22 October 2013

People give me the shakes!

I recently gave a presentation on how one can use food preparation in their spiritual life. It is a topic close to my heart.

I think it was a difficult success. It has been a loooong time since I have done any sort of speech. I typically do not enjoy being the center of attention, especially with strangers. I also left some materials at home, including my written notes, so I did not feel prepared. Thankfully, I kept some on my tablet, so I was not completely lost.

Once I raced through what notes I did have and what I could remember despite my anxiety, we broke bread, and I asked everyone to just dialogue about food. I loved hearing all the different memories of past meals. How certain food were connected to a person or time. I guess I just liked being reminded that we are all unique individuals with our own experiences. All are valid and true. It's chaotic and beautiful at the same time.

I do hope that the attendants were able to glean some ideas and inspiration despite my stumbling. To be tremendously 90s goth, nothing is trivial. Every act can be with purpose and thought.

I would love to work through this hurdle. I have had 2 viola performances, and both were gut-wrenching. I was decent, but I felt like I was going to implode. My performance was hindered, just as it was the other day. I am now declaring it a personal goal to become more comfortable, or at least more functional, under pressure.
I do fully intend to write on this topic (food, not so much anxiety) in depth, and I hope that those who have requested it will be patient with me. After all, I am a far better writer than speaker.

06 October 2013

Carrot Bran Muffins

We are transitioning to a more whole foods menu. The most difficult part has been moving to whole wheat. At first, it doesn't seem like a big deal, but consider whole wheat pasta, whole wheat cakes, whole wheat biscuits. It just gets sad. But I'm stubborn and will try it until I get used to it...or I can't stand it anymore.

So, this is how we got to carrot muffins with wheat. Well, that, and I had carrots that were getting limp on me. It happens with age. Yup. That just happened.

First, this recipe is dumb. It calls for AP flour and wheat, then bran. Hello, it would have the bran already if you used all wheat. However, I only had whole wheatberries and a manual grinder. My wrist has been bothering me, so I ground what it called for and used the redundant AP-bran combination. Hubs was right. That mixer attachment was a better idea. But we dont have to tell him now do we?

1. Cream 1/3 cup coconut oil (called for vegetable oil, but we ditched it). Add 1/2 cup sorghum (or molasses) and 1/3 cup honey. Set aside. If you use vegetable oil, skip this step.
1. In a large bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups bran, 3/4 cup whole wheat flour, 3/4 cup AP flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and 2 tsp baking powder.
2. Toss in 1 1/2 cup shredded carrots to coat. (You could also add a handful of raisins or nuts if you like.)
3. Mix in 1 egg, 3/4 cup milk and the oil mixture.
4. Pour into muffin tins and bake for 15 minutes at 400.

I am genuinely impressed. There is no sugar in this recipe! Just mostly natural sweeteners.

High five!

These freeze beautifully if they last that long.

Next time, I will try this with all whole wheat flour and less bran to see if it is missed.

30 September 2013

Granola Bars

The kids have been in school for awhile , and I have been experimenting with their lunches. One new venture is granola bars. They can be a win-win. A little sweet with nutrition to back it up. However, most store bought options contain way too much sugar and some random, less desirable ingredients.

So! To the kitchen! I decided to go with this recipe, since most were just variants that I found online. These are dense, so smaller servings will be plenty. They are not just like the beloved Quaker chewies, but they are delicious and highly customizable.

1. In a large bowl, combine 1 2/3 cups of oats, 1/3 ground oats (I used a coffee grinder), 4Tbsp bran, 1 cup chocolate chips, 1/2 cup slivered almonds, and 1/2 cup dried cranberries.
2. In a smaller bowl, mix 6 Tbsp melted butter, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 4 Tbsp honey, 4 Tbsp brown sugar, and 4 Tbsp peanut butter.
3. Toss ingredients together until thoroughly combined. This was easier with oiled, gloved hands.
4. Spread into a loaf pan that is lined with parchment. Press firmly. Really get in there!
5. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. I left the parchment over the top to prevent browning, but this is not necessary.
6. Let cool, then chill until stiff.
7. Slice into desired pieces using a serated knife. Store in an air tight container for up to a week. It can also be frozen for later use.

