It’s not really fair to blame this week’s home organization project on a jar of homemade jam, but I’m going to do it anyway.
It all began this summer when we made jam – and for once we canned it instead of making freezer jam. We needed jam (kids and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches go together, don’t they?) and I couldn’t take paying the prices for jams/preserves made with only fruit and sugar – becasue I refuse to buy fake sweeteners and especially high fructose corn syrup. But I was reluctant to make the jam myself because I was intimidated by the process. The cooker! Sterilizing the jars! The botulism! The, the, the….whatever. It was so easy!
After the jam was a success (and I mean it is so good – made with organic frozen berries from Costco, organic sugar, and pectin that requires less sugar – I had to lay down the law here – no eating the jam out of the jar with a spoon and I mean it. Does anybody want a peanut?) we could not be stopped. The canning bug bit us big time and we got crazy with our canning!
We canned pickles, green beans, beets, and eggs. We vowed to never buy these items again at the grocery store because, why would we? Now, what to do with all of this glorious canned food?
Back to the jar of jam.
All of the canned deliciousness got stashed on our dining room sideboard – until we could figure out where to store it. As you’ll recall from home organization project #7, we had done our kitchen pantry months ago. Since our home is 100-years-old, it doesn’t have lots of storage. The pantry was out.
My Mom had the brilliant idea of storing all of our jars of food in the tool room. As you’ll recall from home organization project #35 (before of the tool room) and home organization project #37 (after of the tool room), our tool room was done and there’s not an inch to spare. When we bought our house 19-years ago, the tool room was where the previous owners stored all of their canned food. It would have been a good spot but the tools were staying put.
Here’s how the deal went down…get ready – it’s major!
Home Organization Project 46
1. All of our preserved food piling up in dining room for months (very good problem!).
2. Rustic bench in the dining room and behind living room sofa covered in library books, college related materials, and magazines. This bench was a magnet for piles.
3. These shelves in the basement were cleaned (home organization project #45) DVDs and VHS tapes got donated/given away and the Xbox game system is getting sold. While our kids bought this themselves, with adult-hood looming, the parents threw down. The gaming system has to go. They can keep the money they get from selling it.
4. The shelves took up a lot of space in our basement – which is also our guest “suite”. The sleeper-sofa pulls out and there’s not really enough room to walk by with the big metal shelves. They’re also deeper than needed since TVs are so thin nowadays.
5. So, the rustic bench moved to the basement and the TV got mounted onto the wall.
6. Now, we had empty shelves. We have shelves in our basement that sit next to our big freezer but there wasn’t enough room on the shelves for the preserved food. You can see why below. Blah!
7. But, there was an empty wall! There are perks to the madness of this year long clean out project! We could put the shelves that had the TV, movies and game system on them in this space – and I measured so I knew they’d fit.
8. So, the shelves got cleaned off and wiped down and the preserved food got a new home.
9. And the empty wall has the shelves. The shelves have all of our ‘non-essential’ kitchen items on them. With a very small kitchen, this is our solution.
Back to the jar of jam….When one jar of jam can make you do all that, you know it has to be good, right?
Whew! It took some time to do this. We bought the TV mounting set and the new DVD player as part of the agreement to get rid of the XBox system. I have the empty boxes they came in because I’m wrapping them up for Christmas and sticking them under the tree.
Next week I’m sorting through all of our magazines – you saw some of them but there are more – and then recycling them or giving them away. It will be an easy week!
What are you working on this week? Do you make your own jams, jellies, and preserves?
52 weeks of home organization
As part of our New Year’s resolution, we’re cleaning out a different area of our house every week this year. Find all of the “weekly home organization projects” – or click the image below.
12 thoughts on “Home Organization Project 46”
I have always been scared of home canning. My brother just started doing it this year, and like you said, he said it is so much easier than he ever thought. I guess I’ll have to try it soon. What about the canned eggs? Are they pickled?
The canned eggs were pickled and ended up purple because we did them with beets. 🙂
Try canning with a friend who does it. Invite yourself to be a guest in the kitchen and learn. Then you can teach someone. My friend, Robin, said her friend’s mom taught them how to can when they were in high school and she cans everything! It’s such a great skill.
My kids were sort of paying attention when we did it. Mostly, they were licking the spoons dipped into the berries!! LOL! 🙂
Thanks, Sarah! Get your brother to teach you how..
I love this post, because it illustrates so perfectly how one little thing can lead to a whole lot of something else! Maybe there should be an official term for this – collateral organization, or something like that 😉
I’ve made freezer jam a couple of times but have always been too much of a chicken to make it using the canning method, for the exact reasons you mention.
