Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Food Storage: Hard Core

Today I had the privilege of meeting a food storage enthusiast named Martha. Wow, she had a system for her family, and it WORKED! Just for the wow factor, she said that her little family of 5 (2 adults, 2 teenagers and 1 pre-teen) were able to now live on a budget of $175 a month on food. Okay, I'm feeding the same number of people, much smaller people, and one of them probably shouldn't count since I eat his portion of nutrients, but I spend double that a month on groceries. So what was she doing?! I thought I'd share some of the things I learned, and although I probably will not adopt her system or her budget necessarily, she had such a well balanced system, there was more than enough information and advice to work into my own system and thus improve our way of life.
*Martha: makes a two month menu (takes her about an hour and a half planning every 2 months) of breakfasts and dinners. She writes on her calendar sheet the food storage grain/staple that the meal will include: ie. beans, rice, wheat ect. so that she is rotating and using a variety of grains in her long term food storage.
*Stephanie: makes a one month menu and it seems to be enough for me. Dinners mostly. So I feel alright in this area.
*Improvement: I want to try using more grains and incorporate more dry grains in my food storage. I found out today you can cook beans in a crock pot with little effort, so I am going to learn how to prepare more things from scratch like beans and lentils.
*Martha: Only shops the sales. Now I realize, she has her year supply of every day foods already working in her basement, and that is a process over time, and I think that factor is the greatest contributing factor to her current food budget of $175/month. So this is attainable, after some serious thought, time, and work for anyone. She had a list she had created of the ingredients she used most often and an estimated number of how much. When she noticed the items in a sale, she did a quick inventory of her storage room and then restocked the shelf at sale price. That way she is always eating at the lowest possible cost out of pocket. For example, pastas were 50 cents/lb last week, she said she left the store with 30 lbs of spaghetti. She does go to the store weekly, but says some weeks she is only leaving the store with broccoli and apples, the rest is already at home.
*Stephanie: I have a three month list of ingredients I like to have on hand, but this is definitely an area I can improve. I never feel I have a clear idea of what I have in my pantry and storage.
*Improvement: I will now expand my list, and organize my shelves, so I can more accurately shop when things go on sale to really fill the need.

*Martha: has THREE freezers! A chest freezer dedicated to meats, a stand up freezer for everything else, and the fridge/freezer in her kitchen for things that are opened, being used, or left-overs. Yes folks, she freezes her left-overs from dinners, and the hubby takes them for lunches. She cooks a whole bunch of beans at a time and freezes them in smaller quantities to pull out and use. She buys 4 gallons of milk a month when they go on sale, and pours off one-two cups of milk from each one and freezes them. (Speaking of milk, she also stretches her milk with 3/4 dry milk 1/4 regular... I don't think I could do this.) That way she always has milk on hand. She has boxes or bins in her freezers to separate things, so she had a box for frozen fruits, a box for grated cheeses, she even freezes dairy products such as whipping cream, sour cream and cottage cheese. (although I hear these do come out altered...) Her chest freezer has quadrants in it to keep the meats organized so she can always find what she needs. Oh, so much more, but my brain couldn't absorb it all!
*Stephanie: My freezers are a mess! I was looking through the other day and had considered cooking up the "mystery meat" I found just for fun. I do have two freezers, a chest freezer and a fridge/freezer. I do notice that the things in the fridge/freezer get freezer burn if I don't use them quickly enough. We like to freeze things though, brown rice is a great one. We will make up a big pot and freeze it to use when we want to add some fiber to our rice meals. I have also made full meals, ie lasagna, enchiladas, casseroles... and frozen them ready to cook which is helpful in a pinch.
*Improvements: I want to get bins!! What a novel idea to help the organization! I also think I'll buy cheese and milk in greater quantities and try freezing them since it's something our family goes through a lot of (when they are on sale).

WHEW! I'm tired just reviewing those few things. It really was a little exhausting listening to Martha share her techniques. I came home wanting a nap. She has the mentality of a complete organizer, and I unfortunately wasn't blessed with this gift. But I was blessed with the gift of learning. So I can learn while I watch others. There was so much more she went over, and as I act on what I learned, I'll share more... but I think I'll start with this much for now.

Thanks for being my accountability, oh faithful Blogger.