Friday, May 31, 2013

Breaking away from facebook,,,,,,,


This past week I made the decision to break away from facebook.  I am tired of the privacy issues they have.  Facebook is attaching itself to more and more sites and every time you make a post whether there or somewhere else it goes out over the net.  No matter how high you have your privacy settings, people still get in.  Often unwanted people.

I also like the idea of not spending time on there any more playing mindless games when I can be doing something much more interesting.  Recently I started working on my family genealogy again.  It has become a passion, almost obsession and I have really enjoyed it.  Not only am I learning about my family history but also the history of our country and indeed even the world.

I hated history in school.  But I am finding it is much more interesting when you can tie your ancestors into it.  I am learning as I go along.  To me that is much more positive!!

Like most people my day was beginning to revolve around facebook.  First thing in the morning with coffee in hand I had to log onto facebook, catch up on the local gossip and news.  Play mindless games and say hi to a few people before I did anything else for the day.  And yes, at least once or twice more during the day I had to pop on and check things out.  Facebook was linked to my cell phone, so I wouldn't miss anything.  I feel pathetic the way I was "connected" all the time.

I am actually shutting it down on Sunday.  I wanted to have time to let my friends know what I was doing and how they could reach me if they wanted to keep in touch.

I was thinking a few days ago how much we have all gotten caught up in facebook.  We used to take pen in hand and actually write letters that went out in snail mail.  That gave way to email.  Then along came facebook and we no longer email.  We just hop on facebook!!  It is instant gratification!!  Oh how lazy we have become!!  Lord help us if we ever lose the Internet, the younger generations will not know how to survive and even some of us older folks will have a hard time.

I am keeping my cell phone for emergencies when I am traveling and such but I have changed my number and so it is no longer connected with facebook or other sites.  No, I am not becoming a hermit but I have decided to get my priorities straight.  Facebook is at the bottom of the list of priorities!!

I feel liberated!!  I feel free again!!  I know walking away from facebook is not for everyone but for me, this is the right decision!

Until next time,,,,,,,,Blessings!!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Buying in bulk,,,,,part 4


As you know my primary reason for buying food in bulk is to save on my grocery budget.  However I do also buy to keep an emergency food supply on hand.  I know FEMA says to have at least 3 days of food set back for emergencies but I have learned first hand 3 days is not even close to being enough.

Ask those who lived through Hurricane Sandy last year,  Hurricane Katrina, various other hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, fires and earthquakes.  It was more like weeks, several, before things started to be restored to normal.  Even if you are not directly hit by a tornado you can be left stranded and without power for quite some time.  The same goes for other natural disasters.

A few years back we had a really bad ice storm which left many without power for as long as two weeks.  For a couple of days the roads were closed.  Nothing was being delivered to the grocery stores and indeed the stores were without power and closed for a short time.  Luckily we did not lose power for long but I was prepared if we were.

When making purchases for your emergency supply you should take several things into consideration. How will you cook or heat the food?  How will you keep your perishables cold?  What can you do to minimize the loss of food if power is out for an extended period of time?  What types of food should you store up for emergencies?

As for cooking or heating food, I usually use my gas BBQ grill.  I always have one can of propane hooked up and another full one in reserve.  I can go quite sometime before needed to replace the propane.  My grill has 3 rows of burners in the grilling part plus on one side it has a stove top type burner.  Only light what you really need to cook in order to save fuel.  For example if you are cooking just a couple of hamburgers you only need one burner for that.  If you are heating soup, just a pot on the stove top burner will do.  Conserve your fuel to make it last.

I also have an old small wood burning stove in the basement.  It has two burning crates for pots.  I have a few cast-iron pans and kettles and keep a small emergency supply of wood.  This is a pretty old burner not in the best of shape so I only use it in emergency cases.  Someday I hope to replace it.  But it will do in a pinch for now.

I have found a nice little trick for keeping my perishables cold at least for a few days.  I keep several gallon jugs of frozen water in my freezer.  When the power goes out, I move half of them into the refrigerator.  The trick is to then not open the doors to the freezer or fridge until the power comes back on.  Or at least not do it very often.  Opening the doors will allow warmth from the room to get in and begin to warm your appliances.  The longer you can keep them closed the longer your food will stay cold or even frozen in the freezer.  I know that by keeping the frozen jugs of water in there my freezer food can stay frozen at least a week if it is not too hot out and depending on how much is in the freezer.  I keep a pretty full freezer, which helps to keep things frozen when there is no power.

