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Wintertime On the Homestead

Man and woman laughing and walking arm in arm.

“This time of year the garden is under a lot of snow. We’re not eating a lot of fresh vegetables out of the garden, we’re actually not eating any fresh vegetables out of the garden. 

The way we eat changes significantly from season to season, but I think especially during the winter season.”

“And as we move out of the garden and into the pantry, even the pantry has a flow we move through and the different foods.”

“Everything turns a little more inward-focused, and I think even the food reflects that. You have a lot more comfort foods a lot more foods out of the pantry, root vegetable type foods, foods that are storable. 

That pantry takes a different look, it takes a different smell and the meals really change.”

Woman chopping fresh root vegetables.

“Even the effect the food has on you as it’s generally a heavier food which you need this time of year.

The days are colder, we’re still working outside sometimes, we need those heavier, richer foods and that does kind of reflect taking longer to digest and taking time to reflect on things that have passed. 

We’re not moving as nimbly as quickly. 

Summertime eating, say fresh salads, and coming in for lunch and having some fresh foods, salads and maybe just a little bit of meat because you’re going to go right back out and be active.

It’s a big contrast from that Irish Stew that’s full of rich beef and potatoes and carrots, that takes more time to digest and causes you to take more time to sit and reflect and sit face to face with each other.”

Cast iron pot filled with Irish stew with bowls filled with stew on a wooden counter.

“For us, it’s been a journey to get away from the grocery store mentality, even in our own home. 

That mentality of recreating a grocery store in our own pantry. So we can have, kind of these evergreen foods, they’re just always ready for us. 

When you go to the grocery store you don’t think, “Well, what’s in season right now?” You just go, “Hey, I’d like to have spaghetti, or fresh pasta”, or something like that, and you just go and get those fresh things from the grocery store.

When you go down to your pantry you don’t have all those fresh things. But it’s been that journey for us to not try and recreate that in our own pantry, but to move towards those storable foods and allow the seasons to dictate what we’re eating.

That’s been a challenge for me in some ways.”

Chickens outside in the snow.

“Well and it really is, in the wintertime, I think that growing food and eating off what we grow when it’s fresh has been a lot easier. 

Developing systems, developing skills to both grow food, put it up well and especially when it comes to food we’re not processing.

To be able to draw off that for an extended amount of time, there’s definitely a learning curve and we’re still figuring that out. We’re still developing ways to make that work for us.”

Fresh loaf of sourdough bread coming out of a cast iron dutch oven.

“I think I’ve fought a lot with this idea of what we think is healthy, and we have this real sense that fresh raw veggies all the time and fruits, that having that year-round means that it’s healthy. Like if you’re eating fresh salads every day then you must be healthy. 

Then all of a sudden we go into winter in North Idaho and there’s no fresh salad, there’s really no fresh anything, except for fresh snow on the ground. 

So there’s this level of faith in seasonalities that it’s a good thing. And that’s been hard for me to get my mind around. 

But I really do believe that God has given us everything we need in the area we’re at when we need it. So just relaxing that idea of perfect health that we see on Pinterest, or somewhere like that, and that’s really based in that grocery store model that everything is available all the time. 

Young girl cutting bread dough on a cutting board.

So in wintertime, the kitchen and meal prep actually becomes the heart of the home.

But a lot of times, in summer, it’s outside. The garden almost becomes the heart of the home in the summertime because everyone is congregating out there instead of inside. 

So it’s kind of this great tie, you have the comfort of the food and you have the comfort of the family and the company. Lots of laughter around the wood cookstove and good smells.

It’s kind of fun that as the season changes and the food changes, I guess the feel of the home changes too and the homestead activities are different in the winter. So it kind of completes that circle of seasonality.”

Man and woman walking arm in arm by a river.

“It challenges us to focus inwardly, both on ourselves, on our relationships around us as we are indoors more, face to face more. Visiting with each other, sharing a meal face to face.

Whereas opposed to the summertime we’re often eating on the run, or even when we’re eating together we’re eating outside, or spread out a little bit on the porch, and it’s definitely a different feel and experience.”

“Meal planning on the homestead is really different, and this season really brings that out because you’re not asking yourself what do I want to eat, but you’re constantly looking around and seeing what needs to be eaten. 

What’s about to go bad, what’s getting soft, what do we need to use up or have too much of. 

It’s a constant dialogue with yourself about what do I need to focus on using right now. And you know it’s fun because you get to go shopping in your own pantry stores. And I really like that. 

Woman reaching for a jar of food from a shelf up high.

Getting to go out once a week and looking through the freezers. Seeing what I really need to start using up because I have too much of it. Or see what I’m using too much of and I need to slow down on. Like quit using the ground beef so we can have burgers in the summertime and not eat it all right now for meatloaf. 

It really really changes the way you plan meals and the way you see meals when you have to shop and make what you have last for longterm.” 

“I’m seeing this flow, as you describe this, that really carries all year through, it’s working with what you have. And, in the garden, it’s often what’s fresh, what’s going to go out of season fast. 

I’ve never really put those things together until you were saying that. I’m not the one, in wintertime, that’s going through the food stores so much, so I can really relate to that journey that you have to come down and look at which onions are keeping best, and which are going to last the longest, which I need to use up now. How are the carrots doing? And the potatoes…

That’s just kind of a constant dialogue and a constant conversation that then translates into a conversation in the kitchen around putting all those things together for a meal that we enjoy.”

Homemade pizza cut up into squares on a cutting board.

“I think the types of meals that we’re seeing a lot, are meals that come from the root cellar (we don’t have a technical root cellar yet, but we have root cellared veggies), potatoes, parsnips, carrots, cabbages, different things like that. 

It’s amazing how many different ways you can put together carrots, onions, cabbage, and potatoes. There’s a lot of ways you can put those together and make them taste really good: shepherds pies, Irish stews.

Lots of good food, but that’s one of the challenges of being a cook in the wintertime, working with what you have. Taking those things that do store and making them fresh, making them into something that everyone’s excited to see on the table again.”

“I think that’s emblematic of part of our journey right now in extending that part of the season, extending our skills to be able to do that more, to enlarge our own larder, so we can eat fresh fro the harvest, as it were, whole foods.

Not just canned foods, not just preserved foods, but learning more and more on the growing side as well as on the storage side, to provide that kind of eating throughout the season and throughout the winter.

To complete that cycle all the way around until we can start growing fresh food again, in the form of leafy greens, which we’re well ready for by then.”

A family eating a meal by candlelight.

“Absolutely, and mealtimes in the winter are usually those special times because people aren’t always ready to get back outside. So it’s a slower time, you can sit around, it’s a good time to light some candles and tell some stories. And really enjoy that time. 

I think it just reminds us that seasonality is such a good thing and to take advantage of that. Allow yourself to slow down in the wintertime, and to be patient with the process of winter. We get antsy, we want to move onto spring, but to be patient with that, with yourself and take the fullest advantage of that time we have together in those quiet winter days.”

A man and wife smiling.

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Josh and Carolyn bring you practical knowledge on how to Grow, Cook, Preserve and Thrive on your homestead, whether you are in a city apartment or on 40 acres in the country. If you want to increase your self-sufficiency and health be sure to subscribe for helpful videos on gardening, preserving, herbal medicine, traditional cooking and more.

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