HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Brewing beer, curing meat, or making cheese? Share your food adventure
TELL US

Help I am writing an article

kprange Jul 28, 2008 09:16 PM

I am writing an article for a class about canning at home. My angle is the economy and the prices of food. That the food prices are driving people home to the dining room table. The angle I am taking is that the downturn in the economy is forcing people to eat at home. I want cooks to know that there is an alternative to buying prepared foods at the store. My idea is that canning soups and chillies will help families eat healthier and better foods.

Any suggestions would be helpful.. Thanks so much in advance for your help!!!

  1. b
    bflocat Jul 29, 2008 06:00 AM

    Just curious, but are you also going to discuss freezing? I find that discussing canning with people who are accustomed to buying prepared foods often leads to a glazed, disinterested look...they hear canning and think "hot steamy kitchen, lots of work". But I've had better success talking about freezing things like berries, veggies, and pesto as a way to get started. Doesn't last AS long, but once people get the idea, it seems they are willing to at least consider putting up some tomatoes or pickles.

    Just a thought...

    2 Replies
    1. re: bflocat
      kprange Jul 29, 2008 06:15 AM

      Thanks, I think I will at least introduce freezing as an alternative method for food storage. I don't freeze much because we have a side of beef and lots of pork, and that takes up our entire extra freezer.

      1. re: kprange
        d
        Diane in Bexley Jul 29, 2008 06:49 AM

        Second the idea of freezing. This time of year we love to scour the local countryside on the weekends stopping at farmer's markets. We just put away 15 lbs. of tart, sour cherries and will soon be putting away 20 lbs. of peaches. I also try to put away fresh, local corn on the cob - works pretty well if you blanche for short period first. I love my FoodSaver and I highly recommend if you discuss freezing that you advise people to use some sort of vacuum sealer to protect their investment. We also buy bulk meat, chicken, seafood at Costco or Sam's Club and the freezing/vacuum sealer method helps make that useful for a small family.

    2. l
      LJS Jul 29, 2008 07:08 AM

      Great idea...I would 'can'/bottle/freeze anyway,for taste and environmental reasons but it is clear that the economy will play a larger role in a new generation's activities.

      I don't know if I have anything interesting to add, but Barbara Kingsolver does: at your library,they will probably have a copy of 'Animal Vegetable Miracle'. Also, there is a (sadly now out-of-print) series called the Farm Journal Cookbooks that have 2-3 editions on preserving.

      And, don't stop with chilis and soups...tomatoes, chopped, whole or crushed and bottled, with or without basil, are the basis for sauces, stews, bean dishes and my personal 'bargain basement' favourite "Eggs in Purgatory".

      Then there are apples, peaches, pears, berries (but perhaps better frozen, think about a bigger freezer if you are really getting into economies of scale).You have the quick makings of cobblers, brown-betties, crisps, grunts, pies etc.

      And, don't forget chutneys, flavoured vinegars and oils and fancy jams/jellies to give as gifts: that is real savings if you have a lot of friends, families to buy for.

      Finally, (I am from Newfoundland!) there is moose, but you probably don't want to go that far...

      Best of luck, eh!

      1. DanaB Jul 29, 2008 07:19 AM

        I would suggest you search this board for posts on canning and preserving, and contact those posters who actually do this regularly. While your idea is good, you need some input beyond that which you will get on any message board, regardless of how good that message board is (and I'm a total devotee of chowhound). Ask in your community to find farmer's markets, check with your local Slow Food group, find a local CSA. All of them will have references to people who have canned food for years, and can talk to you directly and answer any questions you have. Maybe they will even show you how. My first experience with canning came just about this time of year, and I luckily stumbled upon an expert in motion.

        1. The Dairy Queen Jul 29, 2008 07:25 AM

          There's some great info out there on a lot of the websites for the various universities in the Upper Midwest, the University of Minnesota, for instance. http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribu...

          I think there's a lot of fear about canning, the botulism or whatever, etc. And furthermore, there's a fear of pressure canning (I recently took a class on canning and freezing and, honestly, even the instructor seemed a bit timid about pressure canning) and cooking under pressure in general. So, I think it might be helpful to talk about the differences between waterbath canning and pressure canning, with the advantages of the latter --even for foods that can be canned in a waterbath like tomatoes--being that it's faster. Also, draw the distinction between a pressure canner and a pressure cooker. I didn't know there was a difference. The advantages of canning over freezing is that it doesn't take any additional energy to store them and you don't lose everything when the power goes out.

