It Starts at Home

These mid-winter days offer me time to ponder the meaning of life, gaze lovingly at my navel, and cross long-carried-over-to-do-items off of my to-do-list. I’ve even cleared out my sewing basket which I think has been on the list for a year now!


January was National Radon Awareness Month and since I have lung cancer I’ve been thinking a great deal about the dangers of RADON-a leading cause of lung cancer. So, I orRdered a free home test kit here:  https://tdec.tn.gov/Radon_Online/frmRADON_Online.aspx and I hung it for 6 days for testing, mailing it back to the state yesterday.


It’s precise but simple, and did I mention it’s free? It also comes with a prepaid mailer to return it in! Now be aware…if you find  your home has radon, you’ll need to be prepared to remediate the problem if you plan to ever sell your home, or  you’ll have to at least disclose it should  you sell. But I would hope you wouldn’t wait to sell to alleviate the problem should  you show a high reading. I understand the average remedy costs about $1,000-$1,500 if someone else does the venting work necessary to move the radon out of  your living area. It could probably done much cheaper if you do it yourself. How hard can that be? haha don’t answer that, please.  I’ll let you know when I get my test results back..we’re hoping of course we don’t have any problems.

I’ve also been making lots of soups and canning soup stock, using frozen bags of onion and carrot tops, mushroom stems, celery tops and other trimmings that I save for just such purpose. Last week I made 10 qts of organic broth, and at today’s prices, that equates to at least $20. My time is certainly worth that, and on cold days it helps to warm the house and add humidity by simmering that stock for hours. The resulting golden goodness is good for making soups obviously, but also for cooking rice, pasta, potatoes or beans in too. 


Speaking of good food and cooking from scratch… I’ve had so many readers ask me for vegan/vegetarian meal ideas that I’ve been writing down what we eat for supper each night, always making sure there’s enough left for lunches the following day. It’s an easy process once you get used to it. I’m sharing this oh-so-exciting information with you, my readers, because maybe you’re one of the ones that have asked for ideas. (If this bores you, just go to the next section.) So, for the first week of February, here was the Jones’ menu:

Week of February 1st,2016

Monday: Good Shepard’s Pie-potato topping made with soymilk and Smart Balance vegan spread-filling contained beans, broccoli, corn, kale, green peppers, tomatoes, carrots, onions, bay leaf, dried basil, and srirachi sauce. (This is called GOOD Shepard’s Pie because a GOOD shepard doesn’t eat his sheep.)

Tuesday: Fried Rice w/peas and carrots in peanut sauce, roasted brussels sprouts

Wednesday: Aloo Gobi over Jasmine Rice with Fusion Slaw and Rolls

Thursday: Bean and Potatoes Burritos w/Guacamole, leftover Asian Slaw

Friday: Kale, Mushrooms and Potato Bake w/Salads and Whole Grain Rolls, fresh pineapple chunks

Saturday: Grill Cheese Sandwiches w/canned soup, with pickles and fresh fruit (bananas, pineapple and red grapes)

Sunday: Pad Thai w/Naan and Salad

Looking at the lengthening days and the calendar I’m beginning to think about spring planting of course. We ate our last Longkeeper tomato last week…

20160206_170333[1]...so the goal is to grow more of them and get them in earlier than we did in 2015 so that hopefully we’ll be able to grow enough this year to last the whole winter next year!  When planning  your own garden, perhaps you can find space to plant a “ROW” for the “Rest of the World.” Because I live in the city, all I have to do to share that extra produce is to set it out on my front steps.



If  you aren’t in a high walkability area you may need to load it up and take it to your nearest food pantry or church. Please consider this one little addition to your garden this year…it can make a big difference and won’t cost you much of anything to provide good food for someone who doesn’t have it.

I’ve long advocated that we use our homes as a place of productivity, not simply a center of consumption. There’s a LOT of trouble in this big world and so I feel compelled to do what I can personally to feed and clothe and keep my family as safe and healthy as I possibly can. I share this blog with you in the hopes that it may inspire you to become more self sufficient in any way you can too. It’s my unpaid job but more satisfying than any other position I’ve ever held. It helps me to feel as secure as I possibly can given the state of things. The stock market has crashed again (no surprise there) but since I’ve not been in good health we aren’t driving much (except to doctors’ appointments!) so we’re hardly spending anything on gasoline these days. I love that we can walk to almost every place we need to, giving me an extra layer of assurance that ‘all will be well’. I need that assurance in order to BE well.

In order to create resilient and prosperous households and neighborhoods, it starts at home with me, with you, and you. 

Frugal Friday- February 27, 2015

Snow and cold weather continue to hang on here in NE TN, but I’m still enjoying the slower, quieter pace of life it brings. I’m one of the lucky folks that ‘never gets bored’. Add to that the fact that I’m retired and don’t have to get out and fight the weather conditions unless I really want to, and I’m one of perhaps three other people in this corner of the state that’s okay with it. The forecast for tomorrow is much nicer, and by next weekend when I leave for my trip, it’s gonna be beautiful! We plan to use this weekend to finally get our greenhouse set up with a workbench and shelves so we can transplant our  tender seedlings into bigger pots as they too wait for warmer weather to go into the garden.


