I've been looking for alternative ways to get my groceries. Sometimes I don't have a problem with bus rides and dragging my handy dandy little old lady shopping cart up the stairs to my apartment. But sometimes I do.
I have adult children who are willing to shop for me. But they all have families and jobs and are busy. I would rather find a solution to my problem than to have to call them for help. That may sound strange, but finding my own solutions gives me a sense of staying as independent as possible, if that makes sense to anyone else but me.
Enter, stage right, a non-profit group, established in my area over 30 years ago. Their purpose is to grocery shop for those seniors who need help. They charge a very small fee, based on income, for this service. It is well worth the cost. I signed up.
Every other Monday I call in my grocery order. The following Wednesday my groceries are delivered to my kitchen. They shop the same store where I usually shop, so I am familiar with the products. I can order up to $200. worth of groceries each time. The same person will deliver my groceries each time, so I won't have a parade of strangers in and out. I write a check for the amount on the receipt plus the fee at the time of delivery. Easy peasy.
My first grocery delivery was this afternoon. A nice fellow brought in boxes of food, unpacked the boxes and set the items on my kitchen table. I checked off the list to make sure everything I had ordered was accounted for. He wanted to know if I needed help putting anything away, and I replied that I didn't need help with that, thank you just the same. Check in hand, out the door he went with a cheery, "Have a wonderful day. See you in two weeks."
I think I'm going to like this service. Especially when the snow is blowing, the sidewalks are full of ice, the temperature is in the sub-zero category and I'm running low on cat food. Yep. Going to like this a lot.
Things sure have changed since I had my Senior Class pictures taken. Back when I had mine taken, the photographer posed me against the wall of the cave, right next to the dinosaur, and snapped away. The pictures were all pretty much the same varying only in which direction I was looking and whether or not I smiled.
Then my parents had to look at the proofs and figure out which pose they liked and how many of each size photo they needed for grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, etc. And in a couple weeks they received a large envelope full of pictures.
Last week my granddaughter had her Senior pictures taken.
There were several backgrounds, changes of clothes, poses, etc.
My daughter paid the photographer and received a thumb drive containing all of the photos. She also gets the copyright so she can use them however she wants. She can have prints made or print them herself.
These are a far cry from the class pictures of my youth. Of course it helps when you have my beautiful granddaughter as the subject of the photos.
This post is for you, Nicki. I love you with all of my heart.
Another thing I like to store are dehydrated vegetables. When I could get vegetables in quantity from the Farmer's Market, I would can some and dehydrate the rest. Sometimes when my local grocery has a sale on frozen vegetables I will stock up and dehydrate them as well. I have a lot of canning jars, so I store the dried vegetables in them. Light and moisture are the enemy of dehydrated food. The canning jars keep out moisture and they are stored in the coolest, darkest room in my apartment. I have had some stored for over five years with no problems.
I like to make soup or stew using the dehydrated vegetables. I found a couple of recipes for dried soup mixes, so I made up a bunch of them and stored them in freezer bags. The recipes come from "Making and Using Dried Foods" by Phyllis Hobson. The directions call for simmering the soup in a kettle on the stove, but I like to toss it all into a crock pot and let it simmer all day. Sometimes the dried food won't completely rehydrate in a short period of time and by using the crock pot, I know that they will all be tender and delicious by supper time. I've made a couple of minor changes from the original recipe. It calls for dried chicken cubes in the Chicken Noodle Soup Mix, but I don't dehydrate meat, except for jerky. I know that some do, but with the price of meat going through the roof, I don't want to take a chance on wasting it should it becoming rancid. So I use my canned meat instead.
Chicken Noodle Soup Mix
1 pint canned chicken
1/2 cup dried noodles
1/4 cup chopped dried carrots
1/4 cup chopped dried celery
1/4 cup dried green peas
1 tablespoon chopped dried onions
2 tablespoons chicken-flavored bouillon granules
Combine all ingredients and mix well. Store in canning jar or a zip lock freezer bag.
