Going to the store seems so easy right? Why don’t we just buy all of our produce there rather than growing, harvesting, canning, and storing all of our own foods? These are great questions I am regularly asked. I wanted to take a moment to address them quickly here.
If you are not aware, my family is growing all of our red sauces for the year in our garden. It is all part of our “grow your own challenge.” That means growing many tomatoes for tomato sauce, ketchup, bbq sauce, and juice. But the project is more than that. We are also picking apples, making ciders, beekeeping, and much more. It’s like homesteading … but in the suburbs and walking distance from a Target and a Walmart. So why give up the convenience of shopping for home making? Here are a few of my top reasons:
Here’s a short look at a few commercial spaghetti sauces I found on a quick google search compared to our Homemade Garlic Basil Tomato Sauce. They add sugar, which frankly you don’t need if you have good tomatoes and they load it full of salt. How much salt is this? Here’s a screen shot of part of one of the labels:
Maybe that amount of salt is not unhealthy for you, but why would you give yourself more salt than needed? Let’s not forget to mention that when you grow your own produce it’s fresh, local, organic, and free of pesticides, GMOs, hormones, and all that gunk too.
It brings the kids into the process of growing and making food.
By setting up an easy-to-take-care-of garden it’s easy for the kids to learn about food. It teaches them where it comes from, how to care for plants, cook, store, and plan. It empowers them to be able to contribute to the family even if it means they go pick a tomato occasionally. When we cook with our canned goods, they are very proud that we made it at our home and they appreciate their meals more.
A dozen quart jars cost about $8.50 and they are re-usable. The only thing required each year is the lids, which cost pennies. Once you buy the basic equipment and the jars (which is not expensive at all) the cost per bottle of pickles, tomato sauce, ketchup, BBQ sauce, and tomato juice is about $0.12. Our biggest expense is buying seeds and a propane tank of gas to run a boiling water bath.
Apple juice, cider, and apple preserves cost even less because we just go pick apples off of our trees. The same is true for maple syrup.
Jams are slightly more expensive. We buy pectin, which costs about $4 per bag and makes 7 pints. Adding in the cost of some sugar and lids, we get to about a cost of $.80 per pint.
It costs a few hundred dollars to get two bee colonies, but they make a lot of honey and wax. We sell enough honey and wax to pay for new colonies in case they die over winter. So essentially the cost is $0. There are a lot of buyers for local honey.
Some products are not available year round.
Besides the obvious fact that many products like jalapeno or mint jelly are simply not available anywhere commercially; much of the produce in stores is only available seasonally. Have you ever tried to buy apple cider in the spring? We will make apple cider and can it. It will be good for the entire season. Any time we want a fresh juice, it’s sitting in our basement (and by the way, it tastes just as fresh any time in the first year). We just need to go get our stored jars from downstairs.
Most of all, it tastes better.
Homemade food will beat commercially prepared food any time. Typically, homemade food has less preservatives like sugar and salt and less processing done to the original ingredients. Our ketchup actually tastes like tomatoes. You can literally taste the main ingredients in our food and it keeps that fresh from the garden flavor all year long.
If you are interested in learning to can or want to expand your gardening and preserving, I researched and picked my favorite products and put them in affiliate links below. I highly recommend the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving at FreshPreserving.com. It will teach you everything you need to know about canning safely. I use it all the time. The 200 page book contains over 500 recipes for canning, pickling, dehydrating, freezing and more. It’s also a great resource and a good place to buy equipment. Just beginning? I suggest getting this starter kit: Ball Fresh Preserving Kit at FreshPreserving.com. Our meals taste like summer all year long.