Good Monday Morning! Let’s Talk About Saving Money on FOOD :-)

Filed under :Food Storage, Freezer, Meal Planning, ZIPLOCK Bags and Containers

This past weekend was a test for me personally.  I know that you’ve been there before too.  You take off on a Saturday to run errands, visit some friends, go places with the family and then you come home and it’s late and everyone is HUNGRY!  But you didn’t leave out anything to thaw and you didn’t really have plans for your dinner today because you thought you would be back home much earlier and you’d just take care of it them.  But you didn’t arrive home early – you arrived home LATE.  Now – what are you going to do?

Let me introduce you to DOUBLE COOKING.  Yes…. There are times with some of our favorite meals that I will DOUBLE UP and cook two of the same meals (at the same time).  We have one of the meals for dinner and the other meal I place in the freezer for times that I’m unprepared and I need to cook something quick!  Now this doesn’t work with all meals – some things freeze well and other food items do not.  I’ll share some of the meals that I like to DOUBLE COOK and they work well for my family.

Our favorite of course is spaghetti – it is to easy to cook a double batch of sauce and noodles.   And it is so easy to freeze and lasts very well in the freezer too.   Just double your recipe for sauce – put aside 1/2 of what you cook and let it cool down.   Then place into one of the ziplock plastic containers and pop into the freezer.  It’s equally as easy to do the spaghetti noodles as well.  Just double up on the noodles you are preparing for your meal, drain and rinse.  Many times I will let the extra noodles sit in cool water while we eat our meal.  Then when I’m cleaning the kitchen, I’ll scoop them out and place them in a ziplock plastic container (or I’ve even put them in a ziplock freezer bag) and then place them in the freezer.

Another item we like to double up on cook is beef or pork roast.    It can be reheated and eaten again.  Or, if you want to change things up a bit, make BBQ for sandwiches from it :-)   That is always a hit.   Baked or roasted chicken is a great item to double up on when cooking.  It takes the same amount of electricity to cook one as it does two – so you’re saving some money there too!   For the 2nd chicken, I like to let it cool down and then remove the meat from the bone.  I separate the white meat from the dark meat.  The white meat is used for preparing items like chicken salad and the dark meat is what I use in soups and casseroles or even chicken pot pie :-)

Another item that freezes well is soup.  We love soup – beef, chicken, pork or just plain vegetable soup.  And it’s so easy to cook in the crock pot or the pressure cooker.  Let your 2nd batch cook well and then place in the freezer in a large ziplock plastic container.  When you’re ready to re-heat it, let it thaw for about an hour or so and then just heat and serve with some cornbread or garlic toast.

So where’s the ‘SAVING MONEY’ for this post?  There are several money saving tips – first, when you cook the meal it usually takes the same amount of electricity to cook one batch as it does two.  Second, instead of coming home and ordering pizza delivery, you’re saving money because you already have a home-cooked meal right inside your freezer than can be microwaved :-)

I’d love to hear from some of you – what meals have you had success freezing that would work well for double cooking?

 


A Couple of Important Benefits to Food Dehydration Versus Other Methods of Food Storage — Food Storage/Dehydration – POST #4

Filed under :Dehydrating, Food Storage

A Couple of Important Benefits to Food Dehydration Versus Other Methods of Food Storage — Food Storage/Dehydration – Post #4

First, let me go ahead and say this – yes, dehydrating your food for storage can take a little more time in preparation than maybe other methods of food storage.  But, most of time spent in dehydrating items is in the dehydrator – so, you can multi-task and do other things during this time.

Many items such as yellow squash, corn, okra, etc. have to be blanched regardless if the item is being prepared for frozen storage or dehydrated storage.  So, the prep time is about the same.  These same items can be much more labor intensive in preparation and processing it they were being canned.

Now, let’s take a look at several very important benefits to dehydrating items for your food storage versus other methods such as freezing or canning.

The most important benefit that I have for using dehydration for food storage is the longevity of the finished product.   Dehydrated food, when stored properly, can last up to 20 or more years!    Yes, the extended shelf life is so worth the effort.   Let’s dig a little deeper into the phrase “when stored properly”.   The best method of storage that I’ve found and works for me is canning jars and using my FoodSaver and the FoodSaver Wide-Mouth Jar Sealer and Regular-Mouth Jar Sealer.   This ensures I have vacuum sealed storage of my dehydrated food in food grade canning jars.   I also store my sealed jars in my pantry – a dry, cool, and dark place.

