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From Garden To Kitchen To Pantry

-- 2011-03-18 1:00 am --

Frugal living is a state of mind that leads to a far more wholesome way of life than the consumerist lifestyle. Adopt a frugal lifestyle and many good things follow because there is a synergy to frugal living that benefits the entire family. The seasonal process of canning garden produce at home is a great example.

The only real requirements for home canning are a large pot, good quality jars, lids and rings. What goes in the jars is up to the individual, but most people can whatever their garden is producing in excess. Interestingly, a garden is not a requirement if there are any U-pick farms within reasonable driving distance, and for fruits and berries this is an excellent outing for the whole family. Many U-pick operations are organic, offering quality organic produce for a fraction of the price in supermarkets.

The first step is to have the equipment and supplies ready, so either order online, find a local supplier, or check yard sales. Used canning equipment is often available at yard sales for ridiculously cheap prices, especially the jars. Quality canning jars are an excellent value, just be sure to check the rim of each jar carefully for cracks or chips that would prevent the lid from getting a good seal. Lids and rings are often available locally or can be ordered online.

Find a U-pick farm with strawberries, for example, and take the children to the farm in the morning on a day that is completely free. The goal is to enjoy the time doing something productive. If picking with small children, keep the visit short and fun, but get the fruit you need. Picking fruit can get tiresome very quickly, especially on a hot day, and the fruit has to be processed and canned later that same day.

After returning home, wash the berries and cut off the stem and leaves. Any school-aged child can do the paring, and "many hands make light work" so get the entire family involved. Time spent around the table working on a common task can be quality family time. After washing and paring, process the ingredients according to the recipe. Pour the contents into the jars, place the lids on and put the jars into the water-bath on the stove. The Ball Blue Book explains how to do everything in perfect detail, and it’s been guiding American families through the process of safely canning food at home for many decades.

Depending on the season there are many options in terms of what can be canned. Apples purchased in bulk from an orchard, for example, can be sliced and canned as apple pie filling or ground and canned as applesauce. The value of the canned produce can't be measured in just monetary terms, but has to include memories as well: Take one quart of apple pie filling, a frozen piecrust, five minutes of preparation and an hour later there’s a fresh-baked apple pie cooling on the counter. On a cold winter evening, that’s the smell of home.

Please share your ideas related to saving money, building great memories with children, working together as a family and building relationships in a frugal lifestyle. Do you have memories related to common family projects like summertime canning to share? We'd love to hear them.