Monday, May 24, 2010

#5 Learn to can

This is one that has taken us a while to learn (still learning).

My parents never taught me to do this, my wife at least had an introduction when she was younger.

"We eat what we can. What we can't, we can."

We take advantage of the fruit seasons and make jam and preserves. This usually gets us through the year until the next season, as well as providing us with gifts for the giving season. This year will be the first year we will attempt to can out of our garden. The reason we haven't to date is we haven't had an over-abundant crop yet. This year is looking good for that though, wish us luck.

There is a wealth of information on canning online, and I suggest you find a source that works for you if you are not already used to doing it. This is where I have found most of the help I have used. I have used the "Utah Canning Guide" quite a bit:

a pdf guide
a link source

are both good sources.

I find garage sales are a great source for jars, as well as the local Goodwill. I also re-use as many jars as I can from my pantry, but check to see if a commercial lid (kerr or ball) fits, as some lids don't seal well when you re-use them (a pressure cooker alleviates the problem, but we all don't have access to this valuable resource).

Have fun canning!!! Strawberry/rhubarb jam is freaking fantastic. I'll edit later with the recipe once I find it.

#4 Use your pantry

This is one that is tied directly to buying bulk, but is SO much more.

I spend a couple minutes a week looking through the store fliers and coupon fliers to see what is offered. By buying in bulk and stocking up when there is a really good deal, I reduce my aggregate cost. I like to stock up on dry pasta or canned goods when they are cheap (I know this is obvious to some).

I know a very intelligent mother of two (RN, capable of decent conversation), that recently spent $200+ on a weeks groceries for the family. Admittedly, she may not be taking advantage of any of the other steps (buying pre-packaged convenience, or single serving stuff), but she still could have saved an additional ~$30 by using coupons. I find Albertson's and Safeway have really good deals once in a while.

When buying non-bulk items like breakfast cereal, crackers, and such wait for coupon/sales that drop the price by 20% or better, then buy twice as much or more, These items store well, and will hold you over until the next sale/coupon. I went to Albertson's once and picked up 16 boxes of cereal (we have since reduced our cereal consumption, but eat it for snacks still) and received coupons for six free gallons of milk for a total price of ~$14. I didn't need to store the milk, it was coupons for future redemption. These kinds of deals happen all the time, use this to your advantage and fill your pantry.

Almost every house has a pantry. If you do not, consider utilizing cupboard space or building some shelves in a closet or garage. The savings are worth it.

#3 Buy in bulk

Buying in bulk sounds like a trip to Costco.

I do not mean that kind of bulk. I mean buy 50# bags of flour and 25# bags of rolled oats at the co-op or other local source. I use enough to justify buying bulk because I cook every morning and every night. For some this might not sound feasible, but I assure you it makes a huge difference. Buying flour this way reduces the price of a loaf of bread from ~$1.40 (buying small bags of bread flour - 5# for ~$3) to ~$.60 (50# bag for $16). If that is too large a bag for your consumption, try splitting it with a like minded household. Rice and dry beans are equally cheap in comparison when purchased in bulk.

My breakfast of oatmeal and smoothies gets pretty expensive though, at $3.00, but that is for five people.

It takes a while to make these changes part of your routine, but once it is part of your life, you will never go back.