Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ten Tips for City or Country Gal Food Storage

                 -Ten Tips for City or Country Gal - Food Storage-
·         Just because your not growing your own food doesn’t mean you can’t put it up.  When fruits and veggies are in season and cheap, - stock up!! Does your grocery store put out ‘old’ produce with a reduced price? Grab it!

·         Slice sale peppers (and onions ) and freeze in quart bags to use in fajitas- add some meat and  spice and your done!

·         Last year when fresh Cranberries were on sale for thanksgiving, - I bought a bunch and simmered them in water to create my own unsweetened cranberry juice to have on hand. They are acidic like tomatoes, so I was able to water bath half pints of my cranberry juice to have all year long. Now at first sign of bladder trouble I am ready to go!

·         When they are super cheap and in season, Slice up Strawberries and place on cookie sheets and put in freezer for several hours, (so they freeze separately) then dump into freezer bags and enjoy strawberries for cheap all year!

·         If you buy meat on sale, - cut or portion the way you like to use it (I get my chickens whole so I freeze boneless chicken breasts, and legs and thighs on cookie sheets till hard, then put in freezer bags for individual use, - or buy family packs of ground beef then freeze in smaller portions, (raw keeps longer than cooked)

·         You can still ‘Can’ things you buy from the store! Jams are quick and easy and a great way to use sale or bulk fruit… and you can even control the sugar content!

·         Don’t forget about drying as a fun snack option for fruit as well.

·         I know many of you probably already make your own baby food (pureed fresh cooked or even canned veggies) And maybe you already know you can freeze it in small portions by putting it in ice cube pans so you can pull out the perfect amount.
But here is another great tip. – After pureeing the food, - dry it in your dehydrator like you would a thin fruit leather. – When dried till crisp, - blend in the blender to make a dried baby food that needs only purified water to reconstitute it. I think  it would work fabulously for families who camp and ‘rough it’ with no refrigerator, - or even as an emergency stash in the diaper bag….If kept dry the powdered baby food will keep for a very long time.

·         If you want to store dry items like beans or rice, - first freeze it for at least 24 hours, to kill any creepy crawlies that may have been packaged inside… then put in tight sealing containers in a cool space.

·         Make sure you keep track of what you have, and put the newest items in the back or on the bottom. Inventory and Rotate!! Our goal is to bless our family, - not waste money!
For GREAT cheap bulk storage containers Go to your local grocery store or Wal-Mart deli and ask for extra food buckets with lids- they get everything in buckets, icing, etc. These lids still have the seals on them, and are food grade. (They are food grade if they have a #2 on the bottom) I have access to two sizes, about 2 gallon, and about 4 gallon. Some will give you theirs for free, my Wal-Mart charges $1.00 a bucket. LOVE these.
How do you know how much of something to put up? – Well, - I guess the best answer is to be super organized… and have a year’s menu. LOL Juuuust kidding!    The way I do it is just to think about things in terms of how many times a week I’d like to have something. –  I’d like to have peas as a veggie side at least once a week, - so 50 quarts /cans is a reasonable base for a year. Some veggies you will want to have extra to use in soups or casseroles.  Remember that things like tomato sauce can be used for pizza sauce, spaghetti, chili, etc. So factor that in. Maybe you use a lot of some things seasonally, - (like fruit smoothies in summer) so you need to account for that. Finally, remember to think about having extra food for company, - guests, - meals to take to others, - and give yourself a little cushion.
Wondering how long food will keep? – The Blue Ball Canning Book is an excellent resource on food storage, - with chapters on freezing and drying as well as canning. –It will tell you how long you can keep frozen items, and how to prepare them.  I use it all the time. Also, most prepackaged foods have a -best-used-by- date stamped on them.
A last and final thought. – Once again, as with many things I found the process of starting food storage to be a very convicting one.  I wasn’t necessarily happy with all the foods that I realized we ate far more regularly than I thought. – However, instead of storing drastically ‘healthier’  foods, - I kept with what we use and like, and in the meantime have been trying to increase my knowledge and working better things into our diet. –
   A book that has been hugely helpful, both in trying to change our diet for the better, and learning about more sustainable foods should the worst come (seriously, - there won’t be Fritos if the world ends? L)  is Sally Fallon’s Nurishing Traditions. This book is pretty heavy in my opinion, - but good. If you get to where you are really ready for some big changes, this is the book for you.

