I’ve heard that preserving your own food at home is healthier than buying preserved food from the store. Is that true? If so, how does a newbie get started?
— Maggie, Frisco
Preserving your own food at home can be beneficial to not only your health, but also to your wallet and the environment. Whether you are canning, drying, pickling or fermenting you are gaining food independence and reaping the numerous benefits that go along with it. Don’t worry, whether you are an old pro, out of touch or a total newbie, preserving your own food can be a fun and rewarding way to celebrate the changing season.
Take a peek at that grocery list. There are so many preserved foods that we eat on a regular basis. Ketchup, soup, juice, canned vegetables, fruit cups, yogurt and so much more. Most items that we buy at the grocery store used to be made at home. Why not start taking that control back? It’s easy to start slow and add a couple of preserved goodies to your to do list every year. It’s worth every minute and can involve the whole family.
The health benefits of taking back our food are overwhelming. The average American consumes over ten pounds of chemical additives annually through preserved foods, according to Forbes magazine. These include aspartame, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, sodium nitrate, artificial colorings and more. Although additives increase food’s shelf life, they have also shown to increase the risk of heart disease and a variety of cancers. Bisphenol A (BPA) is another known hazardous chemical. It has a negative impact on brain function, prostate glands, as wells as behavior in young children, infants and even fetuses. Yet it is still readily used in the epoxy resin found in metal-based food and drink packaging.
Even the sugar alone in many processed foods can be staggering. Say you have a yogurt for breakfast, a can of soup for lunch and pasta dinner with the family. You would think you’re doing pretty well on the sugar scale, right? Think again! Many store bought yogurts have up to 31 grams of sugar per serving. That’s almost three pop-tarts worth of sugar. That can of soup may not only be slathered in BPA but also contain ten grams of sugar, so add another Pop-Tart on there. Finally, the pasta sauce. Most jarred pasta sauces you find in the grocery store have about 12 grams of sugar in each half cup. So that healthy day of eats just went to a five pop-tart day! Yikes! Lowering your sugar intake by preserving at home can help fend off diabetes and obesity.
If I haven’t sold you on the health reasons, you’ll definitely fall in love with all the ways that home food preservation keeps the planet green and money in your wallet. You can use canning jars of all sizes, over and over again, year after year. All you have to do is get new lids to make sure you are getting a proper seal.
For those with wee ones, you know that all those little jars of baby food can kill your wallet at check out. Making and canning baby food at home is a simple way to save money and know what you are spooning into that little mouth. These jars you can also use repeatedly and make whatever blended delicacy you want serve.
There are so many great recipes and instruction manuals available for preserving your own food available online, in the library, and at the High Country Conservation Center local lenders library. It’s easy to convert canning times and temperatures to our altitude and is a great way to get together with friends to chop fruit and make something everyone can bring home. Christmas, housewarming and party favors can be covered for the year. For those who need a refresher or an introduction to the home preservation world, check out the Conservation Center’s Fall Food Preservation Workshop Series by visiting their website highcountryconservation.org. It’s great to be in charge of your own food!
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.