Author Topic: Preserving store bought produce?  (Read 2315 times)

SimpleCycle

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Preserving store bought produce?
« on: October 30, 2017, 07:50:11 AM »
I know there is a long preserving thread elsewhere, but I was wondering if anyone has thoughts on preserving store bought in-season produce.  We have an "overstock" produce market around here where we can get VERY good deals on in-season produce.  For example, back in June I got strawberries for 50 cents a quart and froze two gallon sized bags.  But I haven't gone much beyond that.

Right now apples are 69 cents a pound, which is definitely a "buy" price, but is it a "buy a bunch and preserve" price?  I'm thinking applesauce, and my cousin gave me a method for canning apple slices that keeps some crunch.  But I need to buy canning jars, which might undo any savings for the first year.

For people who do this, can you share what you preserve and what your "buy" prices are?

acroy

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Re: Preserving store bought produce?
« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2017, 08:34:56 AM »
for us, freezing is the only preservation method we do. And we don't do much of it.
Making sauce etc sounds good but like you touched on, now you have to buy canning supplies, it takes a lot of energy to can stuff, and all of a sudden you could be upside-down. Also, there is the time/space cost.

Mostly, we eat what is on sale. The more it is on sale, the more we eat of it. There's always something on sale. A few week back Kroger had lovely pork tenderloins for 99c/lb. That was some great eating :)

right now, those decorative pumpkins are cheap and taste GREAT. and we'll get a zillion of them for free as our neighbors throw them out after Halloween / Thankgiving.

good luck!

GuitarStv

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Re: Preserving store bought produce?
« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2017, 08:52:50 AM »
A lot of stuff can be made into a meal or dessert and then frozen.  A big pile of strawberries/apples can be made into several pies (or just pie filling / crumble filling) and frozen.  A bunch of tomatoes can be made into pasta sauce and frozen.  Canning and preserving always seemed like more work than I wanted to do . . . but pulling out a bag of frozen pie filling, slapping it into a crust and baking it is easy enough.

As far as buy prices, I suspect that these would be very location specific.

Tris Prior

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Re: Preserving store bought produce?
« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2017, 08:55:57 AM »
I might know the place you're talking about, and I preserve lots of the produce I get there. I mean, why not? It's so cheap! You've just got to look out for the mold - do NOT can anything that's got mold on it! -  and be ready to preserve stuff right away (or freeze it until you can get to it, which is why I still have most of one of their 98-cent flats of strawberries in my freezer....)

I mostly can berries, cherries, and stone fruit. Sometimes tomatoes, when it's early in the season and my garden isn't producing yet, if I see them for around 69-79 cents or cheaper.

Check out the Fresh Thyme on Elston for good preserving deals too; a lot of their stuff is $$$ but watch the sale emails and you can get some great deals. Also their quality is WAY better than Stanley's, in my opinion.

If it's less than $1/lb I'll typically buy berries or stone fruit for preserving. Unless it's strawberries, in which case I'll wait until they have the sale on entire flats of them. For apples I'd probably wait until it's around the 69 cents price you're seeing. I'm not canning apples this year, though; I made a bunch of apple butter last year and just now am finishing it, grudgingly. Not that it isn't good, but I'm realizing that I just won't eat a lot of the stuff.

I typically don't buy in huge quantities, mainly because I don't have a car and it's a long ride on the CTA for me. I buy only as much as I can physically haul. :)

The canning jars are a startup cost - remember that you can reuse the jars and rings (but not the lids!) over and over again. I'm still using jars from 5 years ago, when I started canning, and they are fine. The lids you do have to buy new each time, but I've found great bulk deals on them on Amazon.

SimpleCycle

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Re: Preserving store bought produce?
« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2017, 10:10:02 AM »
That is the place!  I actually think I got the berries for 98 cents a flat too, now that I think about it.  And yes, there was some picking out moldy berries.

You're right that it's a startup expense, I think I just have to figure out what makes sense and what we will actually eat if I preserve it.

