Friday, September 16, 2022

Days 1 and 2 of the pantry challenge.

 


  Been a bit of a snafu here.  As usual, Annie makes plans and God laughs. I have not been feeling well since Wednesday and now it has erupted into a full blown bit of buggery.  Went to the dr yesterday and am starting antibiotics today, after himself picks them up on his way home. I have felt horrid, have had to cancel plans twice this week and may have to cancel tonight.  I didn't sleep well and am in a lot of pain. So...that being said, I have not been able to do the shopping I had planned to round things up before starting the pantry challenge on the 15th. (yesterday).  But by the time I got out of the clinic yesterday, I was running out of time to make supper. I got home about half an hour before he did. I seriously thought about stopping and getting a rotisserie chicken, something I could make a quick easy meal around.  Then I thought-- no, I have stuff at home.  It had been a hot September day, and I had salad greens that needed using, so I just came straight home and got busy. 

  I had some leftover hummus from Meatless Monday, had some cukes and odds and ends of vegetables.  Had some little instant soup packets I had picked up at Big Lots, a Pad Thai soup. So I set to work and before he got home, I had supper on the table.  All made from things I had here at home. It looked like this: 


 Home made hummus. Edamame from the freezer.  Canned (home again) baby carrots. Onions, cukes,black olives,radishes.  Yum.   And those little soup packets (all natural ingredients) were really quite good.  If I see them again, I will buy them for quick use. Mix, 1 c water.  2 minutes total in microwave. It's from the UK.  

Might check and see if Amazon has them by the case. They'd be a handy lunch for cold winter days.


  Anyway.  Today is Friday and I am not terribly motivated to work too hard at supper.  I just had a bowl of multi grain Cheerios for breakfast/ lunch.  Supper tonight will be fish cakes made with canned tuna. I keep that stuff super stocked at all times. It's a cheap and easy to make a lot of things with source of protein. We really like the tuna croquettes, made with cracker crumbs and egg and onion and some spices.  I'll open a jar of my home canned applesauce and heat up some leftover potatoes and maybe open a can of peas.  Voila. Supper.  Out of the pantry. Day 2.  


  I've had a lot of practice making meals out of what I have on hand. We live just far enough out in the country that I can't run to the grocery easily, and the 2 small mom and pop grocery stores close to me are much more expensive than Aldi or the bigger box supermarkets.  Our country road is never the first to be plowed and cleaned up during winter snows, so it can be an issue getting out to the main road from here.  Hence, making meals out of what's in the house.  It's exciting sometimes. lol

  Tonight's supper will look like this (more or less) :  


  With sides.  lol  Have some cut up watermelon for dessert.   Life is good on Honeysuckle Hill.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Circumstances... Time for a pantry challenge.

 


"The Time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things..."
 Especially the cabbages part. lol
  This is an interesting time we live in. And by interesting, I mean downright terrifying at times.  I have been caught in  web of  sticky wickets of late. We have more money going out than coming in, like a lot of Americans. Having had an onslaught of medical bills, his OT at work has vanished, gas prices through the roof (and when I say gas prices, I mean petrol for the car and truck as well as propane for the furnace and stove).  We are about out of propane, I expect, and the last time the tank was filled it was over $750.00.  In the meantime our [another] small company bit the dust and was bought out by a bigger national company.  I tremble to think what the next fill is going to be and if we can afford it. I just paid off the last one. Utilities are on the rise and the general cost of living has skyrocketed.  This isn't news to anyone with half a brain.

That brings us to the cost of eating, as it always does here.  lol  I have been tucking away bits and bobs of stuff when I can and trying to prepare for a rough year. Not easy when everything is such a struggle already. I have tried to focus on things like meats I could can, already canned meats like tuna and salmon and mackerel.  Staples like rice and beans and flour and sugar and salt.  Spices for cooking. Olive oil and vegetable oil, grapeseed oil and sesame oil. Cases of canned vegetables. Meat for the freezer. 