I will be trying this with crushed pretzels, peanuts, and chocolate chips next time. I love those Take 5 candy bars, so this may be a healthier alternative. The notes from the link have lots of alternatives, like maple syrup instead of honey, or ground wheat instead oats. More suggestions for the mix-ins: mini marshmallows, seeds, cereal, candies, nuts...

My son just said caramel. That would delicious swapped with the peanut butter! With dried apples. Mmm! Perfect for this time of year. Well, I think that is next week's experiment.

PS: I am having glitches with photos. I'll have Mr. Technology take a look.

12 September 2013

Moar Bacon

Bacon. I love it. You love it. I'm pretty sure even pigs would love it.

So, you buy bacon. How can you store it long term? The refridgerator is only good for a couple weeks. Freezing is an excellent choice. You can just toss the whole package right in. However, you have to thaw it at least a bit to get strips. If you are going for bits, use a serated knife to cut straight across the slices. This is really easy and quick. To keep the remaining bacon safe, put the package inside a freezer bag.

Can you make bacon shelf stable though? Yes! I have my first batch of bacon in the canner right now. This is a test run, so I used cheapo bacon. One quart is slices; the pint is bits. The slices are a bit more time intensive but not too much. They'll have their round in the canner, and tomorrow I'll pop them open to try them out.

1. Place bacon slices out on parchment paper and layer. You will have to see how many layers will go in a jar, since bacon is cut to different thickness. Make sure you end and begin with a layer of parchment.
2. Fold in half vertically and roll tightly.
3. Pack into jars, no liquid needed. I would not recommend adding liquid, as the slices may fall apart.
4. Pressure can for 90 minutes. Let cool. Ping! Rejoice.

I have no experience drying bacon, or drying anything for that matter...well, besides herbs. That is next on the skill to learn list.

So, the bacon was great! Like the bbq, the smoke just developed more. You could eat it right out of the jar, but ew. Just crisp it up a bit either on the stove or in the oven.

Both ways, strips and pieces, worked well. The bits I just nuked for a bit and drained off that glorious fat for later.

Tip: If you have a large family or just enjoy gorging on bacon, baking in the oven is the best way. I line mine on a cooling rack over a sheet pan and bake at 325 about 20 minutes. I would jot recommend going much higher on the temp, because the grease could splatter. Grease+heat=fire! And, most likely, you will burn it despite your best efforts. Like this awesome gal.

Canning bacon is a good option for shortcuts, stockpiling, and mmmm bacon!!

Little Cabin in the Woods

I recently took a short trip to a friend's cabin. This trip taught me some things, mainly about what I want for my homestead.

First, the popular micro housing is not for me. The cabin was approximately 400 sqft. Two adults and two children would fit comfortably...for a few days. A week tops. I tried to envision my family living there, but we would not make it without several other structures. 3 out of 4 family members require an amount of alone time to function well, which usually takes place indoors. Plus, I have mild claustrophobia. I now think a minimum of 1000 sqft is right for me, even without children.

One surprise is that ample running water is now on the must have list. The cabin is on spring water, so use is limited. Military style showers. If it's yellow, let it mellow. And forget soaking in the tub with a good book! This isn't to say a natural source of water isn't in the cards. However it gets there, I prefer a lot whether or not I choose to use a lot. I will still insist on some sort of water source nearby for emergencies. That's just common sense.

The biggest shock was how much I missed people. Maybe it was because we were on vacation and didn't have any chores or projects to tend to. Whatever it is, and I expect it to change back and forth through the years, I think it would be wise to be within 15 miles of town and give focus to social outlets. I find it easier to feign seclusion than feign a decent population.

I loved the setting, which was completely unseen from the road. Nothing but woods, fields, and a creek. It has been a dream since childhood, in fact, to have a completely hidden house.

