Gluten-Free Cashew Chicken

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I found the recipe for cashew chicken that I promised to post.  I made it for dinner tonight and remembered why I loved it so much.  So, here’s to Jeannie–cashew chicken over rice

I started with a recipe from Taste of Home, and have changed it up over the years.  Here’s what I did today.  This recipe is very flexible.

Mix:  2 cups chicken or turkey broth

1/4 cup cornstarch

3 Tablespoons gluten-free soy sauce (we buy it by the gallon at Cash and Carry)

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Stir those ingredients together, and set aside.  This is the sauce that gives the stir-fry a great flavor.  Stir it one more time right before pouring it over the veggie/meat mixture.

Cut up vegetables and chicken and put into bowls, piles on a cutting board, whatever you want.  It just works better to have it all cut up before you start.  You can vary the veggies according to what you can grow, or get on sale.  Today I used:

2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into very small pieces (Mine were diced into about 1/4-1/3 inch pieces)

1/2 medium onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

Celery sliced thinnly (today it was the center of a stalk that needed used, other times I might  use 2-3 sticks)

4 large mushrooms

1 cup snow peas ( I would have liked 2 cups in there, but that’s what I had today)

1 bunch broccoli, cut into flowerets (it was 1 medium-sized bunch)  I also cut the stem into small pieces and added that in.

2 cloves garlic, minced

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I put a small bit of oil into a frying pan and cooked the chicken and onion for about 4-5 minutes, until the chicken was looking almost done.  Then, I added a little more liquid (some of the mix I made above, or plain broth.  If you use the mix, take from the top so you don’t get any cornstarch at this point.)  Then, I added the veggies in the order of hardest first, and softest (or anything that needed to stay crisper)last.  So, today I had carrots, celery, broccoli, mushrooms, snow peas and minced garlic.  If you have a different assortment, it will work.  Others I like in there are zucchini and summer squash, peas, and bean sprouts, to name a few.  The sauce is very important and it gives any veggies that great flavor.   I let it cook for a bit, stirring often.   After the veggies were crisp, but getting tender, I poured in the mixture.  I continued cooking and frequently stirring until the mixture thickened.  I did not let the veggies get very soft, just crisp-tender, because that is how my family likes them.

I made white rice to go with this, and it sopped up the marvelous sauce nicely.  I sprinkled some cashews on top of each portion after it was plated.  This would have been enough for 4 normal people, but 3 of us very hungry people ate it all.  It would be easy to stretch this, by adding more veggies.  It is tasty and healthy.

 

 

 

 

 

Birthday Tea Party

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Today was the first birthday party we are hosting this week.  Here’s how we made it simple, affordable, yet very nice.

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I started by giving Patsy a handful of invitations I had saved when we moved.  She wanted a small, special party so I have plenty from another occasion in my card bin.   We chose a day after school when I knew I would have plenty of time to get ready during that day.  She handed them out about a week and a half ago.  Although we asked for RSVP’s, we only got one firm one, and a couple of “iffy” ones.  So, we were not quite sure how many to expect.  Then, I dug around in the cupboards and pulled out fancy dishes.  These little luncheon tea plates are from garage sales and a junk store and I have had them for about 20-30 years.  There are a couple that match, but mostly they are different floral patterns.  I have 8 or 9, and got 4 chosen and washed and the others set aside in case we had any surprise guests that forgot to tell Patsy they were coming.

We are still quite new here, and had to also face the possibility that we would have only 1 girl, or even none if something prevented her from coming.  There was a lot of anxiety going around here this morning.  I was very proud of Patsy.  It’s hard to keep trying and trying in life when there are lots of changes, and so much history of disappointment in the past.  But, she was brave, and my prayers were answered.  In the end, 3 girls ended up being able to come.  They were delightful young ladies, and I enjoyed them very much.  Patsy was so happy.

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Alissa and Ja’Ana helped get ready this morning.  They also worked a bit on school.  They are almost done, and have very little to complete.  Alissa brought decorating supplies and worked on the cupcakes.

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She had frosted cupcakes I had baked and frozen last week.  She added the candies on top, and we picked and added violas to make it special.  We put Baby’s Breath on the fancy dish and…..gorgeous and special for pennies.

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I bought 1–$5 bunch of Baby’s Breath.  I used teapots I own, and roses and violas from the yard.  I put one bouquet on top of the piano and one on the table.

