Get canning!

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By Rachel, Contributing Writer

Alright gals…whether you are an avid canner, have never canned before, or just need a little encouragement to get back into this amazing homemaking art, this post is for you!

I am slightly biased…I love canning.  It is a wonderful way to make the most of produce when it is in season and put it up for enjoying later in the year…when local produce may not be available and/or you’d have to pay a lot more for lovely, organic fruits and vegetables which helps you save money.

get into canning words

It also is a great way to use up all of your garden’s produce should you have a bumper crop of, say, green beans.  Not that I’ve ever been inundated with them before…  Canned goods make wonderful gifts (who doesn’t like a jar of homemade jam?!?) and they encourage you to eat whole/real foods throughout the year.

That said…how about some encouragement to get back in the swing of this resurging art or help light the fire to get you started?

5 Steps to Help You Get [Back] Into Canning

Find someone to can with

Canning is way more fun if you do it in community.  Yes, I just canned 20+ pounds of raspberries (jam, syrup, preserves, sauce, etc) on my own and loved every minute of it but it’s definitely more fun when you have someone to share it with.  My husband kept me company – and kept our 11 month old distracted – during part of the time but for the most part, I did this round of canning by myself during baby girl’s naps over a few days.  Check out this post on canning peaches for an example of canning with friends…

Gather up “new” mason jars

Mason jars are all the rage on Pinterest and in crafty gals’ blogs which is all well and good but they’re really in their element when used for their original purpose.  Have a little fun checking out local garage sales and thrift stores for some new jars.  You’ll probably find cute/short/square-ish ones, tall/skinny/quilted ones, or, if you’re really lucky, some old blue ones.  They actually revived the blue jar for the Perfect Mason Jar’s 100th anniversary so right now you can buy a 6 pack of pint size blue mason jars for around $10.00.  My hubby picked up a pack as my Mother’s Day present. :)  Anyways, even a few new jars will be a fun motivator to get going on a few preservation projects.

Put it on the calendar

Yes, canning takes a little time.  But not too much!  Regardless, if you’re reading this blog, you have lots of things to do to take care of your husband, home, family, job, etc.  You’re busy gals!  So put it in your phone/on your calendar/in your planner.  You just need an hour to tackle a small project.  Like homemade raspberry syrup.  You’ll be glad you set the time aside.

Choose some great produce to preserve

This is up to you!  I would choose something fruity, like raspberries.  I just finished making chocolate raspberry sauce, raspberry syrup, raspberry wine jelly, raspberry jam, and raspberry preserves.  My husband, though he does like raspberries, is a huge fan of dilly beans.  And remember that bumper crop of green beans?  They’re comin’ in again…which means I’ll be making dilly beans even though I can’t stand them.  But my hubby loves ‘em so that’s my next project!

Anyways, the point is that you need to choose something you’ll love to open in a few months.  Whether it’s something to preserve the goodness of the present (it’s raspberry season here in the Pacific Northwest!) or something that hits your tongue just right (oh dilly beans…), choose something you can get excited about!

Put yourself in the story

Mason jars have been around for a long time.  The side of the box of the 100 year commemorative blue jars speaks to the hard work that goes into the products in a canning jar as well as speaks to the “spirit of building, craftsmanship, and innovation of past generations.”

I reflected on what I consider Mason Jar Values as

an act of thankfulness for the harvest at hand, an act of diligence to make use of the time and talents bestowed upon me to take care of my family, an act of living out heritage by looking to the past as a means of thriving in the future, and an act of trusting that hard work now will lead to a reward later.”

They’re not just a kitchen preservation tool…they are much, much more than that.  Whenever you take the time and put in the effort to can something, you insert yourself into a great and meaningful story.

So get canning, gals!  If you want/need further encouragement, please please PLEASE contact me.  I will so very happily email you back!  My husband will be even happier because then I won’t keep gushing to him about my latest canning exploits…

The Truth About Sugar: Why We Need to Cut Back

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A discussion of whole foods doesn’t get very far without first addressing grains, and then sugar. Yes, sugar is a “natural” food but our white sugar we eat is highly processed and refined just like white flour.

Just like the refining process for wheat, when sugar is refined from sugar cane and sugar beet, 99.9% of it’s nutritional value is destroyed (source). Of course, what you are left with is empty nutrition-less calories. But we already know that right? No one eats sugar thinking that it’s healthy. It’s a splurge item, so what’s the big deal?