Dicey

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Re: Preserving store bought produce?
« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2017, 10:16:49 AM »
Short term, those green bags really do seem to work. I found some when cleaning out my mom's kitchen and tried them, to good effect. Longer term, I prefer canning jars, the older, the better. The glass seems thicker on the older jars. I pay a quarter a jar at garage sales. I just got three dozen, still in their original, really old boxes at a neighbor's garage sale. She had twenty boxes for sale. Try asking for them on NextDoor, FB, etc. Finally, I use Ziplock Freezer Bags.  I get them at Costco, with occasional scores at estate sales.

Tris Prior

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Re: Preserving store bought produce?
« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2017, 10:17:52 AM »
Another thing I like to do is buy a ton of their yellow, orange, or red bell peppers when they go down to like 49-59 cents a pound, chop them all up, and freeze. We LOVE sweet peppers in our house but they are $$$$ and typically I don't get that many of them out of the garden since peppers like heat and we don't get a whole lot of that here. They defrost fine for tossing into soups and stirfries and that sort of thing.

That reminds me, I'm almost out of peppers. Stanley's seems to have stopped sending out their weekly specials emails, and their website hasn't been updated in a month, though. I usually like to wait until I know when something I need is on sale, as I live in Edgewater with no car and that's a long trip on public transport if all that's on sale super cheap are fruit and veg that we don't really eat, you know?

SimpleCycle

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Re: Preserving store bought produce?
« Reply #7 on: October 30, 2017, 10:26:48 AM »
That reminds me, I'm almost out of peppers. Stanley's seems to have stopped sending out their weekly specials emails, and their website hasn't been updated in a month, though. I usually like to wait until I know when something I need is on sale, as I live in Edgewater with no car and that's a long trip on public transport if all that's on sale super cheap are fruit and veg that we don't really eat, you know?

They seem to have gotten rid of their sale emails in favor of a smartphone app.  Annoying, but I do have a clown-smartphone, so I installed it but haven't been able to verify that the listed sales are actually the current ones.

I will alert you via Mustachian batphone (PM) if I see a good price on peppers.

partgypsy

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Re: Preserving store bought produce?
« Reply #8 on: October 30, 2017, 10:40:32 AM »
Buy some apples and make dried apple slices. You do need to buy something to dip them in so they don't get brown, but otherwise no special equipment required and dried apple slices are Expensive!

Cranky

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Re: Preserving store bought produce?
« Reply #9 on: October 30, 2017, 11:44:12 AM »
Canning jars are a Plan Ahead item - watch for them at yard sales and the thrift store. I'll pay up to 50 cents each for wide mouth pints, but try to come in at 25 cents for regular or jam jars (I give a lot of those away.)

Applesauce freezes well, but I only make it with free apples.

I do buy extra blueberries in the summer when they are $1/pint, and freeze those, and I freeze extra CSA produce.

I sometimes see fresh corn 10 ears/$1 in the summer, and you can just cut the corn off the cobs and freeze them in ziplock bags. It's great for cooking.

Catbert

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Re: Preserving store bought produce?
« Reply #10 on: October 30, 2017, 11:48:24 AM »
I've generally found canning store bought produce generally isn't a money saver.  But if you have a good source of cheap produce YMMV.

Buy or borrow a standard canning book.  Look at the recipes and figure out how many pounds of produce it takes to produce a pint/quart of canned product.  Then do the math and compare of store bought cans.  For example, it takes about 1.3 lbs of tomatoes to make a pint of crushed tomatoes (more if you're making sauce).  So it tomatoes are $1 a lb it cost $1.30 for a pint.  Probably not a money saver.  But if you enjoy canning, can get organic at $1, hink it tastes better it could be a winner.

As someone noted, get you jars used.  Aim for 25 cents a jar.  Maybe 50 cents if you are starting out and really need jars.  Don't buy jars through Amazon or the internet.  Shipping is prohibitive.  Even if they don't charge you for shopping it's baked into the price.  Ace Hardware (and others I'm sure) have decent prices for new jars and will ship to their store for no extra cost.

honeybbq

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Re: Preserving store bought produce?
« Reply #11 on: October 30, 2017, 12:18:24 PM »
As mentioned, jars can be found at garage sales, buy nothing sites, and goodwill.

