Guest Contributor, Donna Hoaks

This past October marks our silver anniversary; twenty-five years of blissful, perfect marriage. You don’t believe me? OK, it hasn’t all been perfect, but it has been an amazing ride. If you were to ask the mister, there are two things he can count on. One is that he never knows what I will be into next. The other grounding factor in our marriage is that in those years, he will tell you he has only had a few bad meals.

This old girl is a pretty good cook. I love food. I love growing it, raising it, preserving it, cooking it, and serving it. I love making it healthy and interesting and from the first meal I ever prepared for him, I wanted every meal to be delicious. It wasn’t always fancy, but even simple meals should make you want more.

Over the years, those meals have changed. I started gardening, canning, drying, and even foraging. I started serving “weeds” as the greens in our soups or eggs. Mushrooms graced our table. Plantain, nettle, wild onions, and even our landscaped hostas contributed to some of our meals. We work hard to grow a garden, but if we just look, there are many foods that grow without any work on our part, and I have learned to use those as well. I show my love for him by preparing wonderful things for him to eat.

Even if we go out on Valentine’s Day, I will usually throw something a little special together for the holiday. This year, I will likely pull a couple of nice steaks from the freezer. A while back, I freeze dried a HUGE batch of cauliflower risotto, and some green beans slow-simmered with onion and diced ham. I had freeze dried a lot of sweet corn, which I can use in a quick corn pudding. Those items will make a beautiful, fast meal on a weeknight.

I will rub the steaks the night before, and in the time that it takes to put the steaks on the grill, I can prepare these other foods. I will also whip up our favorite simple dessert, which will bake while we eat. Getting home late after a long day at work isn’t intimidating any more. 

I have had friends tell me that they are too busy to have a freeze dryer. I always tell them that I am too busy NOT to have one. Being able to spend time preparing food on my own terms is empowering. Days off and weekends are often spent preparing things for the following week, but now I double or triple them. This saves time and energy that I can use later for something else. 

I can’t remember the last time that I pulled in the driveway as the sun was setting, and stressed over spending my evening in the kitchen. It just doesn’t happen now. Meals are quick and easy. Leftovers are simply loaded on trays to be freeze dried. Zero waste. No muss, no fuss, no stress. Life with a Harvest Right just gets easier and easier. If you aren’t a part of the Harvest Right family yet, what are you waiting for? Next to my husband, this was the best decision I ever made. Happy Valentine’s Day!

An Indiana native, Donna Hoaks’ passion is preparedness and self-reliance, and she has presented her thrifty ideas to many around the country. She is a master food preserver and loves teaching fermentation, canning, etc., as well as passive energy, foraging, and medicinals. In her free time, Donna loves developing her homestead, spending time with her husband, Dean, their kids and grandchildren, and riding their Harleys.


Is there a book or website that you would recommend to someone who bought the freeze dryer but has no clue what to do next…lol

There is a great guide to freeze drying that comes with your freeze dryer. It has some great recipes and helps. Also, there are a few groups on Facebook that customers run which can be helpful. Thousands of customers are on these groups post pictures of things they freeze dry, asking questions, etc.

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