Thursday, June 16, 2011

This is the Year for Canning and Freezing?

I have been a stay at home mom for over five years now. In those five years I have learned a lot about ways to save money while still eating healthy, and without feeling like a penny pincher. I like to be called frugal, I don't want to be a tight wad! But even after five years I am still finding new ways to save money.

This year we bought a CSA share as a way to eat more organic products as well as support a local farm. It was more expensive that if we were to buy our vegetables in the store, but that is because we are getting more vegetables then if we were to buy them in a store and all of them are organic. But I need to constantly remind myself that I don't NEED to eat all of these vegetables fresh. Instead I need to learn how to can and freeze them for the winter. If I manage to freeze some of the food we get then I will also pay less on my grocery store bill in the winter. In addition to buying less fresh produce, I will also buy less frozen produce.

This year we are trying our hands at gardening again. Last year was my most successful year, but it can still be much improved. We doubled the size of our garden this year and it still only cost about $20 to start up. It should have cost less but I cannot manage to grow tomato or pepper plants from seed. At the farmers market this week we bought 4 tomato plants and 6 pepper plants for $12.50. The other $7.50 was spent on seeds. In my garden we are growing lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, corn, carrots, watermelons, zucchini, cucumbers, beans and peas. If I am lucky I will get a good harvest from it.

While our garden and CSA share will cut the weekly budget at the store down during the summer, this year my goal is to use it to cut down my winter budget as well. To do this I need to learn to can and freeze. In the past I have not taken advantage of canning or freezing vegetables like I should. Last year was my first real attempt. I made several containers of (not so great) spaghetti sauce and I froze several bags of peppers. That was it. Clearly I can do much better! To do this right Jon and I decided we should looking into canning kits and see how much they cost. We know we will be buying many jars this year, but we also know that everything we buy this year we will be able to use again and again. So last night I spent time looking online at canning sets and we found one that we like. It has good ratings and several people say it is perfect for beginners (which is what we are!). The price is right as well at $30. This is an amount we are willing to risk in case we are abysmal failures at this canning process. But before I buy it, does anyone have any recommendations for a good, inexpensive canning kit?

I am interested to see if I am able to can and freeze vegetables and fruit (something I never thought I would be doing) and how it effects both my summer and my winter grocery bill. If you have an helpful hints, links, or great spaghetti recipes, PLEASE share them with me!

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