~ from my home to yours, living the Working Pantry lifestyle ~

Monday, June 17, 2024

A Journal of My Days 2024: 6/17

The theme for this year is “Laser focused, hunkered down and spending as little money as possible.” 

We're talking gardening, bargain shopping and pantry building and how we utilize all three to keep us feed and cared for without breaking the bank!

So, how did we do this week?

We've been busy with vacation Bible school most of the week and I've not had much time to do 'home things' ... but let's see how it all played out as we worked in and around our VBS schedule and events!

In the Garden:  I continued to harvest herbs and let them air dry (this was easy since all I did was gather, wash, pat dry and lay out on trays under ceiling fans and let dry. I use 'lunchroom' style trays like these to lay my herbs on for drying.) I harvested more mullein flowers, elderberry flowers and echinacea flowers.

Look at our plums!  They are so very close to being ripe.  This is the first year we have grown plums so I'm looking for ways to use them and preserve them.  I'd love it if you'd share your best plum recipes to eat and to preserve!

The weather outside feels like we're sitting under a heat dome.  You can feel the heat pressing down on you when you're outdoors and we need rain so very badly!  If this continues, what little gardening we've been able to do will be destroyed.  We can keep our containers and raised beds watered, but there is nothing we can do about the oppressive heat that wilts down and sucks the life out of what we have planted.

In the Kitchen:  we enjoyed cabbage from the garden sauteed in a little bacon grease seasoned with salt and red pepper flakes.  Yum!

Thrifting, Bargain, and/or Loss Leader Shopping at the Grocery Store, farmers market, etc:   None this week!

In the Pantry:   Nothing happened there either, but just wait until next week!  I have big plans to add to, restock and build up our pantry!

In Other News ...  

For all you grandma's out there who don't enjoy the blessing of living near your grands but want to keep in touch and grow your relationship with them.  Here's what this grandma is doing this summer for her grands that want to participate ... introducing ...  Grandma's summer reading program!  Here's how it'll work ...

Each grand that wants to participate chooses a book for him or her to read along with grandma.  Grandma and the grandchild will read the same book at the same time and discuss it.  For every book that the grandchild completes reading and discussing with grandma, they earn $1.   At the end of summer, right before school starts back, grandma will pay up.  One grand has chosen A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Bad Beginning.  I checked with our local library for a copy, and it's ready for me to pick up today.

Click HERE to read what I've been up to in the sewing/creating world this week!  I'm loving sharing what I'm doing on Grandma's Got a Sewing Machine.  It has re-energized and awaken my love of sewing and creating.

I've watched the first 2 lessons on a series on herbal teas that Heidi over at Healing Harvest Homestead is doing.  I am learning lots and look forward to watching lessons 3 and 4 of the series this week.  You know that I'm taking notes fast and furious!  

I teach a young wives Bible class on Sunday mornings and one of the young women has asked if we could have some lessons on self-control, self-restraint and self-discipline.  Of course, I said yes and have been delving into what God's Word says on the topic.  It didn't take long before I realized that I needed this reminder as well.  I thanked the young lady for requesting this topic and started pulling together lesson 1.   I've posted my teaching notes for lesson one over on From This Heart of Mine for any ladies who would like to follow along.

That's it for me this week, what has your week looked like?

until next time,

mrs. patsi @ A Working Pantry

She looketh well to the ways of her household … Proverbs 31:27 

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  1. Home grown plums are gorgeous. Last year my tree was groaning with the weight of the crop. This year there are literally one or two. Do you eat chutney? I have a lovely recipe for plum chutney that I have made several times which I could post if it might be of use to you. My neighbour kindly invited me to pick gooseberries from her garden this week. I came home with 3lb, most of which are now in my freezer. I would like to pick and dry some of my own herbs to dry, but it is so wet here in the North of England that it will have to wait until Summer eventually shows up! I have mended a couple of broken items of porcelain lately and decided to watch some online videos that show how to do it properly. The tutorials are very well done and I am feeling more confident about repairing some items with bad breaks.

    1. Tracy, it's amazing what you can learn how to do online, isn't it! I would love it if you shared your recipe for plum chutney, thank you so much! To my knowledge, I have never tried gooseberries, what kind of taste do they have?

    2. Hi Patsy. It is quite difficult to describe the taste of gooseberries. They are quite tart and perhaps the best comparison I can make is to rhubarb. I can eat them raw, if they are very ripe, but I usually cook them and use them in desserts.
      I found the Plum Chutney recipe on a blog several years ago. I can't remember the name of the blog, but the person who posted it said it was given to them by the owners of the Red Castle Inn B&B, Nevada City, C.A. It makes about 4 1/2lb of chutney. For that you need:-
      3 1/2 cups of purple plums, stoned and chopped
      1 cup each of brown sugar, white sugar and golden seedless raisins (I use ordinary raisins or substitute sultanas)
      3/4 cup of cider vinegar
      1/3 cup chopped onions
      2 teaspoon each of salt and mustard seeds
      1 clove of garlic - crushed
      3tbsp crystallized ginger, chopped (I have sometimes substituted freshly grated ginger or dried ginger, depending on what I have on hand and have reduced the amount accordingly)
      3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

      Combine the sugars and vinegar in a large pan. Bring to the boil, stirring until the sugars dissolve. Add the other ingredients, mix well and bring back to the boil. Simmer for 45-50 mins, until thickened. Pot into sterilised jars whilst hot. Store for at least 1 month before using.