I keep a good supply of food that does not have to be refrigerated or frozen to use for our meals while there is no power so I don't have to open the freezer or fridge very often if at all.  I keep a good supply of canned soup.  Easy to heat and actually can be eaten cold if need be.  I do a lot of my own canning so always have fruits and vegetables available to me.  I have a supply of pastas and rice also.  I also can meats.  It is easy for me to open a jar of stewing beef, a can of potatoes, a can of carrots and throw them in a pot to heat and I have a hearty beef stew with not much fuss.  If you do not can you can always buy some canned meat at the grocery store.  That extra protein in your diet will help you a long way in an emergency situation.

I keep a supply of bottled water for drinking and also keep big jugs of tap water for cleaning and bathing, etc.  The water, like the food is rotated out on a regular basis to keep it from going bad.  I keep extra cleaning supplies, bleach and personal hygiene items as well.  And let's not forget toilet paper and paper towels!! 

One of the other things I do is keep extra canning supplies on hand.  In the worse case scenario and power is out for a long period of time I can always start canning the food in my freezer and fridge and keep it from spoiling.  Yes, I would do that on the BBQ grill.  Not the best situation, but it works.  I just recommend if you are doing this in the cold of winter, before removing the sealed jars from the hot canner, carefully carry the canner in doors where it is warmer to minimize the risk of the jars breaking.

One more thing, if you have pets don't forget to stock up on their food also!!

There are so many other things I could write about regarding being prepared for an emergency situation but I think this gives you a pretty good start.  As I said earlier FEMA recommends at least 3 days of food, I personally recommend at least a month, more if you can do it.

I'm not sure what I will write about in my next post, I guess we will just have to wait and see, LOL.

Until next time,,,,,,,Blessings!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Buying in bulk,,,,part 3


As a person who does a lot of baking I buy my supplies in bulk.  Having to only make purchases about once every six months to a year is a great savings to me both in money and in time.  I buy my flours in 25lb and 50 lb bags.  Generally my all purpose flour and or pastry flour I get in a 25lb bag and the bread flour I get in a 50 lb bag because I will use more of it.

Care should be taken when storing flours, whole grains which includes rice and cereals made with wheat.  Flours and grains all have bug eggs in them.  Hate to gross you out folks but it's true.  They simply cannot remove all the eggs when processing.  Most people think they get those little bugs in the flours when the flours get too old but that is simply not true.  The eggs will not hatch and are harmless when they are not exposed to light.  Light and some moisture will cause the eggs to hatch and then you have those pesky bugs and wind up throwing out everything in your pantry and starting over.

The best way to store flours, grains, cereals and any wheat products in general is a little time consuming, but simple and definitely worth the effort.  First I break my big bags down to manageable sizes and scoop flour into gallon size zip lock baggies.  I put a tag on each bag of what it is and what the expiration date was on the bag.  Then I line a Rubbermaid tote, (preferable one of a solid, opaque color) with a black garbage bag.  Then I place the bags of flour or grain in the tote and wrap the plastic garbage bag around the top and put the lid on.  Now it is not only air tight and moisture free but it is also dark.  I put another label on the outside of the tote with the type of flour and expiration date on it and store it in my food pantry in the basement.  When I am running low of flour in the kitchen I can just go and grab one bag of what I need.

Don't forget the flour in the kitchen needs to be stored properly as well.  Canister sets with lids are perfect for this as most canister sets are solid opaque color that do not let light in.  I would not recommend using transparent canisters even if you only keep enough flour in your kitchen for a week at a time.

I sometimes buy cereal in bulk when I can get a good deal.  With just the two of us, we do not use as much as people will with a big family.  I store my extra cereals in the same manner.  It keeps it fresher longer.  I buy rice in bulk too.  I do not typically use the "instant" rice and prefer the regular whole grain rice.  This is another item that needs to be stored as you would for flours and other whole grains.

If you don't have the room for big totes you can always use buckets with lids.  I have done this as well.  The buckets will stack easily and can fit into the corner of a closet if need be.  Most bakeries, even ones in grocery stores, get some supplies in 2 and 5 gallon food grade buckets.  They often throw them out.  Sometimes they sell them at a nominal fee.  It is worth stopping in and asking them for the buckets.  They make great storage containers!