This isn't my first poverty rodeo, lol   Those of you who are new here may not remember this:


It's that time again. So, starting September 15th, I am going to do another pantry challenge, to try and get through this rough time.  As soon as I have a little extra money Wed -Fri (hopefully) I am going to buy a few more items like oatmeal and some other staples. I think I can do it for under a hundred dollars. I haven't bought any groceries for 2 weeks. Then I will not buy any food related items. We will eat what we have. Creatively.  The last time (see link above) in a 3.5 month period I spent less that 38 dollars, and that was only because I had to buy rice, toilet paper and olive oil.  The pantry was completely bare by the time it was finished and he went back to work. But the gardens were going and the hens were laying. No hens or gardens this year. So there's that. But I have the confidence to believe that we can do it again. It may look a little different, but I will make it work. 

Wish me luck.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Week 6 -- Store bought staples

 

  


  So, let's talk about some of the other things you'll want in your pantry.  Things like mayonnaise, mustard and things that have nice long shelf lives.  Here's the thing:  you want survival foods, but you also want everyday foods.  Disasters are not going to hit you one right after another.  Usually.  lol  And some reasons to keep your pantry stocked are not tornadoes and hurricanes. Some reasons are  much more every day and mundane, like losing your job, illness, injuries, etc.  Out here it can be something as simple as unpassable roads or power outages.  I love not having to freak out when I can't get to the store.  I can go into that pantry at any given moment and find the stuff to make easy tasty meals. That is priceless.  Do you know that big box stores keep only about 3 days of stock on their shelves ? What happens if gas dries up or prices make it impossible for trucks to roll ?  No deliveries. 


   Here's my story. I have been a stocker and thrifty witch for a long time.  Probably from growing up kinda poor and watching my mom struggle to put food on the table in the middle of paychecks. And from living in the lower echelon of society myself. So, when I can, I buy a little extra and put it away.  One Memorial Day weekend, we were coming home from a meal out when my husband fell asleep at the wheel and rolled our car. The car was totaled, we were taken to a hospital and treated. I was just banged and bruised but he (the breadwinner in this family) broke a vertebrae in his back and couldn't work for 3 months. We have limited available savings and pretty much live paycheck to paycheck. The company he works for gave him all his vacation and holiday pay for the year, his last paycheck and held his job. What a blessing.  But 3 months is a long time for no money coming in (except my monthly disability check) while money is still going out to pay insurance and electricity and stuff.  I had just downsized our cell phone bill and plan, thank God. I was looking around at where I could cut spending to make this a little easier.  And the very first thing was the grocery bill. I thought I could probably not have to buy much in the way of food. This was surely going to be the test of stocking up. I got a pad and pen and went to the pantry.  I started with a list of breakfast foods and made a menu from what was in there. Did the same with the other 1-2 meals a day.  I checked my freezers too, which were pretty well stocked. Long story short, over that 3+ month period, I spent less than 38 dollars at the grocery store. Had to buy olive oil, toilet paper and a couple of other small things.  By the time it was over, my pantry was bare and so were the freezers.  But we made it. And garden season was in swing, so I was able to replenish a lot of things from there.  THIS --  this is the reason I prep.


  Okay-- so if you look at the picture above, you can see things like baking cocoa, ketchup, artichoke hearts, salad dressings, peanut butter. Of course, there's a whole shelf of home canned jellies and jams.  lol  I also have a shelf of plastic gallon sauerkraut jugs that are filled with flour, sugar, pastas, beans, salt, things I have dehydrated etc. Another shelf has some canned marinara sauces, mayonnaise, jars of peanuts, black and green olives. I have baking soda, baking powder, cornstarch.  You know what your family eats and you know what you can make. . I know that I need to keep a backup 1 pound cake of compressed yeast for baking bread. When the pandemic started one of the first things I couldn't find was yeast. That won't happen again. I always think too that if things get really rough, I will need some things that aren't just survival foods.  I will need comfort. Sweets. Special foods (artichoke hearts). Peace of mind. 


  Happy stocking.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Week 5 : Mama, will we ever be able to eat meat again ?

