Healthy meal plans are easier to design when you build your meals around what produce is readily available during each season. You’ll be eating foods that are at optimum ripeness and availability, and these foods are often less expensive than they would be if they were out of season.
But you don’t have to feel restricted with seasonal meal planning. Just because you plan on purchasing strawberries during strawberry season doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the strawberries while you can and freeze or preserve as many as possible for later use.
There is much to be said about being a smart consumer who takes advantage of every opportunity. Of course, you can always rely on grocery stores and produce stands to keep you aware of what’s in season, but you can also plant your own garden and become self-sufficient.
If planting your own garden, start seedlings indoors so you can get a jump on the growing season. Plant peas, lettuce, cabbage, leeks, scallions, and green onions in pots, and keep them indoors in a sunny window until it is safe to replant them outdoors.
When sweet peas are ready, add sweet pea pods to Asian recipes. They are excellent when added to rice dishes or when served as a stand-alone dish.
Sweet peas are also great as a snack or pick-me-up at any time of the day or night. As vegetables begin to appear and mature in your garden, aim toward healthy dishes that complement one another, such as peas and carrots.
You can also try vegetable soup with a cream sauce that consists of green beans, sweet peas, tender carrots, and crisp asparagus spears. When zucchini comes in, create dishes such as omelets, fried zucchini and zucchini bread, muffins and cookies.
And don’t forget to freeze as much zucchini as you can. Because the freezing process will break down the structure of the vegetable, it’s best to shred it and freeze it in one- to two-cup packets, which are easy to work with.
Pour the grated zucchini in muffin tins. Pop the frozen zucchini out, and bag the cups together by the half dozen.
Some vegetables, like tomatoes, can be frozen whole. Others can be frozen in pieces, such as carrots and green beans.
Sweet peas can be shelled and flash-frozen on cookie sheets. Remove them from the freezer in about three to five minutes, and bag them up into freezer bags according to portions that work well with your family size.
Sweet potatoes can be baked, broiled, boiled, or mashed and made into desserts. If freezing sweet potatoes, mash them first.
In the fall, when the autumn harvest is underway, you can rely on apples, grapes, potatoes, pumpkins, acorn squash and other fruits and vegetables. But preserving food for later use cannot be stressed enough.
Take advantage of whatever you can from the garden. Apples and potatoes can be kept all winter long in the cellar.
Both can also be canned. Apples can be made into apple pie filling and canned in jars so that you can enjoy apple pies, apple crumble, apple cookies and cakes, as well as baked apples all year long.
Tomatoes should be kept cold but not frozen when stored in late fall and should be checked twice weekly. Remove any that are beginning to go bad.
Remove the ones that are beginning to ripen, also, as they will cause the entire batch to ripen.
When a tomato begins to turn red, remove it from the dark box, and place it on a windowsill, where it will get adequate light and ripen quickly.
Eat the tomatoes as soon as they ripen. While it is exceedingly difficult to grow enough fresh vegetables in a home-based hot house, it is possible to maintain some control over meals, even in the winter.
If you were smart about freezing and canning produce, you’ll be sure to enjoy a variety of foods during the cold months. Keep in mind that we each have the ability to provide for ourselves.
It is harder to plant a garden and also to harvest the crops and preserve them, but it is healthier to do so, and it can help you save money. Food storage can be a blessing in times of need-start one today, and you can have healthy meals in times of feast or famine.
Jack R. Landry is an accomplished expert in family preparedness and has been giving seminars for over 15 years. He recommends that everyone have on hand an Food Storage in case of any emergency or disaster.
Jack R. Landry