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by the author of The Prepper’s Canning Guide and the editor of How to Feed Your Family No Matter What
Are you looking for a way to buy things at their cheapest and save them for when the price goes up? Take a note from our ancestors and learn about food preservation.
I’ve long written about the benefits of an agrarian diet. That means going back to the ways of our ancestors and eating things when they’re in-season while also preserving as much of the harvest as possible to eat when fresh food is expensive or scarce. I’m not saying you have to go full-on caveman. If you’re anything like me, your granny probably canned and dried food as a way of life.
Preserving food can save you a lot of money. See this analysis that Indiana performed.
Embarking on a journey of food preservation can be as inexpensive or pricey as you want it to be. I suggest you start off modestly and make sure this is a practice you’ll keep up before investing a lot of money. Below are three methods that can provide savvy savings and tasty food for later.
Water Bath Canning
Water bath canning is a great way to dip your toe into the waters (no pun intended but that’s a good one) of food preservation. When you’re starting, you can actually use a large stockpot and folded dishtowel in place of a canner if money is really tight. If you enjoy it, you’ll probably want to invest in a canning set like this one which includes everything you need except the food and the jars. This set used to be closer to $30 before the pandemic, and the price is likely to continue to rise. In fact, it went up overnight after I wrote this article (holy guacamole!!!) from $70 to $108.
You can cobble together your own canning set for far less money. You need a 20+ quart stockpot with a lid (like this) and a kit like this with a jar lifter, funnel, and rack. The only gadgets I find absolutely essential are the jar lifter and the funnel. A folded dishtowel can serve as a fine substitute for a rack. You may also be able to find these supplies at your local Walmart or farm store.
I’ve found canners and canning supplies at yardsales, thrift stores, and online marketplaces. If you search diligently, someone else’s failed hobby may end up being a huge savings for you.
Water bath canning is a safe preservation for high acid food like tomato products, pickled products, and fruit. You cannot safely water bath can meat or most vegetables, regardless of how long you process them. it doesn’t matter of your grandmother did it. She probably didn’t use a seatbelt or carseat for her baby. We have safer methods now.
It’s vital, absolutely vital, to follow the rules of safe canning practices as laid out by the National Center for Home Food Preservation. To fail to do so, you risk botulism, which can be deadly or cause lifelong neurological problems. It’s absolutely not worth the risk.
For specific instructions on water bath canning go here.
Dehydrating food is another way you can preserve food. You can go high tech or low tech with this. You can dehydrate food in your oven (although that might mean running up your electric bill), hang it to dry, or use a dehydrator. The method you choose will depend on a lot of variables. To name a few:
- Humidity level
Personally, I hang dry my herbs and use a dehydrator for everything else. I live in an apartment and have limited space so I have this little dehydrator and love it. It’s just a little bit bigger than a 4-slice toaster. I also recommend nonstick sheets for easy clean-up. Trust me, you’ll thank me for this. If you have a bigger family, you’ll want a bigger dehydrator, but for one or two people this is just right.
I wrote a detailed article about dehydrating here.
I adore pressure canning. You can preserve meat, low-acid vegetables, soups, and entire meals this way. If you want homemade “fast food” pressure canning will be ideal.
There aren’t any shortcuts here. You’ll need a real pressure canner to do this safely. I’ve used the Presto 23-quart pressure canner for years and been delighted with it. The gaskets are replaceable and I suggest you grab a spare or two.
Pressure canning is the only way to safely can low-acid foods. Here’s an article about exactly how to do it.
Food Preservation Resources
I’ve written a few books on food preservation and edited another. I also have a book I frequently recommend about dehydrating food. Don’t be deterred by the fact that these books were written with the prepper in mind. No bunker is required to follow this advice.
- The Prepper’s Canning Guide
- How to Feed Your Family No Matter What
- The Prepper’s Dehydrator Handbook
- The Seasonal Kitchen Companion
Learning to preserve food helps you to buy when prices are at their lowest and eat that food when prices are at their highest. And in this economy, that’s a bigger win than ever.
What’s your favorite food preservation method?
Do you preserve food? Do you feel like it saves money? What is your favorite method of preservation? Share your favorite ideas and resources in the comments.
Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, adventure-seeking, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites. 1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty; 2) The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived; and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. Her work is widely republished across alternative media and she has appeared in many interviews.
Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books, 12 self-published books, and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses at SelfRelianceand Survival.com You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.