Save Money While Building Your Pantry

I've made a concerted effort over the past year to lower my family's food budget, while expanding our food storage, or stockpile. It's difficult to accomplish both of these goals simultaneously, but I've developed some tips that have worked for us, and wanted to share them with you.

  • Use coupons. Stockpiling and couponing go hand in hand! Visit Southern Savers and The Coupon Wizards and read up about sale cycles to see what I mean. They cover the subject quite well, and taught me how to use coupons in an effective way (not an extreme way). 

  • Buy a stand alone freezer. My preference is a standing freezer. We got ours at a garage sale & it’s been running perfectly for 6 years now (knock on wood) in our garage. I wouldn’t have been able to build our food storage properly without it. We can buy on sale & store it in the freezer. Even a chest freezer would be helpful, and they’re frequently found second hand. Ours has been such a worthwhile investment, and by having it, we've saved at least double what we paid for it. 

  • Learn what can be frozen & what can’t. Knowing that will determine how much of some items you should buy. Extending the expiration date by freezing items until you need them helps you stock up & it helps you be able to buy more when on sale. Saving money while building your food stores... perfect! I found this great resource on freezable foods & I've found it very helpful.

  • Eat what you have, not what you want. I know, this sounds harsh, but hear me out. I try my best to use what’s in my fridge, freezer & pantry to prepare meals. Stopping at the store for a missing ingredient is not an effective use of time or money. Buy things on sale, buy several to stock up, then don’t buy it again until it goes on sale again! If we run out of shrimp, I might say “I sure wish we had some shrimp, that sounds yummy.” But, we don’t go buy it. Because then I add “I sure hope it goes on sale again soon!” And when it does, I’m likely to buy more than last time since we ran out! It requires shifting your mindset a bit, but it's paid off for us.

  • Have enough options in your own home, so that if you run out of something, you don’t have to buy it right away! For example- we still eat ‘healthy’ breakfast cereal in our house. (And Rice Krispies, cuz I just couldn't pass up a recent deal!) Now, I'll admit- I’m learning more & more that there is no healthy breakfast cereal. And I’m coming to grips with that & slowly preparing my children for this harsh reality. But for now, we still eat it. And that stuff is expensive! We buy lots of it when it’s on sale & have a coupon to go with it. If we run out, we don’t go buy more cereal. It just happened last month. We were without cereal for 4 weeks. We used the oatmeal that I had gotten on sale & stocked up on. We had peanut butter & jelly sandwiches since we had bought peanut butter & bread on sale & stocked up. We would have had eggs but one of my three kiddos loathes eggs. Anyway, we made it through without buying more cereal. When it did go on sale last week, we stocked up again & the kids were extra excited to have it back.

  • Think outside the box. I used to be a by-the-book cook. If a recipe called for milk, I made it with milk. If I didn’t have milk, I didn’t make the recipe! Now, I have learned that I could use half & half, or heavy cream if I have it. Sometimes even sour cream will work. Not only does this cut down on store trips, it cuts down on buying things that aren’t on sale, and allows me to cook a wider variety of recipes! That's just one example. If you think outside the box & be a little creative, you can prepare a meal with what you have, just by adapting the recipe a bit.

  • If one store typically has an item you use at a good price, buy it there EVERY time you go in. We have one warehouse store that has organic sugar at a decent price in a large bag. We’ve tried finding it in bulk, and it’s not available locally. We’ve shopped around for prices & when we saw this store’s price we knew it was great. So we buy a bag of sugar every time we go in to that store, whether we ‘need’ sugar or not. Each store might have an item like this. Our grocery store brand egg noodles are a favorite for us. Not a name brand, the store brand. So each time we go to the grocery store we buy a bag. These examples don’t really go on sale, never have coupons, we always use them, and we know we’re getting the best price at that store. So, we keep those items in mind as we shop & slowly build our pantry by purchasing them as a habit.

