Wednesday, August 17, 2011

USDA Predicts Food Prices to Soar -- Take Advantage of Summer's Bounty Now

Planning ahead isn't my strong suit, but this summer I intend to put up some food for the coming months. My reasons; I love to eat local and the end of the summer is harvest time, the peak of local food supplies. And I want the pleasure to decadently slurp delicious Palisade peaches while the snow falls outside my window in January.

Equally important is that the USDA last week warned that food prices, particularly for meat, veggies and pasta, are expected to jump in coming months and throughout 2012, thanks to the relentless assault of drought, fires and flooding. Dude, I just can't afford not to put up some food.

From now through mid-September local food will be as accessible and as affordable as it will get, so aquiring the produce and meat is easy. The question becomes what to do with it. Some methods, like canning, require specialized equipment, skills, space, or simply an investment of time. But the method of freezing is tempered only by the amount of freezer space you own and your ability to acquire food storage bags and containers. Some foods may require a little blanching prior to freezing, but many do not.
So, for the most part I intend to freeze things. Even if you live in an apartment and are limited on space, you can freeze a few packets of peaches, corn scrapped off the cob, peppers, berries and other edibles. You can also freeze parsley, basil and cilantro in ice cube trays, transfer them to a bag and use them all winter long. The Denver Post recently had a great instructional article on freezing summer's bounty and you can read it right here. The CSU Extension also offers plenty of FREE info on the subject. I am going to read up and get some pointers from my neighbor Amanda, who uses small storage bags to store her fruits and vegetables, sucking every last bit of air out of the bag with a carefully placed straw. She then places them in a larger bag and removes them as needed over the course of the winter. Indeed, each year she celebrates New Year's Day by pulling out those berries and making the best, freshest daiquiris in Denver. That alone is worth the investment in time and money! 

You can also take advantage of sales -- for example, the last time Sunflower Markets had a sale on grass-fed organic beef I bought $35 worth and froze it as patties for later use. It went a long way in our home. King Soopers and Safeway frequently put pasta on sale and it wouldn't hurt to stock up a bit on that either.

Eating locally and healthfully does not need to be a seasonal hobby. Preserve and store so you can eat locally all year long.

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