Hunkering down for the winter

How much food should you put away for the winter, if you want to eat a predominately local diet?

I’ve become fascinated by this question.  I’m not a hard core, eat-local-or-starve kind of gal.  (I do LOVE avocados!)  But, I am very curious and love a good experiment.  Plus, I’m a food nerd.  Yep, now I’ve said it.  And I’m proud of it.  And I’d like to share my system with you.  (How’s that for food nerdery? 🙂 )

I have winter food stored three main ways:
1) In the root cellar
2) In the freezer
3) In jars (canned or dehydrated)

I’ve already talked a lot about my root cellar. (More about that here.) But, I haven’t yet showed you my freezer.  This was the first year that I really got into freezing things and as I began putting frozen goodies away for the winter, I realized very quickly how easy it is to lose things in there.  Hence, my dry erase marker system:

When something gets used up, it gets erased. (Test out you dry erase marker in an inconspicuous location of the freezer before scribbling all over it.)

With respect to canned goods, I keep a notebook.  (Frozen things are noted in the notebook too.)

This is a sample of what I canned this season:

The notebook also has a column for when things get used up.  This is my approach to canning: how much do I need to get through the season?  And then I adjust the amount I put away the following year. (I can tell you right now that I did not make enough salsa.  I should have made a full batch, instead of a half batch.  That stuff is good!)

I recently had a great conversation with fellow canner, Jean, who filled me in on her system.  Jean preserves as much as possible throughout the season.  (This year she did 140 jars!) She has a routine of putting something away every week for the summer, and doing a weekly small batch kept the canning manageable.  Then, at the end of canning season, she takes stock of what she has and divides by 6 months (Dec – May).  She then knows how many preserves she can eat per month to last until the next season’s fruit and vegetables are ready.

As Jean and I compared notes, she exclaimed, “It’s not just my type A personality; it’s really useful!” I felt I had found a kindred spirit. 🙂

She’s has also started keeping a notebook this year.  She records what she preserved, how long it took, what recipes she liked (and didn’t like).  It’s really about getting the most out of your preserves.

Another great idea from Jean: The Spring Freezer Party!  In May, when all the new veggies are ready, and it’s time to eat up what’s left from the past season, throw a big party and cook up everything that’s left in the freezer and the pantry!  I love this idea – expect a post on this in May!

Yours in food,


4 thoughts on “Hunkering down for the winter

  1. I love you type A folks….

    I’m a big freezer/canner/root cellarer…. but I’m not too good with lists.

    However, I don’t find that stuff gets forgotten around our place. First of all, almost everything that goes in my freezer gets put in a transparent vacuum-sealed bag. No mystery food in my freezer! And if I don’t use something right away, it won’t get freezer burnt if it’s in there for a long time.
    I also kind of organize sections of my big deep freezer so that I know large pieces of meat like roasts or whole chickens are in the bottom right side, frozen soup stock is on the middle left side, ‘convenience’ meats like pre-marinated chicken, homemade sausages, bacon,fish is on the top right, frozen berries and veggies are on the top left, etc. This way, if I’m looking for something to make for supper in general, I can kind of go ‘shopping’ in the department, so to speak. Also, I’ve processed pretty much everything in my freezer myself, so the hard work in getting it together ensures I won’t forget about it!

    As for canning, notes are a very good idea. It sucks trying to figure out which recipe you used last year, especially if you made different batches from different recipes. After a few years of doing this, my notes are a little less thorough, but I still try to keep new recipes straight. I can honestly say that I’ve never gotten to the point where I’ve canned too much.

Leave a Reply