When I buy produce in bulk I know it’s a commitment. It’s hard to turn down 40 pounds of tomatoes for $7, strawberries for 50 cents a pound, and red bell peppers for 24 cents each. I know when I come home with boxes of produce, I’m going to be in the kitchen washing, cutting, canning, roasting, vacuum sealing, and the list goes on. It all sounds daunting, but it’s exciting and rewarding to know you are providing your family healthy, high quality food at rock bottom prices. There is no need to be intimidated with buying produce in bulk if you have a plan.
First, assess which produce item spoils the fastest, and start prepping that fruit or vegetable first. The three ways I put up food is freeze, dehydrate and can. Since the dehydrating takes the longest, the first thing I do is get something in the dehydrator. I now have two dehydrators, which is going to make this season so much more fun. Next is freezing produce, which can take minutes to prepare, or an hour or more depending on what you are freezing, and how much you are processing. Some things like potatoes require blanching.
Consider different ways you enjoy produce and go from there. For instance, we love roasted red bell peppers, which are wildly expensive in the grocery store. When I got that giant box of red bell peppers paying only 24 cents per pepper, I roasted some and put in an olive oil marinade for the fridge, froze some roasted, and sliced the peppers up for the freezer. We use dried lemons every day, so I dried several trays of lemons, squeezed some for lemonade concentrate, and froze some whole. (Yes, you can freeze whole, uncut lemons.) If you have any questions about ways to preserve or use produce, please post on this article and I will be glad to give you suggestions.
If you want to keep your bounty in the fridge for longer than 5 days, I recommend vacuum sealing, which extends the life of your food five times longer.
Make sure before vacuum sealing your produce is dry.
Before you buy in bulk, be ready with supplies that might not be at your local grocery store, such as canning jars, unused lids, vacuum bags, and Clear-Jel, which I can assure you will not be at your local store. You must order Clear Jel online, which is the only recommended safe thickener for canned pie filling. I wrote a short article about it. It’s a kill-joy to come home with all of your goodies from the farmer’s market and not have what you need.
The news stories of economic collapse and strained international relations are increasing with strength. This spring and summer when produce goes on sale, start preserving produce when prices are low. I use my preserved foods for daily convenience, and for long term storage. This verse comes to my mind about preparing:
Go to the ant, O sluggard;
consider her ways, and be wise.
7 Without having any chief,
officer, or ruler,
8 she prepares her bread in summer
and gathers her food in harvest.
Don’t be worried, just be prepared. It’s fun and frugal!