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Archive for the ‘Challenges’ Category

Hey kids, I thought I should check in before anyone gets any crazy thoughts about me falling down abandoned wells or being carried off my marauding farm-pirates or something, and because organizing a search party would be pretty much useless since only a couple of you actually know where I live.  And while I suppose a province-wide search would be theoretically possible, Ontario is a really big place full of many hazards and I would hate to expose you all to that, and there would be the whole Toronto corridor to deal with and traffic would simply be a nightmare.

All joking aside, I have been in full hunker-down mode lately as I have not been feeling exactly 100%.  After a couple of weeks of trying to let an ear infection run it’s course I finally broke down and  got checked out and ended up on some sort of time-release antibiotics that, in some ways, were worse than the infection itself.   I won’t go into details, but it wasn’t pretty kids.  In the meantime I’ve had a good case of the doom and glooms going on, mostly because I’m sick of feeling like crap, and other than going to work I’ve been avoiding most human interaction.  I’m human and it happens, and luckily I have a wonderfully supportive husband who doesn’t take it personally when I get my grump on, and two furry little weirdos who I actually think prefer it when I do.  Me not feeling well means many more snuggle opportunities, although I am getting a little tired of being a travelling kitty warming station.  I love their furry little faces, but it is nice to, every now and then, stand up without disrupting someone’s beauty sleep.

Anyway, all of this has meant that I never did keep up with the $10/week food storage challenge, or at least reporting about it anyway.  I did complete the month doing my best to stay within the parameters of the challenge, though.  Am I glad it’s over?  Honestly, yes.  Was it easy?  It should have been, but it wasn’t.  The challenge itself should have been a breeze, but I’ll admit my heart just wasn’t into it, feeling like poo and all, although physically I was capable of getting everything done that needed to be.  I did keep going to work afterall, and despite my whining I really am not a sally and can rally with the best of them.  I did learn a few things, mainly I am not nearly as prepared as I had hoped I would be, and for that alone I am glad that I did the challenge.  Mostly though, I have been thinking about modern medicine and the luxury of being able to hang back when things get tough.  Great-Grandma sure couldn’t, and I surely could not either if I didn’t live in a time and place that made necessities like health care and food readily available.  I’ve got a whole separate post on this subject simmering on the back burner, but I’m going to let it stay there for a little while yet – it would be too easy right now to get a-rantin’ and that’s not what I want to do.  But I will say this: people who seem to want The Zombie Collapse of The World and Everything annoy the crap out of me and make me want to smack the pants right off them.  But like I said, I’ll get to that later.

So with all this curmudgeony kitty-snuggling going on, I really don’t have much in the way of new and interesting things to share as I’ve been more in maintenance mode than anything else.  I do however have one really awesome find to report on – Green Pioneer Woman’s elderberry muffins.  I made these during the challenge using sauce from our foraged apples and wild elderberries Big Brother found way back in the fall.  They got the official Dad Seal of Approval which is pretty high praise – when Dad says something is “great”, you can generally count that it is.  If you like elderberries, check them out.  They’re good stuff.

Meanwhile things are changing around here, though.  Already I can feel the shift, and it makes me glad. The killdeers and red-winged blackbirds are back, and as usual my heart lifts when I hear them singing. Their return marks the turning of a page  for me much more than any calender does. All this week I noticed how much more light was left in the sky after I got home from work, and with today’s spring ahead it will only get better from here on out.  Suddenly I am anxious for my seed orders to arrive, and to get planting and let the new year to begin in earnest.  Suddenly I want to shake off the stupor and get going.  Good stuff, indeed.

So what is it like in your neck of the woods?  Has spring found you or are you still waiting to get going?  What marks the turning of the seasons for you?  Tell me about it!

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It’s been a couple of weeks since I announced I was going to try to only spend $10 a week on food for the month of February, so I figured it was high time to check in and give a report.  I was fully prepared to give a play-by-play account on the frugal grocery action of the past couple of weeks, but sitting down to the computer tonight I noticed something.  The desk is clean.  I mean, spotlessly, uncharacteristically clean.  Seems that my wonderful and well-meaning husband did some tidying and, since he lacks the ability to read my mind (although I’m working on that), threw away my grocery receipts.  It’s entirely my fault – I tend to sully this desk like a sailor on leave and while he knows not to throw out scribbled things that may be recipes, receipts are fair game.  Got to work on that mind reading thing.

Anyway, even without a detailed account  I have a couple thoughts on what I have been learning from this experiment.

1.  $10 a week is not enough.  I originally settled on that amount because I wanted to really focus on my stored food and learn where I need to improve, and $10 only allows me to buy our milk, eggs and one other discounted item a week.    What this has actually translated to is me blowing the budget every week when I find a hole in my storage for something I actually need.  This has certainly given me pause to stop and think about what it would be like if I couldn’t just go over budget and I really only had $10 in my pocket.  There are a great many people out there for whom this is a reality, and I am finding this aspect of the challenge a humbling one to say the very least.

