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A Little Different Question About Harvesting

Posted by homemadecountrylife Zone 8A CA (My Page) on
Sun, Aug 14, 11 at 15:16

I am trying to get back into preserving and stocking up on foods. Since there is a drought in the South and that means fruits, veggies are not growing well, and that means cattle are not getting water or enough feed, I'm afraid cattle are going to be slaughtered and "flood" the market. So I am feeling overwhelmed as to what to try to stock up on as in where to start. Should I buy more fruits & veggies and can or freeze them, or should I focus more on meat & grains? I also heard that if produce isn't growing, that means seeds are going to be hard to get/find too.

We don't have much money a week for food ($30 for 4), so I am feeling overwhelmed and that this might be impossible to accomplish with such a tight grocery budget.

Thank you for any help and I hope I made sense :)


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: A Little Different Question About Harvesting

Excellent questions! Something wife and I have been discussing of late given the poor garden results this year thanks to the extreme heat. Now that the weather has finally broken we plan a much bigger fall garden than normally and can only hope the fall weather cooperates. Do you garden?

We spent Saturday browsing through the local Farmer's Markets here and found very few deals on fresh produce. Local gardeners who sell at the market are in the same boat as we are. But the local pick-your-own farms have some real bargains right now if you are willing to take split tomatoes, bruised peaches, and other less-than-ideal produce. Have any local p-y-o places near to you?

Meat is going to be our focus given the high prices, and since we still have a good stock of canned fruits and vegetables from previous years, so until hunting season opens here we are going to focus on meat sales and meat bargain hunting for canning and freezing.

Bartering is also picking back up here. We traded some hay bales for rights to a hog to be butchered later so you might talk to neighbors and try to get some sort of barter system set up.

The first step in other words is to explore what all food sources (other than grocery stores) are available to you locally. Then I think many of us on fixed incomes will have to explore changing our eating habits some. More dried bean protein instead of meat, lots more winter squash than tomatoes, more venison than beef, etc.

Hope this helps.

Dave


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RE: A Little Different Question About Harvesting

I'm assuming from your name that you garden, but maybe don't have much this year? Lots of us in the same boat. $120/month isn't much these days, try to cut coupons (check out some websites on couponing), buy store brands, and stock up if/when you can (buy 20 rolls of TP in a big pack rather than 4 rolls at a time - even if you have to split it with a friend of neighbor b/c you don't have storage space or can't swing the budget, it ends up less per roll). Also check out dollar stores for paper products, cleaners, etc. (sometimes they have good prices on cereal and such) and thrift stores for clothing.

Unless you find a great deal at PYO places, it's often less expensive to buy store brand canned goods and frozen veggies than to can your own (if the price of gas/propane/electricity out there is anything like here!).

Might be a toss-up on meats - could be less expensive to can instead of freezing if you have a PC and like canned meats, and you don't have a chest freezer. Appliance stores will start putting their deep freezes on sale soon, if you don't already have one it might be good to find room in the budget (monthly payments?) to buy one. Then when all that meat floods the market you can stock up, but be sure to buy only those cuts and in quantities your family will eat before it loses quality. You don't need a Foodsaver, just heavy duty freezer wrap paper and tape (not regular masking tape). NCHFP site has tables on how long to store foods.

A grocery chain near us has a "can-can" sale twice per year, shortly after we bought our freezer last Aug/Sept they had one and I was able to stock up on meat.

While boneless cuts are less expensive per pound when you consider "waste", remember that bone-in cuts are less expensive per pound at the store AND can make another meal if you make your own stock from that "waste" (bones). So buy whole chickens or quarters rather than boneless breasts, etc. And learn to like beans! We live on chili and soup all winter long - 1 pound of London broil or bottom round goes a long way when mixed with 5-6 cans of beans (even better if you buy dry beans and soak them). Learn to like oatmeal - can't beat it for cheap filling breakfast.


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RE: A Little Different Question About Harvesting

I want to garden and have tried for the last ten years here in the desert, but with very few good results to show for it. My backyard faces south and with temps that soar into the 100's or higher in the summer, I struggle and so does my garden. I grew up in the farm lands of Minnesota so I do know a few things about gardens, I just don't know anything about gardening in the desert.
I am going to try something different this year and plant in the fall of next year (have to give the ground a rest and amend & prepare the soil with some homemade compost), so I can have spring crops when it's cooler. I'm thinking about cool weather crops like tomatoes, lettuces, broccoli and potatoes.

