I'm sorry if all I seem to write about lately is the pantry, but it seems to be what takes up a lot of my thoughts and time.
Our kitchen has a small reach in pantry. I was thrilled when we moved here 22 years ago because my previous kitchen was tiny and no pantry. But like my dad said, you always grow into your space. The pantry only had three shelves and the shelves are held up by wood around the three sides and then the shelf sits on the edge of each. A few years ago I found a shelf at one of the hardware stores that would fit without having to be cut. It's not as deep as the others, but that's OK because it makes it easier to get things off the floor of the pantry.
I'm almost ashamed to admit that the pantry walls and shelves look bedraggled. The contact paper on two of the shelves was not nice. I couldn't get it off. The wood on the three original shelves was really dark. The shelves themselves seemed sturdy so I couldn't see paying to replace them. So, I ventured out into the garage to look for a can of paint I knew we had. A few years ago we painted the bathroom and when we had some work done in there, we needed some touch up paint. The paint store wouldn't let us buy a small amount or even just a pint. Nope, had to buy a whole gallon. We didn't need a gallon and I have been irritated ever since to think about that almost full gallon of paint sitting in the garage. Well, I put it to good use. I had a paint brush and a small roller and plenty of newspaper to catch the drips. It took two coats, but I think it looks far better.
I have been browsing Pinterest and I know there is no way my pantry will ever be Pinterest Pretty, but I did get some ideas on better organization. I hoped I would find some things on our weekly thrift store outing and I did! I bought 4 square soft sided containers, one small metal basket, one wire basket that attaches to a shelf, and one of those spice things that slides out and turns for $13 and tax. One place had everything half price and we spent $11 there and $2 for the wire basket. I had two baskets and a couple of other things that I washed and reused. I'm sort of proud of the pantry. I felt like I did decently for some elbow grease and very little money.
I made more applesauce last week as well as apple juice. I think I have maybe 5 wide mouth quart jars and 3 regular mouth quart jars and 5 half pints left from all the canning. I have a lot of stuff canned. So, my pie safe as well as pantry is about full and what a blessing that is!
I noticed the other day I had stupidly stuck a bunch of papers in a drawer. I made myself go through all the papers. Most of them I could recycle. I had a few that needed to get to the shred pile. I really need to stop doing that kind of stuff and just deal with these papers right away.
I'm sorry if all I seem to write about lately is the pantry, but it seems to be what takes up a lot of my thoughts and time.
As some are doing, I've been canning things. DH has had a good tomato crop this year. I canned tomatoes, tomato juice, spaghetti sauce, and even made barbecue sauce. I also made tomato strawberry jam. I've frozen cut up bell peppers and canned green beans. Had to buy the green beans. I've made different jams and jellies. I have been drying herbs too.
My next plan of action is to make and can applesauce. I have some canned because we were running low when DH had a tooth issue and we ate a lot of soft foods. But, I'd like to get far more canned so we have it. Hopefully apples will start to decrease in price. Someone told me that it was silly for me to make applesauce when I can buy it. True, I can. But most of the applesauce available in our grocery stores if one reads the label, many of the apples are grown and processed in China. Consumer Reports had an article a couple of years back about how much arsenic the apples grown in China contain because many of the trees are planted in sewage. No thanks. I like to know what I'm eating. Not sure I'm saving a ton of money, but sometimes you spend to have peace of mind. We did go to a small Amish market and they had a quart of applesauce that contained apples, sugar, and cinnamon and it was $6.99 for a quart. So, I felt that I was paying a little less than that. I also make apple juice for DH. He likes having it with our Sunday brunch and again, I know what's in it.
Kroger had pasta on sale. It was ten for ten. I didn't need ten boxes of pasts, but I did buy three different kinds. I plan to put them in glass jars to help them keep longer.
As I've cooked chicken and turkey breasts this summer, I've saved the broth and canned and frozen it. I did some the same with some beef broth, but I don't have as much of it as I do chicken broth, but it is still nice to have jars of this stuff available.
I hope I'm wrong, but I think we may have another panic shopping as far as groceries. I don't can corn, so I have been buying a can here and there all summer to have some stockpiled.
We just got the dishwasher working. What a pain in the neck that was. Between not getting the one we wanted (clerk didn't realize it was on back order until November) then getting it installed and it not working, and then having to have an electrician come out. Fortunately the electrician was a smart one and he found the simple problem quickly and fixed it. We were talking about appliances and he said he had problems getting appliances and the person who installed our dishwasher said the same thing. The electrician said that even getting parts for breaker boxes for new houses is difficult. We heard last night on the news where a construction guy who graciously built a wheelchair ramp for a handicapped girl said lumber was hard to get as well. I hope these issues are soon resolved, but wonder if they will be anytime soon.