          I think a listing of "what you need to get started" would be helpful. Jars, lids and rings, obviously. On your stovetop: small saucepan to boil the lids, big pot to boil the jars, canner (either pressure or waterbath), pot of hot water for blanching. Nearby: ice bath, jar lifter, one of those magnetic wands to lift the lids out of the boiling water, towels, damp cloth to wipe the lids, timer, ruler to measure headspace, funnel, canning salt.

          I think it's good to talk about places where you can get a good deal on large quantities of produce to can and how to know how much produce you'll need for your canner. I had no idea how many green beans one had to buy to can 7 1 quart jars.

          ~TDQ

          1. s
            soupkitten Jul 29, 2008 08:42 AM

            for an intro canning class i highly rec: the complete book of year-round small batch preserving

            http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Book-Y...

            it's really rad for beginners because the batches are small, and the recipes are many times very easy. there are a few microwave recipes, for example. the recipes are interesting & unintimidating, and since the quantities are small-- the idea of using a couple of cans of jam in the pantry, rather than a dozen pints of pickled beets or jarred peaches-- is more managable to first timers, who may not have a ton of storage space in their pantries. the smaller batch sizes are also great for folks who have small gardens or are csa members or farmer's mkt shoppers. check it out!

            7 Replies
            1. re: soupkitten
              The Dairy Queen Jul 29, 2008 09:27 AM

              Okay, so, dumb question based on my EXTENSIVE canning experience (3 jars of green beans, this past weekend) it seems to me that aside from prepping the vegetables themselves (washing, chopping, blanching, etc.) a huge part of the time involved in canning is the time it takes to get all those pots boiling so you can sterilize the jars and the lids, etc., not to mention the time under pressure (or in the waterbath, depending on what you're doing), so, it felt to me like a real bummer that I only did 3 jars instead of the full 7 my canner would fit.

              When you say, "small batch" sizes, is 7 jars of beans considered a small batch to you?

              ~TDQ

              1. re: The Dairy Queen
                s
                soupkitten Jul 29, 2008 09:57 AM

                agreed TDQ, the boiling & sterilizing is the major PITA factor in canning-- though ime you can use fresh-from dishwasher jars & utensils, and i am a *huge* fan of using the powdered one-step sanitizing solution that dh & i use in homebrewing, to lessen the PITA. you just mix it in a bucket or sink of water and can sterilize everything(!) safe and no need to rinse (locally in msp, it's available at northern brewer on grand ave, if you want to try it for your next canning foray).

                maybe the title of the book should be "complete book of year-round DINKY batch preserving"-- because a lot of the recipes are just for a couple of jars of chutney or pickles or jam. by comparison, 7 jars would be *huge.* yeah it's a little rinky-dink, but there are usable recipes for refrigerator pickles & freezer jam as well as the fully-processed water bath stuff. the book's approach is more suited to the angle suggested in Nyleve's post below, because the recipes tend to be more elegant and "gourmet" rather than simply aimed at preserving the bounty of huge fruit and veg harvests, like the older farm preserving recipes. admittedly, i don't dabble around in this book, with its small batch sizes, as much as i do with say, "ball pickles" etc. but i still think it would be a good intro for folks who have never considered canning as something they'd like to do, and it might get them into doing a little canning. maybe check out the book if you see it at the library or used bookstore, i was really surprised at all of the stuff it covers!

                1. re: soupkitten
                  The Dairy Queen Jul 29, 2008 10:13 AM

                  Huh--I've never heard of that sterilizing powder stuff. I will have to look into that because not only is it a PITA and time waster, etc., it's also what heats up the kitchen so oppressively. The pressure canner is dreamy from that perspective. It mostly keeps its steam to itself.

                  Thanks for that info! I will keep an eye out for the book.

                  ~TDQ

                  1. re: The Dairy Queen
                    yayadave Jul 29, 2008 04:43 PM

                    You can find sterilizer powder or tablets at restaurant supply stores. Or ask at your local pub what they use for glasware. I'm not a canner, but I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned a couple of ounces of bleach per gallon of water as a sterilizer.

                    1. re: yayadave
                      s
                      soupkitten Jul 29, 2008 05:09 PM

                      i prefer the one-step (that is the brand name, one-step). home brewers use it to sterilize bottles and other brewing gear. like cheesemaking implements, everything in home brewing must be strictly sterile. among the one step's attributes: 1) not blue 2) tasteless 3) does not leave a tacky film 4) does not dry your hands into flaky dry splitting crocodile skin after using it for upwards of 45 mins. as opposed to bleach &/or sani-tabs, used in pubs & bars (i was a bartender for 10 years, did my own dishes behind the bar a *few* times, can evaluate). it is more expensive, but probably worth it for home canners.

                      1. re: soupkitten
                        yayadave Jul 29, 2008 06:39 PM

                        One Step sounds like a winner. Where do you get it?