I don't have much space to garden because I live in the city. But I don't live near any good Farmers Markets. We have 2 very high priced ones near us but I can't seem to get any good deals. The next best thing that I have been relying heavily on is a grocery store that caters to the Latin community with fresh produce and reasonable prices.
We do have PYO orchards near us but when we called this spring everyone said their harvest was wiped out by a late frost so there wouldn't be any harvest this year, unfortunately.

I was thinking about focusing on meats too, and for what it's worth I think this will affect the milk and egg prices too. Since they need feed too, they might flood the market too since no one can afford or find feed for them. Once they flood the market the demand will go up once it has "quieted" down. Have you and your wife tried freezing eggs? I heard you could do that but I am concerned about the texture and outcome, having never tried it.

Bartering isn't big here, being near-ish the outskirts (but still a "small" community) of Los Angeles, CA. I have tried Craig's List but to no avail. My friend and I are trying to get back into the old ways of preserving and living, so she's the only one I barter with.

I want to change our eating habits to a vegetarian meal atleast 2 times a week to save on costs, but my husband has such a super metabolism that I can't do that. I do serve rice with many of our meals since he is Asian and it's part of his culture.

Thanks for your help and ideas.


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RE: A Little Different Question About Harvesting

I'm not sure I understand the super metabolism issue; many world-class athletes perform well on a diet that includes other protein sources and high-nutrient carbs from beans and whole grains (i.e. quinoa). Meat is the least of it.

Stocking up costs money. Freezers are expensive to operate and the home canner can incur many costs. Buying what you know you will use up and focusing on minimizing waste may be as important as any other strategy.

1. The fall garden may be a good option. You might check with the nearest Extension service for information on optimal varieties for your growing conditions and tips re such issues as water conservation.

2. While home food preservation is appealing, it may not be the best option for you. You have to factor in utilities and water costs as well as the costs of canning or freezing supplies, and that can really add up. Even though such things as canning jars are re-usable, if you have to add to your stock of such things the capital expense may just be too high for your current finances.

3. The highest nutrition vegetables are often frozen or commercially canned because the time from picking to processing is so brief. Ironically, Farmers Markets and produce departments are selling produce higher in cost and lower in nutrition because it's sat too long.

You also have to factor in the waste. A bunch of broccoli contains stems. Yes, you can peel them for soup, but you probably won't want to do that every time, so realistically, a frozen package of broccoli flowerets may be both cheaper and less wasteful.

I feel for you and the challenge you face. It requires assessing every food source and option, picking and choosing what is optimal.

Canning (and particularly freezing) can be very expensive. You don't have the luxury of growing or preserving what won't cost out. In that regard, assessing your diet to remove low-value foods where possible (We all need the occasional indulgence.), being aware of sales and cost-effective products, may be the very best use of your time and money.

Carol


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RE: A Little Different Question About Harvesting

The best money I ever spent was last fall when I bought 3 cold frames about 2 ft by 3 ft long and placed against the wall of the well house facing south. We had all the lettuce and spinach we could eat. It is amazing how much money you can save by not buying spinach and lettuce. We also plant greens in the garden in the fall.
It has been so hot here this summer and last. We had 2 green beans this year! They bloomed like crazy - but no beans.


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RE: eggs and milk

Yes, you can freeze eggs but maybe you should look at getting some chickens (many urban areas allow them) so you have fresh eggs? Though I don't think it's as likely that the market will be flooded with chickens as with larger animals that eat more/cost more to feed. Definitely won't be a glut of eggs - if anything, the opposite if commercial producers start butchering their layers early. My uncle has a small flock, says his break-even point is $2/dozen which is normal price (or less than) in grocery store unless it's a loss-leader (I just bought some $1/dozen). Farmer's market is selling "free-range" eggs $4/dozen.

Milk can be frozen but it's so bulky it's not cost-effective to do so. Powdered milk is a better deal if you can stand the taste (my mom used to mix powdered milk and water with fresh store-bought milk to stretch it). Same as eggs - if dairies can't afford to feed/breed the cows, they won't have milk but there will be a lot of beef.