2.  Convenience foods are awesome.  That may seem completely contradictory, but let me explain.  Last week I developed a lovely sinus/ear thing, and after a full day of work with a low grade fever (yeah, I’m one of those people – thank me when you get sick) I really, really don’t want to cook a meal from scratch.  And I’ll admit – I broke down and bought a frozen lasagna.  It was horrible and a waste, but so easy.  And in the spirit of full disclosure Kraft Dinner has also made an appearance, but we like Kraft Dinner so that was ok. 🙂  What I need to do is prepare more heat and go meals ahead of time and store them accordingly.  I already do this, but not consistently and not enough.

3.  I need to work on some skills.  Yeah, I bake my own bread, but have really only dabbled in sourdough.  I made bagels this weekend and they pretty much destroyed what was left of my yeast stash, so I am hoping I have enough bread in the freezer to get us to the end of the month.  Pressure canning would definitely help with the whole convenience food thing, but I’ve been chicken about learning how to do it.  And I need to expand my cooking repertoire a little – while digging for some hamburger in the freezer, what I thought was a burger cache ended up being a bunch of stewing beef and a big ol’ beef tongue.  The stew beef I can work with, but the tongue?  That’s going to take some reasearch.

So that’s where I stand as of now, kids.  I’ll try to be more diligent about hiding my receipts and posting for the rest of the month.  And if you have any suggestions or awesome easy recipes, pile them on!  I’d be happy to hear them.

 

 

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So, over at Just Another Day On The Farm the ever-resourceful Farmgal has thrown down the gauntlet and issued a challenge to her readers to eat from their storage for the month of February and only spend $10 a week on food.  Well, it actually wasn’t quite like that. There was very little gauntlet-throwing and she may have mentioned that anyone who wanted to join in with her could do so, but I thought the latter sounded much more dramatic.  Anyway, the challenge is to rely primarily on one’s food storage for the month while spending a set maximum amount each week at the grocery store.  The set amount of spending money is flexible depending on your needs, but it should be as low as you can go so the focus remains primarily on your stored food.  I signed myself up for $10 a week because a) I may have temporarily lost my mind since I have to buy all of my animal products and b) I likes me a good challenge.

Really though, I like the idea of challenging myself.  I think I am probably a little too comfortable with the system I have going on here (I have been known to use the phrase “bring it” when talking about zombies….you heard me say I have to buy all of my animal products, right?), and I think February is the perfect time to put that system to the test.  Nothing is growing right now.  I don’t have a back yard full of food.  Heck, I can’t even go pick dandelions.  It’s just us and what we’ve squirreled away, sort of what I picture it must have been like for Great Grandma, back in the day.  Not being able to rely on bopping to the store when I want or need something is going to show me where the weaknesses are in my system and in my resourcefulness.

Now with that being said, I do have a couple amendments for myself:

1.  I’m giving us a pass for Valentine’s Day.  It’s our once a year fancy dinner, put on by a chef Mr. S knows.  It’s great food, reasonably priced and I get to dress up like a girl and hang out across a candle-lit table from the good-looking dude that happens to be my husband.  We could always light some candles and sit at the kitchen table gazing into each others’ eyes, but I imagine we will be doing enough of that if the shiz ever hits the fan and we won’t smell near as good.  So, yeah, we’re going out.

2.  I’m going to allow myself some leeway for really awesome sales.  There are certain things like coffee and cheese I only buy when they are dirt cheap, and then I buy a ton of them.  This saves me a lot of money in the long run and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to stock up.

So how did I do this week?  Cue the drumroll, if you’re into that.

$26.51

Ooops.

Actually, I knew I was going to be over this week.  Last Sunday I realised I was almost out of both all-purpose and bread flour so those needed to be purchased.  I would have even skipped the bread flour and experimented making bread in different ways, but I promised a neighbour I would make her some of the buns she likes, and I don’t want to feed her any experiments.  I also bought some lemon juice, which is out of the ordinary, because I am off work this week and am going to make some jam.  So, yeah, some oddities this week, but that’s how it goes.

Here’s what I bought:

Bread flour, 2.5 kg:  $6.29

All-purpose flour, 10 kg: $7.99 (you see why I want to figure out a good bread recipe with this stuff?)

Milk, 2L:  $3.85 (I usually buy 4L, but we have a backlog going on right now)

Eggs, 1 doz:  $2.65 (I can get eggs from a friend for $2, but her chickens aren’t laying)

Mushrooms, 2 packs: $1.76

Distilled water, 8L:  $1.98 (for the coffee maker – our water has a lot of minerals in it)

Lemon juice: $1.99 (for the jam)

It will be interesting to see how the week goes and how our habits will change knowing that we can’t just pick up something if we run out.  I’ve already noticed I am keeping a close eye on the milk – this afternoon I had an internal debate about whether scalloped potatoes with dinner would be worth the milk used, and wondering why Mr. S chose now to start eating the Raisin Bran that’s been sitting on the fridge for months.

Wish me luck, kids.  I’ll do a post next weekend to let y’all know how it goes.  I’m really not expecting any problems, but then again, I don’t know how Mr. S will feel if we are suddenly mysteriously out of cereal.

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