Sunday, October 3, 2010

Lessons from the Depression Generation, part 2

I have been thinking about Grandma W. as I have been busily canning this summer. Grandma B. canned, too, but she passed away when I was only 6, so it is Grandma W. I remember canning. Grandma and Grandpa always grew a garden. It probably wasn't very big, but what they didn't eat, she canned, even if it was just a small amount. I remember the time I was there, and she showed me how the neighbor's apricot tree had a branch that hung over her yard. She taught me that that entitled her to pick that branch of apricots, which she did and made apricot pineapple jam with. I think my favorite thing that she canned was chokecherry jam, probably because I had never had it anywhere else. One year I went with her to pick chokecherries. It probably wasn't terribly far away, but it seemed far to me at the time. There were a number of chokecherry bushes in the middle of someone's lawn, which we picked. I remember her putting the cooked berries in a cone strainer to separate the flesh from the seeds. But more than anything, I remember the sweet-tart flavor of the jam--Heaven!

I always remember my Dad growing a garden. When I was very little, we had fruit trees and a large vegetable garden. I used to go out and watch him irrigate the garden, thinking how much work it was. Mom canned when she had to, but she never did like it. Dad told a story, though, about how her canning saved us. He was getting his doctorate, and money was very tight. Just before he graduated, he discovered there was a fee he hadn't known about, which took their food money to pay. He called Grandma B. and asked to borrow $20, which she willingly sent him, but it would take several days for it to arrive. Meanwhile, the only food in the house was, 1. a box of pie crust mix, and 2. some home-bottled green beans. Until Grandma's $20 arrived, we lived on green beans served with a gravy made from the pie crust mix. (As a side note, Dad also later found some money he had squirreled away in a drawer. I have also learned to have little pots of money squirreled away, usually saving them for some special purchase I have in mind. Hmm. . . wonder where I get that from?) Years later when we moved to Illinois, Dad planted a garden in the back yard. He was always rather disgruntled about how many trees the neighbors had, shading his garden. He was so excited when my husband and I bought our first house, with a large yard perfect for a large garden.

Canning must be in my blood, because when I was a teenager, I told my parents I wanted to learn how to can. Now, Mom no longer canned at this point, although she still had all the equipment. My parents liked to encourage me when I wanted to learn different skills, and this was a skill they wanted to encourage. So Dad went down to his favorite produce place, and ordered a box of peaches. To be shipped from Georgia. At the per pound price that peaches were going for, I am sure. Our area of Illinois was not known for being able to get bushels of fruit for canning, but Dad didn't care. When the peaches came in, Dad presented me with the peaches, the canner, jars, and lids, and the Ball Blue Book, and let me loose. (Brave man!) I read the instructions, and canned peaches and peach jam. I have been hooked ever since, but fortunately now I live in Utah where I can either grow what I can, or purchase bushel quantities for canning. I usually grow my own fruit. It is more work, but it is also a lot cheaper. My little 5-year old fruit trees at my new house gave me a bushel of peaches and a bushel of pears this year. (My apples all froze due to a late snowstorm while the apple tree was in full blossom.) I also got peaches and pears from the trees at my son's house, since he only eats some of the fresh fruit. Thus, I have been canning, and canning, and canning. And thinking about Grandma W., and the lessons she taught me. And how good my Dad was to encourage me to learn a skill that has lasted my whole life. And so I garden, and can, and not only feed my family, but carry on a family heritage in the process.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What I learned from the Depression Generation, part 1

My 85 year old aunt passed away a couple of weeks ago. I probably had more contact with her than any of my other relatives, mainly because one of her daughters is my age. Whenever my family came to visit Grandma, which we did yearly, I spent a few days with my cousin. When we went to college, we roomed together. And when she went home for the week-end, I went with her. After all, home for her was 1 1/2 hours away. Home for me was 1300 miles away. So my aunt became a surrogate mother, giving me chores along with her own kids, and treating me like one of the family. They lived in an old farm house on a small farm. She never set out to teach me things, she just lived life and I watched. And learned. Since her passing, I have thought a lot about what I learned from her. A lot of it had to do with being frugal.

