It’s been almost a year since many started buying up seeds and starting their first garden, or maybe they had a garden but never canned what they grew. While I’ve been a long time canner and I have a supply of jars for my needs, I know how hard it was to find canning lids for those said jars. I was fortunate in the sense that I already had some on hand and if I saw some while grocery shopping or popping into a local hardware store, I could pick up several boxes at a time. Between myself and my daughter we go through many lids in a canning season, plus I tend to can all year round so it’s nice to have extra on hand.
Last year we added more space to our garden and everything did very well. I mentioned to my hubby that I would like to add on again this year as well because you do not know what the future holds. Many years ago women grew and preserved food for their winter store or longer just so the family would have food to eat. It was survival. I read something today on Facebook that made me think. “If you store food in today’s times for your family you are considered a hoarder, but years ago but if women put food up for their family it meant survival.” I do not consider myself a hoarder but I do consider myself prudent. I have always believed in having a pantry for those hard times and we have learned from experience, unfortunately. From hubby having cancer to me losing my job, our pantry helped us through those times. Having a pantry is a priority in our home.
As crazy as it sounds, last year was my first year starting seeds indoors. I had meticulously and gently took care of those precious seeds and I’m sure my surrounding neighbors could hear me scream for joy when I saw my first plant pop up. I think even my hubby was surprised at my fruitful endeavor. See the butternut squash in the picture below? Well this is one from last years bounty and we just had it for dinner several nights ago, and I still have several more to use up. These are one of those veggies that, if stored correctly, can be used throughout the winter months. The canned green beans came from our garden in 2019 and we are just finishing up that years harvest.
When you keep a pantry you keep basic foods and ingredients on hand. I always have basic baking essentials on hand so when we have an array of older bananas I can whip up a loaf of banana bread for a quick breakfast or a snack. Much more healthy than store bought snack cakes. If you cannot buy in bulk due to space, you can definitely buy a few bags of flour, sugar, or even chocolate chips at the holidays when they go on sale. I try to never pay full price for anything that stocks my pantry unless its when I hit up my bulk food store for the bulk oatmeal and flour.
When last years garden was dwindling down, I started saving seeds from my green beans so that I could add them to my collection of seeds from our local co op where I purchased some at the beginning of the season. I had also purchased our seed potatoes from there as we have had good luck in the past with them. I have never saved seeds from our other veggies before, and while I did think about doing it, I just never got around to it. I was fortunate to have found some seed packets last year in our local grocery store and then I also found some this year in a local farm store and Dollar Tree. I have had luck with seeds from these places so hopefully this year will be the same.
Aside from starting your seeds for your garden or buying them already started, don’t forget that there are other ways to stock up your pantry even if you cannot find canning supplies. Start looking at your grocery stores loss leader sales. I have found some amazing meat prices lately on chicken and pork. Never hesitate on picking up some extra meat for your freezer when the prices are at a rock bottom price, just buy how much you can afford and have room for in your freezer. I have also been known to buy peppers and onions on sale, chop them up, and store them in the freezer so they won’t go bad before they get used up. If you will only be using them in a cooked form, freezing them will not hurt at all. I know right now is not the best time to buy a freezer, kind of like the canning supplies, they are hard to get as well. We have been shopping for a dryer recently and one of the stores had an upright freezer in it. Another customer asked if it was for sale and the salesman said no, but they can try to get another one in but it could take months to get it. Crazy as it sounds, I guess these are the times we are going through.
Another way to preserve food for you pantry is dehydrating. I have several dehydrators and I can’t tell you how much my first one has been used. My mom originally bought it for me back in the 90’s and that baby is still humming along. Another I found at a garage sale for $1, and my pride and joy Excalibur I just bought last fall. I have dehydrated mushrooms prior to getting my pressure canner, and they taste fine when rehydrated in a gravy or sauce. Sometimes the texture of dehydrated foods is a turnoff to some, but if you use them in a casserole or maybe rehydrated in a pasta dish, the texture will be disguised.
Tending to a garden and stocking a pantry are just a few ways to keep your family fed in a hard time or crisis that may arise in your life. Even if you are only able to put tomato plants in pots is better than having nothing at all. Always be thinking of many ways that you can grow some of your own food and how you can be able to preserve it for your family’s needs.