Thursday, February 12, 2015

What we learned when we had to live out of our pantry -- Part 2

Some time ago I shared the first post about when we lived out of our pantry in 2009 for several months.  We did not go to the store *at all* during those months.  I didn't shop for perishables.  When I say we did not shop for months, I mean that in the most literal way possible.  We simply had what we had and that was that.  We used what money we had for bills and that was it.  There was no assistance of any kind.
In my last post about this I shared about bathroom products, washing clothes and things like that.  Today I'm going to focus more on the food and kitchen end of things and share where we were very prepared and where we ended up found lacking.  Now granted, if we had never gone through this hardship, I *never* would have known the areas we were not adequately prepared in.  It was only by living through it, that this was learned. 
Remember at the point all of this started, my husband had I had been pantry stockers - in earnest - for a long time.  When he became self employed we saw it as a life necessity because paychecks don't always come regularly and sometimes people will owe you money and simply not pay.  So a well stocked pantry was important.  At this point we had three deep freezers - one small and two medium sized - and they were stocked full.  I had meat, veggies, some cooking oil (yes, you can freeze it), some convenience things like fries and burritos, butter, and 2 gallons of milk in those freezers.  In our food room and on our shelves I had all manner of canned goods and dry goods.  *Lots* of canned (some store bought, some home canned) tomatoes - I always see tomatoes as the "anchor" in my pantry.  Because so many other things can be made from them and with them, they are extremely important to me.  I had food grade 5 gallon buckets full of pasta and rice, large glass jars full of beans, a very large selection of canned vegetables and meats. 
So basically, we were ahead of the game.  Thank goodness.  I remember his first day home my husband walking around to our different freezers, looking in them and saying, "You know what?  I'm not going to worry."  So we did have a bit of luxury during a very difficult time because we did have a lot more food in our home than the average joe.  But it's a good thing - because we would come to need it.
Now first, let me tell you about the things we found that we had done right.  No shopping from January through April.  Here are the things we did well in and did not run out of.
1.  Beans, rice and pasta - We ended up with beans left over.  Pasta and rice we did end up kind of scraping the bottom of the barrel with, but we still didn't run out.
2. Canned/frozen vegetables - These ran out just at the point when I could do a small bit of shopping again.  I know I had just a few cans of veggies left on the shelves. 
3. Cooking oil - Before all this happened, I had purchased two large bottles of cooking oil from Sams and put them in the freezer.  I don't use a lot of this, so they lasted with some left over.
4. Dog food - We had our dogs during this time and honestly we didn't really have money for store bought food.  So I contacted an online friend of mine in California who I knew was a reputable dog breeder and who I also knew made her own dog food.  She gave me some recipes and because my pantry was so well stocked, I was able to make our dog's food during this whole time.  They loved it.
5. Meat - We did ok on this.  We didn't eat meat everyday and I was careful with how often I served it.  So we were able to stretch it out most of the time and still have a bit left over.
6. Flour, sugar, spices, etc. - We did great on these.  I had so much stocked up that I didn't have to give it a second thought. 
Now, one item straddled the list between, "did great," and, "was found wanting."  And that was milk.  Remember I had just two gallons in the freezer.  I had picked those up during my last grocery trip.  Now with two kids, you know those two gallons didn't last long at all. But, I had already had the forethought to stock up on powdered milk.  I had a very good supply of that.  It was great for cooking with and baking (more about that in a bit) but the kids didn't really like to drink it.  They say that if you add some vanilla to it, it makes it more palatable.  We tried that and had many a week of whiny kids.  But, by the end of this period my kids had gotten used to it and would drink it without complaint.  Their palettes adjusted.
Now for the things we ran out of and/or ended up in a difficulty with because we did not have enough of them.
1. Trash bags - Oh my word.  We just had not thought of this.  Granted, without shopping and having an influx of new products into our home we didn't have as much trash as usual.  But still, this was an issue and a very real one.  I had simply never thought to build up a stock of trash bags and let me tell you - it is necessary!  You don't want to be found without them, especially if you live in an area that will not allow you to burn trash.  Trash bags.  Stock up on them.
2. Eggs - Oh my, this was perhaps the absolute worst thing.  It made a lasting impression and is the reason I have 5 laying hens in my backyard right now and also why I have powdered eggs stocked on top of that.  We quickly ran out of eggs.  Powdered eggs was something I had always meant to buy and stock up on.  But I never had.  This affected us in so many ways.  Remember I had two kids.  Of course, they wanted some treats or baked goods and things like that sometimes.  But without eggs - many recipes simply won't work out.  Add on top of that, eggs are staple for us at breakfast.  A family favorite.  So they were definitely missed, and this really took it's toll on what I could bake and what I could not.  Not being prepared with eggs was, I believe, the biggest mistake.
3. Butter - Ok, I did have a good stock of butter in our freezer.  But, we did run out.  Luckily, I also had a good supply of shelf stable butter and we ended up using a good portion of that with just a few cans left over.  But this also, made quite the impression on me and I always make sure I have plenty of butter on hand now.
4. Fun foods - Before this, we had always looked at pantry stocking from a very practical standpoint.  It wasn't about fun foods, but about staples and necessary things.  But it was really hard to live through those months, especially with kids, and not have anything fun or snack-like.  Add onto that my baking being held back some by lack of eggs and it was an issue.  I now understand that yes, there is room in the pantry stocking mindset for fun things and snack foods.  I now keep a large selection of chocolate chips, toffee chips, etc.  Basically I keep stocked such that I can at least make different kinds of cookies at any point and usually have a few cake mixes on hand as well.