To read the rest of this article, head over to Homemaking from Scratch.

Source

Freezer Cooking Resources

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The way that I freezer cook is by buying a whole month’s worth of groceries and doing a marathon day of cooking and then enjoying those homemade meals all month long from my freezer.

Some months I get busy and just end up with the stapels in my freezer i.e. rice, beans, spaghetti sauce, bread and tortillas. While there are many different methods of freezer cooking, the key is to figure out what works best for YOU.

As I draw this series to an end today I wanted to pass on some more resources for you to dig into freezer cooking. There are so many different methods and ideas out there!

Freezer Cooking Resources

Pinterest

Pinterest is of course a great resource in this! I have a freezer cooking board so that whenever I come across recipes or tips I have them all in one spot. Start out by following my freezer cooking board and then create your own!

Once a Month Mom

Perhaps the biggest once a month websites, Once a Month Mom is packed FULL of helpful tips and recipes. They have a new menu each month so you just have to pick the menu you want for the month and follow their directions. Super simple (but for some reason I never really got on board with their style, tried it once and but it didn’t stick for me-others swear by this website). They have different menus for everyone including a Traditional menu, a Wholefoods menu, Vegetarian menu and more!

They also have some terrific articles to get you started like instructions for OAMC, Get Real (A Wholefoods series), How to create your own menu, Kitchen tips, and more!

Money Saving Mom

Money Saving Mom has an excellent article with lots of tips on how she does freezer cooking complete with some awesome free printables! She also has a resource page for Freezer Cooking 101 and a fabulous series on how to save money on your grocery budget!

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Life as Mom

She has a great series on freezer cooking with many articles such as some basics, doing freezer cooking with kids, methods of storage.

Stacy Makes Cents

Stacy made the big switch to eating whole foods and offers some fabulous tips on storing whole foods such as in jars and the freezer. She also shares some insight on how she does freezer cooking and shares some great pictures on how to fit it all in your freezer (even if you only have a small single freezer)!

StacyMakesCents

Creative Christian Mama

Creative Christian Mama shares some good advice on how she does freezer cooking and how you can save money freezer cooking. Saving money is one of the main reasons that I freezer cook! She also shares about how to pull meals from what you already have in your freezer and pantry, another great way to save money!

CreativeChristianMama.com

The Marathon Mom

The Marathon Mom is a fabulous blogger who shares her own freezer cooking tips as well as a great post on stocking your freezer full of meals in preparation of a coming baby!

TheMarathonMom.com

Once-a-Month Cooking: Family Favorites

This fabulous cookbook is what got me into freezer cooking in the first place. If you are feeling overwhelmed by freezer cooking, then start with this simple and easy to follow cookbook that does all the work for you from menu planning, to grocery list planning, to processing and how to cook your month’s full of meals!

Once a Month Cooking Family Favorites
Do you have any resources to add? Leave me a comment and let me know so I can pass the word along for other great freezer cooking resources!

More in the Freezer Cooking Series:
Freezer Cooking: Has Changed My Life
Once a Month Cooking: Family Favorites {Cookbook Review}
An Introduction to Freezer Cooking 
Freezer Cooking Methods
How to Save Money Freezer Cooking
How I Do Freezer Cooking: A Look Into My Kitchen
Freezer Cooking Resources

More posts to come in this series, subscribe my email below or follow me on Facebook so you don’t miss a post!

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Join me over at Facebook for some fun discussion and to connect.

How I Do Freezer Cooking: A Look Into My Kitchen

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As I talked about earlier in this series, I stumbled upon a little cookbook with no pictures, that I had never heard of before one fateful night in the Barnes and Noble clearance section. Sounds overly dramatic, but it’s not. This book about cooking once a month changed my life.

This book taught me the basics of freezer or once a month cooking. There are many different methods of freezer cooking but the gist is: do more cooking at once and have meals or parts of meals in the freezer/fridge for later use.

Since then I have adapted my freezer cooking a bit but largely follow the book’s plan and use a lot of its recipes.

So I have shown some different methods of once a month cooking but today I’m going to give you a little glimpse into my kitchen and how I do freezer cooking.

How I Do Freezer Cooking

A Look into my Kitchen

This is generally how I organize and execute my once a month cooking days!

1) Glance at the Sales Ads

Get the sales ads for the week and do a quick glance over. Find the meat and produce sections and find out who is having killer deals that week.

Does someone have chicken breasts on sale for $0.99/LB? Then you will know in the next step to pick a lot of chicken recipes.

