Late summer is a busy season for those of us who preserve our own food. We drive ourselves day and night, always feeling pressure, worrying that we’re going to miss out or let something go to waste! And ironically enough, our rush to put food up for a later date often leaves us wondering what we’re going to feed our family that very day.
I’ve been there. You’ve been there. The struggle is real. So let’s look at 5 things we can implement that will help us find time for healthy meals during harvest season!
Finding Time for Healthy Meals During Harvest
This post was actually inspired by a friend who wrote and asked how I manage to put healthy meals on the table when I’m so busy preserving food. My first thought was…I don’t! Not always.
How’s that for an honest answer?!!!
But as I took time to think about her question, I realized I do have some patterns that I fall back on when I know I’m going to have a particularly busy day. Most of these things I learned from my mum, who raised 12 children on a farm and preserved food nearly every fall!
So today, I’m passing that information along to you.
Tip 1: Make a Meal Plan in the Morning
If healthy meals are important to you and your family, you need to make them a priority. First thing in the morning (or even the night before) sit down and make a meal plan for the day ahead. Pull food from the freezer that needs to thaw. Set lentils to soaking. Pull jars from the pantry. Pre-slice your veggies.
Do as much as you can to prepare before you start into your day of preserving.
Also consider whether or not your food preserving activities are going to tie up the stove top? The oven? If so, be sure to plan for and prepare crockpot (or instapot) meals!
When the days are semi-cool, I like nothing better than making a batch of my favorite soup or stew in the morning. All I have to do is let it slowly simmer in the crockpot at the back of my kitchen counter.
Presto! Lunch and supper are served!
Tip 2: Keep Your Meals Simple
It’s easy for a girl to feel like she can never do enough when preserving season hits. That she should be able to put up 60 quarts of peaches and 200 lbs of corn all in a day, while still creating gourmet meals for her family.
I catch myself falling into this way of thinking. You probably do too. In these busy times, I have to remind myself that that Betty Crocker was a fictitious character and a girl just can’t do it all.
If healthy food is what matters to you, don’t worry about how luxurious your spreads are! It’s ok if you eat toast and eggs for supper. Have a repeat of lunch (as we often do) or serve rewarmed leftovers. It’s good food and nothing to be ashamed of!
Tip 3: Make Food in Big Batches
Preserving season is also the season for batch cooking! Batch cooking will save you lots of time in the long run.
If you’re baking muffins in the morning, make a double batch. Double or even triple the amount of meat you cook (so you can fall back on sandwiches and tortillas). Make extra soup, stew, casseroles, shepherd’s pie or any other healthy dish your family enjoys.
You don’t have to use it all in the next 24 hours. Spread it out over the course of a several days, or freeze it for later.
Tip 4: Incorporate the Food You’re Preserving
If you’re preserving food that can easily become part of your meal, don’t be afraid to add it in. Now this doesn’t work with everything, but when preserving tomatoes, serve tomato sandwiches. Putting up corn? Incorporate corn on the cob into your meal. Canning meat and had one jar that failed to seal? Add it to your pasta sauce!
When you’re preserving one particular thing all day long, I recommend adding that food in at lunch time, instead of supper. 🙂 Because you’re smelling, working with and snacking on that food all day, it often becomes unappetizing by supper time!
Tip 5: Have an Emergency Stash
Good as our intentions are, every homemaker has days when she just can’t keep up. So don’t be afraid to have a stash of “emergency” foods on hand.
It can be stuff you’ve pre-made in large batches, or things you bought at the grocery store when they were on sale. Things like pizzas, lasagna, casseroles, meat pies or stews.
Some days you just won’t have time. So why not be prepared?!
Remember to Acknowledge What You Have Done
Because preserving season is such a busy time, it’s easy to rush from one thing to the next, without stopping to observe what you have accomplished. All too often, this leaves us feeling worn and weary.
I know I talk about this concept in my blog post 6 Practices to See You Through Harvest Season, but I want to touch on it here as well.
Taking the time to acknowledge what you’ve done will give you the juice and energy you need to keep moving forward.
And that? That’s a much needed thing!
I’d love to hear if you have anything to share on how you find time for healthy meals during harvest season. You can leave your comments (or questions) below!