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 :-)

 

 

 

 


Happy New Year – Welcome to 2013!

Filed under :Food Items, Meal Planning

Good morning!  I’m getting an early start to my 2013 New Year :-)

Today will be filled with many things to do as our family gets things in order from the Christmas and New Years holidays, and gets organized and prepared for going back to school, work and LIFE!  Every year since I can’t remember when, we’ve had the traditional cabbage/corned beef and black-eyed peas for GOOD LUCK.  This year will be no different…. why take a chance? LOL

So, off to Wally World I trudged last night to purchase the items I was missing.  I thought it would be a good idea to document the prices that I paid on 12/31/2012.  So here goes!

Cabbage — Regular $0.53/lb on sale for $0.33/lb — 2 heads total cost $2.20

1 Can of Corned Beef — $4.88

1 Pkg of Dried Black-eyed Peas — $1.38

1 container of herb salad — $3.38

1 box of cornbread mix — $0.50

So today, for our lunch, we’ll be eating a green salad, cabbage & corned beef, black-eyed peas and rice, cornbread, and tea to drink.  I guess what really surprised me was the price for the corned beef @ $4.88 per can.   Actually, I haven’t seen corned beef in the grocery store in about two years!  Last year I couldn’t find any and ended up using ground sausage with cabbage.

The total approximate cost for our meals today (and this will be for lunch and dinner for 3 people) $12.34 – not counting the cost of some seasonings, the tea and some rice.  Not bad at all when comparing to the price of going out to eat!


Meal Planning…. Where Do I Get Started?

Filed under :Meal Planning

This blog post is going to be an extension of STEP #2 post on “How To Be Frugal With Your Family”.   I hope that you will also take the time to read all of the blogs on the website, because in many cases, they will all work together and go hand-in-hand to help  you create a frugal lifestyle for your family.

Meal planning is so important – without it, your family will waste thousands of dollars per year eating out.  That’s just the bottom line….

How many times have you found yourself in a situation where you forgot to take something out to thaw or you didn’t have that one final ingredient that you needed to cook dinner?  That is why planning and scheduling is so important!   If you can create a workable schedule for yourself and your family, so many of the “putting out the fire” situations will cease to exist…. once again you can be pro-active versus re-active.    Anytime you find that you are in a re-active situation, you will probably have to spend more money or time to resolve the problem than if you would have planned ahead and been prepared.

So let’s apply that to the meals we prepare for our family.  Most of the time, just a little time spent planning can relive stress and save your family money.   And, we’re going to take small steps to reach our ultimate goal…

To get started, we are going to do plan for only 1 week ahead.   We’re going to plan all of the meals that our family will eat during this one week – breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Not only are we going to what we will eat for these meals, we are also going to plan to purchase the items we need from the grocery store (or from what we have in our pantry and food storage) AS WELL AS plan for the time that it will take to cook the meals.  My opinion is that most meal planning fails to work because even though the person created the best plan for what each meal will be and they’ve made sure to purchase all of the ingredients, they’ve failed at planning the TIME to prepare the meal.  Do this sound familiar to you?

We’ll begin our meal planning by selecting breakfast meals, lunch meals and dinner meals.  Now, consider that this DOES NOT mean that you have to cook all of these meals.  Be realistic – for example, if your child buys their lunch at school, and if you’d rather them to have a warm mid-day meal instead of a sandwich, then plan accordingly for your meal plan.

Here’s an example (my meal plan for the coming week):

  • Monday
    • Breakfast:  Cereal for everyone, coffee
    • Lunch:  Spouse will bring leftovers to work, I will bring leftovers to work and children will purchase their lunch at school
    • Dinner:  Spaghetti with garlic bread and salad, tea to drink
  • Tuesday
    • Breakfast: Cereal for everyone, coffee
    • Lunch: Spouse will bring leftovers to work, I will bring leftovers to work and children will purchase their lunch at school
    • Dinner: Red Beans & Rice, Sausage, Tea, biscuits
  • Wednesday
    • Breakfast: Cereal for everyone, coffee
    • Lunch: Spouse will bring leftovers to work, I will bring leftovers to work and children will purchase their lunch at school
    • Dinner: Beef Stew, Garlic Bread, Tea, biscuits
  • Thursday
    • Breakfast: Cereal for everyone, coffee
    • Lunch: Spouse will bring leftovers to work, I will bring leftovers to work and children will purchase their lunch at school
    • Dinner: Chili, Tea
  • Friday
    • Breakfast: Cereal for everyone, coffee
    • Lunch: Spouse will bring leftovers to work, I will bring leftovers to work and children will purchase their lunch at school
    • Dinner: Chicken Soup, sandwiches
  • Saturday
    • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, sausage, biscuits, gravy, coffee
    • Lunch:Chicken salad sandwiches, tea
    • Dinner: Tunafish Casserole, green peas, biscuits, tea
  • Sunday
    • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, sausage, biscuits, gravy, coffee
    • Lunch:  Roast, rice, gravy, green bean casserole, fresh bread, tea
    • Dinner: Left overs from lunch

