Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I'm not dead yet... I feel HAPPY - and thoughts on food storage quantities :) with judicious use of the phrase A. LOT.

It's inspired by this post over at Lehman's:

I've been (and still am to some extend) finishing up the last (HAH!) of the harvest and stock up for Winter putting up chores and have consequently been buried in the kitchen and basement.

Our simply overwhelming apple harvest. Yup, that's all of it. It's a 3 year old tree, so We're actually quite thrilled.

One of the things that goes into preserving the harvest/ shopping frugally/ not running to the store every 5 seconds (or every week, which to me seems like every 5 seconds) is planning what you are going to have on hand.

I have tried doing the meal plan thing before and I failed miserably, because no matter how thick the writing on the meal plan saying it's bean casserole night is underlined, what we both really want tonight is pizza. And that's just for the two of us, I can't imagine what that sort of thing is like when there are more people involved in the 'but I'm really in the mood for X' discussion. And let's face it, just because we eat frugally doesn't mean that we want to (or should) feel deprived in any way. Feeling deprived (as opposed to depraved, which is the norm around here) is what leads to bingeing, which leads to feelings of guilt, which leads to austerity, which leads to bingeing and so on and so forth, ad nauseam.

Self-defeating is the word I was looking for there.

One of the pitfalls of starting to eat frugally is that one might be tempted to buy cheaply and in bulk, only to learn that what one (me, alright, it was me) has stocked up on a bunch of stuff noone wants to eat. That's known as 'Not a Bargain for Us'.

Two things: Buying in bulk requires an initial outlay of funds for the larger quantities one buys, so there is usually a 'saving up for it' period involved. Use that time to figure out not only what you actually consume (toilet paper is a relatively safe bet here) and, and this is kind of important, how much of it you consume over a given period of time.

I just accepted a delivery of 100lbs of flour, 50 lbs of whole wheat stone ground and 50 lbs of white all purpose, so I'll just go ahead and use that as an example.

I bake A LOT in the colder months. Think at least four loaves of bread, two loaves of banana nut bread*, at least one batch of cookies (it's the season, don't you know), a batch of garlic cheddar biscuits and pigs in a blanket, usually an apple coffee cake and sometimes a batch of English Muffins or tortillas if I am feeling adventurous. That's every week. Now some of that goes into the freezer for the summer months, when I not only don't want to heat up the house by baking, but also don't have the time to do anything other than deal with the garden, but on average, I go through about 8 lbs of flour a week during baking season.

So those 100lbs are going to last us until Early February or a little more than 3 months.

We may have some kind of carb addiction going on here...

I no longer know what non-bulk, non-bromated flour costs, but I got this stuff for $0.56 per lb including the shipping, which is slightly more than I could spend for bromated flour at GFS in the 50lb bag, but I'll go with the non-pesticide option for as long as the extra ~$0.005 per pound and the shipping can be absorbed into the budget.

Now, if you are not baking all of your own bread and cookies and cakes then buying 100lbs of flour might not be for you. Here's why: That stuff doesn't last forever. Actually, it'll last about 3 months in my constant temp and relatively stable humidity basement or 6 months in the freezer before it goes stale and/or rancid. And would you look at that, that's about as long as it'll take me to use that all up. How fortuitous. It's almost like I planned it that way...

Another good example for us is tomatoes. We use a lot of them. A. LOT.

Before I started growing and preserving my own we went through about four #10 cans of whole peeled tomatoes a month. In order to replace that level of consumption with organic, home grown, non-BPA canned tomatoes I would have to can roughly 200 quarts of tomatoes. That's not happening for several reasons:

  1. I'm lazy (remember this, it's sort of a theme here)
  2. That's 200 quart jars I have to buy just for the tomatoes, and while I probably will get there eventually, it's not an investment we are able to make up front.
  3. If I suggested to the hubbin that we need to can 200 quarts of tomatoes he would either have a coronary right then and there or seed the garden plot with grass seed, or both.
  4. That's a lot of room to dedicate in the pantry. More room than we can allow for it, in fact.
  5. Canning 200 quart jars would be 29 canner loads for me. I could probably pull it off during tomato season, but see #1 (told you to remember that one) and there are other things to take care of at that point in time. 
Dehydrating to the rescue :D

I can some tomatoes, because you just can't beat that taste and texture for some things.
I throw some of them into the freezer, because it's easy and we have a lot of them.
I dehydrate A. LOT. of them. Because when I make a sauce, stew or soup, having some dehydrated tomatoes to throw in there is wonderful. And a pint of dehydrated tomatoes is about equivalent to two #10 cans :) Look at all that room I am not using for tomatoes :D

I didn't one day decide that I would need 50 quarts of canned tomatoes and 100lbs of flour every three months, it took some watching what we actually eat, some math, some looking at grocery receipts and figuring out when we use what. And it took me a few years to figure out that that 50lb bag of flour I bought in December went a lot faster than the one I bought in August. It's a journey, and you have to pay attention to things you may not usually even think about.

Beans are a prime example of this for us. I used to not cook with beans that much, because I bought them dry and they are sort of a pain to deal with that way, but SOOOO much cheaper. Then I heard about a trick where you soak a whole bunch and then freeze them in portion sizes, so you just have to defrost them to have pre-soaked beans ready to go. Only that's a pain in the rear, too, because thawing that lump-o-frozen-beans takes forever without application of some heat, and you may recall that I am what is colloquially known as way too cheap to do that.

Then I started canning them without pre-soaking them (here) and suddenly we are eating more beans than you can shake a stick at. And I started running out of beans, so I started buying them whenever I saw them for my stock-up price (under $1.00/lb) anywhere...We have a lot of beans right now. Dried, and canned. 

A. LOT. 

There's actually more in the basement and I took this pic after I canned a bunch. I may have a problem.

It's OK, because they are not going to go bad before we use them up. But I will have to figure out how much we actually consume, so that I can then adjust my purchases to meet our actual demand without having a years worth of beans sitting around. Because having a few hundred bucks tied up in food that might go bad before we eat it is not frugal or smart. And it sort of ticks me off when I do it.

Quick aside: Rotate your food and your tires. In shuffling a bunch of jars in the basement I found some dried bell peppers from 2010. They are still good (Thank YOU) and are now actually ground into a fine powder and in the spice cabinet for use as paprika (YUMM). I just hate finding stuff like that because it means I didn't do due diligence. First in, first out and stock from the back, B. you know this :)

You know how when you were in school and you asked when you would ever need all this math stuff? My mall rat, colour guard, designer clothes wearing, snobby self would have laughed if someone had used this as an example.

That's all I got for now,
Happy Pinching

*I buy bananas when they go on sale in the summer and prep them for banana nut bread by putting 6 of them in a bag, adding cinnamon and freezing them as flat mush

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