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Another Convenience Food-Farm Style

Sweet Pea and Calendula soap ready to be cut into bars

I know I talk about this all the time but here I go again. Some times I don’t feel like making a huge mess or spending lots of time cooking. There are other fun things to do but everyone has to eat right? And everyone like good home cooked meals over some boxed stuff, right?

Last night was one of those I don’t feel like cooking nights. So our fast food was a hot bowl of pea soup, corn bread and for dessert we had peaches. I had exactly 2 pans, 4 spoons, 4 glasses, 4 bowls, 1 knife and a wooden spoon to clean up. I warmed up a jar of pea soup I had frozen last fall, a quick corn bread recipe that took all of 5 minutes to measure out, and I stirred together right in my cast iron frying pan then baked and popped the lid off a jar of peaches I put up. The corn bread recipe could have been even faster if I had the recipe minus the liquids and eggs premeasured in a container with the recipe written on the side.

gardener's soap with cranberry seeds

The secret to these meals is that it all started months ago when I purchased a nice smoked pork shoulder. We had a wonderful family meal with close friends the night I cooked it. I saved the left over meat in small packages and froze for things like quick omelets, mac and cheese and even toasted ham and cheese sandwiches.

Meal two came with the ham bone a few night later, I made into a nice large batch of pea soup. This was a don’t even think about it meal. I put the ham bone in the crock pot and covered it with water, set it on low and forgot about it until the next day. After it was cool I removed the bone and other undesirable pieces, leaving the loose ham bits in the water. To this I dumped in about 4# of dried peas and a few well diced carrots. I turned the crock pot back on low and forgot about it again until later in the day when it was dinner time. Turned out perfect. A quick batch of corn bread and a fresh salad from the garden and dinner was served.

To freeze the leftover soup for another quick meal, I used regular quart canning jars and lids to freeze meal size portions in. These were not new lids, this is okay because I didn’t pressure can the soup I froze it. Make sure to leave plenty of head room as this stuff does expand when it freezes. No pressure canning needed, I simply put the band and lid on and put it in the freezer. I sometimes use other sized jars and their lids in place of the canning jars, it depends on the size I want to freeze.

After dinner last night I stopped into one of my favorite Blogs, to say hello to Rhonda Jean over at Down To Earth and was quite pleased to see she too is talking about pork shoulders and how handy and economical they are. You can read about it from her, here. Her photo of her dinner makes me hungry all over again for another cooked roast.

will be in our Etsy shop soon...Smells like spring to me...

So now on to the corn bread, like I said I was in no mood to spend lots of time cooking so I mixed my corn bread right in the cast iron frying pan and tossed it in the oven to bake. My recipe calls for corn meal, I decided to use up some I ground last fall while preparing for our 7 months of eating from our pantry. The recipe also called for a small amount of white flour, I used ground oats and a bit of bran flour. There is also a small amount of “liquid fat” my recipe calls for so I used flax oil with a splash of sunflower oil. It turned out yummy. * here is another little Karyn is not into cooking tonight tip…the recipe needed a cup of milk. Since I am doing my baking with powdered milk to cut back on the fresh milk ($$ & running to the farm down the road) I didn’t bother mixing the milk first I tossed about 3 TBS of the milk powder right in the flour mix and added a cup of water with the oil and egg.

20 minutes and very little dishes later we were stuffed full of our convenience food…farm style. Now to decide what is for dinner tonight. I think it will be a “farm house buffet”  (leftovers for those of you who are wondering). We have some Shepard’s pie, pea soup, potato salad and fresh spinach that need to be used up. Almost forgot the brownies and chocolate chip cookies…

So whats for dinner at your house tonight?

Just the Basics

I have had a lot of email asking about exactly how to start a storage pantry and exactly what are good things to keep in it. Most know that since April our family has relied almost exclusively on our pantry.

This sure is a hard question to answer. Every one is different. I would start by saying fill it with things your family will eat. Fill it with enough to last your family a reasonable amount of time. What that means for your family you will need to decide. For us that means about 6 months if not more.

Natural and Basic:

A good place to start. Basic flour, sugar, salt, butter and a few spices can be made into many dishes. They in the long run will take up less space than several types of boxed cookie, brownie, muffin & cake mixes. And basic ingredients are always less expensive and better quality than prepackaged foods.