I live in an area that is prone to hurricanes.   This means that there can be times that we are without power for a week or more.   If my food storage was frozen and I did not have electricity for a week or more, all of my food storage would ruin.  This is another reason that I like to dehydrate.   There are similar issues for those of you who live in other areas of the country that are prone to power outages for various reasons.

Another benefit to food dehydration is dehydrated foods maintain the majority of their nutrition and color.  Dehydrated foods don’t lose their nutritional value and maintain water soluble vitamins and minerals.   And yes, I had to test this because it was a little hard to believe that a dehydrated corn could be re-hydrated and look just as it did before I dehydrated it – but it did :-)

A very important benefit is SAVING MONEY!   I noticed this especially with herbs and spices.  At the grocery store, herbs and spices can cost quite a bit per container.  But, if you purchase these items in bulk (or better yet, grow your own) you can dehydrate them for a cost that is a fraction of what you’d have to pay for the same items at the grocery store.

Space – dehydrated fruits and vegetables take up substantially LESS space than their canned or frozen counterparts.

Another money saver – dehydrating items can help reduce waste!  Yes, every time I dehydrate, I check out my refrigerator and freezer for items that our family will not have time to consume before their spoil.   These items also go into the dehydrator :-)

Time Saver – using dehydrated food can be such a time saver for me and my family.   It’s so easy to make those “convenience foods” and even snack foods myself (without preservatives!).  One of the greatest time and money savers for me is dehydrated rice (instant rice).   When I use my rice cooker, I go ahead and cook an entire cooker full – not just the amount that we are going to consume for the one meal.  Then, I dehydrate the rest and make my own “instant rice”.

I would love for you to post some of the benefits that you’ve identified :-)

 


Buying During Peak Harvest Season – Food Storage/Dehydration – POST #3

Filed under :Dehydrating, Food Storage

Food Storage/Dehydration – POST #3

This is our 3rd in a series on Food Storage/Dehydration

One of the best times to dehydrate produce is when you find opportunities to buy it on sale - usually when a particular item is in season and being harvested.  You can find many produce and fruit items on sale in bulk, at farmers markets, or even directly from the farm.   That’s when it’s time to stock up your pantry with dehydrated food!  So, in this article, we are going to discuss when the best time is to buy certain vegetables and fruits and where you can find them for the best price.

Buy what is fresh, cheap, and in season.

 

First, the most comprehensive listing I’ve found is at www.usda.gov .   It’s the “Seasonal Produce Guide” and can be found here:  https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/seasonal-produce-guide

Here’s a great chart too:

Just some notes — get familiar with the harvest seasons in  the area of the country that you live.  Depending on your “planting zone”, you may be able to find produce at times different that what this chart shows.

To get started, let’s look at blueberries.   Most blueberries are harvested in the early summer from mid-May to early-July.  During this time, you can find fresh blueberries at much lower prices than other times of the year.  If you like to do bulk shopping, try Sam’s Club or Costco for some really good deals on fresh produce and fruits.  If you can locate a blueberry farm near your home, this would be a good time to make a visit.  Some farms allow you to “pick your own” and you can save even more money.  Purchase an amount that you feel comfortable being able to dehydrate within a week.   Be familiar with your dehydrator, its capacity and the amount of time it will take for each dehydrating session.

Another really good time to purchase produce and get some amazing prices is during the holiday season.  For example, pumpkins are priced at their lowest price right before and after Halloween.  This is a great time to pick up a few pumpkins to dehydrate for your food storage.

Around Thanksgiving, it seems I can always find sweet potatoes on sale – most of the time much lower than 50 cents per lb.    Just like other potatoes or even pumpkin, sweet potatoes is a great dehydrated food storage item.

Before making your weekly trip to the grocery store, be sure to check out the local advertisements for produce sales.  And don’t forget about sales on frozen foods – sometimes dehydrating frozen foods (such as sweet corn) can save you a lot of time since the corn has already been removed from the cob and blanched.  I’ll write an article on this coming soon :-)

Farmers markets are another excellent way to shop for “in season” vegetables and fruit.   And, it’s a great way to shop  local and purchase directly from your local farmers.  You can get some amazing deals and the freshest produce available when you purchase directly from a local farmer.