 

I used a tea cup and put one in the bathroom to take the elegance even further.  No extra money involved.IMG_4637

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We bought some fancy mints and candy from the bulk bins at Winco.  We used sugar cubes in the sugar bowl.  The girls were excited about the cubes.  They emptied half the bowl.

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Ja’Ana and Alissa worked on the chocolate and white chocolate-dipped strawberries.  I bought one carton of berries and a few melting chocolate disks from the bulk bins at Winco.  Alissa brought some red sugar to use as well to make them even prettier.

I worked on pickle rolls.  They are very simple.  You spread cream cheese onto lunchmeat and put a pickle on it, then roll up and cut into circles.  It is a family favorite at holiday times and Patsy wanted the treat for her birthday party.

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I worked on little sandwiches, too.  I cut white bread I got on sale for 69c for the loaf into circles with a biscuit cutter.  I threw away the edges.  If I was not gluten-free, I would have made crumbs from them, but we have no use for regular bread crumbs around here.  I just make and use gluten-free ones.

I used some of the circles for cream cheese/olive open faced sandwiches.  Then, I added 1/4 piece of turkey pepperoni on top.  I spread cream cheese, then placed 1 cucumber slice and a piece of dill on the rest.  I also made some egg salad sandwiches from whole pieces of bread.  I cut the crusts off  and cut into quarters.  I used fancy toothpicks for those.  I also made a veggie tray in a fancy dish.  Snow peas, the remaining slices of cucumbers, celery, carrots, and cherry tomatoes filled it nicely.

The last thing I served was zucchini chocolate chip bread, baked and frozen last week.  I also made 2 pots of tea.  I let them choose and they chose Chai and Peppermint.  That was easy enough, using my insta-hot on my sink.  We used 4 tea bags, total.

The girls visited for a bit.  They then proceeded to polish off almost ALL of the food on the table.  How gratifying!  I was very pleased that they were so verbally appreciative,  polite, and apparently very hungry!  Afterwards, they went outside and played croquet on the lawn until it was time to go home.

The items I made this food from were all inexpensive, common ingredients.  It was the fancy dishes, the flowers, and making all the food tiny, decorated and fancy that made the tea party seem special. I did as much of it ahead of time as I could, even freezing a couple of items last week. I shopped yesterday for the things I needed.   I washed dishes as I went, and then put all the fancy dishes away directly after the guests went home.  I cleaned the house first thing this morning and some more after lunch.  That is something that would just have to be re-done if I did it too far ahead:)

I made a list of food I wanted to serve on the whiteboard as I thought of it, and then used the list to shop and cook.  I bought dill and used it more than once to get the best use of my purchase.  I did the same with the Baby’s Breath.  I figure if I’m going to buy it, I want to use it a lot.

So, I’m very tired, but satisfied and happy.  Patsy had a great party, I did not break the bank, we DID have some girls come to the party and they had a great time, my house is clean, and I have bouquets of flowers to look at.  I should sleep well tonight.

 

 

 

March 2017 Low-Budget Grocery Challenge–End of Week 3

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It’s all about potatoes, potatoes, potatoes!  I went back to the discount store where Rob discovered potatoes for 10c/lb last week, and bought 100 additional pounds for $10.  I gave away 20 lbs right off the bat, and started cooking potatoes.

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While I was at the store buying the potatoes, rejoicing because there were still some left, I bought my daughter $1.29 worth of snacks.  And, that was it for the week–$11.29.  That brings the total up to $61.29 for a 3-week total, leaving $138.71 from the $200 I set out in envelopes.  What did we eat?  I’m glad you asked.

Refrigerator items and produce left over from last Friday or before that I used:  cheese, milk, eggs, lunchmeat, sour cream, carrots, celery, lettuce, tiny bit of broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, 1/2 and 1/2, butter, onions,  POTATOES!

Freezer items:  1 chicken, 2 lbs ground beef, bacon, frozen waffles, leftover frozen bits of roast beef from a ziplock I discovered, refried beans from last weekend (I froze several pints and we ate a bunch all week as well), corn, frozen bread and muffins

Home-canned and pantry:  green beans, peaches, fruit cocktail, salsa, spaghetti noodles, various tomato products, lentils, quinoa, canned black and kidney beans. (Lovana made a bunch of soup and I’m not sure what else,and took it and a bag of potatoes with her, so you won’t see some of these ingredients in my menus)

Garden:  Chives!   I only got enough to sprinkle on the soup, but it’s a start!

