Sunday, December 28, 2014

Pantry Challenge #37 ... 2014: Walking Toward 2015

So here we are at the end of 2014 and on the brink of a brand new year … what will you fill it with? 

I’m a goal setter; I find I work better and more consistently if I have something to work towards.  I’m not only a goal setter, I’m a goal baby-stepper meaning that I like to break my goals down into small … sometimes tiny … steps that build upon themselves to help me reach my goals.

Obviously, one of my main goals is to have, keep and maintain a well-stocked pantry at all times.  For me this goal is made up of small … sometimes tiny … steps accomplished on an ongoing basis daily. 

Another very important goal of mine is to spend time in God’s Word daily and to live my life in such a way that others can see Him living in me.  This too is accomplished in small … sometimes tiny … steps on an ongoing basis daily.

Then there’s the keeping of my home … this is very important to me too.  Cleaning; cooking; sewing; planning and watching over my home; being a wife, mother, mother-in-law and grandmommie … this is all part of keeping my home.   This too will be accomplished in small … sometimes tiny … steps on an ongoing basis daily.

Frugality is going to be very important in the new year too as we’ve had a substantial increase in our living expenses plus a decrease in our income.  This too will be accomplished in small … sometimes tiny … steps on an ongoing basis daily.

I’ll be sharing about making gifts and buying items on sale for gift giving purposes to fill my gift trunk throughout the year.  I would love to have all my holiday shopping done by Thanksgiving 2015!

I want to continue on my getting healthy journey.  I have been able to make great strides in the area of my health in 2014 and want to continue getting healthier in 2015.

I also want to continue my herbal education.  Everything I can learn in this field will only help us stretch our income further by saving us money in several areas of our budget.

These are the major things I’ll be sharing about and focusing on here at A Working Pantry in 2015. 

The next pantry challenge will find me in full swing and full speed ahead again … holiday vacation is over and it’s time to get back to building, using and maintaining a well-stocked pantry.  If you haven’t already, or you want a reminder, check out my post titled When I Talk About My Pantry’ to see what I consider ‘my pantry.’

I look forward to sharing with you in 2015!

patsi a.k.a. grandmommie pat


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Spreading A Little Christmas Cheer ... Pantry Challenge #36 ... 2014

This is the second year in a row we've done this ...

... made homemade fudge and packaged it up ....

(Every year my husband and I give homemade fudge to our neighbors at Christmas time … we have some really good neighbors … it’s my husband's specialty and he makes it every year with a very small amount of assistance from me.  He made it this week and pretty much all I did was tell him where to find the ingredients in the pantry.  Sugar … we had plenty of that that had been preserved by oven-canning in 2012.  As I kept bringing jar after jar after jar (fudge requires a lot of sugar) from our pantry I breathed prayers of thanks to God for His provisions.  Evaporated milk … we had plenty of that in our pantry too … I had purchased it in bulk a while back and stored it in our pantry, again as I removed can after can from our pantry I thanked God for His provisions.  Butter … had that in my pantry too.  The only items we had to purchase for this massive fudge making process was Hershey’s Kisses, pecan halves and marshmallow crème.  Considering we’ll be gifting 100 plus people with these goodies, we feel like this is a relatively inexpensive gift … plus it’s one that we get requests for every year.)


... to spread some holiday cheer to our local Sam's Club employees ...
Santa (a.k.a. my husband) got all dressed up in his brand new suit (yes, this is the suit I've been working on for the past 2 weeks) ...

... the meat department employees couldn't wait to get their cup of fudge ...
... one of them wanted to know if we made it to sell ... he wanted to buy some ... the answer was NO ... this is purely a labor of love and appreciation ...

... we couldn't leave out the pharmacy!  They see us quite often all year long!
All in all Santa handed out nearly 100 cups of fudge to the employees, had his picture taken lots of times, listened to numerous Christmas wishes and lists, brought smiles to lots of boys and girls, adults and even to those who thought they were too big for Santa. 

