The following is a guest blog by Amanda Buchanan, a consumer activist from Idaho, submitted to Consumers Union in support of our recent Kick the Can action to get BPA out of canned goods.   Going can-free was learning process for Amanda and her family that evolved over several years (and still continues to evolve!).   We realize most people probably aren’t ready and/or able to jump into doing things the Buchanans do (such as canning their own food), but any change you can make – even a small one – is a step in the right direction, and Amanda gives some good suggestions here.

When I learned a couple of years ago about BPA in the lining of cans, I reevaluated our pantry.   The main things we had in metal cans were beans.  Garbanzo beans, black beans, kidney beans.  LOTS of beans.  Well, out went the cans, and in came dried beans.  Originally, I had thought that this move would be horribly inconvenient.  I mean, seriously, if you had to choose between soaking/boiling beans to use them or just opening a can, you’ll choose the can.  But it’s turned out to be no big deal.  Granted, it’s taken a bit of trial and error to get beans to the right consistency.  But once we got it figured out, we were conditioned to planning ahead.

We also happen to live in a rural area where we have a large garden and access to inexpensive orchard and farm produce.  These circumstances led us into the fine world of canning and freezing food that we had previously been buying (mainly in metal cans) at the grocery store.

The idea of canning my own food was exciting but also incredibly intimidating.  I knew that we would be feeding small children, and I was terrified that I would end up poisoning them somehow.  I know that just the threat of that is enough to turn many people off from canning, but the reality is, home canning done right (and it’s easy to do!) is safe, more healthful and more delicious than commercially canned food.

That leaves us with basically five canned items that we use occasionally or rarely:  tomato paste, anchovies, coconut cream, black olives and tuna.  The tomato paste is this summer’s new canning project.  Anchovies we switched to buying in glass containers.  Coconut cream, black olives and tuna… well, we just passed on those since we only eat one can every couple of months.

For anyone interested in making the switch, here are some of the things we do:

•    Buy large, resealable bags of frozen, organic peas, green beans and corn.  (Or freeze your own from the garden.)
•    Cook and puree pumpkin pie pumpkins and butternut squash and freeze to use in making soups and pies.
•    Can your own peaches, stewed tomatoes, tomato juice and grape juice.
•    Use dried beans instead of canned.
•    Invest in a crock pot for cooking stews, chili, soups and other time consuming meals while you are at work.
•    Use raw vegetables when they are in season and available instead of canned.
•    Drink beer and other beverages from glass bottles.

I think any change people make with their food is more correctly labeled a journey.  And that journey evolves as your knowledge about food and access to it increases.