Food Storage

So last post I promised to share some practical things I have done  to help me feel prepared in these current troubled times.
So, -  lets talk food storage. I struggled for a long time with this idea, because all I could picture was buckets of beans, wheat and dehydrated foods in people’s basements for Y2K. We all know how that turned out. – And while sometimes the news is scary, depressing, or downright upsetting,  when it comes down to it, major food storage seemed like a pretty expensive gamble that the end of the world was near, - something I neither wanted to happen, - or wanted to think much about.
 However, - though I do believe there are many warning signs that we do live in troubled and uncertain times, - and that much more difficult economic times could come soon, - I want to talk about the sheer practicality of basic food storage.
    Never before have people had such easy and cheap access to food as we do in America. And not just the basic food we need to survive, - but every conceivable foreign fruit, vegetable, grain, and manufactured product at any hour 24/7 - 365.  Have you EVER wanted to buy a banana and not been able to? – You and I are living in an age where we could decide at any moment we feel like eating almost any food known to man, - and can walk into our local Wal-Mart at 3am and buy and eat it. As Justice has grown and asked questions (did this come from a tree or the ground?) I am amazed how many of the fresh fruits and veggies we regularly eat I tell him won’t grow in Kansas,  - but only in very hot climates…in other words,- they’ve been imported.
 When we have it soo easy, - it is very easy to forget that it has not always been this way, - and should our system become disrupted (through manmade or natural disaster) things could change in a moment.
 – In world history, - even in our grandparents generation, most people  had gardens, and put up their own food. In WWII, there was a huge push for families to plant ‘victory gardens’  so that rationed ‘store bought products’ where not the only food they depended on to feed their families. For centuries, people have lived off the ebb and flow of the seasons, - enjoying what they can get locally in season, - putting it up, - and then waiting out non-growing seasons with the food they’ve prepared. Gardening, canning, animal husbandry and butchering are skills that they used and many are re-discovering  today.
     So what if you live in town, or just don’t feel like becoming the pioneer woman? What if the thought of gardening makes your skin crawl, - or you don’t have enough room anyway?
  I believe that we all can have a ‘country living’ mindset, - even in an apartment in town. – Food storage is probably very best when it is your own organically home grown tomatoes, made into fresh salsa etc…. but don’t let that stop you from thinking ahead and planning for your family to eat this next year.
There are two ways to look at food storage
– One is, - that you want to have a comfortable supply of the things you normally use, - as a buffer. This is extremely practical, - especially if your income is flexible like ours. My husband loves the idea of our house fully stocked, - which is  kind of an additional ‘insurance’ for us if something were to drastically change with work(construction industry), or his health. – Not only having money in savings, - but a year’s supply of food and basic necessities would be a huge blessing .

– The other food storage view is just to stock up on what ever the cheapest or most basic thing, - so that at least you have it if the end of the world comes. – But this may be things that you don’t like, - won’t eat, or use. (think 100 lb. dried beans?)  And if the end doesn’t come, - you put money into something that is pretty much a waste.(a case of the cheapest brand of shampoo that you hate the smell!)  
   However, many of these cheapest things (dry beans) are perfect for long- term storage, and also can be healthy, - so my goal was to slowly try to learn to use these easy store, healthy items more into our eating, - in ways that we like.
I started with just increasing the basic pantry we had…. Thinking of living off the food I had for about a month. (Minus milk, eggs, and fresh fruits and veggies)  We already buy our meat in bulk once a year, - chickens, and beef, - so this is an area I haven’t had to work on very much.   When I was so overwhelmed at first, - a month was about all I thought I could handle.
– Regular,  canned fruits, veggies, boxed cereals, chips, crackers - baking ingredients, an extra bottle of each condiment. –  I already tried to keep on hand 6 cans of whatever we use most, - and some extras, - so I just needed to bulk it up.
 One of the biggest things I wanted to change was having extra of all the house hold products we use. – I hate running out of shampoo, - toilette paper, etc. – So I also started getting double. – When I needed shampoo, - I’d get two, - one to use, - one for storage. I still bought the brands we like (cheapest on some, name on others) Yes, - it did make my expenses go up. – I cut out spending on some extras, and spent it on toilette paper and Kleenex and cans of corn and peanut butter.
This was a great place for me to start. – As a few months went by, - I was very proud of the way my pantry was filling out. – And realized I had no-where for it to go! – At first, - I just stashed extra boxes of Kleenex, or a bottle of shampoo in a bathroom, - or where ever I could, - but I knew I needed to get organized. –
  At this point, - I wanted to start keeping an inventory, - so I would know what I had.
As I realized I had enough for a month, - I decided to make my goal for a year. – This requires a bit of planning, - and knowing what you really do eat, - as well as rotating items, - so you are sure to use them before the expiration date. – The good thing about stocking as you can, - is that if you buy a jar of peanut butter or two every  few months, - instead of 6 all at once, -obviously -  the newer ones will keep longer.
    My ‘pantry’ really isn’t very big, - since it is basically one cabinet in the laundry room, and a shelf for home canned goods…
The cabinet above the washer has washing related items, and a box of lightbulbs.