Something else I learned through this - how quickly a family goes through food.  What we had lasted - but barely.  If you had asked me to look at what we had stored and estimate how long it would last, I would have said easily twice as long as it did.  It went so much quicker than you would think.  So if you think you have 6 months of food stocked up, maybe back that up and say you have 4.  Because when the rubber hits the road, it will most likely run out before your estimated time.
So there you have it.  How we survived for months without shopping and how we did at it.  We learned a lot.  Granted, they weren't fun lessons but I am glad that I at least know where our holes were in our pantry stocking methods.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask and I'll do my best to answer.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

I don't want to be a swan

I was reading someone else's blog and she was talking about the pressure we put on ourselves as women - and the pressure we as women put on each other.  She spoke of the whole, "yummy mummy," (ick, I hate that term) movement. 
Perfect looks, perfect homes, perfect families.
Perfect, perfect, perfect.
She said it was like a swan, calm and serene floating along above the water, but paddling like mad underneath in such a way that the crazy amount of effort is hidden from all above.
For some reason, the thought of that is particularly unpalatable to me.  Now don't get me wrong.  I am not willing to let go of morals, manners or decorum.  But all of those are things that bring peace and calm into my life.  So much of what is involved in putting on this perfect face for the world that we have all bought into, does just the opposite.  It brings stress and worry and feelings of not quite adding up.
I am not perfect - so far from it - and that's ok.  Life can be hard - and that's ok too.  I think if we spent a lot more time worrying about what our God thinks of us and less time worrying about what other (also imperfect) people think of us, we would all have a lot less to worry about!  Someone looking at you to judge you if you don't live up to whatever standard they have decided to set for other moms/wives/women/neighbors, etc will add to your stress and worry.  But leaning on the Lord with all your might and handing over your troubles will lighten the load. 

I'm unwilling to live my life in order to either impress others or avoid the wrath of their judgment.
I don't want to be a swan.
I just want to be me, and sometimes that is a good thing and other times it's messy.
I'm happy to own both.
(This post is linked to the homemaking link party at: Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth.)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Tried and True Recipes

I can't remember if I have shared about this on my blog or not.  But it's what I'm working on now, so I wanted to write a post about it.  I realized some time back that I was completely ignoring my recipe collection and recipe books.  Without thinking about it, I had come to rely on online resources only for my recipe sources.  Once I realized I was doing this, it really made me miss the days when I would grab a recipe book or two and pen and just sit down and take some time to go through and find new things to try and plan menus.  When I was a young wife, I used to do this all the time.  There were only a few spots online back then that I could get recipes from.  98% of my recipes came from books, newspaper or magazine clippings and hand written recipe cards shared from other cooks.  

Then along came all the choices the internet eventually brought and....Pinterest.  Oh my, Pinterest.  It's kind of a recipe wonder land, isn't it?  But I wasn't happy when I realized that my recipe collection that I had literally worked painstakingly on over many years to compile was never getting used.  This really gave me the push I needed to set aside all the internet recipe sources and get back to my real, tangible collection sitting right there on the shelf.  I've also been slowly over the last few weeks taking the recipes I have tried from online sources and know I want to keep and copying them out by hand on recipe cards for my recipe box.  I also compiled a lot of our favorites from different books and websites and copied them off and put them in a binder.  I have several binders from years ago as well.  Right now between the new binder and my recipe box I have all of my "go to" and "must have" recipes all together for easy access.  

