Friday, January 29, 2010

Back to (Pantry) Duty

I am back from business trip. Interesting, exhausting...and, thanks to the Colts, everything in Indy is now expensive; I even had to pay for internet if I wanted it at the hotel (um, no...)

Sr also returns home tomorrow from his, so hopefully, before I leave on the 20th, we continue eating down this pantry. I have a whole turkey out thawing to cook and can (and this gave me more room in the freezer). I also have the last of our boilers in the crockpot. I will shred the meat and freeze it for quick meals like pizza, white chili or chicken noodle soup. I let these guys get big, so the removal showed quite an open space in the deep freeze.

Tonight we are having pizza made with the last box of gluten-free crust mix I bought on clearance at least a year ago. The boys are excited. I will open some fruit for a side dish/dessert.

I doubt I am going to make enough progress to clean out this stuff before I leave, but if I can at least get the little deep freeze cleaned out, I'll clean it and make some "freezer meals" to help Sr feed the boys while I am gone. I cannot believe I will be leaving in 22 days.

So, I will continue this challenge until the end of the month.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Slow Eating

SO, I am not eating up this hoard fast enough. I thought I had more room in the big chest freezer (in garage), but tonight I was putting some things into it (leftovers, breadcrumbs from old bread, sale meat because the inside freezer is jam packed with crap still) and discovered it is still to full to add new things. This dismays me because we are taking Ryan in soon and I need a place to put the meat. It had been hard making progress when my husband is gone, I have been sick and appetite-less, and my two boys are becoming such picky eaters.

This is completely pathetic!

I am not going to set foot in a grocery store until this sh*t is gone. I mean it. Of course, my plans never seem to stick and the reality is I will be gone for 5 weeks starting next month. I guess we better start cooking!

Sr comes home Saturday and I plan to cook a large turkey his employer gave him in November. It is taking up a lot of room. We actually have 5 more giant turkeys, but they are still running around outside and are not taking up room in the freezer. We'll eat what we can and I will can the rest. At least canned meat takes up less room and is shelf stable for a couple of years (we are still eating beef canned late in '06-I am now down to only 6 jars of that meat). I guess I could can the hamburger too.

Truth be told, I have seriously been contemplating a return to a vegetarian diet. I was a vegetarian for over 13 years (starting as a teenager and ending in my early thirties). I have been cooking a lot of meatless meals lately and the whole family seems okay with the changes (even meat and potato lovin' hubby). However, even if I decide to make the switch back to that sort of diet, I cannot let the meat go to waste. I respect the lives of the animals we or someone else raised too much to do that (in theory), yet, this is exactly what is happening in the chambers of my three freezers!

I am trying. I made a great Crockpot oatmeal for this morning. I put steet cut oats in the slow cooker with the proper water amount and cooked it on low all night. In the morning I added bananas and a little brown sugar to the pot and let it continue simmering. Oh, it is good! I may try it with dried fruit next time and add the fruit when I add the oats. I could also add frozen fruit (and need too) in the later cycle as we have cherries, black- and raspberries, peaches, blueberries, and applesauce taking up room in the freezers too. I highly recommend this concoction.

For dinner tonight I used the Crockpot again. This time I browned garlic and onions and chicken thighs (bought on sale a while back) in the cast iron skillet. I then added it to the Crockpot along with a commercial simmering sauce (coconut curry) bought at the grocery liquidator. After the chicken was well done, I added some of my home-canned green beans (the '08 stock I am wanting to use up). I rank it as 'OK' (the sauce smelled great right out of the bottle, but did not do well in the Crockpot. If I had made my own sauce it probably would have been better for the long term cooking). I served it over long grain brown rice (I am finally making a dent in the rice, but I did donate several bags to the Food Bank as well). I have a lot of leftovers and no one will be around to eat them next week (as I am traveling for work, Sr is gone, and the boys will be at the grandparents house). I will freeze them and see how they are later this week. As I already said, we will have turkey this weekend.

So, even though the official hosts of The Eating from the Pantry are ending their challenge at the end of the month, I plan to go forward with this challenge 9the best I can with the long time away from home). I still have mounds of hoarded stockpiled foods to use up.

