This has been a crazy-busy month, with travel, home improvement projects, extreme weather...you name it.
I've bought things I don't normally buy - even when money is okay - such as frozen corn dogs (for the kids, not me! gag). Life is settling down again now, and I started really cooking again yesterday. Look for more posts next week.
Here's something to think about: beverages.
I'm noticing that I "stop by" the grocery store a lot. I used to have a specific day that I shopped (while the kids were in an activity - which they no longer are), but now I tend to go whenever. I need to get back into menu planning. Anyway, here are my recent purchases, a combo of the store and the fruit market:
Gallon milk, bananas, roma tomatoes, spinach, a single jalapeno pepper, 5lbs chicken thighs, fresh cilantro, green onions, head lettuce. Total $19.21.
I made some pico de gallo. It took me about 20 minutes and cost under $2 for about the same amount as the store sells for $4. It'll be even cheaper when I have ripe tomatoes and peppers in the garden. YUM!!
Yesterday, I taught my 10-year-old to make flour tortillas; she LOVES making them and eating them. We had a couple leftover and found that when rewarmed with a wet paper towel, they soften right up again. It makes me wonder what all they put in store-bought ones to keep them so soft. Yuk.
Today, dh is assembling and mounting my Country Living Grain Mill. I got it for Chirstmas - not last Christmas, but the one before! It's about time I got around to using it. I hadn't been cooking much the past few months, so my whole grain flours have gone rancid. I didn't have any in large quantities, fortunately. That was why I bought some plain old white flour last week. I do have two types of wheat berries on hand: Hard White Wheat and Soft White Wheat. The HWW is high in gluten and good for yeast applications; the texture and color of the product is said to be lighter than Hard Red Wheat. The Soft White Wheat is where "whole wheat pastry flour" comes from. It is good for non-yeast applications, such as tortillas, muffins, cookies, biscuits and so on.
We're getting lots of fruit from our landscape and I see some veggies in the near future. I'm seeing that we are eating more healthy foods, and I've lost three pounds.
Soak and cook in the usual manner:
2 cups small white (navy) beans in 4 cups water.
Add to the mixture:
1 Tbsp dry minced onion
3 Tbsp Tomato powder
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp rosemary
1/4 tsp basil
and cook on low for at least an hour or two - until the flavors are well blended. Alternatively, you can make this recipe in a crockpot.
Serve in bowls, garnishing with parmesan or mozzarella cheese. Goes well with homemade garlic bread and salad.
Double success today!
I made refried beans!
And homemade flour tortillas!
I took my refried beans recipe from Rodales Natural Foods Cookbook - out of respect for their copyright, I won't post the recipe. Next time I'll cook the beans "to death" - even after running them through the Cuisinart, they still have more texture than store-bought. I do, however, like the seasonings and flavor.
My tortilla recipe came from the Make-A-Mix Cookbook...I was maybe going to use the one from Cookin' With Home Storage, but sometime in the last couple of days I've misplaced it. The Make-A-Mix recipe is super easy. I also reviewed a number of web-based instructional videos regarding tortilla-making. My conclusion is that the key to making good flour tortillas is rolling them thin enough. Some of mine were too thick to compare to store-bought, but were good in their own right.
Ah, the taste of sweet success....
Oh, yeah, and I had to buy the flour for the tortillas, so another $4, plus I grabbed another case of coke for $8. By the way, any reason NOT to compost old rancid whole wheat flour?
You know ... I love my husband. He really is a good guy. But he sure pisses me off sometimes!
Here we are in this financial pinch. We talked. We agreed that we needed to be prudent and really avoid spending money. I've been doing the things I've described here. Yet, a few days ago, he stopped by the store and bought tortilla chips, breakfast sausage and a comic book for the kiddo. How are those necessities? I'm beating myself up over a jar of PNB (which I did NOT return), and he's buying comic books?! I've given up some of my kids' organic foods for the sake of money, and he's buying breakfast sausage?! After I was done being mad at him, I told him I loved him, but that I felt those purchases were out of line with our new situation and agreement. He shrugged and said (regarding the sausage) "It's a weekend thing." When I pressed him, he said that there were plenty of times when I've spent money on myself, but he couldn't give me an example. I gotta tell you: I'm pretty thrifty and rarely splurge on my kids, much less myself.
