Homesteading – Putting By

Out my front door

We are isolated here in bad weather. Although only fifteen minutes or so from a town with gas, groceries and a bank, the roads are narrow and treacherous in the winter. I don’t like to drive more than necessary; the old Dakota has a drinking problem and likes to binge when it gets started.

I have been intending to stock up and put byto use for the rest of the winter, and even into the summer months, because the ol’ truck doesn’t use any less gas then. I have a plan and a shopping list, which is only partly filled. My favourite bulk food store has been closed for renovations, so I am making do with the small stock of beans and oatmeal I have, and I am running low on some spices and herbs.

I did just buy four half-pound bags of good coffee today at a good discount, and this will last us for quite a while, along with the coffee I already had. I have enough tea for most of the year, enough flour as well; my stepson gave me butter for Christmas and that will see us at least half a year. I have enough beef, pork, sausage and cheese to see us to the beginning of Lent. I have about fifty pounds of potatoes, enough to last into spring. We have onions, turnip, pumpkin, squash (but could use more) and some beets. We have apples and oranges and clementines. We have canned tomatoes and some pasta and rice. This is plenty for us, with a small stock of sugar and honey and molasses. I even have some chocolate at hand for baking some bikkies for Nicholas. I will need to buy milk fresh until Lent, and will stock up on vinegar and olive oil when it is next on sale.

We don’t have a great deal of variety in our diet this time of year. I get winter vegetables to keep, and buy almost no fresh out-of-season produce. Our diet gets quite simple. It is nourishing and low fat, which is necessary for both of us right now. I use butter and olive oil in cooking, but not much. I try to find lean meats, which we don’t eat very often.

I bought toilet paper today, the only paper product we are using now. Once the boxes of tissue we inherited are gone I will hem some flannelette remnants to use as hankies. I have a big bag of rags for cleaning. When we have bacon I drain the fried slices on a cookie cooling rack over a baking sheet. I save the grease for roasting potatoes by pouring it into a jar and storing it in the refrigerator.

We were living a block from a store until we moved here. I didn’t need to stock up; most things were available at a good price close by. The “store” could “store” things for us. Now I must drive two hours to buy medicinal herbs and most of my dried food supplies. I multi-task those trips as much as I can, visiting at least three or four stores. The transportation cost is high if I don’t. Depending on how much I needed to buy, I can add anywhere from 10 cents to a dollar per item in that extra transportation cost. I need to buy in quantity to keep the price low.

We’ve got enough storage here for extra items, with cabinets and closets and cupboards. We have almost no food waste. The only thing I’ve thrown out in more than a month was a half cup of tomato soup I forgot to refrigerate. I make an effort to keep tabs on what I have bought, and use fresh vegetables and fruit before it goes bad. I don’t think I’ve ever thrown out spoiled meat or fish.

My advice: Don’t buy processed food except as an occasional treat. I avoid boxed cereals, crackers and bread products because I want to eat my grains as close to whole as I can. I plan to add a grain mill to the household before winter next. I don’t buy canned food except for tomatoes, because I don’t have any home canned ones. That will be remedied this year. (The tomato soup is left from a travel box. I always take some food with me when visiting friends or staying in motels.) Pasta is my one convenience food, and we don’t eat it much. I make lots of home made soups, often just vegetables. We may have cheese toast with it for protein, or multi-grain bread.

My one weak spot is that I need to have some things in the house that can be prepared quickly, besides peanut butter sandwiches. My week or two of debility was a bit of a trial, mealwise. Nicholas does not cook, and it is not a time for him to learn. I am planning to put by some jars of pickled eggs and other homemade snacks. We don’t have a freezer yet, or I would set aside leftovers for that purpose. My refrigerator freezer is full of bags of flour right now!

I am interested to hear how other homesteaders cope with food supply, especially what you have done before you had garden crops.