My primary reason for buying in bulk is the savings.  Items are much less expensive per unit when purchased in bulk than if purchased in smaller packages.  But I also keep a food supply in case of emergencies.  I know I can put food on the table for a long time when there is an emergency such as a natural disaster that makes it impossible to get to the store.  Of course there are other types of emergencies but you get the idea.

In my next post I will talk about some of the items I keep on hand at all times for emergencies.

Until next time,,,,,,,Blessings!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Buying in bulk,,, part 2


Before we get started I would like to say my heart and prayers go out to the folks in Texas affected by those horrible storms last night.  I cannot imagine the damage softball sized hail must have done.

Doing a little at a time to get started, buying in bulk does not have to break the bank account or make your regular grocery budget suffer.  I suggest starting with just 10% of your grocery budget going for bulk purchases.  For example if you have a $100 a week budget just $10 a week can get you started and I bet you won't even miss that from your regular shopping.  If your local grocery store runs canned vegetable sales that is a good place to start.  Buy $10 of the vegetables you would use.  Don't forget to check the expiration dates and get the furthest ones out from your date of purchase.

Our local store also has 10 items for $10 sales about once a month.  I usually use these sales to stock up on condiments, pickles, pastas and other non-perishable items.  Canned soups on sale are a good stock up item.

I also take about 10% of my food budget and put it back in cash for the more expensive items to stock up on such as meat, 25 and 50 pound bags of flour, and things I use a lot of.  Like I mentioned in my previous post, I do a lot of baking so therefore it pays for me to buy my ingredients in a larger bulk, it might not for you.  Always make sure you only purchase items you actually use.

Recently I found a store, Gordon Food Service.  It is a store geared to sell to commercial businesses such as restaurants, grocery stores and bakeries but will sell to the general public.  Most, if not all of their items are in bulk size.  I will start buying some of my bulk items there because I will use them in the bulk size with no problem.  But again, that is not for everyone.  It is not a bargain if you buy more than you can use by the expiration date.  Shop around to find the best bargains for what you use!  This particular store is an hour from my home.  It would not be worth the extra gas if I were to go every week for regular shopping but when I need to stock up on baking supplies for example it will be worth the trip to do it once a month or once every other month as needed.

Every couple of months I make a trip to Illinois Amish country to buy certain items there in bulk as well.  I usually make a day of it, do my shopping, go out to lunch and just site see while I am there.  I have a cooler to take with me to keep the meats and cheeses I buy cold.  I plan my day so the perishable items are purchased last, just before I drive the hour and a half back home.

Where to store things once you purchase them can be a daunting challenge.  I am fortunate to live in a house with a nice usable basement.  I have a room down there that is set aside for my food storage.  It is cool and dark.  I have lined the room with shelves.  I also have a huge freezer, so stocking up on meats is easy for me.  But, there was a time when I lived in an apartment and still stocked up as much as I could at that time.  Of course I did not do as much of the bulk shopping as I do now but I always managed to have enough extra food stocked up to carry us at least a month in an emergency.

I found that the majority of the apartments I have lived in over the years had ample closets.  I took a closet that really only stored stuff I didn't use very often and claimed that for my food pantry.  The items that were in there were weeded through, I got rid of some and the rest that I still wanted to keep I found new places to store it.  I lined the closet with shelves and then made sure I purchased only items that would keep well, had a long shelf life and I would use.  I also took low boy totes and filled them with extra items and slide them under the bed out of the way.  But don't forget they are there!  You can actually get about 6 of these totes under a full size bed.

Over the years I have found we often do not utilize the space we have to the fullest. For example,  sometimes our shelves are spaced really far apart in our kitchen cabinets.  I purchased the metal shelves that have legs on them so you can put them on an existing shelf and create another shelf above it giving you twice the storage space for smaller items.  Doubling your storage capacity in this manner gives you more room to store your extra items.

Those 3 tiered hanging baskets are great for storing small items such as extra spices, bags of pasta, and things that are light weight.  I use a couple of them and typically store things that I will be using in the near future.  If I am going to keep extra pasta for a while I like to store that in a cool, dark area because it will extend its shelf life a bit.

Before I got a huge freezer and only had the freezer that is built into the fridge I managed to store about 65 lbs of meat in there at a time.  For two people that is a lot of meat.  One of the kitchen tools I swear by and highly recommend for storing meat and vegetables in the freezer is a Food Saver Vacuum Sealer.  Not only does it keep the food as fresh as the day you bought it and prevent freezer burn it makes the packages easier to store in a small freezer.  It is well worth the investment!