                        Never mind. I can take a hint.
                        http://pivo.northernbrewer.com/nbstor...

                        1. re: yayadave
                          s
                          soupkitten Jul 30, 2008 07:32 AM

                          Yayadave-- i am sure you can get one step or its equivalent at the homebrewer store/supply nearest you-- i just plugged northern brewer to TDQ since we both happen to live in the same town. but i think/hope it's a common product everywhere, you shouldn't necessarily have to get it shipped! :)

            2. n
              Nyleve Jul 29, 2008 08:58 AM

              I sort of beg to differ about your angle. I don't believe you can convince people to can stuff for economic reasons. It can come off as rather oppressive and negative, conjuring up images of the depression-era housewife spending hours over a hot stove, canning things to put in the root cellar. No one believes they have time for that kind of grueling chore anymore. However, if you appeal to the "gourmet" angle, you might be able to convince people that home canning allows you to create wonderful, unique foods that cannot be bought anywhere else at any reasonable price. You may want to focus on condiments - delicious chutneys and pickles - tomato sauces, jams and jellies. Emphasize the creativity, the environmental sensibility (picking local, organic, etc.), the fun of it. No one, to be perfectly blunt, is going to can a bushel of tomatoes anymore when you can buy quite decent canned tomatoes for such a reasonable price at the store. The hard-core home canners will, of course, but newcomers? Not so much.

              That's just my two cents.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Nyleve
                kprange Jul 29, 2008 09:38 AM

                You all bring up some very valid points - I will be looking into each one. I really like the gourmet angle, although my instructor liked my pitch about cooking trends changing due to economic changes. I think the one main thing I want to get across to people is that canning doesn't have to be the all consuming activity it has been made out to be.

                1. re: kprange
                  Katie Nell Jul 29, 2008 10:36 AM

                  From an economical *and* a gourmet point of view, chicken stock is a great thing to freeze and have on hand, so that would fit in both categories.

                2. re: Nyleve
                  j
                  Jack_ Aug 4, 2008 01:57 PM

                  Well not knowing much about canning myself you are not going to get me roped in from an economic point of view when I can go down to the store and get canned organic tomatoes for $2

                  Also canning vs freezing I'd think that canning would be much "greener" not having to run the freezer to keep it cold.

                  1. re: Jack_
                    m
                    morwen Aug 5, 2008 08:48 AM

                    My husband (the engineer) tells me it takes a huge amount of energy to heat something up (like a burner) and then to bring something to a boil on top of that. I've never asked him about the energy it costs to keep something cold. I'll ask him when he gets home. But considering that when I can, I'm boiling water for the water bath, cooking in some way whatever I'm preserving, sterilizing jars and lids and then holding them in heat either in the oven or the dishwasher and doing this process sometimes several times a day and anywhere from 2 or more days a week through the summer and into the fall, I'm betting that running a freezer vs canning alone probably comes close or equals out over the course of the year. Not to mention the energy spent by those people who can in air conditioned kitchens considering their A/C runs harder while their kitchen temps are up. I've taken to freezing a lot more stuff and rarely canning simply because I can't stand the temps in our currently un-airconditioned house and it's quicker and easier, and my husband hasn't cranked about my summer electrical usage since we've been here.

                3. kprange Jul 29, 2008 09:44 AM

                  I also agree that most people - me included, won't can bushels of tomatoes, unless of course it were an activity to do with friends. I do think that people are looking for alternatives to fast food and prepackeged food. I am most definately looking into freezing as well. While I use the vacum sealing method of freezing for meats and seafood, I don't use if for prepared meals and I know one can.

                  1. WCchopper Jul 29, 2008 10:06 AM

                    Maybe a minor sidenote, but it came as a tremendous relief to realize that I didn't need to use quart jars for so many things. We are not goinng to use a quart of pickles or whatever in a timely fashion, so putting together a few pint jars makes more sense. Also, canning smaller jars takes less time and requires less boiling water. I have noticed a lot of people have difficulty getting a large enough volume of water hot enough with out taking a ridiculous amount of time. I have found that using an electric kettle is a great asset. It allows me to quickly heat water to boiling with out using a burner or a pot, and once you have brought about half of the water you need to a simmer in your canning pot, you can easily top it up from the boiling kettle.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: WCchopper
                      WCchopper Jul 29, 2008 10:14 AM

                      Oh, in addition, when thinking about canning for the sake of economy, remember that canning, say, tomatoes, is not necessarily less expensive than buying them when you factor time and whatever you put into it. Things like BBQ sauce or good preserves, vinegars, things that are "prepared" or "processed" probably make more sense to can at home from a purly cost-conscious perspective.