BTW, tomatoes are considered a "warm weather" crop here, unlike the others you mentioned. In your zone, they may be year-round - but then are lettuce, broccoli, etc. "winter" crops? Buy seeds now, they will keep for a couple of years.


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RE: A Little Different Question About Harvesting

If you plant a crop and then note what does well under your conditions (and also suits your family's taste) you can save the seeds yourself for the next year.

Depending upon the plant and whether you're planting hybrids, this won't necessarily work or may not work more than a few seasons, but seeds can often be "harvested" from many varieties.

For the winter you may also look into crops (i.e. roots) which can just be left in the ground. I'm not familiar with your area but if it's possible to keep carrots, for example, through the winter, that's the cheapest storage of all. Just pull and use on an as-needed basis.

Especially good value are roots like beets where both tops and root can be cooked and eaten.

Carol


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RE: A Little Different Question About Harvesting

Since you're in a metro area and inexpensive produce is hard to find, I really recommend buying canned (or frozen, though I wouldn't buy a freezer just for veggies). You seemed concerned about meat - first stocking up while it's on sale, then worried that it might not be available. If you absolutely must have meat (esp. beef, pork) then I still think it may be cost-effective to get a 8-10 cf freezer and stock up when you see prices drop - IF you can afford it.

But since your DH is Asian, does he insist on large portions of meat? If he was raised on a typical Asian diet (1st or 2nd generation), then he should be OK going back to that. I assume you're 4th-20th generation American (northern European background) and are used to "steak and potatoes" type diet? As Dave suggested, maybe it's time to re-assess your family's diet and try to adjust to lower-cost protein sources. If your MIL cooks traditional foods, you may be able to get some "family favorite" recipes from her that don't rely so heavily on meat or eggs.


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RE: A Little Different Question About Harvesting

Thank you all for your great advice, I really needed it.

Ajsmomma - I do stock up when ever I can. I'm better at dry goods, especially home products that does not have a shelf life like food does. But I love your advice on buying chicken with the bone in for making stock. I just found a WB recipe for canning your own stock and I intend to use it. It was well timed advice :)
I am not zoned or allowed to have chickens in my yard, unfortunately. And we have a rattlesnake problem where I live and that might just make it worse. What is the texture of a previously frozen egg? How long would it take to thaw out an egg for a recipe? Thirty minutes, an hour?
My husband is a first generation Thai Asian, and he is used to meat no matter what. My MIL with make a few side dishes and a main meal, most with some kind of meat in it. I can make these meals but I do not have access to an Asian grocer here, so I must stock up when we visit my MIL once every 3-4 weeks. Some ingredients just don't keep that long.

Readinglady - My husband is the same weight we were when we married 10 years ago (115 lbs). No matter how much he eats he doesn't gain a single pound. However, if he doesn't eat enough, he looses weight easily. He does eat alot of carbs but gets sleepy after the initial energy, so he needs proteins to balance it all out to give him energy he needs throughout the day.
I can't seem to find my local extension service, can you point me in the right direction as to where to look? I tried my Chamber of Commerce and they didn't have any local gardening or tips for gardening helpline. I tried my local nursery, but didn't get much help beyond "water well & grow only local native plants".
I do like your frozen produce but it can be "expensive" by my standards. I don't like paying $2-$4 for a frozen bag of fruit or veggies. But I understand what you are saying and I have bought a few pkgs when they were on sale. My worry is, since I'm in Cali, I worry about rolling blackouts and what if my freezer is cut? I would like canned fruit & veggies just in case it happens.

Missem - I may use your cold frame idea for this winter to protect some greens I want to grow. If I can make a makeshift one I think it might work for a small area that I have already started to amend.

Despite what it sounds like, we aren't in dire straights for food on the table, I have been learning to stretch our money and coupon like crazy. But with a 1st grader and needing money for her snacks & lunch & our dinners, it doesn't leave much for me to try to stock up on foods. I'm slowly doing it but I am overwhelmed at where to focus the energy at. I might just keep trying to stock up on meat when I can.