About the time my aunt passed away, my youngest son was home visiting for an hour or so. I had been out running errands, and suddenly realized, "Oh, I forgot to cash my check." DS asked me who gave me a check. I told him, "Nobody, it is my check. I just need to cash it so I have grocery money for next month." "You mean you write a check out to yourself?" When he continued to look at me puzzled, and then asked me why I didn't just make a withdrawal, I started to realize we had a bit of a generation gap going on. My kids seldom carry much cash, they rely on debit cards mostly. If they need cash, they go to the ATM. I have never actually used an ATM (I know, I am terribly old-fashioned, and a bit of a techno-phobe). And what I need to cash a check for to run our household on a cash basis, is more than the ATM limit is, anyway. After all, I am getting cash for food, gas, household expenses, allowances, entertainment, gifts, etc., for the next month. We have also been woeful failures as parents when it comes to teaching them to balance their checkbooks. No amount of explaining seems to get through to them; they just don't "get" it. Why should they balance their checkbooks, when they can just look on-line for their balance? I can talk until I am blue in the face about outstanding checks that don't get cashed for extroardinary amounts of time, and they just roll their eyes at me. But how can you manage your money well, unless you know how much you have?

So I am going to make a series of posts commenting about some of the things I have learned from my aunt, and others who lived through the depression. My grandparents were adults during the depression, and my parents, aunts and uncles, and my husbands parents were children/youth during the depression. It probably didn't affect them as much as their parents, but they learned certain attitudes and ways because of it. My dad used to say that he knew they didn't have much money, but nobody else did either, and they never lacked for food--because they lived on a farm and could grow their own food. But even in that semi-insulated situation, he learned frugal ways from his parents that he passed on to me.

Probably the most important thing I have learned from my elders, is to have the money for what you want, before you buy it. In other words, don't go into debt unless you have to. What a novel concept! The credit card companies would melt like the wicked witch in Oz if everyone in the country decided not to borrow what they can't pay back that month. You know, Visa and Mastercard are fairly new inventions. When I was a teenager, most people had a gasoline credit card, and maybe a department store card or two. When I first heard about the bank cards, I couldn't fathom how one card could be good at so many places. We've come a long way since then, and not for the better. It is common for college students to have thousands of dollars of debt before they graduate, for things that are long gone, like pizza and soda. It is so easy to think, I can pay it off later. But then something else comes along that we want, and something else, and next thing we know, we owe too much to pay off that month. And we quickly dig ourselves a hole that is difficult to get out of again. The depression generations I knew made sure they had the money before they bought something, except maybe cars and houses and college educations. But if the kids needed new shoes, they saved up and then bought the shoes. If they didn't have the money to go out to eat, they didn't go, they ate at home. When I was a child, we looked forward to payday, because sometimes we got to go out to eat at our favorite restaurant, and it was a real treat because it didn't happen often.

When I got married, my husband had a Mastercard. I was so impressed that he was that financially savvy. He had my diamond ring paid for before the wedding. Now, we were very frugal newlyweds, but we were both going to college, only supported by his part-time job, and pretty soon there was a baby on the way. We started to look at that credit card as a form of a student loan. It got us through college. But there was a trap there, too. We started shopping only at places that took our card (not everyone did). And we often bought a little extra, since we didn't have to come up with the cash. I remember the day we bought a gallon thermos jug, just because it was on sale. We used that jug for 20 years, but at that time it wasn't a necessity, and it went on the card. When DH finally graduated and got a job, we decided it was time to pay off that credit card, but by then we owed several hundred dollars, and it wasn't an easy process. It wasn't until DH changed jobs, and had a payout of his retirement account, that we were able to pay off that card. Since we were so young and still starting out, we decided it was best to use that retirement money to pay off the debt, and from then on to live on a cash basis. Yes, we do have a credit card, and we do use it on larger purchases, but we pay it off EVERY month, without fail. We are determined to never be in that position again, of having a debt we struggle to pay off. We had finally learned from our own experience that we should pay attention to the examples of those wise elders who had lived through the depression and really knew how to handle money.

Watch for more posts on the lessons learned from the Depression Generation.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Summertime, and the living is. . . BUSY!

School starts Mon. here, and I am wondering where the summer went? I have been busy with gardening, and canning, and holidays, and birthdays, and gardening, and canning, and family re-unions, and Mom's surgery, and babysitting, and gardening, and canning, etc. You get the idea, lol.

I am so thankful for my garden, though. It is wonderful to have enough fresh vegetables to have different ones each night, without having to pay what the grocery stores are asking. And fresh picked tastes so good! I preserve what we can't eat fresh, so this winter when the snows hit and the winds howl, we will have a taste of summer; jars full of sunshine, where I know every ingredient and how it was handled.

As I spend time weeding or picking my garden, I have ample time to think. I am constantly amazed at the way my garden works. Our Creator has been so generous to us. We go through the season in a progression. Early in the spring, lettuce and spinach and green onions are ready to pick. A little later come the strawberries and peas. About the time the strawberries are finished, the raspberries and boysenberries are starting. Broccoli, beets, green beans, tomatoes-each has their time. In the fall we get peaches, pears, apples. We are ensured of having something to harvest all summer long, without having everything ripen at once. Can you imagine if the whole garden ripened at once? There is no way I could preserve a fraction of what I do if it all came on at once. It is hard enough to can a tree full of peaches and another full of pears at approximately the same time, without adding in apricots, cherries, apples, plums, green beans, tomatoes, beets, peas, cucumbers, zucchini, etc., at the same time. There is an order to summer which becomes apparent to one who works in a garden.

