Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Think Long Term With Perennials When Planting Your Garden and Yard


Gardening can be a lot of fun especially when you start reaping the benefits from all that work. Some of the hardest work, but greatest reward when planting your garden is planting perennials. Perennials come in several forms, but what you are looking for are plants, bushes, and trees that will produce food every year.

From a prepping standpoint, you want a constant food source. Most perennials are not easy to kill or hard to establish. However, if you are thinking long-term, you want to start these perennials now to get them established. There are perennials can take 1-3 years to produce food. Trees can take even longer to produce food. You want to get them in the ground this summer and fall.

From a homesteading standpoint, growing your food is always a delight. There is always a satisfaction in providing your food and reducing your independence on the grocery store. Planting perennials are always rewarding in that you reap what you sow every year.

From a frugal living standpoint, growing your food means less money you spend on groceries. Win-win! Shopping from your garden is always better than shopping at the store.

Now, I have nothing against annuals. You will see a lot of annuals in my garden. However, I want to know I have a constant source of food every year. It will not be enough to sustain us but will be enough to add to a meal. I can also expand my perennials and plant more using cutting from the original plants. A lot of perennials will do their own spreading of roots and start new plants on their own.

What perennials should you be planting?

1. Raspberries. They are some of the easiest perennials to grow. Their root system will cause them to start new plants and can double or triple within a year of planting. They are easy to maintain and easy to transplant. You should have fruit in 1-2 years.

2. Rhubarb. Again, very easy to grow in most areas. They do like a lot of sunshine so find a good sunny spot for them. Every couple of years, I like to feed my plants with composted manure in the fall to keep producing well. They will spread a little so give them some space. You can start harvesting them in the second year, but it is best to wait until the third year to harvest.

3. Blackberries. Pretty easy to grow. Keep them trimmed back to three feet so they become bushy and will produce better fruit. You should have fruit in 1-2 years.

4. Blueberries. These can be difficult to establish. You will want to make sure you have acidic soil or that you mend your soil to be acidic when you plant them. If you know you want to plant them next Spring, I would work on that blueberry bed now so the soil is good for them. They will need some pruning as they get bigger. They will fruit in 2-3 years.

5. Elderberries, strawberries, and other berry plants. There are many different kinds of berry plants and I encourage you to look into them. They are all delicious! Most of them will take 1-3 years to get establish and start producing fruit.

6. Asparagus. These plants will need a little work to start growing, but they are worth it! They come as crowns that you will need to plant 8-12 inches deep. I would also add a good layer of compost in the hole before you plant them. You will be able to harvest asparagus in the third year. Asparagus can last as long as 20-30 years in one spot.

7. Herbs like lovage, sorrel, mint, thyme, sage, and more. Most perennial herbs will come back every year if they are cut back in the fall. Herbs are so multi-dimensional that you do not want to be without them. Some herbs can be difficult to start from seed so investing a plant or getting a transplant may be worth your while. Check your gardening zone to see what herbs will grow best in your area.

8. Garlic and walking onions. Both plants produce bulbs that you can plant again in the fall for a crop next summer. Both are easy to grow and need very little tending besides a good layer of mulch in the fall to protect them from winter.

9. Fruit trees. These will take a few years to grow and produce. Realistically you will not see any production from fruit trees for at least three years, but more than likely it will be 5-7 years before any fruit falls. Like any other planted tree, you will need to water the trees well for the first year to get them established. You may also need to protect them in the winter from the elements, deer, and rabbits.

10. Nut trees. These are similar to fruit trees. They will take a few years to grow and produce. You will need to water them well in the first year to establish them. And you will need to protect them.

11. Greens like kale, radicchio, watercress, and stinging nettles. Many people think that greens are just an annual, but there are varieties that are actually perennials. I know from experience that kale will come back a second year if you forget to pull the plants in the fall. I was still harvesting kale in December that year!

12. Dandelions. Okay, I realize 99% of you will never have to plant dandelions because they grow rampant around you. However, they are overlooked for their benefits. The greens are good in a salad. The flowers make jelly, wine, teas, and salves.

This is a general list, but there are many other perennials you can plant. Some people are able to plant artichokes which can be a perennial, but artichokes in northern Iowa do not always work out. Look up your gardening zone and figure out what would be best for you to grow! Growing perennials helps you to be more self-sufficient, save money, and gives you a continual food source. What is not to love about perennials?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Could We Handle Food Rationing Now?


In WWI (somewhat) and WWII definitely, food rationing was one of the few ways that governments in the United States and Britain could keep the soldiers fed as well as its citizens. Everyone was expected to do their share and stay within the guidelines of food rationing. In addition to the food rationing, citizens were heavily encouraged to "do their part" in their duty to their country by growing food and making every bit count.