And just a comment about the sugar vs HFCS … you probably know this already, but just in case some of your readers don’t … Although the organic sugar is likely better for the environment (grown without herbicides, etc), metabolically speaking, your body can’t tell the difference between a “natural” sugar and any other type of sugar. Sucrose is 50% fructose:50% glucose, and HFCS is usually 55% fructose, which isn’t enough of a difference to really matter, metabolically. There’s a growing body of evidence to suggest fructose is a huge problem for our health, and the heart and stroke foundation here in Canada just came out with some very strong guidelines on limiting sugar intake. Because you cook mainly from scratch, you and your family are avoiding all the added sugars in processed foods, which is great. When you start to do the math – counting up added sugars as well as free sugars (like juices) – it’s amazing and quite concerning to see how much sugar many of us are inadvertently consuming! (Sorry, that long-winded spiel was a bit off-topic, and probably old news, but nutrition is a huge interest of mine and sometimes I just can’t help myself 😉 )
Marian, you are right about the sugar vs. sweeteners. And, we do cook everything from scratch – except whole wheat pasta, which I do buy. There is so much junk and not just sugar/sweeteners in processed foods today – really in all foods! Our bodies simply don’t know what to do with it. I don’t mind baking cookies and cakes (in fact, just popped a chocolate cake in the oven. After attending the second funeral in a week, we needed to celebrate life…) because my recipes have so much less sugar and fat in them and yet they still taste good. It did take some getting used to but now when my kids or husband eat a ‘store bought’ dessert or cookie, they say how it tastes fake and way toooooo sweet!
BTW, long-winded comments are always welcome here 🙂 and I thank you for leaving such thoughtful ones.
Such a great post, Sara! Next summer I want to branch out from jam. It seems silly, but storage is one of the things that has kept me back from doing some things differently with food. I know the solutions lie in some major garage re-organization, which is why we haven’t made more progress. Hope to by next summer, though!
Rita, I’m picturing a garage sale in your future… 😉
The space to store the canned food is huge – especially when kitchens aren’t really set up that way. Most every estate sale I go to that has a basement has a little room (that’s very primitive) where the canning supplies are located and I would imagine where all the canned foods were stored. It make sense, too. The jars are best kept in the dark.
Can’t wait to hear about your progress, Rita! Thanks for writing in…
This post is so cool, Sara, I read it to my boyfriend and he was impressed, too! I love that you’re canning. My grandmother canned everything that stood still and we always had such good food when I was growing up. Love what you did in the basement; you are really making the most of your space and it’s inspiring as always!
Thanks, Vanessa! Much like plumbing, canning is one of those things that seems intimidating and when you do it once – the mystery is gone. I love to organize and move things around so I’m loving these projects. My family? Not so much! 🙂 Thanks, Vanessa!
My in-laws give us more home-canned foods than we can use, so we haven’t ventured down the canning path yet. My hubby likes to play Betty Crocker and frequently makes homemade jams/jellies/pickles (freezer variety). The guys at his workplace questioned his sanity when he picked wild grapes on the workplace grounds to make into jelly … but it did taste good. 🙂
I like how you re-think your space to make it work for you. So many of us have older, smaller homes–it’s good to see solutions others use, and to occasionally “borrow” ideas. One of my favorite parts of our kitchen reno last year was adding pull-out drawers to our pantry (which the previous owners had converted–it used to be a broom closet). It makes all the difference in the world. And several years ago, my hubby converted half of our back entry closet into storage space for appliances, stock pots, etc. Space … the final frontier …
Yes, using the space we have is best. You and your husband sound like you’re very creative when it comes to making the most of what you have. It’s true that smaller homes require creativity and more often than not, just rearranging what’s already in place helps.
I love that your husband picked the grapes at his work and made them into jam! Brilliant. I’d say you’ve got a keeper 😉
Happy holidays, Kris! I hope you enjoy time off with your family and lots of good food!
I canned fig jam and pickles this year (separately, of course). I often can tomatoes, too, and sometimes dilly beans. I love the feeling of accomplishment. Your suggestion of canning with a friend is a good one, especially if you’re a newbie, but even if you’re not. Many hands make light work and the waiting time is much more fun with someone to visit with. I finally took my pickle jars downstairs just a few weeks ago. I left them on the counter admiring them, though, for a long time!
So true about admiring the preserved food, Erin! I like to look at it in the basement. 🙂
We’ll have to compare recipes on the beans, etc. Our pickles are going down quickly and I’ve found a good use for the leftover pickle juice: weed killer. All that vinegar and spice works wonders on the weed growing in the cracks of our sidewalk/driveway!!
Thanks, EFB ~
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