Anyway, it's sort of s secure feeling seeing the pantry filling up.
This is just a mish mash of thoughts...
This spring when people were hoarding things and panic shopping, one big ticket item that people were desiring was a freezer. I thought, well, if they want freezers, then this summer canning supplies may be in short supply. I made sure I stocked up on lids (I have the jars and rings) so I would have what I needed for this year's canning. So, turn the calendar pages a few months and a friend asked me if I knew where she could get lids and rings (she found jars at a thrift store) because every store in our town was out. We were going to a bulk food store in an Amish community so I looked. They also were sold out of all canning supplies. Wonder what will be next!?! My prediction will be flour, sugar, butter, and other baking things. Unless things change drastically, my church will not be having its Christmas bazaar and a lot of people go to these to get cookies and sweet breads and pies so I think they will bake at home. I plan to pick up an extra bag of flour and sugar this week to have in case the rush starts.
I have slowly been working on my stock pile of things. Yesterday we picked herbs and I washed them and prepared them to let them dry in the sunroom. We also picked bell peppers and I washed and chopped them to freeze them in freezer bags to have to cook with. Other than applesauce my canning is done for the year. I'm waiting for apples to hopefully go on sale. I have picked up an extra can of this and that when we go to the grocery so I don't feel like I'm hoarding, just preparing.
My dishwasher died over a week ago. We went to purchase one and the sales person reassured me they could get the particular model that we picked out. A week goes by and I get a call saying they aren't delivering it because they can't get it. I call and try to talk to the sales person who conveniently isn't working when I call only to find the thing is on back order under November 1st. I was not happy. She said the warehouse had it! The new sales person asked if I would be willing to consider another model. I finally said yes. Hopefully it will be delivered today. I feel the person who did the original sale should have called and told me that instead of making me wait almost a week before finding out. Customer service is a joke most of the time. This is just one reason I hate shopping.
We hit the thrift stores last Friday. One had new boxes of stationery for $1.50. It is name brand stuff. I got a few boxes. I write letters and I like nice stationery, but I refuse to pay $7 and $8 a box. I felt I got a bargain.
Hope everyone has a great week and stay safe and healthy!
It's August and before we know it, fall will arrive.
At least I hope we have a fall. It seems like the past few years we had summer, a day or two of fall, and then wham, winter! Same thing with spring, winter which lasted like forever, a day or two of spring, then summer.
DH's garden is slowing down. For a few weeks we were getting tomatoes galore. It was amazing! I canned and canned. At first, DH said maybe I should wait, and I said wait for what? We have the tomatoes, we want them this winter, so I need to can. He gave away tomatoes too. Well, it seems that was the big influx and now things are slowing down. As long as we still have some for the table, I'm happy. I'm just glad I canned and made spaghetti sauce.
Today we dug up the first planting of onions. I have used quite a few already so there were not many still in the ground, but we dug those up, and planted the last of the onion sets. I know we won't get any big enough for slicing, but we will have green onions into the fall. Although DH works the soil and has put down top soil, it was still kind of clay like. I think we are going to have to invest in some sand to loosen the soil up. I put egg shells, tea bags, and coffee grounds throughout the year to help replenish some nutrients and DH uses Miracle Gro granular fertilizer. Anyway, that was hot, dirty work to get the soil ready to plant the rest of the onion sets.
I think I have spent more time outside this year than I have since we married. I don't "do" outside due to allergies, but with DH's garden, I felt I needed to help him. He planted more tomatoes this year. I also helped him when he was trimming bushes earlier this summer.
The last few weeks our grocery bills have really gone down. I have worked to make things that we get from the garden. For brunch today we had tomato-basil omelets since we had a bunch of cherry tomatoes and plenty of basil. Last night we had chicken stir fry. I used onions, and bell peppers from the garden and mushrooms I had in the fridge. I normally also have zucchini and celery, but we didn't have either, so I just added more pepper and onion. It was delicious and hubby was happy to eat the fruits of his labor, so to speak.
I thought I did pretty well as far as the chicken. I bought a package with two chicken breasts. We had one chicken breast sliced in half long ways for supper Friday night, Last night was chicken stir fry with rice. So, one package of chicken and two meals. It sure helps with the grocery budget.
I have started picking and cleaning herbs and putting them in the sun room to air dry. Hopefully I will get the bulk of this done before fall arrives instead of rushing to finish like I normally do.
DH's bell peppers are really starting to come on. I normally chop a bunch up and freeze them so I have them for soups and casseroles during the winter.
