Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Eating Cheaply While at a Conference

A week ago I attended training at Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania. At the lunch break I spent over $10.00 for a tasteless, un-filling, and certainly not healthy lunch. That wouldn't do. So that night I went to the Weiss market in town (I have a Weiss shopper's card) and bought supplies to provide my own lunch.

For a little over $12.00 I bought three rotisserie chicken breasts, a block of Sharp Cheddar cheese, canned fruit, a half loaf of all-grain bread, drink powder, and cookies. This, supplemented with some items from the hotel breakfast bar fed me quite well for the rest of the week. This saved me at least $28.00 and was much healthier and tasty.

My room had a refrigerator and a microwave so I also bought food for supper. I carried the same insulated lunch bag that I use for work with a small ice pack that I refroze every night.

Every little bit helps...

Monday, September 2, 2013

Garden Excess - What to do

Most decent gardens eventually produce more than you can possibly eat at the time; mine is no exception.  So what do you do with the excess vegetables that you can't immediately eat?

1. Give some away: I keep my in-laws pretty well supplied with cucumbers, tomatoes, and green beans. They appreciate the fresh, organic produce and I get some "brownie points" with my wife's family.

2. Freeze:  I freeze prepared green beans to eat later. Since my kids don't eat them I freeze them in "two-portion" size bags. I put the date on the bags so that I eat them "first in first out".  I picked out the beans that were a little too ripened to eat plain and cut them up for soup ingredients. I make a lot of soup in the winter.

3. Pickle: I have made conventional pickles several times in the past but this year I just don't have the time to do it. So I tried a couple short-cuts.

    a. I sliced up cucumbers, Hungarian banana peppers, and onions and dumped them into a pickle jar. I saved the jars and pickle juice from three different flavored pickles I had bought. Now I have to say here that no respectable canning guide or food expert will recommend that you do this. But I have done it many times successfully. Make sure all the vegetables are fully covered and at least twice a day give the jar a good shake to mix the juice around the veggies. Give the mix at least a week and you'll have some nearly free pickled vegs.

    b. Onion and cucumber salad. This is an easy recipe: I  use two thinly sliced cucumbers, one thickly sliced onion (a large one or two small ones), and a thinly sliced pepper. Mix together one cup of apple cider vinegar, two cups of cold water, a half to one cup of sugar (to your taste), salt and pepper to taste, garlic if you want. Mix the vegetables in a large bowl and the pour the liquid over the veggies. Cover the bowl and refrigerate. You can start eating the mix after a couple hours but I like to wait at least a day. You can store this in the fridge for a couple weeks but mine never lasts that long (I eat it every day).

4. Dry: I dry my onions, which then lets me store them for maybe 2-3 months. I grew 50 onions and have eaten ten or so of them so I'll dry the rest and store them in mesh bags hanging so they get good air flow. I have dried excess tomatoes in the past using a food dehydrator. Then I crumble them up and add them to dishes when I am cooking. It adds a hearty, tomato flavor to any dish.  M<any people dry beans but I never have. I don't eat dried beans very often, though I do add them to soups, and I would rather eat the beans green. Maybe next year I'll grow some to dry since I did have a big open area in my garden this year.

5. Store in a "Ground Cellar": I haven't harvested my potatoes yet but I will have a pretty good crop I think. Most of your root crops can be stored in a cool (almost cold), dry space. I have an unheated cellar so I will select the best, unblemished potatoes and store them there. Properly prepared, potatoes will easily last 3-4 months and then they tend to start sprouting.