Our garden harvests start to roll in right around the time when everything else needs to be done – escaping our stressful lives for our long-awaited summer vacation, shopping for back to school clothes for the kids, and hosting our sister’s fun and rowdy family for their annual visit.
No wonder it’s hard to make food preserving a priority.
Combine this with the common misconception that the only way to preserve food is by canning (who has time for that?!) and you end up with a depressing pile of rotting vegetables staring you in the face every time you open the fridge door.
What if I told you there were plenty of time-saving food preserving tips for putting up your summer harvest that had nothing to do with long canning sessions in a hot kitchen sweating your little gardener buns off?
One of the easiest time-saving techniques is freezing vegetables instead of canning them. With canning, it makes sense to wait until you have a large amount of one vegetable, but with freezing, you can work with whatever quantity of vegetables or fruits you have on hand that day. And often, you can prep veggies for freezing in as little as 10 minutes.
Why mess with canning when you can easily freeze so much of summer’s bounty?
Time Saving Food Preserving Tips for Freezing Garden Harvests
Freezing vegetables is a pretty straightforward process. The following time-saving food preserving tips will help you put away a little taste of summer to use in tasty meals on long, cold winter nights.
#1: Work with what you have.
You don’t need to wait for a big pile of vegetables in order to start freezing them. Start with whatever is coming out of your garden this week.
One of the greatest advantages of freezing is that you can work with small quantities and slowly build up your pantry over time. And, processing in small batches takes less time so it’s much easier to squeeze into an already hectic schedule.
#2: Focus on preserving vegetables you’ll be excited to eat later.
Even though you want to work with what you have, it’s important to invest time and energy into preserving vegetables you’re actually going to eat this winter.
Think about your cooking, eating, and grocery shopping habits.
- Which vegetables always end up in your cart at the grocery store?
- What meals and snacks are regular features of your family’s diet?
- Can you freeze any of these ingredients?
The answers to these questions should inform your food preserving priorities. If you never eat frozen broccoli, then don’t fill your freezer with it!
#3: Know the prep needed for each vegetable.
Some vegetables like peppers can be frozen raw. They require minimal prep, just deseeding and chopping, before they’re ready to go into the freezer.
But, other vegetables like broccoli and corn need to be steamed or blanched for a few minutes before freezing.
Getting clear on the steps required to freeze each vegetable will help you know whether you have time to tackle that particular one in the time you have available.
Not sure what each vegetable needs before it goes into the freezer? My book breaks it all down for you.
#4: Multitask while prepping.
The research tells us that when we try to more than one thing at a time we’re less effective. But, I’m not sure chopping peppers falls into this category.
Way overdue for a phone call to your older sister? Can’t wait to watch the new episode of your current show? Set up a chopping station at the dining room table and put in your earbuds to chat with your sis, or open up your laptop and be entertained by the last storyline while you prep.
#5: Invest in a chest freezer.
You can certainly store your frozen vegetables in your kitchen freezer, although you’re likely to run out of room quickly. The advantage of a chest freezer is that it doesn’t have a natural defrost cycle, so it stays at a constant temperature, maintaining the quality of your vegetables for up to a year.
Chest freezers are relatively inexpensive, don’t use a lot of extra energy, and come in lots of different sizes. If you try freezing and fall in love with it like I have, a chest freezer will feel like a worthy investment.
My Favorite Garden Vegetables to Freeze
You can find all of the vegetables you can freeze, with step-by-step instructions, in my book, Super Easy Food Preserving.
I’ve also written many articles on this site about freezing my favorite vegetables.
Freezing vegetables doesn’t require fancy equipment, large amounts of produce, or an entire day with nothing on your schedule.
With a few strategic investments of time (and these time-saving food preserving tips!) during the harvest season, you’ll have a freezer full of flavorful ingredients you can feature in delicious meals all winter long.
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