                      1. re: WCchopper
                        The Dairy Queen Jul 29, 2008 10:14 AM

                        Can you use the kettle to heat up the water for the pressure canner, too, or just the water bath canner?

                        ~TDQ

                        1. re: The Dairy Queen
                          WCchopper Jul 29, 2008 10:23 AM

                          According to the Ball Blue Book, the water for a pressure canner is to be kept at a 180 degree simmer "adding boiling water if necessary". I can't see why you couldn't add it ,even to get it started, from an electric kettle. I use the kettle a lot, it boils quickly and there is not so much heat and steam escaping into the house.

                          1. re: WCchopper
                            The Dairy Queen Jul 29, 2008 10:39 AM

                            What a terrific tip. Thank you so much!

                            ~TDQ

                            1. re: The Dairy Queen
                              WCchopper Aug 1, 2008 01:40 PM

                              By the way, if you don't have it, the Ball Blue Book is a good basic guide for beginning canners.

                              1. re: WCchopper
                                The Dairy Queen Aug 1, 2008 08:13 PM

                                The Ball Blue Book was on sale at the place we bought our jars, so we bought a copy. I'm glad we made a good choice. The step-by-step pictures were helpful.

                                ~TDQ

                      2. m
                        MakingSense Jul 29, 2008 10:56 AM

                        I hate to rain in your parade but I'm not sure that canning is cheaper than shopping carefully.
                        I'm a long-time canner and finally figured out that I didn't save any money at all - unless I was canning stuff from my own vegetable garden or had gotten one helluva deal from the farmers' market on a bushel of something.
                        The advantage that I most often got was being able to do something the way I wanted but that's not the subject of your article.
                        There is a substantial initial investment - jars, etc. - and that's not even counting a pressure canner that someone would need for most vegetables and things like soups and chili. Canning soups is largely canning water. Why bother?
                        I largely can for pleasure now.

                        I think many people buy "prepared foods" because they won't/don't want to spend the time and effort of cooking. Are they going to spend the substantial amount of time required to can? Plus make a mess of their kitchens and store all the equipment that they acquire? Empty jars have to be stored for the next year after all.

                        We "pay" for our food in different ways. Some of us with money and others with our time and effort. But we all pay, one way or another.
                        Canning has to be a pleasure, or you won't do it.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: MakingSense
                          The Dairy Queen Jul 29, 2008 11:24 AM

                          I think--over the long-run-- it can also help you eat more local produce year-round.

                          I agree the upfront investment is not small. We spent about $100 on canning supplies (jars, lids, salt, jar lifter, etc.) this past weekend. I think we spent about that on a pressure canner, too. But we'll be able to re-use most of that. (I have the feeling that the jars will gradually drift away over time and will need to be replaced...)

                          We decided we wanted to start canning because we were unable to use all of our beautiful CSA produce. We froze a lot last year, but 1) it took a lot of room in our freezer, room we prefer to use to store meats (eg., half a beef, all of our wonderful CSA chickens etc.) and 2) we felt nervous that we'd lose everything if the power went out.

                          I think the difference is that if you live someplace where you cannot get fresh produce year-round (as we do in Minnesota), you either have to get cruddy produce shipped from California or wherever or eat canned or frozen. So, putting up your own, especially when you have extra from your CSA or your own garden, seems like a better idea.

                          ~TDQ

                          1. re: MakingSense
                            m
                            morwen Aug 2, 2008 06:46 PM

                            I have to agree that one has to carefully look at the economics of home canning. For example: we have a pretty good sized garden but no way can I plant and harvest enough green beans to get us through the year. Green beans at my local farmer's market are running $1.99/lb and even buying a bushel or so doesn't get them under $1/lb. I can buy good quality frozen green beans at my grocers for .79/lb and I don't have to pay for storage real estate on my shelves or freezer, not to mention the time and labor involved in processing them myself.

                            That said, I do put up my own pickles, jams, preserves, butters, vinegars, tomato products because A) I can grow enough of these in my garden to see us through the winter and B) those fruits that I buy are more than cheap enough to compete with buying the finished product in the market. I've also found that it's become more economical to freeze a lot of things rather than can them because there's so much labor and time saved in prep, not to mention I'm not sick and exhausted at the end of a session from the heat generated by preserving kettles and water baths.

                            Another thing I do is actually what I did today. Our eggplants are going great guns so today was spent making eggplant parmesan, eggplant rollettes and moussaka, all in those way cool paper containers that you can bake in the oven and put in ithe freezer and then nuke for a meal at a later date. For supper we simply chose a rollette and let the rest cool while we ate. After supper the rest went in the freezer. We do this with stuffed peppers, soups, meatballs, all kinds of things. We've made a pretty huge dent in our food bill this way not to mention having lots of entrees to choose from on busy evenings the rest of the year.