 




After watching a few Zombie movies, you might never want to eat meat again.  lol

  I wanted to talk about stocking your pantry with meats from the grocery store, since I know a lot of people don't can.  In my humble opinion, it's worth learning how to do, but that's me. The initial investment can be a little pricey for a pressure canner, jars and rings, but it doesn't have to be. I know people who have found jars and canners at thrift stores and flea markets. But, back to the subject at hand. You can always freeze fresh meats you find on sale, if you have a freezer. I do and will buy things specifically to freeze. However, freezer life is limited, so that should be meats you are eating regularly, not storing.  Other items I can for shelf stability and I've told you a little about that.  But if you're not a canner, you can still keep your pantry stocked with some good sources of protein for your family's diet. So, let's look at some affordable options.


  If you're a sales shopper, like I am, keep an eye on the in between pages of your grocer's sales papers.  You know the part-- where the vegetables and ketchup and stuff is.  A lot of times you'll find great prices on things there.  The Dollar Store also is a good place to find items, as is Big Lots. I'm not a Walmart fan, but they do carry the cat litter I like, so when I'm in there, I scan the shelves for sales. Here's a list of things I look for, things I know I can build a meal around that my family likes.

1) Canned fish. Tuna, mackerel and salmon. The canned portions are much cheaper than fresh, and check the BBD (best by date) and will keep in your pantry for as long as 2-3 years. They're good sources of protein as well as Omega-3's and other nutrients.  I always buy tuna packed in water, unless the oil packed is crazy cheap (then I rinse it before I use it).  All 3 are good for making sandwich salads, croquettes, casseroles or loaves.  I keep 10-20 cans of tuna in my pantry at all times and rotate it as I use and buy more. I usually have 5-6 cans of salmon and mackerel there as well. We'll stick  oysters, clams, sardines and anchovies in here as well.  I do have canned oysters and clams in my pantry, that I use to make a seafood chowder. No anchovies for me, but I do have a couple of tins of sardines in mustard sauce in there.  (Not sure why.  LOL)  

2) Canned chicken. Several companies make a canned chicken breast in small cans that you can buy. They are a little pricey, but they are available. Dark meat is also available, and costs a little less.  Chicken is a healthy protein source. These can be used for chicken salad sandwiches (no cooking required)  or to make soups or chicken and dumplings or enchiladas or anything else you would make with cooked chicken. Can also just be eaten out of the can in an emergency.

3) Potted meat.  This stuff is not one of my favorites, but if you're hungry, you'll be grateful for it.  It is a deviled ham product, all seasoned and ready to go. Great for sandwiches.(If you have bread).  It's inexpensive, it's a source of protein and fats and the tiny little cans don't take up a lot of space. We'll stick those Vienna sausages in here too in their cute little cans. 

4)  Meat soups and stews. These are always handy, and you can doctor them up a little if you need to (I do).  There are ready to eat beef stews, chicken and dumplings, bean soups with ham and a whole lot of other things. All that is required is dump and heat and there you are. There are canned sloppy joes, different Chef Boyardee pastas with meat, and other similar items you could consider too. Again-- just be sure it's stuff your family will eat. Don't waste money (even on a sale) if it's not useful to you.

5) Canned beef and pork. Can be used in all sorts of meals and are convenient. Probably not something you'd buy for everyday use, but handy just the same.

6) Canned hams and bacon.  I always pick up the little funny shaped cans of DAK canned ham when I see it. It's great for so many things, tastes good and keeps well. I dice it up and brown to serve with scrambled eggs. Use it in beans.  Use it for sandwiches. I'm not a big fan of canned bacon, but it might work for you. Then there's the good old Spam and Treet,  2 canned meats that have been around since the 1930's. They're making a comeback and are versatile enough to use in many recipes.  Again, good sources of protein that can give you some versatility in your meals.


