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.
The Quapaw Farmers Market’s mission is to increase community access to affordable and nutritious foods by promoting farm-to-table initiatives, education, and business opportunities for local producers.