One more interesting tidbit (at least to me;), I get my tendency to "stock up" honestly. My mother has always kept a well-stocked pantry and I remember never having to wonder if we had anything to eat (we probably had a dozen boxes of cereal at any one time). Even as a retired widow, she had maintained a packed pantry that included outdated foods. Well, today I found out she cleaned it up and purged all the older foods or the ones she figured she would never eat. She said she was no longer shopping for lots of food and was trying to use up what she has stored and then plans to buy in smaller quantities in the future. You have no idea how weird this is to me!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Pantry Meal

I am seeing a bit of light on the other side of my pantry!

Tonight, using meat from a pork shoulder (picnic ham) (from the freezer) that I cook all day in a slow cooker, I made soft tacos of sorts. I basically used the meat (shredded) and stir fried it with garlic, onion, tomatillos, and spices in a cast iron pan. I mixed this with the rest of the leftover red beans and rice. I then heated a few flour torillas from the freezer and slightly rolled the meat mixture up in them. The boys loved them! L2 even ate two of them and asked for a third (although he forgot about wanting the 3rd one a few minutes later).

Using the picnic ham in this way worked out great. I have four three of these from the hogs we raised a year ago. I had no idea how to cook them and kept ignoring them whenever I dug around in the garage deep freezers. Yesterday, I was searching for a chicken or a pork roast and kept moving the picnic hams around out of the way. After searching for a while I grabbed what I thought was a pork roast. After going back into the house, I saw I had accidently grabbed on of the PHs. I almost took it back outside, but decided I was meant to use one of them up. It is actually similar to a pork roast and provided the perfect meat ingredient I needed to use up the tomatillos I bought at the ethnic market on Jan 2.

All in all, a good meal made strictly from the pantry!

(Of course, a while later I was taking the rest of the meat out of the Crockpot and it slipped out of my hand. I spent the rest of the evening cleaning up grease off of the floor and cabinets...thankfully I have a couple of dogs and cats to employ for the clean-up duty! They thought it was a good too!! ;)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Menu Plan for the Week

So, with Sr gone until the 30th and my two bird-picking little boys, using up the storage is proving to be difficult. My appetite, thanks to a illness I can't seem to shake, is not what is could be as well. I froze half of the red beans and rice and served the other remaining half tonight along with the rest of the sloppy joe mix from Saturday. Oldest boy (7) ate it all, but littlest (2.5) kept saying, "I don't like, I don't like..." I finally got him to taste a little and he ate a couple of spoonfuls. Sigh. One day they will eat me out of house and home, right?

My chalkboard is working out so well! I wish I had hung it up sooner. I still need to add a photo of it here (I have no idea why I am lazy about photo posting!)

I basically just list ideas of meals for the week then constantly move the ideas around to accommodate leftovers or busy schedules. I started using it on a weekend and I haven't updated all the way to next weekend yet, but here are my plans for the week (subject to change):

Monday: Leftovers
Tuesday: B: (me) Take grapefruit to work, boys will eat oatmeal or cereal
L: Leftover rice & beans (kids eat at school & in-laws)
D: quesadillas and fruit
Wednesday B: Grapefruit/cereal
L: Out for work retirement party/Kids eat school/in-laws
D: Chicken (crockpot), green beans (HC), and bread
Thursday: B: Maybe eggs (I might try these muffins)
L: The muffins if I make them
D: White chicken chili
Friday: B: grapefruit/cereal & yogurt
L: Leftovers
D: Leftovers
Saturday: B: pancakes or waffles, yogurt
L: leftovers or PB sandwiches
D: Pizza with HM WW crust (I am trying to implement a tradition of sorts)
Sunday: Not sure yet...

Planning out meals seems to be easier than I thought (I resisted for so long!) I can anticipate what I need to thaw out or use up. It really doesn't even take very long! I have never been one to stick to a strict "to do" list, so I keep it flexible and move things around quite a bit, but I think having the meal ideas in front of us is making us more likely to use our stockpiled food.

(Although, truth be told, I have been also taking a bag of items to church every Sunday for the Catholic Food Banks to help use up this mass of food I have hoarded the past two years before it goes bad.)