I love getting gourmet food from my garden. Fresh bunches of beets, baskets of peas or raspberries, crisp stalks of asparagus; these are things that command a high price, if they are available at all. But I can have an abundance, for the cost of a few seeds or plants, some water, and fertilizer, and some elbow grease. It makes me feel wealthy and incredibly blessed. I certainly couldn't afford to buy the wonderful produce my garden provides me with, even if it was available. What a luxury I have just outside my back door!

Yes, I am busy this time of year. But it is a busyness that is well worth the effort, and makes me feel incredibly blessed. The housework and other projects will wait, for I must show my gratitude for my blessings by making the best use of what I have been given. So forgive me for my sporadic posting. I'll be in the garden.

Friday, July 9, 2010

To Coupon, or Not to Coupon, That is the Question

For years, I didn't even try to coupon. In those days, coupons were often only worth a few cents, and there were lots of generics available, and I could get the generics for cheaper than I could get the name brand product, even with a coupon. Times have changed, and there are few generic products (although there are lots of quality store brands), and coupons come in higher values now. When we moved here, I discovered several of the neighbors are big into couponing. They would talk about all the things they got free or nearly free by using coupons. I began to feel like I was missing a good bargain hunting tool. I went to a class or two, and started trying to use the coupons I had.

I found one obstacle right away. The classes offered are generally funded by newspaper companies. Their recommendation is to take a copy of the Sunday paper for each person in your home. They have special deals for Sunday only subscriptions to go along with your regular subscription. The problem is, you have to save a substantial amount of money to pay for the extra cost of the Sunday subscriptions. I wasn't willing to put out that kind of money, so I determined to do the best I could with the one set of coupons I was getting anyway.

Then the grocery store that everyone seemed to get their best coupon deals at, closed. Ok, I hadn't been in the habit of shopping there that much anyway. And a lot of those deals involved, buy 10 and save $3. or $5. But you had to buy 10, and I didn't often need 10.

Many people in other states get great coupon deals because their stores double coupons, or even triple them. Stores around here don't.

Then my husband lost his job, and we cut our food budget in half. I now have to focus on buying very basic foods--as my friend puts it, "bread and milk and cheese and eggs." I add certain produce to that, like bananas and lettuce and apples. By the time I buy those basics, there isn't a lot of money left for buying things with coupons. (You notice that there are seldom coupons for really basic foods, they are usually for more prepared foods.) I can do a lot with those basic foods, even making homemade versions of prepared foods that someone else might use a coupon to buy. For example, I never buy Stovetop stuffing. My family likes my homemade mix better. I can save a lot more money by cooking from scratch than I can by buying a lot of prepared foods and snacks using coupons.

So, a week or two ago a local grocery store had a special deal, any coupons valued under a dollar would be worth a dollar. I should be able to get some really good deals, right? Maybe. I gathered my coupons, and cut out anything for under a dollar that I thought we could use, and a few other higher value coupons that seemed like an especially good deal, and headed for the store. It took me about an hour to cut out the coupons, by the way. I headed into the store, and spent the next 2 hours trying to find the best deals. I found some great deals. For example, for $2 I got 5 lbs. of sugar and 10 packages of Koolade. And I got 2 bars of bath soap free after coupon. There were other things that were sold out. Why is it that there are always coupons for Wacky Mac, but there is never any on the shelf? lol Most of the rest of my coupons I sat and had to decide, is this coupon going to make this item a reasonable price? I got several things that were a reasonable price. Not spectacular, but reasonable, and they were things I would have had on my list anyway. But there were also a lot of thing that weren't worth the cost, even after the coupon. Even with a $1 coupon, I am not going to spend $8 for a small box of dishwasher detergent tablets when I can buy a box of powder for less than half the price, and it will clean more than twice the dishes. I did get some good deals, but in the end, I spent quite a bit of my grocery budget buying things to get to use the coupon, and I had to make up for that out of the next week's food budget.