  So, there are some ideas of things to look for.when you're thinking about the meat and protein part of pantry stocking. Hope it's helpful. I have canned pork loin, ground beef, roast beef, chicken of all sorts, and corned beef that I always keep on my shelf. Last week I found some pork loin on sale and canned up some more of that. High protein, low fat...and useful in so many ways.  Maybe I should have added beans in here too... but I think I'll save that for next time. 


  Bon Apetit, babiees...

Monday, June 27, 2022

Week 4 : The High Cost of Eating

 
Let's talk about the current issue of food pricing for a minute.  It's on everyone's mind, because frankly, there are people who can barely afford to eat. I was listening to an episode on NPR and they were talking about the hike in food prices everywhere around the world.  They said food prices in the US are up over 14% . That's one of the biggest jumps we've seen in a long time.  But as bad as that is, and as much as we're seeing items disappearing on the shelves, we are still not as bad as some places. Lebanon for instance, has seen a 3000% increase in food prices. People are starving because they cannot afford to buy food. The reasons for these increases are varied and troubling...war, climate change events that include drought, flooding, fires; embargos, gas prices.  Many many things that are beyond our control. 

So, in order for me to not lose it over all this... what can I do ?  I can try to stay on top of it all by 1) Changing the way I eat   2) Being mindful of wasting food  3) Learning to cook real food and not just buy fast food  4) Stocking my pantry by watching sales and buying in bulk  and 5)  Educating myself about how people in poorer countries than mine eat and cook and manage to survive.

If you can garden in any way--Garden. In the backyard, in the front yard, in pots.  Just do it. Raising your own food is not only a good financial idea, but it also gives you a better appreciation of the food we eat. If you have the time and location do some large scale gardening and then can, freeze or dehydrate it to store.  There are lots of great books out there on preserving foods. Read some.

I have learned that the best way to stretch a food budget is to rarely make meat a main entree, I still do now and then, but I often make it a central ingredient rather than the main attraction.  We eat less meat and what meat we do have goes a lot farther.
I carefully watch for sales in our smaller community markets and take advantage of them when I can. This week I came across a boneless pork loin on sale for $1.99/lb  Normally I wouldn't buy them for more than .88-.99/lb. But things aren't normal anymore.  I have seen boneless pork loin in the last month for 3.49 lb !! I bought 3 beautiful loins at about 25 lbs total. I cut them up into cubes and canned them, except for 8 boneless chops I cut from the biggest one. That was our Sunday night supper, (with leftovers) and boy was it good.  I canned 11 quarts and 1 pint of pork. That's a minimum of 20-25 meals for 2. So, for less than 50 dollars I get to feed us for about 2 dollars apiece. The meat part, anyway. And that's a deal kids. People always ask me what I do with canned pork. Here's a few things: Carnitas, posole, bbq sandwiches, sweet'n'sour pork, pork fried rice, burritos, Caribbean Stew, a sandwich spread that is like ham salad, only made with pork. And anything else you can imagine.

 So, here's a short tutorial on canning pork loin. Ready ??

 Assemble your equipment : Canner, cutting board, sharp big knife, bowl to hold the cubed pork, clean jars and lids and rings. Don't mind my messy kitchen-- it's well used !  

I cut the big loins in half and work with half a one at a time. Slice it into 1 inch wide chops. Cut each chop into 3 strips and then finish cutting into cubes. Keep at it until you've cut the whole thing. 

Meats MUST BE PRESSURE CANNED. Food safety people. I have 2 canners.  My trusty old Presto which is used on top of the stove and my smaller Carey canner which is electric. I never thought I'd say this, but I LOVE this thing. It's self regulating temp wise, which is the hardest part of canning sometimes with the stove top ones. The downside is that it only holds 4 quarts at a time, while the other (Presto) holds 7 quarts at a time. But still, with the crazy price of gas and propane now, I'd rather use the electric one anyway since we have propane. 