To Use: Add contents to 2 quarts boiling water. Boil until vegetables are tender, about 1 hour. (Or cook in crock pot until vegetables are tender.) Stir occasionally and add water as necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Vegetable Soup Mix
4 teaspoons beef-flavored bouillon granules
1/2 cup dried carrot slices
1/4 cup dried celery slices
1/2 cup dried green beans
1/4 cup dried corn
1/2 cup dried green peas
(or 2 cups dried mixed vegetables)
1/2 cup dried tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Combine all ingredients and store in canning jar or a zip lock freezer bag.
To Use: Add contents to 2 quarts boiling water. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes. (I add a pint of my home canned beef and cook in the crock pot until the vegetables are tender.)
Sometimes I'll just grab a jar of canned meat and jars of whatever dried vegetables sound good to me at the time. I'll dump the meat into the crockpot, add a handful of this and a handful of that, some of my canned chicken broth or water with a couple of bouillon cubes, and let it all cook all day. The only problem with this method is that I forget how much the vegetables are reduced by volume in the drying process, and how much I will wind up with when they have all rehydrated. It's usually more than I can eat, even within a couple of days. That's when I freeze the leftovers for a quick, easy meal later.
I don't like to have all the eggs in one basket. I want some foods that are packaged or in cans from the grocery. And some that I home can. Dehydrating is just another option.
I know that I could save myself time and effort by just buying the #10 cans of freeze dried vegetables. Freeze dried rehydrate quicker than the dehydrated foods and I'm sure there are other advantages to freeze dried. But price is an important consideration for me. I'd rather dry fresh from the Farmer's Market (or better yet, from your own garden) or on sale frozen vegetables that cost less money than ordering freeze dried. Works for me.
My phone rang this evening. It was Youngest Son. The first thing he said was, "Do you know what I do when my day has been really hectic and I know I'm supposed to be somewhere doing something and I'm not sure anymore what the something is?" I can play straight man, so I said I didn't know. Tell me. He said, "Well, I just stop and take time to read Mom's blog." Says it calms him down and gives him a break. Aww! Bless his heart.
David said he was on his way to the grocery store. He said that they were out of salami at his house for Jacob's sack lunch for school tomorrow. Jacob's world will end if he doesn't have a salami and cheese sandwich in his lunch bag. Jacob is six. Salami and cheese sandwiches are important when you are six. I asked him if the elementary school his kids attend was on Michelle Obama's handy dandy lunch program with it's rules and regulations. He said it was. Which is why he was on his way to the store for salami. His kids would much rather take their own lunch than eat the government regulated school lunch. Smart kids.
Jacob wanted to join the Boy Scouts. A couple of his friends from school are in the Scouting program. So David took his son to a meeting to see if Jacob would like it. He did. I now am the proud grandma of a Cub Scout. He earned his first badge by learning the Scout Pledge. He is so proud of that badge and of his new uniform.
I hope he sticks with Scouting for a while. David said he didn't know if he had an Eagle Scout in the making or not, but for now, Jacob was enjoying Scouting and learning new things, and that was what was important.
I just love these phone calls. David's truck is equipped with one of those "hands free" phone things, so he often calls when he is on his way somewhere or on his way home from somewhere. I tease him that his kids will keep me in material for blog posts for years to come. He just laughs at me. And says I am probably right! Whether that is true or not, I am blessed to have kids who stay in touch, even when their lives are hectic. I'm glad they call. I'm glad they tell me about salami and cheese sandwiches. And about my little Cub Scout. And anything else that is on their minds. May that never change.
Yesterday I posted about canning bacon. Yoders' Bacon was mentioned in a comment. So I decided to look up Yoders' to see how much it cost. I looked at three different websites just long enough to see that I had better can my own bacon slices. Geez, but that stuff is spendy!
Anyway, it wasn't 2 minutes later when I looked at Drudge. Right there at the top of the page where they have their ad was an ad for.....Yoders' Bacon.
I then looked at WND. Yep. Multiple ads for.....Yoders' Bacon.
Looked at two more websites. Amazingly, both had ads for.....Yoders' Bacon.
