Monday, June 23, 2014

Eating from my pantry...

 Well.  The test is here. Can we eat out of the pantry/freezer/hen house, supplemented with what little is coming out of the garden right now?

  Let me digress...

 In the event that you may not know what has been going on around here at Honeysuckle late January, I was rear-ended at an icy intersection, resulting in a  moderate case of whiplash.  My neck and shoulders hurt, I could barely turn my head from side to side.  Could have been much worse. I started treatment by chiropractic and massage therapies.

  On February 1st,  I slipped and fell on icy steps going off my back deck to let the chickens out one Saturday morning.  Went down like a ton of bricks.  Wound up with a fractured right distal radius.  (Of course I am right handed).  Wore a sling for 5 days waiting for the swelling to go down, then in a cast and sling for 4 weeks.  At the end of that, I went in for x-rays, hoping to have the cast removed and get to wear only a brace.  Fat chance.  I had overused the arm--(I swear, I tried to not use it. Husband and son were doing almost everything for me. I was useless.)-- and the bone had slipped at the fracture, so a new cast went on for another 6 weeks.  Finally it came off. The soft tissue damage to the hand and wrist were extensive though, so I was having a lot of pain and still couldn't use it much. I have been in physical therapy trying to regain some strength and use of that hand. When I started, I measured ZERO grip strength.  Now, 8 weeks later, I am up to almost 12 pounds. He told me it could take up to a year for it to fully heal.  Good grief.

  On May 24, my husband and I were coming home from a restaurant in a nearby town when he drifted off at the wheel, causing us to go off the road and when he tried to steer back onto the pavement, the car went into a spin, spun across 2 lanes, hit a deep ditch and  rolled the car.  It could have been so much worse. We flipped into a freshly plowed field. The car smashed on the roof, and then flipped back over onto the wheels.  The line of cars coming toward us as we spun across the road was stopped by the vigilant driver of the first car--an off duty EMT and his girlfriend. So, nobody hit us coming from the other direction. We missed the big electrical pole at the edge of the field. The EMT ran over to us and started checking us out. I had a lot of glass on me, but seemed to be relatively okay. My husband however, was hurt.  The EMT got into the backseat and stabilized his head against the headrest, telling him to not move. They had called 911 the minute we rolled, so ambulances were on their way. They took us to the local hospital, who then transported us to a larger trauma hospital about 45 minutes away.  After much ado, it was determined that I was just bruised and banged up. My husband has a fracture of the T-3 vertebrae. He is in a cervical collar and front and back brace. He has been off work for about a month. In 2 weeks he goes back to the doc and hopefully they will take the brace off and give us an idea of when he can go back to work. We have exhausted his vacation pay and sick leave, and as of this week, there is no more money coming in.

SO.  I am not a prepper. I have made that clear to people often.  I do keep a fully stocked pantry and freezer. I consider this common sense. I try to live frugally, because we really don't have much money. I would probably live this way even if we did.  It's what I was taught. I have always thought of my pantry as a back up plan of sorts. I have tried to stock it as though I could walk in there any time and we could always eat, no matter what. In my mind, it was always about being stuck out here in snowstorms, or if a tornado should knock out power and make going to the store know, that kind of thing. Or any kind of emergency that might come some day. Some day has arrived.

 Without his income, we are living on about a thousand dollars a month. Our bills are around 1100. We  don't have much savings to speak of, as we live, like many people, from paycheck to paycheck. Recently I had managed to cut our living expenses by several hundred dollars a month. Thank goodness. We had only 2 car payments left, so now that the insurance company has settled that loss, there's another 300 a month off.  We happened to find an older used car to replace our totaled one, and with the taxes and license, it cost us about 2/3 of what we got for a settlement. So, we have that little extra money too.  It's all going to work out.  Assuming my husband gets back to work at some point.  We have been really blessed with friends who have offered to help us out financially and we could pay back slowly when we can.  So many offers of love and support !!  If you think that doesn't make it all so much easier, then you've never been in this situation. I thank God every day for my friends and family.

Back to the pantry. The theoretical emergency arrived. I started searching through the pantry and making meal plans. What do I have in there and in the freezer and how many meals can I come up with...without ever having to go to the grocery store ?  So far--84.  Breakfast, lunch and supper. The other day a friend gifted me with some packages of meat from her freezer.  I have been doing alright though....although all the chicken and pork that was in the freezer is almost gone. There is still catfish in there. And the things from my friend.  And lots of frozen fruits and other things that I have frozen from my garden. My pantry shelves  (as you can see in my header) were pretty full.  It's starting to look a little empty in there.  I am down to my last 6 pounds of oats. But I still have lots of beans and rice and other dry staples. I make my own bread, and am going to try making tortillas soon. I still have a fair amount of flour and sugar, plenty of spices stockpiled as well as vegetable oil and pickled goods.  All my tomatoes are used up from last year.  I still have some green beans, and sweet potatoes and butternut squash. A couple of days ago, I made an awesome chicken fried rice main dish that fed us well. I used some leftover chicken from a whole chicken I had roasted (from my freezer--not the hen house!!). In typical frugal fashion, we had a wonderful chicken dinner, then I boiled the carcass for broth to make soup,  and used the leftover meat for the chicken fried rice. 3 good meals from a five dollar chicken.  I still have one more chicken in the freezer, plus a package of thighs and legs and a package of boneless skinless breasts.

I made granola the other day. For breakfast, we have options of oatmeal, eggs and toast, smoothies, or granola with almond milk.  For lunches, I have tuna from the pantry or egg salad sandwiches or peanut or almond butter sandwiches with some fruit.  Or salads.  I have approximately 20 pounds of pinto beans in there which I plan to can some more soon because I used the last jar of those too. We had bean burritos.  I can use that and some rice and make beautiful taco salads.  Suppers have been as simple as soups or as complicated as  stir fry or cold soba noodle salads.  We are still eating well, even though I haven't spent a penny at the grocery store in over 4 weeks.  We are also used to eating meatless meals several times a week. That helps. I think if your family isn't used to that, it would make it a lot harder. we are not vegetarians, but we eat less meat all the time. more fish and chicken.  And rarely as a main dish...usually incorporated into a casserole or a stew or something like that.  I am using more and more of my dehydrated vegetables.  I am taking the time to plan meals and use up the stores that we have. Then, when the dust all settles, we will slowly begin to build the stores back up.  The same way I got it ready for this, I will have it ready for the next.

  It's just common sense to have a stocked pantry. Do you know that big box grocery stores only carry a 3 day supply of food on their shelves?  In the event of a catastrophic storm or epidemic or oil emergency (what if trucks couldn't deliver??)-- and you couldn't buy food...WHAT WOULD YOU DO ?

 It's a question that bears consideration.

(Bon Apetit, baby!!)