Regardless of who spent what, there are a couple of lessons to be learned here. The first is that no one is perfect. Marriage is a partnership between two fallible humans; there will be problems. Lesson number two: Be glad for what you have. He only spent $10-$12, rather than $200 for a box of practice ammo (defense ammo is acceptable, practice ammo is just for having fun at the range). Lesson number three: When your partner splurges, DO NOT RETALIATE BY SPLURGING YOURSELF!!!
Now, go to your local library, check out and read Suze Orman's "Women and Money."
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We brought more bathroom tissue out of long-term storage and made more grocery purchases, as follows:
Fruit market: quart yogurt, brocolli, 2 ears corn, head lettuce, green onion, asparagus $10.81
Grocery store: 2 gallons milk, organic grapes (I WON'T buy grapes from Chile; these are probably the only grapes we'll have this year), bananas, 2 cans refried beans, 2 packages (on sale) lunch meat, fresh pico de gallo 2lb cheddar cheese. $33.60.
Analysis: The quart of pico de gallo was DELICIOUS!! However, for $3.99, I think I'd be better off finding a recipe to make it myself; it's just tomato, onion, peppers and cilantro. I also need to make our own refried beans. I bought the cans because I wanted them RIGHT NOW - to go with the pico de gallo. It would be much more economical to make them ahead and freeze in small quantities. I've really been craving these fresh summer-time foods, and they are so healthy that I have a hard time denying myself. We are still eating our home-dried and home-canned fruits, plus getting more fresh berries from our land.
Confession: Do you recall my pining for caffeine? I've been weak: I bought a case of Coke - ah, ice-cold-Coke-in-a-can! It's SOOOOOO good. Add another $10 to my purchases.
Summary: it is now mid-month and I've spent $101.40 on grocery items. That is substantially less than my usual. While I think it could be better, I am pleased with the progress I've made so far.
We - as a family - have become very dependent upon sandwiches of some sort - on bread, in pita pockets, wrapped in a tortilla, or even on crackers. I can bake bread, pita pockets and tortillas look do-able (though I have yet to try them)....but lunchmeat? How am I going to make that? It's not practical or economical to substitute a hunk of chicken or turkey breast for the thin-sliced stuff I buy at the store. And tuna? Well, one can only stand so much tuna. There's egg salad, but only half of us will eat that.
So what's a prudent woman to do?
I've come up with two new ideas.
The first is peanut butter. I've always thought of PNB as "kid food," but I must say that PNB on squishy bread, with plenty of jelly is pretty good. It's just a bonus that it's gooey-ness encourages me to drink a bone-strengthening glass of milk.
My second "find" is my very own home-canned boneless skinless chicken. It mashes up like canned tuna and mixes well with other ingredients. Yesterday I mixed a pint of raw-packed breasts with low-fat creamy Caesar dressing, a dash of onion powder and a dash of garlic powder. I spoon the mixture into a pita pocket (found in the freezer - that thing is a veritable treasure trove), with lettuce and tomato chunks. That pint will fill six pita-halves (or three whole pitas) YUM! Canned chicken also goes well with tex-mex seasoning, then wrapped in a tortilla. For breakfast today, I stuffed pita pockets with scrambled eggs.
Earlier this year, I went to the warehouse store and stocked up on easily portable snack-type things. We were gone all day today, so I packed a "lunch" of these portable things: fruit leather, granola bars, applesauce cups, single-serving chips. I also packed some home-dried fruit and PB&J sandwiches. We didn't eat all our "lunch" so the kids ate the rest in the car on the way home. Guess who doesn't have to cook dinner! All those convenience items aren't cheap, but are healthier and cheaper than eating out.
