How we make preserving days more efficient during harvest season

I wanted to share some quick tips that I used to make my baking days simpler and easier during the harvest season. When you have lots of zucchini to use up and not a lot of energy, anything to make the mammoth task of using up your summer produce can quickly end in tears and defeat. 

1. Have all of your recipes in one place 

I personally use Cozi’s recipe importer to keep my recipes organized once I’ve tried them and decided to keep them around. This makes it easier next time I go to make a recipe later on in the week, and next year I’ll know exactly which recipes I used without having to look through my many, many Pins on Pinterest! 

2. Don’t be afraid to multitask

When I got overwhelmed with the amount of baking it took to keep up with the zucchini production in my garden, I realized that I was going to have to start preserving zucchini in other ways or I’d be spending all day baking just to keep up. 

When I started combining baking and canning days (using my steam canner whenever possible to help keep the heat to a minimum in the kitchen) I used a lot more produce a lot faster. Baking is great, but it takes a long time and you only have so much room in the oven at once, which can mean you have a lot of time where you’re just waiting. 

3. Wash dishes as you go 

I don’t have a dishwasher, so I had to make sure to wash my baking pans and other dishes as I went, or I’d end up with a huge mess at the end of the day that was unmanageable with my energy late in the third trimester being rather limited after a morning of being very active. 

4. Use the right tools 

I spent the first half of our first summer with a big garden doing all of my food processing and slicing everything by hand. That sucked. 

I splurged and spent $34 on my Full Star chopper, which was worth every penny. When I went into the hospital to give birth to Abbie, and then I was recovering, I spent about 4 days completely ignoring the garden, which meant I had huge squash and zucchini to deal with. The chopper made it take a lot less time to 

5. Have a way to track your progress

For us, creating a year-long pantry meant having specific goals for each type of item we were preserving. We didn’t want to have a pantry full of nothing but jam when we don’t eat all that much of it, but we also wanted to make sure we had plenty for eating, as well as gifting to family and friends. Rather than trying to remember everything (which is a horribly inaccurate way to keep track of thousands of jars and baked items) I made a digital record for myself to save my sanity and help keep me on track with my goals.

I personally use a spreadsheet I made, because having a digital version means it’s not going to get lost and all of my data will be gone. This has been the most handy thing for me, because it’s an easy reference for me to know what I need to do with produce that is ready to preserve in the coming weeks, and it also helps me know what ingredients I need to have on hand – to simplify grocery shopping and eliminate the need for multiple trips to the store for little things. 

Have tips to share?

I’m a beginner at this and would love to hear your tips and tricks if you’re experienced! 

The Preserving Log Spreadsheet

This spreadsheet is the one I use to track everything I make to add to our year-long pantry, as well as anything in the freezer that's there for long-term storage. 

It's been really helpful for keeping everything organized when there are so many kinds and sizes of things in the pantry, there no possible way I could organize it myself. 

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