Moving toward local eating: Storage

Choosing vegetablesPart of the “Moving toward local eating” series

Storing food is its own adventure.  No matter what climate you live in, different foods are harvested at different times of the year, and chances are you will want to store some food for the “off” season. It takes some space, especially if you start trying to, say, can a year’s worth of salsa in September.

I started buying in bulk a couple years ago and have kept great records, and now I know what we go through quickly (brown rice, peanut butter) and what languishes (cornmeal). I’ve also learned important lessons about where to store food in my house.  The basement, for example, is too damp for dry goods.  Cardboard boxes get wrinkled and moldy (I think I’m the only person in the world to have to throw out salt due to spoilage). The barley started smelling beery. Metal cans started to rust.  So I’ve moved that stuff to dryer locations upstairs.  All my canned goods are now in an actual antique jelly cupboard, which delights me so much every time I walk by it, I can’t believe a woman so normally uninterested in “stuff” can get so giddy about a thing.  (But it’s a really wonderful amazing beautiful practical perfect thing.  Really.  And it symbolizes so much about me and my work and my hopes and my values.  Yeah. It’s good.) Ahem. Back to this blog post, Emily…

I also am learning about storing different types of stuff:

  • dry goods, like wheat and beans
  • home-canned foods, like salsa
  • store-bought canned goods (yep, we still eat them)
  • pickled foods, like kraut
  • fresh vegetables, like potatoes
  • “live” produce in the greenhouse and on the windowsill.  (Craving greens in January? Put a beet in a flowerpot in a window and wait a few days….)

Each type of food storage was a bit of an adventure in itself, and you could start with any one of them.

And, of course, there’s learning to use the foods you’ve stored.  One surprising thing I’ve learned is that we can’t finish a loaf of homemade bread before it gets moldy or rock-hard.  And I’m allergic to most beans.  So my estimates of how many pounds of wheat berries and beans to buy were waaaaaaay off.  But, better to find that out now than when it really matters!


Published by Emily

I'm an instructional designer and gardener based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Free moments find me in my garden or the forest, hugging trees and all that jazz.

2 thoughts on “Moving toward local eating: Storage

  1. Storage is one of the biggest factors in successfully transitioning to Local Food. We have moved toward canning many things to free up freezer space. For us the investment in a good, large capacity pressure canner was worth the $180.00. (It was way cheaper than a second freezer and a generator to ensure they keep running.) Our current challenge is cool storage (root cellar) and keeping bulk grains and flour bug free. (had a run in with some kind of meal worm this past summer that we are still fighting…)

    Kevin Kossowan has some good tips about building an urban root cellar That’s a project we are taking on this summer. Can’t wait to hear what ideas you come up with for storing other things.

    1. “Under the bed” is my favorite “weird” storage space. Especially in an underheated guest room. You can use a wide, flat box to slide the bulk of your canned goods, squash, etc. under there and just pull out a few at a time to keep in your kitchen.

      My freezer is only 7cf. It holds half a pig and a season’s worth of veggies – plenty for 2 people – and cost about $125 and we haven’t noticed a rise in our electric usage, it’s that small. We do have to worry when the power goes out, but it’s fine for 24 hours in the summer and about 4 days in the winter. (It’s in the 45 degree breezeway, so it stays cool in winter.)

      My favorite bulk pails are plastic ice cream buckets. Our local Kilwin’s sells clean 3-gallon pails with tight-fitting lids 3 for $1.

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