A lady lives on one corner of the property with 8, yes 8, dogs. My friends Jeff and Amy have been trumped. She lives alone and is very self sufficient. She lives on the same water, uses solar energy, has an impressive garden, and raises bees. In addition, her house is mostly repurposed materials and handmade. It is truly beautiful,  and I did not take a single picture unfortunately. She also has 2 micro houses for visitors, which she has often. One is about 600sqft with a lovely screened in porch. The other is in progress, about 150sqft. It has a loft for a queen bed, and the rest is just like a European studio. No electricity or plumbing.

We had a great little break though! I was really happy to get a clearer picture of what I want, what is practical, and what others are doing.

10 July 2013

Chow Chow!

A friend called me up, the applesauce one, to say she had received half a garbage bag of yellow squash. We quickly made plans to tackle it together. The next day, we had quite the haul. We basically just cleaned out the fridge. In addition to the squash, we had cabbage, onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, peppers, and garlic. Now, this is one of those recipes that is very loosey goosey. Just use what you have. It may be more sweet or tart or stout than your last batch, but that's kind of the joy of it.

1. Trim and seed as necessary. We seeded the squash, as they were a little big, and the peppers, so the heat wouldn't be too much.
2. Shred up everything. My friend has a food processor, which made this bearable and pretty. Even if you don't, an extra set of hands will help it go quickly, and there is something special about conversation in the kitchen.
3. In a pot, bring 9c vinegar (I love ACV), 6c sugar, 6Tbsp pickling spice to a boil. Cut the heat and let steep. It's always better to have too much liquid than not enough. You could definitely experiment with different spices, but we were noobs to chow chow and played it safe.
4. Sprinkle 1/2c salt over 8c shredded veggies and cover with water. Let sit for 1 hr. We had 3 bowls going at once.
5. Rinse and drain vegetables. Fill jars about 3/4 full. Here you can add extra garlic and/or peppers. We did habaneros! Use chunks just to infuse. Chop it up for full flavor. Taste your liquid first, so you can adjust the sweetness if needed.
6. Fill with pickling liquid, leaving 1/2" headspace.
7. Process for 15 minutes in a HWB. We ended up with 8 quarts and 6 half pints. It is tangy and sweet with a hint of heat. Some jars were extra spicy though! ;)

What do you do with chow chow? My friend eats it right out of the jar! But others use it to top burgers, hot dogs, bbq, or on top of pintos or greens.

We had a really great day, and now I like chow chow! Yay summer!

03 July 2013

Food Storage

While I am busy squirreling away food, I realized I needed to address food storage. It's a boring but necessary topic.
First and foremost, you should make sure your appliance are in good working order. Keep a thermometer in both the fridge and freezer. Deep freezers usually have one installed. I clean my fridge once a month with diluted vinegar, followed by a spritzing of hydrogen peroxide. This removes any odors and keeps the interior bright and germ free. Any ice build-up should be chipped away. If you have a serious problem, defrost the freezer and soak up the melted ice. I have no other tips as far as maintenance. We are renters, so I don't have to worry about that. Yay!

I find that the easiest method is to store properly right away. As soon as you return from the store, market, or your garden, wash all produce. I find it very convenient to keep one large container in the fridge of prepped veggies for snacking and tossing together a quick meal. Meats and dairy products should go in the coolest area, which is the bottom shelf as far away from the front as possible.
Since our run-in with mice last winter, I store all dry goods in glass jars or heavy duty plastic bins. Bakeries and restaurants go through a lot of packaging, and these are perfect for storing your food at home, especially if you buy in bulk. It never hurts to ask if they have any you could haul off. Similar bins and buckets can be found at most stores though.Store your dry goods in a dry, dark, cool spot that is convenient. Visibility is crucial. If everything is jumbled together, who knows what lurks on the bottom shelf? Note: Store water in glass containers. Mice will chew through plastic, and the glass doesn't leave a funky aftertaste. I tend to group items together in categories. Smaller items are grouped together in topless boxes. Rotation is key, and I find a quick survey before a trip to the store does the trick. If your home came with a pantry, great. If not, freestanding pantries and cabinets can be purchased. I first used an old bookshelf, until I upgraded to a metal rack. The rack cost me $60 at Home Depot, and it has been worth every penny.