Next month, I plan to continue this adventure until I leave for schooling on the
20th. If I am able to drive (as opposed to fly depending on cost analyse and which my employer will grant approval), I will pack some items from the pantry to use up there in a crockpot. I would really like to make a goal of not using any of our grocery budget as I have still been spending (well under $80 budget so far not counting the discount day at the Amish bulk store on the 2nd, but it is getting close). I have been tracking every item bought this month in a spreadsheet and recording sales and coupon use to study where our money is going. What are we buying?
Sadly, with Sr gone again and living remotely he is spending a lot. He went through fifty dollars in three days (because the man does not know how to budget or shop wisely in any shape or form). I had to transfer another fifty to him, but I told him that was it until the weekend. I do not spend like this and I too spend time away from the home (in travel status for work).

He claims to be keeping all his receipts so we can look at them together and figure out his habits (the really bad, expensive ones he doesn't seem to realize he has). I've read blogs where people get by on $1-2 a day (he obviously needs lots of work to ever even get close to this starting with finding a successful way to get him to stop smoking-an unbelievable amount of money is spent on this disgusting, selfish habit).

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Tonight I made the best Red Beans & Rice. I used up half of the red beans I have stored (I will definitely be replacing these in a few months), three cups of long grain rice, a smoked sausage from the freezer. I also threw in some frozen, chopped green peppers from my garden (I can't remember if they are 2008 or 09) and a couple of dried hot peppers (also from my garden, but definitely from this past summer). I seasoned it with fresh garlic, cumin, pepper, dried chipotle, and other spices from the seasonings cabinet. The dish was fabulous!

I ended up freezing a portion and I have enough for leftovers this week.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pre-Packaged at It's Best

Well, like anything I get obsessed with (um, homesteading, poultry, preparedness, vintage campers, books, TEOTWAWKI, blogs, thrifting...) I have to tell you about one thing I did notice between the hardcore shoppers and my own experience. It has to do with these bars called Soyjoy.

See, everyone is buying a box of 6 SoyJoy Bars from CVS because you get back $6 in ECB (I can't remember offhand what that stands for; I call them virtual bucks). My own SoyJoy experience came at Krogers. They have these same bars on sale for 10/$7 (or $0.70/each). I had a coupon for -$2 when you buy 10 single bars. So, if you are following this brings my total to 10/$5. I also had a coupon buy 3 get one free (or -$0.70. My total is now 10 bars for $4.30 (.43 each). I tried one when I got home and they are really good. Now I wish I had gone to CVS for a box! I normally don't buy things like this (and never would have bought them at full price), but I can take them to work for a healthier snack.

OK, I will be over this soon and on to my next great thing (ha!)

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Game

Well, I was better at the coupon game today. The local Big Chain supermarket is having triple coupon week so I gathered up all the $0.50< coupons I have and went shopping after dropping Sr off at the airport. They actually had some bargains and I found a few "free" items. The cashier and the man behind me was impressed by my savings.

Here's the catch: Most of the coupons I find are for products I would never buy (and hardly pay full price for) and we really don't eat. How is that a savings?

I think my experimental phase is coming to an end in this game. I prefer to shop the Amish bulk store and grow my own (although the 10 organic yogurts I bought for less than 0.30/each was nice as I haven't had time to make my own in ages). I tend to stock up on sale products (ones we eat) anyway. And, another confession, I am way to disorganized for this game. I wasn't paying attention when my items were tallied and I didn't get an "in-store" sale price and paid 3 more for the product. I plan to go back tomorrow to have them fix it.

We ate leftovers tonight (pork roast, potatoes and carrots from last night). The Pantry will hardly be dented now that Sr is gone for the rest of the month. My kids eat like birds. I also have some smaller (homemade) prepared meals in the freezer that I will probably use.

The best part of this challenge has been the organization of my stockpile and the inventory. I have a good idea of what sort of commercial products I have on hand. I also know what is in the most handy storage areas (inside freezer and two kitchen pantry cabinets). I am still working on garage freezers and the home canned area of the basement. I have also enjoyed making menus or coming up with things to eat on the fly using my own storage.

I am going to update my inventory on the sidebar tonight after the kids are off to bed.