From there Santa made an appearance at an event sponsored by the Lions Club for under privileged children and then to an individual's home so her grandchildren could enjoy a visit from Santa.

(No money was asked for, collected or accepted at any of these visits.)

What fun we had spreading a little Christmas cheer!
I challenge you to do what you can to spread a little holiday cheer this year ... it will fill your heart with joy!

patsi a.k.a. grandmommie pat

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pantry Challenge #35 ... 2014

How are you doing on those holiday preps?  Are you finished with the shopping?  We have one more gift to purchase and one more to get in the mail.    I plan to shop and sew and stock my pantry with Christmas gifts and gift giving supplies like we did in 2014 for the 2015 holiday season.  It sure has made gift giving easier this holiday season.

If you’re not reading the comments each week, you’re missing out on a lot of encouragement and knowledge.  Thank you to all who comment … I LOVE that you take the time out of your busy days to share your thoughts and wisdom.  I learn so much from you!

My to-do list from last time:  
Continue canning pinto beans.   Done!  I got another 7 quarts canned.  This gives me a total of 25 quarts and I’m still not quite half way through the 25 lb bag!
Re-can two #10 cans of tomato sauce … Didn’t get done!

In Addition ….
We had onions left over from a meal one night and as soon as the meal was over, while I was cleaning up, I chopped them up and froze them for future use.  Waste not, want not!

I had $4 in Register Rewards from Walgreens that I needed to use or lose this week so I combined it with a rain check I had for canned corned beef and walked out of the store with 2 cans of corned beef for a total of $2.92.  Normally one can is a bit over $5!

The specific area of my pantry that I’m focusing on restocking for the months of November and December is baking supplies.  This time of year most stores run sales on their baking supplies, so it’s a good time to do some replenishing.   Here are the items I will be watching sales for:

Butter … None this week!
Sugar-free chocolate chips …  None this week!
Coconut oil …  None this week!
Olive Oil    None this week!

In other news:
I have spent most of the week sewing … what have I been sewing … a new velvet santa suit for my husband!  We purchased the velvet in the fall when we had a 60% off coupon at Joann’s.  I meant to have it already made, but life kept happening and so here we are at the busiest time of the year for ‘Santa’ and I’m making ‘him’ a new suit!  0:)  I’ve watched youtube videos and read online articles on sewing with velvet.  It’s been a long time since I’ve sewn with velvet and I needed a refresher course.  I’m so glad that I could get that through research free of charge online.  

I finished decorating for Christmas.  We have a grand total of 5 trees of various sizes strategically placed throughout our little house.  I set one tree in an old trunk, another in my HUGE crock, one in an old fashioned vegetable basket, a Charlie Brown tree in the bedroom and a small silver tree that fits nicely in one of our bathrooms.  I used what I had to decorate the trees and the rest of the house and didn’t buy anything new this year.  We are enjoying sitting in the house at night with the lights out and the trees all light up.  Beautiful!
We’ve watched several Christmas shows on TV this week … two episodes of  The Great Christmas Light Fight, parts of the Jackie Evancho special because my husband does not like commercials so he switches channels between programs … hence, I only saw part of the Jackie Evancho special as it was on at the same time as The Great Christmas Light Fight.  We also watched Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer which came on on a different night … we really do enjoy the simple and ‘free’ things in life!
I made up a batch of this holiday scent using ingredients I had on hand and enjoyed it for several days.   It made the house smell so nice! 

I downloaded a free pillow form pattern instructions from Craftsy.  Pillow forms are quite expensive so I’m going to try my hand at making them.  If they turn out good, then I plan to make some and then make seasonal envelope style covers for them throughout the year to give as gifts next year.  (As I finish them they’ll go in my ongoing gift trunk until gift giving season!)

I finally finished getting our winter clothes out of storage.  I started this project a few weeks ago and got almost done … this week I was able to finish it.

I chopped up some of the fresh ginger that I grew and harvested this year, put it in ice cube trays, added water and froze them.  I’ll pop the frozen ginger cubes out of the tray and put them in freezer bags.  I’ll use them by dropping a cube in a class of water along with lemon juice and a little bit of stevia. 