When storing additional food supplies, it is fun to get creative. Our space has been plenty, but I want to highlight some others' ideas. Create side tables by putting a tablecloth over milk crates or a cabinet. The same can be done for a sofa or coffee table. Under the bed is pretty perfect. Unused closet space. Garages are a good idea IF they are connected to your home AC. Attics are terrible. Sheds are terrible unless there is an AC unit. Cellars! Great idea. One which I have no experience but lots of curiosity. I have heard some odd variations, such as burying old appliances sideways so that they can be opened from the ground. I even read of one innovative homesteader who buried a boat.

I'll expound on another day about specific items and preserving methods. Kids are bickering!

18 June 2013

Canning Pork BBQ with Homemade Sauce!

I have been on a barbeque kick, yall! I have made it every week for the past 2 months. I love it with a corn cake and fresh coleslaw, bread and butter pickles optional. Plus, pork butts have been on sale.
I always change up my rub, but it usually consists of salt, black pepper, red pepper flake, garlic, ground mustard, and smoked paprika. Roast at 400 for 15 minutes then set that sucker on low, low, low! If the pork dries out, pour a little apple cider vinegar, beer, stock, whatever you have, on top. When fully cooked, cool until you can handle it. Now, some like minced, but I pull. I start with a fork, until I get impatient and go to it by hand.

To can, you can do it as is, topping off with stock or water, or even a splash of vinegar added to the liquid.
I know barbeque is a method, but I like mine smothered in smoky, sweet sauce. I didn't want to risk using a commercial sauce, since they often contain corn starch, and that's a no-no in canning. I tried to keep track of what I used, but you know how that goes. I quickly resort to tossing in whatever pops in my head, stirring and tasting like a witch over her cauldron. But this is what I was able to jot down:

2 12oz cans tom paste and stock, water to make 2 qts
1/4 tsp cayenne, 1/2 tsp mustard powder, 1/8 cloves
4tbs sorghum
1/2tsp red pep flake
1tsp black peppercorns
1 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp Worcestershire
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 small onions, roasted
6 cloves garlic, roasted
3oz apple cider vinegar

I know I ended up with quite a bit more vinegar, tossing in a cinnamon stick, and more sorghum. The result was impressive for a first-timer! After processing, the smoke had really come out, so I may not cook the sauce so much next time. It is incredible, but I like a bit more tomatoey, sweet taste. Oh! Just use a blender stick to combine everything til smooth.

1. Combine all sauce ingredients and simmer (I did about 2 hrs, so maybe half that time if you like a more fresh, raw taste). While this is going, pull your meat and divide evenly among your jars to about 3/4 full.
2. Top meat with hot sauce, leaving 1 inch of headspace. If you are short a bit, top with water.
3. Remove any air pockets. Top with lids and rings.
4. Process for 90 minutes in a pressure canner.

Canning White Chili

Sometimes, you will try something new and kick yourself for not trying it sooner. At my son's birthday party, I served white chili as an alternative to those who don't like traditional chili. It was a big hit and ran out before anything else. That morning, I stripped down a chicken I had roasted earlier in the week and tossed in the slow cooker with the following: 2qts chicken broth, 2 cans of cannelli beans, rinsed, 2 cans green chilis, one chopped onion, 2 cloves garlic, salt, cumin, and a pinch of cayenne. I also provided chopped cilantro as a garnish. It was seriously delicious!

I thought this would be a great item to have stored in the pantry. After looking at similar recipes online, I set out on my own. This is super simple and requires no cooking.

1. Soak 2 pounds white beans (I used Great Northern) for 6 hours or overnight.
2. Heat 3 quarts of chicken broth. Add 1 Tbs canning salt, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp chili or cayenne powder.
3. Dice 3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken. Thighs are my favorite. You can use raw or cooked, or sear chunks before canning. It will cook the rest of the way during processing.
4. Dice 2 medium yellow onions.
5. Divide ingredients evenly in clean jars, including 2 cans of diced green chilis and 2 cans salsa verde. (These are in the Mexican/Hispanic food section at just about every grocery store.) Top off with broth, adding water if necessary.
6. Process at 11 pounds of pressure for 90 minutes.

