Gardening to preserve food isn’t exactly as common as it would have been, say, 100 years ago or more. People might have a garden and use it for fresh produce during the summer. That is fairly common, however gardening to stock up for winter use is almost a lost art. And why not? Food is readily available at grocery stores all year long, in many different forms and with little extra preparation or work needed from the consumer. It involves no weeding, watering, sweating, nor the hours in the kitchen preparing and preserving the produce. So why? Why would anyone choose to continue preserving food from their garden with the goal of having enough that it will all last you until the next summer?
If you’re still reading, you probably have a line of thinking similar to mine… You’re curious, inquisitive, and want to know all the things. So quite plainly, I’m going to start with there’s a different main reason for everyone who chooses to go this route. But typically, it pertains to one or multiple of the following. Personally, my “why” is a bit of all of them.
You enjoy it
This is probably my biggest “why” behind gardening and food preservation. During the spring, I enjoy starting seeds and plants in my garden. I enjoy nurturing them and watching them grow. I like spending time in my garden weeding because it’s quite time for me to think and enjoy nature. When it comes time to harvest the green beans, tomatoes, potatoes, and squash I love seeing how beautiful they are and tasting the ripe flavor. And I find it extremely satisfying to look at my canned goods on the shelves, beautiful in their glass canning jars, knowing the labor and preparation that resulted in the sight.
If you don’t enjoy something, you won’t want to do it. I truly find peace in gardening and food preservation. It keeps the seasons alive for me, a reminder that for everything there is a season.
You know exactly what is going into your family’s bodies
Go ahead and take a look at the back of one of your pantry staples. Do you know exactly what all the items are on the ingredient list? I know there are some items that I’m bewildered by. Not to mention a preservative you don’t know or that extra sugar snuck in there. You get the point. And I get it to an extent! In order to preserve food, especially on an industrial level, preservatives are used. They help the food keep well and allow it to be safely edible. I don’t bash preservatives to the extent some do. But the thing that I enjoy about preserving my family’s food from my garden is I know the methods of preservation I’m using, and I know the ingredients that are going into the meals I make. Stewed tomatoes? Peppers, tomatoes, acetic acid, and dash of sugar (a very simple list). Tomato sauce? Tomatoes, acetic acid, and maybe some spices. I find this knowledge reassuring.
Have you ever tasted fresh and true tomato soup? I mean the kind right off of the vine. When made right, it completely takes the cake compared to Cambell’s. Or have you tried homemade applesauce? Personally, we think that home canned food has better flavor than store bought. Mainly because it tastes fresher and with some preserved goods, you can add ingredients to flavor them how you like.
There is also a difference is quality of taste. There’s a difference between some value brands and the “real deal” right? Definitely. The taste and flavor of home canned goods, when done correctly, is far higher quality than what you might otherwise purchase at the store.
I’m not going to make the argument that canning your own food will always save you money. Do I think it can? Yes. Has it saved me money? Yes. However, I don’t look at canning and preserving food strictly based on saving money. I look at it as securing my price for quality goods.
When I go to garden, I know approximately how much I’m spending for the year. I’m paying for water, fertilizer, seeds, and a few very basic seed starting supplies. For preserving, I either have the jars or need to purchase a few which I can reuse, canning lids, and I might need to purchase a few other inexpensive items. So I’ve essentially “locked in” my price on quality goods. It fluctuates a little based on how productive the garden is that year, but on average I am getting a large majority of canned goods for a set price.
When you just go to the grocery store, prices can fluctuate based off of the economy just like everything else. And not only that, but prices can also fluctuate based on the time of year. Some goods just happen to be more expensive during the winter or summer.
It’s all about perspective. If you go and can jars of tomato sauce, put forth all of that effort, and then go to the store to see it for sale at $1.00, you might fee frustrated. So that why preserving strictly on price doesn’t always pencil out, but regardless it’s still a factor.
Self-independence and less reliance on stores
When you know how to and choose to preserve food, enough for a year’s supply or even a percentage of your needs, you become less reliant on a grocery store having stocked shelves. You’re set. You don’t have to really buy all your staples there and could essentially go quite a while before you would have to purchase some items.
I’ll admit, in most situations this isn’t a big deal. Most stores don’t have supply issues. However, as we saw in 2020, never say never. When everyone was running to the stores to stock up on food and household items, we felt fairly secure as we walked into our pantry to see fully lined shelves. It offers a peace of mind. You don’t have to worry about not being able to feed your family because you already have what you need on hand.
Teaches children where their food really comes from
We don’t have kids yet… But there are so many kids who just think that their food comes from the grocery store. Generations of people are becoming more and more removed from agriculture. The average American is 3 generations removed from the farm and farm and ranch families make up less than 2% of the population. That means less people truly understand how their food is grown.
I don’t want that for my family. I want them to understand how green beans are grown, how tomatoes from the garden taste, and how the seasons relate back to their food supply. Regardless of your status in agriculture, growing a garden is one of the simplest ways to teach your kids about their food supply so they can be more educated people.
A multifaceted purpose
Just like with so many things, gardening to preserve food for your family is can have a multifaceted purpose. It helps feed your family quality foods, it keeps them rooted into where their food comes from and the importance of caring for it. It locks in your price on quality foods, and it can be an enjoyable experience. Is it all sunshine and roses? No, absolutely not. But it can be very fulfilling for the soul!