I recently stumbled across this article from 2009. It was not the first and I'm sure it won't be the last time I've heard that preserving is not economical. That it's women who have the luxury of time and money indulging in a hobby. The truth is, it's not the first time I've wondered myself if it's all worth it.
I got into home preserving several years ago the same way I find myself getting into most things. As a frugal necessity. Not because I wanted to be hip. Not because I was bored and looking for ways to fill my days. But because we don't live on much and anything I can do to make living this way more comfortable for us, I'd like to do. I don't feel like living on less means that you need to sacrifice the things you want. It just means you need to work for them. And what's so wrong with that? When did we become so opposed to the idea of spending time and effort creating our lives instead of purchasing them?
At any rate, I've been wanting to track my preserving efforts for a while and I never do. I want a log of what I made and when. I've decided that perhaps the best way to do this is right here, on this blog. It's not like I've been doing much else of anything on the blog anyway, heh.
I plan on tracking each preserving endeavor this year, beginning now with berries and likely ending with peppers in the fall. My aim is to record what I am preserving, how I obtained it (growing, market, U-pick), how I preserved it (canning, freezing, drying), and an approximate breakdown of cost (I am not exact, just to warn you now).
I do not plan on including the cost of the tools used - the HWB canner, the pressure canner, the dehydrator, or the freezers. Yes, they are an initial investment. I also do not plan on including the cost of jars, bags, gas or electric used. I do not count the depreciation on my van every time I drive to the grocery store as part of my grocery bill. I don't count the breakdown of cost on my market bag every Saturday when I go to the farmers market. There are tools you use when you do things. When you cook dinner. When you wash your laundry. There are tools in every hobby and in most aspects of your life. Yes, they cost money, but the breakdown of cost over the life of these items ends up being pennies per use. With care, you can easily get 10 to 30 years or more out of many of these items.
I do not plan on counting my time as cost. I am not running a business and I am not charging for my product. I do not calculate the cost in my head when I bathe my children or read to them at night. Not when I hang laundry on the line or shovel the driveway. These are things that I am doing in the process of living my life. That's what home preserving has become to me, another thing that I do in the process of living my life.
The biggest thing that stands out to me in the article above, is that she spent 16 dollars on 2 quarts of strawberries. That is clearly not a frugal way to preserve food. If you are preserving food simply because you like to do it, because you find joy in making strawberry lavender preserves, because you like knowing what's in your food - that is fantastic. Who am I to begrudge you spending 16 dollars to make a couple of jars of jam? Have a blast! However, if you are doing it to save yourself a few dollars, that is clearly not the way to go!
Aside from the monetary savings, home preserving is something more. As I mentioned - it gives you control over what you are eating. You are saying no to GMO's. You are saying no to high fructose corn syrup. You are saying no to cheap labor and poor working conditions. You are taking a stand, no matter how small, that food matters to you.
Home preserving, for me, is a way of staying in tune with nature and the world around me. I know when strawberries are at their peak. I know the taste of a blueberry just picked. I've planted seeds, helped them grow and worked hard into the night to put them by for my family to enjoy in the middle of winter. I know that the green beans I eat in February, were harvested at the perfect time and promptly put up. That these foods were grown in New York soil. They were harvested if not by me, then by New York farmers, My money is supporting the local economy. That is important to me.
And more than that, it creates memories. Memories of a home being created. Of a life being lived. What do you think of when you open a jar of strawberry jam from the grocery store? The way the florescent lights hummed overhead? The background music the store was playing that day? Anything at all? For me, strawberries will forever be linked with the birth of my third son. How I was standing, mid jam and kitchen explosion on the the afternoon of the summer solstice when my water broke.
I'm truly interested to see the breakdown over the summer of the cost of putting food by. I really don't know what the final tally would be, but I'm willing to bet there will be significant savings. If you'd like to follow along, just post a comment or link to your blog - I'd love to see the difference in different areas!