  • Repackage some items. Now, this doesn’t make sense for everything. For some foods & pantry staples you’re going to need to have the expiration date for reference. Many of my pantry items are in their original packaging for this reason. It also helps if, God forbid, there were a recall & I needed to find the batch number. But there are some things that we eat often enough, or have so much of, that it makes more sense to repackage. Cereal is like that in our home. We saved old organic brown rice containers with screw on lids and we transfer the cereal into them. It saves space, keeps the cereal fresher, and makes it easier to pour. I have many pretzel barrels with screw on lids saved for this as well. We store rice in those, and I'm about to pour my bags of sugar & flour into them as well. You could also purchase food grade buckets. I'm trying to spend as little as possible, so I'm using what I have.

  • Chop your meat for meals while it’s frozen. No, not solid, obviously, but still mostly frozen. It’s much easier to get a small dice on chicken, and it slices cleaner & straighter. I’ve done this for over a year, and now refuse to do it any other way. I can cut a boneless skinless chicken breast into pieces so small, that I can use 3 small breasts to feed 5 people, and everyone feels like they got enough. I know that it’s still the same amount of chicken, and it’s all in their head… But they’re more satisfied with their meal when they have 12 smaller bites of chicken served to them, instead of 4 larger bites. I think it would work for beef as well when making stew, or soups. I’ve stretched our meat & saved a lot of money with this simple trick. 

We’ve expanded our pantry using these tips & freed up money in our budget to add to our food storage. I’m always looking for more ways to improve & I’d love to hear your tried & true tricks! What would you add to this list? Please share your ideas & leave a comment!

This post is linked to The Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways Wednesday Blog Hop!


Water Kefir!

It's a healthy, delicious, fizzy drink. Full of probiotics & enzymes. It's also frugal & simple! I have 2 half gallon jars going at all times, so I got into the habit of making it daily, and we were able to stop buying soda for a while. I'm not able to do it daily now that the weather is cooling off. The grains seem to like it a little warm, and work slower when it's cooler. My children don't drink soda, but my husband & I are trying to break our soda habit. We like water kefir because not only does it help us break free from that, it's also very healthy!

I thought you might like to see just how simple it is, so I'm going to take you through the process. Here you can see a half gallon canning jar with the water kefir grains in some sugar water. It's been sitting here for at least 24 hours. I received my grains from a friend, already hydrated. I've heard you can buy dehydrated grains via the internet. Apparently, if you go that route, it takes a time or two of going through this process to wake the little guys up. Mine was ready to go, as my friend sent them in sugar water, in 3 zip baggies, priority mail. So they weren't in there long, and nothing leaked. You can find sources for buying them online. Just do a quick search.

Basically, the water kefir grains live in sugar water, and eat the sugar. Then you strain them out, and use the liquid to make a fermented drink. You return the grains to more sugar water & repeat.

Water kefir grains do not like metal, so use all plastic utensils & tools for them! After some trial & error, I've found a few items that really help out. They make this simple process even quicker & easier! I had to purchase them through Amazon, as they were not available locally for me. I recently added an Amazon store to my blog, so I'll show which ones I use & link to them. At minimum, you need a plastic strainer, and something to catch the liquid & pour it into the jars. The half gallon jar and the strainer were the only things I purchased to start with, and I just used a bowl & small canning jars that I already had on hand. Then after a few weeks I got the canning jar funnel & a better bowl. The new items have helped a lot, but you can begin with just a plastic strainer & a glass jar!

Start with a half gallon canning jar, and put in 1/3 cup of sugar. I use organic sugar, but have read that any sort will work. Originally, I was using more than 1/3 cup of sugar (I used an amount I found on the internet) and my grains were sluggish, and my second ferment wasn't getting fizzy. I played around with it a bit & found through trial & error that I was using too much. I guess since these grains are alive, different grains need different amounts of sugar. So, just see what your grains like!

 Put the sugar in, then add 2 bottles of water.

Water kefir grains do not like chlorine or fluoride. I have a PUR filter for now, and until I get a better water purification system, I think my grains are better off with bottled water, even though it's not completely free from either. It's not ideal, but it's better than my filtered water for now. So, I put in 2 bottles, then stir vigorously to dissolve all the sugar. You wouldn't want your grains getting beat up during that process!