I'm sure I'll still find new recipes to try online, but if we like them - I'm going to write them down and get them put into my collection instead of trying to just remember which website it was at and attempting to look it back up every time I want to make it in the future.  

So in this spirit, I'll share two of our favorite recipes for this time of year.  These are two soups that I will be making this weekend.

Taco Soup
This is a very simple, very quick convenience type of meal.  My family loves it.  I always serve it with rice for them to mix in if they choose.

1 can pinto beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can corn
1 can diced tomatoes
1 (4 oz.) can green chilies
1 envelope taco seasoning
1 envelope ranch dressing mix
1 lb. ground beef

Cook and drain ground beef.  Add in all the ingredients to the crock pot.  Do not drain the cans.  Cook on high 2 hours or on low 4-5 hours.

Butternut Squash Soup
There is some disagreement among my friends and family as to if this should be qualified as a soup or a dip, because it is very thick.  To me, it's a soup.  Others have felt it's more of a dip because of it's thick consistency.  (Which you could easily thin out if you chose to do so.)  But regardless of which it is, I do always serve it with plenty of crackers or a crusty bread for dipping.  It's truly addictive!
6 Tbls onion 
4 Tbls butter
3 C. water
4 cubes chicken bouillon
(I prefer to use real chicken stock, but this is the original recipe as I received it.)
2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese
black pepper
cayenne pepper

First cook your squash.  I always half them down the middle, drizzle the cut side with olive oil and a bit of salt then bake with cut side down.  Once done, scoop out the flesh with a spoon and discard the skin.  Saute your onion in the butter.  Then add the squash, water, bouillon and peppers to taste.  Place this mixture (still warm) into a blender or food processor with the cream cheese.  Blend/process until smooth and creamy.  Return to the saucepan to make sure it is heated through, but do not bring to a boil.  Serve immediately.

What recipes do you enjoy this time of year?

Prayer works

Hello my friends.  I'm sorry I've been absent - again.  The week before Thanksgiving we found out that one of our beloved dogs had cancer and that there wasn't anything that could be done.  We had to say goodbye to her.  She was such a sweet, sweet girl and we are still feeling the loss every day.  Then day after Thanksgiving my husband took extremely ill and had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital.  He ended up having emergency surgery.  Logically, I understand that we came very close to losing him.  If we had put off medical intervention another couple of hours, it is quite possible we would have lost him.  Emotionally, I have not connected to that fact at all.  It's like I know it, I look at it from different angles...but I can't allow myself to get close to it.  But ~ praise the Lord - in the most literal sense ~ he got the help he needed in time and he is fine.  He's still in the recovery phase of things, but he is doing well and has been healing perfectly.  I know without a shadow of a doubt that the Lord was with us that night and the following day.  His hand was on everything, even before we knew things were serious.  Our lives can change in the blink of an eye and, "as a vapor," can become very real, very fast.

Due to his close call and a few other things in life, we find ourselves heading into a time of reduced circumstances.  But ~ that is life, yes?  Our Christmas this year is about our family being together and not anything under the tree.  I have to say I'm very proud at how our kids are dealing with it all.  They haven't been the least bit phased by a gift-less Christmas.  They understand everything happening and have had nothing but pleasant attitudes all the way around.  That does make things so much easier.

Needless to say, I've been doing some heavy praying about many things lately.  I had the realization a couple of days ago that nothing had changed in our circumstances...but I was starting to feel so much better about them!  

I had prayed for our situation to change but I think God helped me to instead feel better about our situation.  I truly believe that.  Many times have I been reminded of Philippians 4:11-13.
11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

I think this is something we all have to be reminded of from time to time and have it be a lesson to learn again.  
So in closing I will say that ~ sometimes life isn't easy.  
And that's ok. 
It may be a daily challenge to keep our chin up and keep going.
But we can do it.
That is what life is about.
Let's try to embrace our difficult times as well as our easier times, because we are called to be content in both.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Household Update