My batch produced 7 quarts. I did most of these in pints so that we had single servings for lunches. I love adding a bit of shredded cheese and corn chips. You could add some more veggies to this recipe, such as corn, tomatoes, or different peppers (anything will do...bell, pablano, jalepeno, etc.)
You could easily swap out turkey or chorizo, or skip the meat altogether.

Gettin Corny!

The in-laws gave us a big bag of fresh corn. While we love corn on the cob, there was no way we could eat all of it before it turned. Da-da-dum! Canning to the rescue!
Canning corn was a first, but I found it very easy and quick. We have since eatten from one quart, and the taste is out of this world! It literally tastes like you just cooked it from fresh, leaving commercially canned corn, and even frozen corn, a homely alternative. I was very impressed.

1. Shuck those ears! (You can dry the husks for tamales or even crafts, like the traditional corn husk dolls.) Scrub softly with a brush and running water to remove silks.
2. Cut the kernels from the cob. The easiest method for me was placing an upside down cup inside a large bowl. Use this platform for stability, and the bowl collects the kernels nicely. A serated knife works best. There are kernel strippers available. Try a kitchen store, like BB&B, etc, or ole reliable Amazon.com.
3. Fill to the bend of jars and top with hot water, adding canning or sea salt if desired.
4. Process for 75 minutes in a pressure canner.

I later found instructions on canning corn on the cob. Obviously, this isn't the most space efficient method, but it would be worth it if you prefer your corn on a handle.

After all is said and done, you have quite a bit of waste. Of course, everything is compostable. You can also dry the husks for tamales or crafts, like the traditional corn husk dolls. I was able to stretch the cobs by making corn cob jelly. Eh. Quit it. I see you turning up your nose, just like my family did. Think about it though. Corn is very sweet, and corn syrup is used in sweets all the time.

1. Place cobs in a stock pot, breaking them in half if needed. Cover with at least 2 inches of water.
2. Bring to a boil, then steep. Some recipes said 30 minutes; some said overnight. I honestly don't know how long I went. I let it steep while we ate dinner and spent time with the kids, so I would guess at least an hour. I brought it to a boil and just cut the heat off.
3. Remove cobs and strain. If you don't want the little corn bits in your jelly, strain through cheesecloth or a coffee filter.
4. Measure 3.5 cups of cob "tea" and bring to a rolling boil with a pack of powdered pectin.
5. Stir in 3 cups of sugar and bring to a rolling boil again for 3 minutes.
6. Do your jelly check. Pour into hot jars and process for 15 minutes in a hot water bath. Makes 5 half pints.

The taste is sweet and a bit woodsy.

27 April 2013

Canning Fresh Pineapple

Last week, our grocery store had fresh pineapple on sale for $1 each. I resisted the urge and made a mental note to look up canning pineapple. I knew we wouldn't eat more than one in a week, and these wouldn't last much beyond that. Good news! I found my info, and the next day the pineapples were knocked down to 50cents each! I bought 10 and went to work.
I chose to do chunks. It seemed like the easiest prep, and that is usually what I buy. I also chose to can them in water. I avoid syrups at all cost, and the option of cutting out sugar seemed appealling. Most of the time we eat pineapple with something and rarely on its own. The extra sugar will not be missed.
I ended up with 9 quarts with some "quality control" snacking. I guessed my cost was at most 50 cents a quart. $1 a can is a good deal at the grocery, so I think I came out ahead! I will definitely keep this in mind if I ever see a price cut like this again.
Oh! Directions!
1. Cut pineapple into chunks or whatever shape you would like.
2. Pack into jars and top with boiling water.
3. Process for 25 minutes in a hot water bath. The acidity is high enough that nothing needs to be added. I could not find any recommendations for pressure canning.
4. (My favorite part) Listen to the chorus of pings.