After the sugar is dissolved, add your grains to the jar. The canning funnel is helpful in several steps, but THIS is the step I actually bought it for! So helpful. And I should have had this handy gadget on hand anyway. You probably already do!

Next, add some of the third bottle of water. Not all of it though, as you want some headspace in here. If you're not using bottled water, follow the same process, just fill the jar a little more than half-way after putting the sugar in, stir till dissolved, put the grains in, then add more water.

Now the grains are ready to eat most of the sugar from the water. Let them sit on the counter for a day or two. After a while, you'll see the grains zooming up to the top, and floating back down to the bottom. There are different schools of thought on tightening the lid. I think it depends on your grains. Experiment & see how they respond. Mine seem to like it tightened in the very beginning, but then loosened after a couple hours. A friend swears that hers only do well with the lid completely tightened throughout. Mine zing around the jar more when it's looser, so I think they like it that way! In the summer, mine are ready for the next step after 24 hours. Now that it's getting cooler, it's more like 48 hours. I haven't had my grains through a winter yet, but I expect them to slow down even more.

The jar on the right has been resting on the counter for a day or two & is ready to go through fermentation. The one on the left is about to sit for a day or two. It contains fresh sugar water & the grains haven't eaten the sugar yet.You can see how the water is clearer in the jar that's been sitting for 24 to 48 hours. The water kefir grains have eaten most of  the sugars! You can see a few of the grains have risen to the top, but I wasn't able to capture their movement on my camera.

A note about my nifty red bowl: I tried several different kitchen items (bowls & measuring containers) around my house before finally purchasing my Pourfect bowls. I don't often spend a lot of money on kitchen items that do something simple. But since this became a daily thing for me, and my husband kept urging me to get them, I finally did. I really wish I hadn't waited so long, and he teases me daily about it, ha ha! I rarely give glowing reviews for kitchen items, or urge friends to purchase them. They're usually just not THAT big of a deal, and I like to be frugal about such things & encourage others to be as well. But these things are the bomb. They really do NOT drip, they have a non-slip ring on the bottom, and measuring marks along the inside. Since buying them, I use them several times every day! You don't hold the handle, you put your entire hand under it (see pouring pic below). Because you're using your arm, not your wrist, you have so much more control over holding the bowl and it saves your wrist from the weight & strain. Didn't sound like a big deal to me, but wow, is it ever! (Disclaimer: I signed up with Amazon as an associate, and I put this item in my store. So, yes, I suppose I could benefit from recommending it. But, I recommended it to people before signing up, and would honestly be recommending it even if I couldn't benefit).

So back to the project at hand... Set up the strainer over the bowl & pour out the contents of the jar.

Rinse the grains under purified cool water, and set them aside for now.

To the liquid in the bowl, add some fruit juice. We use coupons to build our food storage, and have gotten some great deals on non-organic 100% juice. So, we're using several flavors & brands of store-bought juice. I guess it makes my water kefir a little less healthy, but my budget currently requires it. Hey, I'm just keepin' it real! I have previsouly used fresh fruit juice, and I'm sure I will do that again someday. Do either, or both! Lemon juice alone is very good & creates a fizzy lemonade type drink. The kefir liquid you're using will impart a slightly sweet flavor to the end product, but it's not nearly as sweet as the sugar water that the grains started in. To the slightly-less-than a half gallon of liquid, I'd estimate that I add about a cup & a half of juice. You can add more, or less. The higher the sugar content (which is determined either by increasing the amount of fruit juice, or by using a sweeter fruit rather than acidic) the fizzier it seems to get.

Now pour it into very clean, airtight containers. We use various sized canning jars to ferment the water kefir during the second stage. They give a great seal, and they're a good serving size. Leave some headspace in the jars because they build up some carbonation while fermenting. These smaller jars are filled a little too much, since I was distracted with the camera.