This is my 'pantry' shelf... where I keep a short stock of all the canned food items I use regularly or my pasta, brownie mixes, etc.

The cabinet on the left has cleaning supplies, the shelf above has chips, cereal, and some extra baking items, the shelves are for home canned items, - didn't get as much done this year!

So I got creative and turned my front closet (which was being storage for a million things) and made it my ‘store’. -   This worked very very well. – I still kept a few cans of basic things in my old ‘pantry’ for when I need a can of tomato sauce for super, - and when I run out there, - I simply go to my ‘store’ pantry and restock it with 6 cans. – Then I make a note, - and next time I go to the store, - I replace those 6 as if I was simply getting ones I needed for regular use. – This ensures that I don’t ‘live’ off my storage, -  but maintain a surplus. – The six new cans go to the back and bottom of the stack in the ‘store’.
    With a new baby, - I’ve  found it a HUGE help to NEVER run out of anything  (short ONE teaspoon of baking powder for pancakes on Saturday morning!)  since I had my backups in my ‘store’.
I am now deffinately past the 'one month' of storage, but not yet to the 'one year' mark. - Thankfully with some remodeling we are doing, - all these pantry areas are going to be changing in the next few months, - which is good since I am running out of room!
These Storage totes have household supplies in them. They are labled and put in order of what we need to get to most often. I have a tote for:

Kitchen Supplies (Supply of dishsoap, rags, dishwasher soap, sponges, and cleaners)

Medical (Supply of Bandages, Rubbing Alcohol, Bandaids,Espom Salts,AntiBiotic Cream, etc)

Feminine Products (pretty self explanitory!:)

Bath and Body (Supply of Shampoo,CreamRinse, Body Wash, Bar Soap, Toothbrushes, Toothpaste, Deoderant, Razors, Hair Spray and Clips etc.)

In a separate closet I have all my 'paper stuff'. Paper towls, toillette paper, and Kleenex. Also, about thirty bottles of laundry soap Andrew bought when it went on sale at Walgreens for $2.00 a bottle. :)

These are food grade buckets with rubber seal I paid $1.00 a piece for at my local Wal-Mart bakery. They had two sizes, - about 2 gall. and I am guessing about 4 gallon, since they look a little short of 5.
I have been stocking up on beans, (yes, and trying out new recipes so that we learn to like them in more than burritoes!:)  The little buckets are such a fun size! And I love their soft easy handles!

My 4 gallon bucket of beans. - I froze them first for a few days, to kill anything that might be in them. Then I let them sit on the counter to thaw so the moisture would evaporate. Then I dumped them in and put bay leaves on top to discourage any bugs, - but with the tight rubber seal I don't think there is any way they could get in if they wanted! I am thinking these will keep a long long time. :)
      I also plan to use one of these buckets to keep my homade laundry soup in when I get around to making it. - Since Andrew just bought all that soap, - I am not as motivated!! :)

 One final thought about food storage. - It is not hoarding. It is funny to me that I have on one had been purging areas of my home, and getting rid of junk holding me back, - while stocking up on food and household goods.- And yet, - it works together so well! 