Citizens were encouraged to make do. They were encouraged to start their own Victory garden and supplement their own rations. They were encouraged to forage and eat food they weren't accustomed to thinking as food. Food waste was a sin and they were encouraged to stretch their rations as far as possible.

In Britain, food rationing started in 1939 and lasted well past the war. They were under food rationing until 1954 while Britain recovered from the war. Food rationing started in 1942 and ended in the United States in August 1945 except for sugar which lasted until 1947. Soviet Union was under food rationing from 1941 - 1947. Fruits and vegetables were not rationed, but could be restricted for lack of supply unless you grew your own. For the most part, governments found out that their citizens were healthier under the food rationing system than before and after WWII.

Could we handle food rationing now if and when it should happen again? That is hard to say. Many people would have a very difficult time under the food rationing system. Processed food is much more prevalent now than it was during the 1940s. People are not as creative with food as they could be. Cooking from scratch is becoming a lost art. People are also not nearly as patriotic as they were during the first two world wars.

People are used to having food when they want it and how they want it. People in general are much more impatient now. Imagine being told you can only have so much food and you have to make a choice about what food you can have. Plus, people were encouraged to eat less meat during the war and choose cheaper cuts of meat to eat. Meat is a hefty part of a lot of diets now. People would have to make some severe changes to their diet that probably would not go over well.

Obesity is also a problem in the United States and Britain now.  People are used to eating a lot of food, making not so good food choices, consuming a lot of sugar, and not moving enough to deal with the excess food. Food rationing would be a tough adjustment for those people who suffer from obesity. If you struggle with your weight, now would a good time to start making changes before they are forced upon you.

Processed food is much more accessible now than 70 plus years ago. We also have a lot of manmade ingredients that were not even available back then. Processed food and these ingredients have brought about the advent of cheaper and easier to eat food. This definitely cheapens the cost of food, but depending on why we are being rationed we may not have access to the ingredients.You might also see more processed food being rationed because the ability to make it might be restricted.

Creative cooking and cooking from scratch is almost a lost art. While many people during those two wars were well-acquainted with cooking from scratch, now many people rely on processed foods or premade meals from the grocery store. Eating out is also at an all-time high as parents find it easier to go through the drive through or stop at a sandwich shop to feed the family. Food rationing would be a shock to those that would have to learn how to meal plan, read recipes, and cook creatively for possibly the first time in their lives.

We have many, many more people in our population now than we did then. We have more mouths to feed and more people in the inner cities who do not have access to cooking, growing, or forging food. While poverty existed in the 1930s and 1940s, we have still have a widespread and bigger problem with poverty today. Many people struggle to eat every day and rely on soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters, and the kindness of people just to get fed. What would happen to those people and those places when food rationing happens? Would the government provide for those places and for the people who need them? Would churches and charities still be able to support them? There is no clear cut answer on this problem.

SNAP benefits would certainly be reduced to reflect rationing as money would not be as available for this program. We would need to divert money to our country's defense and military. While individual states control what SNAP benefits could be spent on, the benefit amount would certainly be reduced. With the advent of food rationing, I could also see the government controlling how they could be spent. Only certain foods would be covered and nothing that would seem like a "luxury" grocery item.

People are also not nearly as patriotic now as they were during those wars. The contempt for our government now is at an all-time high. Take away or reduce someone's SNAP benefits and you could have a riot on your hands. Tell people they need to do their "duty" for whatever situation brings on food rationing and reduce their consumption of food, not have certain products available, or be restricted on what they can buy - I cannot even imagine what would happen. We have lost our loyalty and ability to stand as Americans against the world and do what is necessary to come out on top. The reaction could be violent and intense.

But mostly, we have lost our ability to be self-reliant. I love seeing homesteading, prepping, and self-sufficiency on the rise because more people are interested in stockpiling food, growing and foraging for food, raising livestock, canning and preserving their own food. Those are the things that will help you survive food rationing. Doing what you can to supplement food rationing and stretching food as far as it can go will only serve you well. Managing food waste will be critical. Being self-reliant will be the only way to survive food rationing.

So, could we handle food rationing now? I think we can, but it will be a huge adjustment and will probably have some riots happen as some groups of people do not handle well being told what to do even if the cause is great. However, we all have adjustments we need to make, skills we need to learn and maintain, and preparations to make. We need to be ready just in case because the event that brings on food rationing here will not only affect us as a country, but globally as well.