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The girls made large batches of cheddar-broccoli soup and potato-cheddar soup.  We had that several times, including today for lunch.  My sister took a bunch for her lunch one day when she got to my house to drop Alissa, and realized that she had left hers on the counter at her house.  Rob also took some in his lunch, and my mom enjoyed it, too, when she came over for lunch one day.  They are getting some serious cooking skills!

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They also made a simple cornstarch chocolate pudding from my “More With Less Cookbook.”  It was great.

I found a container of frozen turkey-spaghetti sauce in the shop freezer that was a couple of years old.  I wasn’t sure if it was still good, but it was excellent and we ate spaghetti one night with green beans.

We had tacos several times.  I mean like 4-5 times in the past week. There were leftovers from our company last Sunday, and then several people ate refried beans on tortillas throughout the week.  I froze a few of the beans, but had to pull 2 pints out on Saturday morning because I found that some dear friends from out-of-town were going to be able to eat lunch with us Saturday.  So, I still had tortillas, cooked more burger, finished up the cheese our friends brought last Sunday, used most of the lettuce that was left, and a tomato.  There were still chips from the huge Costco bag I opened last weekend and lots of home-canned salsa.  (I put the chips into Ziplocks immediately after I open one of the huge bags and they stay fresh for quite a while.)

I made an enchilada casserole from–wait for it–tortillas, beans, sauce, cheese.  We ate it for dinner tonight.

I cooked a chicken Saturday night.  I have to admit it tasted really, really good after so many tacos.  I boiled the bones and have some broth to use this week.  I made mashed potatoes and gravy and green beans with it.

Rob made chicken-potato pancakes from:  1 cup cut up chicken, 2 cups leftover mashed potatoes, 3 eggs, a few tablespoons of chopped onion, salt and pepper.  He then fried them in a pan.  They were amazingly good for supper last night.  I made salad from leftover taco lettuce and tomato, and put salsa over the top, along with leftover green beans.  Rob also ate leftover corn.

To sum up the potatoes:  mashed, fried for breakfast, potato-chicken pancakes, baked potatoes, potato soup

So, the meals ended up being quite repetitious this week.  Still, we enjoy Mexican food a lot, and we love potatoes.  The chicken made a nice change.  I feel really good about how the week went.

I will be buying a few more fresh things this week than last.  The lettuce is almost gone as are a few other things. But, the challenge was helped along a bit when my sister gave me an avocado, some veggie chips she got for really cheap at Grocery Outlet, and 1/2 of the stir-fry veggies she bought today.  I enjoyed stir-fry for dinner tonight and she enjoyed the other 1/2 for her dinner.  My other sister gave us some crackers and another bag of snacks.  My aunt and sister did the cooking for this Sunday’s family dinner and gave me the week off.  I guess none of them want anyone to really suffer through this challenge!!

As I stated in the rules in the beginning, I have another account where I occasionally buy some fast food for one kid or another. It’s my “keep from going crazy and keeping balance in my life on crazy days” account.  That was my day on Thursday.  I was hit with several unexpected things that I needed to do and I ended up driving around a lot, doing school in-between driving around so it went late into the day, taking care of a sick kid, and more.  I was simply not home at lunch time with no time to plan ahead for it, and yet, had a car full of hungry kids.  Guess where mine wanted to go?  Seriously, just guess.  Yep.  Taco Bell.  Ja’Ana chose Taco Bell.  Where she bought…..yep…..burritos and other items containing tortillas, beans, rice, etc.–one of those $5 boxes.  It surprised me a bit.

I limited each one to $5 and they were fine with that.  Michaela and I chose Dairy Queen.  Later, when Alissa was picked up, she also chose Taco Bell, which did not surprise me since she doesn’t eat dinner here.

There is lots and lots of food still left around here.  I’m not sure what I’m going to cook this week, except for something from the broth.  And potatoes.  I’ll let you know as it unfolds.  How is it going for you?

 

 

 

 

 

March 2017 Low-Budget Grocery Challenge-End of Week 2

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This past week turned out great with the pantry challenge.  I was able to use up quite a few things, and was actually able to re-stock some items.

So, on week 1, we spent $11.50.  We got some cheese and some 1/2 and 1/2.

On week 2, which ends tonight, we bought more groceries.  We spent $16, $18, and $4.50 at 3 different stores, totaling $38.50.  I’m not sure how, but that totals exactly $50 for the 2 weeks, a nice round number. So, since I put $50 in an envelope twice, I now have an extra $50.

