I would walk into a health food store and walk out completely broke. After a few months of this my husband and I decided there was going to have to be a different approach to this whole foods thing. Four bucks for a little quart of organic berries to put in my oatmeal was not cutting it!
We slowly learned how to stretch our dollar here, make our pennies buy more there. I figured out how to use a slow cooker for whole chickens so I could make bone broth and then stretch the meat in soups and stir fries. I learned that not everything that says “organic” on the box means that it is healthy for you.
And the biggest thing I have learned in making my dollar stretch is taking advantage of in season produce. The first time I went blueberry picking, it was on a whim just because I happened to see a sign for it on the road one day. I almost fell over when I saw that the price to pick was $1.50 per pound and I had just bought a little pint of blueberries in the store that week for almost triple that!
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about U-Pick Farms!
The most helpful website I have found for learning about produce in my area and find local U-Pick farms is PickYourOwn.org. Since every region’s growing calendars are different, be sure to look up your area for specifics. There are certain crops that grow very bountifully where I live in Michigan including cherries, blueberries, and apples, and some crops we probably will never see being in a northern region. Also! Ask around at your local farmer’s markets! The farmers there love to talk about what they are growing! They would be more than happy to point you in a direction of some local places to pick!
How to Care for Freshly Picked Fruit
After picking, a white vinegar and baking soda bath not only wash away dirt and bugs, but it will keep the fruit fresher longer.
I set up an assembly line by my sink and use a paring knife to cut the tops off of strawberries into a scrap bowl, and then toss the fruit into my sink as I go. Fruit like blueberries and apples can just dump right in!
How to Freeze your Harvest
Strawberries, cherries, blueberries, peaches, and raspberries all freeze well. Once the fruit drains in the sink, I fill up my baking sheets, and pop them in the deep freezer for an hour. To be honest I don’t even bother drying them off anymore. I just have so fruit to get through, and with 3 little ones running around, I just don’t have the time. I get them on the tray, blot them off with a towel quick, and stick them in the freezer.
A Few Dehydrating Ideas
Fill up a few of your dehydrator trays with sliced fruit and dry them up. They store nicely in jars, and make great trailmix, yogurt, oatmeal, and baking additions. I also like to dehydrate some in granola. I actually have a pretty inexpensive dehydrator compared to most, and it works really well! It was a great investment. By the way, I only recently got a dehydrator! I dried them out in the oven for years – just lay them on baking sheets and dry them out on the lowest setting your oven will go. Stir them around every so often.
I typically bake off triple batches of blueberry muffins and strawberries and cream muffins to store in my freezer. They make nice breakfast additions to have with a plate of eggs and bacon. I also like to do a fun weekend breakfast of strawberry baked oatmeal. I do also like to treat my family to a cherry pie once a summer – and the method linked there works fantastic with blueberries and peaches – just swap out the cherries.
Jams & Sauces Galore!
Most fruits make excellent jams or fruit sauces. My typical routine involves making blueberry jam and a lot of applesauce. You can freeze them or can them, so whatever works for you. (Jill here: here is my new favorite peach butter recipe, and also my recipe for strawberry freezer jam)
Ice Creams and Sorbets
Since we have such great access to quality cream in the summer months, it is nice to store away a few gallons of strawberry ice cream (just swap out the strawberries for whatever fruit you are picking!). Once a year I also make cherry sorbet which is such a treat – if you don’t have cherries just swap it out for whatever you are picking!
Renee is a wife and mama of 3 busy bees under 5 years old. After struggling for years with gut and food allergy issues, she has been able to heal, and is passionate about raising the next generation of kids with a better understanding of how food affects their bodies. She is committed to teaching others that simple, real food can make positive changes in health and can be done on a (very) tight budget, all while making the kids smile. Renee blogs at Raising Generation Nourished and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+.