A few simple spices and herbs can be made into many of your favorite premade mixes. Italian dressing mix, Ranch dip mix, bread crumbs, brown sugar are a few that come to mind and a good place to start.

Start a few basic cooking recipes, try them then change and adapt them to your liking. Keeping the recipes all in one place will save you time hunting them down. I tape to the outside of my mixes jars the rest of the recipe, this way I don’t need to look it up, and if someone else need to mix up some they will have a clue. But you will find in time you will come to know them off the top of your head, just as my grandmother and probably your’s did too. How satisfying is that?

Basic natural ingredients also allows you to control exactly what is in the food you and your family are eating. Artificial color and preservatives are not something I choose to add to our food. So why purchase boxed food with that stuff in it? 

Around here I really watch the amount of sugar in all forms my family eats. I can control the kind and amount of any thing added to our food. Want more fiber? choose whole grains instead of white flour.

So who has the time?

That’s a question I get all the time. Thinking you don’t have time is the first step to not getting it done. You will find a few minutes here and there while you are doing other things. Waiting for the potatoes to cook, mix up a jar of your favorite rub to add to them next time you bake them. Make enough (once you know you like it) to last for several uses.

No time to pull everything out to make pancakes? How about next time you make them cook extra and freeze them. They reheat well in the toaster. Daisy loves them rolled up with peanut butter, and they are better for her than pop-tarts.

To get yourself started you could set aside a Saturday morning to do a bunch of cooking and mixing, enough for the week.

cupboard-after2Consider size and space:

Where are you going to store your food and supplies? I have several storage spaces throughout my house. In the cellar, our’s is dry and cool in the summer and heated to about 60°f in the winter. There you will find my large storage pantry it’s actually two, floor to ceiling cupboards, a metal storage rack and our large freezer.

Up stairs I have two cupboards in the kitchen that is baking supplies, herbs and spices. A third to hold bulk items such as flours & oats held in manageable sized containers. And a fourth that holds the items we are currently using and a few can goods so I don’t have to run down cellar all the time.

Finding space:

Finding space to store you food can be tricky at times. You will want a cool dry space that you can get to fairly easily. You will be adding to and using from it frequently. This is why my frequently used items are in close easy reach. While the bulk of the pantry are out of the way yet still easy to get to and manage at least weekly if not daily.

cupboards A cupboard, storage shelves or even boxes will work. Look around and be creative.

I have a friend who when redoing her house dedicated an entire room to food storage. She like me keeps lots of food and supplies. Yet another friend has just as much and she hides it well. Lift up one of her beautiful side table skirts in her living room and you will find wooden boxes full of her canned goods. Look in her closet and there are packages of paper goods stacked amongst her shoes. Under her bed are boxes full of even more food all carefully hidden away, yet she knows in a moment where to go to get what she needs. Another friend doesn’t keep much other than 1 or 2 extra of anything and a single shelf above her washer and dryer works for her. She is a traveling girl with her job and her family, so she is not home much.

Start small and as time goes by you will discover space to fit your supplies, food and needs. Right now if all you can do is dedicate one shelf of a cupboard that’s the place to start and work from there.

How to pay for it all:

Some choose to take a bit from savings or save a bit each week and when enough is saved make a big purchase to start off. Others choose to purchase a little each week as their budget allows. You will need to decide how you want to do it. I wouldn’t suggest going in to debt or borrowing money to do it. I also personally wouldn’t take money from my savings either.

It also will depend on how you do your shopping. Do you go every day, once a week or once a month? If you have your pantry running well daily trips will become a thing of the past.:)

I personally do my shopping once a once a month, but I miss many of the sales this way. I watch the sale fliers and only make purchases for my family around the sales.  I keep a list of things we are running low on and I also know how much of something our family uses until that item goes on sale again. I keep a list of what we use, where it was bought and how much it was.

Should I happen to find a GREAT sale (this doesn’t happen so much any more) I will buy a few extra that my budget will allow. Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale, make sure you will use it before it goes bad,  and that your family will like the food. You don’t want to throw away food you didn’t eat.

bulk cupboardRotate:

Rotating your food supplies is pretty simple. The oldest to be used first is in the front. When I add something new I will take all of the same off the shelf, check the expiration dates and put the ones expiring soonest to the front to be used first. 

