Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I Think I Can



In these days of a failing economy and few jobs, American families have been told they must ‘tighten their belts’...ponder where THAT saying came about...I’d say it has everything to do with going hungry. It’s a little offensive to think someone could flippantly tell someone to be ok with their family going hungry. 
That said, there ARE a number of ways to eat hearty and healthy and eat more economically. They require an initial investment, but will save time as well. A couple of hundred dollars spent up front will save you money, work, freezer space and improve your health most likely, as you will be eating healthier. Less processed foods=better nutrition.
My own particular situation is not nearly as difficult as many of yours, because I live on a large ranch and raise a great deal of our own food. But freezer space is still at a premium and so is time, as animals don’t take care of themselves and neither do vegetable or herb gardens. They require a great deal of time every day. 
So here are some things that even someone who lives in the city can do. You can store food in a pantry, a closet, an extra room, or even a garage where you could put shelves no matter where you live.
A large pressure canner along with the jar lifter, magnet, funnel, rack and a pair of rubber gloves as well as some canning jars (often found very cheaply at yard sales) is one of the best investments you can make. Even if you freeze foods, it costs money to run that freezer and they are taking up space that could be better used freezing something else. Besides, there is such an event as a power outage, or freezer failure. Once food has been canned, it costs $0  to maintain. Just stick it on a shelf until you need it. I highly recommend the Ball Blue book, or even better, the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. The latter one has 400 different recipes as well as all the basic information you will need for pressure and water bath canning.
So here is the thing. Every time you roast a chicken, roast 2. Save the bones and carcass to make and can your own chicken stock for making other stuff. Every now and then I pull all the chicken carcasses and left over veggies and make a gallon or so of stock with it.
Debone the second chicken and make soup with it. One chicken will make about 6 quarts of canned healthy, delicious homemade soup for a quick meal whenever you need it. Soup is a really good way to stretch the grocery budget.
If you have enough soup canned, then pull off the meat and process just the meat for enchiladas, or tacos or another dish. It will save you the time of roasting or cooking the chicken and is a LOT cheaper than buying frozen chicken breasts. I prefer not to have to thaw everything before I use it. IN addition to that, I don’t tend to lose things in the pantry the way I can lose them in the freezer.
Anyway, like I said, save all your roasted vegetables. The leftover bits of onion and carrots can go in the stock pot with the carcasses when you are ready, instead of throwing them in the garbage (ours usually go to the chickens, so they still aren’t wasted...) put them in a freezer bag marked for stock. Same with beef bones and such.
This will cut your cooking time down considerably and free you up to do other things.
With stews, double or triple the recipe and can what is left the next day. Again, here is a homemade meal you now only have to prepare once but it will feed you well, several times.
Same with chili.
I figure if I spend a day making soup and canning it the following day, (mind you, we also have it for dinner that particular night so the making of it shouldn’t really count...) I could easily put 36 quarts of soup on my shelves in a little more than a weeks time. That would allow me to have soup all winter and still have enough for company. Of course, I won’t, but its nice to know I could. But in 3 days this week,I have a dozen jars canned and another 6 or more quarts ready to can. That’s on top of milking EmmaLouMoo, feeding critters, and all the other stuff we do everyday. Its really not that time consuming...once I have the jars in the canner, I have 100 minutes before I have to come back and turn it off. I can find lots of entertaining things to do for 100 minutes.

I can take a walk down in the old milk pasture...




I can take a nap with Cletus and EmmaLouMoo...

or I can wait patiently for Lamby to come tell me she loves me...


or I can watch Stickman, the crazy rooster and his psycho hens walking on the rock wall...






Then come screaming back to the house to make sure I haven't been gone too long.

Some of the soups I am currently canning are: Chicken Tortilla Soup, Lamb&Barley Soup, Cheesy Chicken Chowder (which I add the roux and cheese to after reheating) Potato Soup (same thing with the roux) and Clam Chowder (again, the roux can go in quickly when its reheated). That gives us 5 different soups for lunch or dinner.Add to that Venison, Lamb and Beef stews and Chili. All I will have to do is pull out a wad of Boule dough and either make bread bowls out of it, or just bake it as is, for a hot fresh loaf to go with dinner, or maybe just some cornbread to go with my chili, although I love making Frito Boats...that delectable dish with corn chips smothered with chili and sour cream, green onions and melted cheese that you get at the Little League games. Real gourmet stuff.
Without much effort I can have 60 or so meals on the shelves ready to go.
It gives a whole new meaning to fast food! 
Those are the main things.
If you have a lot of fruit make jam or marmalade with it. 
Almost anyone can grow tomatoes. If you live in an apt, and have a balcony you can grow them in a container. (This, from someone who had not a single ripe tomato in the garden last year due to a lousy spring)
Canning your own tomato products will save a lot. It’s plenty easy to make your own spaghetti sauce to can, put up diced, stewed or other tomato products that cost way too much to buy. I can bruschetta, ketchup and other products we use all the time and pay good money for, that cost only pennies to make at home, not to mention they taste better and are healthier. I make up my own pizza sauce and I might just be canning instead of freezing that soon.
Homemade BBQ Sauce, like many sauces is easy to make and can yourself. I do believe the canner will easily pay for itself the first couple of months you put it into action, even without a vegetable garden. You can always buy stuff at a farmers market if you need to. Home canned is ever so much better than commercial and there is no comparison to the flavor and quality control of ingredients. I say go for it. It took me a few years to figure out how much easier my life could be, if I just spent a couple of weeks putting food by. If I can do it, you can too. You can. You really can can.



