Friday, July 20, 2012

Maximum Consumption

I swear!!!  that's why I was gone so long this time!!  But I fought my way out of their clutches and got back here as soon as possible!!  Really....!
LOL!  Anyway, I thought that was the funniest picture but apparently my humor runs way different than most people.  Well, humor, interests, brain whole being.....well, anyway!!! back to the subject at hand!

So, we did grocery shopping last time and this post will cover other means of food production and saving. Of course, you all know, one of the main things is that I grow as much as I can of what we eat and we preserve as much of that as we can in order to go through the winter without having to buy many veggies and fruits.  Now, I realize that both the growing and preserving takes space and many people don't have much space but I believe you can do quite a lot even with limited area.  A friend of mine swears by the Square Foot gardening method and I would recommend checking out some books on that if you are interested.  I have seen some people do some amazing things just growing veggies in buckets on fire escapes.  You know, it's all what you are willing to do.  Even if you can only grow herbs on your windows sills, that's something.  If you have even a small yard you can grow many things, even mixing some veggies in the flower beds and such so it can be attractive.  I'm fortunate to live where no one can even see my house so I can do as I please.
As far as the garden itself goes, I invest in as many perennial veggies and fruits as I can.  Things that you plant once (and pay for once) and they bear for years.  This was a major reason we started the asparagus bed this year and I have been trying to plant a number of fruit trees or shrubs and get them established.  I add to my herb collection whenever I can and most of these are perennial so once they are established they will come back and you don't have to sow them every year.  Store bought seasonings are fairly pricey these days (at least the good ones) and just growing that can save some decent money.  I save seeds and start my own seedlings and will be doing this even more because I noticed seed prices, for a few things I did buy, were astronomical this year.  I also don't grow anything that we don't absolutely love.  I know some people will grow some stuff just because it's super early or grows fast but to me that's a waste of time, effort and space if I don't much like to eat it.  Having chickens has greatly reduced our need to purchase fertilizers or such to build up this soil.  In fact, between the chicken poo and composting I don't buy any amendments unless they are on a super sale; like that fish emulsion we got for $1 a bottle.  All of our kitchen wastes either go for the chickens to eat or go in the compost pile, so that either saves money on chicken feed or soil feed, so to speak.  My fruit trees are not really producing yet, except for the figs!, so right now we just buy locally.  It's not always cheap exactly but it is better than store bought in price and quality.  Plus, you're supporting local people.  I've said this before, so I guess I'm beating a dead horse, but growing at least part of your own food saves so much in so many ways, I don't see why more people don't do it.  Well, actually I do.  It's hard work and it's usually dirty.
So, as far as preserving the food, the best way is a way in which no further costs are incurred after the initial preservation.  Such as drying or canning as opposed to freezing.  Yes, I do freeze a number of things now because I don't have a pressure canner but I am going to try to remedy that.  I do can what I can now. ??? Got that?  LOL!  Jams, salsas, pickles, preserves, tomatoes, etc. require only a boiling water bath to seal and that is pretty easy.  Every year I try to put up more and more this way and I'm trying to dry more stuff too.  There is an initial start-up cost to canning, unless someone donates all their supplies to you, but the costs work themselves out quickly.  Since my mother and grandmother always canned I have saved a good deal of money on supplies by just using some of their old stuff.  Glass jars never go bad unless they get chipped or cracked and I enjoy using ones I know my Mama used.  You can sometimes find canning jars and other supplies in thrift stores or yard sales and I am always on the look out for such.  I also found out this year that many "dollar stores", as we call them, will have canning lids, pectin and such for drastically lower prices than Wal-Mart or other supposedly cheap stores.  I am going to invest I some of the reusable canning lids too.  They are initially more expensive but can but used over and over and over.  This saves money and resources.  In my experience, home canned products can range anywhere from a few cents per pint, if you grow or get the food free, to $1-2 per pint if you have to buy the food.  Either way it is a savings and a much better product than store bought and almost a zero-mile food.  Water bath canning is extremely easy too, so don't let it intimidate you.  I started with pickles and went from there.  I also usually do all the water bath part on an outside burner so it doesn't heat up the house and cause me to spend more trying to get it cooled back off inside! 
Drying food is super easy and can be done with an electric dryer or one of many types of solar dryers that can be easily built.  You can even dry food on the dash of your vehicle on a hot day!  I either store my dried foods in glass jars or in those vacuum sealed bags.  My Mama gave me her latest copy of Ball's Blue Book for preserving food and I highly recommend it.  It covers everything from canning to freezing and dehydration.  Of course, there are tons of great books on the subject nowadays so there are plenty to choose from if you want one even more extensive.
Meat is another thing you can produce at home at a great savings if you have the land and are zoned for it.  I would like to raise our own pork one day in addition to the chickens we have now.  Adequate pasture is essential though because if you have to buy too much feed to keep the animal up then your costs can skyrocket.  I don't know that chickens are cost effective just for their eggs, unless you can sell some, but I just enjoy having them so much I don't mind and they are hugely better than store bought eggs.  We do buy a half or quarter of a beef once a year from a local farmer and this is always a savings over store bought.  I have signed up for another this fall and, considering what they are predicting beef prices to be because of the corn harvest, this may end up being a tremendous saving this year.  Store bought conventional beef here runs around $10-11/ lb. now; with this drought in corn producing states they expect it to go even higher.  I pay around $5-6/ lb. for pasture raised local beef when I buy a half or so.  It is initially a large chunk to put out but it's paid for and can't go up later in addition to being cheaper to begin with.  I know a lot of people squeal over the cost of such things but you have to look at the big picture and realize a lot of people blow that much money or more, per year, on crap like TV or Starbucks coffee. 
I will say one other thing about storing/ preserving food:  Only put up what you would reasonably use in a year or so.  I know so many people that seem to have developed an obsessive disorder on food, buying and canning so much food that it literally sits and rots on the shelves because there is no way it can be used up before it goes bad.  Or people that buy and freeze enough stuff to fill 2 full-size freezers and it sits in those freezers until it mummifies.  This is a horrifying waste of money in my opinion.  Waste of money on the food, the equipment to store it and the power to keep them running.  I have been trying to keep some detailed records of how much of each product I make each year to know if that was sufficient to last all year or did I run out or not use half of it and such.  I also write the date of canning on each jar lid, that way I know how long it is good for and that lid has been marked on, so once opened I know to not reuse it for canning.