I have had many brands of vacuum sealers over the years but I find the food saver brand to be the best and especially their bags.  You can purchase directly from food saver on their web site and save a ton of money. The food saver is not only for meats and vegetables but you can store many items in them as well and prolong the shelf life of your foods.

Another possible storage space is drawers.  I once lived in an apartment that had about 8 drawers in the kitchen.  I used half of them for things like silverware, utensils, towels and the like.  The other half were then used to store canned items, spices, pastas and rice.  That allowed me to free up some shelf space for larger items.

Get creative!!  I am sure you can come up with some unusual places to store non-perishable foods that even I have not thought of!!

In my next post I plan on discussing the best ways to store flours, grains, cereals etc. to give them the longest shelf life possible.

Until next time,,,,,,,Blessings!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Buying in bulk,,,,,part 1


I am going to start my series on buying food in bulk.  Buying in bulk is going to be different for each household depending on your needs, size of family, type of dwelling and food budget.

Why buy in bulk?  The most obvious reason is it saves you money on your food budget in the long run.  It is also good to have a supply of food stocked up for emergencies.

In my lifetime I have been through or seen numerous floods, ice storms, tornadoes, hurricanes and other natural disasters which left it impossible to get to the grocery store for days or without power for days or even weeks in some cases.  That surplus of food sure came in handy!  There was also the time I was injured on the job with no work comp insurance to help cover the bills and keep food on the table.

Just as there are varying degrees of budgets to work with there are varying degrees of how much you buy in bulk.  One key thing to remember, "it's not a bargain if you can't/won't use it".  In other words don't go off willy- nilly and buy things just for the sake of buying them!

Planning your bulk purchases takes careful consideration.  For example, if you are a family of 2 or 3 you would not want to buy the #10 cans of vegetables, they would go bad before you eat them all!  But buying several 1 lb cans on a particularly good sale would be a good thing.

Checking expiration dates when you make your purchases is very important.  Most new inventory will have an expiration date that is at least 2 years or 3 years beyond your purchase date.  Always buy items that have at least 2 years on them giving you time to eat them before they expire and rotate your stock.

Keep good track of the items you tend to eat a lot of and that is what you will want to buy in bulk.  For example, we eat a lot of soup in the winter time.  I will buy in bulk when it is on a good sale, even in the summer and put it back for winter use.  I also make some of my own soups and can them.  I bake so therefore I buy my flours and baking supplies in bulk.

Not everyone has a huge amount of money laying around that they can just go out and buy a bunch of stuff in bulk.  And not everyone has the storage room for a huge amount of stuff.  We'll talk about ways to get started buying in bulk without breaking the bank account and creative ways to store your purchases whether you live in a house with a basement or an apartment in the city in my next post.

Until next time,,,,,,Blessings!!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Time to get serious,,,,, again,,,,,,


A few years ago I was serious about my blog writing and wrote a post every day or almost every day.  I think it is time to get serious about it again.  I miss writing!  I changed the name back to "Today's thoughts" because that is primarily what I will be writing about, today's thoughts.  I am a very opinionated woman with a lot on my mind, LOL.

Actually, I have a few things that I am very passionate about.  The modern day homesteader, being frugal, being a good steward of the things God provides us, God, living a simpler life, being as self sustainable as possible no matter where you live or what is going on in your life at the time, gardening and of course pottery, ceramics, crafts and cooking/baking.

I am so serious about dedicating time to blogging I have even applied for AdSense in the hopes I can make a few extra bucks in the process.  I hope I get approved!  And when those pesky ads show up, please do click on them and help me out. :-)  Actually, they say the ads will be geared to go with the content of my post and I will have some control over which ads appear so hopefully they will be helpful ads to you as well.

I will be playing with the look of the blog as well so please bear with me as I will be making changes as I go along.

Over the next couple of weeks I plan to write about buying food in bulk, what to do with it once you get it and how it can save you tons of money on your food budget.

Also please give me a couple of weeks to get into a regular routine with my posting so you will know what days to look for a new entry.

Thanks for your patience!!

Before I sign off I want to wish all the mothers and single fathers who have to be both dad and mom, HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!!!

Until next time,,,,,,,,Blessings!!