Reaping What You Sew

Thursday, August 9, 2012
In a happy twist of timing, our garden produce started to come in just as berry season was ending, so I've been able to work at a slow but steady pace when it comes to putting up this year's harvest. (Thankfully, it appears that the love/hate relationship with zucchinis will hold off for another week or two.) I've spent much of my free time in the last few weeks whipping up batches of jam, chopping and blanching vegetables, and rearranging the freezer to hold our new onslaught of berries and produce. To date, this year's "putting up" has involved:
  • 2 gallons of frozen blueberries 
  • 1 batch of blueberry butter (8 cups)
  • 2 batches of infused blueberry vinegar 
  • 1 batch of blueberry pie filling (4 quarts)
  • 2 pounds of frozen green beans 
  • 1 batch of peach salsa (8 pints)  
  • 1 batch of raspberry jam (4 pints) 
And that's just the beginning. The tomatoes are beginning to ripen, in a month+ there will be potatoes to harvest (see below!) and soon, very soon, there will be a big batch of pole beans to content with. Not to mention ubiquitous cucumbers which are currently yielding a never-ending batch of fridge pickles.

It's no secret that I'm a rather large proponent of the homemade lifestyle, but the truth is, I've never put much thought in why I prefer "from scratch" living as opposed to a store-bought lifestyle. I always assumed part of my infinity for DIY in the kitchen was merely an appeal to tradition.

Growing up, my mother feed my brother and me homemade bread, homemade jam, and homemade cookies, etc. If you could make it from scratch, then we weren't buying the store version. While I'm sure when I set off on my own as a young adult, I really did have a choice to leave the homemade lifestyle behind me, but instead I fell right into making things from scratch because, really, it was the only way I knew.

I mean, one simply does not buy a lug of peaches for preserving when they come on sale in August unless the idea that peaches and August preserving are as much a pair as peaches n' cream has been instilled in you at a very early age. 
Ah, look at those pints of peach salsa all lined up. Aren't they pretty? They're the result of about 2.5 hours of peeling, seeding, chopping, boiling, and canning. Whew!

After the marathon session of peach salsa making on Monday, I decided to look at my homemade tendencies from a purely economic viewpoint. (Because, you guys, 2.5 hours is quite a lot of time to invest in something, you know.)

After some rudimentary calculations, not factoring in the worth of my time, I figured out that each jar of salsa had cost me approximately $2.30. Yes, when you figure that the cheapest I can buy a 16 oz. jar of a salsa in town is about $2.99, there are slight savings involved with going the homemade route, but as soon as you factor in the assumed monetary value of my time, the store-bought version suddenly triumphs as the better value. Granted, if I'd had homemade tomatoes on hand (our first red tomatoes are just about ready for picking) and if we're actually capable of growing garlic and onions, the cost of each jar would have dropped drastically, although if I factored in the time I spent growing all of the ingredients . . . you get where I'm going.

So why bother with the homemade lifestyle, other than the fact that I know no other way?

  1. Money can't buy you love . . . or homegrown tomatoes. I found this quote on Diane's Crave Cute blog recently, and while technically, I suppose you could buy homegrown tomatoes, nothing quite matches the feeling of transforming something raw and unfinished into something delicious and/or beautiful.
  2. Control. I've always had control issues. When it comes to homemade stuff, I have total control over how the finished product turns out, which I love. Don't like an ingredient in a recipe? I don't have to use it. This consequently means that the finished product tastes better to me than the store version.
  3. When I make it myself, I can avoid preservatives and other less desirable ingredients in pre-made food products. 
  4. Reduce, reuse, recycle. When you buy products from the store, you buy a new jar every time. By canning things myself, I can reuse my Mason jars for years. 
  5. It's fun. I was shocked last year when Andy implied that my canning obsession was really just a hobby. "But," I stammered. "I'm just trying to feed us through the winter." That and, well, I just wouldn't spend that much time slaving over a steamy stove top in August if it was satisfying and fun.

In other news, look what we found in the potato patch:
Yep, a real, live potato.
I have a feeling there are more of them down there too. This one got bumped off the root when Andy and I went snooping in the straw for potatoes on Tuesday, so we scrubbed it off and threw it into a pot of lamb stew (probably the most delicious and least economical stew to ever grace the inside of a crockpot.) And let me say, the potato and the stew were both delicious.


  1. It's really interesting to see how you break it down cost-wise and reveal that it isn't *that* much cheaper than just going to the store and picking up a jar of salsa. But even though I'm not exactly a homegrown kinda gal, I can totally understand how it's more satisfying to make it from scratch yourself. Every time I EVER made anything that ended up tasting delicious, I'm pretty darn proud of myself, and it's always worth the effort.

  2. gah! i can't wait until we have enough space to actually plant food. the crappy planter we have on our patio just isn't enough. i think you should write a canning cookbook and put it out on Cookbook Cafe!

  3. Timewise versus moneywise.... some people might say it's not worth the time involved. But I would disagree, because you know what and how it's made and that it's good, healthy ingredients. Who knows what really goes into the things at the grocery store. Scary if you think about it too much.

    I wish I had the opportunity and knowledge to grow my own food. I have just recently started a flower garden and that feels good :)

  4. I would say it's totally worth it (Granted you are doing all the work, not me) ;) I'm always amazed at how much you get done. I did just get a pitch for a review of a product called the lazy gardener which maybe I'll give a shot, lol :)

  5. Mouth watering to read about all these blueberry treasures!

    The feeling of accomplishment, care for earth and myself, the time invested results for me in deep relaxation and stress reduction. all of that makes from scratch and homegrown 'priceless'

  6. I ponder this myself sometimes, especially when I cost it out and consider the time involved. But for me, it wouldn't be late summer or early fall without this ritual. While I put up my tomatoes and salsa, I have to listen to "Ella Fitzgerald Sings Cole Porter" it wouldn't feel right otherwise!
    My husband wanted me to ask you if you'd share your blueberry pie filling recipe ... :)

  7. This is a very timely post for me!! I am daging a man now who hunts and fishes and he has a huge garden and many fruit treets on his land. I just got to bring home several zucchini, a ton of cherry tomatoes that I couldn't stop picking (and eating!), peaches, cantaloupe and watermelon.

    I am learning more about his lifestyle and living close to the land. Hunting and producing your own food... it's a good feelings.

  8. When I read posts like this on your blog, I wish we lived so much closer! We could can together! John thinks I'm a little crazy with all the time I spend but I love making things from scratch and enjoying them all year round!

  9. Totally impressive Ida! Sounds incredibly delicious to me.

    Other reasons to justify all the time spent doing such things? It's satisfying to feel self-sufficient.

    You'll be able to pull your own food off the shelf in the middle of a cold winter and be filled with warmth from the flavors and memories of summer on your plate.


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