    3. Tracy, thank you for the recipe and for your description of how gooseberries taste.

  2. Those plums are beautiful! My first thought was plum jam, which is impossible to find outside of homemade and is so delicious. At the holidays that plum jam can be used for Thumbprint cookies, which are always a hit. You might also make a freezer version using tapioca? I did that with strawberries yesterday. Using tapioca means it can later be warmed for a thick sauce vs. warmed jam, which is runny. Just thoughts.

    As mentioned Friday, we had a very low spend week. This week will be another. I'm learning good sales and/or coupons don't mean I'm required to buy. In the garden I feel like a newbie again after many years of gardening. At 6300+ altitude the sun is more intense and heat does more damage. Watering deeply every day just to keep things alive, but I'm finding it's a fine line between too little water and too much. A local gardener told me "full sun" plants here actually need part shade. Thank you for the tip of air drying herbs under a fan. I'm going to do that with what's still alive before it collapses as the basil, oregano, etc. did. --Elise

    1. Elsie, I like the idea of doing a freezer version of plum jam using tapioca for the purpose of using it as a thick sauce. Great idea!

      You are so right about the good sales and or coupons. If we don't need it, have room for it or it will go bad before you use it, it's not a good sale for. We need to pass it up and leave it for someone else ... or that's the way I feel.

      We have intense heat and humidity here every summer and it is a balancing act to keep things watered correctly. Too much water and you wash all the nutrients in the soil away, not enough and the plants dry up and die. We find that watering daily or every other day and regular fertilizing helps keep them balanced, but it took us a while to figure out what that balance looked like in real life. 'Full sun' plants here need part shade to, otherwise they simply cook!

    2. Elsie, I've had to acknowledge that same fact. Just because it's a good sale doesn't mean I HAVE to buy it. I am learning to check my stock and if it's something that would benefit us I'll get it. If money is a bit tight and I've two or three on the shelf, I'll hold off and wait. It's been hard to discipline myself to this way of thinking but I finally realized I was letting fear guide my purchases more than necessity or ability to afford. It's made a huge difference in my budget!

    3. I know just what you mean, Terri. We moved into this house in June of 2022; it had been a cross state move, I was starting from scratch, and it was just when food inflation was spiking. Fear can become a habit, I've discovered. Each time I see a loss leader ad now I think, "I have to stock up while the price is good!" But I'm not feeding a family anymore. It's just my husband and me and we don't eat much (in our 60s). What helps me NOT buy is the knowledge that such sales sell out fast and there are families feeding children who need it more than I do.

      Patsy, I'm still trying to find the balance of watering. I combined soils to have more water retention, but the heat of full sun has raised the soil temps to 100 degrees some days. Still, my failures have given my sister a laugh and for the 1st time in decades, she's planting seeds in pots this year. The joke had always been that I got the green thumb and she got the black one. So I guess "cooking" the roots this year inspired her to try to outdo me! LOL! --Elise

    4. Elise, I don't know of much of anything that could grow in soil temperatures that high. At least you and your sister got a good laugh out of it!

  3. My fave Spiced Plum Cake
    ** buttered & floured 8-inch cake pan; preheated 350°F oven
    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
    6 tablespoons softened butter
    1 cup sugar
    2 large eggs, beaten
    1/3 cup vegetable oil
    1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
    5 plums

    Making the batter — In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt,
    baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. In the work bowl of a
    standing mixer (or a large bowl if you are using a hand-held electric
    mixer), beat the butter at medium speed for 1 minute. Add the sugar,
    and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy — about 3 minutes. With
    the machine still running at medium speed, gradually beat in the
    eggs. Then beat in the oil and the vanilla extract. turn the machine to
    “low” speed, and add the dry ingredients, blending only until they are
    Assembling the cake — Scoop the batter into the prepared pan. Then
    cut the plums in half, and remove the stone (and stem, if attached)
    from each. Arrange 9 halves flesh-side-up atop the batter, spacing
    them evenly in a grid pattern.
    Bake on center rack until tbatter turns golden brown, and toothpick
    inserted in various places in the batter comes out clean — about 30-40
    minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes.
    ~ Madelyne

    1. This sounds gorgeous - going to give it a try! Thank you

    2. Madelyne, that spiced plum cake sounds delicious! Thank you!

  4. We have not had any plums for many years due to late freezes but this year the tree was loaded. The silly squirrels stripped the tree while they were still green so none for the humans. My Mom made plum jam when we were kids back in Iowa. I can still see the baby food jars lined up on the basement shelf. It was our favorite.

