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Suggestions on saving grocery money

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

I'm signing up for an expensive CSA, but even though it's the most expensive one in the area, it works out to be the cheapest in the long run because all of their seconds are available to members for canning/freezing/drying.  As the mother of four kids, this is a GOOD THING.  I'm starting to scour thrift stores for canning jars, but I really need a pressure canner, more jars, a dehydrator and vacuum sealer bags.  


I'm also in a position to be able to raise quail for meat and eggs.  They are cheaper than chickens per pound of meat/eggs and require less space. The eggs, housing & feed are dirt cheap.  But I need an incubator, though, and can't afford one.  GAH!!!!!!!


Freecycle and craigslist have been useless -- the demand is FAR greater than the supply.  Ebay's prices for used canners, once you factor in shipping, are as much as Amazon with free shipping for new.  I'm at my wits' end.  My husband has been unemployed for seven months now and I am not feeling hopeful.  I just need to be more proactive about food or we're going to be hurting this fall.


Beyond begging here for a canner that somebody has collecting dust and not using, what do I do now?






post #2 of 12

My idea is to see if you can network with the other CSA members, or post a notice on the bulletin board at a community garden, etc., that you would be willing to discuss barter terms to borrow a dehydrator and/or canner.


I looked at your location, but you are not close to me (I'm in MA but on the NY border - but hours away from you). But I am thinking that other CSA members or community garden members (it doesn't matter if you are a member - this is just your audience) are more likely to have this equipment. Imagine if an older lady had a canner and would love to either find a new home for it or have you can up a dozen jars of whatever (produce and jars provided by her, but time and effort by you) in exchange for use of the canner for a week. This is a different audience from posting on Freecycle or Craig's List. These are people not looking to get rid of their equipment, but perhaps happy to loan out. Hopefully you could even strike jackpot and just get free loan of the equipment just as a neighborly thing.


Another idea is to post somewhere the idea of 4 people "going in on" the equipment, with a timeshare system. A pressure canner can be had new for around $100-ish. So you put up $25 and get the use of it for a quarter of the time (obviously there's a peak season where everyone will want it, yet I'm sure it's possible to work it out).


Is there a local Transition group or other movement of people likely to preserve food? You can go just to get friendly with them and maybe meet someone who will loan to you, or who might know someone who knows someone, or know of a secret local sale on jars, etc.

post #3 of 12

I'd put a wanted ad on craigslist and hit yard sales or estate auctions.  Alot of older people have canners and those are good places to find them.


If you don't end up getting one, you can always freeze things. 

post #4 of 12

You can freeze a lot of the stuff you would can.  Diced toms for instance.  Set up a pot with boiling water, drop the tomatos in for 30 seconds or just until the skins start to split, pull off the peel, dice, store in 16oz freezer containers (ball sells plastic freezer "canning" containers) and you have the equvilant of one can of diced toms purchased in the store.  I am pretty sure that you can also blanch and freeze green beans and broccoli the same way.



post #5 of 12

Freezing's a good idea but that assumes the OP has a chest freezer. Otherwise she'll be out of space right quick.

post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 

I never thought of the CSA members, that's a great idea, thanks!!!


I don't know anything about transition groups or what it is even. 

post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 

Yeah, I've already put ads on craigslist, freecycle and local food forums.  No dice.  Like I said, there are far more ads seeking supplies than there are ads selling.


My freezer space is currently limited and I'm using it for meat.  I've got a lead on freestanding freezer and if that pans out, yes, I will try to leave some room for produce, but I've ordered 10 chickens that I will be processing in June and I need to leave room for those.

post #8 of 12

Do you have any community kitchens or gardens with cooking programs where you may be able to access canning equipment? A lot of churches in our area are running Living on Less programs to teach people how to do things like can, bake bread etc- you may be able to access supplies there. You could see about posting a notice on church bulletin boards etc.

Can you cobble together supplies for a solar dehydrator? 

Tomatoes can be canned without a pressure canner. I can about 100 litres a year (will need to do more as we are running out this year). I find tomatoes to be my best canning investment as they work with so many meals and cost relatively little to buy in bulk for canning.  I have had great luck with garage sales for jars. Also had a lot of luck getting them from empty nester friends who no longer need them in the quantity or sizes they once did (friends and acquaintances of my parents are a good source).