I make applesauce almost every year after buying big boxes of 'second' apples with small blemishes or bruises.  I also do a lot of canning. This weekend we harvested figs and made fig jam. Freezing and dehydrating is also great. I've made apple pie filling and just freeze in zip lock bags. Thanksgiving comes around and I can just thaw one and pop in a crust and I'm done with dessert. I also do this with plums from our plum tree.  We live in an area with plentiful produce for free or cheap so I feel like committing to the 'preservation' game is one that will ultimately end up saving us money. Blackberries grow wild here and you can just walk anywhere and the blackberries will fill up bag after bag when they are in season.

We literally don't buy applesauce, pickles, jam, smoothie fruits (blackberries, etc) etc any more.

backyardfeast

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Re: Preserving store bought produce?
« Reply #12 on: October 30, 2017, 02:37:37 PM »
We're big homestead gardeners and have done a ton of preserving of all kinds.  Here are some takeaways we've come to.

1. Freezing is way easier, faster, and cheaper than canning, if you already have a freezer with space, and if you're going to consume the food within a few months.  Canning wins if you're trying to preserve shelf-stable food not subject to power outages for 1-2 years.

2. Preserve foods that you actively and regularly eat.  MANY of us who grow large gardens and have done a ton of preserving find that after a few years we are basically canning tomato sauce (sometimes salsa), jam, and maybe one type of special pickle.  In other words, a few key staples.  We've all thrown a lot of other stuff onto the compost pile that just never got eaten. 

When you're buying produce to preserve this is especially true.  We buy some very favorite things in season that are delightful to pull out during the winter: extra berries, sweetcorn, peaches... which leads to:

3. Preserve those things that are expensive or not tasty when not in season locally.  There's no point in preserving potatoes, garlic, onions, carrots, etc.  Those are cheap to buy all winter.  Strawberries and many other fruits that are picked at peak ripeness and frozen are often cheap and easy to procure through the winter and not worth buying to freeze.  I buy bags of local, frozen blueberries on sale in the winter for far less than the cost of fresh, even in season.

4. Don't preserve things that last a long time without preserving.

Apples would fall into this category for me.  Apples are a storage crop that will last months in your fridge, or even in a garage or other cool place (with the right humidity, but this can be faked).  I preserve apples when we have hundreds of pounds and I know I can't eat them fast enough.  Cider is my preferred method ;)

In your place, I would buy lots of yummy, cheap apples and throw them in the fridge and maybe throw a box outside on a balcony until it starts to get frosty.  If some start to go bad, I would make pies or small batch applesauce at that point. Dried apple slices are super easy to do, tasty and economical, and you can make apple cider vinegar with the peels and cores. Yum!

If you specifically LOVE applesauce and want to make your own, then by all means buy cheap apples for that purpose and enjoy the deliciousness. :) 

Hope that helps!

Dicey

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Re: Preserving store bought produce?
« Reply #13 on: October 31, 2017, 07:25:27 AM »
^^Great post!^^

Case

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Re: Preserving store bought produce?
« Reply #14 on: November 04, 2017, 05:21:30 AM »
I know there is a long preserving thread elsewhere, but I was wondering if anyone has thoughts on preserving store bought in-season produce.  We have an "overstock" produce market around here where we can get VERY good deals on in-season produce.  For example, back in June I got strawberries for 50 cents a quart and froze two gallon sized bags.  But I haven't gone much beyond that.

Right now apples are 69 cents a pound, which is definitely a "buy" price, but is it a "buy a bunch and preserve" price?  I'm thinking applesauce, and my cousin gave me a method for canning apple slices that keeps some crunch.  But I need to buy canning jars, which might undo any savings for the first year.



For people who do this, can you share what you preserve and what your "buy" prices are?


I think for these types of things you should really ask yourself, “am i saving or am i hoarding?”.