Last week, when I wasn't thinking or writing or reading about educational philosophy, I did a fair amount of reading and thinking about groceries. Actually, since I plan on making emergency preparedness a focus of our year, this does actually relate to homeschooling. :-) Periodically it hits me that we live in area where winter storms might knock out the power for long periods of time (as happened to many people we knew during last winter's ice storm). It also hits me that I have a bunch of little kids. How would we be able to get them out in a fire? (This thought kept me up nights when the twins were infants and Farmerboy was only 2.) What if something happened to me? Would my kids know what to do?
So we're going to work on this throughout the year. (I'm putting it in the curriculum I submit to the school district as health.) Gareth and Katydid are both working on the Boy Scout First Aid merit badge right now (Gareth will be able to actually earn the badge; Katydid is doing the same work for the Pilgrims of the Holy Family badge) and I am working on rebuilding our pantry.
When we decided to eat mostly local, the number of meals using canned goods we bought from the store went way down and we had very little canned food in our pantry. The freezer was full of meat, vegetables, and fruit, but the pantry was not. It's far easier for me to freeze our produce than to can it. There's a problem with having most of your food frozen, though. What if the power goes out to the freezer? And sometimes (like last week) we ran into tough weeks where there wasn't a whole lot that was easy to make (or that didn't require defrosting, as in a five pound chicken or a four pound roast), and of course we fell back on what American families often seem to fall back on. McDonald's.
As it happened, we also loaded Quicken this week and were able to see just how much falling back on McDonald's in a bad month (or two) was costing us. Yikes! And then there was this conversation at 4real on the cost of meals per serving, which has given me a new hobby. ;-) The challenge is, of course, in using high quality local in-season ingredients in an economical way. In thirty minutes or less, since Chipmunk still refuses to sleep anywhere but on me.
Anyway, this week I bought extra emergency rations to start rebuilding our stock of just-in-case canned goods -- primarily so we'd have something to eat if we all got sick or if I got sick or if we'd been running hither and yon all day. After this, the plan is to keep stocking up a little at a time, taking advantage of sales, etc.
(You know, some people think about how the world will be beautified or inspired by what they blog, but I must confess that I just think things like, "Hey! My cupboard's full of food again! I think I'll take some pictures! LOL)
So here are my "the cupboard's full of food again" pictures, which I hope you'll tolerate... I am working on a couple of homeschooling posts, so if you come here primarily for those, just click away and come back later :-).
This is the cupboard I use for canned goods. You can see that it's not very big. Our house was built in the 1950's by a doctor with five children -- girls. Apparently large families in the 1950's only stored food in their bomb shelters. Actually, I'm not really joking; the doctor did put a bomb shelter in the basement of this house, along with his practice, and this bomb shelter (totally wasted on a house outside tornado country) is lined with wonderful can-size shelves. In contrast, the kitchen has a skinny little pantry with an almost uselessly deep cupboard on top. I don't like storing too much in the basement, because a)I forget about it down there and b) it's damp, and I don't want the cans to rust. I'm sure it was all much nicer when it was first built.
Anyway, I restocked some of our "emergency" food, which in our case means soup, canned fruit, and creamed corn. (And spaghetti sauce, since I usually make and freeze my own. But I used up the two emergency jars right before I took this picture.) Everything else I use in regular cooking: canned beans, various tomato products, canned salmon, coconut oil, molasses, and (you can't see it) enchilada and barbecue sauce. I'll continue restocking a little more every week, since this is obviously not enough to keep a family of 8 going for any length of time. I cleared off a shelf in another cabinet so I can expand.
I would also like to can tomatoes this year... if it ever gets warm enough or dries out enough for them to ripen... and if the groundhogs don't get them first. My garden this year has been one catastrophe after another. But that's another story.
This is the cabinet next to the canned goods, which I use for pasta and rice (and dried beans). We had gotten low on spaghetti, which is also an emergency around here. The blue bags are tortellini -- convenience food, but a lunch staple. Definitely something to rely on when I can't cook, too.
The actual "pantry". I had it organized not too long ago, but it doesn't take long for it to degenerate. Top shelf is really supposed to be staples like various vinegars and sugar (I keep my flour in the freezer because of bugs), but you can see that a couple of bags of chips-on-sale have crept in, and that the sugar has moved accordingly to the third shelf. What you can't see in this picture is the 5lb jar of buckwheat honey that's out on the kitchen counter, or the jars of strawberry jam tucked in behind... something... on the 2nd or 3rd shelves. The Gatorade is also gone by now, even though it was supposed to be for sick emergencies, not for kids to come out drinking after playing soccer in the yard. We really try hard to avoid all food dyes, BHT, and TBHQ because they affect the behavior of some of our kids. I don't think Gatorade is on anybody's diet. There's more juice in the basement, because Wal-Mart was running a sale.
The freezer forms the bulk of our food storage, but I was more excited about actually having food in our cupboards. We're in that time of year when the garden hasn't really gotten going yet and the supply of meat is dwindling, too. I think we're pretty much done with the lamb we bought last year, and we've eaten a good chunk out of the side of beef we bought in October. We have a few chickens left -- in the freezer, I mean. The bulk of our chicken supply is pecking each other in the brooder right now. It's the time for inventory: we need more lamb, I can't buy enough pork, we didn't eat very much of the broccoli I froze, I stumbled upon two more bags of squash, we're out of corn, and we're still eating last year's green beans.
I am beginning to refill the freezer in a small way, though:
14 quarts in the freezer. And like I said, I made jam.
It turned out pretty well, if the rate at which it's being eaten is any indication.
So... anyone else want to share a peek in the pantry? If you do, leave me a link in the comments!