Reducing food waste is a key trait in a sustainable lifestyle. Whether you grew your own foods, picked it from a nearby farm or meadow, or even bought it at the grocery store, there are ways to keep it fresh and delectable all season long.
Canning is a process of heating and sealing foods (generally in glass jars), which kills the bacteria and preserves the food. Canned foods usually last for years. Canning is useful for many types of foods, including vegetables, fruits, meats, and even seafood. There are two types of canning, water canning and pressure canning. Both require jars, lids, and sealing rings, and pressure canning also requires a pressure cooker.
Freezing foods can’t be done in the freezer section of your home refrigerator. It requires a separate freezer unit capable of reaching a temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit. You can freeze most any food, including vegetables, fruits, meats, dairy products, eggs, grains, nuts, and even prepared foods.
Drying is merely the process of dehydrating or eliminating the moisture from foods. You can dry fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, grains, beans, and nuts. Some people buy a special dehydration unit, but others do the same thing in a home oven or even a grill.
Fermentation is usually associated with turning fruits into wine, but the same process of raising the levels of “good” bacteria and eliminating the “bad” bacteria is the same for making sauerkraut out of cabbage, yogurt out of milk, and cured sausage out of meats. Fermenting is easy, and most people already have the equipment to do it, but it’s important to get the process exact to prevent spoilage.
Pickling involves immersing foods into a solution of salt, acid, alcohol, or a combination of these agents. Most often used for cucumbers, you can also pickle eggs, meats, other fruits and vegetables, and even seafood and beans. Pickling is often used in conjunction with canning to preserve as well as flavor the food.
Smoking works much like drying foods, but it adds additional flavor. Smoking is best done with meats, and can be done on any home smoker unit (including electric, gas, charcoal, or wood smokers), and on many home grills. It is a form of indirect heat grilling, wherein the food is cooked on low temperatures for a long time instead of grilled on high heat quickly.
Sealing is one of the methods that does require a particular piece of equipment, but home food sealers are generally inexpensive appliances. This method merely seals the air away from the food to prevent spoilage. You can combine sealing with freezing or drying. Either dry the foods before sealing to eliminate bacteria, or freeze the food after sealing to halt bacteria growth.
Cellaring is a process of controlling the process of spoilage by tightly controlling the temperature, humidity, and light where the food is stored. The cellaring process works with vegetables, grains, nuts, dried foods, and fermented foods.
Making the most of your food budget
It’s important to follow these processes carefully, because improper storage can lead to many food borne illnesses. But, knowing too that there are many options to reduce the amount of food that gets wasted in your home, and learning new ways of stretching your food budget can really add a positive influence on your bottom line.
Which of the above ways of preserving food have you tried? Which are your go-to methods of food storage? What are some of your concerns about storing food not covered here? Tell me about it in the comments section of this post.