And for those who grow your own produce – dehydrating your fruits and veggies is a great way to preserve your garden bounty.

 

 


Types of Dehydrators – Food Storage/Dehydration – POST #2

Filed under :Dehydrating

Food Storage/Dehydration – POST #2

There are several important options and specifications that you need to consider when you begin looking at food dehydrators.  And what is one person’s preference may not suit your needs.  There are pros and cons to each – and you just have to find what you like and what will work for you and the foods that you dehydrate.  Here’s the topics we will cover that I believe are the most important for you to consider when purchasing a food dehydrator:

 

  • Shape of trays/machine
  • Location of Fan
  • Expandability (addition of more trays or fixed number of trays)
  • Screens/trays and flats for more liquid foods (fruit rollups)
  • Option for Temperature Setting
  • Option for Timer
  • Reviews from other buyers

Shape of trays/machine — First, there is the shape of the machine and the trays.  By far the most available for immediate purchase are the round tray dehydrators that you can typically find in the big box stores.   This is the type dehydrator I first purchased and used for several years.   If you are not really sure about your commitment to dehydrating, then I would say that these machines are an excellent purchase.  The price is usually aroun\d $50.    These machines are advertised for making your own jerky or fruit rollups, but work just fine for dehydrating foods for storage as well.  The only negative comment I’ve read or heard about the round machines is that you lose some dehydrating space for the counter space the dehydrator takes up versus the square machines.  And I can say, having owned both round and square, I do get more dehydrating space with my square machine versus the round machine.

Location of Fan — Most of the dehydrators that you can purchase from the big box stores have the fan on the bottom of the machine and it blows upward and over the foods.  While this setup does work quite efficiently, there are some problems with food falling into the fan.   So, my preference would be either purchasing a dehydrator with the fan on the top or on the side.

Expandability — With many of the dehydrators that you can purchase in the big box stores, you have the flexibility to add more trays and expand your drying to up to 9 trays.  And this is a good option but I’ve found that when I did increase the number of trays, I had to rotate the trays throughout the dehydrating session to ensure even drying.   With my Excalibur, it has a set number of trays – 9.   I do not have to use all of the trays and can remove the ones that I do not have food on.    I do like my Excalibur because if I have food that is a bit taller, I can just load every other tray and allow for it – this was not something I could do with my round tray dehydrator.

Screens/Trays and Flats — Most of the foods that you will dehydrate will work with the typical trays and screens that your dehydrator comes with.  But, you do want to have the flexibility to be able to dry other items that are smaller (and would fall through the regular trays or screens) or items that are more liquid (like fruit puree).  So, make sure that your machine either comes with other types of trays or that they can be purchased separately.

Option for Temperature Setting – with the typical round dehydrator I purchased at the big box store, there was no adjustable temperature setting.  I have to say that this is more important that I originally thought now that I have my Excalibur with a heat setting.   With my round dehydrator that did not have this option, everything was dehydrated at one temperature – which was a high temp.  Having the flexibility to set a temp setting on my Excalibur is a option that I wouldn’t do without in the future.  That’s because you just want to dehydrate your food – not cook it.  I found that if I left my food on the round dehydrator that did not have a temp setting an hour or more longer because it wasn’t dry enough, sometimes it would burn a little because it was not just dehydrating, but it was cooking as well.   And, all foods have different temp settings for dehydrating.

Option for Timer — this is a really good option to have and I have found it to be quite useful.   The machine automatically turns off at the end of the dehydration session.

Reviews from other buyers — Definitely read the buyer reviews from several different stores online for the specific dehydrator that you are interested in purchasing.   Reading reviews really helped me in selecting the dehydrator that I currently use on a weekly basis.  And I learned a lot from reading what others thought was important in a dehydrator.

I hope this article helped you and will give you information on some of the topics that I found were most important in selecting a dehydrator.  Your purchase can be economical or expensive – but what is most important is that you select the machine that will fit your needs.   A dehydrator is an investment and you want to make sure you purchase the model and brand and that you are satisfied with the results.