I got lots of basics like celery, carrots, 1 head lettuce, 25 lbs potatoes, 4 tomatoes, 6 lemons, milk, 1/2 and 1/2,  6 bagels, 6 English muffins,  2 dozen eggs, onions, 40 tortillas, 3 apples, the bananas, and a few other things.  I hit a Friday sale at a store near my house and got 2 bags full of groceries, plus the bananas for the $18. Rob did Cash and Carry  for large packages of tortillas, onions, carrots and 1/2 and 1/2 for his $16 and the $4.50 was spent at a discount store.  He went in there to get some gum for the kids in his classroom and found the fabulous deal on potatoes.

The items that were put back into the pantry were frozen bananas–there was a bag of very ripe bananas at one store for $2.28 and I got it. We ate a bunch and I froze a quart bag for smoothies.  Rob came across potatoes for 50c for 5 lbs–10c/lb.  I had him grab 25 lbs and am now wishing I had said 50!

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Meals:  There were muffins, cereal, eggs, some bacon and sausage for breakfasts. When Jake is here, he eats bagels a lot.  In fact, the entire bag I purchased on Friday has been eaten by him and some others.

Lunches:  I ground turkey with bread and butter pickles and Miracle Whip for sandwiches and we ate that several times. This was the end of a bag I found in the freezer. Rob always packs a lunch to work and he takes leftovers, sandwiches, fruit, crackers–whatever he can round up. He also takes coffee in a thermos every day.  Patsy packs a peanut butter sandwich daily, and takes fruit, etc. as well.  J and I ate a lot of soup, burritos and leftovers. I made rice and stir-fry on the day my mom came for lunch.

Dinners:  We ate a lot of turkey-rice soup, chili-mac casserole,  chili, a lot of tacos/burritos and refried beans.  We had pizza.  We ate broccoli, green beans, baked potatoes, rice, and lots and lots of beans.  Rob cooked some steak one day while I was gone.

Extras:  I made cookies and Patsy made Rice Krispie Treats for when we had company.  We had popcorn and corn chips.  We also used several odds and ends like partial bags of chips and crackers and the kids had some popsicles that were in the freezer.

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Items used:  Canning: Several jars of home-canned items including peaches, tomato products, green beans, pickles, salsa, jam, applesauce, and more.

Frozen:  hamburger,  steak, turkey from Thanksgiving, chocolate and white chocolate chips, butter, several kinds of peppers from 2015’s garden in re-fried beans, 3 chicken tenders for stir-fry, frozen corn from 2015’s garden, broth, bread, and more.  We carried in several loads from the freezers in the shop throughout the week.  I can start to see a little space in the freezers.

Pantry:  Several pounds of pinto beans, white rice, cereal, marshmallows, baking ingredients like gluten-free flour, sugar,cocoa powder,  etc., spices for cooking such as chili powder and poultry seasoning, gluten-free noodles, coffee, tea, hot chocolate (packets), corn chips, popcorn, peanut butter and more.

We had a church event. My sister was in charge of feeding 40-50 people.  She chose taco bar. I made a lot of refried beans as my contribution, and then enjoyed a taco lunch there. I made 2 crock pots full, and served them to our company as well as church, plus we ate them several times.  J and I ate over at my sister’s house a bit, and we took a few food items over there.  My brother-in-law took J, me and Alissa (his daughter) out for lunch after our homeschool meeting on Friday (we finally had our 1st semester grade meeting).  We took Jake for happy meals a time or 2.  (This is a different fund than my regular grocery budget)    My mom came for lunch one day.  On Sunday, we had friends over and there were 13 of us in all.  We served taco bar for them.   We got the kids a burger and some fries one day while we were out and about.  The funds for that came out of another fund–entertainment, but I thought I’d mention it to keep things real.  Also, sometimes the kids pitch in for something they want that’s not in my budget, such as french fries or a $5 pizza (which they promptly eat) and one day Jake’s mom sent him with money so we could stop and get him something on the road since he had not eaten yet.  Lovana swoops in on the weekends and cooks enough food for the week ahead as she prefers to eat a certain way.  At her new job, she can eat whatever she wants while she is there, but this is the first weekend where she didn’t cook it all ahead of time–just took a box of ingredients from here.  (From here being the pertinent  phrase in this case)

My point is, it all averages out.  If I serve 15 meals per day for 7 days, I am serving 155 meals per week, plus snacks.   I’m putting out ingredients for that many or more even though every one of us does not eat here every single meal.   I am using lots of pantry ingredients, and spending very little money while still stocking up a little bit, so I’m feeling very successful. I’m making a dent in my stockpile, while still grabbing that great deal on potatoes.   I have had to hold myself back from my usual habits of stocking up a lot when I find a great deal–but so far, so good.