So, I guess that is it for food, unless ya'll know of something I left out.  I think clothes was to be the next subject so I'll be back on that soon!


ErinFromIowa said...

I know a lot of people squeal over the cost of such things but you have to look at the big picture and realize a lot of people blow that much money or more, per year, on crap like TV or Starbucks coffee.

I agree. People do question me spending more to buy quality food and then I see them blowing their money on crap. Especially highly processed foods. Blech.

Update on my gardening indoors. I now have three tomato plants! The latest is a Roma. They are doing great and starting to ripen. Who knew? I am not sure but mine might be doing a lot better than the ones outdoors with the drought hereabouts.

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

More food ideas and we also did the canning and freezing one year, but wound up with either too much or too little of stuff. Way too many jars of pickles, which were later given away so a not to waste them. Too little of canned tomatoes for all the work involved, so last year we made sauce and froze that and are still using it. This year we only grew a couple of tomato plants, few pepper plants, and learned that 3 cuke plants are 2 too many for us.

edifice rex said...

Hey Erin! Yay!!! on the tomatoes!! that's great!
Yeah, processed and pre-packaged foods are waaay over priced for what you get.

Hey Bea! Yeah, it takes a couple of years, I think, to work out just how much of each product your family uses. I've about figured out how much we will go through but good records are essential.

Gin said...

Love what you're doing to feed yourself. Wise woman. I raised a "real" garden for more years than I want to admit, but now I'm in town and am having to learn square foot gardening. It's whole different ballgame involving careful planning and multiple, successive plantings. Still, it's amazing how much you can raise in several small areas. One thing I do differently from you (but only because my space is limited), is raise enough of some things to can two year's worth, like pickling cucumbers. The second year I won't grow that plant but will use that space for something else. Things that are canned for two years are still well within the safe range for home canned foods. I'm still planting and things are doing well now that the temps have dropped out of the 100+ range and we've gotten some rain. Keep on garden reporting. I'm lovin' it.

HermitJim said...

Sounds pretty organized to me. You make some very good suggestions as well!

"Store what you eat and eat what you store" is always good advice!

Good work, my friend!

edifice rex said...

Hey Gin! that's a good tip and actually I have done that too but didn't think about it! Mainly I do that with hot peppers and I dry them but yes, canned stuff can last 2 years easy. I had 2 or 3 cayenne pepper plants that made so much I am still using those things after 2 years!

Hey Jim! thanks!!