The Cycle of a Homestead Freezer

Freezers (and refrigerators) have been an integral appliance for food preservation for over 100 years. It wasn’t until the 1940s that the separated fridge and freezer units were created but even before then, iceboxes were a go-to for keeping things cool and lasting longer. The homestead freezer has a cycle that reflects the seasons, just as everything else on the homestead does!

 

 

When you live off what you grow, raise, and harvest – either in the wild or domestically – you rely on the freezer to see you through. Sure, there are other forms of food preservation but the freezer is just about the easiest. It also gives you a place to put food you’ve harvested and keep unspoiled until you can get to it and process it later.

Though every homestead is different, I’m going to share with you the cycle of our own homestead freezers that will give you an idea (and maybe inspire you!) of ways you could better utilize your own. As you’ll see, the homestead freezer is used for a lot more than just meat! First, we will cover different events that involve using the freezer and then we’ll briefly look at the annual cycle of how we use ours.

Annual Freezer Events

Meat Sales – We only shop for meat two times a year. Those times are in October and again in Spring (usually April) because of the meat sales the local grocery stores have. We buy in bulk and then portion it out using our vacuum sealer so that nothing gets freezer burnt. We don’t buy steaks – we buy a roast and cut steaks off of it. We make stew meat packs and even save the larger fat chunks I carve off the roasts to be used later on in either some dog food or when making certain meals. Don’t forget to date your sealed packages!

Foraging and Hunting – In the summer, we gather berries and fish. In the Fall, we hunt deer. The freezer is an integral part of all of it! It will hold things until we can further process it.

Prep Tool – We use the freezer as a great way to do some prep work on different foods, as well as storage space until we can get back to it. For example, we freeze our berries in single layers on cookie sheets before putting them into a bag. This makes a huge difference in handling, measuring, and processing them into jams and jellies.

When I make jerky, I use the freezer to partially freeze the steak sized pieces of meat so they’re easier to slice thin. It helps avoid cutting yourself and makes for consistent thickness on the slices, due to the increased control you have.

Our Homestead Freezer Cycle

March/April: In March, I know the next meat sale is coming up soon. I get into my freezers to pull anything out that is nearing the one year mark or is freezer burnt (rarely happens). This will be pressure canned to extend the shelf life of the food another 18-24 months! I’m making room! If you’d like to know more about canning meat, click here.  I make a list of what items I am low on or out of shop to get us through until October. Salmon is smoked and canned, meat is made into meals-in-a-jar or canned for later use.

May/June: The meat that was nearing a year old has been removed and processed, and the freezer restocked with meat recently purchased. Room has been made for the BERRIES!! In May and June, the salmonberries are ripe and ready for picking. (Not sure what a salmonberry is? Click here!) The fish have started to return to the area with King Salmon being the first. We try to get at least half a dozen of these beauties to be filleted and vacuum seal. King Salmon (also called Chinook salmon) have a nice, firm meat that holds even through smoking and canning. We have all 5 species of salmon:

July/August: Summer is in full swing and so is the use of the freezer! Blueberries and huckleberries are added to the mix, as are coho/silver salmon. We feed our dogs salmon mixed in with their dry food (talk about shiny coats!), as well as fillet some for ourselves.

We also start to see some early veggies that are blanched and frozen in vacuum seal packs. I don’t freeze much, preferring to can it instead, but the ‘fresh frozen’ is a nice change of pace. I loooove to pickle food too; it’s incredibly easy! We also fish for halibut, cod, and drop shrimp and crab pots.

September/October: The harvest is just about over in my zone (7b) by the end of September and things are winding down in the garden. In between batches of canning, I am able to turn my focus back onto the freezer and start getting it emptied out of berries and anything else I can process up. I check all the dates on vacuum sealed meat at the same time.

The berries are made into jams and jellies and any meat nearing the one year mark. Needless to say, this is the time of year my canner is going full boil (pun intended) for days on end! Cases of delicious food that I processed myself is incredibly rewarding to put up on the shelf. I haven’t bought jams, jellies, or any kind of stock (meat or vegetable) in years.

In October, my freezer is about emptied out of anything needing processed to make room for the big meat sale. I always make sure to leave some room, though!