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Related links:
Nine Ways to Beat The Food Rationing System When It Happens Again
Ten Lessons Learned About Food From The Depression and Wartime



Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Nine Ways to Beat The Food Rationing System When It Happens Again


Right now, food seems to be plentiful in America. There is plenty of it in the stores and you hear stories of how much food is wasted from restaurants and grocery stores. However, there are some factors that could lead us to a rationing system in a hurry if something happened. Those things do not even have to be catastrophic for us to be rationed.

In most natural disasters such as hurricanes and flooding, Red Cross and FEMA dive right in to help. However, they will only serve meals and/or give out limited amounts of food and water. Yes, many other people donate food and money when things like this happen, but what if they couldn't?

In WWI, the Americans were not put on a rationing system, but were asked to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and less meat and wheat products. In WWII, Americans were put on a rationing system that became stricter as the war went on. Even then, this country imported a lot of food and supply chains were disrupted. In addition to that, the troops needed food overseas that would ship and travel well. We were asked to give up or limit certain foods to feed our troops which we did because we were patriotic and felt it was our duty to do so. Certain foods were not available because they were not in season or able to grow in the United States.

In today's America, this seems like a foreign concept. Food is literally everywhere! However, we have situations that can happen to start having our food rationed. Most grocery stores have only three days of food on their shelves in their storage rooms. If a blizzard or some other weather storm happens, those shelves will be wiped out in hours. Our local grocery store can be very short on supplies on Sunday because a lot of people get groceries on Sundays.

Now, imagine if there is a disruption in the transportation system. No trucks bringing food to the stores means a limited supply or no food to buy.

Imagine if we went to war again. A good deal of our food or ingredients for our food is imported. Less food coming into our country means less food to buy. That will not go over well with some people.

Imagine if you could not actually get to the grocery store. Some people are accustomed to shopping every day instead of once a week or two weeks. When food is rationed, often gas and tires are rationed too when will stop someone from going to the store every day.

Food will start to be rationed. Just like when food was rationed before, there will be a learning curve. People will have to adjust and some people will not adjust well. People will have to learn how to cook again and grow their own food. Some of those skills are completely lost in our inner cities.

What can you do to the beat the rationing system?

1. Food Storage. Now, more than ever, you need to have a food stockpile. No one knows how long food would be rationed for. No one planned for WWII to last for four years. There are still people recovering from the hurricanes last season. Puerto Rico is still getting on their feet and depending on FEMA and donations to feed their people (as of this post). Having a food stockpile is critical and having a year's worth of food is not out of line.

2. Grow Your Own Food. You will have to become your own supplier. If you start gardening now, you will have the skills to grow your own food. You don't even need a garden per say, but it is better to have a plot of land to grow food. However, use containers. Grow lettuce and spinach in pots inside the house. Grow tomatoes on the balcony or the patio. There are many creative ways to grow your food.

3. Raise Your Eggs and Meat. If you can, have some laying hens for eggs. Grow a few meat chickens for your own pot and freezer. If you can, raise more than chickens. Ducks, geese, turkeys, pigs, goats, sheep, and cows can all be raised for butchering. You would be addressing one area of food that was also severely rationed by the end of WWII and probably would be again.

4. Foraging For Food. You should learn to identify weeds and other edibles that can be cooked or eaten in a salad. This was done during both WWI and WWII with excellent results. A great book on foraging and identifying edibles is The Forager's Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants by Samuel Thayer.  Learning how to tap trees for syrup and collecting nuts should be skills to learn now too.

5. Start Keeping Bees. Sugar was severely rationed in WWII. People are even more addicted to it now than they were then. Keeping bees and producing your own honey would easily help replace sugar or at least keep sugar for more important things. During the war, people would save their sugar for the holidays or very special occasions. They would do without sugar most of the time. We all could benefit from having less sugar in our diets too.

6. Learn To Preserve Your Own Food. Learning to can and dehydrate will become very important skills during a food rationing time. Again, this is a skill you need to learn and practice now. Start simple with jams and jellies and work your way up to making meals in a jar. Getting a good supply of canning jars and canning lids will be crucial too. Metal for those lids could be in short supply. There is non-metal lids to can with also, but they also take time to learn how to use.

7. Learn To Use Everything and Waste Nothing. We can be a very wasteful society nowadays and we really need to learn to use it all up. We need to learn to eat everything, re-purpose leftovers, compost scraps, and feed scraps to the animals.

8. Get Creative. You will have to learn to cook from scratch. You will have to learn how to use food in ways you never imagined. You will have to learn to eat more locally and seasonally. You may have to have odd food combinations at the supper table. Learn to be creative with food and keep an open mind about how to cook and use food.