I emptied a Dawn dishwashing liquid bottle this week and instead of tossing it when I couldn’t squeeze any more out of it, I added a little water and shook it up well.  This gave me enough for a couple more uses before the bottle was truly empty!

We received our first seed catalog in the mail this week.  I put it on the shelf were we keep our catalogs so it would be ready to reach for once the Christmas holidays are over. 

The garlic I planted a few weeks back is about 1 inch high; looks like we will have garlic to harvest in the spring.  Now I need to cover them with leaf mulch.  I use leaves from our yard to cover our garlic every year and thus far have had great success … free mulch …  I like that!

I pulled broccoli plants from our fall garden and gave them to the chickens.  I’ll continue doing this with cabbage as well until they are all gone.  We can usually find a use for most everything, including the remains of our fall garden!

Here is something I didn’t do …
I wanted to make this body butter recipe, but when I checked out the ingredients I saw that I didn’t have everything the recipe called for … so I had to let it go. 
Here is a question I received this week …
Question:  I remember reading that you stopped eating potatoes. Have you substituted sweet potatoes instead? If so have you tried canning any soups with sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes? My husband is a diabetic and wants to make changes.

My Answer:  Yes, we have stopped eating white potatoes due to their high carb count however, we have discovered a way that we can eat them and it does not affect my husband’s blood sugar levels. I take a quart of my home-canned potatoes, drain and rinse them. I can then either fry them up or add them to soups, etc. When I drain the potatoes I drain a lot of the starch that has cooked out of the potatoes and is in the liquid in the jar down the drain. I then rinse the potatoes to remove any of the remaining starch. We've tried this method several times and not ever seen an increase in my husband's blood sugar levels. As for sweet potatoes, they are a bit better for you than white potatoes and aren't quite as high in carbs, therefore when we have them we watch our serving size and make sure to count their carbs in our total allowed carb count for the day. I have not tried canning soups with sweet potatoes.  Eating a low-carb diet is working for us ... my husband's A1C has gone from 9.2 to 6.5 in a year and we are now, under doctor's guidance, starting to back off of some of his medications.  Everyone’s diabetes is different and we are continually experimenting with what does and does not work for him.  Good luck with your husband's diabetes. 

Here’s my pantry to-d0 list for next week:
Although I still have pinto beans to can and the #10 cans of tomato sauce to re-can, I’m taking the next two weeks off from making a pantry to-do list.  I want to enjoy the holiday season to its fullest.  That doesn’t mean I won’t get anything done … it just means that it’ll be less of a priority for the next two weeks!  (I’ll continue to write each week, the writings just won’t include a pantry to-do list.)

Now it’s your turn, what pantry related and/or frugal things have you done since we last talked?

 Patsi  a.k.a. grandmommie pat
A Working Pantry


This post linked to Homestead Barn Hop; Homemaking Link Up; Art of Homemaking; So Much At Home Link Up; The Chicken Chick Blog Hop; Coffee and Conversation; Titus2sday; Titus 2 Tuesday; From the Farm Blog Hop; Home Sweet Home

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Pantry Challenge #34 ... 2014

Before we delve into what I've gotten done this week, I want to take some time and clarify some misconceptions that some seem to have about my pantry. 

First, it seems that some are under the impression that we have a big house with lots of room  … we don’t!  We live in a small 925 square foot house … we don’t have a basement or a root cellar that could be used for food storage either.  Yes, I would like to have either of those things, but I don’t and I’m not going to let the lack of them stand in my way of having a well-stocked pantry.

Second, I don’t have an official pantry room, my pantry is scattered throughout our small house in creative ways.  I utilize a closet we turned into a pantry, baskets that not only work for décor but also as storage, I keep our cabinets de-cluttered and utilize their space to the fullest.  We have one upright freezer and another small chest freezer that was given to us.  I use book cases, popcorn tins, tubs under the bed and in the closet for pantry storage.  I utilize every possible space without making everything look cluttered and unkept.  I don’t like clutter and piles of things sitting around so I get creative in ways to store my pantry items.  My husband says I can pack more into a house than anyone he has ever seen!   I consider that a compliment, especially when what I’m packing in is our pantry! 

