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Friday, October 2, 2009

Prudent Penny: Stocking Up

This subject is so vast, I'm sure we'll be revisiting it in future posts. Consider this an overview.

Since moving out to the boonies, I've made it my mission to keep my pantry and freezer stocked up. I'm okay when it comes to freezing, buying canned goods and drying, but my goal is to be even more self sufficient, especially now that I have enough land to grow my food.

There are several methods for storing your harvest.

Canning: Canning has been my number one weak link. It's been ten years since I did any canning and I felt rusty. Fear of losing my hard earned produce kept me from doing any significant canning. I finally rousted enough courage to experiment but then my vegetables ran out and there ended my few experiments. As any good Cubs fan would say: Wait til next year!

This year, Greg wanted pickled peppers. We didn't get many banana peppers because of that surprise freeze, but we did get enough to can a few jars. The problem was, none of the recipes I found tasted good (imo). Greg said his father just threw in salt, vinegar and a hot pepper into the mix and they were delicious. Obviously, I was over thinking this.

With the last harvest of the season I decided to experiment rather than rely on the lackluster internet recipes I had found. In a hot sterilized jar, I pushed in as many peppers as would fit, slicing one long seam along each pepper.

With another jar the same size, I measured out vinegar to fit 3/4 of the way up. I also set aside salt, sugar, coriander seed, a peeled garlic clove and one hot pepper sliced in half.

I boiled the vinegar, adding first a quarter cup salt and a pinch of sugar and coriander seed. I tasted it for saltiness and kept adding salt until it was to my taste. When it came to a boil once more, I poured the mixture on the peppers and squeezed in the garlic and hot pepper.

When we opened the first jar, it finally tasted the way I had hoped. I wrote down my measured amounts on the canning lid. Next year I will multiply those amounts per the number of cans I will need to can my peppers.

This year I didn't do any pressure canning, but if the garden is more successful next year, I might pressure can some eggplant and okra.

Grocery store stock up: The easy way to stock up is to buy an extra tin or package of whatever you normally buy. If it's on sale or I have a coupon for it, I buy as many as I can reasonably stock up. Stocking up via the grocery store is the easy way. They already do all the work for you, all you have to do is make sure you rotate your stock and use it up in a timely fashion.

Every time I go shopping I add one extra nonperishable item, be it plastic wrap, toilet paper, salt, or sugar. Sugar might get hard, but to my knowledge, it won't go bad. I've used sugar that was five years old with no difference in taste.

But this brings me to another storage topic. Sealed dry goods.

Mormons, bless their hearts, are the experts on storage. It is part of their tenets to keep a ready supply of food. I found one site that has been profoundly useful and it introduced me to a concept that I had never considered before. Long term dry storage.

Apparently many LDS communities have places where members can buy food stuffs in bulk and can it at their facilities for a very reasonable price. I don't know if they allow nonmembers to buy and can there. The closest one to me is an hour and a half away, but I'd be willing to make the trip if they let me use their can sealer.

Since it's just Greg and me, we don't utilize dry goods as quickly as a family with children would, but how efficient and practical it would be to have dry food stuffs safely stored, especially out here with the lions and llamas. It just makes sense. I looked into what it would cost to buy a can sealing machine and it's way too expensive for the small consumer, which explains why you don't see them everywhere.

If you're interested in long term storage I can highly recommend Everyday Food Storage. I love this site! They post a lot of videos that demonstrates step by step processes. It's really helpful, especially if you're new to storage.

Having lived through hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, and weeks without power, water or gas, I am a very strong advocate for stocking up. I think Hurricane Rita brought that message home to me loud and clear when we lived like refugees for almost a month.

We brushed our teeth with bottled water, ate out of tin cans and battled mosquitoes, snakes and hot weather night and day. We cleared debris and hauled brush until we lost the light, and when darkness fell, we worked inside the house, disinfecting, cleaning and hurting from head to toe.

I have a sister who never keeps anything in her cabinets than what she can use in the week. She never had to live like we did. It changes you forever.

Stock up, at least for the little emergencies like power outages, as well as the big emergencies like losing your job, forces of nature, and being too contagious to leave the house.

By the way, the current US administration is asking people to stock up at least a month's supply of food in case you do get that H1N1 flu.

Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini --
For more posts on saving money go here and here.


Mike Keyton said...

It's like reading 'Little House on the Prairie'. Love it!

My problem is two over enthusiastic damson trees and a family that has little time for chutney, or damson jam. And there's only so much plum wine you can drink, though I try

Maria Zannini said...

I bought one plum this year--but I have yet to put it in the ground!!! --keeping my fingers crossed.

Isn't there anyone nearby you can trade with? Or maybe a farmer's market where you can sell the excess? It seems a shame to let it go to waste.

If they'd only invent instant teleportation--the trades we could make!

Mike Keyton said...

Monmouth must be plum capital of the world! I'm surrounded by small orchards. We have lots of birds.

hmm, the word verification I've just had to type in was verging on risque :)

Maria Zannini said...

No kidding? Write me sometime and describe your normal weather and soil conditions. I've always thought of England as being wet 90 percent of the time.

Maybe my plums won't grow as well where I live now. Just what I need--another lawn ornament. ;)

Stephanie Humphreys said...

I think the LDS cannery would let you come. Ours here does, I believe. Just call ahead and make an appointment. Then order the products you want to make sure they have them on hand. Our local cannery won't let you bring in outside products because of health regulations.

Maria Zannini said...

Thanks, Stephanie! I will call them Monday and see if they'll let nonmembers in.

Kaz Augustin said...

I'm just writing to get some sympathy, nothing more! :) I used to do all that Stocking Up thing but, dang, it's hard now I'm in a tropical country. Used to buying in bulk, I now find that various creepies manage to break through my double-bagged, vacuum-sealed, airtight covers, infesting every dried carbohydrate (and rusting the lids of my preserving jars...we're also reasonably close to the sea) the way a mosquito swans through an open window sans screen.

I used to be mindful of occasional blackouts, brownouts and storms from our days in Australia and California. That's why we have two full-size cooking plates in our kitchen -- one induction and one bottled gas. Just in case. But I'm fighting a losing battle against the invasive critters here. There isn't even a cool place to keep canned goods, unless I want nests made of the labels in the single, narrow storage room we have. It's not as bad as hand to mouth, but my emergency supplies have dwindled alarmingly.

And @Mike Keyton, send over some of that plum wine, sir! You can never have too much!

Maria Zannini said...

Oh, poor baby! I know what you mean about the critters and the humidity. SE Texas is semi tropical and we were ALWAYS having trouble with all manner of insects--not to mention the humidity.

I like north Texas much better. It does get cooler, but it is drier and the bugs are easier to manage.

I've even persevered over the scorpions.

But yes, I totally understand and you have my sympathies.

Ref: plum wine
I'm going to have to see if we can get Keyton to start a mail order business. :o) Plum wine is my all time favorite wine.