By the way, this is actually what my family’s meal plan will be for next week :-)    So, let’s get started by developing our shopping list for the grocery store.  First, I’ll go through my meal plan and determine if I already have any of the ingredients available in my pantry and food storage.   If I do, then I will not purchase those items at the grocery store this afternoon when I make my weekend shopping trip.  Something that  you need to consider is that if you plan on having leftovers to bring to work the next day, then you MUST prepare enough food when you cook that particular meal.  A good tip to use is to make sure that before you serve the meal, go ahead and make your “plates” for your lunches for the next day and put them aside.  That will prevent family members from coming back for 2nd’s and eating the extra food that you were going to have for lunch the next day.  What if you have unexpected guests for dinner one night and they have the portion that you’ve allowed for your lunch the next day?  Here’s an easy solution and it involves “planning” — when your grocery store has a special on the TV dinners (our WalMart currently has Banquet TV dinners on sale for 88 cents each), buy 10 of them and put them into the freezer!   Then you can always grab one to take to work with you in a hurry – or in case of unexpectedly not having leftovers from the night before.  It’s all in the planning!

Now let’s talk more about planning and TIME.   Even if you have the best intentions and the best meal plan, it’s nothing if you do not plan your time!  You have to plan the amount of time that it will take you to prepare the meals that you have on your list.   So, if you know that Monday’s are super busy at work and that you’re going to come home tired and not want to spend much time cooking, PLAN to put  your dinner in the crockpot that morning so that it will be ready to eat when  you get home.  And make sure that the meal that you’ve planned for dinner is something that you CAN cook in the crockpot.

Another trick that I use to save time and help me to plan is cooking at night after I’ve gone to bed.  You’re probably thinking that I’ve flipped my lid, right?  Well, consider this as an example:  on Monday for dinner I am planning to have spaghetti for my family.  To prepare and cook spaghetti, I will need to brown 2 pounds of ground beef (remember, I am making a double batch to have enough for 2 lunch meals on Tuesday), add the spaghetti sauce and simmer.  Well, tonight, before I go to bed, I can go ahead and take care of browning the ground beef, adding it to the bottled sauce that I purchase, and placing this into the crock pot to cook for 4 hours on low while I sleep.   When I wake up on Monday morning, the spaghetti sauce will be ready!  I just have to turn off the crock pot, let the sauce cool down while I am showering and getting ready for work, and then place the sauce in a container and into the refrigerator.  When I get home tonight, instead of cooking the sauce, I can just warm it up.  The only item I will need to cook is the spaghetti noodles, toast the garlic bread and brew a batch of tea.

Let’s take this a bit further…. on Monday night while I am cleaning up dishes from dinner, I will plan on putting my red beans and spices into the crockpot to cook while I am sleep so they will be pre-cooked for Tuesday’s dinner.  It will only take me a few minutes to put this together when I’m already in the kitchen cleaning anyway.  How about the rice to go with the red beans on Tuesday night?   Well, that’s another easy fix – I can go ahead and get the rice cooking in the rice cooker and it will be cooked in about 30 minutes.   All I have to do is turn it off and let it cool down and it will also be pre-cooked for the next night’s dinner.   If you’re in the kitchen cleaning up anyway, why not make the most of your time and multi-task?

If you take a few minutes to review and study your meal plan on Sunday, then you will know what you can do to make the best use of your time during the week to prepare your family’s meals.  It just takes a small amount of time to initially plan – and it will save you a lot of time and effort later.

Something else that is very important — you never know when SOMETHING unexpectedly is going to come up.  It happens even in the best planned situations.  Instead of completely throwing off your meal plan, make sure that you are prepared for the unexpected!  How?  Well, make sure that you have those TV dinners in the freezer, make sure you have some hotdogs and buns frozen and a can of hotdog chili in the pantry for a “just in case” scenerio.  Just be very careful NOT to rely on these emergency items and forgo your meal plan.