Some times this is tricky to find the information and you have to learn how to read the codes. Some packages or cans list a best by date. Some have a code printed on the can lid or bottom.  Most times it’s in a MM/DD/YY format. Sometimes it’s so small it’s hard to read, a quick note on the top with a marker solves this problem.

How I organize it all:

Large pantry: The large pantry is actually two cupboards in the cellar. They hold the bulk of things we are not currently using such as canned and dehydrated goods, extra spices and herbs. Things we will use that haven’t been opened yet.

Bulk storage: Is divided into 2 areas. One that is food and these shelves are in the cellar. In this area are the large buckets of things we use a lot of such as flours, sugar, oats, rice, gallons of vinegar, dehydrated foods. Also there are things like bottled water in gallons, bottled juice for long term storage.

In the second area these are stored in the out shed. Non food things like emergency supplies, lamp oil, lamp parts, candles, matches, first-aid supplies, duct tape, stored seeds, cans of gas, propane, rolls of plastic, batteries, paper goods. Things we do use but also well stocked up on. Things that are ok if they freeze, the shed is not heated.

Spice cupboard: Is in the kitchen and holds all the spices and herbs, flour, sugar, salt, home made mixes. When one of these smaller containers needs filling I go to the large pantry and fill them.

Large freezer: This stores all the frozen meats, breads, cheeses, veggies and fruits. Anything that won’t be eaten soon and in large quantities.

Small freezer: Is in the kitchen and stores small packages of things I am currently using. If I open a jar of sauce and don’t use it all here is where I store it until gone. Canning jars work well for freezing although they can waste space if not full. Some times I use plastic freezer bags. Here is where I store all the opened frozen packages and small portions, and meals I have premade, they are handy for a quick meal. This is my working from freezer. I have written about it here.

I will choose to can or dehydrate items before freezing them. If the freezer breaks or we lose power the canned and dehydrated items will still be safe. Also our freezer isn’t a big, big one, I would say medium size. This was done by choice.

cupboard

How to store things:

Bulk items such as flour, sugar, oats, rice, beans are put into large food safe plastic containers and stored in the bulk food section. Most of these items I can’t buy loose in bulk so they come in paper. I keep the food in the paper and use the buckets to keep out things like moisture, light, bugs…The paper keeps my food from contacting the plastic. They are food safe I just don’t like the idea of it and the buckets stack nicely. A quick look at the label and I know whats in it and when it was put in there.

Home canned jars, I remove the rings and can stack them two high with a piece of cardboard between them.  This was a consideration I thought of and planned for when the cupboard was built. The cardboard adds stability and keeps the glass from being banged when the jars are picked up and set down.

Bulk herbs and spices either from the health food store or my own garden are stored in quart canning jars. The jars are lined with brown paper to keep out the light. Again a label and a date and I’m happy.

I do store some paper goods, I know ghasp! These are in long term storage, paper plates, towels, aluminum foil and even plastic wrap. These are part of our emergency supplies. If the power is out and I don’t want to start the generator I use these, it makes clean up much easier. Also I think in my mind that in a long term emergency these will be valuable and traded for things I may want. (hey, I can’t help it I think about these things.) I also store bathroom paper and tissues, for the same reasons and I play with poop all day I just can’t bring myself to force my family to use cloth. Although it’s a great idea, I don’t need the extra work. They are all stacked on the shelves and I know quickly if any thing needs replacing.

So where do I find all these glass and plastic storage buckets?

Well many of the glass gallon jars, the kind pickles or relish comes in bulk from our local country store. They were just this relish, mustard and pickle jars. They saved them for me. The food safe containers came from the same store, they get premade muffin and cookie mixes in them for their bakery section. (and people think they are homemade) A local donut shop is another good source as well as the grocery deli. Their salads and things come in large buckets. Ask them to save them for you, lately though the grocery has started selling the buckets for $2. each, it’s worth it when I need more.

I also bring home glass jars from our town’s recycle center. This is a great place to find them, they are clean and the labels are already taken off. I have my friend’s and family save them for me. Here in the US glass jars are fast becoming a thing of the past, more and more products are now put into plastic containers. I can’t tell you the last time I saw a glass mayo jar on the store shelf. Even the organic mayo is in plastic. geesh!

Look in yard sales, thrift stores for canning jars. You can buy replacement tops and rings. Although this year the canning jars I see in the yard sales aren’t cheep any more. People realize they are in demand this year.