There are a couple other problems with coupons that aren't quite so obvious. One is that those prepared foods for which there are coupons, are often full of sodium, fat, preservatives, artificial flavors and colors, etc. When I can make a homemade version, it is often healthier. And it usually tastes better as well. You can't compare my homemade brownies to any box mix. Another problem is that what we feed our families trains their taste buds. I mentioned that my family likes my homemade stuffing mix better than Stovetop. They didn't always feel that way, but I couldn't afford the storebought, and I had a good recipe for homemade, so I nearly always made homemade. A few years ago my mother gave us several boxes of stuffing mix to use for Thanksgiving dinner. The stuffing didn't get eaten; my family had gotten used to my homemade. I went back to making my own after that. A woman made a comment at an extension office workshop on frugal living once--"Using coupons has ruined my budget. Buying the brand-name convenience foods that there are coupons for gave my family a taste for the brand-name products, and now I can't buy anything else, because they won't eat it." Brand recognition starts early in life. My grandson will only eat chicken nuggets from his preferred fast food place, not what I have in my freezer; and the spaghettios I buy had better have the right picture on the front. Forget the homecooked, grilled chikcen, and the spaghetti made with fresh, home-grown tomatoes. I don't really want a basement full of foods that contain too much sodium and preservatives. I want good healthy, real food.

So what is the bottom line? For me, I find it works best if I make my shopping list, then look to see if there are any coupons that match. If I do it the other way around, I find that I spend too much money buying food I don't always like that is full of salt and preservatives, and teaching my family to expect that taste all the time. I will still use occasional coupons, but I will get more bang from my buck by buying basic foods and cooking them into tasty meals at home. I will never be a coupon queen. If they work for you, I am glad. But like anything else, I think using coupons should be a reasoned decision, not something you do just because there is a perception that that is the best way to save money. Think about it, and make your own decision. Best wishes,

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Art of Making Do

I love the old pioneer saying,
"Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make it do,
Or do without."

Some might call this attitude, "Provident Living", which is another way of saying "Making use of your resources". I was thinking about this recently as I attended a local "Quilt Shop Hop", where quilt shops had special sales, free patterns, drawings, giveaways, ideas, etc. I went to several of the local stores, and had a lot of fun looking at beautiful and cute fabrics, quilts, tools, etc. I find the quilt kits interesting. You can buy a stack of co-ordinated fabrics all from one line, designed to make a quilt. I think we have to be careful to remind ourselves that we don't have to buy a matching line of fabric to make a beautiful, warm quilt. Taking assorted scraps, cutting them, and stitching them together can make a quilt just as beautiful and warm, and it will be much more creative also. The challenge is in looking at the scrap quilt as something that is "handmade" (seen as valuable) rather than "homemade" (seen as not valuable). The big difference between the two is attitude. You can view your actions as worthwhile, or you can moan and groan and complain that you can't buy the matching line of fabric, and be dis-satisfied with anything else. It is a choice. Now, I am not saying there is anything wrong with buying the kit of matching fabrics and making a cute quilt from them. That is fine if that is in your budget and gives you the look you want. I am just saying that if you make a quilt from scraps, that is just as valuable, and maybe even more valuable.

My grandma was a quilter. She would take whatever was available and make it into a quilt. I remember her afghans that showed how frugal she was. She would take old men's wool suit coats, cut the fabric into squares, crochet around the edges, and sew the blocks together to make an afghan. Or she would take a torn sheet-blanket and do the same. Her afghans were warm and attractive, and used things that others might have thrown away. I don't think it ever crossed her mind to complain that she hadn't bought new fabrics; she was making good use of something that had worn out, and giving it a new life.

There are lots of ways of "making do". It is different for each person, since each person has different resources and different skills and talents. I have had some practice at making do as a stay-at-home mother, trying to raise a family on a limited budget. It has become even more necessary since my husband lost his job. I find the key is to focus on what you do have and what you can do, not on what you don't have or can't do. There is a difference between cheerfully making do, and feeling deprived. Let me give you a few examples.

Recently, I was part of a group in charge of providing food for a breakfast meeting. I didn't have the money to offer to provide juice, or a main dish, or anything I had to go to the store and buy. I did, however, have a good supply of baking ingredients in my pantry. I offered to make homemade cinnamon rolls. Nobody knew that it was an economy offering, they all enjoyed the rolls. Now, if I had made excuses, or complained about that being the only thing I could afford, it would have taken away some of their enjoyment, and it would have made me focus on a negative idea. But because I enjoyed offering the cinnamon rolls, I think that added to their enjoyment of them.

Another example: tonight I made a potato dish that my family enjoys. The original recipe calls for small red potatoes. There is a reason for this, because you boil the potatoes, then put them on a pan and slightly flatten them with a potato masher. Then they are brushed with olive oil, seasoned with salt, pepper, and rosemary, and baked until golden brown. Red potatoes have a good texture for this recipe, and hold together well. I would think yukon gold potatoes would be really good for this as well. But where I live, red potatoes are generally much more expensive than russets, and yukon golds are even more expensive, so russets are what I have. Russets are what I usually use for this recipe. My family doesn't know the difference. Sometimes they have a potato that is kind of falling apart, but they don't care, because they enjoy the taste of these potatoes. If I was apologetic, or complained about not being able to afford red potatoes, it would take away their enjoyment, and mine as well. If I insisted on having red potatoes before I would make this recipe, we would all miss out. By making do with the russet potatoes, my family was excited to see a favorite dish on the table, and we all enjoyed our dinner.