9. Try New Foods Now. Never had turnips or rutabagas? They grow just about everywhere so now would be a good time to learn how to eat them. They are just examples, but learn how to prepare and eat new things especially vegetables. People ate better on the rationing system when they had vegetables available to them. Learn to eat more vegetables and figure out a way for your picky eaters to eat them too.

Rationing is never an easy thing, but you can learn to use it to your advantage. If you take steps now to learn these skills and start storing food, you will have an easier time living on a food rationing system.

Some other articles of interest would be:
Food Rationing, Food Storage, and Wartime: We Have Much To Learn
Ten Lessons Learned About Food From The Depression and Wartime

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Easy Skillet Spaghetti: A Great Dinner for a Busy Night!


We are a busy household. A lot of nights we do not eat supper until 7:30 - 8:00 at night. Sometimes we need to make supper on the fly and have something on the table quickly. Sometimes we just want to make something quick and easy because we are tired. This Skillet Spaghetti fits the bill.

This recipe is easy. Very easy! It is a cheap meal to make. It is also made in one large skillet or dutch oven. One pot meals are my favorite meals. So just about anything made in one pot will get a chance at this household. I based this recipe off of one that I first made 12-15 years ago. I have since changed this recipe and completely lost the original recipe. 

Easy Skillet Spaghetti

Serves 4-6 people

1 pound ground beef
1 - 24 ounce jar of pasta (spaghetti) sauce
24 ounces water
12 ounces spaghetti noodles, broken into thirds
Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese for garnish



1. Brown the ground beef in a large skillet or dutch oven until done. You can drain the grease if you feel there is too much, but I generally do not drain the grease.



2. Add the spaghetti sauce to the ground beef. 



Fill the jar back up to the sauce level with water. Add the water to the skillet and stir. 



Bring to just a boil over medium high heat. 



3. Add the broken spaghetti noodles to the skillet and stir. You want the noodles covered with sauce. 



Cover the skillet and turn the temperature down to medium low heat. 



4. Let cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. The skillet spaghetti will be done when the noodles are cooked and most of the sauce is soaked up. 

5. You can sprinkle with mozzarella cheese to make this cheesy. The cheese will melt rather quickly on its own. I usually let people sprinkle their own parmesan cheese.

Serve with garlic bread and a salad if you so desire.

Notes:
* If the noodles do not seem cooked enough and the sauce is mostly soaked up, you can add 1/2 cup water at a time until the noodles are soft.
* If you use whole wheat spaghetti noodles, most of those boxes are 13-13.5 ounce boxes. You can add an 8 ounce can of tomato sauce to use the whole box. 

I know it is so simple, but I believe in giving all busy families the same tools to getting a filling dinner on the table. I hope you enjoy!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Clean Out Your Freezers With Me In August!


I declare August as National Clean Out Your Freezer(s) Month.

Why? The reasons are endless...

  • School is starting soon for us and may have already started for you.
  • Summer bounty is flowing in from the garden.
  • There may still be meals in the freezer from last year's freezer cooking binge.
  • There may be meat from 2014 in the bottom of the freezer.
  • There may be frozen vegetables and fruits from 2012.
  • You may have a storage shortage in the freezer.
  • You may have to get really creative in order to put even more in the freezer!
  • You may have leftovers from two Christmases ago still frozen in your favorite containers...

Most of those, if not all, are a true story in this house! I bet they are true for your house too, but I will not point any fingers. I have a full-size chest freezer as well as the freezer in my refrigerator. I am going to concentrate mainly on the chest freezer, but the other freezer will be looked at too.

No matter if you are a prepper or a homesteader, this needs to be done. You need to keep rotating your stock or you might lose it to freezer burn or worse. You have to make room for any garden produce you might freeze. If you are into frugal living or sustainability, food waste is your enemy. Losing food to sheer negligence or lack of organization is a detriment to everything you are trying to attain. 



How should we go about cleaning out the freezers? However works best for you.

I would recommend doing an inventory of all the contents of your freezer and using up the oldest food first. If some of that food is badly or obviously freezer burnt, pitch it or feed it to the chickens if the food is safe for them. You don't need to eat bad freezer-burnt food for the sake of saving money - trust me, I have done that and it wasn't pleasant!

If you want to put the freezer inventory on a spreadsheet, I would recommend this one from Lesa at Better Hens and Gardens. If you want to do just printable freezer inventory sheets, I really like the printable from Fun, Cheap or Free. She also gives great tips!

Now I am one of "those people" who think food that frozen and still looks good is edible. I don't take much stock in dates on frozen food. However, for this freezer cleanout, you should probably eat the oldest food first due to making room for new and better tasting food.