New Series Beginning – Food Storage/Dehydration – POST #1

Filed under :Dehydrating

FOOD STORAGE/DEHYDRATION SERIES – POST #1

I will be starting a new series of posts entitled “Food Storage/Dehydration”.   In this series, I will cover many foods that are better for food storage in a dehydrated form versus canning or freezing.  Food dehydration allows you to store many food items for long periods of time – so not only is dehydration a great way to routinely store food from year to year, it is also a great way to prepare food for emergency storage as well.  Another benefit to dehydrating food is that you can prepare “convenience” foods for quick preparation – instead of buying expensive ones at the grocery store.

First, let me expel any ideas or myths that dehydrating food is difficult.  The process is very easy especially if you have the necessary equipment and just a little knowledge about dehydrating.   The investment in a good dehydrator is very important – at the time of this writing the price of an Excalibur 9 tray dehydrator with a timer is less than $300 on Amazon and that included shipping since I am a “Prime” member.


 

I would recommend you to not purchase a cheap dehydrator that will not last long – this would be a waste of money.  If you can afford a $50 dehydrator today, then put those funds aside and every payday save additional funds until you have enough to purchase something that will allow you to dehydrate large quantities at one time plus will be durable and last for a long time.  In the long run, this will save you time, money and frustration.

I will go into more information about the different types of food dehydrators in my next post and do a comparison.   So stay tuned :-)

 

 

 

 


Don’t Throw Away That Pumpkin!

Filed under :Extreme Frugal Meter, Food Storage, Freezer

So, you’ve got a nice orange pumpkin on your hands – left over from Halloween and Thanksgiving.  You’ve used it to decorate with… now what?  Well, first of all you need to consider the pumpkin as FOOD!  Yes, don’t throw it away – imagine it as pumpkin pies and other great tasting items.  But, you ask, how do I take it from a PUMPKIN to a form that I can use it in for cooking?  Easy….

First, wash the pumpkin off with dishwashing liquid and a dish rag, then rinse it very well to remove all of the soap – you want the outside of the pumpkin to be nice and clean.  Make sure that your pumpkin doesn’t have any bad spots on it!   Now, use the largest knife you can find with a “sawing-type” blade (these are the knifes that you use to slice bread with).   Start cutting your pumpkin up into large pieces and remove the seeds from the middle (save them and I’ll show you what to do with them later).   After you’ve removed the seeds, cut the large pieces of pumpkin into smaller pieces that are about 4 to 6 inches square in size.  Take a paring knife and then remove the “strings” that are still attached to the meat of the pumpkin just by thinly cutting it off.   Remember, the inside part of the pumpkin that you are not going to eat can be fed to your chickens!  They will love it.  Oh, and in case you’re wondering, you do not have to peel the skin of the pumpkin off.

Now, place the chunks of pumpkin into a big pot of boiling water and bring the water back to a boil (make sure that you have enough water in the pot to cover the pumpkin).  DO NOT SALT THE WATER!  When the water comes back to a boil, set your timer for about 8 minutes and reduce the temperature to “Medium” and  place a lid on your pot.  The lid will allow you to use less energy to cook the pumpkin.  When your timer has gone off, check the pumpkin to make sure that you can pierce the flesh with a fork – the meat of the pumpkin should be soft.  Remove the pumpkin from the pot of water and let it drain and cool in  a strainer.

When your pumpkin has cooled down, then you can remove the skin very easily!  Place the pumpkin “meat” into a bowl and mash it up.  We’ll be placing 1 cup of mashed pumpkin into each Ziplock freezer bag and freezing the pumpkin for use later in several different recipes.  If  your recipe calls for 1 cup of mashed pumpkin, then we’ll use 1 bag of frozen pumpkin, etc.   Now wasn’t that easy?  And, you have 100% fresh-frozen pumpkin to use in your families meals.

Now, what to do with the seeds?  Place them into a large bowl of water and gently squish them around to separate the seeds from the strings.  Then, remove the seeds and place on a paper towel.  You can dry the seeds and save some of them to plant in your garden next year, or, you can salt them and roast them in your oven for a nice snack.

I consider this as “moderate” on the frugal meter – but, you could also collect unwanted pumpkins from your neighbors and family and process them as well!   Then you’re taking it to the level of “extreme” :-)    Or, visit your local grocery store or fruit stand right before or after Halloween – pumpkins have been marked down and are very cheap!  It’s a great time to stock up!