There are thousands of ways to make do, and all depend on what resources you have. When I am invited to a baby shower, I look through my stash of fabric, and make a blanket and burp cloth, or an outfit, or a baby quilt. A friend of mine searches her shelves for food staples to use for wedding gifts. A bag of flour, one of sugar, a bottle of oil, a few other odds and ends, and she has a thoughtful wedding gift. The bride doesn't know that this was her gift because there was no money to buy a gift. Internet websites are a good source of recipes for homemade versions of convenience foods and seasoning mixes that put good food on the table for pennies. Putting a few seeds in the ground can yield fresh, flavorful vegetables for very little cost. Making needed repairs can teach you a whole new set of handy skills. Last week, someone complimented me on my dress, which I had bought 3 years ago at a thrift store for $1. We enjoy a movie at the local "dollar theater" just as much as the movies we pay full price to see. My vase full of apple tree prunings is just as attractive as the decorative sticks available at the craft store. You can have a very good life while making do.

Why would you want to make do if you can afford other options? Making do does save money, but there are other reasons to make do even if your budget is more plentiful than mine. Making do is very earth friendly. It focuses on conserving resources, minimizing waste, finding new uses for things. There is something satisfying to the soul when you make do. You learn, and grow, and become more creative. Life becomes fuller, richer, deeper. You are more connected with the process of living well, and come to realize what the important things in life are. It is like emotional exercise. Just like you feel your muscles and physical abilities grow when you exercise, when you make do, your abilities and talents grow. That is the kind of life I want, whether my budget requires it or not.

"Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make it do,
Or do without."
Let's make this the motto for this century, too.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I'm Back

Sorry I haven't posted for such a long time. I took on a temporary part-time job, and it about wiped me out. It was working at a local amusement park, where my youngest son works in the games department. They open the park to school-aged kids in May for school field trips, but their normal workers are also in school. So they hire mothers to work a few days a week for about a month until school gets out. I was assigned to run a game. The hard part is that you have to stand on that hard asphalt all day long, and it wasn't very busy, so it was just standing there for the most part. I am not used to being on my feet for that long, even when I am canning. The other hard part was just not being home. I have a new appreciation for working mothers. Even though I was only working 3 days a week, I found I spent my days off either preparing to be gone to work, or recovering from being gone to work. I have been a stay-at-home mother for 35 years, and it would take a lot for me to get used to such a radical change in my routine.

One thing that I found made things easier, was cooking ahead for the nights I worked. I knew I would come home with aching feet and not want to cook. I also knew that I didn't want all that hard-earned money to go to buy take-out food. So I planned ahead, and did some cooking on my days off for that week's meals. It made a huge difference to come home from work, rest a bit, then heat up dinner. I would have made up freezer meals, but my freezer is pretty full, with only room for my homemade bread in it. For just those few days, it worked out well to just cook the food and store it in the fridge, re-heating it when we were ready to eat it. There was one night that I splurged and bought a rotisserie chicken for dinner. It was on sale for not much more than it would have cost to buy a whole raw chicken, so I didn't feel bad about that.

I find that my month of working has given me a new appreciation for the ability to be a stay-at-home mother, even though my kids are all adults now. I have the time and energy to plant my garden, make jam, sew a baby shower gift, shop for groceries, clean house. I am home for those little emergencies, like when my daughter's car had issues on her way to work. When I am home, I can just let her take my car. When it happened on a day I had to work, it was a struggle to work out how everyone got to where they needed to go. I am again able to tend my grandkids one morning a week while their mother goes in to her job. I may still struggle to accomplish all I want to do, but I am able to work on it at my own schedule, for the most part. I am very grateful for my life, and hope to be able to post more regularly now.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day Dinner

It has been so long since I have posted, I am sorry. All I can plead is busyness, after all it is spring and there is a lot to do in the yard, and there happens to be a lot to do in the house, also.

Yesterday my mother and brother came for Mother's Day dinner. It has been a lot of years since that has happened. Since my brother is autistic, he doesn't deal well with lots of people around. A long time ago, Mom decided it was just easier to not do holiday get-togethers. But since my brother went into a group home last June, he has learned to do lots of things he wouldn't have thought about doing in the past. He spent the night at Mom's Saturday night, and they came to my house for dinner before Mom returned him home. I only had my 2 daughters who live with us here for dinner. We celebrated Mother's day and 2 birthdays the week earlier, due to schedules. Mother's Day, one daughter was out of town, a son had to work, and the other son went to his in-laws for dinner. I am perfectly happy to celebrate holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries on a day other than the actual date we are celebrating.