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RE: A Little Different Question About Harvesting

re freezing eggs
Take an egg. Put it in the freezer. Do it right now. Tomorrow take it out of the freezer. Note the time. Then note how long it takes to thaw. Then cook the egg. Also cook a fresh egg. Compare the 2. Then you will have all your answers to freezing eggs.


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RE: A Little Different Question About Harvesting

I see you're in California, which fortunately still has a fairly active Extension service. At the link below there's a clickable map for all states.

Also consider Utah Extension. As there are many members of the Latter Day Saints in Utah, that Extension offers more information on long-term food storage.

http://extension.usu.edu

When sales come on, canned goods offer great value, nutritionally and economically. Corn, for example, is out of the field and in the can, processed and ready to truck to stores within about 4 hours. It's hard for any home food processor to beat that.

I can understand the issue with Thai food. Loss leaders (the headlined weekly specials) can make it possible to keep meat costs down. Also consider Primal Cuts, which may be cheaper. These are larger sections which the buyer breaks down into their component parts. Talk to the butcher; tell him your situation and get his advice.

http://culinaryarts.about.com/od/beefporkothermeats/ss/cutsofbeef.htm

With meat and poultry, the more work you do the cheaper things get. So buying whole chickens and cutting them up yourself results in big savings. You can get some boned breast meat for stir-fry or curry or soups, some thighs and drums, then use the back, the wings, the neck, etc. for stock. Buy 4 chickens on sale, for instance, cut them up and you have enough breasts to freeze for several meals, some thighs and drums for baking or grilling and enough bony parts for a good batch of stock.

Re Thai foods, I've had very good luck freezing lemongrass, galangal (which can also be peeled like ginger, covered with Sherry, and stored in the fridge a long while), and hot peppers, of course.

Homemade curry pastes will freeze well.

Well, I'm quite exasperated. I wanted to provide clickable links for the URLs but for some reason this site doesn't want me to do that. Doesn't like too much competition I guess.

Carol

Here is a link that might be useful: Extension Service Map


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RE: A Little Different Question About Harvesting

I'm a bit confused about the Thai cuisine since every Thai restaurant I've eaten in has been very similar to Chinese/Japanese/Korean/Vietnamese food (not in flavor) in that the meat is used more as a flavoring mixed with the carb, or perhaps a small skewer/satay. Doesn't seem that you would go through as many lbs of meat as typical English/American roast/chop/steak meal.

Could you try growing some of the Thai veggies/herbs? Then you don't have to travel to MIL's grocer for ingredients.

If you are worried about rolling blackouts then I would have 2nd thoughts about stocking the freezer with meat. Though if you have large cuts (roasts) solidly frozen and the freezer is full, it will stay frozen (or be safe to refreeze) for quite a long time if you don't open the door. Smaller packages and thinner/smaller cuts will thaw out faster, and chicken and fish should be used ASAP. Your blackouts don't tend to last more than a day or 2 do they? Of course we have to contend with ice and snow here, but at that time of year we're more worried about keeping ourselves and the pipes from freezing than with stuff in the basement freezer thawing!


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RE: A Little Different Question About Harvesting

I'm also confused about how much meat you are putting in your thai food. I love thai food since it is so reliant of rice and veggies and noodles.

You may want to stop buying home products. Most everything in your house can be cleaned with baking soda or vinegar. Instead of using paper towels, cut up old clothes as rags.

There are 2 great books - "400 uses for vinegar" and "500 uses for baking soda" that will help you get started. You could probably even get the books at the local library.

Here is a link that might be useful: 400 uses for vinegar


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RE: A Little Different Question About Harvesting

I just wanted to mention a story in yesterday's new york times about people gleaning fruits from trees on abandoned foreclosed properties in urban areas. I wouldn't have thought of it, but it's a good idea. Also, put out a freecyle ad for excess fruits and vegetables. I'll be giving away canning pears this weekend, maybe someone in your area has a similar situation.


