Monday, January 31, 2011

Getting the Best Deal

Buying food without spending a premium is a skill that comes with practice.  To start build a menu that uses basics instead of ready prepared or boxed mixes.  The difference in cost between a box of au gratin potatoes and au gratin potatoes from scratch is  enough to  pay for two meals.

Secondly list the ingredients that you use most frequently.  Track the high and the low prices on these items.   I have one friend that carries a list of maybe 50 items that she regularly buys with the best prices she can find on a regular basis (non-sale).  Then when she is in the grocery store she can double check  the current price and compare between stores to help her make a good choice when buying.  Sometimes sales are not really sales.  For instance, 4/$5.00 may be higher than regular price at a different store.  If it is a good sale, buy double what you normally use.  Slowly the shelves fill up.  The same strategy can be employed with coupons.  Know what is a good deal and what is not.

On items that go on sale seasonally, buy lite through the rest of the year and save for stock up when that item comes on sale.  Flour is such an item.  The best time to look for loss leaders is between November 15- December 25.  Potatoes are a loss leader around the first of October, the end of January, and again the last of May/first of June.  Frozen Salmon and fish are on sale through Lent.  In most cases the Loss Leader sales are better than road side stands, restaurant supply, or regular grocery store prices.   Although all of these venues may be the bast route to take in any given area.  (In WI maybe the wholesale outlets are the best place to buy produce in bulk and split it up.)

Price out the price per unit (ounce or for Toilet paper it is the square) to make sure that you are comparing apples and apples.  Frozen vegetables are packaged in 12 ounces and 16 ounces.  Don't be fooled by a lower price for a lesser amount.  Here is also where one can determine if buying in bulk is effective or not.  Sometimes it is more expensive.

Don't worry if you don't always get the best deal if the bulk of the menu is built on the basics the cost per meal will most often be lower than eating out or buying boxes.  A regular price potato is $.30 per pound ( $.50-or higher for large bakers).  I counted the potatoes in a 10 pound sack and found the  average to be 10 cents per potato on the most expensive end.  Serving a meal where the main portion of the meal only cost 10 cents per person is still a very good deal.  Spice that potato with some onions, chili flavoring or butter and to give a delicious simple meal.  Rice is the same - an inexpensive way to build a delicious meal out of a long term shelf stable grain.

Be creative and know the sources, say a prayer and you'll find the price that is right for you.  I loved reading the story of a mother who always said a prayer before going into a store.  Inevitably when she entered she would hear over the speakers that a particular item would be on special for just the next hour.  She thanked God for leading her to that store at that time.  Those items were ones that she needed but had even forgotten to put them on the list to shop for them.  



Sunday, January 30, 2011

MOTHERS MATTER

A year has passed since our family completed a challenge to stay out of grocery stores for 90 days.  Two days ago when the teenagers suggested we stock up on items for food storage, I knew they had internalized the lesson.  Preparation yields comfort and security.  I also realized a mother's pay off when her children learn a lesson that will protect them for life.  Mothers Matter.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Empty Shelves in Georgia - Indian Potatoes

The stark grocery shelves in Georgia this week serve as a reminder to each of us that we need to prepare.  I almost feel guilty posting on Sunday until I remember that it is God's purpose to keep body and soul together.  This week I reviewed the story of Joseph sold into Egypt.  God prepared him to be in Egypt during a time of plenty so he could offer life saving food to his family during the times of want.  Each of us must prepare.

Our family bought potatoes last October when they dropped to 10 cents a pound.  We have eaten these potatoes for 3-1/2 months.  We have 6 weeks more storage of fresh potatoes.  We have enjoyed them mashed, baked, fried in potato skillets, Indian potatoes (recipe follows), and in soups.  It cost less than $20 for a 20 week supply for our family of 10.  Potatoes have 45% per serving of the RDA for Vitamin C if the skin is included in the meal.  This is a smart investment if the climate allows for storage.

The 25 pounds of rice that we purchased for $7.00 in the summer lasted easily 3 months with heavy use. We use rice under stir fries, gravies and curry soups; in soup, in chicken and rice dishes cooked in the crock pot and oven, in rice pudding, in jambalaya, pork fried rice and meatballs...

Flour dropped from $2.00 for 5 pounds to $.80 a 5 pound bag.  We bought a years supply of white flour.  We put it outside when temperatures were below freezing for 2-3 days.  This killed any larvae that may have been in the packaging.  Flour will store well if frozen for 48 hours and put in water proof containers.

