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Want to be able to stock up food for emergencies? Have a garden and want to know what to do when you have a surplus harvest?
Or maybe you just want to know how to stretch your food and reduce food waste. Either way, preserving food could be the solution you’re looking for.
Preserving Food: What You Need to Know About Freezing, Canning, and Pickling Food
What Does it Mean to Preserve Food?
Preserving food is, to put it simply, a way to keep your food lasting longer – without spoiling.
You accomplish this by using a variety of methods to essentially stop, slow down, or otherwise control the rate at which the food spoils.
But that’s not all! You also have to follow measures to make sure the food is safe to eat (i.e. you won’t get food poisoning).
Lastly, you would ideally preserve it in a way that retains as much of the flavor and nutritional value as possible.
In other words, food preservation is the act of making food last longer
while still tasting good and being good for you!
What Are the Benefits of Preserving Food?
Stretch Your Food Longer
As I mentioned above, the primary goal of food preservation is making your food last longer. Which means you get more bang for your proverbial buck.
Whether you spent money on food at the grocery store or put in work growing it in your own garden, I think we would all prefer to get the most out of our food.
Preserving your food is a great way to do that! You may not always be able to eat your food in a short period of time, so preserving it makes it readily available for when you can eat it.
Stretch Your Budget
It’s simple math: stretching your food means you’re also stretching your budget. That’s always a good thing, right?
We’ve been doing this for quite some time, so a lot of the time, we do our “grocery shopping” from our supply of preserved food.
Curious about how that works? Check out this article I wrote on how I shop for groceries without having to leave our home.
Obviously, you may not be able to do this (or even want to), but I believe that every dollar saved matters!
Avoid Artificial Preservatives
When you take the time to preserve your food at home, you’re actually doing your family a favor.
By preserving food yourself, you’re able to avoid the artificial preservatives that you usually find in commercially-processed foods. That, my friend, is a huge benefit!
Food for Emergencies
What do natural disasters, viral outbreaks, and economic upheavals all have in common? They often result in people not having access to the things we need to survive.
Food is the top thing on that list.
Whenever we know that a natural disaster is about to strike, the main priority most of us have is getting to the grocery store to load up on food and water.
If you start preserving food at home, when things like this happen, you won’t have to worry as much as other people.
In the words of the Boy Scouts of America: “Be Prepared” (By the way, you should check out my article on Winter Pantry Essentials).
Enjoy Your Favorite Foods Out-of-Season
It’s a fact of life that different fruits and veggies are in their prime at different times of year. So, sometimes, you really want your favorite, but it’s out of season.
Your options are to either wait until they’re in season or to pay extra because it’s more expensive when it has to be shipped from some other part of the world.
What if you didn’t have to wait, though? What if , when you’re craving that food, you can simply head to your pantry and whip out a jar of it? That’s what preserving food can do for you!
It’s Good for the Environment
Another benefit of food preservation is that it can help you reduce the amount of food that you throw away.
Reusing jars and bottles that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill is also helpful for the environment.
Ok, so this isn’t really a top priority benefit, but it’s still worth mentioning that people really appreciate thoughtful gifts. They also generally love food.
Preserving food can be a great way to give your loved ones gifts that check both boxes. A cute and tasty jar of homemade jam could be the perfect gift for someone with a sweet tooth.
And for the pickle lovers, you could give them a variety pack of pickled veggies for them to snack on. Plus, you save money on the gift. It’s a win all around!
What Are the Best Methods to Preserve Food?
When it comes to food preservation methods, there are definitely several viable options. Let’s talk about my three favorite methods.
Freezing veggies is probably the easiest and most accessible method of the three simply because almost everyone already has a freezer in their home.
You don’t really need many materials other than some quality plastic freezer bags (for storage) and a marker or label maker (for keeping track of when they were initially placed in the freezer).
Every single year, I blanch and freeze garden peas – and so can you! Here is an article that can walk you through the process, step-by step.
And here’s how I freeze leafy greens – spinach, chard, beet greens – they can all be frozen and preserved this way.
