What I've Been Reading Instead of Cleaning My House

Monday, May 31, 2010

Thrifty Month of May Final Analysis

My month of "No Grocery Shopping in May" is just about over and I did learn some things about my emergency food storage preparedness:

-- It takes a lot more time and energy to make everything from scratch, time that I hopefully will have if there is an emergency (like losing my job), but not so much when I'm working full-time and trying to go to all of the "end of school" activities. Let's just say that towards the end of the month, we just went without bread because I was too tired to make it.

-- I did cheat and went to the grocery store twice, but that's only because my kids had promised certain foods for their classroom's pot lucks and we didn't have those in our food storage.

-- We learned to survive without Kool-Aid, Parmesan cheese and Ramen; and we also learned to eventually like the Apple drink.

-- Don't stock up on the kids' favorite cereals because as soon as you do, they will decide that they now HATE that particular cereal and you'll end up eating all of it (curse you, Cinnamon Toast Crunch!)

-- Luckily my radishes were ready to harvest half-way through the month and I would look forward to picking some each day just so I could taste the crunch of a fresh vegetable.

-- We went through a lot more butter than expected; and we went through a lot less eggs than I expected (we started off the month with two dozen and ended the month with one dozen left).

-- My credit card bill was cut in half just by not hitting the grocery store each week.

-- We really didn't eat that much differently than we usually eat. Makes me wonder what the heck I'm wasting my money on at the store.

-- Stick with the basics. We got sick of fancy canned soups real quick, but we could eat beans and rice every night.

And the most important thing I learned from this whole experiment:

-- Nigel is the "MacGyver" of food storage cooking! He can take a rubber band, some toothpaste, and a roll of duct tape and make lasagna out of it! He's amazing! He's going to be the most important part of my emergency plan.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

It's a Ramen Emergency!

I am out of Ramen.

How can that be? I didn't have a load of Ramen in my food storage? What was I thinking?

I don't particularly like Ramen noodles, but my kids live off of it (they like to eat it raw -- they put it in Ziploc bags and call it "Monkey Chow").

I'll have to add Ramen to my list.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Food Storage Update #2

Now we're about half-way through our month of no grocery shopping and only living off of our food storage.

Here's what I've realized so far:

-- I should've done this experiment in June or July so that I could at least get some fresh vegetables from my garden.

-- I'm going to need to freeze a lot more butter (when you're mostly eating home baked bread, you go through a lot more butter than I thought).

-- If at all possible, try to keep some cash as part of your food storage so that when your family revolts (and they will), you can make a quick trip to McDonald's and grab some Dollar Menu burgers.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Adventures with "Milly"

A few days ago I met "Milly."

Milly is our friendly, neighborhood wheat mill. About a year ago, all the ladies in my neighborhood pooled our money together and bought an industrial-grade wheat grinder. I don't know how they decided which woman had to keep this machine in her garage, but I'm pretty sure it had to do with poor rock-paper-scissors skills.

Anyway, I went over to her house and she showed me how to work the grinder. I brought about 10 pounds of wheat with me and it was turned into flour in no time (usually I make my children grind it at home by hand).

I was so excited to use my new flour, I immediately went home and made some whole wheat bread. In the past I've had bad luck with making wheat bread. Instead of loaves, I make door stops. To make sure that I had light and fluffy bread, I added some dough enhancer and gluten powders to the dough.

Then I made the mistake of accidentally doubling the yeast.

I set the dough out to rise and it was getting huge! Then I put it in the oven and my kids were giving news reports every two minutes of how close the bread was getting to touching the top of the oven.

I had visions of that "I Love Lucy" episode where she bakes:

When I pulled the bread out of the oven, my blimp-sized loaves quickly deflated into small, thin bricks (much like those cartoon souffles or my hopes and dreams of being a good cook).

Luckily I now have plenty of flour to try again.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Freeze-Dried Cheese

I opened up my #10 can of freeze-dried mozzarella cheese. I was very curious as to how this was going to turn out.

It looks like regular grated cheese, just hard. I soaked it in warm water for five minutes and most of the cheese got hydrated well. The only bad part is that it now looks like a clump of cheesy rubber.

I added it to my meatball sandwiches and I put it on pizza and I must admit that it melted nicely and tasted just like regular mozzarella cheese.

I think this one's a keeper.

(Please note that someone in my family must also like it because I keep finding it in the cupboard with the lid off -- they're just eating it straight out of the can)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Food Storage Update

Well, I haven't done any grocery shopping since April 28th, just living off of my food storage, and this is what I've learned so far:

A loaf of bread from the store will be eaten up in seven days.
A loaf of home-baked bread will be eaten up in seven minutes.

I have no parmesan cheese. How can I not have parmesan cheese? The easiest cheese to store and I have none? Major flaw in my food storage plan.

Looking at my car's empty gas tank and my purse full of uncashed checks, I realize that I connect all of my other errands to grocery shopping. Hard to get out of that habit.

