How to stock your freezer for a Maine winter

maplesyrupOctober is finally here and with it comes frost, first wood stove fires, wool socks, and – if you live in my house – a list about a mile long of what to do about food storage. With a family of four and the Farmers Almanac calling for another winter of below freezing temperatures and deep snow pack, now is a great time for me to start putting away food.

Here is what my annual list looks like:

Although we didn’t can food from our garden this year we typically have an old bookshelf in the kitchen crammed with dozens of jars of homemade food. This year those jars will be store bought or traded with friends and family who practice canning. This is what I keep on my shelves:

10 Quarts Crushed Tomatoes

10 Quarts Basic Pasta Sauce

15 – 25 Pints Green beans

5 Pints Dilly beans (how can you not if you live in Maine?!)

5 Pints relish (usually from a batch of pickles that I screwed up)

5 Pints Dill Pickles

5 Pints Applesauce

12 Cups Raspberry Jam

12 Cups Blueberry Jam

6 – 12 Cups Wild Plum or Onion Jam for holiday gifts later in the season

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Every year we buy a pig and half a cow from my husband’s brother’s farm right down the road. This yields a huge amount of meat that will feed my family of four for nearly a year. This kind of purchase is expensive upfront, but if you want ethically raised meat but cannot afford to $8 – $10 for, say, organic ground beef (I certainly can’t afford that) then this is a great option.

Remember Blueberries For Sal? All that fun berry picking will come in handy for winter food storage! Not only can you make jams, but also keeping frozen berries on hand is a fantastic way to jazz up pancakes, muffins, yogurt and so much more.

* QUICK TIP: When freezing berries it is best to lay the fresh fruit out on cookie sheets and freeze that first. Then bag up the frozen berries in airtight plastic freezer bags. This is the best to prevent freezer burn.

4 Quarts Raspberries

4 Quarts Blueberries

4 Quarts Peach Slices

4 Quarts Strawberry Slices

4 – 8 Quarts Peas

I make batches of soups, chili, and pie filling to keep in my freezer. Although that sounds like a bit much, it is truly a time saver during the crazy holiday season.

4 Quarts Chicken Stock

2 Quarts Carrot Ginger Soup

2 Quarts Vegetarian Chili

3 Quarts Pumpkin or Squash

2 Apple Pie filling

2 Pumpkin Pie filling

2 Pre-made Chicken Pot Pies

2 Batches Pre-made Lasagna

48 Cubes Pesto – To make pesto cubes toss basil, garlic olive oil, and pine nuts or walnuts into a food processor and process until a smooth paste forms. Spoon this paste into plastic ice cube trays and freeze. Pop out the frozen cubes and store in gallon size freezer bag. These cubes are fantastic for adding to soups and pasta dishes.

And there you have it! A fully stocked freezer will make meal planning so much easier when snow flies. If you don’t garden or buy directly from a farmer you can still save money by shopping in bulk and taking advantage of farmer’s markets and sales at the grocery store.

ONE LAST TIP: If you live in a rural spot like I do then you can count on losing your power at least once this winter. If you have empty spaces in your freezer you can fill them with plastic gallon jugs of water. This will help keep your food from thawing and will also provide drinking water.


Sarah Cottrell

About Sarah Cottrell

Maine-based writer Sarah Cottrell is the voice behind Housewife Plus at the Bangor Daily News and is a regular contributor to Disney’s Babble and Momtastic. She is a co-author in six books including I Still Just Want To Pee Alone from the New York Times Bestselling series. Sarah’s work has also been highlighted and featured by SELF Magazine, National Public Radio, Washington Post, and VICE Tonic.