Learn Food Preservation from a Man with 11 Kids
As you can imagine, having 11 children and only one income can present certain financial challenges...to say the least.
My food vocabulary became, "Does it come in bulk, can I grow it, and can it be stored?"
We used coupon clipping, loss leader, and bulk purchasing everywhere we could. Our kids had to eat occasionally. We were even able to get meal costs down to pennies per mouth…yes, it is possible.
Financial decisions had to be planned “to a T”. No budget was very large, and almost all were an absolute necessity. We had a system. We had a plan. It worked.
One of the major issues when buying large quantities of food is storage. Combine that with our family belief that we should maintain one year of food storage...remember the 13 mouths to feed! That makes for a huge amount of food that needs to be safely stored. A lot ended up in the basement, some in the shed...and even more in a storage unit (or two). But, again, we had a system. Life was great.
Necessity was a great teacher.
Over the years, we learned how to integrate our food storage into our daily diets. You eventually learn that without food-storage rotation, your food will either go bad or become inedible. Have you ever tasted a peach slice from a can that read...wait, “did that label Read Oct-1980, or Oct-2000?” “I don’t know...the label looks like it got wet years ago.” Mmm. Squishy, must be 1980.
We’ve been there. We’ve learned from it too.
Today, our family story is starting a different stage. Half of my children are married and have children of their own. Some are going to college, and some are in high school. So, that means that there is no longer a need for food storage now, right? WRONG. Now we buy and preserve food as a much larger family.
Last time we bought chicken (which was obviously on a great sale), between canning, freezing, and freeze drying, we processed and stored over 600 pounds of chicken as a family. We’ve learned a lot over the last…nearly four decades about feeding a lot of people, and we know how to do it cheap.
We’ve learned that, while our circumstances have changed, we can still apply our cost-minded thinking to other useful ideas. We wanted to share that information with others who might find value in it.
As a family, we have canned, pressure canned, and dried everything from carrots that we grew on our farm to meats that we bought at great prices in bulk. I thought it would be fun to show how you can save money by preserving food at home. I also thought that I would start with one of the newest methods out there, freeze drying
Last year, we splurged on a new freeze dryer. We’ve been having a lot of fun with it. Just don’t show your kids/grandkids where your secret hiding place is for the freeze dried pineapple...it cannot be hidden well enough to be stored for long, it will disappear. It’s better than candy.
As with anything new, we enjoyed the learning curve that comes with anything worth doing. The online freeze-drying communities have been invaluable. They are some of the most helpful people you will find online, which seems to be an anomaly today. With the community support, anyone could be up and running with their own freeze dryer in days, and be confident with what they’re doing. So, how hard is it to learn? I would say that it’s harder that a dehydrator, but easier than a pressure cooker.
Within the communities, we have seen a recurring theme of questions both from people that own a freeze dryer, and from those looking to buy one of their own. Many people have asked how much it costs to run the machines. For example: “How much does, or would it cost to make my own freeze dried pork chops?” Some say it’s up to $2.50-3.00 per day, while others say it costs that much per cycle (a cycle can take up to 40+ hours).
I needed a better answer than that, and I believed that others would like an answer too. This sounded like the perfect challenge for an electrical engineer. Besides, the best way to understand how to save money is to truly understand all costs associated. Challenge accepted!
The challenge: Can I easily determine how much it costs (in energy consumption and time) to freeze dry pork chops?
Well, yes. Yes, I can. And it works for more than just pork chops!