Cooking special meals can be fun when you have the time to gather special ingredients and follow elaborate instructions. But of course we don’t always have the time or inclination for this, and some people shy away from regularly preparing home-cooked meals because they think the preparation always has to be so elaborate. But that is not true. Making a regular practice of cooking delicious meals with local ingredients can actually be fairly simple and convenient. Just remember, “Your freezer is your friend.”
In the summer and fall, when produce is abundant, I fill my freezer with a variety of soups and stews. When the ingredients for any specific recipe are available, I make a large pot for dinner, and since I only have to feed two people (including myself), there is always plenty left over for the freezer. You can find some of the ideas and recipes I regularly use here, here, here, here, and here. If your family is larger, you may end up with less for the freezer, or you could double the recipe. Another method is to find a day when you have plenty of time and cook up several different soups or stews purposely to freeze. I freeze my soups in pint-size plastic freezer boxes, which hold enough for one large serving or two small ones. Then it is just a short trip from the freezer to the microwave to the table, and a home-cooked meal is ready to eat.
In late summer, when tomatoes are abundant, I make several batches of tomato sauce and freeze them in my pint-size boxes. I use tomatoes, garlic, and onions from local farms, and herbs from my garden. There is nothing easier than throwing together a dinner of spaghetti and tomato sauce from the freezer, and I still end up with a home-cooked meal made largely with local ingredients.
In the fall, I make several batches of applesauce and crabapple sauce and freeze them in ½ pint boxes. Homemade applesauce is really easy to make. It is tastier than store bought and a good deal less sweet (unless you want it to be sweet – the sweetness level is completely up to you). Crabapple sauce is not available commercially as far as I know. Applesauce and crabapple sauce are great for snacking, as a condiment, or as an ingredient for baking.
During the summer, I freeze several kinds of vegetables. Corn, green beans, spinach, kale, pureed squash, and sweet peppers are vegetables that freeze nicely and that I cook with often. When I need any of these as an ingredient, I just open the freezer and there they are, ready to add to whatever dish I am cooking.
It has been a long time since I bought canned soup, spaghetti sauce, applesauce, or frozen vegetables at a grocery store. If you can find a little extra time to cook when ingredients are abundant, you’ll find eating home-cooked local food convenient all year round, without the need to resort to commercially prepared “convenience” foods.