When people talk about "buying in bulk," there's the assumption that you have a grocery store with a multitude of bins that allow you to pay for items by the pound. While living in Portland, OR, there was an abundance of these options in grocery stores, but where I live now, I have only found one store with 8 bulk bins that contain nuts, popcorn, rice, oatmeal, and granola. I was a bit discouraged by the lack of options, so I did my research, made several phone calls, requested grocery stores to purchase items in larger containers, and compared the cost of purchasing small bags versus the added cost of shipping large bags. No surprise, but even with the added cost of shipping, I could still save money by mailing large bags of oatmeal, flour, and peanut butter, to my doorstep. I do want to clarify, that I purchase specific brands so I wasn't comparing store-brand labels. If you watch closely, many companies offer free-shipping, especially during the holidays which give you an even larger savings. Our bulk items are stored inside Rubbermaid totes in the cool basement.
King Arthur Flour is our favorite brand of flour and we order it in 25 pound bags. 100 pounds will last us about 8 months.
We purchase our grains from Bob's Red Mill in the 25 pound bags. Our family consumes about 50 pounds of oatmeal each year!
Okay, some of you readers may be laughing at this point with our oatmeal and flour consumption, but I challenge each of you to actually keep a log of what you consume, because I think you will be shocked to see how many bags or containers of a specific product you purchase every year. Take for instance, peanut butter. Paul enjoys a peanut butter and jam sandwich for school lunch. I probably make peanut butter cookies and scotcharoos three or four times a year, and between Jon an me, we probably only have toast twice each month. Given that information, I think you would be astounded to learn that we go through two, 9 pound tubs of peanut butter every year!! Our brand of choice: Once Again Nut Butter. The added benefit of this peanut butter is that it comes in a reusable bucket with a metal handle (makes a great compost bucket!) Purchasing in bulk helps reduce a lot of the packaging waste...just think how many small containers we would be going through if we didn't purchase the bucket?
What else do we consume a lot of? Cheese! I was born in Wisconsin and have a serious love affair with cheese, eating it at least 5 out of 7 days a week. Homemade pizza is a staple food for us. We ask the deli department to cut a half wheel of Monterey Jack every 2 months.
There are currently 4 hens and 1 rooster on our homestead. This week one of our barred rocks decided that she wanted to stay outside the coop at night. On the sixth morning, I found her dead. I looked high and low for her every evening but her feathers are very camouflaged right now and I figured she had a good hiding place and was sitting on a nest of eggs somewhere. It's our first incidence of a chicken taken by a predator in the 2.5 years we have raised chickens. We think a hawk got her because the leaves around her body were not disturbed and we were viewing a hawk with binoculars the evening before roosting in a tree nearby. Now we have 3 golden comets who lay an egg maybe once every 2 weeks and 1 barred rock who lays about every other day. Like most of you probably already know, egg laying decreases during the winter months due to fewer daylight hours. With our girls getting older, I have witnessed a few odd-shaped eggs the past 6 months and took pictures for posting on the blog. Irregular eggs is considered normal when chickens age and not a concern if it happens infrequently.
This is definitely an odd-shaped one. If it wasn't in the nest box, I probably wouldn't identify it as an egg.
Have you ever visited a school cafeteria and been completely disgusted by the amount of food being wasted and all the one-time use packaging that is quickly discarded to the landfill? Well, if you haven't, it's an eye-opening experience revealing the wastefulness of our current society. In this post, we'll show you how our little tiger is doing his small part to help...
In keeping with our values on reducing waste, Paul has a waste-free lunch kit. All of the containers can be used over and over again. The lunch bag contains an insulated thermos, a stainless steel water bottle, a small plastic container, a metal spoon, a small stainless steel container, a cloth napkin, and an orange plastic food wrap that has a Velcro closure and can be used as a place mat. I imagine some parents cringe at the very thought of sending containers and silverware to school with the worry that they will end up in the garbage. Accidents do happen, and thankfully Paul has brought home everything, but I do send him with containers and silverware that don't go with my best matching Tupperware and silverware set. In fact, the white plastic container was previously a cream cheese container.
In case you are interested, the orange plastic food wrap and small stainless steel container came from U-Konserve. The U-Konserve website is a great place for waste-free lunch kits.
Food packaging and food waste in general is definitely a problem in schools. With pre-packaged lunches, snacks, and beverages, a lot of unnecessary waste is ending up in our landfills. Not to mention the quality of food the children are eating and the excess spending from parents. Pre-packaged foods cost a lot more money than making things from scratch. There are some who may argue that finding the time to make a homemade lunch is too much of a time commitment. To save time, I prepare things ahead of time such as cutting a weeks worth of cheese at one time from a big block so I only need to grab a slice each day.
At the Kindergarten luncheon the parents attended last week, I was shocked to see one-time-use paper tablecloths covering every table in the lunch room. With school budgets getting squeezed, I don't understand how this wasteful spending can be justified.
When Paul empties his lunch box every night for cleaning, we compost his scraps which are typically apple cores, grape stems and banana peels.
This fall we discovered the best way to cook squash...in a dutch oven over the fire. We have cooked golden hubbard, turk's turban, and acorn squash so far and they have all turned out great!
First, I split the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and add about 2 T butter and 1 T brown sugar to each half. Sometimes the squash is too big for the dutch oven so we have to bake the halves separately. The most important part when cooking squash in the dutch oven is always keep water in the bottom; you don't want the pot to boil dry because you will ruin the cast iron. I add about a half inch of water in the beginning and periodically add water throughout the cooking process.
This is our setup when cooking over the fire. My dad welded us a stand with a hook for a pot.
Depending on the size of squash and the intensity of the fire, you want the squash to steam for about 30 minutes. In the picture above you can see steam escaping.
The squash is done when the inside scrapes away easily from the shell. Baking in the dutch oven keeps the squash moist and gives it a bit of a smoky flavor that we like.
It is fall and the girls are molting. I chuckle when I see them scratching around the yard leaving feathers in their wake. At times the coop looks like the aftermath of a pillow fight!
Not only are they quite mangy-looking with all the white patches, but they lose their tails too! The chicken on the left has a little nub compared to the chicken on the right whose has a complete tail because her molt hasn't started yet.
And here's a close-up of their new feathers coming in. They are so little and cute!
A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.