I served a fairly simple menu: Turkey breast cooked in the crock pot, mashed potatoes, gravy, homemade stuffing, corn, and rolls. Mom brought a fruit bouquet my brother sent her. It was huge, especially for one person, so she shared with us. She also brought strawberry shortcake for dessert, and then my oldest daughter made chocolate mousse, too. The thing that really made this meal a holiday-type meal was the rolls. I have never met anyone who doesn't like homemade rolls, and the picky eaters I know seem to be especially fond of homemade rolls. The nice thing is that the rolls really stretch the meal for just a few pennies cost. I made them more special this time by making Boysenberry Butter to go with them. I took a cup of softened butter and whipped it, then whipped in a cup of seedless boysenberry jam. Very popular with my family.

Here is the roll recipe I used. Not as fancy as the crescent rolls I make for Christmas and Thanksgiving, but easier to make. This is actually the recipe I use most for white bread, too. The vinegar acts as a dough conditioner, and no, you don't taste it.

White Bread or Rolls
2 c. warm water
3 Tbsp. oil
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar or honey
1 tsp. salt
4 tsp. yeast
1 Tbsp. vinegar
6-8 cups flour
Mix ingredients well, adding enough flour to make a soft but not too sticky dough. You should be able to handle the dough with floured or greased hands. Let raise 25 minutes. Punch down and shape into 2 large loaves, 5 small loaves, or 24 rolls in a 9" x 13" pan. This also makes good cinnamon rolls, etc. Let raise until doubled. Bake loaves at 350 degrees for 25 min., rolls at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Spring Cleaning the Root Cellar

I have been busily cleaning out my root cellar. Okay, I don't really have a root cellar. I have a garage where I store vegetables for the winter. My garage keeps things cool all winter, and if I package things properly, they don't freeze. The problem is, I store as much as I can for the winter so we have plenty. Then when spring comes, I nearly always have food that hasn't been used yet. I don't want to waste that food, so I have to find a way to either use it right away, or preserve it for longer term storage. So here is an overview of what I stored for the winter, and what I have done with it this spring.

Pumpkins--I had 4 pumpkins I just stored on a shelf for the winter. They would have stored better if I had wiped the shells with clorox water (1 Tbsp. clorox to a quart of water), but I fully intended to can the pumpkins last fall, so I didn't wipe them off. And then I didn't get them canned, either. They were starting to show a little mold on the bottom, so I cut that part off, and canned pumpkin chunks. (Pumpkin puree is considered not safe for home canning, due to inefficient heat penetration. You can freeze pumpkin puree.) I use the pumpkin as an oil substitute in baking. I dump the chunks in the blender and puree them, adding only enough of the liquid to make the blender puree the chunks well. This is especially nice in cake mixes in place of the oil called for.

Garlic--When I harvested my garlic last fall, I braided it, and humg it in the garage. But my garlic was starting to sprout, so I knew it wouldn't last much longer. So I sliced it and dehydrated it. I will grind it in a coffee grinder I keep for grinding spices and herbs, and make my own garlic powder.

Potatoes--I store my potatoes in a clean garbage can lined with crumpled newspaper, with the top ajar to let moisture out. I way overbought potatoes last fall. I canned 7 quarts of plain potatoes, and 7 quarts of potato soup starter. The soup starter was just potatoes with some onion and celery and chicken bouillon added. I still have more to preserve, but I am low on jars, so I intend to dehydrate the rest. I will stem them until nearlly cooked, then dehydrate. I haven't dried potatoes before, but have read hints on how to keep the potatoes from turning dark. I will report on how they turn out.

Onions--I usually buy a 25 lb. bag of onions in the fall, and store them hanging in pantyhose. I cut the legs of the pantyhose off, and drop an onion into the toe, and tie a knot, then drop in the next onion, and so on. This year I used nearly the whole 25 lbs. of onions, using almost the last ones for the potato soup starter. Other years, I have dried extra onions, but they also freeze well.