 


Using SALES To Build Your Food Storage

Filed under :Food Items, Food Storage

Let’s face it, building a food storage can be expensive especially if your budget is pretty tight and there isn’t much money left over at the end of each paycheck.   But, taking advantage of SALES at your local grocery stores as well as “DRUG STORES” such as CVS, Walgreens and RiteAid can really help you to stretch your food storage dollar.

Typically, when people think of food storage, their mind immediately goes to thoughts of  freeze-dried, canned foods that last for 20 or 30 years.   That’s fine if you’re working on building your long-term food storage, but what about if you need to work on your 90 day (3 month) or 1 year food storage?

I try to keep an “eagle eye” out for sales that are offered by local grocery stores and “drug stores” in my area.  I’ve had considerable success in adding many items to my 3 month and also my 1 year food storage pantries.  Let me give you an example:  This past week I stocked up on canned ham (12 oz size) at Walgreens for $1.39/can.  This ham is regularly priced at $3.99/can.    The brand is “Celebrity” and is a “boneless – cooked” ham that is 96% fat free.   And the expiration date is March of 2015!   The per purchase limit was 3 cans.    Well, I travel by this one particular Walgreens once per day during the weekdays so making several trips wasn’t a problem for me.     This canned ham is going to be a great addition to my food storage!

Another item that was offered on sale last week at Walgreen’s was SPAM.  It was $1.39/can.   The cheapest price I can purchase SPAM is for $2.62/can at WalMart – so the Walgreens sale price was a tremendous savings for me.  The per purchase limit on the SPAM was also 3 cans.  The expiration date for the SPAM is September of 2013.

A food storage item that I found with a very long expiration date is Chicken of the Sea “Pink Salmon”.    This was also on sale last week for $1.99/can.  The salmon is “Wild Alaska” salmon so it’s not the genetically-modified frankenfish (my opinion).   The expiration date is July of 2016!

This week (April 24th, 2011) there are a couple of interesting items on sale at Walgreens – they have a 24 pack of 16.9 oz water on sale for $2.99 and gallons of distilled or drinking water on sale for $0.69/gallon.  You can also pick up toothpaste for 99 cents and band-aids for FREE with a “register reward”.   Over at CVS, a 24 pack of 16.9 oz water is on sale for $2.88 with “Extra Bucks”, men’s antiperspirant is only 99 cents (limit 5), and tuna is 59 cents per can (limit 10).

In addition to food items, stores like Walgreens, CVS and RiteAid are excellent places to pick up many personal care and hygiene items (like q-tips, shampoo/conditioner, soap) and medical supplies (medicine, band-aids, vitamins).

AND — don’t forget to use those free coupons (you can print them online at places like coupons.com) to further lower your food storage costs.


Food Storage – Preparing for the Unexpected?

Filed under :Food Storage

Do you have a “food storage” ….  do you know someone who does …. what do you think about “food storage”?

Very interesting questions, wouldn’t you say?  Thought provoking ….

 

 

 

But I guess the first question that you might have (if you don’t already have a food storage) is why?  Why would anyone want to “store” food for the longterm?

I would like to share MY ANSWER to that question.  My reasoning might be completely different from yours …. that is if you do “food storage”.   My number one reason for creating a food storage is for the benefit and well-being of my family.  They are number one in my life and I would do anything to protect them.  For me, food storage is just like life insurance, car insurance, home insurance, health insurance – it’s an “food” insurance that I have for my family just-in-case.

With the recent events, the economy and natural (and man-made) disasters that we’ve experienced over the last year (let alone what’s happened in the last couple of months), there are probably more people becoming interested in doing their food storage.  They are beginning to GET IT about why food storage is so important.  As an American, I know that I’ve come to take for granted just how convenient it is to make a trip to the grocery store once per week to purchase the food that my family needs for the upcoming week.  BUT, what if something happened and the grocery store shelves were bare.  Then what?  How long could your family live on the food that you have in your pantry?  You could have the money in hand to purchase the food – but if there isn’t any food on the shelves then your money isn’t worth much, is it?

Many grocery stores practice “just in time” inventory management – WalMart in particular is renowned for their efficient inventory control system.  By implementing this “just in time” inventory control system, WalMart doesn’t have as much CASH tied up in idle inventory taking up space in their warehouses.  This “system” runs like clockwork for them.   What is sold in each store each day is reordered and on the next truck delivery.  But what happens if there is a hiccup in the system – something throws a monkey wrench in?  How long would it take before all of the shelves are empty?