   Remember why we are storing food. We are planning. We are preparing. We know in exactly two months, five days, our family will still come up to us at 4;00 and ask, 'What's for super?' We can bank on it. - Food prices may continue to go up. The economy may continue to lag, or worse. - Either way, - the dollar spent on food today, - food that is organized, and ready to serve us may be the best investment we as mom's can make in the future. As I have worked on this for over six months I have found it becomes a mindset. - Thinking ahead, planning, - looking for the deals, and being creative in how I store and use what I have. And the feeling of relief as I meet each goal is rewarding.

     It also may be the very best tool we for reaching others for Christ should there come a crises someday. -   When there is chaos and trouble in the world, people listen to those who have answers, AND have what they need. Will it be the government that offers food at the cost of freedoms? Or will we have prepared ourselves so that we are able to offer help to our neighbors and those around us, with answers of real meaning.

 I could not encourage you strongly enough to start today. Maybe its just a couple of cans of corn. Lets be wise woman who do what we can with what we have to prepare for tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In This Present Time

News of the Week so far… felt like I had to share some of it or I’d burst.

NPR recently gave an upbeat report on some cities who are considering leveling  their freeways because they cannot afford to maintain them. – I am always amazed at their creativity in reporting on bad things and making them sound , well good. In this case their only example of success is from twenty years ago in California when property prices at that time were skyrocketing. While they casually mention that our cities are less ‘industrial’, (which means we aren’t making things in factories) they draw attention to the idea that more ‘sustainable’ cities, - where people can walk places attract more people and jobs. –
  This makes no sense. – A city produces less goods,  - but will gain jobs by clearing roads used by commuters to put in shops and restaurants… places where people can spend.
President Obama just spent days in South America  where he told Brazil that he planned for the US to become a” major purchaser of oil” in years to come. See below
  Interestingly enough you and I paid for that oil to be drilled in Brazil. To the tune of 2 Billion dollars which Obama committed last year, with the option of more, at a later time. This is after he has frozen all drilling in the Gulf for almost a year now, shutting down all domestic gulf production.
   This in turn hurts the trucking industry. Duh. Hmm…
Perhaps this has something to do with food prices rising constantly for 3 years, but  3.9 percent in just the last MONTH?!!!
Here are the charts you want to see about food prices in the last few years. Here is where we learn that food is at the highest price in both real and nominal terms since 1990 when this index was started.
 To top it all off… here is a very powerful, well known and connected man (he’s been to the White House 4 times in the last month) who has laid out in very specific detail how he would like to cause the financial system in America to collapse in the next two months.  It doesn’t even really matter if he succeeds.. it is enough to know there are people trying.
Ladies. I am sorry to be so heavy with the news, - this is not all doom and gloom.  I started this blog because I feel an urgency to live with wisdom and hearts of courage. – I wanted to you to see a portion of the kinds of things I have been watching for over a year and understand my passion for being prepared, not scared.   I will post more soon about the practical things I have done in my life to responsibly respond to things as a Mom in this present time.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Just a post about a new toy we have been enjoying... We got our set of 200  from TJMax for ten bucks... and I wish there had been more. Blocks are a classic toy, and these are really really great becuase they are precision cut so each block is EXACTLY the same size... critical for those tipsy balancing act creations...
I was able to make the coolest roof with overlaping 'shingle' looking blocks at a pretty steep angle... sorry no picture! :) 
We've had them on our coffeytable and even adults who stop by can't seem to resist.  Here are a few of the simpler ones Justice and Andrew made recently...  There is a booklet with picture ideas..

. pretty amazing, but this  boat below was entirely Justice's idea. Then Andrew had to make his own boat! :)

Andrew's boat :)

I've seen sets on Amazon ...The link below shows a set of 300 for $59.00 but there  some that are much cheaper... I looked around at different store sites and some on amazon are the best price.
                  CitiBlocs 300 Wooden Building Blocks Imagine Create Design - Ages 3+

However if you luck out, - and see them at a discount store, - be sure to pick them up... they are deffinately worth it!!  I will be keeping my eyes open!! :)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Just Like Me?

