Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lessons Learned: Food Storage and Unemployment

I think it is wise to record lessons we have learned, so we can remember them.  Our family has been struggling with unemployment or under-employment for 3 years now.  During this time, I have relied heavily on our food storage to sustain us through financial reversals.  Today I write some of the things I have learned in hopes that they will be of use to you or me in the future.
First, I believe in having a supply of food on hand.  It is a useful principle for every day living as well as protection against emergencies. When our first job loss came, we were emotionally unprepared, but not physically--there was plenty of food. These are a few things I have learned about the food:

People like to eat what they are used to eating.  It is a good thing that I have always cooked from my storage so that it wasn't completely foreign to my family to eat what was there. Seasonings of various kinds have helped make the basic foods taste like they are "supposed to" in our minds.  I have still struggled to keep all the people happy all the time.

We are not living on this storage exclusively.  I have been to the store for milk and fresh produce and eggs. It has been important to our emtional health to have this little representation of 'normal'. Whenever a little money comes in, I evaluate what is depleted and try to replace necessities first.

Though I buy milk to drink and for cereal, I have been diligent in using powdered milk in baked goods and canned milk in casseroles and soups to help stretch what we have.  I buy only the tiniest container of buttermilk and use this tip to make it from powdered milk as well.

Knowledge and creativity are my friends.  Cookbooks and a continual open-minded looking for good substitutes has helped a lot.  You can blend a can of diced tomatoes and use it as a reasonable substitute for tomato sauce.  Mayonnaise and sour cream and even buttermilk can be interchanged in lots of salads and casseroles.  Bread bags are food grade plastic, therefore they are easily reused to cover leftovers instead of using plastic wrap.  Most beans can be substituted for other beans (kidney beans for black beans in chili etc.).  Oatmeal, wheat berries and mashed beans all work as meat extenders in casseroles.

The toughest thing to replace on a constant basis has been snack foods.  We are really used to packaged pretzels, crackers, cookies, cake and brownie mixes, and even microwave popcorn.  Making all of these things from scratch takes time and effort, plus basic ingredients--but we have done a lot of it.  One of the things I have learned is that when you are baking more, you need more of the basics.  Oil and baking powder are the baking items I have found I need to replace most often.  Cornstarch and baking soda are other items that seem small but are important. I have learned that in the future, my food storage should contain more of these goods, especially those dry goods which store well. (Note to self: store a bunch of baking powder--it goes in everything!)

I have learned that I prefer a bit of whole wheat flour in most muffin recipes and many cookie recipes.  It imparts a deeper, nutty flavor that is pleasant.

Applesauce is very useful stuff: making muffins, cookies, cakes, and as an instant side dish.  It can also be used to replace part of the fat/oil in baked goods.

Plums can be juiced and the leftover pulp used to make a delicious jam!  Cherries too, but you won't get near as much juice.  Cherry juice is best made into syrup.

People are wonderful!  We have been given food of all kinds.  It has been a blessing to see how kind and generous concerned family, friends and neighbors have been about our welfare.  It has also been fun to challenge myself to learn to cook something new that just showed up.

Money does ebb and flow.  It is important when there is a little money to invest in re-stocking the pantry, because tomorrow you will be glad you did.

Dried beans are so much more useful when you cook a big bunch and freeze them, or when you take the time to bottle them.  Then you can use them instantly like the canned beans from the store.

Making my own mixes saves time, and helps with the mental strain that comes with kids who want snacks.

I make good granola bars.  We prefer them.  (Who knew?)

A good attitude helps.  (My attitude often needs help.)  If I can look at this as a challenge to be met with a bit of spunk I do so much better than if I pity myself.  I have so much!  I am not facing starvation, others probably are, but I am temporarily tight on funds, that is all.  In exchange for this trial, I have learned so much!  I am thankful for prophets of God that counsel us to put food aside against just such a time as this.
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If you are visiting, welcome! I am in the process of a Vulcan Mind Meld with my computer to put all of my right hand recipes for feeding my family on here as fast as possible. Please come back often and stay awhile. There are so many exciting things to come!

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A clearing house for all my favorite recipes. All my food musings. All my favorite cookbooks and kitchen gadgets. If you enjoy it here, and find it useful, welcome!