Let’s shift our thoughts to another “what if”…. natural disasters…. I will use the recent earthquake in Japan as an example.  I’ve been watching videos that ordinary citizens in Japan have uploaded showing the store shelves empty.   The earthquake has caused a disruption to the stores’ inventory replenishment.  The citizens in some areas of Japan are beginning to run out of food.  It doesn’t matter that they may have the money to afford to buy the food – there is just no food on the shelves to buy.  The same goes for water which is a topic that I will cover a little later.  Check out this video uploaded by a Tokyo citizen saying that there is no food, no water and no gas:

The “what if’s” above are pretty much short-term food storage reasons – they are not permanent situations and can be overcome in a matter of weeks to maybe even a month.   For example, in hurricanes or earthquakes, roads can be cleared making it possible for the transportation of food and products to the stores again.   In these situations, usually it doesn’t take too long before help arrives or things get back to a somewhat normal state.

Now I’m going to cover a scenario that no one likes to consider.  What if…. just what if something happened that could possibly disrupt the food and water for an extented period of time?  For this scenario I am going to use Japan’s earthquake and resulting nuclear disaster at Fukushima.  The soil and ocean is becoming more and more contaminated.    Check out this video of Greenpeace France in Japan measuring the radioactivity:

As you can see in the video above, the soil is contaminated, the water supply is also contaminated.  This isn’t something that will be corrected in the next several months.   And in this case, even the nuclear reactors are still very unstable and still releasing radioactivity for almost a month now.  Who knows what the longterm fate of Japan will be at this time.  And for those people, I do pray!   But, let’s shift gears to the U.S. again.   There are reports of milk in the U.S. now containing low levels of radioactivity.  Actually, the last report I heard, 14 states are reporting low levels of radioactivity from the Japanese nuclear power disaster.   This isn’t something that could potentially just dissipate in a few months.  This is something that the U.S. may have to deal with for who knows how long.  And, at this point, we do not even know how long it is going to take before the situation at the Fukushima nuclear power plant is contained.

So, what if… just what if something happened that prevented you from being able to just run to the grocery store and purchase your family’s food on a regular basis?   What if there were some sort of contamination in the food supply (as with Japan and the radiation)?   What would you do and how would you be able to feed your family?

Another scenario…. what if the economy “tanked”…. what if the income-earner in your family lost their job?  What if no one in your family could find a job for the next 6 months?  How would you feed your family?  Would you just sit back and hope that the government would take care of your with food stamps and unemployment compensation?   Oh sure, that sounds easy enough, right?   But what if the unemployment was not enough to cover all of your bills and the food stamps only cover a portion of your grocery needs?   What if you ended up like so many Americans that have completely exhausted their ability to collect unemployment?  You do know there is a limit to the amount of time you can collect, right?

This is just some food for thought for you…. I will be exploring “FOOD STORAGE for the American Family” in my upcoming posts.  My goal will be to help you get your food storage in order in your household.  I’ll be discussing SHORT-TERM (3 months) as well as LONG-TERM (1 year or more) food storage.  It’s important to cover both because it’s better to be prepared and not need it than to be unprepared and a situation arise where you wish you would have been.


Day 7 of the Organize Your Pantry Challenge (continued)

Filed under :Organize Your Pantry, Pantry, ZIPLOCK Bags and Containers

I decided to take this post and go a little further into detail on food “packaging”.  Like I said in my last post, some foods were just not meant to be stored in the packaging that we purchase them in.  Some of this food packaging doesn’t hardly even stand up to the handling it receives in shipment to your local grocery store.

One item in particular that comes to mind is dried beans…. I don’t know how many of you include at least one meal of dried beans for your family per week, but it’s a staple at our dinner table.  Beans are good for you and they are loaded with protein.  For those who feel like you need to have a “meat” – easy, just add some sausage and you’re good to go.   But back to the subject of the packaging that dried beans are in… this plastic just doesn’t stand up well at all.  And, beans are NOT something that you should put into your pantry without re-packaging first.

Let’s take an example — these are a package of dried red kidney beans that I recently purchased at the grocery store.  I always check the beans WELL at the store before I put them into my buggy.  I am checking for worms or weevils.    Your first line of defense is to make sure that you do not bring bugs home in the food you purchase from the grocery store.   The packaging for these beans is a thin, plastic bag.  It’s not open anywhere (how many times have you seen open bags of beans in the grocery store along with dried beans all over the floor?)     It doesn’t have any visible bugs in the bag either so I place it in my buggy along with my other grocery purchases.   This type of packaging used on dried beans is NOT sufficient for long-term storage in your pantry.  Why?

