5 Easy Food Storage Methods Besides Canning

chopped red peppers ready for freezing

There are plenty of food storage methods to stock your pantry for winter that don’t include canning. Here are 5 quick and easy favorites.

For many gardeners, late summer and early fall signals the peak of the harvest season.

Although filling up baskets and bowls full of vegetables from your garden can feel exhilarating, it can also be overwhelming and stressful.

If you find yourself giving away or even worse, composting, extra produce, consider trying your hand at some simple food storage methods this season.

Contrary to popular belief, food preserving doesn’t have to be difficult, take up a lot of time, or require lots of fancy equipment.

In fact, I’m a big advocate super easy food preserving. (I even wrote a whole book about it.)

Instead of spending a full day in a sweltering kitchen, easy preserving means using the simplest and quickest food storage methods for putting each vegetable, fruit and herb away for use in delicious meals all season long.

Let’s take a look at the options!

garden harvest for food storage

5 Easy Food Storage Methods

I call myself a lazy food preserver, if you believe in such a thing. I reluctantly can 1-2 batches of salsa each summer because it’s difficult to imagine doing without it.

The rest of my time is primarily focused on crops I can store quickly and easily. I like to put food away, but I don’t want to spend my whole summer food preserving.

The time I invest is worth it because I live in an area with an extremely long and cold winter (Wisconsin) and a short gardening season. Even so, I rarely purchase food from the grocery store and draw from my pantry instead.

It’s a wonderful feeling of accomplishment when I eat a meal on a snowy winter day consisting of food I grew myself and stored in my pantry.

Let’s get you started on this path as well!

Here are my top 5 favorite easy food storage methods.

onion harvest for food storage

#1: Fresh Storage

Whenever possible I like to store my vegetables in their natural state. This requires the least amount of work and preparation.

It doesn’t get any easier than this.

Each year I grow 400-500 onions and 220 garlic. After getting cured in my garage they all get packed in boxes and crates and stored in my basement. Both of these vegetables will last 6-12 months in storage depending on where and how you store them.

Since most of the dishes we cook in our house start with garlic and onions sautéing in a pan, it’s super convenient to just run downstairs to get what we need to cook dinner.

There aren’t a ton of vegetables you can store fresh, but garlic and onions are two great ones to start with.

Read more about how to grow, harvest, and cure your onions and garlic for long-term storage.

How to store garden onions for winter

Harvesting and drying garlic for storage

beet harvest for storing food

#2: Fridge Storage

Using your fridge is another way to store vegetables without processing.

Each season I save room in my garden and grow a big crop of fall beets and carrots.

I harvest them straight from my garden into early winter, and just before we get a deep freeze (usually in December) I’ll harvest whatever is left.

I remove the tops, keep the soil on the roots, and load them into plastic bags. The bags get stored in the bottom of my fridge and we eat our own carrots and beets all winter long.

Read more about which vegetables to store in your fridge:

How to store beets when you have a bumper harvest

9 quick steps for how to store carrots from the garden

processing peppers for freezer storage

#3: Freezer Storage

There are many vegetables that can be easily frozen for long term storage. Some need to be blanched or steamed first, and some can be frozen raw.

If you’re going to be doing a lot of freezing I recommend investing in a chest freezer. Because it doesn’t have the natural defrost cycle of a kitchen freezer, the food quality remains high for about a year.

Some of my favorite vegetables to freeze are kale, red peppers, and tomatoes. Both can be chopped fresh from the garden and put directly into freezer bags or containers. When you’re ready to use them in a recipe you can just grab a handful and throw it directly into the pan.

Find out the easy steps to freeze vegetables:

How to freeze peppers for delicious winter meals

Here’s the greatest way to quickly freeze kale

Save time preserving tomatoes with this quick hack

Freeze raspberries fresh from the garden

 

fermentation of garden vegetables for storage

#4: Fermentation

Fermenting vegetables is a food storage method I’ve added to my tool kit in the last several years. Once you get the  hang of it and understand the process, it’s easily repeatable with lots of different vegetables.

As an added bonus, fermented foods can be stored in your fridge for up to a year and they retain much more of the nutrients than canning (and add beneficial bacteria that’s good for your gut).

I use cabbage, carrots and onions to make curtido (a spicy version of sauerkraut), pickling cucumbers to make sour pickles, and Napa cabbage and daikon radishes for Kimchi.

I’m always surprised how little work and time is required to make a half gallon jar of fermented food. And if you already buy ferments from the grocery store, you know they can be very expensive. You’ll save a ton of money by making your own.

In these two articles I share my 5 favorite recipes and tips for beginners:

How to start fermenting vegetables from your garden

5 no-fail fermented food recipes for beginners

picking mint for food storage

#5: Ready Made Sauces

In our house we have a saying, “It’s all about the sauce.” The way we tend to eat, especially in winter, is centered around making one bowl recipes that feature a base like rice, noodles or quinoa, a bunch of roasted or sautéed seasonal vegetables (whatever is coming out of the garden), and a protein. And on top goes (you guessed it!) a special sauce!

Many of these sauces feature herbs, which can be very expensive to purchase during the winter. Luckily, they’re super easy to grow and it’s easy to have more than you can possibly eat.

That means you can stockpile a freezer full of favorite sauces during summer and fall when the ingredients are abundant. Then in the winter, when it’s time to cook dinner, you can simply thaw out a jar and throw it on top of a dish. Super easy!

Explore some of my favorite sauces in these posts:

Bright and fresh garlic scape pesto recipe

How to preserve basil during the summer harvest

Simple ways for how to preserve cilantro

Canning is also an option

Because I like to keep things simple, canning is my least favorite way to preserve food. It’s time consuming, messy, and you need to follow an exact process to keep it safe.

We eat a lot of salsa in our house, so we do have one canning session each season and make as much salsa as humanly possible.

Some people love canning, but in my opinion there are much easier ways to preserve most vegetables.

Which Food Storage Method Should You Start With?

My advice (as with all things gardening related) is to keep it simple. Take a look at the meals you eat and the groceries you buy on a weekly basis and come up with a list of five things you’d like to have as ingredients for cooking during your garden’s off season.

Then, take a look through this article and decide which of the food storage methods sound easy and fun to you. What are you excited to try this season?

Start with that.

Once you get a taste of having a pantry full of food you can use in your favorite recipes all winter long you’ll start to get addicted to easy food preserving. I promise!

kale harvest for preserving

Additional Resources for Exploring Food Storage Methods

BOOK:

super easy food preserving book

 

Preserving some of your excess produce is the best way to make your garden harvests last all year. And, preserving doesn’t have to be difficult or take up a lot of time.

My book, Super Easy Food Preserving, features the simplest and quickest way to preserve each fruit, vegetable, and herb. Read more about it here.

 

 

 

MASTERCLASS: This winter, imagine grabbing all the ingredients you need for a meal right from your pantry without having to go to the grocery store! With a few simple techniques you can continue to enjoy food grown in your own garden (or purchased from the farmers market) throughout the long, cold months of winter.

This class will teach you how to make every harvest last longer by quickly and easily preserving vegetables at the height of their season.  You’ll love the feeling of sitting down to a meal and knowing a large part of it came from your garden!

Find out more here.

 

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Comments

  • Lois Miller

    Your presentation was great! Did I hear you right, that you do not have to blanch green beans to freeze them? And do you just cut celery into chunks and freeze? I didn’t know you could freeze celery and end throwing a lot of it into the compost pile.

    • Thanks for coming to my talk, Lois! No, you don’t have to blanch beans or celery in order to freeze them. Great news, right?!

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