November/December: Every year, we try to hunt some deer to help supplement and fill the freezer (hence why I always save space this time of year). There’s also the turkey and ham for the holidays! Leftovers of either kind of meat is packaged and frozen to be used later. I love making turkey and dumplings in February! Why February? Because by then, you aren’t sick of turkey!

January/February: We have come around full circle. This time of year, not much happens with the freezer, other than taking food out to be eaten. On the off chance we go fishing, anything caught goes into the freezer. I do take stock of what we have and what we will need coming up to the next meat sale, along with enjoying a little down time. 🙂


Thoughts? Questions? We thoroughly enjoy hearing from the readers and are here to help as best as we can on your homesteading journey and dreams! Drop us a comment below: we see every single one!

An Overview of Making Supply Caches

People have been burying and stashing valuables for thousands of years. The types of containers have changed dramatically from the pottery and wooden chests of old but they all served the same purpose: keeping the items safe. The need to make supply caches or ‘bury your treasure’ will vary from person to person. In this article, I will focus on the things to consider when making supply caches of items needed for restocking, or to help you get to your Bug Out Location (BOL), or as a way to help others in your group get life-saving supplies.

An Overview of Making Supply Caches

This is not a step by step guide on what to make your caches out of, what to put in them, or where you should place them. It’s an overview that will help you consider what requirements you specifically have based on your needs, who you have with you, your climate, and location. It will help you decide why you should be making supply caches.

Some may be asking, “Why would I need to make supply caches? I will have my backpack or car and it is only X miles away to my location, I can walk if I need to!” The main reason for making supply caches is the same one that has you preparing in the first place; because you do not know what can or will happen! That being said, burying supplies or stashing a waterproof pack in a hollow tree is not just for getting from point A to B; it can be useful for so many other things.

How about your favorite fishing hole? Let’s say it is well hidden and you have to hike to get there. You could make a stash of hooks and line which would come in handy if you find you have forgotten something, or even so you can pack in less and lower your carried weight. Having the cache of hooks and line would also serve as a great way to ensure you can get food if needed; even though you didn’t stash the goods for an emergency, it will still serve you well in case of one. Some people bury guns and ammo for fear of the government taking them away for whatever reason (of course that is a little extreme).

The main reason for making a supply cache is the same reason that has you preparing in the first place…

Thankfully, the materials available to the modern world are superior to the pottery and wooden chests of old. I have seen and heard people using all sorts of materials from Rubbermaid totes to crafting PVC pipe containers that can be weighted down in lakes and ponds after being sealed. Some people go to great lengths to craft their containers but no matter what you use, there are a few criteria that must be met for a successful stash.

It must be:

  • Waterproof
  • Preferably darker materials to protect from sunlight (especially if not burying)
  • Strong enough material so it will not crack in extreme temperatures
  • Able to keep rodents and pests out. If it is airtight (waterproof) then no scent should escape out which will attract unwanted attention.
  • If buried: able to handle weight going over it (if being driven over)

The location of where to place your supply cache(s) is also extremely important and will require as much thought and attention to detail as what type of container you use and what goes in it. Abandoned buildings or old work sites are not good locations. Fires, sudden occupancy of the property, and construction are only some of the possible threats to your supplies. Nature itself is threat enough so, choose your locations wisely and with logical purpose. If you have a Bug Out Location (BOL), a few stashes of food, first aid supplies, maybe some ammo or medication along the way may be the very thing to save you and help you get there.

In a situation where you need to get away from your home, it’s likely that thousands of others are thinking the same thing. You may have to give up the car and go it on foot. You won’t be able to carry everything but if you also have a Bug Out Bag (BOB), you should be able to make it to the next ‘buried treasure’ you made. Consider placing caches on or across bridges. If there is a bridge between you and your destination on a bug out, it is best to have the cache on the far side. In the event that you lose your items downstream, you have more on the other side waiting for you in a cache.

Other feasible locations for a tote filled with some goodies would be someone in your group or a trusted family member where their location is a wise place to have some supplies to be picked up. Consider the factors and possibilities and I am sure you can find better places than an abandoned building to trust your possible life-saving supplies. Friend’s property along the way may also be an option. Be sure your emergency supplies and food meet your criteria with thoughtful research!

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