Seal the containers, and set them aside for 24 to 48 hours. I can tell mine are ready because I'm not able to press down on the canning lid easily & hear it pop. In other words- you can tell it's building up pressure from the fermentation. I can also see tiny bubbles around the top of the liquid inside the jars. At that point, I put them in the fridge & they're ready to go.

I'll be honest, I was intimidated by the whole process when I first heard about it. But trust me, it's so simple. I spent an afternoon searching Youtube & watched all the top rated videos. I suggest you do that as well, it really gave me the confidence to jump in. A few of those videos recommend adding raisins or lemon peel to the first step. It's up to you if you'd like to try that. Since I'm in a climate that stays hot & humid for about 8 months out of the year, I thought it best to avoid any issues so I decided to keep it simple.

Are you thinking of trying it? I encourage you to go for it! Have you already tried water kefir yourself? What health benefits have you noticed? Please comment & share any tips that have worked for you!

This post has been linked to The Homestead Barn Hop.


The Bean Times (part 2)

During The Bean Times, I heard a few friends bragging about their savings using coupons paired with store sales to save a lot of money on their grocery bill. This seemed to be the missing link we needed to implement in our efforts to get our budget on track! I went to a little informal class where a friend shared her strategies & the websites she used to develop her shopping lists & find the corresponding coupons she needed for her weekly grocery buying. It took six long months for me to fully wrap my head around the concept. I don’t understand why I had such a mental block, but I just couldn’t get it. I did keep buying Sunday papers though, and putting them aside, in hopes that it would click!

A month later, I had a dear friend over for dinner. During the evening, she & her husband talked about preparedness & mentioned food storage & stockpiling. I had no idea this was related to couponing at the time. But my husband & I knew wisdom when we heard it & our perspective on our household food started to shift even more. Of course, we wondered how we could possibly afford to build a stockpile when we were just starting to make headway with our budget.

During the months that followed, as I tried desperately to connect the coupon dots, I realized that an important part of the goal is to stockpile the items on sale. Not in an extreme way. But I was surprised to learn that to maximize savings, it’s necessary to buy enough to feed your family for about 12 weeks. That’s the general amount of time until most items goes on sale again. For different items, the amount you buy is different. There’s no need to buy as much mustard as you would toilet paper, for example. Your family might use both, but you use much more of one in 12 weeks than the other!

WOW! When I realized these two concepts that were suddenly so important to us (saving money on our food bill & stockpiling food for preparedness purposes) were intertwined, my jaw dropped!

Sure enough, as soon as my slow-to-understand brain finally caught on to the coupon lifestyle our pantry exploded. Each week we were bringing in more food, at such an incredible savings, that our kitchen was overflowing & our budget was healing! We maintained our meat stretching, bean eating (less bean eating than before) strategy, while shopping for the things on sale each week. Soon, we had built quite a pantry stockpile & felt more prepared. We could easily eat for a few weeks if we couldn’t make it the store for whatever reason. We might have spaghetti three nights out of seven, but we could eat!

A lot of the items that end up on the weekly shopping list are shelf stable foods. I’m the first to admit that this doesn’t help much with nutrition, or waistlines. But since our perspective had shifted to shelf stable preparedness, we were happy to be buying those items, even if we would only eat them in an emergency. In my preparedness research, I’ve read that you must eat from your stockpile. This is to make sure you & your family like the foods, and also to keep expiration dates rotating. We do that, but it doesn’t make up the bulk of our diet. If the power were to go out for 5 days though, we have enough canned ravioli in pop top cans to feed us, even if we wouldn’t eat that sort of food in a normal scenario. And we got it for pennies!

Eventually, we bought industrial kitchen shelving to house our stockpile in the kitchen, as it grew past our small cabinet pantry. I have a photo of when we first installed them, and to compare it now, the increase is substantial! Buying the shelving was easily paid for in just one week’s grocery bill savings! Keep in mind that buying too much of something wastes your household storage space & risks wasting food when you haven’t eaten it by the expiration date. But, we are trying to intentionally build a stockpile for preparedness purposes! So, we do buy a bit extra. This gives us peace of mind, knowing that if we are unable to get to the store for a while - we'll survive! Our goal is to have a years worth of food for our family of 5.