Celery dropped to 20 cents a bunch at Thanksgiving.  I bought 8 bunches.  We are still enjoying the celery in soups.  It is still crunchy.

We have enjoyed a couple of turkeys from Thanksgiving sales, 80% lean ground beef has been on sale for $1.68 per pound.  I brown 10 pounds at a time, drain the fat and rinse the meat with hot water unless I am cooking to add calories and flavor. I freeze the browned meat in meal size portions.  For people with severely restricted diets due to allergies or intolerance's, the fat and flavor are needed.

Chicken hind quarters purchased for 40 cents a pound are prepared the same way: boiled, boned, and frozen in meal size portions.  The broth from boiling the chicken is used in a big pot of soup.

Other loss leaders over the last few months have allowed us to have all the cottage cheese we wanted; pasta, cake mixes, and pineapple tidbits to last over a year.

Our homes are the most reliable place to have food stored for times of need.  It takes minimal amount of cash to buy and store what one uses on a regular basis.  Buying on loss leaders and using what one has allows families to store what they normally eat.  The more variety in a "normal diet" insures greater flexibility in times of need.

Here is a recipe that our family really enjoys.  Originally this is an aloo gobi recipe from the Internet.  At an Indian restaurant, we found this dish to also be served with cabbage instead of cauliflower. I've modified the spices so it is not hot.

Indian Potatoes (for 10)

2 Tablespoons of oil
5 pounds potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2 inch squares
1 small head of cabbage cut into wedges and halved again (or 1/2 head large cauliflower)
1 Tablespoon fresh ground ginger (purchased fresh in a jar from Indian store)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
salt to taste
1/2 cup water

Put oil in large pot, add cabbage or cauliflower cut into large floweretts
Add potatoes.  Stir frequently.  Add spices and water.  Stir.
When potatoes are almost tender, I turn off the pot, cover the pot, and let the whole mixture steam.

Enjoy.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Expecting Miracles and Conversations

This Holiday Jesus's first miracle caused me to smile at the vision and power of Mothers.  Jesus's mother comes and makes him aware that they have run out of wine.  Jesus makes large jars of water turn to wine.  The guests acclaim the best wine was saved for last.  Guests at the party are blessed, Jesus's mother is relieved and for the first time the public becomes aware of Jesus's power to perform miracles.  Could Jesus have done such marvels if his mother had not first expressed faith in Jesus and second had not asked Him to intervene?  Most miracles come as a result of asking.  Mothers have special interest and can ask with a sincere heart.  God will answer such prayers.

Today:

We made a large pot of soup the ratios were:
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can corn
1 can cut green beans
1/3 pound ground beef (already browned and in the freezer.)
1/2 cup raw macaroni added to the mix
1- 1/2 cups (or 1 can) water
2 bullion cubes
salt and pepper to taste

While my four year old sat and ate his soup alone this morning, he posed the dilema,
"Mom, I have to find a girl."
"A Girl?"
"Yea, the right girl to marry."
"Oh, how are you going to do that?"
"I don't know," with a really worried tone.
"Do you think God wants you to have the right girl? May be you can pray and ask him to help protect the right girl for you."  

Such innocent conversations are shared spontaneously over a bowl of soup/simple meals.  I cook to have such conversation.  

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Years Resolutions

Our homes are the soul of our country.  The moral character of our citizens is directed in the ebb and flow of conversation around the dinner table.  To strengthen our homes, our communities and our nation it would be prudent to retrench to a lifestyle that requires 1) cooking from scratch, 2) sitting together for mealtimes, 3) nourishing relationships of friends and family, and 4) building our own strength to carry out such a plan.

This holiday my 18 month old helped me roll out gingerbread men.  She was grabbing the little boys scrunching them into a handful and plopping them on the baking sheet as fast as she could.  I was desperately trying to roll, cut out, and get those gingerbread boys on the sheet before she could pull them off.  It was chaotic.  Just as I was ready to scream, I had to laugh.  My baby was loving the moment.  She was in the center of the fun.  I had to re-evaluate.   The goal was to build a memory and a pleasant feeling of holiday cooking with my baby, not to produce a perfect gingerbread boy.  I smiled and gave her a compliment.  Success had been achieved.

For New Year's Eve (We ate all evening as we watched the New York ball drop and other festivities, played games, and watched movies at home.)

Cream cheese ball with crackers
Vegetable tray
M&M's and chocolate mint cookies
Shrimp with homemade cocktail sauce
Twice baked potatoes
Banana's Foster with Ice Cream
Chips and dip