Saturday, December 11, 2021

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Trying to deal with shortages and inflation and wells that don't work

I'm sleep deprived from staying awake when the storms went through last night.  I don't recall such a huge destructive front in December before.  It pretty much went from the deep Southern states to the Canadian border.  We had blizzard conditions to our far north, tornado warnings to our immediate north, huge tornadoes to the west, tornadoes to our immediate south, and the tornadoes that hit Kentucky were unbelievable.

We came through it all with only a Severe Thunderstorm Warning and no damage to our house or property.  I was able to go to bed around 1:30 but for some reason, I woke up even earlier than usual this morning.  It could have been the sound of the wind continuing outside our windows.

It was an appropriate end to a crazy week since we awoke earlier this week to no water coming into the house.  Our "well guy" came out to check the problem and he was hoping it was electrical.  If not, we would have been looking at over $2,000 for a new well.  

The electrician arrived in the afternoon to check out everything and then talked to the "well guy" after he left here.  The well repairman was able to fix the problem without the cost of a new well.  After just having the trees cut down (thankful for that last night!), we were relieved to have a relatively inexpensive repair.  It was electrical but the "well guy" knew how to fix it.

Living in the country has its' benefits but having well water is not always one of them.  For many reasons... but at least we have been through enough water emergencies that we were prepared.  When it was over, I replenished our paper plates, paper bowls, and replaced extra water to store.

I was looking at the calendar on Thursday when I realized Christmas Eve was two weeks away.  We enjoy having our son and his family here Christmas Eve and then they can spend Christmas with her delightful family.  How did the time get away like that?  I still needed to make certain everything needed for the dinner was on hand.

The last time I was at Meijer, they didn't have any hams except the glazed, spiral kind.  I prefer a plain ham with a bone to make ham bone broth later for soup.  When I got to Aldi this week, there were about four or five hams left and they were not on sale but I bought one to have for Christmas Eve dinner.  Their sale hams were the spiral sliced kind with the glaze, it is usually the other way around in past years.

I wanted to purchase an extra ham for the deep freeze but I didn't at that price.  I noticed they still had a few frozen turkey breasts on the bone so I bought one of them for the deep freeze.  They are usually only available during the Holidays and they are a very cost efficient protein.

Aldi had more Christmas items available, so they were fully stocked.  Both Meijer and Kroger were fully stocked with baking supplies for the Holidays.  I had read that they had ordered what people needed for Holiday baking much earlier than usual to make certain they had enough at the stores.  

I had accidentally stored my supply of ornament hangers in one of the containers I put back on the shelf in the garage so I wanted to purchase another package at Meijer since they were cheap.  It would be easier than pulling out containers earlier than planned.  I could not find one package, anywhere.  

I hadn't been back in their Christmas section, yet, and was very surprised to see how much was missing from what they usually had available.  Lots of empty shelves! I wished I had purchased more than I had at after Christmas sales the previous year, especially gift bags.  There were hardly any available even two and a half weeks before Christmas.

Of course, the biggest story at the stores is inflation and hearing that it is now the worst here since 1982 did not surprise me.  Most items are much more expensive and as many have noticed, some of the packaging is now smaller, too.  I'm still not over half gallon ice cream containers shrinking and that was what... fifteen or twenty years ago?

The shopping list that is kept on the side of the refrigerator has come in handy recently.  I have the basic items stocked to put a meal on the table but I have been trying to "think out of the box" to keep up with inflation.  For instance, purchasing the tuna earlier this month that is packed in extra virgin olive oil for casseroles. When I think of something, I add it to the shopping list to try.

I have had to mostly cook "from scratch" since we were first married.  Partly because of my husband's sensitivities to chemicals in prepared food and later due to being on a very tight budget.  I came to realize, though, that this way of cooking is exactly how women cooked in previous generations.

During the years I worked full time, it was worth it to pay for us to go out to eat more because I needed the time to spend with family and we could afford eating out.  There is a balance between spending time and spending money and when time is at a premium, spending money is an investment into spending time with people.

It was hard to get used to the change when I had a lot more time than money available.  The transition wasn't easy but I was able to do it and found making thrifty meals from scratch to be enjoyable most of the time.  There were still those evenings we needed to order pizza for Mom's sanity.

One benefit of having to cook from scratch is that my daughter was already a very good cook when she married after college.  My son knew enough about cooking that he has prepared many good meals for his family.  Both are also quite good at showing hospitality, something we did when they were younger and before my illness slowed me down.

I expect there are many people today who are making the transition I did when I left the corporate world to "come home".  For me it was because I felt God's leading to do so and for many today, it is because of COVID either causing a job loss or the need to work from home. It is a transition that is not always easy as it requires an entirely different set of skills.

It wasn't until I started doing a lot of "from scratch" cooking as a young mother that I realized just how much more expensive it was to eat out and to purchase convenience foods.  Then I had to become an expert label reader for my husband's diet when so many additives were no longer an option.  I still have to closely read labels.

