Sunday, March 27, 2011

Food Obsession

Yes, I have developed an obsession with food.  Not so much the eating of it, although I will fight you to the death if you try to deprive me of my chocolate, but of the preserving of it.  Although I owe nobody any explanations of the way I choose to live, I feel as though I need to address this issue.  Mostly to give my children an understanding of what their mother is about.  Especially since some of them think I have stepped off the edge of reality.

When I was a young girl, my family had a large garden.  Every summer and fall we spent hours and hours in the kitchen canning and freezing the produce from this garden.  Money was tight.  Mother was ill most of her life.  She couldn't work outside of our home to provide extra family income.  Preserving garden produce insured that we would eat over the winter.

Later, when my children were young, I had a huge garden.  I canned and froze as much as possible, for money was very tight then as well.  Some of my children still remember the jars of food;  fruit, jam and jelly, pickles and relishes, meat and vegetables, that filled the basement shelves.  We may have been poor, but there was always enough to eat.

Things have changed.  I now live alone and have nobody to feed but myself.  I am not rich, but neither am I poor.  What I am is a widow living on a fixed income.  Every month that passes, my income is stretched thinner and thinner.  I am fortunate that I don't need a vehicle and the expense that goes along with it.  But other expenses like medical and groceries and rent, keep going up.  My income does not.

So I decided to change my lifestyle a bit to compensate.  I rarely eat out.  Twice a month I go out for breakfast with my oldest son.  We have been doing this for the last few years, and although I enjoy our breakfasts at a restaurant, it is more about the company.  But I get my fix of restaurant food at those times and it is enough.  I bake most of my own bread.  I can bake at least four loaves for the price of one loaf of store-bought bread.  I scoured the internet and found recipes for things like brownie mix, baking mix, cornbread mix, hamburger helper mix and stuffing mix.  These I can make for much, much less than I can buy them, and they taste good.  I buy bulk seasonings and spices and make things like taco mix, spaghetti sauce mix, onion soup mix and chicken coating mix.  All for very much less than the commercial equivalents.  And I have the added advantage of knowing what is in them as opposed to foods with unpronounceable chemicals included.

I don't have a garden as I did in the past.  Living in a city apartment makes that impossible.  Stuff just doesn't grow well in an asphalt parking lot!  So I buy fresh and frozen vegetables at the grocery store when they are on sale.  These can be either canned or dehydrated.  The canned vegetables I can use as a side dish with a meal or in casseroles and other dishes (I love creamed peas on toast.) and the dehydrated vegetables work really well in soups and stews.  If left frozen, they develop freezer burn long before I could use them up.  There is a Farmer's Market here and I hope to be able to buy tomatoes and other fresh produce there over the summer.  So much better than supermarket fare.

When meat is on sale, I buy as much as I can afford, freeze what I will use within a month and pressure can the rest.  I am not really good at meal planning.  It is more like deciding about 3 PM what would taste good for supper.  Yesterday I defrosted a pork chop, baked it in the oven along with potatoes and carrots that I had canned together just for that purpose.  The potatoes and carrots browned nicely in the oven and it was really good tasting.  Another day I opened a jar of chicken, another of peas and carrots, tossed them together with macaroni, dehydrated onion and mayo, and had a chicken macaroni salad for supper, along with a slice of homemade bread.  This is one reason that I can food.  I tend to get busy doing other things and forget about meals until I start to get hungry.  It is nice to be able to open a jar or two and supper is served.

Contrary to popular opinion, I have not, nor do I intend to join a survivalist group.  Not my thing.  Granted, I would prefer living in a country setting and having a garden and all of the things that go along with country living, but at this stage of my life I am realistic enough to know that this isn't going to happen.  I am more into preparedness.  Life has a way of blindsiding us from time to time.  I am pretty sure that people in Japan weren't aware when they went to work in the morning that their lives would drastically change by late afternoon.  Not that I think that we will suffer an earthquake, and a tsunami is unlikely to cover Minnesota any time soon, but things beyond our control can and do happen.  I just believe in being as prepared as I can be.

There are things that the hard-core preparedness people do that I don't.  I have no guns or ammunition stockpiled.  I haven't invested in a solar oven or propane camp stove.  I haven't converted savings into precious metals.  There are many of these things that just aren't practical for me to do or that I would be comfortable with doing.  But the one thing I can do to be prepared for the unexpected is to have food canned and dehydrated.  At present, I have probably 4 to 5 months worth of food put by.  My goal is a years worth.  I realize that at my present weight and girth, chances are I probably won't starve to death any time soon.  But I don't want to be one of those elderly people we hear about who have to choose between paying for the medications they need to keep them alive and buying food to eat.

I also don't want to have to ask for help, although there are times when a little help is greatly appreciated.  Being as self-sufficient as possible is particularly important to me.  It keeps me out of the nursing home.  It makes me feel as though I have some self-worth when I can take care of myself.  And by preserving food for future use, I can insure that I won't have to ask any of my family for help with the groceries, with the possible exception of hauling them up the stairs to my apartment.

I also really like the part where I don't have to rush to the store to stock up on essentials just before a snow storm.  I remember doing that in the past and fighting crowds of people doing the same thing.  I only go to the store now to buy the sale items or to replenish my kitchen pantry when I use the last bottle of ketchup or jar of mayo or need a dozen eggs.  I have everything I need to get through any storm or other unforeseen disaster.

So you all can stop worrying that Mom has gone over the edge or that her mind is going because she preserves food.  There is a method in this madness.  Now, if I begin to have meaningful conversations with Elvis, then you can worry.

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