And third, we eat out of our pantry daily!  We don’t just keep adding to our pantry without ever taking anything from it.  My pantry is our store and we shop from it for our meals and other things we use each and every day.  In order to keep my pantry well-stocked I grow a garden, watch sales, shop frugally, glean, preserve food, swap and when necessary, make do with what I have.

So, if you’re using any of the excuses I’ve given above for not having a well-stocked pantry, stop!  You don’t have to have a big house and lots of room in order to have and keep a well-stocked pantry … I don’t!   Your home doesn’t have to be cluttered and piled with pantry items … mine isn’t!  What you do have to have though is knowledge, a willingness to learn, a willingness to work and a willingness to think outside the box.

So what did I do this past week to restock my pantry … let’s start with …

My to-do list from last time:  

 Continue canning pinto beans … Done!  I added 7 quarts to the already 11 that I canned last week.   Thus far I’ve canned 18 quarts from the 25 lb bag and it’s not even half empty! 

Our power went out last night right in the middle of canning the pinto beans.  It was too late to start the canner again by the time the power came back on so I put the jars of beans in the refrigerator overnight, put new lids on and processed them for the full 90 minutes this afternoon.

Grind up another bag of pecans and add them to the jar I keep in my refrigerator all the time.  Done!  I now have 2 quart jars of ground up/chopped pecans in my refrigerator waiting for use.

In Addition ….

We were in Food Lion one day and as is our custom checked the meat counter.  We found lamb on clearance at about half price.  The lamb was going out of date the next day so my husband asked the meat manager if they would go any lower on the price.  At first the meat manager wouldn’t budge, but then he decided that if we would buy several he would discount them more.  We purchased 3 semi-boneless legs of lamb for $2.81/lb.  Regular price was $6.99/lb.  We brought the lamb home and set to work cutting it up, marinating and packaging it.   We added 10 packages marinated, seasoned lamb ready for skewering to the freezer part of our pantry.

I keep a jar of garlic olive oil in refrigerator all the time.  After my husband used most all of it for marinating the lamb, I needed to make some more.  Here’s how I do it … Take a one quart wide mouthed jar and fill it ¼ - ½ full of whole peeled garlic cloves.  Then fill the jar up to the neck with olive oil. Put a lid on the jar and sit it in the refrigerator to let it do its thing.  It’ll be ready for use in 2 – 3 weeks and will last a long time in the refrigerator.

We use this garlic oil for cooking, marinating and for earaches … earaches?  Yes, earaches … take out a small amount of garlic oil, warm it and drop it into the ear canal.  If there is any kind of bacterial issue going on, several applications of garlic oil over a period of time will help clear it up.  Disclaimer:   I am not a doctor, I’m only sharing what works for us, please consult a physician before trying this remedy and of course, if you are allergic to garlic or olive oil, don’t use this method at all!

Nothing went to waste with those leg of lambs, after my husband removed the meat from the bones I added them along with water, a little vinegar and some garlic in a crock pot and let it all simmer for 24 – 48 hours.  I strained it up and canned 9 pints of healthy bone broth.  (We gave what was left of the bones to the dogs!)

We had $9 in Rapid Rewards from Walgreens that we earned on Black Friday last week.  We stopped in at Walgreens on the way to church on Wednesday and picked up 3 cans of salmon which costs us $1.09 out of pocket and left the store with $4 in Rapid Rewards still yet to use.

We stopped in at Walmart on the same evening and found large plastic bags of over ripe bananas for $.25 each bag.  We bought 6 bags!   Each bag probably held 4 -5 lbs of bananas each.  That’s a lot of bananas!!!!  What did I do with that many over ripe bananas?  I peeled them, sliced them, filled snack bags with them, put the snack bags inside a quart size freezer bag and froze them.  I added 118 snack bags of banana slices to the freezer part of my pantry.  I’ll use them in smoothies.  Each snack bag will make one smoothie!

