Everyone is talking about the high cost of groceries this winter, in particular the fresh produce being imported from the U.S. and Mexico.
I know we are feeling it in our household as well, but when I recently opened a fresh jar of preserved pears my wife Donna had canned last summer, I began to think about some of the relatively easy ways we can purchase local food in season at reasonable prices to enjoy all winter long, and food we have grown in our own gardens at even less cost.
Last summer, we purchased a large sack of onions and a couple of large sacks of Russet Burbank potatoes that we shared with our children.
Those still left remain in great condition as we dig into them regularly. Our pantry is chock full of canned peaches, cherries, prune plums and pears. We have two freezers loaded with blueberries, corn, beans and peas.
Donna also processes and freezes in portion sized bags things such as squash and turnips.
Generally, we have done this just because we enjoy these foods in the winter, but by doing it ourselves we know just where the food comes from.
In particular, when it comes to the canned fruit we can keep the sugar levels to a minimum.
With the current increased costs of imported fruits and vegetables, I have decided to put a lot more thought into increasing the volume and variety of food products we can store and use throughout the winter months.
Here are some of the thoughts I have in mind for that which may give you some ideas as well.
Number one is I plan on building a root cellar. From research and memory of what we had on our farm when I was growing up, it isn’t that complicated.
There are several ways to create an underground space, or even an insulated above-ground space, to store and keep fresh carrots, potatoes, onions, winter squash, turnips, parsnips,beets…the list goes on and on.
Number two, I plan on using my cold frame to grow greens well into the cold time of year and start early again in the spring.
In the Okanagan, there should only be a period of perhaps a month where we can’t have fresh lettuce and other forms of salad greens.
Having a grow light and some space set aside indoors to get plants started prior to setting them out in the cold frame is a huge asset.
Those of you who can build a greenhouse either a free standing or attached to the home are even more ahead of the game.
Number three, we are going to increase our purchasing of local produce in season when prices are at lowest and make processing and canning a family event, to teach our children and grandchildren something that 80 per cent of families did just a couple of generations ago.
I remember those days and folks, they were not all that bad. We didn’t have the ability to own a home freezer. We would take our produce down to the Frozen Food Lockers on Leon and Abbott and place it in our own private cubicle we rented by the month.
It doesn’t look as if the prices on groceries are going to get much better in the near future so now is the time to begin planning for next winter.