Carrots--I stored carrots 2 ways for the winter. The best results came from the ones I picked and put in a bucket, then covered them with clean, damp sand. This is the first year I have tried this, and I was very happy with the quality of the carrots. The rest of the carrots I overwintered right in the garden. My daughter dug them up for me last week, which was maybe a little late in the spring, but we kept hving rain and snow storms, so I hadn't gotten it done earlier. I am not much of a fan of canned carrots, so I decided to dehydrate them. I washed and sorted all the carrots I had left, and saved out the very best, un-blemished ones, and put them in the refrigerator crisper. I peeled the rest, and half I cubed and then blanched, then dehydrated. The other half I blanched whole, then shredded and dehydrated. The cubed carrots will work nicely in soups and stews, and the grated ones will be good for carrot cakes and in certain salads. They won't be as crisp as fresh, but rehydrated, they will be nice in pasta salads, etc.

By preserving these foods, I have eliminated waste, and thus saved money. I decided a long time ago, that even if I had to throw away half the potatoes I stored, I would come out ahead moneywise, over buying higher priced potatoes in the winter season. By preserving the potatoes I otherwise would have had to throw away, I have saved their cost. And it is so convenient to have canned potatoes to use in making quick meals. The dehydrated veggies will store for years when packed properly. I love salvaging foods that would have otherwise been wasted. That, my friends, is called provident living. And my goal is to live providently.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


My friend, Kim Tibbetts, gave me this recipe for BBQ Ham. This has been popular for church group dinners, it is something a little different, but it is good, and cheap, and serves a crowd. I have 2 comments about the recipe. First of all, it turned out really runny for me, so I would wait and only add the cup of water if the sauce seems too thick and seems to need it. The second comment is that it seemed a little salty to me. I may just be over-sensitive to the salt, I find that some things taste salty to me when others think it tastes fine. I am considering giving the ham a quick rinse next time, to reduce some of the salt. But the real test of this recipe is how well the family eats it. My 2 adult daughters who live with us have gotten into the fridge to eat leftovers. (They seldom want leftovers of our meals.) In other words, this is a winner. I am thinking leftovers of this will do well in the freezer, also, if you are not trying to feed a crowd. Or you can cut the recipe in half. I didn't, because I thought the half a can of tomato soup would likely go to waste, but you could have tomato soup for lunch with that half a can if you want to try that. The sauce has a really good flavor, and I think it would go well with other meats as well.

5 lbs. shaved boneless ham (have the butcher shave it for you)
2 Tbsp. butter
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 c. chopped celery
1 c. water (I would only add this if it seems too thick without it)
1 c. ketchup
1 can tomato soup
2 Tbsp. vinegar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. ground black pepper
Sautee onion and celery in butter in a large pot. Add remaining ingredients except ham and mix well. Add ham, cover and simmer for an hour. (Or simmer in crockpot on high for an hour, or on low for 2-4 hours.) Stir occasionally. Serve on hard rolls. Good recipe for a crowd. Serves 20-25.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Dessert

We had a lovely Easter, with most of our children, my mother, and my brother visiting. My brother is autistic, and we moved him to a group home last summer. He had an overnight visit with Mom for Easter. He can be a little funny about food, but dinner was a success. My brother approved of the ham, and he REALLY loved the homemade rolls. When dessert time came, he at first refused any, then changed his mind and took half a piece. He finished it all, which I took for high praise, after all the food he had already eaten.

Dessert was Soda Cracker Pie. It sounds a little wierd, but it turns out almost like a chewy meringue. It is very elegant looking and tasting, but it is a frugal dessert to make, and very easy.

Soda Cracker Pie
18 soda cracker squares, crushed finely (in blender, food processor, or in a ziplock bag and crushed with a rolling pin)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup chopped nuts, optional (I always skip the nuts, because youngest DD is allergic)

Beat 2 egg whites until stiff. Slowly add:
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Fold soda cracker mixture into egg white mixture. Put in a greased pie pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 30-40 minutes til light golden brown. Cool.

Top with 1 cup whipped cream (1/2 cup cream whipped with 2 Tbsp. sugar) or whipped topping (I have used both, and both work well) Refrigerate 6 hours or overnight, up to 5 days. Serve as is, or topped with sweetened fruit, pie filling, or chocolate sauce. Our favorite is strawberries. Serves 6

Friday, April 2, 2010

Uncle Jack

My husband has done my aunt and uncle's taxes for several years. Ever since their house fell into the river. When he heard about the tragedy, my DH kept saying, "tell them to make sure they get the tax benefits from that." They finally asked what he was talking about. Their tax preparation firm didn't know what to do for them, so DH finally just did their taxes for them, getting them substantial benefit from the loss of their house. DH has done their taxes ever since then.

Uncle Jack was extra generous this year. He paid about twice the amount DH normally charges them (to help us out because DH lost his job), and then invited DH and I to lunch. We went to a nice seafood restaraunt and had fresh halibut. We had a lovely visit.

I bring this up because Uncle Jack once told me his motto for life, which he lives so well.