My husband got a phone call one day from a neighbor.  The neighbor had been fishing and wanted to know if my husband would clean and dress the catfish he had caught for half of them.  The answer was yes!  We actually wound up with more than half and got 5  packages for our freezer plus enough for a meal.

That same day my husband brought home a large bag of sweet potatoes that he had been given by another neighbor.  They had already cured and were ready for use.  I washed them, partially baked them, let them cool and then froze them.  When we’re ready to use them I can either finish baking them and eat as baked sweet potatoes; slice them, fry them and make gravy to go over them; cut them into French fries and finish cooking them; cut them into wedges, season them up and cook them or finish cooking them and mash them up to use in casseroles.  I added 25 various sized sweet potatoes to my freezer.

As you can see the Lord has blessed us abundantly this week in our pantry re-stocking!

The specific area of my pantry that I’m focusing on restocking for the months of November and December is baking supplies.  This time of year most stores run sales on their baking supplies, so it’s a good time to do some replenishing.   Here are the items I will be watching sales for:


Sugar-free chocolate chips … added 4 bags

Coconut oil … added 2 jars

Olive Oil

In other news:

I worked some more on getting the Christmas decorations completed using what we have.  I have just a few minor things to complete and then we’ll be all set to enjoy them through the holiday season.

We’re continuing to work on our Christmas puzzle a few pieces at a time … and having fun in the process!
When our power went out last night we grabbed our battery operated emergency lanterns, lit candles and settled down to wait it out.  Keeping plenty of batteries and candles on hand for an emergency like that is yet another area of my pantry that I diligently keep watch over.
Two years ago my husband and I had accepted the fact that, according to doctors, we would never be grandparents. We had accepted that it was just not part of God's plan for us and were moving on with our lives. One morning this week our third grandchild was born! With God all things are possible and we are praising Him for yet another gift that we thought we would never have.

Here are some things I didn’t do …

I did not do any cyber Monday shopping.  My inbox was flooded with great deals all day long, and I was able to resist them all without much effort until one came along that I really wanted to take advantage of.  In fact, I even went so far as to fill out the shopping cart on the site … I was going to get free shipping and greatly discounted prices … as has become my custom I walked away from the computer for a while to let the deal rest in my mind … 30 minutes later, I still wanted it … 1 hour later I still wanted it but I was beginning to question whether it was a need or a want … 2 hours later I still wanted it but knew that it was not a need … 3 hours later I deleted the shopping cart and clicked out of the site.  I don’t always deny myself things that I want, but there are times when I do.  Someday I will own those items, but this is not the right time financially and that’s okay.  Sometimes being a responsible adult means we need to say ‘no’ to ourselves.  Just because we have funds to purchase something at a given time, doesn’t mean we should.  Sometimes there is a bigger picture involved that will have much larger dividends in the future when we do the best financial thing.

Here are some questions I received this week …

Question: I am interested in knowing what you do with, and how you use ground up pecans? 

My answer:  I grind up pecan halves using a small cheap 'old as the hill's electric food chopper that I've had for years and years. It still works so I'm not in a hurry to replace it. We use the ground up pecans in waffles, pancakes, in baking and as an ingredient in toppings.

Question:  What do you do with ground up pork skins?

My answer:  For health reasons, my husband and I eat low-carb.  If you know anything about carbs you’ll know that breads are loaded with them so when a recipe calls for bread crumbs we substitute ground up pork skins which have little to no carbs depending on the kind you use.

Here’s my pantry to-d0 list for next week:

Continue canning pinto beans

Re-can two #10 cans of tomato sauce

Now it’s your turn, what pantry related and/or frugal things have you done since we last talked?

Patsi  a.k.a. grandmommie pat


This post linked to:  Simple Saturdays Blog Hop; From the Farm Blog Hop; Home Sweet Home
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