First, it is easy enough to tell that the packaging is not “air tight”…. and, if you look very closely at this closeup pic, you’ll see that there is a tiny hole in the bag.   Anytime a package isn’t sealed and air can get out, bugs can also get in!  Dried beans are #1 on my list to re-package before they go into my pantry!!   Also, while I’m re-packaging them, it gives me a chance to give them the “once over” just to double check and make sure there are not any bugs that I missed when I inspected them at the store prior to purchase.   So, just how do I “re-package” them for my pantry?  Remember those ZipLocks I told you about?

I love using ZipLocks for food storage in my pantry.  They are airtight, keep my food fresh and keep bugs out.  Sometimes they also keep bugs IN…. I’ll explain.  Remember what I said, it’s important to protect your foods even if you are “bug free” because you could very easily bring some home with you on your next grocery trip!   As I transferred the beans from the original package and into the ZipLock, I tried to check them well to make sure there were not any bugs in them.  They could have easily have picked up bugs in bulk storage bins, at the packaging facility, in transit or even at the grocery store.    Everything looked fine with the beans :-)    But, just in case I did miss something, these beans are now sealed up, air-tight in this ZipLock.  If there were a weevil that I might have missed, he’s in this ZipLock and he can’t get out!  So, I’m doing 2 things here – I’m protecting these beans from bugs and, I’m protecting all of the other foods in my pantry from bugs just in case these beans had bugs in them when I purchased the package at the grocery store.  If I would have left the beans in the original packaging, and…. if these beans had bugs in them, then the bugs could have migrated and infested other foods in my pantry.

Now, storing beans in ZipLocks in your pantry could be hard to organize and keep in order.  Those ZipLocks can sure be slippery when you’re trying to stack them up.  So, here’s a solution that I found (and love!) for organizing items in my pantry.  They are plastic “shoe boxes” that I found at Wally World.  They are 97 cents each and they do come with a lid as well.   These are great containers to store food items in.  They hold a good bit of items (in this case, I have 6 bags of beans).  Also, because of the shape of the lid, these plastic storage containers are great to stack!

I purchase dried pinto beans in bulk at Sams Club.  But, we only eat about 2 cups for a meal.  What I like to do is measure out 2 cups of beans into a ZipLock bag, write the date on the bag, and place them  into these plastic shoe boxes for pantry storage.  Writing the date on the front of the ZipLock helps me to use the oldest items first :-)

Another item I repackage is Jello…. the outside box is fine but the thin paper “bag” inside would be just too easy for a bug to get into in my opinion LOL.    So,  I remove the paper bag from the box, write the expiration date at the top, and place all of the same flavor of Jello into one large ZipLock.   By taking the package out of the box, it gives me a chance to inspect it to make sure that there are no holes or bugs in the product.   You do not have to do this if you do not want to – you could just place the boxes directly into the gallon-sized ZipLock.  I find this brand on sale quite often at Walgreens and I like to stock up when it is cheap.   I place these ZipLocks into one of the plastic shoe box storage containers – I have one labeled “Jello Dessert” in my pantry.

One food item that I’m always paranoid about having bugs in is CEREAL.  I think it has to do with the time when I was a child that I was eating cereal out of the box for a snack.  First of all, let me say that my mom has the cleanest house of anyone I know!!  Got to get that said LOL   Well, a huge wood roach ran out of the box just as I put my hand in about the 4th time.  Still to this day, it makes me sick if I think about it too long LOL   Now, when I purchase cereal at the grocery store, when I get home, I like to open the box up and check to make sure that the inside package is air tight.  That’s my assurance that the cereal is fresh and hopefully has no bugs in it.  I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to take a box of cereal back to the grocery store if the inside bag wasn’t air tight LOL!   Once I open the package though, I like to transfer the cereal into a freezer ZipLock gallon-size bag if it will be going back into the pantry.   Then the ZipLock bag goes back into the original cereal box.