I’m going to plan some meals for the week ahead in the next couple of days.  Until I get it done, I’m going to fly by the seat of my pants and plan one day at a time.  I have a busy week, so hopefully, I’ll have some inspiration quickly when I do write the list out.  Until then, there are lots of tortillas and refried beans left:)

 

 

 

My Low-Budget March Grocery Challenge

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There have been some extremely interesting grocery challenges going around on the internet lately.  I love reading what others do and how they experiment.  For instance, Terri, at The Blue House Journal, did a challenge where she bought $20 worth of groceries and cooked with them for a week, on certain days, sometimes skipping a day here and there, but managing to keep within her budget for an entire 7 days.  Then, she did another slightly different challenge.  Jane, at Hope and Thrift, bought $20 worth of groceries and ONLY ate from them for 7 days in a row, without skipping any days in-between.  Brandy, at The Prudent Homemaker, went for the entire month of January without buying any groceries, and ate entirely from her stockpile. She used her menus that she has developed using stored food, for this purpose, and has these menus listed on her website.

So,  of course, I wanted to join in on the fun, but knew none of these options would be exactly right for my family.  I have given quite a bit of thought to what would work for us.

  1.  I want to use up things I already have. I have a huge pantry full of ingredients, home-canned food and frozen food that is getting older each day since I did not preserve last summer, and space needs to be made for fresh garden produce this coming summer.  I have quite a bit of meat as well.  This is my main motivation for this challenge.
  2. I don’t want my family to feel deprived.  Some of my kids suffered greatly when they were little, due to lack of food or whatever, and the “game” is not fun for them, if I don’t be sensitive to their needs. In fact, I may not even tell some of them I’m doing it.  No need for anxiety here.
  3. I want to eat healthy, including lots of fruits and vegetables and staying lo-carb for myself.  It also needs to taste good.  I want meals to stay joyful for the most part, and a time when we can focus on each other, and not be wondering “what is it?” as we watch a few beans swim in a mystery broth with no flavor.  So, I am glad I have a lot of spices, etc. to perk things up with.  I won’t be able to please everyone all the time, but plan to please all of us part of the time, as usual.
  4. It needs to be gluten-free. I cannot tolerate any gluten at all, and so don’t even have regular flour in the house as I get sick when they let the flour puff out onto things and it gets into my food.  After one child cooked a few years back, and I was very sick for 3 days, I threw away the wheat flour.  I do, however, buy wheat bread, etc., and have trained the family to not leave crumbs around that would cross contaminate my food.
  5. I want to be able to take the kids (mine and nieces and nephew) for an ice cream, Coke, etc. on occasion, if I am in the mood.
  6. I want to be able to go to the store and replentish items if I run out, such as milk, eggs, etc.     Although I greatly admire people who can run out of things and creatively manage, our family is pretty stuck in our rut.  For instance, I eat an egg or some other protein almost every day for breakfast and so does Rob.  Patsy eats a peanut butter sandwich every single school day for lunch.  EVERY SINGLE DAY!  So, we don’t want to run out of peanut butter!  Ever!    Also, if I see a really good sale for one of our “items” I will buy more than one so I don’t have to buy at full price later.                                                                           img_4067 I was able to manage nicely during my challenge last summer on $50 per week.  The garden was in full force, though, and that helped a lot.  So, I’m going to put $50 in an envelope each week, and see how it goes.  When I looked through my food items, I was able to find many, many meals that could be made from what I had on hand and many more that would only need 1-2 small items to finish the recipe.  So, I anticipate that my end total will be much less than the $50, at least some weeks.  I will then save the rest of the $50 at the end of each week.  That savings will go towards re-stocking staple items, if I run out, or be saved as cash for summer grocery shopping.  Although we have poured over Rob’s pay stubs, looked at the internet, and he has asked people, no one can tell him exactly how much money he will be paid for summer, so we are preparing now in case it is less than he gets each month now.  Because he works for the school district, they save out some each month now and give it to him in the summer.  We don’t think it’s going to be an issue if we get more than expected.  We can probably figure out a way to spend any extra within the first 5 minutes, should that happen:)

I started this challenge last Tuesday.  I will probably go for 1 month, so through the 3rd week of March, but I’ll see how it goes–I may go longer.