I'm not surprised to see ads for things I have searched for online. Happens all the time. I am surprised at how quickly the ads appear.
I like to have a variety of foods in storage and having a selection of canned meats appeals to me. While thinking about what kinds of meat to can, I decided that bacon or sausage are two I would like to have on hand.
There are several YouTube videos out there showing how people can strips of bacon by wrapping them in parchment paper before putting them into jars. I have never tried this, so I can't attest to the success or failure of this method. I buy the boxes of bacon ends and pieces. Usually there are some nice slices included and those I package and freeze for future use. There are usually some good sized chunks of lean bacon and some of those I will freeze for later use in canning pork and beans. The rest I slice into about one-inch pieces and fry them until lightly browned and then drain, saving the bacon grease, and pack the bacon bits into half pint jars. Wipe the rims of the jars well, add a lid and ring and process in a pressure canner for 75 minutes.
Bacon canned this way has lots of uses. I like eggs scrambled with bacon pieces and cheese. They can be used as bacon bits on a green salad. They can be sprinkled on scalloped potatoes for extra flavor. They can be used in one of those breakfast casseroles. The possibilities are endless. And the bacon grease keeps nearly forever in the fridge or freezer. I use the grease in biscuits, cornbread, for frying potatoes, etc. I consider the bacon grease a bonus.
Sausage is canned basically the same way. I brown it like you would hamburger for sloppy joes and then drain it. It is packed into jars and pressure canned same as the bacon. Sausage canned this way can be used anywhere one would use sausage crumbles. I use it the same as the bacon bits and have added it to spaghetti sauce or tomato based casseroles. It is really handy to have for biscuits and sausage gravy. It makes a nice change of pace and just another variety of meat to have on hand. I have heard of some who can sausage patties by browning them, packing them into wide mouth pint jars, covering with broth and processing in the pressure canner. I have not tried this, but I think I might experiment with it and see how I like sausage canned that way.
We hear people talk all the time about storing rice and beans. I store rice and beans, too. But a diet of rice and beans would get old in a hurry without a variety of additions to make them more palatable especially over a long period of time. Canning bacon and sausage is just one way to make life a bit better in a lengthy shelter in place situation.
I am not a gourmet cook. I am a plain cook. About once a week I fix meals that are favorites from my childhood - fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, beef slow roasted with potatoes, carrots and onions all in the same pot, pork chops stuffed with sage dressing, Swiss steak (assuming I can still afford round steak).
The rest of the time I cook because a body needs fuel. I have a lot of interests aside from cooking. I sew, quilt, crochet, scrapbook, read, etc. If I am in the middle of sewing together the pieces of a patchwork quilt, I don't want to take the time to cook a fancy meal. If my kitchen table is covered with scrapbooking paper, photographs, glue, scissors, paper punches, and all the other supplies I use to make scrapbook pages or mini scrapbook albums, I want to quickly satisfy my hunger and continue cutting and gluing and creating. You will never see photos of artfully arranged meals on this blog. That just doesn't happen in my world.
What does happen in my world is the opening of a jar, the dumping of the contents into a pot, the heating on the stove and the eating, all done with as little fuss and bother as possible. I know that I can't be the only person on the face of the earth who hasn't either the time or the inclination to spend hours cooking, so here are some of the meals in a jar that are a staple of my pantry shelves.
I buy turkey or chicken on sale. The birds are cut up into pieces to fit into my stew pots, covered with water and boiled until the meat is falling off the bone tender. Sometimes I will roast a turkey, have a meal or two and then use the rest for making soup, boiling the carcass to make broth. When the meat is cool enough to handle, it is removed from the bones and cut into approximately one-inch pieces. The jars are filled 1/3 full of meat pieces, adding cut up vegetables (potatoes, carrots, peas, green beans, celery - whatever you like) to within one inch of the top of the jar. Pour in broth to cover the vegetables. Remove the air bubbles, wipe the rims, add a lid and ring. Process in a pressure canner (meat and vegetables must be pressure canned), 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts.