Be Frugal
Work Hard
Be Generous

I hope I can learn to follow this motto as well as Uncle Jack has.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Snow--Again! Time for Soup

I am trying hard not to complain about the snow that has been coming down all day. At least it isn't sticking. . . much. . . yet. hahaha I try to remind myself that every snowstorm we get puts more water in the mountains, to supply our needs in the summer. So I am making my home cosy, warm, and inviting by baking bread and making homemade soup. I had part of a leftover roasted chicken, so I simmered the carcass with water, a little salt, and chunks of carrot, onion, and celery. I added just a dash of vinegar. It helps leach a little calcium out of the bones for added nutrition, and you don't taste it in the final soup. After simmering for a couple of hours, I strain the solids out of the broth. I add fresh, chopped carrots, onion, and celery, and cook until tender (the veggies simmered with the bones don't have much flavor left). When the veggies are tender, I add seasonings, leftover cooked veggies I have stuck in the freezer for just such an occasion, and the bits of meat I have pulled off the bones. Then I add a few fine noodles. The result is a big pot of soup for just pennies, and making use of a few things that might otherwise been thrown away.

I am remembering a conversation with another young mother years ago. We had similar sized families, and seemed to eat similar type meals. She spent considerably more money on groceries than I did. As we compared our habits, the main difference I could see is that when a meal was over at her house, she put any leftover food straight in the trash can. I tried to make the best use of leftovers as I could. I was amazed at the difference it made in the compared food budgets. All these years later, it is still a motivating story to me. I find it takes very little effort to make use of many of my leftovers to stretch my food budget, and I happily make the effort.

My latest project aimed at stretching our food budget has been making pots of soup to use for lunches. About once a week I take leftovers and maybe a bit of meat, and make a nice pot of soup. Since my DH is home most days now, I needed to provide a lunch for him. He was used to taking those microwavable pop-top can/bowls of soup to work for his lunches. (His idea, not mine, lol He refused to take anything to work that needed to be returned home, and liked that the soup could just sit there until he decided he wanted it.) I decided that if I made soup once a week, we could have soup or leftovers from dinner for our lunches, and it would be much cheaper than trying to keep a lot of sandwich meats on hand. It has worked out extremely well. If I happen to run out of leftover bits of veggies for our soups, I also have diced veggies from the garden that I dried last summer, and the garden will be producing in a couple of months. This is a habit I intend to keep.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Garden Time

I have been waiting to start planting my garden. First of all, the weather has not been too wonderful. What can I say, I am a wimp! Rain, snow, and cold will keep me in the house where it is dry and warm. Secondly, my DH grew up on a small farm. He has a farmer's mentality. He wants to do things the way his father did them. So he wants my garden beds tilled every spring. There are just a few complications, however. Such as, where we live now has a small yard, so we put in raised garden beds. They are tricky to till with our big tiller. And, he hasn't actually gotten outside to do any tilling yet this year. Between looking for a job, and doing people's taxes, he is busy. We are grateful for the taxes, because it is income for us. But I learned years ago not to expect him to do a thing in the garden before April 15th. When we moved to this house 6 1/2 years ago, he declared his independence, he wanted to be done with gardening forever! I, however, love having fresh, sun-warmed veggies all summer long. So we agreed, he would build me some raised garden beds, and I would take care of them. The farmer in him kicks in and he insists you have to till before you plant. I tried to wait for him to till, I really did. But the end of March was coming up, and it would soon be too late to plant peas. So I went out yesterday, while it was nice enough weather for a wimp, and I stirred up the dirt with my handy little weed hound gadget. And I planted my peas. And a bag of onion sets. And they will taste every bit as wonderful as they would have if he had actually tilled the garden beds for me. We will both enjoy them thoroughly. . . once he forgets that they weren't tilled first.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

My first blog

I have been thinking about starting a blog for a while now. The technology has always scared me, but I am going to be brave and try it. My husband lost his job on Jan. 28, 2010. It was a complete surprise to us, we always thought his job was very secure. There were just too many budget cuts this year, and his boss decided to eliminate his job. He was given a letter to that effect, asked to turn in his keys and ID, and told to go home and not come back. We were in complete and utter shock. I was in a panic for the first month at least. I have thought about our situation a lot. We have spent years preparing ourselves for "something". We have worked very hard to be debt free, and we have a good food storage put by. I grow a garden and can, freeze, or dehydrate what we don't eat. We live a fairly frugal lifestyle. While this situation is difficult for us, I don't want to dwell on the negative. I want to focus on the things we do that help us through this situation. Thus the title, Sufficient for Our Needs. The subtitle might be, A Celebration of Frugal Living. I have spent years learning and practicing frugal living, and now it is time to share some of my ideas with others.