    Grocery prices seem to have made another jump here. I would have never thought I would say this but we are finding the lowest prices on many items are at Sam's Club. I just check the app before deciding where to shop. We needed avocado oil so before heading out on Saturday I checked the Aldi App where a half liter was 6.05. Sam's was 9.98 for a whole liter. That is significant savings as are many other items. They are carrying more and more everyday items such as White Lily self rising flour which was 7.84 for ten pounds. (Walmart five pounds is 4.44 and the next cheapest price.) Gas was also 34 cents less per gallon then other area stations. We avoid the pretty stuff and the convenience food areas and zip past the tempting but expensive bakery items. I even found that juice in individual serving bottles is cheaper than gallons at Aldi. I won't do that on a regular basis because of all the plastic but we did pick one up for our Saturday lake breakfasts. I recommend that everyone check prices on the App and see if you could be helped by shopping there.

    I love your reading club! Enjoy those moments! Yesterday our three yr old granddaughter told us she had picked Unicorn ice cream at the ice cream shop. I asked what it tasted like and after a pause she said it tasted pink. How precious are those small happy times!

    1. Lana, I hate to hear that food prices are going up again! I just don't know what people are going to do! I'm sure Sam's Club won't stay at the lowest prices very long. It seems every time we go there, prices have increased from the last time we were there! We shop like you all do, we bypass the convenience and bakery foods. We can prepare ahead our own convenience foods as well as any bakery foods we want. Sadly, both these categories of food have priced themselves right out of our budget.

      My granddaughter and I read chapter one in her chosen book today and discussed it via the phone this evening. We plan to read chapter 2 and discuss it tomorrow evening. I absolutely loved it!!!

    2. Our Sam's prices have been the same or even lower for a year or so. So it may still be the lowest for some time going forward.

      I think we will schedule a time to just read a book to our next to youngest grands. It will be a nice way to connect with them.

    3. Lana, that's a good idea to schedule a time to read a book to your youngest grands. I might try that with my youngest since she is not a reader yet ... if she will sit still long enough!!!! She is one active little one!

  5. What a lovely idea about Grandmas summer reading challenge. Mine is about little ATM (only 2 and half) but I will remember it for when he is older as he loves books

    1. Jane, I have one grand that is a bit too little as well, but you can bet we will give her the opportunity to do grandma's reading program when she is old enough too! She loves books too!

  6. First, Patsi, I want to thank you for the information you share with your readers. This 82 year old lady has learned much from you. On to the plum tree. Ours is 12 years old but this is the first crop we have been able to harvest (13-15 pounds) and not a huge one at that. Yes, squirrels are often the problem if a late freeze does not get to them first. This year, however, we took bird netting and wrapped around the trunk of the tree and as far up as we could reach. Apparently, the squirrels do not like that net. Yay for us! Also, placing the plums, even the green plums, into a paper bag with an apple or two for 4 days resulted if very ripe and flavorful fruit. That way we can pick before the squirrel might. Tomorrow I will make the first batch of plum jam!! :-)

    1. Marilyn, thank you for your encouragement! That's a good tip about wrapping the bird netting around the trunk of the tree. I will have to add that to my gardening notes. That's a good tip about harvesting the plums green and using a bag and an apple to ripen them also. I'm learning from you today, thank you for sharing!

  7. My Nana often made plum butter. It was do delicious. We are in the triple digits weather-wise this whole week.
    Returned books to the library and checked out some new ones. One of the books is "The Embroidered Closet".
    I had seen it on Amazon. Full of patterns and instructions on hand embroidering embellishments for your clothes.
    The book did not disappoint. Having looked it over carefully I decided to use a gift card to purchase it on Amazon and today it was half price. No out of pocket was spent. Planted more carrot and green beans, Roses were deadheaded and front flowerbeds weeded.

    1. Cookie, plum butter sounds delicious. Do you know how she made it?

      I checked Libby for 'The Embroidered Closet' and they didn't have it. I also checked our local library, and they didn't have it either. I went to Amazon and checked it out, it does sound like a very useful book.

      Our weather is hot and humid too, we are in the dog days of summer ... which is normal for our area this time of year. It will stay this way for the most part until October.

      You had a good week, I need to deadhead my roses too! So much to do outside and so little time that weather permits working outside!

    2. Patsi, unfortunately I don't have her recipe. However, if you Google "recipe for plum butter", which I did today, there are many recipes to choose from. My Nana immigrated to this country from Lithuania so I imagine it was a family recipe from there and used the most simple ingredients. Cookie

  8. My Granny had a plum tree that we climbed and sat in like a row of birds, all seven of us grandkids, lol. It was the loveliest plum tree, always full of fruit each year.
    I think your reading program is brilliant. Have fun reading. Of all my children, Katie urged me to read several of the books she found pivotal and we'd discuss them. I'm glad she did ask me to read. It gave me insights into her that i wouldn't have had.
    My granddaughter from North Dakota (grandchild #2) is flying in tonight. I have not seen her in 17 years and 3 months. She turned 18 in April. She's only here for three days and it's going to speed by.

    1. Terri, I hope you have an amazing, howbeit, long overdue visit with your granddaughter!

      Getting insights into how my grands is why I chose to let them choose the books we would read. One of my grands and I had our first discussion session today and have one planned for tomorrow. I loved every minute of today's session!