Pack the clean quart jars full, using a knife to  push out the air pockets and tamp the meat down. Use a vinegar soaked cloth or paper towel to wipe the rims, making sure there is no food or grease on the rim from packing the jar. I firmly suggest you use a canning jar funnel to load the jars. Makes it much easier. Wash the lids in hot soapy water and rinse well then set on top of the jar and put the rings on. Tighten them "finger tight".  Tight, but not wrenched down. Follow your canners directions on how much water it needs. Quart jars of meat must pressure can for 90 minutes. That's an hour and a half. It's a long time.  I use the interim time to start the next batch of cutting and chopping, and take a break in the middle there somewhere.


   Here's today's adventure, finally finished. The jars have all "pinged" which let's you know they've sealed. Some of them are still bubbling. I place a heavy old folded bath towel on the table to set them on, because the jars must not be moved for at least 24 hours. Also-- make sure wherever you put them, there's no draft.  They need to sit unmolested to finish the cooling and sealing process. 

   You can use chicken breasts, roast beef, corned beef and can them the same. This is called a Raw Pack. And no, I never add any liquid to the jar, as they pressure can, they release their own juices.  You don't need to add salt, but you can if you want to-- it's flavoring only. Nothing to do with the preserving. 

  If you have never canned before, please, read the Ball Book on Canning. There are all kinds of little things you should know.  There are also all kinds of Youtube videos and Google knows everything.  lol


  Oh yeah--that special Sunday night supper... Yeah baby.  Mashed potatoes, green beans and applesauce...with panko and cracker crumb breaded pork loin chops.



Monday, June 20, 2022

Oops... where did last week go ??

 



I'm not sure what happened here.  lol  I didn't make it here to post last week OR SOMETHING.  Getting old is always an adventure.  In the past 9 days, we have taken a trip to celebrate our anniversary and my sober birthday (not far away or anything, but we did get out.)  Then we had some hellacious storms here, fallen trees and tree branches took down power lines and left us powerless (lol) for over 36 hours.  We loaded both freezers down with ice and blankets on top for insulation and luckily we didn't lose any food. Biggest problem was the heat. We've been having temps in the high 90's with heat indexes in the hundreds. Yuck.  Thank Goodness it cooled down for a couple of days. The storms giveth and the storms taketh away. So, there's my pitiful excuses for not posting and I promise I'll try to be better. :)

  So, this week, I want to talk about another important pantry item.  Pastas. Pastas are a great filler of bellies and extender of foods.  Depending on what kind you buy they can also be nutritious. One of my favorites are Soba Noodles. They are made of buckwheat. Soba noodles are some of the healthiest options out there for carbohydrates. Unlike ramen noodles, which often contain oils, fat and salt, soba noodles calories (especially pure buckwheat) are very low in fat and cholesterol, provide healthy carbs and give you protein.

 I keep a variety of pastas and noodles. The difference between the two are the variety of wheat used to make them. Noodles are made from regular wheat and pasta is made from durum wheat. Most of us can't tell the difference.  But back to the pantry. I buy bulk items from Amazon, like the organic soba noodles because the price is so much better. For instance I am out of Soba, so I ordered a pack of 24 packages for 23 dollars. Walmarts lowest price of the same brand is $4.99/package.  I also buy Rice noodles from Amazon. This week I wanted to try something we do not usually eat, although my husband says he ate it in college. I ordered a case of Ramen noodles (soy sauce flavoring packet) for under 7 dollars. It's the cheapest way to get the ramen noodles (and throw away the seasoning packet, lol) I keep thin and regular spaghetti, penne pasta, angel hair pasta, fusili pasta, and fettucine in my pantry.  I keep a gallon jar of egg noodles at all times. These make a relatively inexpensive meal when mixed with a jar of my home canned chicken or roast beef. Filling, satisfying and better for you than the fast food options.   

  Today is Meatless Monday here on Honeysuckle Hill, and my plan WAS to make a cold soba noodle salad for supper. Alas. No soba noodles in the pantry.  So I will make something like it, but with a different pasta, like angel hair or thin spaghetti.  It's in the mid 90's again today, so we need a light but sustaining supper. The cold noodle salads or pasta salads are a perfect choice. I have a take and bake baguette that I can fix in the air fryer oven and make a nice garlicky bread to go with it.  I can make it like a putanesca salad, and use up whatever vegetables in my fridge that need to be used.  I have olive oil (EVOO) or sesame oil in the cabinet to dress it with. I have some fresh basil out in my planter box that will top it nicely.  A very low cost meal, made from things I have on hand. Don't have to spend any money today on gas or groceries, and in my book that's a win-win. So, here's a recipe I posted in about 2012 I think... check it out.     