I thought I'd post what our menus were this past week:
Sunday brunch: scrambled eggs with onions, bell pepper, Avocado, mushrooms, and oregano, sliced tomatoes, fruit salad
Sunday supper: Italian wedding soup (from freezer), applesauce
Monday lunch: Salad with cherry tomatoes
Monday supper: tuna cakes, risotto, sliced tomatoes, fruit salad
Tuesday lunch: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, sliced tomatoes
Tuesday supper: Leftover beef roast from the previous week, mashed potatoes, carrots, sliced tomatoes, fruit salad.
Wednesday: sandwiches with thin sliced chicken and cheese, potato salad, sliced tomatoes, applesauce
Wednesday supper: spaghetti with homemade spaghetti sauce, green beans, cottage cheese, fruit salad
Thursday lunch: we went out!
Thursday supper: scrambled eggs, toast, sliced tomatoes, fruit salad
Friday lunch: Deli meat sandwiches, sliced tomatoes
Friday supper: thinly sliced chicken breast floured and seasoned and browned in olive oil, mashed potatoes, bell pepper, sliced tomatoes, peaches for dessert
Saturday brunch: we went out to a local restaurant
Saturday supper: chicken stir fry with rice, sliced tomatoes, fruit salad.
Yesterday was a busy shopping day, masks included. We decided to eat lunch out. I ordered a salad and although it was expensive - over $9, I brought half of it home so I had a second lunch today with it. While we were out in the north end of town, I decided to do some shopping. DH was surprised when I said I wanted to do some shopping because other than grocery stores and browsing thrift stores, I rarely want to go anywhere to shop. However, I had some things in mind that I was looking for.
Being a retired teacher, I still like using notebook paper. Staples had it on sale. While we were there, I noticed they had a 3 pack of Kleenex on sale as well so we bought that as well as some ink refills for a pen. I received a coupon for $10 off our next purchase of $20, so I think I may have to go back and get more Kleenex. DH has bad sinus problems and he goes through a ton of Kleenex besides using cloth hankies.
Our next foray was Joann Fabrics. I wanted one of those foam ink pads. I had another one that wasn't foam and it seemed to have dried up pretty quickly. I looked at yarn not because I wanted any, but I was nosy. It looked like someone had bought a lot of yarn because there were empty bins in some of the more economical yarn. I also wanted some elastic. Since I think we will be wearing masks for awhile, I wanted to try and make some masks. However, other than the really wide stuff, they were out and the clerk said people were in over the weekend shopping like mad for elastic and yarn. No kidding. The stamp pad was on sale. Yay, another savings!
We hit Walgreens to pick up a prescription and they had grape juice and peanut butter on sale. We drink a small glass of grape juice with supper since we are not wine drinkers. We have peanut butter sandwiches for lunch many times so figured we might as well stock up. I bought some of those elastic hair holders to use instead of elastic. They let me use my Balance Reward points for $20 so I spent $11 and some change there after they took off the $20. All in all, I spent less than $100, but felt like I had gotten some good deals and have worked on my stock pile of food and paper products. Plus, I had a couple of things that were wants: the stamp pad and the ink cartridges. Yes, I can use the free pens, but I really like the Cross pen I was given in 1979.
I spent part of the afternoon stamping some cards. I had found a new package of blank cards and envelopes at a thrift store for a quarter a couple of weeks ago so I thought I could stamp them with some designs. I have had the stamps for years and years. I had a red one and green one already so the black one just added to my collection. It was something fun to do.
So, that was it for my shopping trip. I was pleased with my results and shopping on a Monday later morning, early afternoon meant few crowds. No one to ask, "Who was that masked saver?"
Our pantry is getting pretty full. No complaints either! DH's tomatoes have really been producing, but have sort of slowed down in the past week. We had a few days of cooler temps and I think the plants took a break. But that was fine. I started canning a few weeks ago when things were going hot and heavy and I think I have more then enough tomatoes and spaghetti sauce made for the winter. What a blessing that is!
Our neighbors shared some of their cucumbers so I'm going to make a few jars of sweet pickles and then give them some. It's nice when there are good neighbors, not just ones that share, but just nice people who realize that there is something about being kind to each other. Last winter I gave them some jars of green beans and spaghetti sauce and asked they return the jars and rings. They did. We've been passing things back and forth ever since -- baked goods, vegetables, and it's really nice.
I have a friend who lives a couple states away and she said she found a salsa recipe that is a little beyond what she considered the norm: it also incorporates cucumbers. I had never heard of that. But, I Googled it, and there are a couple of recipes like that. It's nice to learn something new. I don't make salsa, so I don't think I'll try it, but nevertheless, I learned something.
My state, Illinois, seems to continue to have large numbers of the virus cases, so I don't look for our church to be able to have our church bazaar the first Saturday in December. It breaks my heart. We bake cookies and sell them by the pound as well as other sweet treats. I guess I'll bake a lot of stuff this year and give as gifts.