Found some avocados at rock bottom prices? Plan on making a lot of Mexican that month. Glance at these ads and then keep them in mind as you move on.

2) Start Your Menu for the Month

Gather your cookbooks, favorite recipes and log into Pinterest {I have a freezer meals board} to do your meal plan for the month.

Keeping in mind what is on sale this week or time of the year, plan out the meals you will eat for the month.

Grab a calendar and write out the meal for that day, how many servings it is, and the page # and or cookbook you got the recipe in for easy reference later.

If one recipe calls for two sausages then try and find another recipe that calls for 3 sausages so you can buy a 5 pack and not have any leftovers.

Only going to use half of the lasagna noodles? Then plan to make two lasagnas or find another recipe to use the other half.

Plan meals with what is on sale, what’s already in your cupboard, and what you can use for other meals.

3) The Grocery List

Now that you know what your meal plan will be, go through each of your recipes and start a master grocery list.

Mark how many of each item you will need. For chicken, make a note of how many pounds you will need as you go through the list.

Once you have your list you can go back through your cupboards and cross off what you already have. 

{This was before my whole foods cooking days…}

4) Make a Plan of Action

Now, get those sales ads back out. Select which stores you will go to. I usually end up at 2 regular grocery stores (like Albertsons and Safeway) and Costco and Trader Joes.

Map out what you will get where. I like to make a separate list for each store I’m going to just to make the actual shopping go as quickly as possible.

5) Shop and Organize

Now head to the store. I like to pull out cash before I go as that helps me to spend less.

When you get home, organize your food. I usually leave all the non perishable on my kitchen table and get everything out of the cupboards ready.

6) Do The Prep Work

Usually on Friday night (my cooking day is Saturday) I’ll get out all the vegetables and do all the chopping, dicing, and skinning. If certain recipes call for already cooked chicken breasts or cooked rice, then I will spend Friday night getting these ready.

Then Friday night make sure your kitchen it spotless, everything is washed and put away (you will need as many dishes as possible), and that you get a good nights sleep!

7) Get Cooking!

The big work day is here! I start off with some coffee and eat some breakfast and then I jump into it! I pull out my recipes and start cooking.

While chicken breasts are cooking in the oven, I’ve got 3 things on the stove. Things can get a little chaotic at first, but then meals start coming together. All of a sudden, you start throwing meals in the freezer and before you know it, your freezer is full of meals, your feet are aching, and your cooking day is over!

8) Get Hubby to Clean the Kitchen

It’s only fair now that he gets to clean up the kitchen right?? Okay this isn’t exactly how it plays out in my kitchen but it’s nice when he does help!

Here are just a few of the meals I made that day! All ready to go into the freezer.

More in the Freezer Cooking Series:

Freezer Cooking: Has Changed My Life
Once a Month Cooking: Family Favorites {Cookbook Review}
An Introduction to Freezer Cooking 
Freezer Cooking Methods
How to Save Money Freezer Cooking
How I Do Freezer Cooking: A Look Into My Kitchen
Freezer Cooking Resources

More posts to come in this series, subscribe my email below or follow me on Facebook so you don’t miss a post!

Subscribe to my posts by email so you don’t miss a thing:

Enter your email address:
Delivered by FeedBurner

Join me over at Facebook for some fun discussion and to connect.

Freezer Cooking Methods

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Freezer cooking can be intimidating to those who don’t know how to do it. Doing one big grocery shop and then spending 10 hours in the kitchen can seem like MORE work if you aren’t familiar with the process.

But really, whether you use a cookbook, website to help, or just wing it yourself, freezer cooking is supposed to help you in the end save time and money.

I began freezer cooking one month on a whim. I picked up a cookbook and thought I would try it out. I have been in love every since! I had never given it much thought and just jumped in with both feet. It wasn’t scary or overwhelming because I didn’t really know it was a “thing”. I just was following this cookbook. But to those who see freezer cooking an once a month cooking all over the internet, it can seem overwhelming and a bit mysterious.

Basically the goal of freezer cooking is to be able to cut down on your time spent in the kitchen, at the grocery store and to save money. For some this means one 10 hour day in the kitchen and for others it means making double batches of every meal and only cooking 3 times a week. It will take time in your own kitchen and with your own schedule to find out what works for you but here are a few methods to get you started.

Freezer Cooking Methods

1) Make Double Batches

This takes the least amount of planning and time upfront. With this method you simply buy double of everything. Make homemade spaghetti sauce? Make a double batch and freeze half of it.