Keep track of it all:

One other thing I do is keep lists of everything in the different storage areas. When something is running low I will add it to my shopping list and replace it within the next few trips. I use clip boards with a pencil tied to it, and use the √ off system. One check for each item. 7 checks is 7 containers.

I used to try and keep this info in my home binder but found that I never took the time to go to it to update my lists. Now there is a list at every storage area. And the shopping list hung on the fridge.

Some weeks every thing on my shopping list isn’t crossed off, so I simply keep it on the list until I can cross it off.

Would you share with me some of your tips and storage solutions?

Canning Basics

pickels

Home canning or preserving can be a very rewarding task. Once you know the basics it’s pretty easy and very safe if you follow the recommendations and don’t take short cuts.

It may seem like lots of work to start with but come winter, and around here they come soon and last forever, opening a jar of home canned goods is a nice reminder of the summer past and a comfort to know the food you prepared is wholesome and nutritious for your family.

 

sauce

Pizza sauce and a jar lifter

Canning jars are made by several manufactures here in the US. The most popular are the Ball, American Harvest and Kerr brands. They can be found at any local hardware store, farm store or even the grocery or department stores.

They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Pints and Quarts are the most popular, but don’t rule out other sizes as they make nice gifts. There is also the option of regular mouth or wide mouth styles. Regular mouth are smaller in diameter at the top while the wide mouth are wider. To me I prefer the wide mouth, they are easier to pack food into.

Years back all sorts of glass jars were saved to use for canning, but sadly today the USDA doesn’t recommend it. Don’t toss theses jars out they can be used for other things as well.

Before using your jars each time you will need to first inspect them for cracks, deep scratches and nicks. Any that you find can’t be used safely for canning but will have other uses for storing things like leftovers or dry goods, so don’t toss them out unless badly damaged. Chipped jars will not seal and cracked or deeply scratched jars may burst in the canner making a mess you won’t want to clean up.

 

Lids and Bands

Today’s jars here in the US are all a 2 piece system- a flat metal part known as a lid and a screw top band to secure the lid down. You can reuse the bands if they are not bent or rusty. Don’t reuse the lids for canning , the USDA tell us they will not seal properly and your food will spoil and make you sick. 

You can however reuse the lids if you are just going to store dry goods or leftovers in the jars. I put an X on them with a marker so I know they have been canned with, if they don’t already have writing on the top. I like to write on the lids the contents of the jar after they have cooled from the canner. That’s me though, others use a label on the side of the jar, I don’t because I hate labels, they are a pain to me to get back off the jar when washing them.

If I intend to give the jar as a gift I make a little tag, punch a hole in the corner and use a string to tie it to the jar just under where the band screws down. Or I make a round label to fit the lid and cover up all the writing. Either way works nicely.

lids

all ready to move to the pantry

Bands and lids come in 2 sizes just like the jars, regular and wide mouth. When you purchase new lids be sure you have enough plus a few extra of the size you need. More than once I have opened a new package of lids and found one or two that are damaged. Either they are missing part of the metal when they were stamped out or the rubber on the inside is badly nicked or missing. CHECK THE LIDS before putting them on your jars.

 

Sterilize your jars and lids

You will want to wash your jars, lids and bands in hot soapy water then rinse them well.

Next set them in a deep pot and fill it with water the jars too, to cover them by at least 1″ above the top of them. Set the pot to boil and continue to boil for about 10 minutes. This is know as sterilizing your jars. You can also do this in the dishwasher if you have one. Wash only the jars when sterilizing them and not with other dirty dishes. Leave them where they are until you are ready to fill them with what every you are going to can in them.

The lids should be placed in a small pan of boiling water and left there until you are ready to use it. They make a nifty tool with a magnet on the end to fish them out of the hot water one at a time. A good investment, but me I just quickly grab one and get burnt every time.

If your jars are going to be processed for 10 minutes or more there is no need to sterilize your jars, but they do need to be clean.

canning1The canner

There are many brands of canners on the market. Both the water bath canners and pressure canners. But if you are starting out I would suggest using a water bath canner until you get comfortable with how the whole process works then move on the investment of a pressure canner.

Water Bath Canners

A water bath canner is basically a large enamel coated pot, very deep to hold the jars while processing them. There are racks made to lift the jars in and out of the boiling water. But any large pot will work as long as you can cover the jars with at least 2″ of water above the top of the jars and the water won’t boil out all over your stove. It will also need a cover.