By staying on top of the coupon matchups each week, our budget is almost out of the paycheck to paycheck classification! It’s been 1 year since the start of our bean times, and I know we’d be further along if I had grasped the coupon concept sooner but I'm happy with the progress we've made. We’ve only been couponing for 9 months. And frankly, when I cook beans for dinner, especially in the beloved slow cooker, I smile & feel rather nostalgic. And satisfied. I feel like it’s been a small journey. We made positive changes that resulted in success, and we keep doing that- one step at a time! And the way that fixing the budget problem & reaching the preparedness goal ended up having the same solution?! Well, that's just so cool!

Eventually, I would love to replace this method with growing our own food & preserving it ourselves. I think our grandparents had the right idea! Instead of running to the store every few days, they ran to their pantry or cellar to get what they needed! Frugal AND self sufficient!

This post is linked to The Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways Wednesday Blog Hop!


The Bean Times

Just before we realized that we needed to go beyond pantry staples and actually build a stockpile, we went through a financial tangle. Bean Times / Lean Times… get it? To my surprise, these two seemingly unrelated events turned out to be intertwined. I’ll explain what happened, in hopes that you can glean some helpful information through my experience! I’m breaking it up into two parts. The financial tangle & solution that started it, and then the stockpile & path toward preparedness that followed.

Nothing catastrophic had happened. But we were living paycheck to paycheck (just barely- often running out of funds a few days before payday) and when your income is being stretched that thin, it doesn’t take much at all to get behind. So, a new tire here, a plumbing bill there, an increase in gas prices, and a mathematical error in the checking account was truly all it took for us to have a very tight few months. We got behind on several bills. Always paying them, of course, but paying a week or two late. Late fees add up quickly & add to the problem. We realized we needed to get out the vicious cycle, and living our version of status quo was not going to result in a change. I believe there's an old saying about doing the same thing if you want the same results?

So we made a change. We stopped buying meat. It was the most expensive of our groceries, and we knew we could survive without it. We didn’t try to replace it with expensive fake meat products, and we didn’t care if we were eating trendy vegetarian food. The goal was a significant, quick monetary change in our budget!

We bought beans. Not canned beans. The cheap dry of beans our grandmothers knew how to prepare. The beans I did NOT know how to prepare! Oh, and lentils (which I had never prepared OR eaten). Then I searched online for budget bean recipes & I tried them all. For 3 months we did not eat out, and we ate beans. And lots of rice. I think we ate meat about once a week, but it was a much smaller portion per meal than we used to eat.

My husband and I have a date night twice a month. For those 3 months we had home dates. I cooked a new meal, trying it out on us before cooking it for the children. On a very small scale, it was kind of adventurous, and we had fun with it. Sometimes, we’d also do our grocery shopping on date night. Just the two of us. We didn’t have to tell the children “no” to any impulse purchases, and it reminded us of our early years. We made the best of it.

This started in the fall, and the slow cooker was such a help during this time. It lasted through winter. Perfect timing! We didn’t set out for 3 months on purpose; I just remember it taking around that time to make a difference in our overall budget. When we started buying meat again, two things happened. One- we appreciated it a lot more than we used to! And two- we used a lot less of it! We still stretch meat much farther, and now I often can’t believe how much we used to consume in one meal! Now, if you had told me this would happen before our 3 month bean adventure, I would have laughed & nodded patronizingly. So, if you’re doing that, I don’t blame you. But, we went through it because we had to go through it. And I’m glad we did, because we are much better stewards today because of it! It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t a project. It was necessary! And it was not always fun or flavorful. But the end results are worth it!

I often learn the hard way that God uses strange & unusual things to mature us. To teach us thing that we just cannot learn from a book, or even from someone who’s been through it. Experience is a powerful teacher! He used beans to snap us out of our frivolous grocery spending. But he also used that time to get us used to a different viewpoint altogether on the food we brought into our home & we developed an entirely new perspective on it. I’ll explain that in part two. But let me say, those 3 months were only the beginning of the budget improvements!