I think I use this soup more than any other. When I can it, I do not add salt or any other seasonings. Nor do I add onions. Instead I season the soup and add dehydrated onion when I heat it. It can be eaten just as a soup with crackers or cornbread. It can be thickened and spooned over biscuits as a stew. It can be heated with the addition of dumplings. Sometimes I toss in a little rice for turkey rice soup, or a little more rice for a turkey, vegetable and rice dish. There are lots of possibilities.
These are some of the other meals in a jar that I can on a regular basis:
Vegetable Beef Soup
Split Pea and Ham Soup
Ham and Bean Soup
Beef Stew Mix (The browned beef cubes and cut up vegetables are canned together. Seasonings and thickening are added when heating for a meal. This is especially good over biscuits.)
I suppose I could save time by just buying soup, stew and chili at the grocery store. But I would rather spend a few days canning these meals and have them ready in my pantry. I know what has gone into them and they taste so much better than commercially canned soups. I don't know if I save much money-wise, as I have to buy the ingredients. If I could have a garden, the savings would be far better. But to me, it is still worth it.
I've had a blog post idea rolling around in the back of my mind for a while. But this morning I read a post by Patrice over at "Rural Revolution" that says what I would like to have said, only she says it better than I ever could. For those who are into preparing and food storage and especially for those who don't think they need to prepare or store food, it is an excellent read. Here is the link.
Today my oldest daughter Jill and my grandson Zach are at the Mall of America, participating in a walk that raises money for the Autism Speaks organization. Looks like the day started out well, if this photo is any indication.
I am so very proud of Zach and his parents. I can't be with them today, but I am cheering them on all the same.
Zach is so smart and talented and funny. And he gives great hugs. I just love being Zach's grandma.
It's that time of year. The leaves are changing color and starting to drop from the trees. The nights are cooler - good sleeping weather. Now that the rain has stopped falling, at least for now, the daylight hours are more pleasant with even a little sunshine now and then.
It is the time of year that I start craving homemade soups and stews. I treated myself to a venison stew a couple of days ago. I don't often get venison. Not like I did when I lived in the north woods and had hunters still living at home. So venison is a treat for me.
I had one jar of canned venison left on the shelf. A couple of years ago I had canned potato cubes, carrot chunks and peas together in quart jars. Into the pot they all went. Tossed in some chopped onion and some beef broth along with seasonings. Let it simmer on the back burner for about an hour. Put a pan of biscuits in the oven and thickened the stew a bit. The result was a meal fit for a king.
Last evening I heated up the leftover stew. Can't recall what else I was doing at the time, but the stew stayed in the pan longer than it should have without being stirred. Sure enough. It was scorched. I am not good at multi-tasking.
I don't like to waste anything, so I dished up the scorched stew over the leftover biscuits anyway. It was delicious.
You just can't wreck a good venison stew, no matter how hard you try.
Youngest son works for a landscaping company. They do lawn care in the summer, among other things, and they plow snow in the winter. David needs to keep track of the weather in order to know what his crews will be doing on any given day. They can't do much of their outside work in the rain. When the summer temperatures soar, David knows it is time to take large coolers of Gatorade around to the workers. He needs to know how much winter snowfall is expected in order to schedule the plowing crews. So he gets daily weather reports. Sometimes he shares them on Facebook. Like this one today.
"Turning cloudy and very windy behind a very strong cold front this morning. Highs will only reach the upper 40s. Light rain showers likely this evening with possible snow mixing in late evening into early tomorrow morning. Cloudy and still cold tomorrow with a high in the upper 40s. Mostly cloudy and warmer Sunday with a high in the lower 50s."
You want me? I'll be right over there in my recliner, cup of hot chocolate on the table next to me, Kindle in hand, covered chin to toes in my big green fuzzy blanket.
No, I do not want to talk about the Great Minnesota Halloween Blizzard of 1991.
Mom of four and Grandma of six, who writes about family events both past and present as well as anything else that happens to come to mind, shares new photos as well as old and who enjoys life in general.