When I tell people about my little experiment, they always come back with, "Oh my goodness, what are you eating?" Like I'm forcing my family to eat soup made out of boiled shoes or something. So here's what we've been eating at our house so far in May:

Cold cereal and milk (I've got a lot of cereal and I'm still having the milkman deliver fresh milk -- it has to be a major catastrophe for me to drink powdered milk);
Pancakes and sausage (though I'm down to my last package of frozen sausage).

My kids still have money in their school accounts, so they've been eating lunch at school and Nigel and I just eat leftovers or bread and butter (my freezer is full of butter).

Spaghetti & meatballs;
Meatball sandwiches;
Shepherd's pie (using the freeze-dried meatballs);
Chicken & dumplings (using canned chicken);
Green chili casserole (kind of a Mexican lasagne using tortillas);
Pad Thai (if you're a Thai food lover like me, your pantry is full of curry powder, jars of peanut butter, hot sauce, noodles, and cans of coconut milk).

Cookies (finally used up all that frozen cookie dough I had);
Peach cobbler (made with just a can of peaches, a white cake mix, and topping it with a powdered "whipped cream" mix).

Carnation Instant Breakfast mixed in milk;
Powdered juice.

So as you can tell, we've been eating quite well (probably better than when we DON'T live off of our food supply).

Thursday, May 6, 2010

On Top of Spaghetti...

I also decided to try out my #10 can of freeze-dried Italian seasoned meatballs.

That's right, freeze-dried meatballs. Who knew?

I rehydrated them as directed and put them in a tomato sauce to serve on top of spaghetti. They still tasted a little tough, though.

The next night, I made meatball subs (with my bread recipe for the rolls, some Manwich sauce, canned mushrooms and freeze-dried mozzarella cheese). Again, they seemed a little tough.

Nigel and I thought they were OK. My children did NOT like them and said that they didn't taste like meat.

Again, something I won't be buying in the future (after all, how many recipes do you know that use "meatballs"?).

Please note -- I had a meatball sub the next day for lunch and it tasted MUCH better. Maybe they just needed more time to rehydrate.

An Apple a Day...

In our quest to not buy any groceries this month, I decided to get into our long-term food storage (otherwise known as Alice-Grace's "bed") and open up a #10 can of powdered apple juice and try it out.

First of all, the color is...shall we say...disturbing. The juice was a sickly, brown, sewer-y looking color. Yuck.

But it's the taste that matters, right? Well, it tastes EXACTLY like green apple flavored Jolly Rancher candies. Not exactly something I want to drink.
But what do I know? Did you know that Jolly Rancher also makes a soda pop? I've never seen it (and after tasting this "apple juice," now I know why).
I must admit that Alice-Grace and Jeffrey absolutely LOVED it. Of course, they're also known for eating powdered sugar out of the bag with a spoon.

Nigel, Frances and I definitely did NOT like it. I won't be buying any more #10 cans of this in the future. I'll stick to things I know that I like (like packets of cherry Kool-Aid -- I love me some cherry Kool-Aid).

Monday, May 3, 2010

I "Knead" Some Bread

As of this morning, we have one slice of bread left.

I guess it's time to get out the flour and yeast and start making some. Luckily I have this bread recipe where I can make homemade bread from start to finish in only one hour. I went to a class given by the lovely ladies of Pantry Secrets and I was so inspired that I bought enough of the ingredients to make four loaves of bread a week for an entire year.

Then I realized that I would have to WASH the bowl, dough hook and loaf pans, so the ingredients have just been sitting there in my pantry.

That's probably what prompted my "no flour" diet.

Oh well, time to get kneading.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

"It's May, It's May, the THRIFTY Month of May!"

So we've decided that we're not going to do any grocery shopping in the month of May. Here's our reasons:
  1. We've got a ton of food storage that is coming up on its expiration date and we need to eat it up.
  2. We need to save up money for some trips this summer that we weren't expecting to take.
  3. It's a good way to see what we like in our food storage (and more importantly what we DON'T like) for future food storage purchases.

We will still be getting fresh milk delivered to our house each week (it has to be a REAL emergency for me to drink powdered milk), but otherwise we're going to say adios to our friendly, neighborhood supermarket this month.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Running of the Roses

I have a tradition of watching the Kentucky Derby every year.

Since it's "the most exciting two minutes in sports," it's the only athletic event my attention span will handle (we just avoid "the most boring four hours in sports" that appears before and after the race).

Frances was my watching partner this year (mostly because she wasn't feeling well and couldn't get off the couch). We donned our festive Derby hats (regular hats that we decorated with whatever was in arm's reach of us at the time -- mine was covered with Barbie dolls) and ate some Lifesaver mints that Frances found in her backpack (instead of drinking mint juleps).

Then we had to make our bets. Frances based her bet on the cute outfit the jockey was wearing and I based mine on "whatever horse Calvin Borel is riding."

I won.