I was discussing with a friend some of the meals I've made this week and she was teasing me about my using the Crockpot so much. I guess I really do. I used it three times this week. Twice because I would be canning and it was easier to just have supper in the cooker than to have to stop everything and take things off the stove to cook supper. I have read some of the blogs where people really like their Instapots. I haven't succumbed to one yet. But, I can see the draw.
Since we have been eating a lot of fresh foods from the garden, our grocery bills haven't been as high as they were in the past. That's a nice relief. We normally spend over $100 each week and the past three I've spent less than $60.
No crystal ball needed here...I can see more tomato canning in my future!
Not that I mind. It sort of gives me a little bit of security knowing I am using some of our garden to provide for us this winter. I also use some of our canning as presents at Christmas. Fortunately I have some friends who like home grown, home canned produce. After awhile, what do you honestly give to people who basically buy what they want? Especially when they offer to buy some of your canned goods from you? I would never accept money, so I often wrap up some for Christmas and they are happy and so am I.
DH has given away tomatoes to 6 different families just this week. He wound up planting more than he usually does. Due to our shelter at home early this spring, he prepared his garden a little earlier and some of his plants were nipped by frost although we covered them. He then bought some others to make sure the original ones were to be replaced, except they did OK once he cut away some of the nipped parts. He planted the new ones too and I guess we are in tomato heaven!
July was a very expensive month for us with DH's tooth problems. Two regular dental appointments to figure out which tooth was the problem and what to do, a root canal, a temporary crown, and soon to be permanent crown. I have already told DH he may be crowned, but I am not practicing my curtsey nor am I referring to him as "his royal highness. " OK, a bit of levity there, sorry! I also had my regular check up as did DH so our young dentist should be getting some extra help with her school loans from us!
I worry as I see our Covid cases starting to rise again in Illinois. We wear masks everywhere. My hands are so dry from washing them so much and using hand sanitizer when we are out. I hope the cases will plateau, but then, they are testing more people, so I'm sure there will be more cases as more are tested. Some friends who were sick in January and February with respiratory things now wonder if they had been some of the first to have had the virus. We can pray that things will soon get better.
I apologize in advance for this rant. I'm tired and hot and frustrated.
I enjoy either crocheting, loom knitting, or doing embroidery. Many of the items I make take time and materials. Materials that are not cheap. I try to make individual gifts for people that I think might like them. I also work on hats and scarves and dish cloths for my church's knitting group that we donate to area nonprofits.
My husband took up vegetable gardening late in life. He has always loved gardening, but never thought he could grow vegetables. I suggested he start with a couple of tomato plants, then he would get onions, then bell peppers, and herbs. We don't grow our own from seeds, so most of the stuff we have to buy as plants or in the case of onion sets. The only thing we do get from year to year is garlic; a friend gave us some starts a few years ago and when we pick it, I save enough back to plant more. As many of you know, a garden is not free food. You buy the seeds or plants, you spend a lot of time working the soil, you fertilize and water and weed. You worry about too much sun, too little sun, too much rain, too little rain, too much wind, hail, and varmints eating your stuff. It's a lot of industry, but for some, it is worth it.
I started canning tomatoes a few years ago because DH got a good crop. I had to buy jars, rings, lids, as well as the canning supplies. As DH has started planting more plants, I had to buy more supplies. Granted, I haven't bought many new jars as far as quarts and pints because I have really stocked up on them, but I do have quite a bit of money invested because I can a lot of things besides tomatoes.
I am absolutely shocked when someone claims that the tomatoes I canned were free. I asked what do you mean, free? He said that they came from your garden. Yeah, the garden DH spent lots of time working on not to mention the water, fertilizer as well as tomato cages and the cost of the plants themselves. I said canning them wasn't free either, and it was hot, messy work. It means bleaching my sink before I start, bleaching it after, and washing and sterilizing jars that I have washed before, but you can't be too careful. Then this person whom I had stupidly given some jelly I made said well, you didn't spend much on the jelly. I said, have you priced what goes into jelly. He had no idea. And I had to beg this person to return my jars because he didn't think they cost that much and felt he could just pitch them!
DH planted lavender and I made some jelly. Not a ton, but I wanted to try the recipe. One gal who has culinary training and is always throwing in my face she's a chef said she'd take a jar off my hands. I wasn't offering her any. I was making conversation that I had tried a new recipe.
Last year I canned so much, I ran out of room for storing, so I emptied shelves and stacked up dishes and stuff to put the stuff away. I can't say we would have had the best and most varied diet, but when the grocery stores had empty shelves, we had plenty of applesauce, green beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken broth, and jellies.
So, I wonder why people think homemade, home grown, or home canned are free?