In today’s episode, Anna and I talk all about how to save money by preserving food.
This episode will explore the ways food preservation saves you money, which methods to employ and how, and how you can start truly eating from your pantry today. We will talk both about making the preservation methods affordable and as well as finding deals on food.
I think our overarching message today will be that canning alone isn’t the best way to save, nor is dehydrating alone, nor is freeze drying. It is the whole idea that food can be preserved safely, purchased at its peak ripeness and cheapest price – that’s what will really make a significant difference in your food budget.
A super easy first step is to learn to quick pickle. A quick pickle takes just a veggie, vinegar, and a clean container which could be a jar but doesn’t have to be. Produce that you won’t eat fresh can be preserved for more than a month in a mixture of vinegar and salt and it is stored in the fridge. There’s no processing, you can do a single jar or several, but it reduces food waste and makes really crisp pickles.
Canning on the cheap: don’t skimp on new lids as reused are likely to fail, but get used everything else. Check out our equipment episode for specific details on what you need to start canning but you can thrift everything other than the lids. Alternatively, you could explore using Tattler reusable lids (I’ve not used these) and we just did an episode about Weck jars and those are all glass and reusable as well- more expensive but if you could get a great deal, they’d be great. A water bath canner can be made from any pot you may boil several quarts of water in but you do need a rack on the bottom. I love a silicone trivet for that.
Pressure canning on the cheap: A pressure canner is an investment and one that you’re not afraid to use, one that’s manageable in size, one that has an effective seal and an accurate dial is critical. Spending $20 on one that you can’t get a seal for or can’t test is a waste. You can get replacement parts from manufacturers, and you can print out the manuals for a pressure canner also from their websites. If you’re going this route I’d lean heavily on your cooperative extension office for checking the gauge and helping affirm that yes, your canner is ready to go.
We mention this in our pressure canning episode but if you don’t have a cooperative extension that can help near you, I’d call one anywhere and ask your questions. You can have the dial checked at a local tire shop as they can check the pounds per pressure for you.
Or buy a new canner. Consider the size: I got a 16 qt presto and I love it, and it isn’t too giant for me or my tiny kitchen but it doesn’t hold more than 8 quarts. That’s not as many as some of them. They are an investment. If you have a neighbor or friend you trust, you could share it as long as the canner is cared for and not left in a cold car or garage overnight so as to change the effectiveness of the dial.
Dehydrating on the cheap: Dehydrators are fairly expensive new. I’d explore thrifting one (we have an episode on dehydrators) and try if you can to get one that has different temps on the dial. The plastic trays do degrade over time (my mom’s started to crumble after 10+ years) so don’t forget to check that. Or using an oven is a great way to start the process but just be sure you know you’ll be turning the oven on and leaving it on for several hours. I’d never try this in the summer (that would have been a capital crime when I was growing up- turning on the oven in the summer!). Listen to this episode for more on how to dehydrate like a pro!
Freezing: Because a freezer and the electricity are expensive to begin with and have an ongoing cost, I’d reserve the freezer space you have for things that can’t be safely canned or preserved in another method you’re comfortable with. That includes butter (no other excellent way to preserve), meat because of it’s bulk and the fact that it often comes to you frozen, this is a good way to preserve meat), and I’d use the freezer for saving/meal planning/leftover saving just as Elisa of Meal Planning Blueprints described in our Freezing episode. I personally use a large chest freezer which is absolutely an expense to keep it cold but because I have it, I am sure to use it! I freeze a lot of things including flour when I see it on sale- this just keeps bugs out and its a big space to store it.
Freeze drying: this is by far the most expensive method to start but it has the greatest capabilities for preserving food truly indefinitely with almost 100% nutrient retention. They take up space, they take electricity, and they take a bit to learn but they are THE way to preserve almost anything other than very very high fat foods like butter. It’s been around a long time, it is the way that MREs are made. Freeze dried food should be stored in black/opaque tubs in mylar bags with moisture absorbers (not just in a jar on the shelf) and then you have to have space to store all this food but this is the penultimate way people prep. Freeze dryers are the size of a washing machine and currently they don’t hold a ton of food. Stay tuned for an episode with Harvest Right to learn more about them!
Means of getting deals: foraging (check upcoming episode about that) or otherwise free food. This is a great method and there’s more resources than you’d think like facebook groups.
Sales: When you find food on a great deal, then of course you have to think about which method you’d use to preserve it and if you have the space to store it once it is preserved. Think about if your family will truly eat it.
I’ve been pressure canning meals with meat and beans because they are filling; beans are cheap (used to be cheaper of course but they are still very affordable), dry beans are shelf stable when you buy them so you can soak and cook with the amount you need. They are sort of out of style but they are a cheap way to make a meal.
I hope you loved this episode all about how to save money by preserving foods! Please share it with a friend if you loved it and leave us a rating and review!