This is a great method for busy moms who simply cannot spare an entire day in the kitchen. This way you still do normal shopping but just plan on making two of some things lasagnas or casseroles.

This method works well for those who have some days they can make full meals. Say three days a week you have time to make a full meal. You can make the meal and freeze the second batch for later. Then another night when you are trying to get out the door for Bible study or have unexpected company over, you already have a meal made and in the freezer.

{The Pros: You don’t have to spend a lot of time planning and shopping.}
{The Cons: You don’t save that much time in the long run and spend more time in the kitchen making 2 meals}

2) Just Make the Staples 

This is a very popular option and many who are trying to eat healthy practice this, at least in part.

When I realized that I needed to start cooking healthy I wasn’t sure where to begin. I thought I was feeding my hubby healthy but didn’t realize that all those canned beans and vegetables was just stocking us full of sodium!!

So I began making everything from scratch (usually, I still have weak moments when I reach for cans). I realized that buying a bag of dried black beans and cooking them in the crockpot overnight was actually much cheaper than buying canned and processed version!

So now every couple weeks I make big batches of black and pinto beans in my crockpot. I just throw them in and when done pour individual portions into bags and containers and in the freezer they go.  I do the same with rice, chicken stock for my soups (I love soup!), and fresh bread from our bread maker. For bread, I just throw all the ingredients into my bread machine and press START! 4 hours later I have fresh bread and we store any extras in the freezer for later.

This allows me to make some healthy dinners and also have healthy beans and rice in the freezer that are just as fast as grabbing a can or quick cook rice. It’s healthier, cheaper, and quicker! 

{Pros: Takes almost no planning. When you run out of a staple (like black beans) just throw a new bag in the crockpot or some ingredients in the bread machine and you are always rolling in fresh and healthy foods}
{Cons: You still have the bulk of your cooking to do. You still need to make main dishes and you don’t save any time on grocery shopping.}

 

3) Do a Full Cook Once a Month

This is by far my favorite option! Although I don’t always have time to do this so I rely on making double batches and freezing the staples like beans and rice some months. But in one day of cooking for 8-10 hours I end up saving dozens of hours cooking each day.

While this method of freezer cooking takes the most time and planning upfront in the long run it saves so much time, energy and money! Why this saves so much time is that you are doing every together. Instead of getting 1 onion out each night, peeling it, dicing it and then cooking with it, you get an assembly going and you cute all 10 onions at once! Multiply this by 15-30 meals and you save so much time!

There are many different styles of doing a once a month cook but the general gist is that you want to do a big shopping trip, shopping all the best deals that week. I like to take a few days and stop at a couple different stores. I find who has $0.99/lb chicken and where the best produce deals are happening. This way I save so much money upfront rather than running last minute into stores to grab whatever they have, on sale or not.

Once a Month Mom actually recommends that you do your shopping throughout the month each month to get the best deals! I don’t have the time for that at the moment so my shopping begins a few days before the big cook day!

There are many styles of once a month cooking you can follow like Once a Month Mom (who has Whole Foods menus), Once a Month Cooking:Family Favorites (read my review of this fabulous cookbook), or create your own from your own family’s favorite recipes!

I’ll share on Friday how I do my own Once a Month Cooking!

{Pros: You save so much money and time in the end! Instead of cooking every single night you get it all done in one 8-10 hour span! It’s easy to make good healthy meals when you don’t have to take the time each night}
{Cons: This way of freezer cooking takes a lot of time and planning upfront. While it does save you TONS of time in the long run you have to carve out enough time to actually do it!}

 

I’m curious! Do you follow any of these methods or make your own up as you go? Share with us so we can all learn how to do effective freezer cooking. And remember what works for me, may not work for you and what works for you, may not work for me :) Let’s us all learn from each other! 

More in the Freezer Cooking Series:

Freezer Cooking: Has Changed My Life
Once a Month Cooking: Family Favorites {Cookbook Review}
An Introduction to Freezer Cooking 
Freezer Cooking Methods
How to Save Money Freezer Cooking
How I Do Freezer Cooking: A Look Into My Kitchen
Freezer Cooking Resources

More posts to come in this series, subscribe my email below or follow me on Facebook so you don’t miss a post!

Subscribe to my posts by email so you don’t miss a thing:

Enter your email address: Delivered by FeedBurner

Join me over at Facebook for some fun discussion and to connect.