         The other day I was hurrying to make lunch while hungry slightly cranky kiddos waited, Justice entertaining Felicity already in the high chair. I put our plates down then set down her bowl of cereal and told Justice to goal ahead and start while I fed her.
  As soon as he saw I didn’t intend to eat yet, he began to protest… ‘NO, Mom, YOU go ahead and eat,- I’ll feed sister- I am really good at it. You need a chance to eat. You never get to eat, - you just relax, - I’ll take care of her. I can eat later. “
 I smiled, - hearing in his manly manner and words an echo Andrew’s voice from the night before. Andrew had insisted I eat, slowly (with both hands!)  taking my time – a treat since he is here for so few meals during the week and I usually am feeding/holding/gulping at meal times.
 So I thanked Justice profusely, - and enjoyed eating my lunch, while he fed Felicity and managed to cover them both in slimy banana, - him crooning instructions and her laughing at him the whole time.
   I looked at Justice and thought how my husband’s love was still blessing me the next day through our son who just wanted to be like Dad. I hope and pray that someday he will be blessed by me in the way Felicity speaks and acts towards her Daddy, with respect, honor, and a desire to please.
    When Felicity was born, - I was thrilled beyond belief to have a girl, and terrified too. – I could ask nothing more than to have a son who is like his father, - I will be happy and blessed. – But to have a daughter who is like me? I hope and pray that each day I will become more of the godly woman I hope for her to be.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The HMB Home Management Binder

    It was late. I was exhausted. I had just put the baby down, and had a mental list of things I HAD to write down, one of which HAD to be done before I could crash into bed. - I walked in the office to get search for a paper and pencil to write it down.... my husband came to the door and started telling me something....
When he was done I stared at him (with as he later said- a look to kill)  -which I didn't realize it at the time because all I knew was, - I had NO idea what I was going to write down! I felt like crying and killing him in the same time and it was at that moment I realized, things had to change. When I couldn't enjoy talking to my husband, in the evenings - something fundamental was wrong. I had hit brain overload.

       I am not an organized person. This is why I make lists. Tons of them. On random pads and pieces of paper all over the house. I used to be able to keep a running tab, a mental lists and know what I was going to do in the morning when I woke up. Not so much lately.
    So I saw on a blog where a mom had a HUGE notebook. Huh. I had NO idea people did that. Except for 'really' busy moms who work and there-for have day planners. I just stay at home, - so I should be able to handle that, right?  Hmmmm.

  It was only a few days later that I  visited Em  and mentioned what I had seen and she told me that SHE had just made a Home Management Binder (HMB) that week!! - After hearing and seeing her ideas, and flipping through the book she was inspired by, I was ready. I knew right away it would be life changing.

   We both agreed that knowing we weren't naturally organized people; we had notebooks planning our weddings, and every important event we were responsible for. - Why didn't we think running our lives and homes qualified?
   When I got home I read this book cover to cover and felt amazed - this was what I needed.It provided a way to evaluate my life, - and a plan to get started changing it. Like so many things I found last week that the process is such a key part of the journey. -

                                                                      Large Family Logistics

Kim suggests taking stock of your life by recording your day minute by minute, to see what you are doing. Then She gives great ideas of how to organize your time in each day, and week.She talks about creating and WRITING DOWN (key) your morning routine, including the small stuff... (take your vitamins!) etc.  The whole concept of just writing it down was wonderful. It accomplished several things.
1) It helps you think through what makes those great days flow so well
2) It helps you choose deliberately what things are most important
3) It allows you to never have to think about it again. (until you want to re-vamp it!)
I realized I had waaay to much to think about, - ALL the time!! - There wasn't enough built into my week that I could just do without thinking about, and it was burning me out!

One tool she suggests is having Monday be Laundry day, Tuesday Kitchen day, etc.
 Now I had heard of this before, - but my first thought was, -that would NEVER work for me!
What if you don't get all the laundry done on Monday? - What about having clean clothes to wear to Church? What if you miss a day? NO clean clothes that week?
What I didn't realize is that you create a morning routine that includes daily dishes and laundry (she suggests 4 loads by 4pm for large families)  (duh, - yes, I guess I am that stupid!) But that you a lot certain tasks to the one day you want to do them...  ie Thursday is the day for going to town, so you have menus, grocery lists, library books packed, planned and ready on Wednesday - office day or other days that have those tasks delegated to them.
- (she also talks about dressing for the day,- fantastic!!!)

