My meal planning adventures started with canning. It was a huge deal for me, because I had the opportunity to buy everything at once, thanks to a pretty big bonus at work. The possibility to make some recipes in bulk and being able to just put them in the pantry. In stead of having to put them all in the freezer. Saving money on my electricity bill. I had only one small freezer and for the most I used it for bread and meats. I just didn’t have the space to store anything more in bulk. I went online for my search and found the items I needed. Here’s the list of what I bought;
- Pressure canner (All American 921)
- Water bath canner (RVS Weck automatic)
- Juicer attachement (Weck WSG 20 K)
- Jars (Ball)
- Canning funnel (Ball)
- Jar lifter (Ball)
The All American came with a recipe book, which was my guideline for the times of processing under pressure. The Weck kettle (water bath) didn’t have a good booklet with it, to my disappointment. But thankfully Pinterest is filled with recipes! I did find that times varied sometimes and I had to figure out which were save. I can give you a list of all times, but I’m sure there is enough to find already on the web. If you still want me to make a list, just ask 😉. I am planning on adding my tried recipes to Pinterest soon, so you can get them there.
I started with a list of recipes. Writing down all possibilities. And, oh boy, that list became so long, I had to break it up. First pressure canning and water bath and next for meats, soups, vegetables, potatoes, sauces, jams and everything else. As you read in my first post, the first thing I made was ketchup. This was simply because the Weck water bath arrived first. I live in the Netherlands, so importing from the USA takes a lot longer. Next on my list was jams, so I looked at what was in season and chose strawberries and blue berries. The blue berrie jam had lavender in it. I thought that would be pretty nice. And of course it wasn’t available anywhere near us, so let’s try it out! It turned out so good😋😋😋! The lavender gave it such a soft taste, not to sweet at all. Perfect for rice pudding. The strawberry became my go-to for yoghurt with muesli.
When the All American arrived, I couldn’t be happier! I could safely can meats and vegetables. Here in the Netherlands it is common to water bath everything and then just cook it through after opening. That really didn’t sound appealing at all to me, more like slime in the end. And let’s not start about nutrients. Is there any left after so much cooking? I thought that wouldn’t save me any money, only cost me more. And lets be honest, it isn’t time saving at all. But what should I can that would really help me with my meal planning? I guess that would be personal to your situation. What do you like to eat and eat often enough, so it’s worth the effort? For our situation it was deffinatly stewed meats. Chicken and beaf. I use it in soups and stews, rice and pasta and everything in between. Not having to take the time to stew the meat every single time saved me so much time and electricity. I had bought chicken the month before in bulk and defrosted it. Slow cooked it in chicken broth with some cut up onions. After processing I could just put it in my closet 😀! I had space in my freezer again! I started to look closely at what I had in my freezer and process the most in meals. Pasta sauce, taco sauce, stewed chicken and beef. My freezer became so empty I could defrost it in the end. Clean it out (my lovely daughter didn’t close the door good enough, so it was frozen over). Now all I have is bread and some meals frozen. Next blogs will be about freezing and drying if you are interested what I keep on hand in our house.
Now when I want to make soup al I need to do is add water, bouillon, vegetables and a jar of my stewed meat. Cook it for about 15-20 minutes and I’m done. The flavour and texture is so much better! Mostly I even use leftovers from the past week, so all I have to do is warm it up. In that way it becomes a complete meal. Often containing potato or rice. Perfect for lazy Sundays.
In the end it doesn’t matter what you choose to can, as long as it helps you save time and money and it fits your dietary needs. And of course get your kids eating! Can what they love to eat first and make them happy about your canning. This way it will help you out even more. Try to get them involved. Ask them what they love to eat and let them help you out. Letting my daughter help cutting the vegetables was our way. It made her feel like a ‘big girl’. And learning a few things along the way about cooking is never wrong! Sometimes she doesn’t wan’t to help at all and that should be fine. I try not to make it a chore, because I think if she will see it as one this young… It will keep being a chore, that’s not how I want her to see it.
Start with anything and work your way up. Pretty soon you will be able to save time and money, trust me. Just buying in staple and in-season alone… Now-a-days I have dinner ready with only a few minutes of prepping. Loving it!
The thing I hear the most when I talk to my friends about meal planning, is that the start-up was so expensive. Sure it was a lot of money and I was lucky enough to buy it all at once. I had the opportunity to buy the models I really wanted. You can of course choose cheaper models. You can buy what you want, when you are able to. After a few months my grocery bill went down from €70 a week to now just €30 a week most of the times. Now when I have the room again for something new to can, I just look at what is in season and buy it in bulk, so I can add it to my pantry or freezer.
I use my planner for everything I can think of, so now I am designing for meal planning of course 😁. I use Sundays to plan my next week. I look at what’s on sale and build my meal plan around it. Fresh vegetables is always on my shopping list. I have made theme nights to make it a bit easier. Sunday is usually for soup, taking advantage of our leftovers.
The next few weeks it will have more and more items listed. Also a notepad I designed if you don’t want to use a planner, but just do meal planning. Or if you are planning for just an event, like a birthday. This will be added soon, just waiting on them to arrive!