16 thoughts on “Homesteading – Putting By

  1. It’s 18 degrees below zero Fahrenheit here in southwestern Montana now, so in effect my whole garage is a giant freezer and I can leave my whole wheat flour that I grind 2 quarts at a time out there on the shelves in an airtight and mouse-proof container as well as meal leftovers. I always cook a whole crockpot full of beans which I buy in bulk quantities, and freeze what I don’t use right away. Mashed up cooked beans with some herbs and a little oil or bacon fat for flavor and a minimum of salt can be used as a bread or cracker spread that’s a lot lower in fat and salt than store bought peanut butter. Whole wheat quick bread can be made with mashed beans in place of half of the usual amount of fat. We call it cowboy bread. Milk is much more economical bought dried and mixed up as you need it. It just needs to be chilled overnight to taste the best. A little of the half and half we buy anyway for coffee creamer, about a quarter cup to a half gallon helps a bit too, but for cooking it can be used straight and newly mixed. Years ago I bought two books, Make-A-Mix and More Make-A-Mix, by three LDS women on making convenience and other dry type mixes at home so I could outfit my husband, his brothers and son with the convenience of dry pancake and baking mixes when they went hunting without paying the expense for them at the store. They have proved to be worth their weight in gold. I just ignore the soup mixes that call for bullion cubes. A solar food dryer or just a wind and sunlight food dryer might be worth finding. I do a lot of food drying myself, odd lots of vegetables out of the garden, too small for a batch of canning make a jar of mixed vegetables that I can soak overnight and but into a pot of soup or mash into the previously mentioned bean spread for extra flavor or run through a blender with some hot milk for a quick cream of vegetable soup, the plums off our plum tree after I have put up a couple dozen jars of plum jam. Even grated cheese can be dried for less storage space and crushed to make a cheese powder for baking or popcorn topping. Dried tomatoes are much easier to make and store than canning them. They are however much seedier. Where the food dehydrator really helps my budget with making jerky, seeing as how I have so many hunters in the family. The price of jerky even at the meat shop is outrageous.
    Linda Albert

    • Canned tomatoes are my convenience food, but I love dried ones. I had a dehydrator, but the person who gave it to me had stored it in her basement and it had an odor, so I got rid of it. I hope to build one this summer which doesn’t need electricity. These are excellent ideas. We have had temps at near freezing, so the garage wasn’t a food storage option this winter. I’ve done that too! I am still hunting for good food storage containers when I can because I am certainly not going to buy them at full retail price. I don’t use plastic for storage so finding enough glass, steel or stoneware is always a treasure hunt.

  2. magdalena,

    This makes me thankful for our temperate to tropical climate here in Aus and the availability of good food year round.

    In Tasmania, (our only cool climate state, with little snow but temps close to those of Southern Europe during winter) however, among the homesteaders and communities who are following a dream similar to yours – mostly artisanal dairiers, heirloom livestock raisers, vegetable growers etc, they speak of ‘the hungry patch’ in our winter (June July August) especially toward the end when the fresh produce and stores have been eaten, and the Spring crops not yet ready to harvest – breads, cheese, wine, nuts, some meats etc. Your ‘winter’ diet sounds delicious!

    I am one who needs to lose weight also; I know what to do, the qualities of the foods to be eaten etc and do not waste money on take away or deep fried timebombs – too much luxury though – good butter, cheese, olive oil and preserved meats – and NOT ENOUGH exercise – My doc will read me the riot act when i go for my checkup tomorrow!

    Please pray that my sins of luxury and yes, over-indulgance with the good things of life (we used to call it gluttony and well; hmm; I should just call it for waht it is) , food wise -healthy, but too lavish – don’t come home to roost in the form of nasty metabolic syndrome etc.

    I really worked hard during the Advent fast and made very good running – then blew it between Christmas and new Year!!


    • Oh, Lent is coming! Follow the Orthodox fasting rules and you will lose weight! No meat, dairy, eggs, no sweets, two “dry” (very plain) meals in a day, of beans, vegetables, whole grains. Weekends, you can have olive oil and wine, but not very much. Honey is allowed as a sweetener and for its health benefits. I usually cook the dried beans, after soaking, with garlic and onion and carrots so they have some flavour, but typically, you are not supposed to indulge in highly seasoned foods, so no sauces. Some may need a calcium supplement in fasting. But usually it is not a problem – it is short term, most of us are just chockful of needed fat and protein anyway. We will keep eating eggs a couple of times a week to keep up my iron levels and for Nicholas’s health as well. You have to do this with extra prayer and study, though. It is a discipline. Once Lent is over, stay away from the Easter treats! I would recommend fasting two days a week – same rules. Typically, this is Wednesday and Friday. Monastics used to include Monday.