This past week, I made a good start.  I made a gallon can of diced tomatoes into marinara sauce and chili.  I made shell pasta (like lasagna) with meatballs for our family dinner Sunday and Rob packed the leftovers for his lunch today.  I used more poppy seeds in the muffins. I have a bulk bag that is almost gone now.  The poppy seeds are getting old and need to go.  I boiled a frozen mystery bag of meat.  It ended up being a turkey drumstick and thigh and a few bits.  I made soup for dinner last night and will grind the remainder of meat bits in the food processor with some relish to make sandwich filling. I made chocolate chip cookies and used a small handful of pecans I found in them.

In the last week, we have purchased some 1/2 and 1/2.  That’s all we’ve needed so far.  I feel like we are off to a great start.

If you are doing any kind of grocery challenge, feel free to leave a link about it in the comment section so we can all read about it!   Or, just tell us about it.  It’s always encouraging to hear about what others are doing in the fight to make the best of our resources in a joyful, happy way.

Moving Update and Use-It-Up May 19, 2016

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Wow!  What a week, and it’s not even over yet.  Last Saturday, the girls had a dance recital and received flowers.  They are gorgeous.  Tuesday, Patsy was adopted and received more beautiful flowers. They are lovely, too.  Tuesday, we also signed the papers for the house sale, and Saturday, (2 days from now), we have to be completely out by 5 p.m.

Who does that??????  In a week???? Right????

Believe it or not, I think we are going to make it.  Room after room is getting finished, boxes are stacked up in the garage and front room, the camper is loaded down with WAY too much stuff (hope the van can pull it–LOL), I go around smelling like Woodsman Goat Milk Soap because that’s all that’s left in the shower, and the meals are getting very creative.

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You can do a lot with 1 frying pan, which is all that is in the kitchen right now.  These are some frozen waffles I made some time ago, and I fried them in the pan.  I also made some soup from veggies and a jar of tomatoes and some leftover hamburger meat in the pan.  I have purchased very few groceries this month.  I have used old cans of soup that have been around forever, boxes of this and that, frozen veggies, muffins and other frozen baked products, cereal (boxed–no one’s favorite), instant oatmeal packets we made with 4H (they needed salt), and more.  It feels good to have used so many things up.

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The last of some sour cream, some mayo, garlic and the leaves that were not brown, wilted or rotten off of the lovely basil plant my aunt got me to put in the kitchen when we were showing the house, were all whirled together to make some dressing/dip, which is now in the camper.

Several pieces of meat were saved out and will go into a cooler to slowly defrost over the next few days for meals in the week to come.  I made myself super sick eating out too much–my gluten intolerance reared its ugly head, and so I’ve made time to cook this week.  I’m feeling much better this week.  Some has been frozen foods that were given to me, some salads, and people brought food or cooked for me.  My daughter made a delicious ham dinner and we ate with them Tuesday, my aunt brought yummy soup Wednesday, and both sisters sent food as well.

Several people will come to help tomorrow, but the bulk of them will be here on Saturday, bright and early.  Rob will pull the camper over to my sister’s tomorrow, and we will sleep there tomorrow night.  We have been doing laundry and all items are either going in the camper, or in a bin.  We have finished packing all the canning in the basement.  Beds will come down tomorrow.  Then, Saturday, it will all be carried away to storage, and we will be finished with this phase, at last.  We have family plans on Sunday afternoon, and a graduation party for a boy who we are close to.  Then, we are going to slow down, and stop and smell the roses for a few days.  Kind of. There are still a few things to do that we have been neglecting while we moved.  At least, it will be easier than this week, and then we are going camping on Thursday:)  I’m ready!

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How I Built My Stockpile

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I was asked how I built my stockpile to this level.  I realized it was an answer for a post, not a comment, because it was a little too involved.

I love having a stockpile, and have always kept one on hand for many reasons.  The main reasons is that it saves me money and time.  I have usually lived in the country and trips to town are a project, so I like to keep a lot of things on hand.  It also comes in handy during times when money is scarce–it’s like another form of savings in my “bank.”  I also love the freedom of being able to cook almost any recipe I feel like cooking, at any time (notice I said “almost?”)