For breakfast, I scrambled some of our chickens' eggs and added cut up sausage links (found in the freezer).
Also made more iced tea.
Dh went to the store and bought pancake syrup and cold cereal.
I'm not going to continue blogging every single thing we eat...too much effort. Though I will mention a couple of things. Today we had a small snack of berries from our own yard. Yesterday, I ate a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich; it was REALLY good!! At this point in the journey, I am using up odd items from the cupboards (and freezer). It will be a bit of time before I am seriously into preps. I am also spending a fair bit of time being more imaginative and creative about what I'm fixing. In a SHTF situation, I doubt I'd have the mental energy to be imaginative, which is another good reason to EAT WHAT YOU STORE. I'm also saving all these recipes that I'm developing and posting to my blog. They will be kept close to my stored food.
I still am going to document all grocery items I buy. Today, I pulled 6 rolls of paper towels and a package of bathroom tissue out of long-term storage. I also went to the open-air fruit market and the bakery outlet store. For a total of $9.16, I got two loaves of bread, 15lbs potatoes, 3 onions, 2 tomatoes, a head of garlic and a head of lettuce. I feel like that's pretty good.
But then, I went to the grocery store for sour cream, popcorn (the kind in a bag, that you pop on the stove or in a hot-air popper), and a gallon of milk. I also made a few other purchases: since the sour cream was on sale, I bought two. The date on them is July 20th. Unopened, they'll last that long. The only hotdogs I'll eat have come on sale for the summer. I haven't bought hotdogs since last summer; further if I don't buy them now, dh will buy the expensive fattening ones. I bought Ball Park Smoked White Turkey franks, only 45 calories each, no fat, and my family likes them. I bought four packages, as their date is also mid-July. I picked up a very large container of peanut butter, forgetting that I had just looked at two #10 cans of powdered peanut butter. Maybe I'll take the peanut butter back. I got the least expensive jelly for PB&J's, and splurged on a quart of yogurt for the kids. With my mushy bananas, it will make a great dessert. Total there $32.89, $26.50 if I return the PNB - which I think I'll do.
My total on groceries this week is $40.60. Not as great as I thought it would be, but not bad for the first week.
A word about store-bought bread (which my dh really prefers for his sandwiches). Your basic sliced bread comes in two "styles." One is long and slim, with each bread slice being roughly square. The other is shorter and wider, with each bread slice being roughly rectangular. Both are usually 24oz loaves. However, the long slim loaf gives you more slices of bread. Granted they are smaller slices, but in my family, we could all use smaller portions. For me the long slim loaves are win-win: more sandwiches per loaf, fewer calories per sandwich.
And a word about popcorn that doesn't involve a microwave. My four-pound bag of yellow popcorn cost $2.19. It contains 9 cups of unpopped corn. A 1/4 cup of corn makes 5 cups popped. Assuming that 5 cups popped is approximately equal to a bag of microwave popcorn, my $2.19 will make the equivilent of 36 bags of microwave popcorn. I do spend an inconsequential bit more on "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" spray for the popcorn, but since the popcorn costs me less than 1/10th of microwave, I can afford it! This is also a step toward less dependence upon the grid. Currently, I use a hot-air popper, but I do know how to pop corn in a kettle on a propane stove.
Disclaimer: I do not routinely stock "Spicy Habanero Tuna;" it was given to me. You could substitute regular tuna plus taco seasoning, canned chiles, or other spicy seasonings of your choice. Frankly you could just omit the tuna, but I was looking for a way to use this up. You could also probably substitute rice for the orzo, but again, the orzo was given to me and I'm trying to use it up.
Soak and cook
1/2 cup dry beans of the Mexican or chili sort of variety
in the usual manner. Drain.
