Get ready for winter – Food

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Get ready for winter – Food

Winter is on its way. Though fall has only been around for a short time, there is no denying that winter won’t be far off. In fact, we have already had several snowfalls and temperatures have been near or below freezing for most of October. In November, we saw everything from -30C to above freezing with rain. Winter predictions vary a bit, but for the most part, Canada is going to be cold and snow. Big shock I know. But knowing that it could potentially be a snow-heavy winter is important. Heavy snow can lead to road closures, which can, in turn, lead to supplies being delayed. The best way to prepare for such things is to get ready for winter now. My family has been working on getting ready for winter since September and I thought I would share what we do to get ready. Today I will be focusing on the food aspect.

Gardening

Now, obviously, it’s too late to start a garden – unless you live in the warmer areas of the world where gardening is an option year round. However, gardening is a part of getting ready for winter. Produce prices skyrocket over the winter months (hello $12 head of cauliflower!), so growing a garden and preserving the harvest helps to cut down on the grocery bills. Growing a garden here can be a challenge. We have a short and fairly cool summer, so finding plants that do well have been key to producing a decent amount of food. I was fortunate to get a pretty good harvest out of the garden this year.

Some years I may grow some lettuce and spinach inside during the winter. This allows up to still have a few garden goodies without using up too much space.

Canning

Gardening leads to canning. It is one of the main ways I preserve the beans and carrots that I get from the garden. And let me tell you, there is nothing better than opening a jar of home-grown beans in the middle of winter. However, it’s not just garden produce that I can. Soups are a major part of my fall canning. We easily go through 50-60 cans of soup over the course of a winter. Buying that many at the store, even at sale prices, would be a very expensive endeavor. So, to help cut the costs, I make large batches of turkey and tomato vegetable soup. This year I canned about 50 jars worth between the two types of soup. On top of this, we stocked up on a bunch of other soups at the store when they were on sale.

Some other things that I have canned are coleslaw, applesauce, jams, and stocks. Most of this canning relies on getting cheap produce in town or sometimes driving to the city to get it. As you can see, my canning shelves are pretty full, but I still feel like I want to make more things. In fact, I will probably make some BBQ sauce in the coming weeks.

Cupboard full of home canned goods.
Some of our home canned goods.

Filling the freezer

On top of canning produce and soup, I make sure that our freezer is full going into winter. Back in July, when the produce and meat were fairly cheap, I got busy making up several freezer meals. These meals are large enough that they feed us for two dinners and one lunch each. I made up 4 veggie lasagna’s, 4 cabbage roll casseroles and 3 Sheppard’s pies. This means that we can eat 1-2 of these meals a month starting in November and make it all the way until April or May. I will also likely make one or two more freezer meals in December using leftover turkey. Doing so means the freezer gets stocked again as we use up what is already there.

We also try to get plenty of meat in the freezer. However, we don’t hunt or fish – though that may be something we start doing in the future. Meat, like produce, can become more expensive during the winter and we already pay $25-30 for 1-2kg (2-5lbs) of meat. So we try to look for deals during this time of the year and fill the freezer to capacity. If frozen vegetables go on sale, we also buy a bunch.

Freezer of meat and meals for winter.
Our freezer, not quite full but it’s close.

Stocking the pantry

Another important step is getting the pantry stocked. Buying flour, oats, sugar, yeast, and other baking supplies in bulk and storing them for the winter means I will also be able to make bread and other homemade goodies. On top of this, having things like noddle packets, cereal, crackers, and other quick and easy meals and snacks at our disposal keeps us from having to run to the store and pay those high prices. Plus, pushing a grocery-laden shopping cart through a snow-clogged parking lot is no fun at all.

Don’t forget about store-bought canned goods either. If you see them on sale for a good price, then buy a bunch. I was able to fill a whole cupboard with canned goods that were on sale back in August and September. This actually worked out perfectly because shortly after that, the regular price on these items increased. If you follow me on Twitter and Instagram you will see all about my struggles to stay within budget during our weekly grocery trips.

Pantry full of store-bought canned goods.
Our cupboards are also full of store bought canned goods and a few other staples.

Convenience food

This goes hand in hand with stocking the pantry. On days when you are stuck shoveling snow for hours on end and trust me that happens quite a bit, the last thing you want to do is come inside and cook. Having those heat and eat meals can come in darn handy. Things like Kraft Dinner take only a few minutes to cook. Add in the freezer meals that I made, and we have a number of quick and easy meals waiting for us. They aren’t always the healthiest, but sometimes you have to sacrifice health for convenience – just make sure it doesn’t happen all of the time.

Of course, some convenience foods I make myself. Oatmeal for breakfast is fantastic during the cold winter months, but those premade oatmeal packets can be fairly pricey. Paying $4-5 for a box with 10 packets in it isn’t very economical, especially when my husband eats two at a time. So I started making my own. For pennies, I can make up a bunch of oatmeal packets and tailor them to our needs.

Pet food

Don’t forget about your pets when stocking up for winter. It can’t hurt to have an extra bag of food in the house just in case. We tend to buy an entire winter’s worth of dog food, which is about 4 large bags because the closest store that sells that brand is nearly an hour away. Since we can’t always guarantee that the roads are driveable, it just makes sense to do this.

Basically, the main idea is to save money and be ready for when the snow hits. If you keep a well-stocked freezer and pantry for winter, then you shouldn’t have to worry about running to the store when an impending storm is headed your way. If you can buy it now and it’s something that can be stored for a long time, and it’s something that you will actually eat, then go ahead and start stocking up. You don’t need to go crazy either. Just buy one or two extra things each time you go grocery shopping and in no time you will be ready.

11 Comments

  1. There are some really great tips in here. Honestly a lot of these would probably be useful for everyone regardlessof where we live ! The price fluctuations you have to deal with due to your location and the weather is crazy though!

    1. Author

      That’s true. These tips can be used any time of the year, and whether you get winter or not. Yeah, it’s kind of sad how much our eating habits have to change during the winter, especially if we aren’t properly prepared for it, because of the prices hikes and the unreliable quality in the stores.

    1. Author

      You’re welcome.

  2. YES!!! So I’m not the only one who thinks like a squirrel come winter!!! Having grown up and spent most of my life in colder parts of North America than the temperate climate where I live now, this is all second nature – but I almost feel it’s “weird” here – we grew up on my dad’s garden and what he hunted and caught – ate fresh all summer, canned and frozen all winter – sure makes it easier when snow closes everything, or you have a few lean-paycheck months in a row!

    1. Author

      I definitely hit squirrel mentality as winter approaches. It’s the only way to go up here. That sounds like a great way to do it. And yes, this can certainly help whether you have winter or not.

  3. This is some seriously amazing preparation!!! I don’t know how you do it. I am just so glad our winters aren’t that bad here in the UK!

    1. Author

      I wasn’t always this strong with my winter preparations. In fact, it took several years before I really got the hang of it. But now it’s all like second nature to me.

  4. Growing up, my family always had a few canned goods and soup on hand. While we didn’t get the freezing temps or nearly as much snow as you where we lived, if the power went out it could be a few days before being restored.

    Good cost-saving tips, even for those of us living near a city in a warmer climate!

    1. Author

      My family did that as well. We were always the last ones to get our power restored when it went out, so we always had things on hand to get us through a few days. Yes, these tips can work for everyone, regardless of where they live or whether they get winter or not.

  5. I love reading about all the preparation you do for Winter! You must have to be so organised. We don’t get a lot of snow here so no chance of being snowed in or unable to get to the shops. It’s really interesting to hear about your way of life in Canada 🙂 x

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