plan lunches ahead of time, and pack them the night before, you won’t be so rushed and tempted to use pre-packaged foods.

Clothing

As with school supplies, the first thing you should do is see if there are clothes from last year that can be worn this year. Try not to buy a lot of new clothes if you can help it.

When you do go shopping, consider checking out a thrift shop or consignment shop. Find out what day these shops normally put out “new” items. If you know when the most recent stuff is going out, you can get best pick from the best items. The clothes look new, and it can freshen your child’s wardrobe without increased consumption.

Don’t forget to donate your clothes to a thrift shop, or to hand them down to someone who could use them, instead of just throwing them out.

Transportation

Finally, consider ways to reduce your environmental impact in getting to and from school. If it’s a possibility, the best option is to walk or bike to school. However, if that isn’t feasible, take the bus, or carpool to reduce emissions.

With a little thought and planning, it should be possible for you to have a back to school season that is a little more eco-friendly.