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RE: A Little Different Question About Harvesting

Well, I'm going to have to wait on stocking up. I can't believe it but all 3 of our cars broke down. The third car is for emergencies such as this... it broke down too. So I'm going to have to put a hold on ANY stocking up for quite a while. This is what I wanted a storehouse for, just in case we didn't have much money. :(

Not all Thai food is the same. There is the "American" version & authenic, like every other cusine :) Both are good and both vary but the way my MIL cooks it is she buys a pound of shrimp and makes one dish & then uses a pound of chicken for another dish. My point is, I can't afford to cook like that although I know my husband would love that. It's hard to cook for someone who was used to all that after they've had it for 20 years, it's been a slow process to get him to understand I can't make two different meats in One meal. It's just too tight on our budget. That doesn't mean he won't ask me to cook up another pound of meat for lunch on the weekend or something.
Anyway, that's why I'm struggling with stocking up on meat. I don't have much space or money for alot of it. But I don't want to be struggling for it later when it's expensive.

Planatus - You've posed a unique solution but at the risk of offending you, even if no one is home and it's bank owned, I would consider that stealing. I have no way of asking the owner or bank if I can have the fruit. I would love to, don't get me wrong but I couldn't with out permission.

I can't find much in the way of seeds for Thai veggies. For the most part he loves American veggies anyway, but I love that idea! :)

Reading Lady - I'm looking into the Extension right now! Thank You! :) We've frozen Lemon Grass & Galangal too, that has been a big help. I haven't tried making curry yet, but we are looking into that! Since Thailand is near India they have the same love of "heat" in their food. So I promised my husband we would find a good curry recipe. Do you have one?

Pixi_lou - Thank you so much for the Vinegar link & Baking Soda book idea! I needed those! I knew they were out there but I hadn't put aside the time to look them up yet. I was so worried about stocking up on the food. I'm checking it out tonight. I really appreciate the time you took to link it up for me.

What is everyone stocking up on more of, lately?


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RE: A Little Different Question About Harvesting

By the way, I froze an egg in my freezer, like suggested yesterday. But when I went to go get it, this morning, it was frozen split open. Is that normal to have happen?


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RE: A Little Different Question About Harvesting

When I get an extra egg yolk or egg white, I drop it in a baggie and freeze for future use. They thaw quickly in the bag in a bowl of water.
The egg in the shell expanded and cracked as it froze, thats normal.
Next time break the shell and drop egg in a baggie to freeze. I have 2 yolks thawing now. I use them to make gluten free pie crust. I am sure you could wash out out the bag then store it in the freezer for the next use (recycle/reuse).
I have never scrambled frozen/thawed eggs at home but at work we use cartons of frozen/thawed eggs for baking and making fried rice. I work at the school lunch room.


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RE: A Little Different Question About Harvesting

Granted I have no idea about your financial situation and where your $30 per week budget came from, but there seems to be a disconnect between the budget and what your husband is expecting for food on the table. At the risk of offending, it sounds to me like your husband needs a reality check. Is he aware of the cost of food? And how small the grocery budget it? Ask him what he wants for dinner the next 7 nights, then make a grocery list and send HIM to the store.

Run a google search on frugal living. There are lots of bloggers out there waxing poetic about their frugal lifestyle. One that comes to mind is thirtyaweek.wordpress.com - a nyc couple who have a $30 per week grocery budget. But if you can find other ways to cut your monthly expenses, that could help fund your husband shrimp and chicken cravings.


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RE: A Little Different Question About Harvesting

I don't know what Thai veggies you would be looking for, but thought it might work in your climate. Here's a link on growing lemongrass from a stalk/bulb from your grocer.

I'm growing many varieties of peppers this year, including Thai which are very pretty as a potted plant (hope to overwinter some), they might even be perennial in your zone.

If you can get DH used to having only *one* kind of meat dish per meal, a pound or 2 doesn't cost that much and should feed a family of 4 (besides the 1st grader, what is the age of your other child - not a teenager who eats like a horse I hope - I've got one of those!).

I haven't tried freezing eggs but it depends on your recipe, either crack it into a small container and freeze, then transfer to gallon bag or larger container so they stay separate, or separate yolks and eggs, freeze a small container or baggie of however many yolks/whites your recipe calls for (label it). Ice cube trays might work for small or separated eggs.

My sister lived in Japan for a number of years and married a 1st-generation Japanese-American so often cooks Japanese food. I don't know how much meat she uses, her MIL cooks like yours (every meal a feast when they go to visit), but my sister cooks much more simply. Is it just when you go to visit and MIL cooks b/c it's an "occasion", or does she cook that way for just her and your FIL?