Things here have been....ok-ish.  Sort of.  Our daughter remains stable but I'm getting a bit nervous because the past week it seems her symptoms are wanting to flair again.  But she has been doing ok.  What we have been dealing with recently is not so much her illnesses but the effect they are having on her life.  She is at an age where her friends are flying the coop and starting their lives and she is not in a position to do so.  We've had to change some of our goals for her.  It was for the better and was even a welcome thing to her.  But still.  I have to admit it breaks my heart to see my child not be able to navigate this life on an easier, more ordinary path.  I may or may not have had a day this past week where I closed myself up for the day and gave into my broken mother's heart and cried the whole day.  It seems now days that even when I'm happy and having a good day, I'll tear up without even knowing it's fixing to happen.  I find that I cry even when I'm happy.  It's a problem.
One day at a time. 
We take that mantra seriously around here.
Other than that, I realized yesterday that I have completely fallen off of the 'clear out the deep freezers' wagon and that we seem to be eating down and refilling the same top third of our main one over and over again.  Sigh.  Life happened.  I'm honestly not in the frame of mind right now to try and rectify that situation.  But my mind is starting to formulate it's yearly plan to make sure the pantry is well stocked for the cold weather months.  I think either a trip to Sam's or a big mega trip to Aldi's may be in my future.
Other than that, today I decided to dress up a couple of jars of store bought spaghetti sauce and it's simmering away in the crock pot right now.  We'll have it with spaghetti, garlic bread and probably some green beans.  Oh ~ and I'm planning to indulge with this super quick and easy recipe for dessert.  I asked my daughter if she thought it seemed like a good idea and, being a chocolate loving female like myself, of course the answer was yes.
In other kind of aggravating news, it seems that God keeps sending me kittens.  Lol.  Ugh.  We have the trio we adopted two years ago and their mom that we finally tamed and brought in last winter during the Polar Vortex.  Well now is seems two nieces of the trio have come our way.  Our neighborhood has a serious issue with wild and very fertile cats.  ~  Get your animals fixed folks.  And don't just dump ones you don't want. Be responsible.  It's not rocket science.   ~ When that happens there are lots of folks like me and my family left trying to make right a problem that is so much bigger than what we can fix.
I did a little shopping at Goodwill recently and found a really nice, name brand, rather expensive if bought retail purse.  New, tags still on it.  ~  For.....$9.99.  Yep, that's what I like.  It's a red oxblood color and I've decided it's going to be my Fall purse.  Just waiting for October to come and I'm going to switch over to it.
That's all I have for now.  I just wanted to touch base a bit.  I hope you are all well and happy.  ((Hugs)) to you from me.  ~~

Monday, August 4, 2014

I'm still here...

Hello all. ~~
I'm still here.  Thank you so much for all the sweet comments during my absence.  We had to regroup in some ways.  Our daughter did suffer a bit of a setback and it shook her confidence.  We spent a very long time in recovery mode.  We've changed the way we do some things.  We even had her take a full month off from school - with her doctor's blessing. 
Finding the center again when it can look different than it did before.
We are ok now.  She is ok.  I think her confidence in her body, her mind, even her medications is still shaken ~ but that is a normal reaction for someone in her situation.  But for now, she is medically stable and that is a blessing. 
You know, I am pretty good about not having a "why me" attitude about life.  I truly see troubles and trials as part of our process here and I don't see any of us as being somehow above that.  It's not too difficult for me to not have thoughts of "this isn't fair," and things like that.  Maintaining this mindset has been for me...fairly easy throughout my life.  It's not ever been too difficult for me to know that if I'm suffering in some way...that is just life.  It has it's highs and lows, it's good and bad.
I have learned over the past few years that it can be a bit more difficult to maintain my grasp on that attitude when it's my child who is the one who is suffering instead of me.  I'm not proud of it, but on occasion through this, I have had my thoughts of "this is not fair," and "why her?"  She is such a good and beautiful soul and this world is a better place with her in it.  So why must her plate be so full that she has to spend all of her time simply balancing the things that are on them and not contributing to the world in the ways that she wants to? 
Deep breath.
Shove out those thoughts.  There isn't any room for them.
We take it one day at a time around here.  We have learned that is best.
Thank you for hanging in here with me.  I do appreciate it. 
We are ok ~ and I will try to write more here soon.
Hugs from me to you. ~~

Thursday, April 24, 2014


I know some of you are waiting for my next installment of the pantry series and I will try to get that up next week.  Our family had a pretty big upset last week.  Our daughter's health took a very fast and drastic few steps backwards on Friday morning.  It was a rough weekend.  But we got through it and so did she.  I am purposely keeping everything very calm and low key right now and there is a lot of rest on our agenda.  It is needed physically, emotionally and mentally for all of us.  So I'll try to get back to regular posting next week.  But for now, I'm am just cultivating some quiet.