How to Save Money with Food Preservation
Food preservation is a popular option for those wanting to save money by avoiding overpriced produce in the winter months, reducing the need for pre-packaged produce, and/or maximizing their garden’s harvest. Food preservation refers to any one of a number of techniques used to prevent food from spoiling. It includes methods such as canning, pickling, dehydrating, freeze-drying, irradiation, pasteurization, smoking, and the addition of chemical additives. The various methods for preserving foods are all designed to reduce or eliminate pathogens, oxidation, or both, that spoil food.
First, freezing foods can be the simplest of food preservation methods. You just need a freezer and packaging. Research shows that overall processing costs are less than $100 for 500 pounds of food. That breaks down to approximately $0.20 per pound. Compare this to grocery stores that sell bags of frozen veggies from $1-3 per pound. Plus, you’ll be able to save gas by making fewer trips to the store.
Canning is a second option for food preservation. Canning operations are more variable than freezing due to the different techniques, ingredients, and additives. Canning is also dependent on your food choice’s yield and acidity. For example, low-acid produce, like most vegetables, will use a pressure canner while high-acid foods, such as fruits used for jams and jellies, use a water bath method. Canning is perfect for storing seasonal foods to be enjoyed all year long; however, it is critical to properly follow canning instructions to help prevent food spoilage and foodborne illnesses. Canning is also a heavy storage-required method, so make sure you have enough space to keep your food. While canned goods at the grocery store can cost between $0.50 to over $1 per can, canning at home often costs less than $0.10 per quart. This means you can process 500 pounds of food for under $50!
Dehydrating or drying foods is yet another method for food preservation. It can be more time-consuming than other methods, depending on your food choices. Some of the most popular foods to dehydrate are meat products, but produce can also be dried and dehydrated. The cost to process is similar to canning, around $0.10 per pound or about $50 to process 500 pounds. Just imagine being able to snack on jerky for only a dime!
While food preservation can save your family thousands of dollars over your lifetime, be aware that there may be both initial and ongoing expenses associated with preserving. You can minimize start-up costs by renting equipment rather than purchasing your own materials. The Quapaw Farmers Market offers a free equipment rental for all community members. Ongoing costs include items such as electricity, optional added ingredients (such as sweeteners), or the value of your time spent preserving.
Finally, food preservation gives you control over your nutrition and diet. By choosing preservation methods and foods you enjoy, you are creating your own “whole foods” approach to your nutritional lifestyle. Combining food preservation with farming and gardening can give you ultimate control over your food resources and nutrition. If you are looking to save money, take control of your food choices, or to enjoy seasonal foods throughout the year, consider food preservation. Click here to book an equipment pick-up appointment today.
Fruit Tree 101
There is nothing like plucking fresh apples, pears, or peaches right off the tree. There are many varieties of fruit trees to choose from, but not all are suitable for every climate or growing season. When choosing a fruit tree for your yard consider its winter hardiness, disease resistance and the ripening date of the fruit. Here, we’ll discuss planting and caring for apple trees because they are well-suited for Oklahoma’s climate. Apple trees are extremely popular to plant because of their value as nutritious snacks that are a good source of Vitamin C and fiber.
Knowing Your Hardiness Zone:
The US Department of Agriculture’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map divides the United States into zones according to the expected coldest winter temperature. Northeast Oklahoma falls within Zones 6-7 where winter temperatures are expected to get as cold as -10º F. Make sure that your chosen variety is fit for this zone to maximize fruit production.
Fruit trees love sunlight, so place your tree where it can receive direct sunlight throughout the day. They need 6 to 8 hours of full sun, but avoid planting them during the heat of summer. Fruit trees should be planted in early spring, after the last frost.
All fruit trees require well-drained soil that allows water to drain at a moderate rate without pooling and puddling. To test the drainage of your soil, dig a hole 1-foot deep by 1-foot wide. Fill the hole with water and record how long it takes for the water to completely drain. The ideal time is between 10 and 30 minutes. If you do not have well drained soil you may add amendments such as compost, peat moss, vermiculite, wood chips, or sand.
Spring in Oklahoma coincides with the rainy season, so there may not be a consistent schedule for watering. The best way to determine when trees need water is to check the soil. What you’re aiming for is moist — not soggy — soil. In the absence of rain or moisture, check the soil with a garden trowel to a depth of two inches. If the soil is dry to the touch, your tree needs water. During a summer afternoon, up to half of the water can be lost to evaporation. The best time to water is in the morning or evening, so the roots have a chance to absorb most of the water.
How often you should water will depend on the size of your tree, soil conditions, and weather conditions. Newly planted trees require much more water than established ones. Remember that clay soils can hold more water while sandy soils may need more frequent watering.
Most apple trees require cross-pollination. That means a single apple tree without other compatible apple trees nearby may blossom but never produce fruit. You’ll need to find a compatible variety for your apple tree that has the same bloom time. Dwarf apple trees need a spacing of 6 to 8 feet, semi-dwarf trees about 15 feet, and standard or full-sized trees about 25 feet. You’ll also need to observe your surroundings to make sure you don't run into future problems such as overhanging electric lines, underground pipes or cables, locations too close to foundation or sidewalks.
The best time to prune apple trees is in late winter or early spring while the tree is still dormant before active growth begins for the season. Buds are easier to see to work around and cut wounds have a chance to dry up before insects come out in the spring. You will see less effects on winter hardiness and overall tree health. Pruning is especially effective with apple trees. See the graphic for a basic illustration on how a pruned apple tree should look over time.
● Fill the hole with clean topsoil (with added amendments, if necessary), carefully covering the roots. Pack the soil in by gently stamping it down with your feet.
● Water the tree with two to five gallons of water, poured slowly enough so that water absorbs into the ground and doesn’t run off.
● All newly planted fruit trees benefit from being staked. This will result in a straighter tree with more growth. Staking is especially important for trees planted on a wind-blown site and for dwarf trees.
● Use mulch, herbicide or cultivation techniques to create a weed-free zone at the base of the tree that extends out to form a circle with a diameter of two to three feet. Nutrient rich mulch doubles as an excellent fertilizer, helps soil retain moisture, and creates cooler micro-environments at the base of the plant.
Now that we have shared some helpful tips on planting apple trees, get out and plant! Remember proper planting techniques, selection of fruit trees, pruning, and watering to make the most out of your new apple tree.