Here’s how I grew mine:

1) I buy in bulk.  Rob really buys in bulk.  For instance, a while back, he saw a 50 pound bag of white rice for around $21.  Yes, 50 pounds!  It does not go bad quickly, so is still fine, and we are eating from it often.  I buy 25 pound bags of pinto beans, black beans, navy beans, split peas, sugar, brown sugar, and popcorn.  I repackage these items into glass gallon jars, plastic ice cream buckets, ziplocks, etc.  Things that go rancid sooner, such as brown rice, I usually buy in 5 or 10 pound sizes, although I have bought that in the 25’s once or twice.

I buy cases of things I cannot can or freeze myself, such as mandarin oranges and mushrooms, when they are on a good sale.

I even buy produce in bulk, during the winter.  For instance, a 6-pack bag of romaine at Costco or Cash and Carry is a lot less expensive than buying the heads singly at the store most of the time.

2) We grow as much as possible ourselves and store it.  Rob has raised turkeys, chickens and pigs to butcher.  We raise chickens for eggs and usually do not have to buy any for years at a time.  We don’t get a lot of them during the winter, but I think I’ve only bought 2 cartons during the last 5 years or so, except for recently.

We grow a very large garden, which includes berries, and can and freeze a lot of it, and also eat as much as we can fresh.  I can hundreds of jars of fruits and vegetables each year, and we currently have 4 freezers full of meat and produce.  I process produce early in the morning and late at night during the peak of the season.  By the time I plant, weed, water, pick and process, I have many, many hours into my end product, but it’s worth it to me.  I know what’s in it, and where it came from .  The home-canned tuna is some we bought from a fisherman at Newport, Oregon.  I also got some salmon this past year from the Indians at Cascade Locks, but we froze that.

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We are moving this year, so I anticipate using up the excess and going back to bulk canning and freezing next year.  I do not know if we will have property to raise meat or not, until we see what we get for our next home.  We sold the chickens for the same reason.

3) What I cannot grow, I usually scrounge from friends and family.  For example, my sister has a peach farm, and gives me all I can use.  I am willing to drop my daily plans and scurry over to someone’s house to pick the produce myself. I am willing to go whenever is convenient for them, even if it means changing my plans.  That’s a big one.  I cannot tell you how many people would love to have some of my excess garden produce, IF I deliver it to them, which usually means picking it on an already busy day and driving a distance to deliver it.  (I’m not talking about when I’ve offered to drop something by someone’s house–If I offer, I have time)  Very few are willing to come get it, but that’s why I’m an easy person for others to offer the extra produce to.

On the rare occasion that I cannot grow or scrounge something, I u-pick it or buy it at a farm stand for a low price.  The area of Oregon that we live in is very fertile, and things grow well so are quite reasonable in price when in season.  Pears and Gravestein apples are 2 things I usually buy, and I buy them by the bushel for around $20-$25 a bushel.

4)I watch the sales carefully and buy a lot of things we use frequently when they come on sale for a low price.  Cheese and butter are good examples of this.  I have purchased 8 bricks of cheese before during a week, if the price is low enough.  They store well.  I may have to go back a lot, or send Rob, but–hey, Lovana works at a store–we are there a lot picking her up.

If I can’t afford a lot of something, and it’s a great price, I buy 2.  One for the current meal, and one to store.

5) If I have extra money, I often buy a bunch of things from Grocery Outlet, Wheeler Dealer (scratch and dent store), or other places that may have high-quality products for cheap that are close to date, or they are changing the label on, etc.  I especially get items to pack lunches and organic or gluten-free items that way.

6) I go to Bob’s Red Mill and buy my gluten-free flours and whole grains, or order them on-line.  Anything from Bob’s is high quality, and lasts a long time.  Things like millet, etc. last for a long time.  They swell up when you cook them.  You get a lot of bang for your buck with whole grains.  I look for clearance items, such as some gluten free pancake mix I recently picked up at Fred Meyers.  I only got 2, since I’m not supposed to be stockpiling right now:)

Last, but not least, I use my stockpile.  I store things I use, and I use what I’ve stored.  I look at what I have before I plan menus and plan the meals around what’s in the freezer, cupboard, and garden, and go from there.  I rotate things and clean and sort and organize it every year, usually late spring so the freezers are ready for the new crop of garden veggies.