  Happy Pantry. You can go out this week to many places like dollar stores and find a nice variety of pastas for your pantry.  Just do it.  lol I store all mine in jars...big and small.  
  

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Week 2. Building up a stocked pantry

 



  About once a month, if the budget permits, I try to buy a case of some item (usually a specialty item) that I use a lot.  Sometimes it's shelf stable tofu, sometimes it's organic full fat coconut milk, sometimes it might be a soba or rice noodle. This month it was time to buy more brown rice, so I toodled on over to Amazon and hooked myself up with a 10# bag of Brown Basmati Rice, and a 2 pound jar of Tahini. I know that all households eat differently, and here we try to eat at least a couple of meatless meals a week.  Having been a vegetarian off and on throughout my adult life, it's usually not too hard for me to come up with ideas.  We also have a very liberal palate(s) when it comes to trying new foods or foods from other countries. For instance, I have made cold soba salads, Vegetable Pad Thai, Peanut Butter Tofu and a number of other exciting foods. I have cookbooks with recipes from India, China, Africa, Ireland, France, Korea, Japan, and England.

  This week I want you to think about Beans and Rice for your pantry. These staples of many countries around the world, complement each other nutritionally and are a must have. Who doesn't love cornbread and beans ?  I keep dry beans, canned beans and home canned beans in my pantry at all times. Right now, my pantry has Pinto Beans, Navy Beans, Black Beans, Adzuki Beans, Lima Beans, Garbanzo Beans, Kidney Beans, Red Beans and  Cannellini Beans.  You can find these beans at any grocery, some at Dollar Generals, and just about anywhere.  The cost ratio per serving is amazing and the nutritional punch is awesome.

 https://beaninstitute.com/bean-nutrition-overview/#:~:text=TYPE%20OF%20BEAN,371

I always keep a couple of gallons of dry pinto and Navy beans on hand. I also home can each of these for convenience sake, because it takes time (and fuel) to cook a pot of beans. Especially if I want a smaller amount to make burritos or refried beans for a meal. Handy. I have canned garbanzos, but usually I just buy a case of them at Aldi because my life needs simple sometimes.  lol  So many vegetarian meals you can make with garbanzos (chickpeas).  They are a staple in many middle eastern foods in places like India, Africa and Egypt.  And they care crazy good for you. I make my own Hummus and  Falafel. 

  I keep a variety of rices in store as well.  Brown rice, which doesn't keep as long or as well as white does, but is much healthier, Jasmine rice, Basmati rice and sometimes wild rice.  This way I can have a variety with meals. Most of my life I have never used a rice cooker until about 5 years ago and now I can't live without one.  If I had to though, I could cook rice on the stove.  lol  So, there's your challenge for week 2.  Rice and Beans.  The recipe I want to share is Chana Tikka Masala. It's a traditional Indian recipe that is chock full of tasty nutrition.  If you are not fond of Indian food, skip this.  But if you're on the fence, or don't know, give it a try.  It's simple and it's mouth watering. It's vegetarian, and with the rising cost of meats, we all need to start eating less of it and expanding our palates.




  Chana Tikka Masala

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 14 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 13.5 ounce can full fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup water, as needed to thin the sauce
  • (2) 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

FOR SERVING

  • 4-5 cups cooked white or brown rice
  • chopped cilantro, parsley or green onions

Instructions

  • In a large pan, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion for 3-4 minutes, then add the garlic and ginger and cook for 1 more minute.
  • Now add the spices, salt, tomato sauce, coconut milk and drained/rinsed chickpeas. Stir until smooth and combined, then simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Taste; add more salt or spices as desired. Serve immediately over rice.