The Bean Times taught us to appreciate our food, especially the pricey food! It taught us to stretch that food, and use it wisely! It also taught us that we can 'make it' even though we don't have what we're accustomed to. To a five year old, beans & rice for dinner each night of the week seems like the end of the world. But she gained perspective through that experience as well. Valuable perspective! We didn’t sulk, or stop living a lovely life, or have dreary conditions, or act deprived. We lived life & we adjusted our meals. That’s it! We learned that it’s not that big of a deal for a small amount of time. None of us were scared by the experience, and while we might not want beans as often now, we don’t look back on that time with negative feelings.

I don't think it's a trivial thing for a family to have to eat that way for an extended amount of time. I've imagined us in that situation, and my heart truly hurts for the people who don't have a choice & would like to have other options. For my family, The Bean Times taught us valuable lessons, while setting us on a path to preparedness & intentional simple living. I'm also very thankful that we accomplished the goal of correcting our budget & we've made lasting changes because of that time.


Nobody said it would be easy.

I don’t think any wise person ever said it would be easy. The bible doesn’t say it should be easy. My parents never told me it would be easy. However, it seems that a lot of progress is devoted to making things easier. Some of this I appreciate. I really do, I’m not against progress & technology, although sometimes it sounds as though I am. In truth, I’m selective about technology, and I am very discerning when assigning the label of progress.

I think the pursuit of ‘easy’ has led to some attitude issues. In my opinion, there’s an attitude of ‘easy’ in our society. When you get caught in the undertow of believing easy equals progress, it causes some problems. It doesn’t always look like ‘easy’ is to blame, but if you dig deeper, it often is!

This wisdom came to my husband & I as we tried to repair our finances. We slowly realized that the things we needed to cut out of our budget were mostly easy-makers. Eating out, processed foods, disposable diapers, prepared foods, impulse buys. When we would evaluate why these categories were sabotaging our budget to begin with, the answer would be “well, it’s just so much easier…” Easier to buy chicken stock than make it. Easier to throw away diapers than wash them. Easier to open a box of breakfast cereal than to make homemade granola. Easier to call for Chinese take-out than to cook dinner. Easier to buy it now, than to save for it later. Well, when you get accustomed to ‘easy’, it becomes a habit.

After realizing this, we’ve developed a habit of viewing decisions through this filter. Now, when we’re faced with a choice we ask if we’re choosing something because it’s easier. More often than not, since figuring out this secret, the easy way… is not the ‘correct’ way. Now, your definition of correct is going to be different than ours. It depends on your values & your goals.

When we find ourselves saying to the children “Go watch a movie, we need to relax” we realize that’s the easy way out, and it can very quickly become a habit. Balance is the key there, of course, but making something like that an actual habit will inevitably lead to regret.

Credit cards are an easy way out. We don’t have them, but the same instant gratification mindset led to our financial troubles. We didn’t have the patience to save. We wanted it now, and would sometimes delay a payment on a bill to have what we wanted right when we wanted it. Making this a habit also leads to regret. Ask me how I know.

Grabbing fast food, boxed prepared food, or junk food is an easy way out. Quick, requires no effort & little thought. Hmmm… leads to regret in one form or another.

All the disposable choices available to our society? Such an easy way out. Paper plates, plastic forks, Styrofoam cups. I don’t have a dishwasher, so I especially know how easy these can be. If there’s not already some regret about the overuse of these items though, there certainly should be.

I look around at my loved ones, friends, society, and inside our own home, and I see many things that just can’t be controlled. Life happens, we roll with the punches & pray for the best. We hold tight & keep our chin up. Some things can’t be helped, they just are. But I also see some problems, causing copious amounts of stress, that could have been avoided if we’d not taken taken the easy route. If we applied that filter to all of our decisions, would we make better choices?

I’ve noticed my own children tend to try the easiest way. I’m thankful that I can gently encourage them to look at the likely outcome of that choice & decide if that’s indeed their goal. If not, another way might be better. Easy doesn’t often equal better.

