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SONY DSCCooking from scratch and eating locally is a balancing act. All of the benefits that come from eating high quality food have to be weighed against my limited resources- time, energy and money. I’ve been at this a few years now and each year I refine my approach a little more.

Things to consider:

  • What is available in your area?
  • What isn’t easy/cheap to get in the winter months?
  • Most importantly: what does your family enjoy eating?

Eating locally/seasonly isn’t the same as striding into the pages of Little House on the Prairie. This isn’t a one (wo)man show anymore. My pantry extends to all the amazing stores around Kingston that offer local food year round. My jam cupboard has been filled by vendors who take the time to preserve in the fall and let me cherry pick from their collection as I need to.

What I am aiming to do is:

  • Save myself some money (tomatoes are much cheaper at the farmer’s market right now then they will be at the grocery store in January),
  • Add some variety to our diets: in the middle of squash season (previously known as winter) a bowl of tomato soup is AMAZING.
  • Cut our some cooking time: The food gets processed in some way and this means that is that much less I have to do when throwing together a meal in later months.
  • Keep the Mason Jar Company in business.

My list is small. Major kudos to those preserving warriors who can and freeze and dehydrate their way through the farmer’s fields. I concentrate on the things that bring the biggest reward right now. As the kids get older I’ll keep expanding.

Tomatoes

Why I Do It

We’re major fans of tomato based soups and sauces here. In the winter months fresh tomatoes have so little flavour, I hate buying tinned tomatoes because of worries about chemicals leeching from the lining, and it is expensive to buy the organic glassed jarred tomatoes available in the stores.

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What I Do

  • Wash
  • Puree
  • Reduce on Medium Heat for 20 Minutes
  • Strain
  • Pour Into Jars
  • Label and Date
  • Put in Freezer
  • Paste: After Straining, Place on Low Simmer Until Most of the Liquid has Evaporated, Freeze in Ice Cube Tray, Place in Bag, Label and Date.

What I Use it For

Tomato Soup, Spaghetti Sauce, Chilli, Random Pasta Sauces, Moroccan Stew, Minestrone Soup. I use the paste in a ton of different things, anywhere I want to add some flavour.

Green Beans

Why I Do It

In the middle of winter anything green is welcomed. With the green beans already chopped up in the freezer its too easy to grab a handful and throw them into whatever I’m making.

What I Do

  • Wash
  • Slice
  • Boil for 30 Seconds
  • Put in to a bowl/sink full of Ice WAter
  • Put in Freezer Bags
  • Label and Date
  • Put in Freezer

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What I Use it For

Chicken Pot Pie, Beef Stew, Broth Soups.

Herbs:

Why I Do It

In the winter the grocery store selection of herbs can be very limited, and the organic ones are over priced. Also having Basil, Thyme, Parsley, Cilantro, Dill and Green Onions (not technically a herb, but takes the same prep) already chopped and in the freezer cuts out a bunch of hassle when I’m cooking.

What I Do

  • Wash
  • Chop
  • Put in Small Bags
  • Label and Date
  • Put in Freezer

What I Use it For

I use herbs to add some fresh flavour to soups, stews and sauces. The Dill is mostly used for hot wings… seriously hot sauce and dill is way better than you think it is. Green onions are a great garnish for cream or potato based soups.

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Red Peppers:

Why I Do It

This is the first year I’ve added these to the list. I’ve used roasted red peppers pretty frequently so I know I can get good use out of them in the colder months. They get really expensive in the winter (especially the organic ones). This will also add another option for a quick soup to throw together when I’m just not feeling it.

What I Do

  • Wash
  • Roast at 400f for 15-20 minutes (skin will start to blacken)
  • Place in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap
  • When Cool Peel off Skin and Remove Stem/Seeds
  • Puree
  • Pour into Jars
  • Label and Date
  • Put in Freezer

What I Use it For

Roasted Red Pepper Soup, Roasted Red Pepper Dip/Spread, Pasta Sauce

Make It Work

This is what works for me at this time. If I can get ahold of the in-law’s dehydrator I’ll probably do up some dried apples/fruit leather. My kids love that stuff.

I’m careful not to overload myself or else I will resent the whole process. Take on one thing at a time and see if future you feels like it was worth it. Also be sure to scope out your local farmer’s market and stores that stock local goods, don’t do unnecessary work. Make it work for you.

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