Bring water to boil, add:
1 cup orzo (which is rice-shaped pasta)
1/4 cup dried minced onion
1/4 cup dried green bell pepper
1/4 cup home-dried cherry tomatoes
Return to boil and cook 9-10 minutes. Drain. Mix with beans.
In a small bowl, mix:
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp tomato powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cilantro
Stir into bean and orzo mixture. Then add
1 can spicy habanero tuna
Chill thoroughly before serving.
I found this to be QUITE spicy, so I'm topping each serving with a dollop of sour cream.
1 cup dry macaroni
2 Tbsp dried celery stalk
1/2 cup home-dried zucchini slices, broken into quarters
1 Tbsp dried minced onion
1 carrot, sliced thinly
1 cup frozen (or dried) peas
1 cup home-dried kale
1 can tuna
1/2 tsp dried parsley leaves
dollop of mayonnaise
salt & pepper to taste
Bring water to boil, add macaroni, celery stalk, zucchini, onion, and peas. Return to boil & cook until macaroni is done. Strain off cooking water, using a small amount to soften kale.
Cool thoroughly. Add carrot slices, tuna, parsely, mayo, salt and pepper
For breakfast, the kids had the last of the cold cereal. I had more of the Chicken Pasta Salad.
For fun the kids went to a friend's house; they got lunch there.
For fun I got solitude while the kids were gone, and I nibbled while I cooked.
I made a tuna pasta salad and prepped a mexi-salad (with orzo, beans, etc). I'll follow up with recipes for both tomorrow.
Dinner was soft tacos with store tortillas & shredded cheddar, home-canned ground beef, a can of olives, a can of refried beans and the last of the store-bought lettuce.
I also precooked spaghetti noodles (for another day).
Lots of iced tea. Had a headache most of the evening. Might be related to lack of caffeine. *shrug* Either way, I wasn't terribly sleepy today.
Up at 5:00AM. By 3:00PM, I was really missing my Coca-Cola! I nearly fell asleep on the couch, but the clicking of the mouse (by Dd2) kept rousing me.
Breakfast for the kids was cold cereal wtih milk. I had more of the Greek Chicken Pasta Salad and Iced Tea.
We nibbled some home-dried apple slices before we left to meet with a couple of other families to do a craft project. We were served some pretzels as a snack while we were there.
For lunch, I took leftover BBQ chicken, chopped it up, mixed in some Light Creamy Caesar Dressing and spread it on tortillas. I added lettuce to everyone's plus tomatoes and green onion to mine. Along side, I served some snap peas-in-the-pod (Costco) and orange slices. We all drank iced tea. BTW, Dh takes his lunch to work and I am not responsible for what goes into it!
We had breakfast for dinner: pancakes, leftover bacon (Dh cooked a whole pound this weekend; I usually only cook 1/2 or 1/3 pound), and scrambled eggs. We used the last of the pancake syrup. The kids like my home-canned blackberry syrup, but Dh only likes maple. Next time, I'll try to make my own maple-flavored syrup. I did it once before and Dh didn't like it. As I recall that recipe included molasses, which I'll eliminate this time. Dh and the kids drank milk with dinner. I don't care for milk. I've been sucking down the iced tea. I made a second gallon this morning, and will do so again tomorrow-without a doubt!
While making dinner, I fried up 20+ extra pancakes. I froze them, wrapped in Saran, in bundles of four, which makes a nice breakfast for the kids.
Today, things are normal.
The animals got their usual processed, purchased feed this morning. The dog will be getting "Mommy Mush" (see separate entry under recipes) for dinner.
For breakfast, the kids had cold cereal with milk. I had the last five potstickers from the freezer - and a Coke...the very last Coke in the house.
This morning we spent some time working on a service project with others. We were rewarded with a free lunch and excellent fellowship.
When we came home, I made sweetened iced tea (see separate entry under recipes), and a Greek Chicken Pasta Salad (see separate entry under recipes).
I also went to the store for one gallon of milk (organic) $5.