This is already what I had pretty much done... I would plan for a day outside, gardening and mowing, then another for errands, - except I used to have to think about it constantly, - each week shifting things around... then there was always the thing I'd forget,  (those books due back.. whoops, better run them in after super) or never actually get done.

This system provides a structure to make sure you accomplish everything you want and need to get done.It helps you put your brain in print. A hard copy. Something you can pick up and look at when you can't remember what you were going to do next. What mom couldn't use that? Large family or no! :) 

So last week I started. - I first wrote out just our morning routine. I was amazed that just doing that all week has been a huge blessing... each day is going soo much smooth-er with the changes I realized I needed to make.
Here is a pretty cheap and bendy notebook I'd bought on sale for something else a couple years ago then never used. It is only 1" , (up to 3" is recommended) but I had it, lOVE the colors and wanted to at least start.

Isn't it pretty?I created 8 tabs. Some of these have files or larger notebooks that I already use for more in depth, or will add to when I clean go through my HMB each week... so these tabs are just a spot to start, and stick notes and ideas etc.                     

Weekly Schedule (This has daily sheets) and a list of 'to do' for the week                      

School Lesson Plans, Curriculum and Books for Justice I want to look into to or get, Activity ideas, Goals

Financial Budget Breakdown, Bill Paying Schedule, Receipts and Returns List Coupons, and To Buy list... Things I want to keep my eyes open for on sale, or craigslist etc.

Household Menu, Grocery List, New Recipes to Try, Projects,
 Ideas for Organize, Prepare and Store,
Inventory, A list of clothing sizes for coming seasons and things I need for my kids so when I see things on sale, I don't have to think about it.
To Do lists that are not urgent (make medical chart for all my herbs etc)

Hospitality Phone numbers and Addresses, lists of gifts given and received and list of thank you notes to be crossed when sent, also list items lent to friends.

Personal List of books I am reading, Books I want to get and read, exersize/fitness goals, Craft, Art, Redo ideas or items to look for, Blog ideas, Inspirations.

Medical and Herbal Herbal remedies, resources,  medical journal for kids, etc.

Garden Garden and Landscape Goals for 2011, Project lists, and plant purchase lists, Garden and Landscape Ideas and Inspirations

 I bought clear plastic divider that will keep receipts for returns on one page, and coupons on another in the finance tab.

The weekly schedule tab (Monday is green:) with a 'to do' list for the week clipped on.

I wanted a small calender so I could have major events and plans right there. Was SOO happy to find matching sticky notes, and pens and pencils... the case, calculator and scissors needed to be a color Andrew and Justice would know was mine!!! :)

I. LOVE!!!!
I really think making it pretty is key. - You are going to look at it a lot!! Make it enjoyable!! :) 
I have heard that sooome of you (Mandi!?) have had an amazing system for  while.... let me know what works for you!!! How do you organize your life? What things to you love and couldn't live without!?

Here are some cool ideas for personalizing binders or notebooks...

 For the re-doer, re-maker, before and after gal....
 I LOVE this idea... now it would be to small for my HMB but still trying to think of a way I could use it.
Single ladies or naturally organized moms, - this might be just the ticket for you! This shows you how to make a beautiful day- planner out of vintage book!


For the seamstresses...
 who love creating with fabric - this idea is for making a child's adorable travel notebook on for those on the go, but I think it could easily be used to make a stylish HMB for mom! (for those of you with sewing talent!:)


For the scrapbooker / card -er
 The artists with paper!
Sorry no picture, she had her's blocked but I thought these were cute! And I'm sure you gals could do some amazing things! (hollie!:)

Cell Phone tip-
   A friend at church told me that for adding to your HMB when it isn't right there... Put adresses, web sites, lists, etc. on your notepad in your phone, - then transfer later - or set to an alarm that will remind you on the right day.  Or keep a list (kids clothes sizes, incl. neices and nephews) (plants and prices) etc. perm on your phone... Haven't tried this, but she said it works great for her!

Here are some links to HMB's that may help you decide what you would want in yours.

If you are to busy to create your own but want cute pages...