Now, if being this organized makes you twitch, you can do a simpler method(s) that I have also used myself. You can work from right to left/left to right in the freezer. You can just grab a basket, find the oldest food, put that food in the basket, and vow to eat that up first. You can just open the freezer, grab the first thing you see, and make something with it. You can do whatever floats your boat in this challenge.



At the end of month, when you have eaten down your freezers, you should probably spend some time on Labor Day weekend or before cleaning and defrosting your freezers. Goodness knows they will need it! You will be able to see how gross they have probably become!

For this to be fun for everyone and to follow me while I do this, you can follow me on Instagram where I will post regular pictures of what the freezer looks like and what we are eating. You can also follow me on Facebook where I will also post pictures and encouragement for you all.

Please join me in this Freezer Cleanout Challenge! I would love to see what you are all doing as well! You can tag me by using the hashtag #lifeinruraliowafreezerchallenge. If you all use the hashtag, you should be able to see what each other is doing too! We can encourage each other!

Let me know in the comments if you are joining and what you want to accomplish in this challenge!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Saturday, July 22, 2017

10 Reasons You Should Be Gardening!


One of the most important skills to learn is gardening. The ability to grow your own food and maintain your own sustainability is a key point in homesteading and prepping. While you may not be able to produce all your own food, you have the capability to produce a lot of it. You can also garden just for pleasure. You can also garden for your long term food storage needs by canning, freezing, and drying your produce.

There are many ways to garden. No matter what method of gardening you choose, the results are the same. With a little hard work, weed control, and commitment, you will have produced your own food and gained a skill that, sadly, most people do not have.

10 Reasons You Should Be Gardening:

1. You produce your own food! This is the best thing about gardening. You can walk out to your garden and pick what you want to eat with your supper or as your supper. Eating what you produce is a great feeling. Your hard work produced food to provide for you, your family, and possibly neighbors and friends!

2. Gardening can be therapeutic. When you are feeling a little down, tending to the plants and watching things grow can lift your spirits. When you are feeling a bit frustrated or angry, pulling weeds can be a great outlet. If you are feeling pretty happy, the garden can keep lifting your spirits.

3. Gardening can decrease stress levels. See number #2. However, pulling weeds can be the best therapy and keep you from possibly hurting someone other than the weeds. And trust me, the weeds can handle it!

4. It's a skill that needs to be learned and passed on. Many people do not know how to garden. They will remember that their parents or grandparents gardened, but they had no interest themselves in learning. We need to be teaching and encouraging the next generation to be growing their own in some way or form. Whether it is growing food in containers on an apartment balcony, a community lot, raised beds, or in the ground, gardening skills need to be taught and passed on.


5. You eat healthier. There isn't many doctors, nutritionists, or diet gurus who will tell you not to eat your vegetables and fruits. Adding vegetables and fruits that are homegrown to your meals will help you be healthier and feel better too.

6. You will lose weight and burn calories pulling weeds and tending plants. Gardening has been proven to burn calories and even help lose weight with the exercise you get tending the garden.


7. Family and couples can work together. My kids are often out in the garden working with me. This year they did a lot of planting of seeds, onions, and potatoes. We worked on planting in straight rows, seed spacing, and identifying plants. They help with weeding and harvesting. They also love to eat what comes out of the garden. Watering the garden has become a couples activity with Rob doing a lot of the watering including setting the sprinkler and coming up with new watering set-ups. You can involve your kids and your spouse if you want to. (I also understand wanting some "alone" time in the garden too!)

8. You can have a chemical free, organic garden. We try very hard to not have chemicals in the garden. If you want a chemical free, organic, non-GMO garden, you can have that. You get to control what is planted, what is sprayed, how to control the pests, and other inputs. Basically, it is yours to do with how you want!

9. You can save money at the grocery store. Vegetables and fruits rarely taste or look as good as the ones I grow. Nothing beats a homegrown tomato! Eating fresh vegetables from the garden and preserving the extra bounty will save you a fair amount of money on your grocery bill in the summer and the winter.

Learning a new way to stake tomatoes this year

10. You can experiment and learn new things while gardening. You will learn when you planted way too much zucchini and even your neighbors hide from you to avoid getting one! You will learn that you should only plant vegetables your family will eat and you will freeze/can. You will learn to try something new every year and see how it does. You can experiment with different types of tomatoes, peppers, and squashes. The garden is one big science experiment sometimes and, even though you might depend on what you produce, you can always try new things and change what you want to do.


Gardening is a skill you should be learning. It has many benefits and perks as you can read. I would encourage everyone to do it!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Homemade Chili - A Winter's Delight!