Another useful thing (I hope) I have gained from reading these new blogs is this link: Swagbucks. I already have several "bucks" and hope I can get enough to get an Amazon giftcard. If you like seeking information on the 'net, this may be useful to you too.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Eating from the Pantry-Week Two

I already lost track of where I left off. We are doing fairly well. I have been creating meals from the pantry and, other than the in-laws treating us to breakfast after church Sunday, everything we have had originated from the pantry shelves or freezers.

I also finished inventory on the one shelf in the basement. The reason this is taking me so long is one, I am extremely busy and two, I am cleaning and rearranging as I go. I now have a shelf designated for each type of commercial food product I bring into the stocks and separated the home canned things onto their own shelf. This is the older home canned stuff. I still need to inventory it. I do know what I have in commercial goods now and can use it up and replace (if we are planning to continue to use it), donate what we don't want, or use it up and never bring it in again. The weirdest part of finishing this portion of my inventory project is that I have a lot less than I thought (the shelves are really deep, but the products were stacked only 1-3 cans deep and scattered).

Here is a sampling of the meals I created based on pantry/freezer items:

Homemade pepperoni pizza (I had an Arrow Mill Gluten Free Crust Mix to use up) and two packages of pepperoni in the upstairs pantry. I also still have home canned pizza sauce from 2006!)

BBQ pork and corn chowder (pork was from pigs we raised in 2008 and the corn was neighbor's sweet corn that I froze this past summer. We should have used '08's corn, but Sr grabbed the '09 and I didn't feel like digging for the other.)

Applesauce (from farmer's market apples)with all meals and for snacks

Whole wheat penne (pantry-we are out of spaghetti and I refuse to buy any until we use up at least 4/8 boxes of penne I have stored away) with home canned sp sauce

Marble Brownies (another commercial mix I wanted to use up)

Chicken enchiladas (breasts from inside freezer, enchilada sauce-com, cheese)


I need to post some pictures, but I hung an old chalkboard I thrifted years ago (it has cartoon Wizard of Oz characters on it) and I have been writing not only menus on it, but also the family members' chores. I love it and cannot believe I let it sit in storage all these years!

I have found one bad side-effect from following other's partaking in this challenge. These women (and probably men) are "couponers" or professional frugal shoppers. I am not one of these. I grow a good portion of our food or buy it from area farmers and preserve it. I also shop the bulk and grocery liquidation type stores (that was how I ended up with the commercial shelf in the first place), but I do occasionally (and this past year was particularly bad and busy for me) shop at the big stores and I try to buy sell items, but I have been known to pay full price. So, reading all of these blogs about using coupons and store ads to save money (or gain stockpile items for cheap) has intrigued me a bit. See, most RL folks that know me, know I am a numbers geek. I love manipulating numbers and reading posts showing how someone was able to buy Bayer aspirin for free moved that geeky part of my brain. Of course, I have no reason for buying Bayer aspirin, but that did not matter. I needed a new project and this one jumped right out at me.

I tried this shopping game this weekend at Walgreens and CVS and I was able to snag a couple of deals (I actually needed an OTC medicine I take and I had a coupon and it gave some of those register rewards. I hate to confess, but I have thrown those away because of not returning to the store before the date on them or not understanding what they were good, cough, yes, like throwing money away. I see that now). I obtained conditioner for my hair which badly needs it (this is a topic for another post), coffee, toothpaste and toothbrushes, my medicine, dish washer detergent, and some clearance Christmas chocolates. All in all I spent about $35 out of pocket (oop) and this was partly because the medicine I needed is expensive. I received $14 in drugstore dollars to spend on another occasion. This means I "spent" $21 for all the items (my medicine was at least 19.00 of that exchange after the coupon). The part I cannot get my mind around is how gathering these "store dollars" in exchange for real money helps. Yes, I can spend $14 dollars at the store this week (and hopefully roll some of that into more virtual dollars), but I would have rather saved $14 on sale items in the long run (I noticed some of the items were priced the same without all the drugstore dollar stuff if I was willing to drive to the city). In other words, wouldn't it just be better to deduct $5 from the cost of the medicine then give me "store dollars"? It would be the same thing.