You probably already know but fruits can almost always be canned in a water bath canner rather than a pressure canner.


Do you have a root/cold cellar - you can store a lot of food there if you do - maybe saving your "firsts" for storage and using the seconds initially for making food to eat in season.

I have heard of people storing potatoes in sand in big drums.  My Ils store 50 lbs of potatoes in a large camping type cooler in their garage - the cooler protects them from freezing and temperature variations. You may be able to do carrots and onions that way too. Squash is probably fine just in a cool place in your basement.


Do you have space for a small garden? Can you eek out a bit of space in your yard to set up cold frames? You could keep yourself in fresh greens that way for much of the year very inexpensively especially if you clear out end of season sales on seed packets.You can also leave some carrots, onions and leaks in the ground to harvest in the early spring or if it thaws enough in Jan/Feb to work the ground.  I am going to try to bring a cherry tomato plant indoors this fall and see how long we can keep it producing.   Even if I get a pint or  two a week for salads it would be great.


Best of luck to you!




post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 

I haven't heard of any programs like that, how would I find a program like that?  


I've never heard of a solar dehydrator, but I live in a city and don't know if the food would get gross outside, between pollution and stuff that floats around.


Yes, I know tomatoes don't need a pressure canner, but most other vegetables do.  I'm keeping my eyes peeled for jars everywhere! :)  Alas, I don't know any empty nesters.


No root or cold cellar. No substantial space for a garden.  Anything I plant is likely to be trampled or eaten by the kids (or both) so I'm going to try to put out some cherry tomato plants, but there's not really enough room for much else.


Thanks for the ideas!!!



post #10 of 12

Do you have any space that stays 60 degrees or below relatively constantly?  If so and the other options don't work out you can always lacto-ferment veggies.  They don't taste the same as regularly canned, but so long as they stay relatively cool they don't need refrigeration since the lactic acid bacteria naturally preserves them.  Lacto fermentation is actually incredibly healthy, but I'd hate to have only fermented veggies to last me through a winter so definitely try to see if the other suggestions work out.


By the way, I once figured out that it was actually cheaper in this area to stock up on canned tomatoes when they are on discount than to can our own (and these are organic tomatoes) unless I get the tomatoes for free.  We don't really use much of anything else canned, I dehydrate peppers when I get a great deal on them and in the winter time I stick to buying potatoes, cabbage, greens (kale, etc), squash and carrots for our veggies and mostly apples for our fruit.  We have great variety in the summer though and I lacto-ferment some.


Also, I've heard of (though never tried it before) dehydrating green beans by stringing them up.  My mother used to do that with fresh mushrooms and peppers.  http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/legumes/msg0715261217610.html  I was actually able to find a somewhat affordable solar dehydrator on ebay but it was during the off season so I was lucky.  Sometimes you can find dehydrators at yard sales.


I've also successfully dehydrated things in my car on a sunny day  like this lady:  http://thetanglednest.com/2009/08/drying-food-in-car/


Makeshift root cellars can be made by digging a hole in the ground and sticking a cooler or a large garbage can in it.  http://folkschool.blogspot.com/2007/11/reduce-reuse-recycle-root-cellar.html


Good luck!  I've been in your shoes and it isn't fun.  We ended up just living on beans and rice for a while because we're in a second floor apartment and the CSA we invested in had crop failure.

post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 

I definitely want to do some lactofermenting.  I've got a half dozen cabbages that are destined to become kimchi this week if I can dig up a good food safe bucket.  But I wouldn't only want fermented either.


I don't know whether they'll be more cost effective to can but I will certainly be checking before I spend anything.


I live in a city on a street with fairly high traffic.  I suspect dehydrating outside would leave yuck all over the produce. :(


I will have to look into the root cellar concept.  It may be too cold here in upstate NY.  I was warned against using the car for dehydration -- apparently it can cause damage to the inside of the car from the condensation.



post #12 of 12



My mom use to do the dried green beans.  She called them "leather britches".  She and I do peppers that way now. Definitely try to do a solar dehydrator!  Great if you don't have alot of freezer space.  Can you dumpster dive behind health food stores?  I've heard of people scoring cases of great stuff just because one of them broke and made a mess on the outside of the others.

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