by Nola Carlson, “A Year’s Supply for $58.81?,” Ensign, July 1982, 63
We have a large family, and feeding them is a challenge. Seven of our thirteen are foster children, so we have inherited all kinds of appetites. Most of them are teenagers and seem to inhale food as easily as air; so when my husband came home and proudly announced that we were going to can and store enough food for one year, we all were more than a little skeptical.
“We can do it,” he said. “We can do anything the Prophet has told us to.”
“It seems to me,” he continued, “the answer is simple enough. We know we are always short on money, so we must do it with a minimum of cost. I have figured out that we have $58.81 to spend. Now, what shall we spend it on?”
“Well,” said our little oriental foster daughter, “we need jars and lids if we are going to can.”
“Good point,” said sixteen-year-old Missy. “What about sugar? We can’t can without that.”
“Yes we can,” I answered. “Your grandmother used to do it all the time when I was a kid. We never had sugar, but mom used to say if the fruit was ripe and in good condition, the sweetness of the natural fruit would come out. I have canned like that for years.”
After an evening of discussion, the jars and lids for home canning won.
The girls began an earnest search for inexpensive jars. We haunted yard sales in our area and found a sale on lids at our local flea market. Before long we had over a thousand jars to fill for storage.
The boys’ job was to locate fruit and vegetables for canning. William, our eleven-year-old, found four cherry trees; the man who owned them was getting old, and each year the fruit went to waste. It fell to me to ask for the cherries. “Mom,” William said, “just tell him we can’t pay for them but maybe we can clean up the alley in back of his garage instead.”
This approach has turned out to be the key. We have pulled weeds for rhubarb, painted fences for strawberries, cut wood for raspberries, hauled paper for peaches, and raked leaves for apples.
One night my husband came home and informed us that we would have the privilege of gleaning a potato patch in the morning before work. “It’s simple enough,” he said. “We leave home at 5:00 a.m. and pick until 8:00. We ought to be able to pick enough to carry us through the winter.”
There were groans when morning came, but with all of us working as fast as we could (that was the only way to keep warm), we were finished by 7:30. And we had enough potatoes to keep us through the winter.
Onions, peas, tomatoes, and any vegetables that we could find went into our storage. All were bought with work as we expanded our food storage for the coming year.
One truck farmer, after hearing a report of the frost warning, called us and told us that if we would come and pick his produce that night we could have as much as we could pick, because by morning it would all be frozen. So, bundled against the cold, and by the beam of our car’s headlights, the whole family picked most of the night. We picked squash, cabbage, and a variety of other produce. It was hard work, but we laughed and sang until we were giddy. It was a night we still talk about.
When we made our fall survey, we found that we had canned 1,500 quarts of fruit and vegetables and had enough potatoes, turnips, and root vegetables to see us through the full year. We have continued this method of acquiring necessary storage items each year.
Our son Marty’s observation sums up the family’s experience: “If you’re really willing to work together, you can accomplish anything—even a year’s supply for $58.81.”Nola Carlson, Chicago, Illinois