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.