But, sometimes, instead of returning the opened cereal to the pantry (maybe because I’m out of gallon sized ZipLocks LOL), I will fold the cereal bag over a few times, place a clip on it and put it in the refrigerator.  But I would never place a “clipped” cereal bag back into the pantry….   As a matter of fact, there are quite a few items that I do store in the refrigerator in ZipLock freezer bags:

On my bottom shelf, I have two boxes of cereal, a box of grits and a box of pancake mix.   ZipLocks work really great inside of the refrigerator for items like pancake batter or grits because they keep the foods inside the boxes from becoming “stale” or tasting like the refrigerator.  And one thing that is SO IMPORTANT….. YOU CAN RE-USE THESE ZIPLOCKS over and over again!  For me, they are a necessary and important expense in helping me to keep my food safe, fresh and bug free.

Now there are quite a few items that I have in my pantry that I do not transfer over into ZipLocks.  These are items that I feel like the packaging is adequate for storage in the pantry until we consume them.  Take a look at the photo and you’ll get an idea of the items I’m talking about.     But since it is hard to keep these items organized in the pantry (because of their packaging), I like to store them in the plastic shoe boxes.  You can really fit a good many of these type sauces and gravy mixes in just one of the plastic shoe boxes.

I hope that this information helps you to store food in your pantry so that it is protected and will stay fresh for a long time.


Get Creative In The KITCHEN!

Filed under :Challenges, Freezer, Organize Your Pantry, Pantry

How many times do you find yourself in the “couple more days till payday” situation?  Well, today is August 29th and that’s where I am….  It’s a couple more days until we’re paid our salary (we’re paid on the 15th and the last day of the month).  I usually do my shopping on the day of or the day after payday.  I’m out of a couple of main ingredients in the pantry (milk & butter, etc) so many items that I could have prepared in the kitchen are “off the list”.  But that doesn’t mean that our pantry and freezer doesn’t still have plenty of food stored.  It does –  it’s just the items that I don’t usually cook, items we don’t usually eat, or items that take a little more “preparation” time and effort.  Do you know what that means?  Instead of going to the grocery store and buying more food, we’re going to MAKE DUE WITH WHAT WE HAVE.  It’s time to get creative in the kitchen!

The  best way to start is to RAID the pantry and the freezer.  You’ll be surprised at just what you have lurking or hidden in your food storage.  Today I found a package of split green peas, some frozen sausage patties, some frozen bacon, spiral pasta, a package of Italian dressing seasoning, some frozen shredded cheddar cheese, and frozen scallops.  So, for dinner, I’m going to get a bit creative with these items and make my family a gourmet meal!  Also, there are a couple of fresh produce items that I have and they need to be used ASAP so they do not go bad – I have two Roma tomatoes and two zucchini.  We always have plenty of tea bags – so just 2 tea bags and 1/2 cup of sugar will make a 1/2 gallon of tea.

Tonight’s dinner menu is:

  • Pan-fried marinated sea scallops in a zesty Italian sauce
  • Pasta salad with tomatoes and zucchini (sprinkled with shredded cheese)
  • Split pea soup with sausage and bacon bits (sprinkled with shredded cheese)
  • Sweet Tea
  • Jello for dessert

How does that sound?  Just imagine what this dinner will look like on the plate – green pea soup, white scallops with Italian dressing seasoning, multi-colored pasta salad with red tomatoes, green zucchini and orange shredded cheddar sprinkled on top, and for dessert – orange Jello :-)

Sometimes when you are forced to make it work and you are forced to be “creative”, you’ll find that those can be some of the best dinners you’ll ever prepare.  Don’t give in to the ease of going to the grocery store, buying more food and “breaking” your shopping schedule as well as your budget – stick to your guns and MAKE DUE WITH WHAT YOU HAVE .

If you are going to be joining us for the ORGANIZE YOUR PANTRY CHALLENGE (coming up Sept 15th), then using the items NOW that you have in your pantry will help you to get it cleaned out before the challenge begins in mid-September.  My plans are to only purchase the grocery items that absolutely have to have between now and Sept 15th and try to use up what I already have in my pantry.  So, for the next 2 weeks, I’ll be posting the meals that I’m creating from my pantry and freezer storage.  Hopefully, this will get you motivated and give you ideas for your dinners.

UPDATE:  Dinner was wonderful!  Because it was items that we don’t normally eat, the taste was especially good :-)   Also, the split pea soup was a complete hit!