Planning to Preserve 2014

Over the last four years my cooking and food goals have evolved.   First, I worked out how to eat healthy on a budget.  Next, I wanted to put by part of our yearly food supply.  At the start, I couldn't grow it myself  because we lived in an apartment the first three years in Indiana.  Instead, I took home extra from the vegetable garden which was part of the arboretum I worked for, as well as, the farmer's market.  I look back at those blog posts and see my early attempts at canning, dehydrating and foraging.  There was a learning curve.  The first couple years I did small batches without ever putting enough by for the winter.

Remember when I used to think this was a lot of tomatoes in 2010?

This is about a third of what I put up last year:

I left my arboretum job a couple years later when my husband got a position as a professor and we moved to our current small town in northeast Indiana.  Before we moved I contacted a couple farms and gardens nearby and asked if I could volunteer.  Hawkin's Family Farm let me come out and work for food that first fall in 2011.  That was also the first year I put up a significant amount of food and I decided the next year I needed a plan for putting food by.

During the winter of 2012, when I was pregnant with June Bug, I created a full blown plan to preserve.  I had spread sheets and calculations of how many canning jars, pounds of tomatoes and how many batches of pesto so we wouldn't have to buy any for the two, soon to be three of us, for a year.  I needed that kind of intensive planning to know what it would take to reach my goals.

My first plan to preserve post can be found here.  This is the calendar I kept on the fridge that summer to remind me how much I wanted, of what and when:

Last year, 2013, I was a little lax.  I looked at my previous year's plan and aimed for a similar amount of food put by with some small adjustments.  It is March of 2014 and we are running out of things; a little more planning could have made the difference.  This year I am back on the saddle making another full blown plan to preserve.

I started by looking back over my notes from the last three years.  I have a notebook with lists of what I was canning, freezing and preserving over the summer and fall for each year.  I put those in a spread sheet and made notes; which foods were enough, too much, when we ran out that type of thing.  I also added a section of things I would like to try.  I'd love to put up more frozen fruit and make my own hot sauces.  I'd also like to get into cool, dry storage for root crops and winter squash.

I looked back at my list and figured out which produce we would grow, which I could get from the CSA and which ones I could buy at the farmers market or from other local farmers.

Our home garden is still fairly small, just three beds equaling 263-square feet.  If I wasn't due with our second baby in June, I would have pushed for expanding as we have used maybe a sixth of the potential space in our side yard.  The large sunny side yard was a selling point for this house!

This year I plan to grow in our home annual vegetable garden:
  • Winter squash (dry cool storage)
  • Cucumbers (pickles)
  • Blue Potatoes (dry cool storage)
  • Onions (dry cool storage)
  • Cherry and paste tomatoes (dehydrate and can)
  • Basil (frozen as pesto)
  • Zucchini (frozen)
  • Lettuce (only for fresh eating)
  • Spinach (frozen)
  • Broccoli (only for fresh eating, I'm not putting that much in)
Some vegetables I will be able to get from Hawkin's Family Farm CSA.  When crops are plentiful I often get the option to pick as much as I am able and then split it with the farm.  From the last couple of years I know I can count on green beans, beets, chard, peppers, more tomatoes and grapes.  

Last year I harvest two 5-gallon buckets of grapes and split the juice with family who grew the grapes.

It is also important to be flexible.  Sometimes there is an unexpected bumper crop and I have to be willing to take advantage when possible.  Last year I passed up a bunch of bell peppers because we were doing a lot of hosting and I just didn't feel like I had to the time to process them.  I still regret that a little. The year before I cashed in and we had frozen chopped pepper on hand all winter.  This year I did take advantage of the grapes at Hawkins Farm.  They didn't have time to pick or process them so I made a couple batches of jelly and juice and split it with the family.

Do you want to see it?  I've boiled down my plan into one spread sheet.  Here it is (click chart to enlarge):


  1. Anonymous4/03/2014

    Wow, all of this taking place right next door and I had no clue! (Except for the lovely garden.) Someday I'd love to do some preserving, but...I'd love to use an excuse, but I can't think of any except inexperience and the fact that I'm a low-carber and if I made jam I'd be too tempted to eat it.

    I did see a recipe for pickled ginger last night that looked tempting, if I can find one without added sugar. And I'd also love to pickle other things and make sauces. I'd also like to freeze enough for the winter, but I would have to buy a freezer. My parents used to can and it seemed difficult and dangerous, so I'm not as adventurous as I'd like to be.

    Good luck and happy planning and growing!

    1. Drema, Hi there neigbor!

      We purchased a small chest freezer (can hold maybe one body) a year and a half ago off Craig's List for $100. Jeff was a little reluctant because his mom had a large one that barely had anything in it and it felt like a waste. However, our little one has been packed full most of the time. Although I did get a pressure canner this winter and now I don't have to freeze stock and beans. That just means more room for meat and veggies!

      I will admit it took me a long time to work up the courage for to pressure can. Now that I've got it and learned how to use it (the new ones have a safety valve so they won't explode) it's not so scary, but it is time consuming and that's scary in it's own right.

      I bet you would enjoy pickling. It's easier than most canning and low carb!