I finally decided to try something that I’ve been researching for quite a while now. “Oven Canning”. It’s not really canning, but that what it’s been dubbed. Short version: You slowly heat your dry goods at a low oven temp, which kills any bugs and nasties and rids the food of any excess moisture. You then seal the jar and the shelf life of the dry goods is supposed to be extended by years. Pictured above: Whole Wheat Four, Cornmeal, Brown Rice, Oatmeal and Masa.
My mental breakdown…
- Safety: Yes, I know you can’t “can” in the oven due to the potential for botulism spores to grow. Botulism thrives in moist, low-acid foods. Dry foods are just that…dry. Therefore, the dry foods do not provide conditions for botulism to continue to exist. Coupled with the fact that the foods have already been dried once before, I consider this form of preservation to be very safe. In my opinion, the worst thing that can happen is that the food goes stale.
- Cost Efficient: Preserving dry goods allows me to purchase in bulk and then preserve in more manageable sizes. Yes, I could buy mylar bags, food grade buckets and oxygen absorbers, but how cost efficient is that? And after I open that 5 gallon bucket of whole wheat flour, what are the chances that I’m going to use it all before it goes bad? I’ll be much more likely to use a quart of the same flour and be able to use it while it’s fresh.
- Easy to Store: I find it much easier to store mason jars than I do bagged flour, rice, beans, cornmeal, etc. Some people freeze their flours to kill off any buggies that may be in there. No need to bulk up your freezer with dry goods!
- Emergency Prep: I find this to be a great addition to not just my pantry, but for emergency prep as well. Before I store the jars, I tape a recipe or cooking instructions onto the jar. That way, I’m not searching for a way to use the masa (corn tortillas!) when the time comes.
- Variety: You can preserve some processed foods this way as well. Pastas, some crackers and some cereals can be preserved for much longer than sitting in their original boxes or bags. The thing you have to remember is that these foods must be low in oil or they will become rancid under these preservation conditions. Check the label and make sure any oils used are at or near the bottom of the list of ingredients. So now…when I see my favorite crackers on sale, I can use this method to preserve them until my next picnic and/or pig-out session.
I do have to say, that these are my personal opinions. It is important that you do your own research if you feel unsure about this process and make then make your decision. I haven’t preserved crackers or cereal yet with this method, but it is next on my list!
If you’ve read this far and are still interested in this preservation process, here’s the how-to in order to get started:
- Gather pint or quart mason jars, clean lids and rings.
- Clean and sterilize the jars and then make sure they are BONE DRY. I ran mine through the dishwasher, then air dried overnight. Hand wash the lids and rings, making sure they are thoroughly dry as well.
- Line up empty jars onto a large baking sheet.
- Fill jars with dry goods (using a canning funnel will make this a cleaner job for sure!), shaking the jar slightly to assure the food is settled. Fill the jars, leaving approximately 1/2 inch headspace.
- Place baking sheet with jars into a cold oven. Preheat the oven to 200 degree. (Allowing the jars to slowly heat up will prevent breakage from sudden temperature change). After the oven is preheated, heat the filled jars for one hour.
- Take jars out of the oven ONE JAR AT A TIME, wipe the jar rim with a damp (not wet) paper towel to assure there is not food residue on the rim. This will help assure a good seal.
- Place a clean lid on the jar. Secure with a clean ring, tightening securely, but do not over-tighten. Place covered jar onto a clean dish cloth.
- Do this with each jar, leaving the remaining jars in the oven while you work. You need to do these last few steps rather quickly so that the temperature inside the jars doesn’t lower.
- Let the jars cool for a few hours or overnight. They should all seal during this time (you may or may not hear the “ping”) You can tell that the lid has sealed when the raised circle in the middle of the lid has “sunken” into the jar. It will no longer be raised.
- If you have a jar that hasn’t sealed, put it in your pantry and use it first.
And there you have it! I for one, am very happy that I discovered this preservation method. Not only will it make my life a lot easier, but it will do wonders for my wallet!
There are those times that good ol’ Mother Nature stops you in your tracks with her beauty. Well, she smacked me hard with some over-the-top artistry on Friday.
As I was driving towards my daughter’s college town for a visit, I drove past this amazing bush that was completely covered in ice. It was the only one, standing alone by the side of the road. I saw it as I approached a turn in the road and due to the narrowness of the road, was unable to stop to take a closer look. Mental note made.