18 April 2013

Container Garden & Danelion Jelly

Readers, the gardening bug has bit! We are past any danger of frost. (Maybe. You never know in Tennessee. ) The grass just had its first cut of the year. I saw my first hummingbird today. The comforters and flannel sheets are being boxed up. Spring has finally sprung.
Now, last year was a bit of a nightmare. The garden started off well enough and with the best intentions. However, my hatred of sweating in the sun and the leap to a large plot kept me from being as active as I had hoped. I should have remembered to take baby steps. However, this problem seems to be fairly universal when it comes to gardening. So when my landlord offered to till the dirt for me, I declined. I have not purchased any seed...yet. The tools remain in the shed.
This doesn't mean I am giving up but merely scaling back significantly.

Our deck is south-facing, and I have plenty of planters and 5 gallon buckets. I have decided to stick with peas, beans, some flowers for vanity's sake, and take a gamble on zukes and watermelon, which will be trained on the deck's vertical supports for the roof. Depending on the price of sand, I may grow carrots. I have read that a mixture of sand and soil will help roots stay straight and not fork off.
I definitely won't be feeding our family exclusively, but it will still be appreciated and hopefully give me the confidence to step it up a notch next year...or even for the fall.

Another reason I resisted going in the ground is that we are moving this summer. We are still in the process of looking, but I have my heart set on a property in Ashland City, surrounded by 100 acres of glorious seclusion, open fields peppered with the landlord's cattle, and fenced in by woods. Wherever we end up, we have learned so much about what is truly important to us. We now have a solid list of what is a must have for our forever home. That's what I call the dream house in which we grow old, set down our roots, and have grandkids over for the summer.

Back to gardening, I also did some starters for tomatoes and bell peppers. I am hoping that we will move in adequate time to transplant and even grow cucumbers. I have a handful of jars left from last year's pickles. I am also looking forward to plugging in some perennials, such as asparagus and berry bushes. Perhaps even some apple trees. I previously had held off, thinking we will move before any of it can be used, but you never know. Really, even if I did leave it behind unenjoyed, it might inspire future tenants to pick up gardening. Live and learn.

Another sunny sign of spring is the dandelion. I know people typically curse these "weeds," but I decided to try out an old recipe for dandelion jelly. I wasn't sure what the flavor would be like, but I wasn't disappointed. It isn't terribly strong, like a light and floral honey. The hardest part is collecting, made easier by willing children.You also must separate the yellow petals from the green bud, which is tedious but goes quickly with the aid of scissors. Try this recipe for a unique gift and a way to cut the dandelion population slightly
Important: only use flowers from an untreated lawn. No pesticides, weed killer, etc. You do not want that in your body.

1. Pour 3 cups boiling water over 6 cups of dandelion petals, loosely packed. Cover and steep til cool. The color should be a dark amber.
2. Strain, using cheesecloth so that no petals or pollen remain in the tea. If you no longer have 3 cups, you may add water.
3. Bring tea to a rolling boil, adding 2 Tbsp lemon juice and 1 box of powdered pectin.
4. Stir in 4 1/2 cups of sugar and boil hard for 2 minutes. It should thicken to a syrup consistency. I always do the plate trick to make sure it is thick enough. Pour a small amount on a plate, let cool, drag your finger through. If the jelly comes together again, boil 2 more minutes. It is ready when your finger divides the jelly.
5. Fill jars to 1/4" and process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. Remove from pot, let cool overnight, then the rings may be removed. Check your seals and enjoy!

