If you’re a homesteader or you just want to live a more frugal lifestyle, then one of the things you will want to master is seasonal cooking.
It may sound easy at first. Just eat what’s in season, right?
Oh, but there’s so much more to it…
Here are some tips to help you plan for all four seasons.
This is the best season for eating straight out of the garden. All the summer produce is being harvested, and if you live in an area where you can have a fall garden, then you are soon enjoying a new set of produce as well.
Many trees are full of ripe produce in the fall. In fact, once it starts freezing at night (late August for us), apples, plums, and nuts are some of the only produce outside that are still harvestable in our area–I can get apples and some other fruits for nearly another month.
The weather is now cooling. You may want fires at night for heat, but not during the daytime.
Some things to factor in when planning your fall menu are:
- Eat as many fresh fruits and vegetables as you can for as long as you can. Soon you’ll be eating out of the pantry.
- Canning and preserving foods? Try not to open and eat all those beautiful jars until you have to. Starting on them too soon may make for lack of interest as winter rolls on and spring comes around again.
- Are you a hunter? Use this to your psychological advantage when planning meals–soon you will have fresh meat!
- If you eat breakfast early when the fire is going, plan on breakfasts that you can put on the wood-stove during the last hours of your fire. This will break the hum-drum of the no-cook breakfasts you’ve been eating.
- When you start having fires in the stove in the evening, then plan for dishes that can cook on the top. Until then, you may continue cooking by dutch-oven outside.
- In some areas, everything in the garden is already harvested and there’s snow on the ground by September or October. It’s time to eat from the cold-cellar already. The first year you have a cold-cellar, you may be tempted to “make it last” but then you run the risk of it spoiling.
- If a few areas, you can garden year round. Plan new menu items with your winter garden in mind.
- Although the snow is on the ground, there may be some areas where there are still berries on their bushes. In our area, rose hips are still ripe for the picking. Try to get the fresh produce that’s available.
- In my opinion, warm winter days are the best days for preparing chickens for the freezer. Maybe I’m crazy, but when the weather gets colder, the stink isn’t nearly so bad. Winter is a good time to add poultry to your menu. Just keep in mind that the later in the year you cull them, the more winter fat they will have.
- If you have a well stocked root-cellar, you’re still eating a few things from it. Plan your meals around the foods in here to keep it from spoiling. If an early spring comes, you run the risk of food spoilage in the cellar. Don’t be afraid to eat from it now.
- It’s now time to live off the dehydrated, frozen, and canned goods you worked so hard to prepare. If you aren’t desperate for food, use it when you need to. Don’t spend your time and money buying other food just to save this food. Too many people “save” these goodies until the next fall, and then later complain that they need their families to “eat up” so they have the jars available again.
- Soups. There’s nothing easier than putting a pot of soup on top the wood-stove (assuming it’s going 24/7 right now), and just letting it cook itself all day. This is my favorite way to use dehydrated vegetables and I love the smell of cooking soups on a cold winter day.
- Baking. The stove is going all day anyway–why not? This is when we’re busy making bread, rolls, pies.
- Baking…without eggs. If your pantry still has eggs, then you’re in luck! But if you used or sold all your eggs, chances are you’re getting few (if any) eggs during the winter and are baking without them.
Spring is a time of awakening taste-buds. With the snow melting, new life is springing up all around the farm and homestead. Flowers are starting to bloom, and wild edibles are coming out ready for the picking.
If you live in an area where you can plant a spring garden, no doubt you are getting those little plants in the ground and daydreaming of what you will prepare with them.
- Foraging for spring goods
- If hunting is legal in your area, plan for fresh meats again
- Grilling. There are going to be some nights where you don’t want a fire in the house. Grilling out on the fire is a great psychological motivator for all the time you’re going to be spending outdoors in the next coming months.
- Dutch ovens/crock pots. Same logic here on having the wood-stove lit.
Once summer is here, something is usually ready in the garden. But…many homesteaders don’t have a way of cooling their houses, and cooking inside becomes uncomfortable. If you can possibly plan ahead, plan not to cook any meals in the house where you will heat it up to where you can’t cool it down again.
Plan in the summer for the following:
- As many fresh fruits and vegetables as you can eat
- Cooking by dutch oven or grilling
- Load up on fluids
- Always wanted to try juicing? This is the time to do it when fresh produce is available.
Cooking for the season is more than just planning to eat what you have or what’s in season. You’ve also got to factor in the weather, and how you will prepare meals if you are off-grid. Lastly, you need to consider how long each food product will last, and thus be available.