On the way back, I kept assessing possible pull-off points as I was approaching the area of the bush. I ended up having to pull onto a side road and walk a little ways to get to the this wondrous beauty. So there I was, camera in hand, standing along a narrow, busy road staring at this amazing display. I was truly obsessed with it.
I noticed that each branch was covered in 1 to 2 inches of ice. Some branches had additional icicles that dripped delicately from them, while others jutted their own sparkling frozen points towards the sky. At first, I couldn’t figure out why this bush, and only this bush, was lucky enough to be bestowed with such elegance. So I stood there until I figured it out. It appears as if there is an area below the bush where a puddle forms from run-off of the nearby mountain. The puddle reaches onto the road. So when the puddle is large enough and a car goes by, it splashes the bush. With our temperatures being as cold as they have been, the ice hasn’t had a chance to melt and it just keeps accumulating. Huh!
I absolutely loved relishing in this nature-made sculpture (with a little help from man-made vehicles). I finally retreated back to my car when I realized that I was causing some drivers to panic a tad when they drove around the corner to find my butt in the road as I bent over trying to take the perfect picture. This was confirmed when an older gentleman stopped his car in the middle of the road to instruct “Get your damn self off of the road”. I reluctantly obliged, but not until I responded “But my damn self is just enjoying something beautiful”. I don’t think he was nearly as impressed by the ice bush as I was.
I think by now we all know the basics of preparing for an emergency (especially one that involves losing electric and water supply) and what basics we should have on hand (water, canned goods, etc). I am not a “prepper” per say, but I do like to be prepared. I have had to use my prepared pantry in the past, and am so very glad that I had it!
If you have already done some “prepping” and have a well stocked pantry along with an adequate emergency water supply, you’re in great shape. If you haven’t, please start on doing that before you start stocking up on the “luxury” items that I will be discussing. The most important thing is to survive in the face of an emergency.
Here are just a few of the “luxury” items that I feel would make muddling through a period of emergency much more bearable. They are in no particular order.
- Charcoal. Not only can you grill food with it, but you can purify water and even make an individual tin-can burner with charcoal as the fuel. Charcoal is also a natural “dehumidifier” and odor neutralizer.
- Paper plates, cups and bowls. Plastic cutlery. In a situation where you have limited water, the last thing you want to do is use that water to try to wash some dishes. Stock up on paper items that you can simply throw away or burn after use.
- Board games. Your cell phone will eventually lose power as will your charged laptops, iPads, etc. Your family will need something to do. Board games to the rescue!
- Batteries. You’ll need them for everything from flashlights to battery operated clocks. Stock up.
- Hand warmers. When the heat goes off, you will so happy to have these!
- Hand sanitizer. Use instead of water to clean your hands, preserving that precious H2O.
- Deck of cards. No one wants to play board games? Solitaire!
- Oil lamps w/ supply of oil. Yes, you may have propane burning lanterns, flashlights and a campfire or fireplace. I have found that oil lamps are so very efficient and one lamp can provide adequate lighting to an entire room. Plus, they’re pretty.
- Chocolate. This decadent treat lasts a very long time in the pantry and can be pulled out just when everyone thinks that all hope is gone. Ta-Da!! Chocolate to the rescue!
- Books/magazines. Your Kindle will be no more. Turn some real pages and enjoy!
- Tissues. Yes, you’ve stocked up on a nice supply of TP, but do you want to waste that on a case of the sniffles? And believe me, when the house gets colder and colder…you’re going to sniffle!
- Glow Sticks. Kids can have great fun with glow sticks if the power goes out. Fill a jar with them and you have a night light.
- Craft supplies. If you’re a crafter or hobbyist, stash away a project with all of the necessary items in one tote. Pull out the tote, sit next to the oil lamp, and get to work. No searching through your mounds of craft items in the dark.
- Fondue pot w/ fuel. NOT an electric fondue pot. One that uses actual fuel to heat the contents. You’ll have an indoor way to cook your food and the possibilities are endless! Just make sure you have a high temp cooking oil on hand (like peanut oil) to use. When you need to start using up the supplies in the fridge like cheeses and milk…make a cheese fondue and dip your breads and hot dogs in the gooey-ness!
- Car inverter. These things are worth their weight in gold in my opinion. Plug them into your car and they convert your battery power into AC power so you can plug in household items (like that Kindle charger). Obviously, you need to weigh whether or not it’s worth using your gasoline for whatever you need to power. Your call.