19 comments:

  1. I believe in all of this. I don't do it enough but I really think that "putting food by" is the best way to save money and eat well.
    I wasn't raised with a mother who "canned" but she was a great cook and did make a great applesauce.
    I freeze pesto sauce and make jam but haven't tried canning anything else. I need to try some tomato sauce. We live in a hot summer climate and we always have lots of tomatoes.
    Your post has inspired me to try harder.I do rely on my grocery store too much. I will try one new canned thing this year. It's a start. Thanks.
    Love that cartoon at the end. Too funny!

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    1. Oh, thats great farmlady! I know our chef friend loves to use the fresh canned tomatoes instead of the commercial stuff. It's just so doggone easy. That book I mentioned, it has some really great stuff, like ice cream toppings and all sorts of things I never thought about! :)

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  2. I commented on AR.com....but I found the link to your actual 'blog'...so, thought I'd say HI here! :)
    BTW, LOVE the reflection of the horse in the puddle! ;)
    Be blessed.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Karla Marie! I'm glad you did. I kinda like that photo too as my life seems to be always a reflection of something else :)

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  3. It works for me! I do all of the above for one person - other than the bread, unfortunately - and it has been a life- and money-saver. The nice thing about pressure canning is the long process; you can get so much done while you're waiting. Love the pic of Cletus and EmmaLouMoo. Such a smoochy boy. Thanks for another great post.

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    1. It sure is! It was so cold in the house yesterday we had to wear jackets all day. I just wanted something HOT but I didn't wanna come out from under my blanket for long...one of those quarts of soup has already made my day! The Artisan Bread in 5 Min a Day has been a lifesaver for me. I love that I can stir everything up in a bucket and stuff it in a cold room for up to 2 weeks. Just take out a chunk when you want some fresh bread and rest it/bake it. I almost NEVER make conventional bread anymore!

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  4. Great post. Our tomaotoes suffered greatly this year. Wet spring, hot dry summer and a hornworm invasion. :( I did put up LOTS of jams and jellies. (Great gifts, too) We are just now finishing the potoaes. Have corn, beans and peas in freezer. I did finally get the canner and book. Hope to put more on the shelf next fall.

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    1. The past two years here has been bad, very cold, dark and wet all the way through June. I am hoping for a much better year this year, to fill the shelves! I love my canner and the book I have has the most awesome recipes. I want to make some of the ice cream toppings this year :)

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  5. I grew up with a mother who canned everything that did not move! She canned veggies, fruits, homemade sausage, jellies, and on and on. I love to can also and did lots of it through the years. I am alone now and living in a small apartment so really don't have space to store much. Don't cook much either so haven't canned in a long time. I did enjoy it for years though.

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    1. thats neat! my mom didn't can at all. I am so thankful for books and the internet. One can learn to do almost ANYTHING these days...like make soap, can, crochet...

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  6. Oh Petey...you made my day! I needed the laugh you gave me with your "cartoons" at the bottom. Great post too. :) I think many of us are working on getting to where you already are. Good job!

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    1. I thought it was kinda cute too. :)

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  7. I found your awesome site through the PWS forum. You will now be the second site I read every day, the first one being Chicens In The Road. I've already fallen in love with all your animals. Btw, your pictures are beautiful! I'm so glad I found you.

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    1. Thank you Darlene. It's great to meet you! :)

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  8. I found your blog and I'm loving it. I just have the same objection to canning that I raised with my mother. Why can't all the vegetables come ripe in the winter when we would LIKE being in a steamy hot kitchen? Just saying... I tend to make stock and freeze it. Now, you have me think about hunting down a good pressure cooker for canning.

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  9. Boy howdy, ain't that the truth? At least making soups, stews and stocks is a good wintertime activity :)

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  10. another great blog Petey....you have really inspired me to at least try canning one soup. I have never canned, and my mother canned strawberry jam one year. I long to do these things, but am nervous. I am going to buy the book and try one soup. I cook a lot from scratch for my husband and I. I also make my broth as you do, but freeze all of mine. Think of the space I could save in the freezer and the money/time I could save by canning in advance. Thanks again...

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  11. It's great to be able to pull a couple qts of stew or favorite soup and just heat it, and not spend the hours it takes every time! :)

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