      Know your weakness and avoid it. If it is sweets, don’t visit or shop. Buy your fasting foods before Ash Wednesday and stay out of the stores. If it is bread and you will eat three slices instead of one, use rice, quinoa, or oatmeal for your grain. If it is fruit, buy only vegetables. Learn to drink tea and coffee black. I recommend giving up artificial sweeteners. They make you crave carbs.

      Also, be very strict with yourself on how much you cook and measure your portions. Put leftovers away immediately!

      I caution you to avoid fasting chat groups. They often get cranky during Lent. Be prepared to exercise great patience with yourself and others.

      Blessings on your efforts, May God be with you.

  3. magdalena,

    I left off oil during Advent fast (though allowed in avocado and whole nuts plus olives for their health benefits and was strict with them, knowing what amount yields the correct nutriant and slummed it with baked beans and brown rice for dinner most of the time with a little lime and soy sauce, vegetarian sushi for lunch (one single serve roll) plus miso soup, and buckwheat with honey for breakfast, with fruit.

    Our Southern Hemisphere Lent is the transitional season for fruit; the winter mandarins are not in, and the stone fruit is well past its best, only apples, grapefruit and banana are good; figs will be finished by the start of lent this year. If the avocado and whole nuts are stretching the Orthodox fast rules envelope, I’m willing to set them aside, and after the Easter presentation I gave at uni last year based on I stayed away for a long time… but its time again, it seems, along with tightening my simple ‘no meat’ on Wednesdays and Fridays to something a little more riggerous.

    Many, many thanks!



    • Avocadoes and nuts are fine in the fast. We include peanut butter, the natural kind with no added oils, sugar or salt. Japanese food is usually good through fasts, as you found, as long as it is vegetarian. Catholic fasting rules are different. Anglicans seem to be confused, because they expect total abstinence, which is called for rarely (Good Friday, between dawn and dusk). Young children do not fast until the age of nine, but after that can follow the vegetarian fast. Green leafy vegetables will provide enough calcium but may be hard to get in some places in Lent – like here.

  4. We can our garden produce, we raise our own beef, and I keep basic staples on hand, flour, sugar, salt, honey, rice and always cheese. I buy a lot of butter when it is on sale. We bake our own bread so always have a store of bread flour and yeast. For convenience I make soup and freeze it in canning jars, it is a quick, nourishing meal. We usually have laying hens, we will not until this spring, as our flock pretty much stopped laying so were dispatched! Eggs make a quick meal, and are so versatile. I do keep a supply of store bought soup, tins of baked beans, and pasta. I stock up on TP when it is on sale, we do not purchase/use any other paper products. My husband works construction so he does not work much in the winter, it is really nice that during the winter I can limit my weekly grocery list to 5 gallons of milk and any misc. items we may need, I make sure we have oranges and apples in the house to snack on, but basically I can limit my cash outflow to $30 or less, and some weeks we only purchase milk.
    Some quick nourishing meals, baked beans on toast with a fried egg on top. Cheese toastie and bowl of soup. Omelet. Scrambled eggs and toast. Chili – left overs freeze well – and can be reheated at any time. French toast is a quick and tasty meal.

    • I bake and freeze baked beans as DH doesn’t like canned ones. I have some square canning jars now, so will be freezing soup, etc.

  5. We’re lucky (unless you count 3 months of 90-degree-plus weather) to have 2 growing seasons here, so our diet is varied, even in winter. Right now we’re harvesting greens/cabbage/collards/turnips. The carrots will be ready in late February. This year it is my resolution to ‘put by’ a whole heckuva lot more food than I have been. In past years I’ve gardened because it was a joy, and given away probably over half what I produced to family & friends who can’t/don’t garden. This year–so solly. I’m canning/freezing for myself first, to save $$. I will volunteer to help my non-gardeners begin gardening instead. Teach a man to fish…etc etc.
    In the past I’ve given up chocolate for Lent. The prospect of following the Orthodox fasting rules is pretty scary. I’m a…well…okay. I love food. All kinds of food. Especially the foods laden with fat & seasonings. Think buffalo wings with bleu cheese dressing. Anything French as long as there’s a cream sauce attached to it. Chocolate. I think I might well spontaneously combust if I tried the Orthodox fast. But I’ll see if I can work up the nerve by Ash Weds.

    Thanks for such an interesting & thought-provoking blog.