                            I think I agree with the other posters - Push the canning thing as a way to make great gourmet preserves,etc. that are cheaper or competitive with anything they can get in a store. Push making entrees/soups/etc in quantity when those ingredients are in season and freezing them for later. Basic jam, jelly, pickle preserving using a water bath is easy to learn and the botulism fear is way low with those products. It'll also instill confidence in those who would like to move beyond that. Low acid preserving using a pressure cooker is a little more complicated and has a higher fear factor involving both the use of pressure and botulism among novices. I think you could actually do a series of 3 articles: water bath canning, freezing and pressure canning.

                            A great resource in a couple communities I've lived in is a seasonal "canning kitchen". One was run by the local ag extension and one by a local church and one was run at the highschool. In the evenings or weekends you'd bring your ingredients and containers and those present would all chip in with their experience and labor to get everybody's canning done: water bath, pressure and freezer prep. Those are a great place for a novice to learn while having seriously experienced folk at hand for back up and advice.

                          2. j
                            jlafler Jul 29, 2008 11:31 AM

                            I agree with most of what Making Sense said, but I did want to mention that I bought most of my canning equipment at a garage sale. You can buy a lot of things used if you look for them -- garage sales, Craigslist, etc. I wouldn't trust eBay because if I were buying used jars, for example, I would want to inspect them for chips on the rim before buying -- people don't always know what constitutes "good condition."

                            But not lids. As you know, these need to be new!

                            The other potential savings is if you have a neighbor with a fruit tree. People are often happy to give away fruit because when they have more than they can use.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: jlafler
                              The Dairy Queen Jul 29, 2008 11:51 AM

                              As a newbie canner, I was nervous buying used jars because I wasn't sure I knew what to look for to confirm the jars were "in good condition". From here on out, though, I will be trolling garage sales and goodwill, etc. for jars.

                              Also, I'd be nervous buying a used pressure canner, unless I knew where to take it to be calibrated.

                              The waterbath canner, on the other hand, is no big deal. We saw a bunch of them at our local "Fleet Farm" for about $20, including the rack. For some reason, the waterbath canner I received as a gift a few years ago does not have the rack. (I don't know if I've just lost it or it the giver removed it for some reason.) Anyway, the replacement rack costs about $10, plus shipping! It's almost cheaper to buy a whole new thing!

                              ~TDQ

                              1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                m
                                morwen Aug 2, 2008 06:51 PM

                                You can make a "rack" by wiring together a bunch of lid rings to fit your canner. It keeps the jars off the bottom and allows the water to circulate just like a regular rack. If you've got one of those jar lifter tong thingies, you're set.

                                1. re: morwen
                                  WCchopper Aug 2, 2008 07:53 PM

                                  That is a genius idea!!!

                                  1. re: morwen
                                    The Dairy Queen Aug 2, 2008 10:01 PM

                                    Genius indeed! I love it, thanks!

                                    ~TDQ

                                  2. re: The Dairy Queen
                                    clepro Aug 19, 2008 06:50 PM

                                    As long as there are no cracks or chips, and the rim on the top (run your hand over it) is smooth, a used jar is fine and you'll be fine.

                                2. NYCkaren Jul 29, 2008 02:28 PM

                                  I've concluded that canning only saves money if you have access to cheap or free produce. When I was growing up we had apricot trees in our front yard, and I would make lots of apricot jam. But apricots are so expensive that if I bought some to make jam, I'm pretty sure it would end up costing more than if I bought a jar of jam. I do occasionally make jam or pickles but it's for fun, not to save money.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: NYCkaren
                                    Leucadian Jul 29, 2008 10:42 PM

                                    I'm fortunate to have several fruit trees in the back yard, and we make jam and or leather from the apricots and plums, and freeze the peaches and apples. The jams are far superior to commercial products. When the apricot crop failed a couple of years ago, I tried a national brand, and there was no flavor. I did without apricot jam that year.

                                    I agree that unless you grow the ingredients yourself (or get them free), canning is not an economic option. For us, it's the quality, and of course who can watch fruit go to waste.

                                  2. oldbaycupcake Jul 29, 2008 04:30 PM

                                    If your instructor liked your pitch of "cooking trends due to the economy" I'm not sure that your focus should be on canning. The start up costs aren't cheap, it's time consuming & we all know that our time has value. In order for your premise to work you'll need to do some detailed cost analysis. For example, a 12 oz. can of veggie soup bought at the store vs. 12 oz. of veggie soup canned at home (don't forget to include time & supplies in the cost). Also, there is a significant difference in the cost if you do not have a home vegetable garden & you have to buy all of the ingredients. As others have stated freezing is much cheaper, simpler and less scary to the average cook.