When I had kids at home, I ordered from a food co-op in bulk and really saved money.  That is unnecessary today but I do still buy the separate ingredients rather than prepared foods most of the time.  Having those ingredients in the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer makes it possible to be more creative in the kitchen, too.

I do have to admit that having an autoimmune disease has made it necessary to have some prepared foods in the pantry again.  Although, except for a few cake mixes, Jiffy cornbread mix (I have cornmeal in the freezer), and such, most baking is still from scratch because I have plenty of easy recipes.

When I am on top of my game, I make a few casseroles to freeze ahead of time to put in the deep freeze.  When I am not, I have a few Stouffer's favorites put back.  I usually make a full recipe of soups and stews for the two of us and then freeze extra for a later meal.  That requires no extra work in the long run. 

I have lots of packages of beans put back but I keep some cans of beans and refried beans for when I'm too tired and need something fast to put together.  I know it is much better to plan ahead and not that hard because I set the beans to soaking and leave them on the counter overnight (I think I learned that was okay, along with adding salt from the beginning of the cooking process, from An Everlasting Meal).

However, you know what?  I have also learned to give myself grace when I need to resort to something quick and a little more expensive... like a Stouffer's meal.  Homemade pizza is delicious and far less expensive but I keep a couple inexpensive frozen pizzas for those days I need something quick and easy.

I have learned that being frugal and healthy is my first desire but not to be guilty when I need to go to Plan B.  We put so much guilt on ourselves when we try to do everything perfectly, we need to give ourselves grace.  Especially when there are circumstances that make it difficult to always do the frugal thing.

While there is plenty of flour, sugar, etc. in the grocery stores, I need to take inventory to see if I need anything.  I'm pretty certain I need to purchase some more bread flour and that was hard to find during the lockdowns.  I don't know if there will continue to be the availability there is now in most stores in the future.

One new item I found at Meijers recently was their Meijers brand organic apple pie filling.  Is that new or did I just miss it previously?  My husband has to eat some items organic and apples (and most fruit) are among them.  I was purchasing organic cherry pie filling for a dessert recipe to serve on Christmas Eve when I saw the organic apple pie filling.

I purchased two cans of the organic apple pie filling and made quick apple turnovers with them to see if we liked the pie filling.  I usually make my own apple desserts.  I made four turnovers and had one myself, leaving three for him and he thought they were delicious.  

I love it when I find something new for the pantry!  That doesn't mean I will no longer make Dutch Apple Pies from scratch but it gives one... options.  Options are always a good thing.

It is this time of year when I remember my plan to learn to be a pastry chef when my son reached his homeschool high school years.  Those plans were crushed with the Juvenile Diabetes diagnosis.  However, my inner pastry chef comes out during the Holidays when I make goodies for Christmas gifts.

This week, I have one doctor's appointment but otherwise you might find me elbow deep in flour and sugar as I made dough for the freezer.  My doctor's appointment is my quarterly diabetic checkup so I'm really hoping one does not absorb sugar by osmosis.  Although, he always gives me some leeway around Christmas.  ;)

I hope to get the Book Talk post written this next week.  I had planned to last week until we had the well drama for awhile.  I was too distracted to think, much less write.  I will say that I am enjoying reading one of my favorite Christmas "food books" since it is now out on the Kindle.  That is the lovely Christmas Chronicles by Nigel Slater.  Highly recommended!

Mentioned in this Blog Post

An Everlasting Meal... here (paperback) and here (Kindle). Also, now available on Audible... here!

Christmas Chronicles... here (hardback) and here (Kindle). There is also a podcast by the same name.

Disclaimer:  Most links to are Associate links.

Image:  Friendly Village dishes, pumpkin bars dessert (recipe... here).


Anonymous said...

Glad that your house wasn't damaged by last night's storm. Here in Mississauga (near
Toronto) , the rain was really pounding on the roof and we thought that we should probably have the old plum tree cut down come spring. The way it was swaying in the wind was making me nervous, it's quite close to the house.

How do you cook beans after soaking them? Can they be done in a slow cooker?

Deanna Rabe said...

I was surprised to find spiral ha s on sale at our Aldi for $.99 a poun, rather than $1.99 a pound! I already have one in the freezer but I quickly grabbed one for the deep freeze. Hams make a nice meal with lots of meat left over.

This week my Aldi had no sour cream and no spreadable cream cheese. Inconvenient, at best.

Ann said...

I'm glad to hear you came through the storms safely. I'm sure it was a rather scary experience. I've only seen tornadoes at a distance while traveling through the midwest -- and in my opinion that's the only way to see them if possible. We live in Arizona and our main concerns are extreme heat and lack of easily accessible water in emergencies.

I, too, compromise on cost versus ease when my body just says it's had enough for one day. I mostly cook meals from scratch Monday through Thursday. The two of us usually go out to dinner on Friday nights -- nothing fancy, just a habit from years gone by when we were both working and Friday night dinners gave us a chance just to catch up. Saturdays and Sundays we use leftovers or simple light meals that don't require much cooking.

We're at an age that what works for us is what we do. Might not work for others but that's ok.