Chili is probably one of our favorite soups/stews at our house. Everyone loves it except for my son who doesn't love beans, but loves the rest of it! My daughters make it at their college apartment  for themselves and their friends. This goes over very well for crowds. We make this a lot in the winter!

The original recipe was my mom's recipe. However, I couldn't leave well enough alone. She doesn't blame me. She messes with recipes too! 

This recipe is really versatile! I have warmed up the recipe a bit from my mom's recipe because I like my chili a little spicier, but not too spicy. However, you can add more spice, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, or some hot sauce if you would like. 

I also use two pounds of ground meat in my recipe. I usually use one pound of ground beef and one pound of ground pork. You can use whatever you like. This is good with all ground beef, all ground pork, with ground venison, and/or ground turkey. You can cut back on the meat to only 1-1/2 pounds of ground meat, but I like my chili to be more like stew instead of soup. So I use more meat. 

The tomatoes can also be played with a little. I usually use a 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes. I have also used a quart jar of home canned crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes. If I use whole tomatoes, I just crush them with my hands before adding them to the pot. 

If you are accommodating the picky people in your life (no judgment from me on this!), you can use a 1/4 cup of dried minced onion instead of using the fresh chopped onion. You can also use 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder instead of minced fresh garlic. 

You can also make them on the stove or put in the slow cooker on low all day! Didn't I say this was versatile? 

Homemade Chili

2 pounds of ground meat
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped

Seasonings:
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

Canned goods:
1 - 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes or a quart jar of home canned tomatoes
1 - 10 ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies (I use mild)
1 - 15 ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 - 15 ounce can chili beans with sauce, undrained



Brown the meat with garlic and onion. If you using the dried versions of garlic and onion, you can still add them now. If you cooking this on the stove, brown the meat in the pot you are using to make the chili. I usually use my 6 quart cast iron enamel pot. If you are using the slow cooker, just brown the meat in a frying pan.



After the meat is browned, you can drain it if you would like. I don't usually drain my meat unless the meat is swimming in the grease. I like the favor the grease adds and I don't usually have a lot of grease in the pan. 



If you are making this on the stove, add the seasonings and the canned goods to the pot. If you are making this in a slow cooker, you can add the meat, seasonings, and canned goods to the slow cooker. Stir well. 



Bring the chili up to just a boil and then turn it down to low. Cover and simmer on low for a hour or longer if you want. 

With the slow cooker, set it to low and let it cook for 8-10 hours. Although, we have ate it after 4-6 hours with no problem. 

This serves at least 4-6 people. We serve it with cheese, crackers, and sour cream. 

I also apologize for the splatter stains on the stove. Just keeping it real. Normally, the stove is a lot cleaner!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Homemade Hamburgers and Baked Potato Slices: Delicious Summer Recipes!


One of our favorite summer meals to eat is Hamburgers and Baked Potato Slices. Both are simple and easy to make. You can also have dinner on the table in under thirty minutes!

I start with the Baked Potato Slices first. We use garlic salt to season these potatoes because my family is addicted to it. However, you can use any seasoning you want!

Baked Potato Slices

3-4 potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
Garlic salt or any other seasoning you prefer

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Slice the potatoes. Spray your baking sheet with cooking spray. I use olive oil cooking spray, but you can use whatever you have on hand. Lay the potatoes slices on the baking sheet


Spray the potatoes with cooking spray. Then sprinkle the potatoes with garlic salt or your chosen seasoning. Spraying the potatoes with cooking spray may seem weird, but it helps the seasoning stick and the potatoes to cook better. 

Put the potatoes in the oven for 20-25 minutes. You want them to be a little brown on the bottom when done. To test doneness, use a toothpick. If the toothpick goes in easily, they are done. If you want to, you can flip the potatoes half way or let them cook longer for more of a potato chip consistency. 


While the Baked Potato Slices are cooking, I start on the Homemade Hamburgers. These are juicy and flavorful with the addition of seasoning and Worcestershire sauce. I adapted this recipe from another recipe I had and lost. 

Homemade Hamburgers

2 pounds ground beef (I prefer 85%, but you can use a leaner meat)
1 Tbsp. Morton's Nature's Season Seasoning Blend (or your favorite seasoning salt)
1 tsp. onion powder

Preheat your grill. I usually turn my grill up to high to start with and turn it to medium when I am ready to cook.

Put the ground beef in a large bowl. 


Add the seasoning and mix it well. My family loves their hamburgers well-seasoned, but your family may not. Adjust the seasonings accordingly. I also use my clean hands to mix the hamburger. I find it is more efficient. 



