The warmer weather has given encouragement for many gardeners to get ready, as it’s almost time to put seeds in the ground and begin the season. I’m sure many of you have had opportunities to start your seeds or to purchase plants and realize the joy that comes from growing your own summer produce. For those who choose not to grow your own, we are blessed to live in a community where there is an abundance for us to choose from.
As the season progresses, one of the major reasons people want to grow their own is that they “want to save money”. While there is great satisfaction in seeing the fruits of your labor come to harvest, I’d like for us to look at the saving money concept.
There are several things to consider, the first being what method of food preservation we choose. In general, freezing is more economical than canning. It also generally takes the least amount of time.
Let’s look at personal expectations as we begin. Ask your family their preference in canning or freezing of particular fruits or vegetables. There is a definite texture and flavor difference and you don’t want your efforts to be disappointing if your family doesn’t like it one way or another. In the following information, time and labor was not considered in the calculations.
- Look at the equipment that you already have. If you have a freezer, that’s the most expensive part. In addition you’ll need freezer containers or bags, trays for freezing individual fruits or vegetables, and a colander for blanching vegetables. The University of Maine indicates that freezing costs approximately .38 cents per pound of food (2017 data). They note several variables as in how full the freezer is, how old it is, and the location of the freezer as each of these could impact the overall cost.
- Pressure Canning is essential to preserve low acid foods like vegetables, meats and any combinations. In addition, some prefer to can all items instead of freeze them if there are circumstances like frequent power outages, or limited freezer space. There’s also the personal preference in taste that was mentioned above, that could be a deciding factor. The estimated cost of pressure canning foods is $1.14 which includes the canner (with usage life of 20 years), jars, lids, rings, funnel and/or canning kit.
- Boiling Water Canning is used for many fruits, jams and jellies, tomatoes with additional acid and pickled products. The equipment is very similar to that of pressure canning but the cost of the canner is less. The total estimate for water bath canning is $.73, but remember it cannot be used for any low acid foods like vegetables or meats. They must be pressure canned or frozen to be safe.
- Dehydrating is another form of food preservation that involves the purchase of a dehydrator, as Ohio temperatures do not achieve sufficient temperatures without humidity to properly dry foods. The average cost estimated was $.99 per pound of food. While the cost of dehydrating one pound of food is higher than that of hot water bath canning or freezing, there are other reasons one might chose to dry foods, such as creating lightweight snacks for outdoor activities.
Remember that as you are purchasing your plants to grow your own, or later in the season to process, to use the preservation method that works best for you and your family. The joys of harvesting food and preserving them can be a family tradition, as well as self-satisfaction.
As a final note for those of you with gauge style pressure canners - USDA recommends that they are tested every year for accuracy. Because of the current situation, we are working to try to find a plan to keep everyone safe and to offer testing. Please watch our website for further information and I’ll place it in the column when there are details to share. Remember, just because our office is closed, doesn’t mean that we are not hard at work trying to meet the current needs. Please reach out to me at 330-264-8722 or firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the website at wayne.osu.edu.
Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.
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