I will say it was a fun experiment and perhaps I just need to play it longer to understand the reasoning. I have enjoyed reading all the blogs that center around this type of shopping.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


My collie pups were chasing each other around the dining room table where I had my laptop and Internet set up (um, my procrastination, but I haven't set up the wireless router I've had for over a year now). They ran under the cords which caught on a tail or leg or something and the next thing I saw was my laptop flying through the air and landing upside-down on the laminate floor. I turned it on to check it and it came up ok. Last night, I went to use it and now have no middle keys on my keyboard. This includes the popular letters like "n" and "y" and "h". I have no idea when I can get it fixed...

I had planned to blog about my inside freezer inventory (finished) and make a list on my sidebar, but it will have to wait until I set up the old, clunky desktop computer tonight (I am at work today).

So, as usual, one step forward, eight back...:)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Pantry Challenge-Day 2

So, while cleaning out the inside freezer (the one attached to the refrigerator), I am finding I need to be more diligent about dating and identifying the contents of the things I freeze. See, I forage and garden and buy items at farmers' market and then freeze them. I freeze left over bits of meat or leftover soups. Sadly, I seem to have been a bit lax on the labeling and I have no idea what some of the things I am finding shoved to the back actually are!

My plan of attack is to get the inside freezer inventory and clean it out so I can bring the week's items in from the garage freezers as part of my meal menu plan. Part of my challenge, especially in the winter, is to dig through those awkward cooold things for a meal. If I take the less used items out to the garage and make an effort to bring in items to use during the week, I really think I will be more successful at utilizing my stockpiled food. The key for me is visual!

So, I tackled a couple of shelves (I have a side-by-side 'frige) and found what I think is sweet potato butter, two qt bags of blueberries (and, sadly, my kids have been begging for these but I didn't want to have to dig in the cold for them and here they were a few items away...), two small freezer-burned containers of what I think is turkey (thawing and will heat for cats), 1.5 bags of chocolate chips, a pint of current jelly (from my own currants I picked summer of 2008!), a qt bag of chicken broth, bacon, bologna (ick, in my opinion, but Sr likes it for his lunches on the road), yeast, gallon bag of dandelion petals (also from 2008-these are going to the chickens), leftover ham, and homemade applesauce (thawing to eat the rest of the week). I still have three more shelves and the door to go. I wonder what other mysteries I will discover...!

Yes, I am slow at this due to very hectic month already!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Official Start Day

Today is my official start day for the Eat from Your Pantry Challenge. I wanted to shop at the Amish Bulk store for their inventory sale before closing the purse to shopping. I did shop there on Saturday and spent $72 after the 15% discount. I mostly bought organic things, dried fruit and nuts, and cheese so that was why it was so high a bill. My budget for food for the entire month is maximum $100 and this seriously took a chunk. Then, on Sunday, we went to the city to maintain Little House (we are hopefully closing on it soon *fingers crossed*) and I mentioned to Sr I always wanted to stop at the International Grocery nearby (I was ruminating that once Little House is sold, I wouldn't be back to this part of the City). He says, "Well, let's go in and look around!"

I ended up buying 2 lbs of tomatillos (I made this fabulous chicken and tomatillo crockpot thing while in LA-I know they are so not local or in season! I really must plant some this summer so I won't be tempted to buy them like this); a box of falafal mix; pita bread for Sr's lunches and some Chihuahua Queso cheese. This came to about $11. I also bought milk (organic so a bit more expensive) and that pretty much wiped out the $100 grocery budget! Now we have no choice but to eat from the reserves!

Tonight's meal was mostly bits and pieces from leftovers (penne pasta with home canned spaghetti sauce from Sunday; the rest of the NY's yellow eyed peas; fresh cut-up veggies from in-law's holiday gathering and hamburgers from the chest freezer). Sr was in charge of dinner as he is a house husband more or less until the 15th (I so despise this time of year financially).

I am still working on inventory. I would have it done by now, but the weather has turned Arctic here and my toes can't stand to be in the basement for very long or in the garage looking through the freezers. As soon as the winter thaw commences I will get it done (I promise!!), but this week is not looking good where temps and snow are concerned (darn Lake Effect thing).