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Growing lemongrass

Oops, forgot the link!

Here is a link that might be useful: growing lemongrass


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RE: A Little Different Question About Harvesting

I forgot to mention I do freeze lime and curry leaves with great luck. I don't know if those are part of your cuisine (i.e. regional differences) or not but thought I'd mention it.

I wonder how much of your husband's need for meat is cultural as opposed to nutritional. I'm not minimizing that. Our connections to food are very powerful and he may find shifting to a less meat-oriented diet unacceptable. We all have our "line" and meat may be his! It's easy to say Quinoa is a perfect protein, but if someone doesn't want it, that's the way it goes. And of course, we all try to please those we care about.

I'm not the best source for online Thai recipes. I mainly use cookbooks and most of those are vegetarian or less meat-oriented than what you're looking for.

However, years ago (1998, in fact) I ran across a website for a guy named Larry Wheeler who offers a range of curry paste recipes and very "meaty" cuisine. I googled him and discovered he's still online but at a different URL, so you might check the site out. Sorry about the stupid game pop-up. Try to close it and it'll keep telling you you're a "winner" but when you close that window you'll return to where you should be. An irritant but not a danger. And if you're lucky enough to have it at the top out of the way of text, just ignore it.

Thai Meat and Seafood Recipes

You can also find a lot of good Thai recipes via Australian websites. As a Pacific Rim country, magazines like Australian Women's Weekly do offer a fair number of Asian recipes.

The good old reliable NCHFP offers information on freezing eggs; just check the link below.

Carol

Here is a link that might be useful: How to Freeze Eggs


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RE: A Little Different Question About Harvesting

Next time you buy lemon grass, put a few bunches in water. When they grow roots, plant them outside. Mulch if it freezes during the winter. You won't need to buy any more lemon grass. It's been growing great, with very little water for me, here in AZ!


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RE: A Little Different Question About Harvesting

Oh, BTW, I looked up freezing eggs in Putting Food By and it says

1> Examine each egg before adding it to the others in the freezer container. For eggs to be frozen whole (white and yolk together), break each egg into a saucer, look for firm white and high-standing yolk. Gently stir to mix until whites and yolk are combined. Add to freezer container.

2. For separated eggs, put each white and each yolk into its own saucer to examine before adding to their respective containers.

3. Stir yolks til mixed, and add either 1/2 tsp salt OR 1 tsp sugar into each 6 yolks. Label the container so you know whether it's to be used for a dessert dish or not. You can prepare egg yolks in bulk by adding the appropriate amount of salt or sugar for the total number of yolks, stir throughly, then fill individual containers according to the equivalents given below (muffin tins and ice cube trays work well):

for USDA "Large" eggs

1 Tbsp stirred egg yolk = 1 "large" egg yolk

2 Tbsp stirred egg white = 1 egg white

3-4 Tbsp stirred mixed whites and yolks = 1 whole Large egg

1C whole mixed eggs = 4-5 whole Large eggs

1 pint whole mixed eggs = 8-10 whole Large eggs

1 pint stirred whites = 16 whites

1 pint stirred yolks = 24 yolks

Thawing eggs - do not thaw by warming of any kind! A 1-pint container may take 24 hours to thaw in the fridge. An alternative is to thaw under COLD running water (cuts time to 3 hours). You can defrost in the microwave (but personally I'd be afraid of cooking them by mistake). It's simpler to freeze in smaller amounts.

THAWED EGGS MAY NEVER BE REFROZEN.

FROZEN (THAWED) EGGS SHOULD ONLY BE USED IN LONG-COOKED OR LONG-BAKED FOODS. UNCOOKED EGGS ARE THE FAVORITE GROWING MEDIUM FOR SALMONELLAE, AND FREEZING DOES NOT DESTROY BACTERIA, MERELY SLOWS THEIR GROWTH. THEY WILL MULTIPLY IF THAWED AT ROOM TEMPERATURE OR WARMER AND WILL NOT BE DESTROYED BY LOW HEAT.

Do not use defrosted eggs in mayonnaise, chocolate mousse, etc. and be sure that thawed eggs are cooked to at least 165 F if used in such dishes as omelets. The best uses for thawed eggs are cakes, breads, and such long-cooked desserts as bread or rice pudding.

HTH


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