If you don’t have a rack, that’s okay too, you can use a round cooling rack or even a folded towel on the bottom. This will keep the jars from banging on the bottom of the pot and cracking them.

A 23 quart water bath canner can hold 7 jars at a time. You will be limited to what you can process in a water bath canner. Jams, jellies, tomatoes, pickles, some fruits and relish. Basically high acid food. You can not can veggies, meats, stews, broth or simular items in the water bath canner, you must use a pressure canner. 

 

Pressure Canners

Now, while it is true that all foods can be processed in a pressure canner, and this will save considerable time because they come to a boil quicker, can hold more jars and processing times can also be quicker.

 Some might not want to or have the means to purchase such an expensive piece of equipment as a pressure canner.   Not that there is any thing to be afraid of or worry about with a pressure canner as long as you follow the instructions. They are very easy and versatile. A good investment for the homestead. You can also cook entire meals in them.

If you do decide to purchase a pressure canner don’t skimp on the size or quality. Buy the best and largest you can afford. The All American Pressure Canner is about the best I have found and have been recommended to me by many seasoned home canners and homesteaders alike. They will last a life time if taken care of.

canner

A water bath canner with lifting rack

 

Your cooking pot

This should be another large deep pot with a fitting cover. Again enamel coated or stainless steel. Aluminum will react with many foods. You also want this pot plenty deep enough so the contents won’t boil over onto your stove top. I use a double bottom stainless steel stock pot.

 

Other equipment

Lots of clean dry kitchen towels to wipe up spills and used damp to wipe the rim and sides of jars before adding the lids and bands. Also for setting your processed jars on when they come out of the canner to cool.

A wide mouth funnel is a good thing to have. It helps get the food into the jars without making such a mess. I have seen these in both plastic and metal. Mine is plastic and after just a few short years of use it it’s starting to crack. So I would suggest to start our right with a nice metal one.

A ladle, large slotted stainless steel spoon, and large wooden spoon. For stirring and filling your jars.

A jar lifter, this is a sepecial tool with rubber on the ends to lift the jars in and out of the canner.

A kitchen knife. For removing air bubbles from the jars before putting on the lids and bands. Simply slide it into the jar to where the air bubbles are. They also make a special spatular for this task, but I never have tried one.

Good sized pieces of cheese cloth for straining jellies.

There are probably other gadgets out there for canning, but these are the basics to start with and all that I use here.

 Where to store the jars

canning

Beautiful carrot relish ready to give away. Can you see the tag in the back?

A cool, dry and dark place is ideal. I remove the bands and store the jars in the pantry & stack them 2 high. One disadvantage to the way I label my jars is there is no writing on the side of the jar to tell me what is in it, but a quick look at the top and I know. If I am going to store them 2 high I use a piece of cardboard on top of the first layer of jars. This keeps them from banging together and provides a stable base for the top layer to sit on.

Storing them in the jar box is another good way, and you will know where to put all the empty jars.

 

Where to find the recipes

Well, I would recommend you make the investment and purchase the Ball Blue Book or the Ball Blue Book Guide to Home Canning and Freezing.There are many great books available but this is the one I have. Or go to one of the trusted canning site and print out the recipe and put them in a 3 ring binder.

There are also many sites on the Internet:

USDA Canning Publications be sure to check out the publications link for more info.

Complete Guide to Home Canning (PDF)

Pick Your Own website- has tons of info and recipes there.

Ball Website- great info and recipes

A word of caution, before deciding on a recipe you find on the Internet, check one of the trusted guides, many recipes I have seen are not suitable for canning for one reason or another. Use good judgement and only UADA recipes until you have a good knowledge about canning and processing times. Generally speaking most foods can be canned safely if you use the processing time for the ingredient that will require the longest processing time. This will broaden you recipes and give you courage to use your own. But first start with trusted recipes, there are plenty of them.

ball jars

Antique blue Ball jars to hold dry goods in

Simple Food

Food and eating are the heart to our family and I’m sure an important part in your life’s also. Meal time around here is something looked forward to by every one. It’s the few times a day everyone comes together to talk, laugh and share their day with everyone. To unwind, catch up and recharge in so many ways.