Split the meat into 8 - 1/4 pound patties. Shape the patties and make an indentation in the middle with your thumb. This helps the hamburgers to cook evenly and shrink less.

With the grill hot, put the patties on the grill.



I normally cook the hamburgers about five minutes on each side and find them to be done. We like ours medium and will cook them until the meat thermometer says 145 degrees Fahrenheit.



All done! Unless you want cheese on that burger. Now is a good time to do that and let it melt a little!

Take the Baked Sliced Potatoes out of the oven and put the Homemade Hamburgers on the table with buns and condiments. We often eat ours with baby carrots or a salad to round off the meal.



I hope you enjoy this delicious summer meal just like we do!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Making Bread Is A Skill You Need To Learn! Bonus: A Round-Up of Great Bread Recipes!


One of the skills I have probably worked the hardest on was to make my own bread. I wasn't very positive about my ability to learn how to make bread, but I knew I needed to learn how.

I had a bread maker, but I didn't like how the loaves came out of the bread maker. The crust was very chewy if not hard as a rock. Then I discovered the dough setting. Oh my. I found out that the bread maker could do the dough part, then I could take the dough out, put it in a bread pan, let rise again, and bake the bread. Wonderful!

That only works as long as the bread maker works. Something happened that the coating peeled off the bread maker pan and I didn't like having the coating in my dough. Somehow, I doubt that was healthy for anyone.

I had dabbled in making the bread from scratch and now the time had come to move beyond dabbling into full-time mastering the bread making skill. I learned how to make bread using my KitchenAid mixer. That mixer makes life a lot easier! However, I wanted to learn how to make bread from scratch. 

Quite honestly, I was a little scared of the whole process. Making bread from scratch and by hand seemed a little daunting. I put off learning this skill for a few years at least. I didn't want to knead bread for a long time or struggle to stir the dough. I had already broken enough wooden spoons! 

Enough was enough. I finally found a few recipes (listed below) that I didn't think sounded too difficult. Sure enough, making bread from scratch was easy! Learning to know when the bread was done and getting the rise times right was my biggest challenge. I learned to thump the bread when it was done cooking and listen for the hollow sound. I learned to get the temperature right in my kitchen for the bread to rise correctly. 

Listen, if I can cook bread from scratch, you can too. This is a skill that is very necessary. When times are tough or the budget is tight, making bread will save you money and fill those bellies. Bread is cheap when you make it at home and tastes so much better than store bought. 

Another plus is that you can control the ingredients. You can control the sugar, the flour, and the salt. If you need gluten-free, you can make gluten-free. If you have a family that will only eat white bread, you make white bread. The possibilities are endless!

I am little embarrassed to say that I do not have my own bread recipe! As much as I love making bread, I have never felt the need to develop my own recipe. However, I know a lot of great bloggers that have their own recipes and are more than happy to share them!

Below are some great recipes from fellow bloggers to help you get started baking bread or add some new recipes to your repertoire: 




































Which recipe are you trying first?

Thanks for reading,

Erica

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Tax Refund Prepping: Time To Do A MAJOR Food Stock-Up


What should you do with that good-sized tax refund you get every year? You can blow it on meaningless toys or a trip somewhere. You can save it for a rainy day. However, those things won't keep you alive though when a financial crisis or job loss happens. 

You need to invest your refund into your preps, mainly food storage. 

My tax refund is a welcome gift every year. I don't ask for a refund and make sure I pay just enough taxes to not pay in. However, with the child tax credit and earned income credit, I get back a goodly sum every year. The first thing I do is pay off any outstanding debts I may have. 

The next thing  I do with my tax refund is to do a major food stock-up. I place orders online for pantry staples and freeze dried food. I go to Aldi's and do a major trip(s) because I can buy food there by the flat. I also really take advantage of the loss leaders at my local grocery stores for some great deals. 

I do not try to go broke when doing this stocking up. That is foolish. I shop the deals, use coupons for things I will actually buy, use store cards and coupons, and use online or phone apps like Ibotta and SavingStar. Just because you feel temporarily rich doesn't mean you should just throw your money away. Saving money and possibly earning money back is still important. 

You do not have to do this stocking up in one trip or one day. Take your time, plan according to your needs, and shop wisely. You also do not want to attract too much unwanted attention by leaving the store with 3-4 fully loaded carts. Then your friends and neighbors will be banging on your door for food when they get desperate!

What should you buy when you are stocking up? Walk into your pantry and look at what you have. Think about what you normally buy. Don't buy a lot of applesauce if your family doesn't like it. Buy what you use now, just in much greater quantity. 

