Saturday, October 29, 2022

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Simplifying meals and stretching the food budget

Today's Pantry post is later than usual.  We had a very important birthday party to attend and while I started the post yesterday, I couldn't finish it until after dinner this evening.

The days are certainly cooler with only the occasional and temporary revisiting of the 70s temperatures now and then. After above normal temperatures for so long, the cooler weather has felt good. 

It seems that October has flown by, it doesn't seem possible next week is the beginning of November .  It is already time for Holiday season preparations.  Although, I look for gifts all year round, this year even more than in the past I have been keeping an eye out for unique food gifts.

I have mentioned in lots of Holiday Pantry posts that I have found people enjoy food gifts that they usually would not purchase themselves.  That is for another blog post but in the meantime, I have looked for items like delicious prepared foods (such as jellies, chutney, oils, vinegar, pickled foods for those who like them, chocolates, etc.).

We have a lot of birthdays around the times of the Holidays, so I'm always thinking ahead for stretching the gift budget.  Our first birthday of the season is this weekend when Oliver turns four years old.  I purchased his main gift in the summer when I knew it was still available.

I have been tweaking changes to our meal plans and purposely making purchases for the least amount of food waste.  I didn't think we wasted much but after trying not to waste any food, I'm surprised how much was being thrown away. Just a little produce here and there but it adds up over time.

In order to change how I am putting meals together and in order to waste less from the grocery store, I have been changing my routines to wash most vegetables as soon as I arrive home from the store or at least the next morning.  Having them washed and ready to go makes them easier to use in recipes and throw together meals.

Of course, there are some foods we should never wash ahead of time like strawberries or mushrooms.  I don't purchase fresh strawberries this time of the year but I do purchase mushrooms off and on.  

I learned from Jacques Pepin's cooking shows that one should always purchase the mushrooms that are a little older and on sale whenever possible.  He says that is when they are at their prime flavor and you save money. He just washes them off with a damp paper towel before cooking them.

There is always something new to learn about cooking.  I was half way listening to a cooking show while in my kitchen and I caught the guy talking about preparing shredded cabbage to make cole slaw.  

He shreds it and then places it in a colander on a bowl and then sprinkles a good amount of kosher salt over the shredded cabbage and leaves it at least six hours (or overnight) in the refrigerator.  He said the texture of the cabbage is always perfect for the slaw by doing that.  I have heard of similar treatments of cabbage, only they strained it in the colander for less time.

We had chicken soup for dinner last night.  I simmered the chicken with an onion and celery earlier in the week and then let it sit covered in the stock pot until yesterday morning when I warmed it and drained it through a colander into a smaller dutch oven in the morning.  

While the stock set in the refrigerator until time to finish it before dinner, the stock pot and colander were soaked and washed with the breakfast/lunch dishes.  Making for far less dishes when I was tired later in the evening.  

I knew we would be away from home part of the day so for tonight's dinner, I warmed up the soup but I added a box of Pomi chopped tomatoes with a little more water, sea salt, and herbs to freshen the soup.  It was delicious and didn't taste like leftovers at all.

My daughter sent me a new soup recipe I want to try this week that our friend, Sarah, served when Stephanie visited her in England recently. I want to make soup from one of the Hurst 15 Bean Soup packages, too.  There are so many good soup recipes, not to mention our favorite chili.  Can you tell I am glad cooler weather is here?

Yesterday while I was warming up lunch in the air fryer, I used the time to cut the celery leaves off the end of the stalks and run water over them before draining on a kitchen towel.  I placed them when almost dry on a couple paper towels and let them sit on the kitchen counter overnight.  

I purposely bought a stalk with a lot of leaves in them since the leaves have a lot of flavor for soup stocks.  I placed the leaves in several snack size Ziploc bags to make soup stock with them when I don't have celery in the crisper drawer.  Five or six of the snack size Ziploc bags fit into a quart size Ziploc bag to protect them from freezer burn in the freezer.

A good friend, after reading last week's blog post, reminded me that this kind of cooking is what An Everlasting Meal is all about.  It is my favorite book about cooking where we use basic foods and stretch them as much as possible.  I am certain it is how the women (and men) before the past generation thought about food.  They had to!

I have shared the link many times but I will share it again below.  I'm sure the library should have this book since it was so popular.  It is also now available in Audible form narrated by the author, too.

I didn't purchase anything for the pantry last week, except for a few items to use in the soup recipe that my daughter sent me.  I made one preparedness purchase though.  Although I have an emergency radio, it is too big to carry around with me and it uses D batteries.

I had a small transistor radio on my Amazon Wish List for awhile and it went half price recently.  (It is inexpensive, anyway.)  I purchased it and after putting two AA batteries in it (it doesn't come with batteries), I turned it on and was very happy with how the stations came through.

This is the perfect size to slip in a purse and while it doesn't have an emergency station on it like the actual emergency radio does, in a real emergency any local channel will be announcing watches and warnings... or, God forbid... something worse.  

This size of transistor radio always reminds me of my dad listening to Chicago baseball games on the small radio that he often had to put up to his ear when the house was full of people.

I will be doing some more pantry pondering and research this week.  Hopefully.  God willing and the creek don't rise.  Although, we could use the rain.

Mentioned in this Blog Post

An Everlasting Meal... here.

PowerBear portable radio... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to are Associate Links


Anonymous said...

Happy Saturday!
I got the book "The Feast Nearby" from the library and am really enjoying it. It has me thinking about buying local etc. Thanks for the recommendation.


Annabel said...

Simplifying is an art form I think and we are all having to do it now and each week more so. I hope and pray people that do not have the skills take advantage of so many free instructions and tutorials to make basic things such as soups and stocks and simple from scratch cooking. I still see people buy things that have no nutrition at all as they dont realise that a carton of eggs or a can of baked beans has lots of protein and filing goodness. We got too fussy and too fancy and now we are headed back to the old times when a basic home cooked meal was so good. Takeaway which was meant to be cheap and fast is now really expensive so that is out for many now as well. I am following the diesel situation and see more refinery fires in the last few days. A well stocked pantry and emergency preparedness are just vital. We have all had time and endless warnings. We still have opportunities to be stocked but it has become much much more expensive. As you say the next level is to stretch what we have as far as possible. I do believe food hampers will be the best gift. xxx

Mary said...

You can also read An Everlasting Meal on Wayback Machine,

You do not have to subscribe to read books. If there are other books you may be interested in use the search bar in the black header at the top of the page. The other search bar is for web pages of now defunct web sites. I usually go to this website when I am curious about a book. I'll read some of it (if they have it in their collection) and if I like it I will buy it.
~~ Mary ~~

mdoe37 said...

I love Jacques Pepin and watch his short clips on Facebook. He can a little bit of almost nothing and prepare something really good out of it. His knife skills are to be envied!

And lol he always has a leftover, stray mushroom in the fridge. :)

Melissa Brock said...

Thank you again for the reminder about the book, "The Everlasting Meal". I think another great present for someone would be a magazine from a "foodie" or homesteading person that they might like, to prepare from scratch or semi-homemade meals.
Another thing about the higher priced groceries, is that they are now changing the ounces/weight of the bag that things come in. My favorite chocolate chips are now a 10/11 ounce bag instead of the 12 ounces!!
It's so nice that you could be healthy enough to attend a Birthday party, so fun!