Here is a bit of inventory from one of the 'frige cabinet:

16 lbs of various beans (lentil, kidney, small red, chana dal*, baby lima, great northern, pinto, black)
7 boxes cold cereal (some opened, but most not opened)
3 bags Musli
3.5 bags oyster crackers
2 boxes multigrain granola bars
2 lb quick oats
4.5 lbs Irish style oats (steel cut oats)
5 lbs organic WW pancake mix (this is actually a local item!)
5 lbs King Arthur bread flour
3 lbs multigrain hot cereal
1 jar Trader Joe's Almond Butter (love TJ's-glad they are two hours away from here)
Dried pineapple
Dried mango
Dried mixed fruits
Golden raisins
dark raisins
Dried cranberries (big, big bag bought cheap at bulk store this summer)
*******I am thinking lots of homemade granola may be in our near future...*****

2 lbs brown sugar
2 lb powdered sugar
Box of stevia sweetener
Little bottle of Sorghum
Yerba mate (loose tea)
A whole bunch of hotel coffee packs (Sr brings them home for me, the coffee drinker)
various types of in-bag tea (probably more than 100 bags from the time before I killed my kumbucha colonies)

*I brought the chana dal (small yellow lentil) back from LA. I have some other food items I brought back that ended up making my bag overweight and cost me $100 to ship it back. I could have bought many, many pound of Chana dal lentils for what it cost me to bring back this one bag! It would be a crime to waste them.

OK, so there you have it. This is basically three/four shelves (I didn't write down what was on the middle shelf as it was the only one not needing immediate attention). I still have the right side of the 'fride to do and the shelves in the basement. Then, if it ever warms up, the fun begins in the freezers.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

I am almost embarrassed by the mass of food I have stockpiled. I was so serious about preparedness this past year (and the one before), but Life left me with other plans. Both the hubby and I spent multiple weeks away from home (for work). Additionally, I just found myself burning candles at both ends this year and rarely made big (i.e. slow cooked) meals. We ate a lot of eggs this past years because they are easy and our girls generous in this department.

When I was setting us with a stockpile of emergency foods, however, I must have had "slow cooked" on the brain as we are well stocked with grains and beans. I am still sorting through the piles, but just in the messy cupboard I photographed a few weeks ago I pulled out 16 pounds of beans (various types including kidney, lentils, pinto, black, chana dal, baby lima, small red, and Great Northern). I also must have thought we could survive on hot cereals and discovered 3 lbs of multigrain hot cereal, 5 lbs of steel cut oats (Irish style), wholegrain old fashion oats (at least 2 lbs); multigrain Cream of Wheat (multiple boxes), 7 boxes of cold cereal and 3 bags of Musli. i can't imagine using all of this stuff up so I am sending some of it to the church's food bank tomorrow. I may send some of the beans as well (sadly, I am the only one in the family that really enjoys bean dishes; I remind them they will thank me if the TEOTWAWKI occurs).

I also found at the back of the mess 1 each bag of brown and powdered sugar. Here is the issue: I bought new bags of these before the holidays to make a particular cookie. I couldn't find any and thought we were out (I have been mostly sugar-free since summer, but took a hiatus over the holidays). This is why this challenge is important to me. I am wasting our money and resources.

After reading some of the other participants' updates I do think I am much more prepared than many of them. I could literally feed us for a year on my reserves. I have no doubt! One month will not be a challenge (although, getting lazy may be) and will hardly dent the reserves. I really need to use some of this stuff up, do a good cleaning and start over (with a better plan). So, for me, the challenge is to be extended until the garden is producing (May-ish) something. I will restock in June. The only thing I will go to the store for is dairy (milk, cheese or yogurt). I bought chia and other sprouting seeds at the bulk store today and will try to incorporate those as fresh ingredients. I also have the partial boxes of oranges and grapefruit to utilize. My neighbor sells 50 lb bags of potatoes he gleans from local fields after the major crop is in (i.e. the rejects). I won't be eating potatoes (because of diet), but this will provide something fresh for the boys and man. I also stored about a bushel of butternut squash from the garden.

We should be able to harvest greens in late April or early May, hopefully, so if I can keep us afloat on the fresh thing, we should do fine. I am allowing myself a $20 lee-way for anything we may need, but it is best if I don't use it.

I am looking forward to this challenge and will post the contents of my pantry and freezers ever so slowly...!
Note: Cross-posted from private blog (originally posted 01/01/10)

Remember when I said I had plans to use the food storage and needed to challenge myself and several of you said you felt the same way????