I can’t count the number of times a day I hear the words, what’s for dinner? What did you pack for lunch today? When you go shopping can you bring me back…? Do we have any more of the cookies we had yesterday? And so many others related to food.

bread

As the one being in charge of the food in the house I think about it many times each day as well. Judging by the many e-mails I have had lately we are not alone in thinking all sorts of things about food.

I thought today I would spend some time to do a sort of Q & A of a post.

 

Janet wrote:

Karyn,

How can I cut back on the cost to feed my family. We have already cut our spending to the bare minimum needed to feed our family each week. No more meals out, fancy desserts, steaks on the grill, or big dinner parties. I use coupons when I can and we still need to cut back further to make ends meet.

I have even started buying the large family sized frozen meals thinking all the ingredients are already there and must be more cost effective.

 

Patricia wrote:

Dear Karyn,

I just love reading your blog and want to know what you do to find quality organic food. How do you make purchases without spending any money?

 

Emily wrote:

Hi Karen,
Well my husband and I want to eventually live on one income. We are really into organic foods. Do you have any tips for cooking? Also we buy a lot of beans. My husband wants to begin to live as simple as possible and not have to use money all the time.

 

Meghan wrote:

Dear Karin,

You have said you don’t throw away or have left overs. How do you do this without eating the same food all week long? How do you convince your family they should eat the left overs before they spoil?

 

 

My answers:

While cutting the cost of food is an important part of making ends meet, you still must feed your family quality, healthy food for them to stay healthy. I too am always looking for ways to cut back on the grocery bills.

It seems if I buy the exact same items two weeks in a row the total cost has gone up from the week before. At some point you can’t cut food back any further, so you must look for other ways to make the best of what you do buy.

bulk foods

One way is to stop buying pre-packaged foods. Go back to using basic ingredients and recipes. Stop paying for the packaging and convenience. A 5 pound bag of  whole grain macaroni, a 5 pound block of good sharp cheese, home made bread crumbs and farm fresh milk will make a nutritious meal many times over the cost of a frozen pre made dinner. A bag of potato chips put into individual sized bags is less expensive than those little bags with 3-4 chips in them. The selling point is that they have a certain number of calories or fat. Read the back of the package and put your own portions into bags. Do the work yourself don’t pay others to do the thinking and work for you. I have a post here on cloth snack bags that have been working very well for our family.

snack bag7

Start simple and go back to what you know. Pull out those old recipes and stock basic ingredients. Cooking enough for several meals at one time will save you time and reduce the cost of the energy used in the long run. Use your freezer to your advantage. Also recipes that use fewer ingredients will help. A search on the internet will give you many recipes for all kinds of dishes that use basic ingredients, are nutritious and delicious.

Something as simple as making freezer jam will help save you money, and you don’t need fancy equipment to do it. If you don’t have any of the equipment, ask to borrow from family and friends. How about a girls night making jams & baking bread for those jams!

On the side bar to the right————————> there are a few links to recipes for making basic foods. Some are quite gourmet and very expensive if you had to buy them all made for you. The vanilla sugar is one that comes to mind as is the dressing mixes. Try the brown sugar recipe.

Left overs I don’t see as left overs, I see them as already cooked food to add to our meals. Many times I cook extra to serve another time. Last night’s left over corn may be part of tonight’s casserole. Most can be frozen for a few weeks and by that time every one is ready to eat it again. Left overs can be brought for quick lunches while at work, or taken to eat while out doing errands, watching the kids ball game. Heat them if need be and put into a wide mouth Thermos.

Organic food, often is so over priced and you must be careful and know what you are buying. The regulations here in the US aren’t all that strict and I see many foods labeled organic or natural but when I read the contents or do some research on the company offering the food it isn’t at all. Some organic fruits you take the peel off anyway so I don’t know if there is an advantage to it being organic.

My approach to this to grow my own organic veggies that I can. I use the local farmers markets, and road side stands and buy from the farmers I know. I know how their food is grown. Natural food stores and co-ops might be a good choice.

