Summer is flying by way to quickly! It's hard to imagine that September is right around the corner. It's the time of year when most gardens are producing much more than you can eat. The last thing you want to do is for it all to spoil before you get a chance to enjoy it. Preserving your food is a great way to ensure that you can enjoy the fruits of your labor or the taste of summer (if you don't have your own garden) all year long.

1. Freeze: Freezing your fruits/veggies/herbs is one of the fastest and easiest ways to preserve. It requires minimal effort and time. Tomatoes, for example can be washed, dried and put into freezer-safe ziplock bags. They make great additions to soups or stews in the winter. Most vegetables and fruits will freeze nicely, but there are some, like cucumbers (and other vegetables with high water content), that just don't freeze well. Herbs also freeze well—they will lose there texture and become soggy, but they do not lose there flavor or nutrients. Check out this resource for foods that freeze well. The only downside to freezing is that if you would lose power you run the risk of losing all your produce and may have to throw it away.

2. Dehydrate: Purchasing a dehydrator is a good investment (they are not that expensive). It is wonderful for drying herbs, fruits, vegetables. This process takes a little longer to preserve food, but worth the wait. Herbs can then be stored in containers, vegetables put into soups, stocks, or other recipes, and fruits can be used for muffins, oatmeal, granola, etc. Dehydrated foods store nicely and last a good while when properly sealed. Click here for more information on dehydrating foods.

3. Canning: This process is a little more labor intensive but a great way to store things that you want to have a long shelf life. You can even can soups, jellies and salsas.This process requires purchasing a pressure canner, which can range from $60-$90 plus supplies like jars, lids, seals, and a few other little things. It is well worth the investment if you really plan on preserving your food via this method for years to come. The one resource for canning (and other preserving methods) that I always come back to is pickyourown.org.

For me, having a good combination of these three ways to preserve food is a way to not put all my eggs in one basket. If the power goes out, I won't lose everything, If my jars don't seal tightly while canning, I haven't lost everything, etc … Ultimately, though, find what works best for you based on the time and resources you have.

Preserving food definitely takes time and patience, but it's worth the time and effort as you get to enjoy nutrient-rich, local and fresh foods all winter long until the next growing season comes around.