- Walkie talkies. I will guarantee someone in the house is going to “go check it out”…whatever “it” is that happened to disrupt your life. Cell phones won’t be charged, so have a good set of walkie talkies on hand to assure you don’t lose communication.
- Puzzles and puzzle books. This goes along the same idea as solitaire. Activities that can be done by one person if they’re bored.
- OTC medicines. Now you KNOW that about day 2 or 3 someone’s going to get sick. It never fails. Make sure to have headache, allergy, belly and antacid medicines on hand. While you’re at it, stash some vitamins as well.
- Sunscreen. If your emergency happens to occur during the warmer months and you’re able to be outdoors, you’ll want the protections from the fire in the sky.
- Small gifts. What happens if you find yourself going on weeks without power and someone’s birthday falls within that time? You may not be able to invite a bunch of friends to celebrate, but you will be able to provide something to unwrap. It’s also a good idea to keep a package or two of cupcake liners around so that you can fill them with whatever you have on hand (chocolate pieces perhaps?) to help set the mood.
- Reading glasses. If your house is like mine…these “cheater” glasses are everywhere in our house. Yet there are times that we can’t find a single pair. Have some set aside.
- Camera with fresh batteries. You’ll want to preserve these moments forever. Trust me.
- Disposable diapers. A lot of parents are using cloth diapers again, but you really should have at least one pack of disposables put away for a time like this. Nothing like soiled diapers laying around for days or weeks to provide a natural potpourri. Eeeek.
- Toothpaste and floss. No one wants to smell your funky breath when you yell “Yahtzee”! Reserve very small amounts of water to rinse.
- Salt, pepper, dried herbs and spices. Let’s face it…your food is going to be bland. These will help perk them up like they were simmered over the stove by Grandma.
- Home Improvement books. Have one on each subject: Plumbing, Carpentry, Electrical and Masonry. At least you’ll have some knowledge if something goes wrong.
- Extra blankets for pets and to wrap your free standing freezer. Keep your older blankets in a garbage bag or tote (labeled) and grab them as soon as your power goes out. Wrap your chest or upright freezer with the blanket and secure with bungee cords or rope. This will help insulate and preserve your frozen foods even longer.
- Sanitizing wipes. Use these for cleanups in the bathrooms and kitchen instead of water.
- Scented lotion. So us women can smell somewhat fresh. Truth is…we’re not going to be showering, we’re going to need all the help we can get.
- Family members favorite non-perishable foods. For instance, I keep a stash of canned artichoke hearts. Because they’re pretty expensive to buy, we like to cook with them on special occasions. How about Buffalo Wing Sauce? You can make just about anything taste good by slathering it with wing sauce (or so says my husband).
This is my list of not “must-haves”, but “want-haves”. They certainly would make my life a little easier if faced with an emergency. Truth be told, they HAVE made my life easier in emergencies. If you have a “luxury” stash item, I’d love to know about it!
I’m always on the hunt for good quick bread recipes. My freezer was getting filled up with bananas, so I searched for a decent banana bread recipe and came up with this one from food.com. I gave it a try (adding a handful of chocolate chips of course) and really enjoyed it. It’s frugal, easy to make and keeps well in the refrigerator. Sold! I’ll share the recipe with you:
Lower Fat Banana Bread
- 4 very ripe bananas
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup white sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons applesauce
- 1/8 cup of chocolate chips (optional)
- Mash the bananas in a large bowl.
- Add the remaining ingredients and mix well (do not over mix)
- Pour into a greased loaf pan.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of loaf comes out clean. (Mine took 40 minutes due to the heart pan being more shallow, adjust accordingly)
I told you it was easy peasy. I love foods that take so little time to come together, yet taste like you spent a lifetime perfecting the goodness of the final product.
Posted in Frugal Meals, Recipes
Tagged bake, baking, banana bread, cook, frugal, frugal meals, frugality, kitchen, recipe, recipes, thrifty
Did you ever notice that sometimes the most simple of things are the best? Well, when it comes to cooking, that seems to be the case quite a bit. Take for instance this simple, frugal salad. Two main ingredients plus a dressing. And POW…full of flavor. This is my “new recipe of the week” that I tried (and tweaked) to fit my taste. Here goes:
Apple Lettuce Salad w/ Fruit Vinaigrette Dressing
- 1/2 cup unsweetened fruit juice (apple, pear, pineapple etc.) I used pomegranate because I had it on hand.