Here we will never be able to grow oranges, bananas, lemons. Our climate simply won’t allow such things. But I can grow tomatoes, spinach, beans and use the saved money to purchase the things I can’t grow. Also I can’t grow a garden year round, we have from the first of June to about the end of September. This short season means growing must be done quickly and the bounty from that preserved in the forms of freezing, canning and dehydrating. There is a bit we can do to extend the season within limits and that means a few weeks.

baking

For things like baking supplies, spices and herbs I have a few brands I have done the research on and stick with those. Even the health food stores that sell herbs and spices in bulk bought them from someone. Ask who, most times around here it is Frontier. A company I know and trust. Also watch those containers, are the levels of the herbs and spices in those bulk container ever going up or down. or are you the only one helping to empty the container. I would question the freshness of them. Pour a small amount in your hand and see if it smells fresh with lots of fragrance, it it a good color, it it’s dried leaves it is still crunchy or damp? If it passes your inspection great put that small bit into your container and make the purchase if not toss it into the trash. Don’t put it back into the bulk container.

The health food store is full of items such as spaghetti sauces, cereals, canned veggies, juice boxes. Most are in tiny packages and not from what I would call from the top of the food lists. Meaning not a basic ingredient. Make your own sauces. a good size container of oats and you can have all sorts of varieties of oatmeal, cookies, cakes.

Dried beans are a great source of fiber and protein. Bought in bulk they are very economical. Cook them up plain and they can be added to many dishes. They can well and freeze well too. Did you know a 1 pound bag will make more than double the amount of beans you will find in a single can beans. Those cans are almost 1/2 water to start with. I will do a post on home canning and freezing beans soon. I just brought home 20 pounds to put up for the winter.

Bartering and trading can be tricky. If you look around and ask around you will find others willing to trade and barter with you. You will have to know what in general the item/s you are trading are worth and what is being offered is worth. They should be close in value. But this rule is always broken some times it’s ok to come out on the short end.  If you are trading food, be sure it is good quality. Enter into the trade knowing both sides of the expectations so there aren’t surprised or hurt feelings later. It won’t take long in the trading community for the word to get around both good and negative—Just be fair and honest—

I have noticed a bartering section up on Craig’s list and a section in our local paper. This I can’t comment on I have never used these contacts. I stick to trading with people I know. You could try putting an add up at the local feed/farm store. Use a heading something similar to looking for, or willing to trade…

handmade cotton dishcloth

Available in our Country Farm Store on Etsy

Living simply and cutting back to one income can be done and is done every day. It boils down to living within your means. The first place to start is reducing debt, the amount of money you owe to others. Use a budget and cash system. Don’t borrow money or use credit, cash is the way to go. It’s just so simple if you don’t have the cash you don’t buy it.

It also might mean getting rid of many of the things you think you can’t do without, cable tv, cell phones or the house phone, weekly shopping just to shop, expensive hair cuts and fancy fingernails.

It also means thinking about other ways to have the things you do need such as clothing, shelter, food, water and medications. This may mean going to thrift shops, sewing your own or even only having a few pair of well made, quality jeans instead of dozens. It may mean you could cut back your water bill if you installed a rain water collection barrel to water the garden. It might mean investing in some good heavy drapes so you can turn the a/c up or the heat down a bit.

It might be starting to make your own cleaners and soaps to clean you and your house with. The recipes I use are here. In the long run they are economical to use and better for you and the environment.

stewie and dumpling1

 

Raising animals for food is another option but most don’t have the time or space to properly care for them. But animals like chickens or rabbits can be managed in small areas and are multi purpose, eggs, meat, fertilizer. Even a simple worm bucket will provide you with casting worth their weight in gold for gardening and even your house plants.

Gardening to grow your own produce is an inexpensive and easy way to provide food for your family. While some might not have the room to put in a 1,000 sq. ft garden every little bit will help. Consider putting plants into buckets, tuck them into your flower beds. Can you grow herbs on your windowsill?

Learning basic skills will take you far in living simply and save you money. Knitting and sewing are valuable in your day to day needs as well as gift giving and even earning extra income. I’m not saying everyone has this desire but basic skills will teach you to do for yourself.

Use what you already have in as many ways as possible. The cloth napkin that doesn’t look so great on the table any longer can make it’s way to become a dish cloth then a cleaning rag, then out to the barn or garage to clean up out there and finally to the compost or worm bin.

Save and use your glass jars for storing food. This will save you the cost of plastic in the forms of wraps and containers.

morning glories3

It will take some thought and trial and error. No one is going to get it right the first time and that’s ok, simple living is the journey not the ending point. Pick one place to start and get it right then move onto something else. You will be surprised at how quickly you will think of new ways to do and see things.

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