If you’ve enjoyed saving money and higher quality food by shopping at farmer’s markets and produce stands all summer, you might in for a shock this winter when the market closes. My Los Angeles farmer’s market is open year-round, so I don’t need to worry about finding affordable local produce in the dead of winter. I’ve heard that produce stands and markets in other regions do close in the winter, though. If you live in one of those areas, a little forward planning and hard work now will keep you in affordable produce through the whole winter. Here’s how to do it:

Make a List of the Items You Need
Write down whatever you like that is still in season in your region. Tomatoes should be available in most markets, so you can make a lot of tomato sauce now to get you through winter. Peaches are heading out of season, but you buy some to can and then enjoy them in the dead of winter. The same goes for other popular summer fruits.

Figure out about how much you eat, and then review a canning guide or recipe book to figure out much produce you need to buy, as well as the number of jars, lids, and seals.

Set Aside a Weekend for Each Major Project
Start with produce that will disappear from the market first, like summer fruits. Set aside a weekend to stock up and then can it. When it’s time for tomatoes, can them as sauce, diced, halved, and peeled whole to give you options throughout the winter.

Consider Pickling Cucumbers and Similar Items
Although fruit can usually be canned with just syrup, cucumbers and some other types of vegetables require pickling before canning.

Organize Your Jars
Label and organize your jars in the cabinet or cellar so you always know what you have on hand. That will simplify recipe planning and make it easier to determine what you made too much of and what to make more of next fall.

Create a Root Cellar
If you have a cellar or it gets cold enough outside to build one in your yard, you can build a root cellar for storing potatoes, onions, garlic, and other vegetables for months. Avoid keeping fruits like apples down there because the gas they release will cause other produce to ripen faster.

Find New Winter Recipes
If you love a food that can’t be canned or pickled, and won’t store well in the cellar, you’ll have to learn to do without it. Instead, see what’s affordable at the store (vs. the overpriced, imported options) and then either figure out how to substitute them into your current recipes or find new recipes. You don’t have to serve mango chutney in December. Instead, make an apple chutney or serve oranges and tangerines.

You don’t have to go through winter with just apples and cabbage. If you plan for the dead of winter now, you’ll be enjoying warm peaches with butter and nutmeg while your neighbors grimace at another night of potatoes and frozen green beans. You’ll also enjoy the savings, while your neighbors are spending extra for an imported produce.

What do you like to preserve for winter? Tell me in the comments.

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