    • I always think of the Orthodox fast as for advanced fasters! It’s not for the newbies! Try giving up and moderating foods you know you shouldn’t be eating. It might be doughnuts or french fries, it mught be chicken cordon bleu if you eat it enough to make a difference. Did I mention no alcohol, except wine on weekends? I don’t usually have to say anything here, since many of my readers are abstainers or light drinkers. I think.

      I like the idea of teaching others instead of subsidizing their grocery bill. Get them gardening, and maybe you can set up a little cooperative endeavour to make sure elderly and shut-ins get a little produce delivery each week, so that isn’t all on your shoulders. I recommend planting a row of something for the food bank, as well – good keepers like carrots and cabbage.

      • Just to be clear on the Orthodox customs for fasting during Great Lent, fish is allowed on Annunciation and Palm Sunday, and (inexpensive) seafood is allowed at any time, so it isn’t exactly vegetarian unless one wants it that way. The use of oil differs: strictly speaking, the rule is “no olive oil”, but many people will avoid any kind of cooking fat. As a matter of economia (application of the rules to specific situations), most people I know will eat fish all through Lent, and use inexpensive vegetable oil but not butter, meat fat, or olive oil or other “luxury” cooking oils. As with everything else, if you ask five Orthodox Christians what the fasting rules are, you will get six different answers. 🙂 And by the way, we Orthodox consider the whole nine yards of the rule “for advanced fasters”, too, which to us means monks. Lay people are only expected to do what they can, but no less than that.

      • It’s so difficult to explain Orthodox fasting to others, since the “rules” differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, even in the same ethnic group. (There are four different Ukrainian jurisdictions worldwide, for instance.) And everyone has to adapt the fast to their own circumstances, as well. I will continue to use olive oil because it is the only cooking oil we can both eat, but I will use it sparingly – no fried foods. We won’t eat meat or fish because fish is an expensive luxury here. We will eat eggs because my husband needs the protein and I need the iron. We will eat fairly plain winter storage vegetables rather than expensive “garden” imports like lettuce and tomatoes. As priests, we pretty much stick to the monastic rules for fasting, as much as we can.

  6. We had the opportunity to practice using our food storage outside our home for almost 3 months. The one thing we found that was we didn’t have enough quick meals. A Coleman stove uses a lot of propane outdoors in windy South Dakota. We could only get 3 very simple meals with hot drink and hot water for the dishes for 4 people out of 2 one pound propane tanks.

    That helped us realize that we needed more heat and eat meals. So we have home canned soup beans, chili and similar things. We don’t put things we don’t have to in the freezer since the power goes out summer and winter here. These types of meals, either home canned or frozen would be good for your husband to cook when you are sick or for you to cook when you both get sick at the same time.

    I don’t use bullion cubes for broth I use commercial soup stock paste. The type that need to be refrigerated after opening is better flavor. They aren’t just salt cubes like bullion and I can sit down with a mug of hot broth in just a few minutes.

    We try to make sure that we have the makings of what each of us prefers when we are sick. Most are quick fix.

  7. I live in town in an apartment so I do not have a lot of food at home but the basics of course. I buy cheap meat and put in the freezer and I have a big cupboard of dry goods. I do not use much flour as I am beginning to think that I am gluten-intolerant or have wheat allergy because I feel so much better if I don’t eat bread, pasta and so on. I try to limit all kinds of sugar and starch as it makes me gain weight and eat plenty of fat instead, mainly butter and coconut oil.

    I have started thinking about Lent, giving up meat would not be an option but I am pondering the idea of just limiting my buying of food during that time. Eat what is already at home and only buy something when I am completely without options. I don’t know, I still have some time to decide.

    • This is what we did last year. We had so much food in the house and freezer that our Lenten discipline was to use it and not waste it.

      I don’t think everyone needs to keep the same discipline if it is not the rule in our church, and even then there are dispensations (exceptions) made for people with health issues.

    • I’ve done something like that some years, when I didn’t make a Lenten rule because of working in a viciously stressful job, and thinking too much about food was just one more source of stress; so I did what you describe, and just paid more attention to spending less money on food generally. I don’t eat a lot of meat anyway, so the “no meat” part is usually easy enough, but working long hours at a hard job, sometimes I just had to make meals from whatever was available. Thank the Lord, those times are now past, and I’m grateful that I have the chance to actually make such choices again.

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