                                    I'd also do some research to determine if there is an increase in home gardens of produce, fruit and herbs. Has there been a rise in home chicken coops? Sustanability is a hot topic that I'm sure your instructor will love! Also, historically, do people really eat healthier and better during times of economic crisis? And does that even apply to modern times with the advent of microwaves and readily available cheap chemical laden prepared foods? Hope the suggestion of these issues are helpful. Cheers!

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: oldbaycupcake
                                      kprange Jul 29, 2008 04:39 PM

                                      I guess what I am trying to do is give families who are eating at home more, due to the economy, options, such as canning and freezing. I also don't think I am going to focus so much on canning tomatoes and such, I was going to focus on soups and chillies, and stews. For instance, last summer, I canned onion soup, vegetable soup, chilli, jambalaya, and froze chicken stock. I also froze tomatoes and peppers and will do so this year as well.

                                      1. re: kprange
                                        maria lorraine Jul 29, 2008 08:20 PM

                                        What can you say that is new? Do you have any new ideas?

                                        Maintaining a household food budget has been regularly discussed for 50 years in the family magazines -- Better Homes and Garden, Redbook, etc. etc. Canning has been covered backwards and forwards.

                                        If you are talking about food and the economy, then one of the most important concept is food miles -- how many miles away is the food grown from where you buy it and consume it? It's important because fuel costs are added to food costs. The solution: Buy local, shop farm stands, farmer's markets, buy directly from growers AT their farms.

                                        Canning as a topic comes with a lot of baggage. It seems old. Tired, Yawn, turn the page.

                                        Talk about new ways of preserving – ones that have modern-day appeal, and not the baggage, bulkiness or storage requirements of canning. What about space-limited urban dwellers? What about the family who doesn't have a lot of freezer space or storage space? Your suggestions cannot be limited to those who do.

                                        Sous-vide, for example, the rage in many restaurants or the new updated version of "seal a meal" for home cooks. It's a preserving method that is sleek, efficient, contained, easy. Read jfood's posts -- he does this a lot, and he's a great cook. As others have stated, the freezer will be key.

                                        What about the costs that are related to the procurement and prep of food? The cost of gas to drive and purchase food or the household energy costs of preparing food? How much is saved when food is prepared in quantity -- 4 meals of pasta sauce vs. one, for example?

                                        What about buying in bulk? Research grocery stores (especially chains) that sell food in bulk food bins -- have they noticed a cannibalization away from packaged goods selling the same item, but at a much higher cost per pound? Bear in mind that packaging adds a lot to the fuel cost of a food. Advertising and graphics ratchet up the costs too, once again affecting the final sale of the item.

                                        Do some research on the big warehouse stores: has membership increased since the economy has taken a downturn? Does the membership cost offset the savings? What are the savings in actual dollars of buying food at Costco or Sam's vs. Krogers or Safeway?

                                        Food that is partially cooked and microwaveable costs A LOT more than food close to its original form, which costs the least. Meals that are ready-to-eat and purchased in grocery store deli sections costs more, but they do save time. But if they have more calories, fat and sodium, and less nutrition, what is the cost-effect on health?

                                        Or, as a psychologist said to me years ago, speaking on this issue, If a parent saves on food for her children in a way that is detrimental to their health (lack of nutrition, energy, weight, dentistry, fitness, psychological health, etc.) later on, how much has she really saved?

                                        So, what you can say that is new? What is a new way of thinking or doing that the majority of American readers haven't heard about in 50 years of family food planning articles?

                                        You don't have to have the ideas. You have to FIND the ideas.

                                        1. re: maria lorraine
                                          a
                                          ajcraig Jul 30, 2008 12:08 PM

                                          maria lorraine, I think you are right on the money. There is much more depth to this topic. Today the people that are hurting financially are WAAAAY different than those who had to change their lifestyles in previous economic downturns. For instance, in the 30's it was easier for women to turn to canning because so few of them workde outside the home. Today you need not only dual incomes, but often multiple incomes, many at minimum wage, with no "bennies", which is not nearly enough to support a family. Who want's to sweat in a kitchen canning after working a 12-14 hour day at a job where you probably had no air conditioning and were probably on your feet all day and then had to ride an hour home on the bus? Or dealing with all the mess and fuss on your one day off? These are the people that are seriously being effect by the economic downturn.

                                          Last Sunday our local "newspaper" (in quotes because IMO, it is nearly worthless) had a story on the growth and acceptance of Aldi stores, traditionally known around here as a "ghetto" store. Well, ghetto no mo'! It is getting a lot of props for doing what is can to keep costs down and yet keep quality up.