If starting or building a food storage causes you to panic, I give some great tips in these articles:

Top 10 Items You Need For Your Food Storage

Nourishing Foods For Your Food Storage

What Meats Will Meet Your Needs?

Could You Please Pass The Legumes?

What Place Do Grains Have In Your Food Storage?

What Do You Plan To Put On Your Food?

Spicing Up Your Food Storage and Pantry

How much food should you buy to store? I would start with one month of food and work your way up to a year or longer. You don't know when a crisis could happen and you will be unable to get groceries. Having enough food on hand to get through these times is crucial. 

Do yourself  and your family a favor? Invest your refund into your food storage.

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Ten Lessons Learned About Food From The Depression and Wartime


The Great Depression was a time of lean years for many in the United States as well as all over the world. Many people learned valuable lessons on how to make food stretch and take advantage of cheaper processed food that came out during this time. Many people learned to survive on less and some people went hungry. 

When World War II came around, many of these lessons were needed to survive the war and stretch their rationing coupons. People were encouraged to garden during the Depression and were heavily encouraged to do during the war. Victory gardens appeared everywhere to help feed the people while more and more food was shipped to overseas. 

Many of these lessons learned during these eras have been lost. We as a people are incredibly wasteful now. Our grocery budgets would be better off if we learned these same lessons and kept them in our kitchens. Then if we have lean times, we would be better off.

10 Lessons Learned About Food From The Depression and Wartime

1. Fat was never wasted. Scraps of fat were kept from everything they could be and stored. Fat from meat was cut off to be used to fry and roast. Bacon grease was kept in a jar to be used to cook eggs and potatoes. Fat from cooking meat was reused in cooking other meat and cooking vegetables. Fat was too precious to waste especially when it became severely rationed during World War II.

2. Cooking liquids were never just thrown down the drain. That was wasteful! They were reused in cooking for vegetables. Rice and pasta could be cooked in water that was previously used in cooking vegetables. They also thought it gave the rice and pasta flavor. They would also use the cooking liquids in watering plants and feeding animals.

3. Leftover meat juices had so many more uses! Leftover meat juices were used for making soup, cooking rice and pasta, flavoring casseroles and skillets dishes. Meat juices were poured into a jar to be reused in the next meal.

4. If the food has to be imported into the country, chances are you would have to live without it. This was especially true in the United States and Britain during wartime when most of their food was imported into the country. Many things they could grow themselves, but items like sugar and coffee were severely rationed because they could not produce it themselves.

5. If people could, they raised their own chickens and planted gardens. Sometimes city dwellers could not have gardens, but many cities had garden allotments for people to use. Raising your food could mean the difference between living and starving for most people. Many people during the Depression and wartime sold the food they couldn't eat or preserve. Many women sold eggs from their chickens in order to bring a little more income into the home. Many people from these eras have said that having gardens and eggs are what got them through the lean years.

6. Leftovers were not wasted. Leftovers were generally incorporated into the next meal or the next day's meals. Leftover meat became chopped meat sandwiches. Leftover meat and vegetables became part of the soup. Cooking liquids and canned liquids were reused. Nothing was wasted. If, for some reason, the leftovers could not be or were not used, they were fed to the animals or put into a compost pile. 

7. If you did not raise or hunt your own meat, meat could be very expensive. Meals in the Depression and wartime were not heavy on meat like they are now. Meat cooked at one meal was stretched over 2-4 meals. They might roast a chicken for one meal, make chopped meat sandwiches for another meal, soup for lunch or supper, and use the rest of the chicken in a white sauce served over toast or pasta. The bones would be used to make broth for the soup before being thrown out to the chickens. Nothing was wasted.

8. Consider alternative ways of cooking food. In the 30's and 40's, cook stoves were popular. Electric and gas cook stoves were becoming increasingly available and were cheap to run. However, in the Depression, people could not afford to run the stoves. During the war, gas was rationed. Women used wood stoves and hay boxes to cook food and save money. 

9. Forging was very necessary during these eras. People looked for dandelion greens, dug up wild onions, and knew where to find blackberries in the brambles. Forging for anything edible helped at the supper table and, for some families, made the difference between a very meager meal and a decent meal. 

10. "Making Do" was the theme of the Depression and wartime. People didn't have a choice if they wanted to eat. Beans were eaten a lot because they were cheap and nutritious. Casseroles were made more and became popular because little bits of food could be mixed together to make a more filling meal. Bits of dried fruit and sweet vegetables were used to sweeten food when sugar wasn't available or heavily rationed. 

Food was never thrown out or wasted. People became very creative and resourceful to make a meal for their family. They had to. They didn't have a choice unless they wanted to starve. 

Thanks for reading,
Erica


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