Now that you have bought your food in bulk, how do you preserve and store it?. Look below to choose methods of preservation that fit both your food and your culinary tastes. Then determine how much storage space that will take and where you could create that space.
I know of a single parent in a studio apartment who bought a chest freezer to store regenerative organic produce for her and her child. The freezer doubles as the family dining table and desk. Some renters in tight spaces stack boxes of dried goods (beans, grains) under beds and desks and in tiers against the wall.
Some foods such as fully dried grains and beans need little processing before storage; some raw produce needs more. Here are some suggestions for starting:
Extension’s National Center for Home Food Preservation website covers freezing, drying, canning, curing, smoking, fermenting, pickling, making jams and jellies, and storing. Once you’ve found your favorite methods and have the basics down, keep researching. There are tried and true– and delicious– methods from cultures worldwide. Extension offers online courses in the above methods.
For food drying, if you are a DIY-er, consider building a solar food dryer. Or use the lowest setting on your oven. Or buy a food dryer (Excalibur is a good one, as the heat is even, but at least read the reviews before purchasing. You don’t want to lose half your food because of a poorly-functioning dryer). Some people dry produce in the back of a hot car in summer – taking care to watch carefully so it doesn’t scorch and so rodents don’t partake.
Check out A Guide to Food Storage for Emergencies published by Utah State Extension Service on food safety, storage, organization, planned buying, and drying all kinds of foods. After a section on water, they dive into canned goods, fats and oils, beans, milk, vegetables, fruits, eggs, wheat, rice, oats, popcorn, lentil, barley, quinoa, spelt, split peas, spices, vitamins and minerals.
A comprehensive fermentation primer for new and seasoned enthusiasts is The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz; it’s a lively read and a “fermentation bible” to many.
Preserving produce with Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar is familiar to most of us: pickles and vinegars of all kinds, jams, syrups, and honeys, essential oils and herbal tinctures, wine-preserved pears, jars of oil filled with roasted peppers and so much more. The book Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning by the Gardeners and Farmers of Terre Vivante (France) with a new Forward by Deborah Madison shares simple, traditional European methods.
Rancho Gordo (New Mexico) is justly famous for bean recipes.
Whatever you decide to buy in bulk, be sure to label each unit with name and variety (eg “Purple Pole Beans”) the year of harvest and the date–or at least the month–you received or processed it.
Get creative with recipes you love for the food you have so carefully preserved and stored.
Questions as you go along? Join a food storage-and-processing chat group (find one online) or start one with a friend or two or coop.
Pam Sherman has been growing, buying, and preserving grains, veggies, dairy, meat in bulk for many years and loves working with each different harvest. She admins at CO Local Food & Regenerative Ag Hub
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