08 January 2013

Saving $$$ on Groceries

Everyone likes saving money. At least I hope so.
So, this post is about saving money on your grocery bill. Just some tips that keep this family of four fed at or below $100 a week.
            The first step is to learn how to cook. This is usually the first step in eating healthier as well, so two birds, one stone. Convenience foods are more expensive and usually higher in calories, fat, and sodium. Plus, do you really want all those preservatives and junk? This is definitely one of those life skills that everyone should have. The bulk of your purchases should be fresh fruit and vegetables, dried beans, pasta, grains, meat and dairy products (if you do that).
My thanksgiving turkey...a steal at 69cents/lb!
My biggest saver has been discounted goods on their way to the trash bin. It is worth it to figure out when your grocery store rotates products. Produce is always iffy, but all packaged meats have a “sell by” date. Most stores will have designated spots for discounted items. They may be tucked into an aisle or set off to the side. Our Krogers has a small shelf for discounted produce, and the last section of the meat is labeled “Managers Special.” There is also a few shelves next to the magazines that has all sorts of non-perishable items, like dried and canned goods, medicine, spices, even utensils, as well as seasonal items. I have never bought an item from this section that is even near its expiration date. It is usually a dented can, an old package design, or surplus. Some of the best deals have been 16oz boxes (yeah, I thought it was weird, too) of organic pumpkin puree for $.99 each, ibuprofen 100 200mg tablets for $1.49, 5lbs of organic unbleached flour for $2.49, dry pectin for $.25 a box, and my kids favorite cereal, Koala Krispies for $1.49 when they changed the box. You can really find some great deals.
Of course, there are the steadfast rules of shopping on a full stomach, comparing generic brands, sticking to a list, and shopping during the day or at night to avoid stressful crowds. Couponing is infamous now, but I haven't seen it play out in my life. I do not have the time or resources to be that extreme. I do keep the coupons from the register. I almost always get one that will take off $1 off of a $6 purchase of organic produce. I have to admit that I primarily shop organic produce and other goods. It does cost more, but I feel better putting it into my kids. Organic meats are just too expensive for us right now.
International markets are wonderful! The prices are phenomenal. You don't have to be a Thai fan to benefit either...but all the better if you are! They have a wide variety of items, including produce, milk, eggs, cheese, etc. Don't hesitate to ask for assistance if needed. Every manager I have encountered has been all too happy to translate labels or help me find the right kind of nori.
Farmer's Markets...my schedule pretty much keeps me from going. However, they are a great way to support local farmers while saving money. Ask questions! Where are they located? What are their practices? If you buy X amount of dollars, will they throw in something? Try going at the end of the day. Prices can be negotiated down, as making some money is better than none. Plus, they have a lighter load on the way home. CSAs are a great way to support independent farmers, and they usually try to throw in extras whenever possible to show their gratitude.
If you are able, of course raising at least part of your groceries will help. Anyone can have a little patio garden. If you have a yard, get into it. If you are legally able, try a couple chickens for eggs, and, if you can stomach it, raise chickens or rabbits for food.
Then, there's the extremists. Fregans! This one requires some leg work and good people skills. Ask grocery stores and restaurants if you can glean from their refuse. It will always be different, but free is free!

Woot! Apple Cider on Sale!

My favorite benefit to canning is saving money. Yesterday, our grocery store had apple cider on clearance for $1.99 a gallon. The regular price is $5.99. I bought 3 gallons. Obviously, no one can drink that much before it turns, so I canned most of it.

        1. Sterilize jars while warming up the cider. I would discourage spicing the cider before canning. Some spices become more potent the longer it sits, which can leave it undrinkable.
        2. Fill leaving ¼” headspace.
        3. Process for 30 minutes.

    I am looking forward to opening some up in August, which is when I start craving it, instead of waiting for the store to start stocking it. I can be quite impatient when it comes to fall flavors. This is also why we have 10+lbs of pumpkin on the shelf.

    Another way to preserve that cider would be jelly. I did this a few weeks ago, when our store marked down organic cider to $1.49. This turned out very well.

        1. Combine 2 cups cider, ½ cup lemon juice. Stir in more of less 2 cups sugar, depending on how sweet the cider is, and bring to a hard boil.
        2. Add 1 packet of liquid pectin and return to a hard boil for 1 minute.
        3. Remove from heat and skim off foam.
        4. Fill jars, leaving 1/2” headspace. Process in HWB for 15 minutes.

    It is perfect with pork roast. Rub it down with salt and rosemary. Quarter a couple apples and one onion in the pan. Cover and bake at 325 for about an hour or until the center accedes 145. Glaze with cider jelly the last 15 minutes.