You hear of a lot of military spouses couponing and bargain shopping but you don’t hear of many military spouses canning, dehydrating, or cooking from scratch, fermenting and preserving. There are some out there, but I believe they are mostly few and far between. There’s a really good (and obvious) reason why this is; it’s just not that conducive to our life style. I mean moving and roaming the world every few years puts you at a real disadvantage to store anything. And I’d venture to guess that many packing companies would really rather not pack up a few hundred jars of home canned foods to ship to your next duty station, heck, it’s hard enough to get them to pack up your spices now days.
I’m one of the crazies that try to make it work in this lifestyle. Actually to be honest I’ve really just started this past year. I’ve had it in mind to do for a while but I never put it to action. This year though, I decided to get on with it. It started with the simple act of trying to keep things fresher, longer.
I bought quart jars for my flours, pastas, sugars, etc. Not only did it help keep everything fresher longer, it really cleaned up my pantry. From there I really started to focus on my local resources and found an awesome local food list, that makes it possible to get 20-25lb boxes of select fruits or veggies at a time for a really decent price; the food is from WA so it keeps it local to the state which supports the state and local farmers. A year and a month ago it started with tomatoes. Then between last September and now we have put up apples, cherries, peaches, pears, and berries and then apples again just this month. It’s been exciting and fun and even a learning process; but most of all it’s provided a viable food source for my family and has supported our local growers. Besides the local food list I utilize the local farmers markets and an online bulk food list originating out of WA with most of it’s products from WA, for most of my food needs.
I’m lucky because canning and other food storage practices didn’t skip a generation. My mom currently has a farm where she raises the family’s grass fed cows, pigs, chickens, and turkeys (she brings us 80% of the meat eat a year; each winter our deep freezer is packed full!). She also has a huge plot of land where she grows most of her veggies that she preserves. She also utilizes local VA orchards and farms.
She has taught me most of what I know. While I started off canning with just a few questions here and there, this past summer while I spent time on the farm I learned some tricks of the trade and really got some heavy duty canning done with peaches, green beans, corn, a celery soup base, and even tried my hand at some pickled eggs. But even if I didn’t have my Mom to help me out and teach me how to do this, I’ve noticed more and more canning clubs and food storage/preserving groups popping up online and locally which provide a great source of help and support.
My goal with food storage and canning food is to help support our family by buying in bulk and making it last through the year. Ideally my Mom wants a stock of 3 years worth of fruits and veggies and then you just rotate it out and replace what you eat; but that wouldn’t work for me since we move so often. So my goal is to have a year’s worth of food storage so that when the growing season returns I can replace what we’ve eaten and make it through another year. By keeping only a years worth of food this will allow me to use up what we need to use by the time our next PCS comes around.
Another goal with my food storage is to minimize my grocery store visits by relying more on local farms and food sources within 100 miles. This goal doesn’t only benefit my family by eating healthier and being in control of what is in our foods (amounts of salt and sugars and no additives), but it also benefits our local community and small farms.
Since I’ve started my traditional food storage practices I’ve noticed we are eating healthier, we’ve moved away from most processed foods, and we are focusing more on what we are putting in our bodies. We make most of our meals from scratch, even making our quick meals from scratch and freezing them to pull out when we need to reheat something when we are on the go, baked chicken strips and pancakes are our favorites.
My favorite thing about traditional food storage, is that I’m passing the knowledge on to my children, what they gain from learning how to preserve food is something that they will be able to use and pass on to others.
Getting into traditional food storage has opened up some really fun and unique hobbies for us. A big one is home brewing beer, we love home brewing and we’ve gotten some friends involved too! We’ve also tried our hand in fermentables like kombucha and keifer, both of which I’m still fiddling with, and I want to expand to other forms of fermenting for veggies and such. I plan to start making my own yogurt soon and I want to try my hand in cheese making. We also dehydrate foods, and have started with jerky in addition to dehydrated fruits and veggies for snack use. It’s been a lot of fun and something I can share with my husband when he is home, but also it keeps me busy when he’s deployed. The best part is when it comes time to PCS we can pack up all of our tools of the trade(s) and be ready to move on to a new duty station and start back up where ever we go, learning new things and diving into the local community and groups which helps us meet new people. So it’s been and will continue to be a win-win for our family in multiple aspects, which is awesome! If you have any questions about traditional food storage or anything else I’ve talked about just let me know.