I look at how my grandparents would have done something & I think they had it right most of the time. They had to work harder at many things, but they often had better results. I am not saying this applies to everything! Of course there are some things I’m thankful that we don’t have to do the old fashion way. Like I said, I’m not against technology and true progress.

Ya know, I’m sure my parents didn’t raise me to think ‘if it’s not easy, don’t bother’. But somehow, over the years, that attitude crept in. I’m intentionally going out of my way to get rid of it. And it does mean shunning some things that other people consider progress. That’s ok. Because I think what others call progress is partially responsible for this attitude, and I don’t want any part of it. As far as progress goes, I now use an additional filter to look at that issue: C.S. Lewis said “We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. Do you think I’m off base? Have you had a similar revelation, or have you always felt this way? What things do others call progress, but you’ve done an about-turn & walked away from? Are there some ‘easy’ things that you wouldn’t want to be without?


Dehydrating Carrots for a Prepared Pantry

I thought it would be a good idea to have some pantry staples that aren't readily available in the store. I thought carrots would be a good food to start with. Dehydrating them takes up a much smaller footprint than buying the same amount in cans. I'm also able to use organic, and there aren't any other ingredients -just carrots. It was a simple process! I thought it might be helpful to take you through it, but please forgive the amateur photos. Hey, this is my life & my family camera, I'm just keeping it real!

I bought a giant bag of organic carrots at Costco & then peeled them, cut off the ends, and chopped them into half-moons. I took care to make sure the pieces were cut to about the same size.

In the spirit of full disclosure, this is a side effect:

I boiled a large pot of water & parboiled them in two batches, for just 3 minutes.

I used a large strainer to get them out, drain them over the pot, and then spread them out on the mesh screens of the dehydrator.

I prepared about 4 pounds of carrots & they took up 4 trays, with plenty of room on the tray. I dehydrated them for about 24 hours at 125 degrees.

I knew they would get smaller, but wow! These are SO tiny in comparison!

4 pounds of carrots, all peeled, chopped & ready for soups, stews, or pot roast! And they fit in a quart mason jar!

Next up are potatoes, celery, and possibly tomatoes. Hmm, mushrooms might be a good one! Have you dehydrated foods for your pantry? I'd love to hear your suggestions!

This post has been linked to The Homestead Barn Hop.


It's just who I am

I'm a happily married mom to 3 fabulous children & I didn’t realize I was counter culture. I was searching through the internet one day, pursuing one of my interests & I saw the term. Now, I knew my interests were not the same as anyone else I knew, and I knew I wasn’t mainstream. But I hadn’t actually thought of myself as counter culture. When I saw it, I knew it described me.

I don’t find any particular pride in being so different. In fact, I have often bemoaned that fact. It’s human nature to want a tribe, and it feels strangely isolating to be so… counter. I’m trying to embrace it though. I’m getting used to it & trying to wear it well. Thanks to social networking & the blogosphere, I realize I’m not ‘alone’ even though I don’t know many people up close & personal who think like I do. My husband does, and I can’t imagine not having him, my very best friend, on the same page as I. What an enormous blessing that is!

Finding the term counter culture is similar to my once nameless parenting style. I never knew it had a name either! I just followed my motherly instincts and parented in that way. I didn’t care about what anyone else had to say about it because I had a deep conviction that I needed to parent my child in my way. Then one day I found out I wasn’t alone, and there was even a name for it, and books written about it! That would be attachment parenting, by the way. 

Many times, I'll learn something new & immediately after the epiphany of realizing "now I know this, I must apply it to my life", I think "no, not one more thing to be different about!" But, like I said, I'm getting used to it.

What specifically makes me counter culture? Well, I'm a work in progress, and I know that my counter culture ways will reveal themselves more as the blog develops.

I'm hoping that there will be a lot to discuss, many topics to write about, and insights to share. I'll be posting my opinions, wisdom I've gained, maybe some homeschooling stuff, homesteading related topics... the list goes on. I hope you find something interesting, or helpful here & that you'll join the discussion & share your thoughts!
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