- 2 tbsp lemon juice (don’t use if you’re using citrus for your primary juice)
- 2 tbsp cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
- 4 1/2 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard (I used honey mustard and it came out great)
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 medium red apple, chopped
- 1 medium green apple, chopped
- 6 cups torn lettuce
- In a large salad bowl, whisk the first 10 ingredients until blended. Add apples and toss to coat.
- Place lettuce over the apple mixture (do not toss).
- Refrigerate; toss right before serving.
- Top with a sprinkling of sunflower seeds and/or ground pecans. (optional)
- Serves 6
This recipe can easily be halved and is a great lunch salad! I found this recipe in an old copy of Taste of Home magazine (2003). They used apple juice and did not include any nuts.
If you’re looking for something light, easy, frugal and full of flavor this salad is for you! I’m putting this one on the regular rotation schedule for sure.
Well, the crutches came off on Thursday and I’m finally getting to the point that I can stand in the kitchen long enough to make some decent meals. I am so very excited! It’s been almost two months and I was getting rather cranky if I must say so myself. So today I made Meatloaf with Homemade Onion Straws. YUM! It was absolutely delicious. This recipe is easy and uses up items in the pantry. Here goes:
Meatloaf with Homemade Onion Straws:
In the morning (at least 5 hours before cook time, or even the night before), slice 1 large onion very thinly. Spread the slices out on food dehydrator trays and run dehydrator until slices are dry and crisp. If you don’t have a dehydrator, this step can be done in the oven. Spread slices on baking sheets (no oil) and put in a low oven (150 to 200 degrees) until dry and crispy. Please note that if using the oven, it will take longer than in the dehydrator and you should plan accordingly. They can be kept in an airtight container for several days before consumption.
For the meatloaf, mix the following ingredients together in a large bowl:
- 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef or turkey (or a combination of both)
- 1 box of stuffing mix (like Stovetop)
- 1 cup water
- 1 egg
When the ingredients are combined, press into a loaf pan and cook at 350 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes. During the last 15 minutes of cooking, you can add the sauce of your choice to the top of the meatloaf. (optional) Here’s the one that I used:
- 1 can (6 oz) tomato sauce
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp steak sauce
As you can see, there are very few ingredients, most of which you may already have on hand. Let the meatloaf cool for approximately 10 minutes before slicing. Top each slice with a handful of onion straws. Totally brings your average meatloaf to a higher level with very little extra effort.
Side note: I’ve posted pictures of my daughter’s new bunny previously, but this one just cracks me up. We do believe that at some point during her bunny shenanigans, she broke her right ear. She is now lopsided. I think it adds a ton of character.
Posted in Food, Frugal Meals, Photos
Tagged cook, cooking, food, frugal, frugal meal, life, meatloaf, photo, photos, pic, picture, pictures, recipe, recipes, thrifty
While being on crutches, I have to get creative on projects. I have to be able to do them while sitting for short periods of time (or else my knee gets really stiff) and I have to have all of the items for the project within reach due to the fact that carrying items with crutches is downright life threatening! So in the last few days, I’ve organized some recipes, sorted my magazines and decided to get my coupons in order for the coupon swap tonight.
Given the fact that I’ve been homebound for the last 5 weeks and with holiday preparation before that, my coupon organizer was so desperately pathetic! I had very few coupons, most of which were expired. But, it’s a new year, our coupon swap is starting up again and given the fact that groceries prices are expected to rise another 3% to 5%, I’m rejuvenated in my quest to save money. So, I sadly disposed of my expired coupons, emptied out all of my store envelopes and clipped any new coupons that I had. I’m ready!
In line with my frugal nature, I went ahead and made the plunge to buy a food dehydrator. I saw one on sale for $30 with the Nesco name. It is a basic model, but had over 200 reviews, so I went for it. It arrived today and I’ll be trying this baby out tomorrow morning. I always dried my produce in the oven, but I wanted something that I could use throughout the summer months without heating up the kitchen. I’ll be able to put this one anywhere, including on the porch. I also purchased the jerky tray so I could not only make jerky, but make my own powdered eggs as well. I’m looking forward to experimenting!
Posted in Food, Grocery Savings, Money Saving Ideas, Photos
Tagged coupon, coupons, food. money saving, frugal, groceries, life, photos, preserving