Winter is on its way. Though fall has only been around for a short time, there is no denying that winter won’t be far off. In fact, we have already had several snowfalls and temperatures have been near or below freezing for most of October. In November, we saw everything from -30C to above-freezing with rain. Winter predictions vary a bit, but for the most part, Canada is going to be cold and snowy. Big shock I know. But knowing that it could potentially be a snow-heavy winter is important. Heavy snow can lead to road closures, which can, in turn, lead to supplies being delayed. The best way to prepare for such things is to get ready for winter now. My family has been working on getting ready for winter since September and I thought I would share what we do to get ready. Today I will be focusing on the food aspect.
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Get ready for winter – Food
Now, obviously, it’s too late to start a garden – unless you live in the warmer areas of the world where gardening is an option year-round. However, gardening is a part of getting ready for winter. Produce prices skyrocket over the winter months (hello $12 head of cauliflower!), so growing a garden and preserving the harvest helps to cut down on grocery bills. Growing a garden here can be a challenge. We have a short and fairly cool summer, so finding plants that do well have been key to producing a decent amount of food. I was fortunate to get a pretty good harvest out of the garden this year.
Some years I may grow some lettuce and spinach inside during the winter. This allows up to still have a few garden goodies without using up too much space.
Gardening leads to canning. It is one of the main ways I preserve the beans and carrots that I get from the garden. And let me tell you, there is nothing better than opening a jar of home-grown beans in the middle of winter. However, it’s not just garden produce that I can. Soups are a major part of my fall canning. We easily go through 50-60 cans of soup over the course of a winter. Buying that many at the store, even at sale prices, would be a very expensive endeavor. So, to help cut the costs, I make large batches of turkey and tomato vegetable soup. I try to can about 50 jars worth between the two types of soup. On top of this, add a few other soups to our pantry from the store when they were on sale.
Some other things that I have canned are coleslaw, applesauce, jams, and stocks. Most of this canning relies on getting cheap produce in town or sometimes driving to the city to get it. As you can see, my canning shelves are pretty full, but I still feel like I want to make more things. In fact, I will probably make some BBQ sauce in the coming weeks.
It is also good to have an ample supply of extra canning jars to use during the winter. You never know when you will have the desire to can something, especially if you catch a deal on meat or vegetables.
Filling the freezer
On top of canning produce and soup, I make sure that our freezer is full going into winter. Back in July, when the produce and meat were fairly cheap, I got busy making up several freezer meals. These meals are large enough that they feed us for two dinners and one lunch each. I made several vegetable lasagnas, cabbage roll casseroles, and shepherd’s pies. This means that we can eat 1-2 of these meals a month starting in November and make it all the way until April or May. Another great freezer meal option is to make a casserole with leftover turkey from Thanksgiving or Christmas. I use this chicken and broccoli noodle casserole as a base and simply use turkey in place of the chicken. This way, I am replenishing our freezer meal stock as the winter progresses.
We also try to get plenty of meat in the freezer. However, we don’t hunt or fish – though that may be something we start doing in the future. Meat, like produce, can become more expensive during the winter and we already pay $25-30 for 1-2kg (2-5lbs) of meat. So we try to look for deals during this time of the year and fill the freezer to capacity. If frozen vegetables go on sale, we also buy a bunch.
To keep your freezer organized, use plastic bins to hold all of your items. You can use color-coded bins to make it easier to spot certain items.
Stocking the pantry
Another important step is getting the pantry stocked. Buying flour, oats, sugar, yeast, and other baking supplies in bulk and storing them for the winter means I will also be able to make bread and other homemade goodies. On top of this, having items like noodle packets, cereal, crackers, and other quick and easy meals and snacks at our disposal keeps us from having to run to the store and pay those high prices. Plus, pushing a grocery-laden shopping cart through a snow-clogged parking lot is no fun at all.
Don’t forget about store-bought canned goods either. If you see them on sale for a good price, then buy a bunch. I was able to fill a whole cupboard with canned goods that were on sale back in August and September. This actually worked out perfectly because shortly after that, the regular price of these items increased.
This goes hand in hand with stocking the pantry. On days when you are stuck shoveling snow for hours on end and trust me that happens quite a bit, the last thing you want to do is come inside and cook. Having those heat-and-eat meals can come in darn handy. Things like Kraft Dinner take only a few minutes to cook. Add in the freezer meals that I made, and we have a number of quick and easy meals waiting for us. They aren’t always the healthiest, but sometimes you have to sacrifice health for convenience – just make sure it doesn’t happen all of the time.
Of course, some convenience foods I make myself. Oatmeal for breakfast is fantastic during the cold winter months, but those premade oatmeal packets can be fairly pricey. Paying $4-5 for a box with 10 packets in it isn’t very economical, especially when my husband eats two at a time. So I started making my own. For pennies, I can make up a bunch of oatmeal packets and tailor them to our needs.
Don’t forget about your pets when stocking up for winter. It can’t hurt to have an extra bag of cat or dog food in the house just in case. We tend to buy an entire winter’s worth of dog food, which is about 4 large bags because the closest store that sells that brand is nearly an hour away. Since we can’t always guarantee that the roads are driveable, it just makes sense to do this.
Basically, the main idea is to save money and be ready for when the snow hits. If you keep a well-stocked freezer and pantry for winter, then you shouldn’t have to worry about running to the store when an impending storm is headed your way. If you can buy it now and it’s something that can be stored for a long time, and it’s something that you will actually eat, then go ahead and start stocking up. You don’t need to go crazy either. Just buy one or two extra things each time you go grocery shopping and in no time you will be ready.
Have you started getting ready for winter?