                                          On the other hand NPR had a story recently about the rise in fast food because of the economy. That $1.00 menu looks pretty good if you don't look too close! In the words of one of the charactes in the film Fast Food Nation, "you get what you pay for". And what are the long term costs to not only those who consume this garbage on a regular basis (and believe me they do, many of my high school students eat it daily), but to society?

                                          OMG this is becoming a rant, isn't it? Can you tell I feel passionatly about this topic?

                                          Anyway, not knowing just what the parameters of this article or class are, I'd say, kprange, that you might want to put your depth, time and efforts into research more worthwhile than "been there, done that" canning. Look at the part(s) of society that might really benefit from your article. Make it really matter, heck, think beyond your class and maybe submit it elsewhere. Local newspapers often have food sections, maybe a presentation to local school F.A.C.E. classes. Think big and go for it!

                                        2. re: kprange
                                          The Dairy Queen Jul 30, 2008 12:40 AM

                                          kprange, I guess I'm not sure what kind of feedback you're looking for. Are you looking for recipes and resources and how-to suggestions? Or are you looking for support for your angle?

                                          It sounds like a lot of people disagree that canning is cheaper (especially in the short-run due to the initial investment in equipment) than buying similar canned products at the grocery store, especially if you're just talking about your basic fruits and vegetables. But, that's not really your angle, is it? If I understand you correctly, your idea is cooking in bulk and canning your own is cheaper than eating out, especially if you do a "gourmet" twist on these.

                                          Honestly, it's second nature to me to cook a big pot of soup or stock and freeze the leftovers. I don't think that's a huge revelation. But, if your idea is to cook a big pot of soup and can the leftovers because canning isn't the giant hassle everyone thinks it is? You might be onto something as, personally, I never think of canning as the solution. (But, I'm new to canning, too, so, maybe I'm just way behind the 8-ball here.) Maybe I'm the target audience for your piece!

                                          But, I think when everyone thinks of canning, they think of canning tomatoes and green beans and such. So, maybe you call your piece something like, "Not your mother's canner" and talk about a "new" approach to canning where you aren't just putting up tomatoes and corn and beans for the winter the way previous generations did, but you're putting up delicious, "gourmet", healthy, "ready to go" soups and stews with premium, fresh and local ingredients and that it can be relatively affordable and easy, if you just know how to do it.

                                          While I might buy a can of tomatoes or a bag of frozen green beans at the grocery store (esp. in the off season) and not feel like I'm sacrificing on quality, I would really never buy soup, stew or chili out of a can at a grocery store and expect it to be delicious or healthy. Yes, I might buy fresh soup or chili out of deli/fridge case (especially at my local co-op--they have some wonderful fresh soups and chilis) and frozen stock out of the freezer case, but I do feel a little lazy/guilty when I do that. And those fresh soups etc. are (understandly) not cheap, either because they are highly perishable and labor intensive (though, even those are still cheaper than eating out.)

                                          So, I think you're onto something with the soups, stews, chili, stock thing with the idea that cooking yourself, in bulk, is cheaper and healthier than eating out, especially if you can get some good deals on produce from the farmers market. The advantage to canning these items over freezing them is that you don't need to defrost them, they aren't at risk if the power goes out, and they keep longer. (I've thrown away more freezer-burned forgotten mystery items from the dark recesses of my freezer than I care to admit). Also, everywhere I've lived my entire life--either in a house or in an apartment--and even when I've owned a deep-freezer, freezer space has been at a premium. So, while it might be a big hassle to find places to store your jars (full and empty), I still find that easier to deal with than frozen. (Be sure to keep the boxes the jars came in, if you buy your jars new!)

                                          ~TDQ

                                      2. t
                                        The Old Gal Aug 2, 2008 05:46 PM

                                        I haven't priced pressure canners lately, mine is 35 years old. I just take it in for a check up each year. I would guess they would be reasonably expensive. You will have to have one to do soups, chilies, or stews. Will these people have gardens, or do they have a farm source to get the raw materials?

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: The Old Gal
                                          The Dairy Queen Aug 2, 2008 10:07 PM

                                          A presto pressure canner that will hold 7 1 quart jars will set you back about $80, according to Amazon.com. Of course, that's just the first of many things you'd need to purchase for pressure canning!

                                          ~TDQ

                                        2. meatn3 Aug 2, 2008 11:08 PM

                                          I don't think the canning/freezing angle would be that helpful. Most people are familiar enough with the idea. There are reasons canning has fallen by the wayside for most of us - it is hard to beat the ease, price and convenience of commercially canned foods.

