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Market Savings

Buying local produce, preserving some can save money

August 22, 2010
By RODNEY MINOR, The Leader-Herald

There may be a way for people to save money by shopping at local farmers markets.

In an article titled "Saving Money on Groceries" in the August/September issue of Mother Earth News, authors Roberta R. Bailey and Craig Idlebrook found they could save money by buying their produce in season at a farmers market and preserving some for winter use.

For 10 items - including sweet corn, beets and blueberries - the authors found some of the canned foods were up to 75 percent less expensive than the store-bought variety. If people bought and froze their own produce rather than getting it frozen from a store, the authors found consumers could expect to save 50 to 80 percent on many of the items.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Rodney Minor

Norma Maring of Fort Plain grabs some parsley during a food-preservation class at Cornell?Cooperative Extension’s office in Johnstown on Tuesday.

Curdie Gardner, the market manager for the Fulton-Montgomery Farmers Market Association, was not surprised to hear that money could be saved buying in-season produce at farmers markets and preserving some for the winter.

"I've always done it," she said. "It is not a recent discovery for me."

Gardner, who has been gardening for more than 40 years, also grew up canning food. She said she once canned about 75 quarts of green beans in a day.

Fact Box

Store vs. Home

This chart - which was extrapolated from a chart in the article "Saving Money on?Groceries" in the August/September 2010 issue of Mother?Earth?News - shows the cost of canning some organic fruits and vegetables at home compared to buying them canned at a store. The "home" prices were based on reports by an author of the article and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. The "store" prices are for organic brands sold at Hannaford supermarkets and health stores. The cost listed for both is for a 16 ounce can.

Produce - Home canned - Store canned

Green beans?- $1 - $1.31

Sweet corn - $0.83 - $1.31

Shell?peas -$6 - $1.31

Whole tomatoes - $1.50 - $1.31 to $1.84

Beets - $1 - $1.31

Pears - $1 - $2.19

Blueberries - $0.50 - $2.19

Peaches - $1 - $1.99 to $2.59

"That's why I don't can green beans [now]," she said with a laugh.

Gardner said she freezes items for use in the winter, including corn, onions, peppers, strawberries and blueberries.

Preserving savings

Eileen Lang, a resident of the town of Day, also was discussing how items could be preserved during a food-preservation class at Cornell Cooperative Extension's Johnstown office Tuesday.

The class, "Preserving Herbs & Freezing," focused on freezing and drying fresh herbs and garlic, along with recipes for their use. It was part of a recent set of food preservation classes, which included discussions about how to can and freeze food.

Lang had a recipe for cottage cheese pesto she taught the class. She said the unused pesto could then be stored in ice cube trays in the freezer for about two months.

Lang said she understood why people would be able to save money by shopping at farmers markets for in-season food, then preserving some for winter.

"Normally when I go to the [farmers markets,] I can get a lot of produce and save a lot of money," she said.

Lang also said she recently got cucumbers and made her first batch of bread-and-butter pickles.

Also teaching the class was Norma Maring of Fort Plain. Maring said when people are getting into preserving food, among the more expensive purchases can be a pressure canner.

Low-acid foods, such as vegetables, soups and meats, must be canned using the pressure-canning method to ensure food safety and prevent illness, a news release from Cornell Cooperative Extension said.

An online search of local big box retailers Walmart and Target shows prices ranging from about $32 to $125 for pressure canners, depending on size and store.

Of course, when it comes to saving money, the best way to start is by trying to buy produce in season.

Gardner said many items are in season right now, including celery, potatoes, peppers, green and yellow beans and onions. Brussels sprouts, Indian corn and mums are among the items that will be in season soon.

She said people can talk with vendors to find out what they expect to have a lot of coming up. Also, people may be able to find out if they can get discounts on large orders.

According to the article in Mother Earth News, customers should try shopping at farmers markets at the end of the day. Farmers may have a surplus of something they would rather not cart home, the article said.

While preserving food requires some effort, the article said, people can reduce the workload by working with family and friends.

However, people should know how they will preserve food before they buy it, expecially if they make bulk purchases, the article said.

"Plastic bags are handy to have for breaking down big bags into usable quantities, and they can seal bugs out, too. Your storage containers should be mouse-proof, bug-proof and sheltered from weather. Avoid damp storage areas," the article said.



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