Well, we are apparently not alone! Here is a challenge (self-directed kind thankfully) here that addresses this exact issue!

I plan to participate!

For our New Year's meal I made a version of Hoppin' John only I used my stored Yellow Eyed Beans (I actually do not have any black eyes peas in the stores!), the last of the jalapenos, some of the left over ham from last weekend and my canned tomatoes. Turned out quite good! I had planned on making cornbread to go along with it, but that just didn't happen.

Sadly, only Lyndon and I ate any of it. The eldest child and his dad ate left over pizza the latter dragged home last night.

So, here are my specific EFTPC goals:

1. Spend $20 or less a week for dairy (milk and cheese if needed) and other fresh things.*

2. Do this challenge a chunk at a time (starting this Monday, Jan 4-Feb) and not to worry about my trip away during March 9I'll pack some things and hope I get a hotel room with kitchenette or at least a microwave).

3. Inventory! I need to know what I have on hand so I can...

4. Try to menu plan (why o why does this challenge me so-I am such a spontaneous cook!)

5. Blog about my concoctions/challenge

6. All savings will be sent to debt snowball.

*Only exception will be tomorrow when I shop at the bilk store's annual inventory discount day up in Amishville. This is why I am not 'officially' starting until Monday.

I Wasn't Joking

Note: Cross-posted from private blog (originally posted on 12/13/09)

So I wasn't kidding when I said I had a lot of food storage. My pantry is full! I also have two freezers (not counting one attached to 'fridge) full of items too. It is ridiculous, but also strangely comforting if and when we ever needed to live solely from the stores. I have been making most of our meals from the storage, but have not had time to make menus and such yet (I have been cleaning though!)

I was reading Tansy's blog tonight and I noticed a blog title on her list with the title 'Pantry Challenge-Day 3 & 4'. Seems someone else was thinking similarly to us all! I like how she randomly picks things from her basement storage and then challenges herself to create meals around the items. This is really more my speed than menu planning. So, I am going to try her challenge this week (of course, there is always an added challenge in my life because I am basically a single mom during the week-it is extremely hard cooking for two picky eaters and myself). I had thought of doing something similar in that I would plan meals, 'shop' the basement and bring it up to the cabinets in the kitchen to use. I thought by doing this I would use up a good percentage of the food storage by summer.

I haven't blogged about this yet, but Shawn and I are attending church regularly (well, he is, I should say, I've skipped a couple of Sundays due to not wanting to deal with squirmy toddler, but today Sr came home and said, "Hey, they have Sunday School for children Lyndon's age...") Sr is Catholic and this is the religion we are trying together as a family. Being back in church seems to be a good thing for Sr. One of the topics they are discussing is money and debt. So, finally, I may have him on the right page with me this next year. Our goal is to eliminate all our consumer debt (including truck loan) by the end of the year (maybe even sooner).

Food remains one of our biggest expenses. I shop for food without a plan most of the time. I like to shop at the Amish bulk store and the grocery liquidator so it is hard to actually have a plan (as their inventory is not regular). I have been reading a lot about couponing and such and may give it a try (if I can find the patience for it), but really we are set for months in the food dept. if we eat from our own "grocery store", I really think we will bring our expenses done for the good.

So, I decided to post some pictures of my hoards stores:

FIL built me two of these shelving units (sturdy & wonderful). This is ONE of them (number two is just as full) and contains my canned goods plus some odds and end grains and beans. I also have water stored here and there between the food items. This is mainly items canned between winter 2008 and current. I actually canned a lot less than the previous three years.

Blurry picture, but as you can see I have a ton more food on this one (already in basement when we moved in). I mostly keep commercial canned goods here, but I also have the original home canned items I moved from the old house. Some of these things were canned in '06! I have more water stored here and a couple of boxes of wine and beer bottles for that spirits I never got around to making. (O, ignore my falling insulation. I couldn't find the step-stool to get up there and fix it!)

This picture is sideways, but is the worst of my storage. I just cram things in here and really need to spend sometime organizing this space. I tackled my spice cabinet last weekend and it is nice! The basement stuff is not perfect, but at least I can see the items. This cabinet is just horrible!