                                          The tool that many cooks really lack (said from the perspective of many years teaching cooking to the general public) is understanding menu planning and getting full use out of their ingredients. As a country we have had inexpensive food which has allowed us the luxury of approaching cooking by just looking at it one meal at a time. Most food magazines and cookbooks just focus on one dish or meal at a time too. So the half a head of cabbage left from the fish tacos doesn't get worked into another dish and eventually is yet another mystery blob at the back of the fridge. Same with the leftover roast after we tire of two days worth of sandwiches...Give them tools to take the cabbage from the taco's and turn it into slaw to serve with the bar-b-q made from the leftover roast beef.

                                          I just received a recipe to test for a food publisher which calls for just a few canned tomatoes. Your average cook will have no idea what to do with the rest of the can after making the dish in question! That will probably keep a fair number of people from even trying the recipe once published.

                                          This sort of frugality that used to be common place has become a lost art for many.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: meatn3
                                            Katie Nell Aug 3, 2008 08:07 AM

                                            I actually think canning/ preserving is coming back, so I think it's just the right time to pull out an article like this. At my local culinary center, where most of the classes are... um... geared more towards trend-followers and short attention spans (trying to put it nicely), they recently added a canning/ preserving class. If they're having a canning class, it's trendy or fastly becoming trendy again.

                                            1. re: Katie Nell
                                              meatn3 Aug 3, 2008 12:02 PM

                                              Yes, I've seen a rising interest in canning/preserving over the last 10 years. It has gone hand in hand with the growing interest in knitting, etc. Rather like the 60's/early '70's again!

                                              I guess what I'm trying to say is that this info is out there enough where it is not difficult to pursue if interested. I just don't see canning being a way to drastically change most peoples grocery bill. As others have indicated, it is great if you have a cheap or free source of produce, if you have a strong desire to control your ingredients, or have the interest/dedication to create a specific flavor combination. Most everyday people don't. Even on this site, filled with people who are much more interested in food than most, there have been listed many reasons why canning is not a viable method of suppling food for themselves.

                                              I'm not anti-preserving. I can, freeze and dehydrate often. Maybe it is because I was raised by frugal homemakers, maybe since I have a commercial background where you are very aware that any ingredient not used to its fullest is bad for your bottom line, maybe because I just enjoy exploring food on every level. But I also realize I am not typical - most people do not share this viewpoint! I have taught food, from the food obsessed to those just venturing away from frozen dinners. Most of them are not going to see value in canning for themselves.

                                              I do believe that the tool that could have the greatest effect on the most people would be giving them the resources to be able to menu plan and not waste what they have paid so dearly for!

                                              1. re: meatn3
                                                Katie Nell Aug 3, 2008 01:52 PM

                                                No, you're right, I guess my point of view was more from the gourmet canning perspective, and not reducing the grocery bill point of view.

                                                1. re: Katie Nell
                                                  meatn3 Aug 3, 2008 02:36 PM

                                                  I agree with you. With more people becoming aware of innovative, delicious food and with rising costs, I think there is a segment trying to learn to recreate their restaurant experience at home. They are the ones who are more motivated to plan ahead and make the Moroccan preserved lemons when Meyers are available so they are ready for tagines in the future...I do think this group is growing, but still not a large slice of the average grocery shopper pool. I've found the average persons eyes glaze over if a recipe has over 7-9 ingredients, even if most of them are just herbs or spices! This is why Rachel Ray and Sandra (?) the semi-homemade person are so popular...many people either don't care that much about food or just look at cooking as a necessary ordeal to get through. I enjoy cooking so much that this mystifies me, but I see it constantly!

                                          2. l
                                            lhb78 Aug 5, 2008 01:00 PM

                                            There have been a lot of valid points made in response to your post so I'll only make a few comments.
                                            1- I'm becoming very conscious of my own food related waste. I can feel the pinch of rising food costs so I'm making a conscious effort to preserve the food I purchase for as long as possible.
                                            2- Given the high price of gas, I'm less likely to drive all over town to find the cheapest prices when there is a store close to home. Finding good deals on food and finding ways to use/preserve food so as to not waste it if I have to purchase more than I immediately need has become a priority to me.

                                            You've read here that canning takes time and is not an inexpensive endeavor once you factor in materials. Perhaps you should address the notion that maintaining a well-stocked pantry can be economically efficient and a time-saver. The ability to create healthy and creative meals from simple items is one that I think is overlooked in discussions about the expense of eating/feeding a family. The desire to do so is the barrier I see for many people and a topic for another day... thus the reason that many people do resort to fast food dollar menus when money and/or time are tight.

                                            Show Hidden Posts