Thursday, February 19, 2009

Last Year's Food

My homepage is set to Yahoo! Sometimes it kills me what they think is news, but the site does offer some interesting blurbs, periodically. So recently, I opened a link to a Yahoo! Money news article that said, "Americans' lower standard of living may be permanent." Like that's a bad thing or something. We all need to live more within our means, myself included.

Here's the crux of what they were saying... Retailers are having fits. People just aren't buying things like they used to. When they go to the mall, they aren't going home with three $100 pairs of shoes. Nor are they buying the $150 torn and faded blue jeans (I never understood that to begin with). No, rather, consumers are basically concerned now with just covering themselves (barely, sometimes). You can wear last year's clothes. Consumers are spending their money not on clothes, but on food, especially as prices continue to rise. The comment was, "You can't eat last year's food." WHHAAATT?

Ok, well, hmm. I'll concede that I understand what they were 'trying' to say. But just barely. Really, it's not a true statement at all. Obviously Mr. Money-Analyst person who made this comment is one of the millions of Americans that couldn't feed themselves for a year if the grocery store closed for good tomorrow. Fact is, you CAN eat last year's food.
This is what I'm saying, people. We Americans are so stinking spoiled that we have become soft and have forgotten many of the basic skills our parents and grandparents took for granted. Why'd they take them for granted? Because they were such a common part of their existence.

Wanna eat last year's food? Plant a garden, go to a farmer's market, join a CSA, whatever, but learn to can and 'put up', or 'put by' your food. Yes, it takes time, equipment, and some know how. But you can acquire all three pretty easily if you put your mind to it and make it a priority.

I don't have a pressure canner. It's something I want and will probably get in the next few years. But I still preserve food. I have a dehydrator and a water bath canner. Water-bath canning is so easy it's almost unfair. Why more people don't do it can only be attributed to the ease with which we can go to the store and buy food already canned or preserved. Or laziness. But the idea is to save money and not pay so much for what you eat. You can use water-bath canning for pretty much any type of fruit jam or jelly, applesauce, tomato products (as long as you don't add so many other ingredients that it lowers the acid level), pickles of all kinds (carrots are good, and I've heard green beans are too). There's a lot you can do.

I have a hard time not being down and gloomy as it is, without making dire predictions about our country's economic future. But I truly believe it'll get worse. A lot worse. Don't be caught feeling the crunch between paying bills and buying food. Think about what you can do, make phone calls, ask around, read books... find out where the good food is or how to grow it, then learn to preserve it. The "Ball Blue Book" is probably one of the best places to start. Go to your local library and search for food preservation. There's likely more there than you care to look at. Search yard sales this spring and look for jars, canners, supplies. You may get a real deal. Ask older relatives or neighbors for advice or instruction on canning. Truly, the most valuable people in our nation in coming days may be those of us with this kind of knowledge. We'll be surviving and have to help everyone else out.

A final note about dehydrating. there are many different ways to dry foods. My wife bought me my Nesco dehydrator as an anniversary present last year. Nothing says "I love ya, honey" like homemade beef jerky. But something very worth trying: Dried Watermelon. Seriously. Cut it up into thin strips or chunks, take the seed out and dry it. It comes out like chewy fruit leather, and wow is it sweet! You'd think it had soaked in sugar. My kids loved it. No additives or preservatives. Just watermelon. Amazing!

1 comment:

linda said...

Totally agree with everything you say here. I taught myself how to can last year using the Ball Blue Book of Canning, some youtube tutorials by the blog author of Granny Miller, trial and error, some books including the Joy of Cooking calling the local extension office and even bringing jars to their volunteer stations when I thought something could be wrong. Help is out there.
One source that may appeal to others is the University of Georgia's National Center for Food Preservation:, which also offers an online class. This center is the official site for the USDA. Anything new as far as safety goes is there on that site as are all the safety measures, some recipes, etc. You might like to pass it on to others.