This works great for preparing smoothie greens for the coming week.
Veggies aren’t the only things you can freeze, though! I also freeze fruit all the time (which makes it easy for me to whip up a batch of my no-cook strawberry jam).
You can even freeze some herbs. I love being able to make basil pesto, so I sometimes freeze basil to have on hand.
I juice up fresh lemons and grapefruits and then freeze citrus juice in jars.
And, of course, you can freeze meat like chicken, fish/seafood, beef, pork, lamb, goat, etc.
Hey, if you ever need to defrost a chicken quickly (like for dinner) here’s how!
When done properly (and with the proper tools), canning is great at preventing decay for a long period of time.
In fact, a lot of canned foods will easily last for years. I’m writing this in early 2020 and last week we opened a home canned jar of Salsa from 2009!
Delicious! And when you’re like us and grow your own food, it’s really convenient.
After all, there’s only so much room you have in your freezer, but you can almost always find somewhere to stick a few (or several) cans of food.
When it comes to canning, there are two different methods I recommend.
Water Bath Canning
This method is reserved for high-acid foods. That means things like jams, jellies, fruit preserves, and pickles.
It’s NOT recommended for non-acidic foods (so, no meat/meat stock, non-acidic veggies/veggie stock, fish/seafood, or poultry).
Here are some water canning recipes I’d love for you to try out:
Pears can make a great fruit sauce, pear cobbler, pear crumble, or just a sweet snack.
Here are so many things you can do with a nice batch of salsa! And the longer it marinates, the better it tastes!
These cherries will be perfect for all kinds of baked goodies – including cherry pie, cherry turnovers, and cherry poptarts.
From pasta to pizza and so many things in between, so many of my favorite recipes call for tomato sauce.
Having some on hand that I know tastes good is one of those small things that makes me happy.
I know it’s not for everyone, but Graham loves a heaping of sauerkraut every now and then. Plus, it’s a great source of probiotics (healthy bacteria).
Jelly is made in a water bath canner as well. Each Spring I make a few jars of Dandelion Jelly, which is wonderful on crackers with a bit of cream cheese.
When it comes to canning all those non-acidic or low-acid foods, you should always go with pressure canning.
That includes meats, poultry, fish/seafood, and most veggies. It’s essential that you use this method to properly and safely can these foods.
Below are some articles on pressure canning that you should check out.
Start here! It will show you how to SAFELY can foods using a pressure canner.
Perfect for salmon burgers, salmon patties, salmon fried rice, and even salmon caesar salad!
Green beans are one of those veggies just you just can’t go wrong with!
Pickling is another fantastic food preservation method you can use to preserve food for up to 2 years.
One of the benefits of pickled foods that the other methods don’t offer is that it offers a unique flavor profile.
That makes it easy for you to add a little bit of zing to meals and snacks. Plus, fermented foods (like kimchi) can often be a fantastic source of nutrients and probiotics.
This is a favorite for so many! The health benefits of eggs combined with the big flavor of pickle juice is such a winner. And it makes for fantastic egg salad!
My family has a garlic farm, so we always have lots of garlic scapes on hand in late June! Pickling them is our go-to.
In addition to canning sauerkraut, you can also pickle it. Makes a super fast dinner along with sausage and cole slaw.
Asparagus is a delicious early spring treat in the north. Have extra or find a great Asparagus sale on at the store?
Then pickle some Asparagus and enjoy in a Caesar or Bloody Mary. Add spears to your pickle tray; wrap some ham around Asparagus spears for an appetizer.
Try something new and pickle some Brussels Sprouts. Take a look at the recipe; you can store a couple of jars in the fridge or water bath can them.
Small beets are the best for pickling; slice larger beets before adding to the jars. Using whole small beets is a great way to thin out the beets in you garden.
And they always have to be thinned, because beets actually grow in a cluster from one seed.
I hope that this helps you to stretch your food and your budget while providing your family with plenty of food to get you through the year. If you have any questions about preserving food, feel free to leave a comment for me below!
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