What meals does your family enjoy?  Are they meals than can be prepared ahead of time or, can they be cooked in the crockpot?  I’d love to hear some of your meal ideas!  Email me at information (at) simplefrugallife (dot) com.


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.


Back to the Basics – Baking Your Own Bread!

Filed under :Bread Machine, Small Kitchen Applicances

 

I have found that I save so much time (and effort) in the kitchen with a few small “appliances” that I have purchased.  These appliances help me because not only do they save time (that I can spend doing something else), but because they make tasks easier – so much easier that I don’t mind doing what I need to do!  Let me explain….

I have a bread machine – actually, this is the 3rd bread machine that I’ve owned in the last 17 years.  Yes, I wear them out to say the least.  I definitely get my money’s worth out of my bread machine so I don’t mind spending the money to purchase a quality machine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do I like about using my bread machine?  Here’s my list:

  • It’s SUPER EASY to use – and it saves me SO MUCH TIME!
  • I can provide FRESH bread for my family every day if I want to
  • The ingredients for fresh bread are so much better (and LESS) than the pre-baked, packaged bread at the grocery store
  • I can make fresh bread for less money
  • I can make use of the staples when rotating my LONG TERM food storage
  • There are so many other “meals” and recipes that I can put together using baked bread

Do you bake bread?  Do you own a bread machine?  How often do you use your bread machine?

If you don’t currently own a bread machine, they are quite easy to find at garage sales and flea markets for a good price.  I would suggest buying one “used” first (if you are wanting to try one) or maybe even borrowing a family member’s machine that they are not using.  Try making just a traditional white bread the first time you use it.   See how well your family members like fresh-baked bread….

Now for the EXTRA information about bread machines!  A little about the mechanics of the machine.  All of the bread machines that I’ve owned have a “kneader” in the bottom of the baking pan that spins around, mixes the ingredients and kneads the dough.   The only other part of the bread machine that requires any cleaning at all is the baking pan.  And, these items can be removed from the machine and washed very easily in the sink.  All of the bread machines that I’ve owned have all had a “non-stick” interior that makes removing the baked bread from the pan very easy.  Just always be careful NOT TO SCRATCH the interior.  As far as the outside of the machine, I just use a damp dishcloth to keep it wiped down.

Next, I want to talk about how easy it is to use the bread machine and how much time it can save you.  The only items you will need from your utensils is a measuring cup, a teaspoon and a tablespoon.  That’s the only items that I have to wash in preparing my ingredients for the bread machine — no rolling pin, no rolling mat, and the best thing is that I don’t get flour all over the counter LOL   This is because all of the ingredients go directly into the machine and the machine does all the work for me.   I measure the ingredients and place them (in order) into the bread machine.  Then select the settings and hit the START button.  The machine does the rest – all of the mixing, the kneading, the rising and the baking.  I probably spend the most amount of time using the bread machine in just getting out and putting up the ingredients!

FRESH bread for my family every day if I want — yes, it’s that easy!  And it’s really fast because I can place the ingredients in the machine, select the settings and forget about it until I hear the BEEP BEEP BEEP that signals the bread is ready.

The ingredients — well, let me just put it this way…. less is better!  If you have a loaf of store-bought bread in your pantry, then read the ingredient list.  Now, compare it to the ingredient list for my traditional white bread:  flour, water, sugar, salt, yeast, butter, dry milk    Impressive, eh?  Yes, most of the ingredients are items that you have every day in your kitchen!

The price?  Well, the price of bread at the supermarket has really jumped in the last year.    And since I buy my staples in bulk (flour, sugar, dry milk) I get lower prices for my ingredients – this makes the price of my homemade, fresh-baked bread even less!    Do a price comparison of store-bought bread versus your homemade bread to see how much you would save per loaf.

LONG TERM food storage…. yes, most of the ingredients for fresh, homemade bread come straight from your long-term food storage pantry.  For example, these ingredients come from your long-term storage:

  • flour (10 year food storage when packaged in mylar bags with oxygen absorber),
  • sugar (30 year food storage when packaged in mylar bags with oxygen absorber),
  • salt,
  • dry milk (30 year food storage when packaged in mylar bags with oxygen absorber)

Only the yeast and butter will come from your refrigerator…

What other meals, food items or recipes can you make with your bread machine?  Oh my, the list is long… for this I will write several blog posts!  So stay tuned :-)


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.