7 Secrets to Preserving Tons of Food

by Becky
Published: Updated:

1. Set a Goal and Write it down

Goal setting and achieving that goal often takes furious resolve. Four years ago, I set a goal to grow every vegetable that our family of six would eat for a year. I worked very hard at the goal but I didn’t achieve it the first year. 

(By the way, I went back to my old blog archives and found where I wrote down my goal! You can read the blog post from 2017 HERE.)

We ate for nine months exclusively from the vegetables in our quarter acre garden, but in January it became apparent we needed more vegetables than I had put up.

At this point most would consider it a failure, or a good test and move on. But I knew I wanted to achieve this goal.

So the next year, we tried again. I still couldn’t make it a full year. We ate from the garden for 11 months of the year but in the hunger months, February and March, there was nothing in the garden and our store of vegetables ran too low.

I could have called it quits long ago but I loved it so much and it changed us for the better, so I kept trying. Each year we have become better and better at doing this. The first year it felt like a sacrifice and now it feels like freedom. 

Last year, we were able to get to 99% of our own vegetables with the only exception being occasional purchases of avocados which I can’t grow here, and also a purchase of a few vegetables from a local farm friend. 

I consider our goal to grow all of our own vegetables a success! We will continue to do this every year.

In 2021, we wanted to achieve complete self sufficiency with our meats in addition to the vegetables. We have raised and processed our chickens, beef, and pigs. The turkeys will be harvested for Thanksgiving soon. We are so thankful! This goal was definitely quite a bit easier than growing all the vegetables we needed for a year.

My goal for the upcoming years is to do all our own vegetables, meat, and fruit. Even if you don’t capture your goal the first time, do not give up. Keep trying until you do meet your goal. It is incredibly empowering and brings a lot of joy and fulfillment.

2. Find out what motivates you

I personally think that knowing your why and finding what motivates you is just as important as setting the goal. 

I went through health struggles for years and didn’t find relief until I ate lots of homemade from scratch food. The majority of our food came straight from the garden. It was nutrient dense and tasted better.  

Slowly, my physical pain and ailments disappeared. I am open about the fact that I still struggle with anxiety and depression but as for the acid reflux and irritable bowel syndrome, it is gone. 

Those things are my number one motivation. I know how much homegrown food has changed how I feel and I don’t ever want to go back to that place of physical stomach pain and anguish. 

Another motivation for me is homegrown food tastes so much better. Once you get used to real food it’s hard to eat anything else.

And the third in line for motivation me is being prepared for job loss, a family emergency, a national emergency, or any other emergency that requires me to have a store of food. 

What motivates you to preserve food? Think long and hard about this. This is what will push you past the hard times when you feel like you want to give up. 

3. Figure out what you would like to preserve and make a list. 

If you are wondering where to begin, the best place is to look in your pantry now. What canned foods are in your pantry that you can replace? What frozen fruits and vegetables do you buy? 

My first thing that I replaced was all our canned tomatoes we bought. I knew I bought a couple jars every week in winter and then from there I calculated out how many I would need to preserve myself.

Our canning list from last year. I add, subtract and make adjustments to the list every year.

I knew that we also bought a lot of frozen green beans in the winter. So I put that on my list to grow and preserve as well. And then so on.

After going through what you normally buy, make a list of what you will need to grow and how much if you are to preserve it.

It will be difficult to get everything you need exactly right on your first try. Since we’ve been doing this for years, I know we need 50 jars of salsa, at least 40 jars of pizza sauce, etc. You will be able to dial in the numbers with experience!

Our garden April 2021

4. Plant your garden accordingly. If you don’t have a garden shop local and figure out when things are in season. 

Everyone eats so differently. Even though I have made a basic chart of how many vegetables and fruits  you would need to grow for a year’s supply, it is meant to be a starting point. 

You need to start somewhere and then as you practice you can get things more dialed in and be more specific. 

5. Be consistent

Preserve a little something everyday during the growing season. This is the thing that will add up to huge amounts in the end.

I feel like I can’t stress this point enough. Doing huge amounts of preserving day in and day out just isn’t sustainable.

Occasionally we have a big preserving day, but usually I’m preserving one canner full of jars or filling the dehydrator once. After doing this for around 100 days it really adds up!

6. Make Sacrifices

This is where push comes to shove. If you really want to be serious about preserving food and providing for yourself and your family you need to make a few sacrifices. 

In the day we live in, it’s easy to get caught up in so many activities (speaking from experience here!). Take out anything that isn’t a priority and doesn’t bring you joy. 

I am a little more on the extreme end of the spectrum when it comes to giving up things in order to get the yield I want. I’m just saying that because I realize some of my suggestions may seem too much to some of you. But take them as you will! Here are some ideas how how to gain back some of your time:

  • Stop watching TV and movies. Instead listen to podcasts and books while you work. 
  • Say no to some social outings with friends. This one is hard!! To make up for lost time, instead invite them over to help you preserve. Send them home with some of your bounty!
  • Keep summer vacations local and short. You can always take a longer one in the winter when you have more downtime.
  • Spend less time on social media or none at all! Social websites and apps are designed to make you stay on as long as possible. Set limits and screen time on your phone or better yet, you can delete them altogether. If I wasn’t sharing all of our preserving and gardening- I totally would.

7. Persevere

It will get hard and tiring! You’ll want to give up and stop. But you can do it and it will pay off big time. Rest comes in the winter and you’ll be glad you did it. 

I have many days where I am just so tired and want to go to bed but the counter is loaded with vegetables. If I don’t do something with them immediately, I know the vegetables are going to go bad.  But I go for it even when I’m tired.

The next day I am happy to see the jars on the counter all finished and the food preserved. And I am even more happy in winter to have food! 

To sum things up, here are my 7 Secrets to Preserving Tons (literally) of Food!

  1. Set a goal and write it down
  2. Find what motivates you!
  3. Figure out what you would like to preserve and make a list
  4. Plant your garden accordingly
  5. Be Consistent
  6. Make Sacrifices
  7. Persevere

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Laurel M. November 10, 2021 - 2:54 am

Perfect! That’s very encouraging. I’m hoping to grow some things through the winter so I put together a makeshift greenhouse this afternoon. Even if all I get is lettuce, I choose to eat something I grew every day! Thanks, Becky.

Elisabeth November 10, 2021 - 8:21 pm

I’m so impressed. I am working on my gardening goals too… but my garden in still small and in the middle of sweden so we can not plant as much as you do. Zon 5 in swedish zones.
Glad to hear that your health is improved by the food. I do not know what causes your anxiety and depression . But I use to eat dried nettle every day. My family do not want me to stop 😄 When I do that my pms is gone. Not that I say you got pms.. but there is a number of good things in nettle.. it can even effect high blood preassure. It can for some get low by eating nettles . It is good to be aware of that if someone go on medication, to be watchful so the preassur do not go down to much.. I know two persons with high blood preassure that had to stop medication when they had eaten nettle for less then two months.
A teaspoon of dried nettles is like a multivitaminpill.

Good luck with your growing. Thank you for sharing!

theseasonalhomestead November 17, 2021 - 7:31 pm

Thanks Elisabeth! My sister just gave me a nettle plant to grow in a pot. She told me it would spread if I put it in the ground. I also have some dried nettle as a gift from her too! I will try that. Thanks so much!


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