Dinner: Dd2 and I had some of the Greek Chicken Pasta Salad. Dh & Dd2 made simple nachos (chips & cheese). I guess they don't know how expensive cheese is.
Snack: After dinner, Dh & I both had popcorn (hot air popped, with zero-calorie "I can't believe it's not butter" spray).
A real recipe for Mommy Mush (dog food)?
Buy 5 lbs chicken leg quarters. Pressure cook them (which makes the bones crumbly). Run them (bones and all) through a grinder (I use my KitchenAid Grinder Attachment). Stir in a 29oz (large) can of pumpkin puree, two 15oz cans of tomato sauce, and 2lbs of frozen mixed vegetables (green beans, peas, carrots, corn). If your dog is picky, you may have to grind up the vegetables. Process at 10lbs for 75 minutes for pints or 90 minutes for quarts.
To serve (for a 30lb dog), scoop about 2/3 cup into a bowl. Add a heel of bread - torn up, or 1/4 cup cooked brown rice or 1/4 cup cooked oatmeal (or other whole grain).
This is an adequate copy-cat of the same item sold in the deli area at Costco. This recipe has been dramatically altered to use what I have on hand.
In a large saucepan, bring water to boil, then add:
3 cups dry macaroni
1-1/2 cups home-dried halved cherry tomatoes
1 tsp dried minced onion
1 tsp dried celery stalk
Return to boil, then simmer until macaroni is cooked as desired. Strain, retaining about one cup of the cooking water, to which you add:
1 cup home-dried kale
Let kale steep until texture is acceptable, then mix with macaroni and tomatos in a large bowl.
1 pint home-canned boneless skinless chicken
into still hot sauce pan. Cook over medium-high heat (to denature any botulism toxin) until broth evaporates. Add chicken to macaroni and vegetables. Cover bowl and refridgerate two hours or over night.
When salad is cool or cold, add:
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup greek vinagrette salad dressing
Mix thoroughly. Allow flavors to blend for at least one hour before serving.
4 tea bags
1 gallon warm tap water
1/2 cup sugar
Fill a glass gallon jug with warm (or cold) tap water. I'm impatient, so I start with warm water. My jug was originally sold with organic apple juice it in, but I've kept it and reused it many, many times.
Add tea bags to jug, making sure they are under water. Place jug in sunshine for a few hours until tea is brewed to your satisfaction.
Remove tea bags. Pour off a bit of tea (to make room) and add 1/2 cup sugar. Place jug in fridge to chill and allow sugar to dissolve.
Once cold, transfer tea to portable reusable "water" bottles and/or reused gatorade bottles. I like to put about 2 inches of tea in the bottom of a gatorade bottle and freeze it. When I'm ready to go somewhere, I top it off with cold tea and go!
33 calories per 8 oz cup
66 calories per pint
83 calories per 20 oz gatorade bottle
I'm starting this blog to record our journey as we begin to live on our preps. Our finances are getting tight. We still have enough cash around to maintain the status quo, however, that seems unwise. Beginning today, we are on a spending near-freeze. We will be eating down our stores - which also stretches to paper products, soaps, detergents, etc. I am hoping this will be a temporary, short-term thing - maybe three to six months. I will share our menus and recipes with you. Hopefully, you will find new ways to "use what you store." I will also be sharing some information about things we do for fun - without spending money.
If you have ideas for me, please share them in your comments. Fresh eyes often see a situation in a different light and I welcome your input.
So, the basics: we are a family of four: two adults, two elementary-aged children. We also have a dog, two cats and six chickens. It is early summer and we just planted a vegetable garden. We also have a few established fruit trees and bushes. If I were to estimate our preps on hand, I would say about 3 months' worth of food. Probably more in shampoo and soap. Probably less in paper products. Foods include fresh, frozen, home canned, commercially canned, home dried, commercially dried, commercially powdered and so on. I think the only "category" we don't have is freeze-dried.
Off we go...