All that is to say that it’s pretty darn easy to not spend money when you don’t get out much. We did stop in Aldi’s twice this week though while we were out and about, and BOTH times found carts that had been left out of the quarter-returning-cart-corral. We put those ‘found’ quarters  in each of our vehicles so we’ll always have one available for our own cart, regardless of which we’re driving at the time. Savings: 50 cents. Remember folks, I grew up with parents who were both children of the depression and for better or for worse, their lessons about money and frugality have stuck with me. “A penny saved is a penny earned” and all that… anyway, this week we found opportunities each and every day to remain true to our values. Frugality is a lifestyle for us, just like partying might be for others, or meditation is for monks. Our chosen lifestyle allowed us the financial freedom for me to have retired in my late 40’s and Michael in his mid-50’s, to have no debt whatsover now, and to have choices that we’d never have otherwise. I write about it here because I’m so enamored of it, I want others to experience it as well. I honestly hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as I enjoy finding quarters in the Aldi’s parking lot.

Monday: We delivered posters for the local university’s ‘School of the Arts’ because we feel it’s a great way to support their work here locally, and of course, because we can sometimes earn tickets to attend events we might not otherwise get to see. Last week’s live play and next month’s Ricky Skaggs concert are plenty of incentive to drive around on cold days to do this. While we were out, we stopped in the new “Spice World” store; they carry Indian foods and spices that you won’t find other places and are very reasonable in price too. While there, Michael picked up a large bunch of cilantro for only 50 cents! (there’s that 50 cents again folks-no amount is too small, it all adds up) We’ve enjoyed several meals this week planned around that sudden windfall and shared them with a hungry young couple that is struggling to make ends meet. I wouldn’t be able to do that if I was struggling financially too.


Tuesday: I had ordered a 25% off book and it arrived in a manila mailer. This time, there were $1.20 worth of stamps on it that had not been canceled out by the post office sorting machinery. If you found $1.20 on the ground, would you leave it there? How about 50 cents?


Wednesday: Yet another cold, snowy day. When life gives you snow, make stock! I’ve written about this process several times so I won’t bore you again but it’s the ultimate money-saving strategy if you’re cooking lots of your meals from scratch, and if you save the onion, celery, carrot trimmings and mushroom stems in the freezer that  you’ll surely accumulate from that way of cooking. Then, if you use reusable canning lids, this great-tasting and healthy stock costs pennies per quart for a few peppercorns, bay leaves and dried herbs. In addition to the 8 quarts it made, I saved about $24 over the price of store bought organic broth for those quarts, AND I got this free print called “When Life Gives You Snow…”.


Thursday: I don’t know about you, but we always seem to have paper that fits our printer that has only been printed on one side. Because most of what I print are recipes, music lyrics or other ‘unimportant’ stuff, we’ve gotten in the grand habit of keeping already-used-once-paper in the hopper. Reusing barely-used sheets of paper for this kind of printing has greatly reduced our need for buying reams of new paper, saving money, trees and more!


Friday: Another trip to Aldi’s this morning, to purchase on-sale popcorn, yielded the second quarter find. When we’d shopped there last week with our last $10-off coupon, they didn’t have anything but the microwavable kind. That stuff is 20x the price of the bags of kernels, produces a lot of extra wrapping that can’t be recycled and contains a nasty chemical that’s implicated in Alzheimer’s disease.  (My mother died of that horrible disease so it’s a ‘no brainer’ (pun intended) for me to pop my own) On our way OUT of the store last Friday, we picked up a flyer for this week’s sales. The very popcorn I  wanted is on sale this week. So tonight  I’ll enjoy some freshly popped corn and sip on some organic apple juice, also bought on sale, while watching this week’s epidsode of Downton Abbey on Netflix. I’ll admit, I’m a cheep date and even sing about it with friends from Thistle Dew on this CD!

I’m happy to say I’ve influenced Michael over the years too. He has learned to mark his calendar a week before our on-going 6 month Sirius radio agreement expires, and then calls to cancel it before our credit card gets dinged for another 6 months. Come May, the new car we bought will be 2 years old, and it came with this satellite radio wonder installed free for the first 3 months. We fell in love with it, but when it was time to renew, they wanted some crazy amount each month for it so we called to discontinue it then and were offered increasingly lower offers until they came down to the price we were willing to pay to keep it, which is $5 a month. Almost two years later, we’re still paying that price. When he called to discontinue the service today, the first offer was $89 for the next 6 months. After 3 increasingly lower offers, the operator met our same old price of $5. I’ll be traveling next weekend and will truly enjoy having that along the way. Savings: $64.00!

I hope you won’t let opportunities to save slip by you. Learn to recognize ‘wants’ from ‘needs’ and that will eliminate a lot of unnecessary expenses in your life. Sirius radio is NOT a need, but a nice luxury that is now affordable with just a bit of gentle haggling. You can’t haggle at retail outlets on the things you do need, but by watching for sales, stocking up to take best advantage of them, and by reusing, repurposing, and refusing what you don’t really need, you can win the money game too! Who knows? You may find two quarters to rub together!

Frugal Friday- November 21, 2014

I’ve had a fairly busy, productive week, but have nothing scheduled for the next three days: time in which I intend to do some long awaited sewing repairs and try some new recipes. If I waited for ‘things to slow down’ or for ‘a better time’ to get serious about “using it up, wearing it out, making it do, or doing without” it would never happen. Using the resources I have available to me wisely is simply part-of-my-daily-life, and enables me to live more sustainably, more economically, and to be a better steward of the little piece of Earth that I’m responsible for. This week was no different from many, except that I am trying to keep my grocery bills down as much as possible this month since I’ve got a family birthday dinner to prepare next week, as well as the Thanksgiving feast to contribute to, neither of which I intend to scrimp on.

Monday: I had the city deliver a load of clean, dry shredded leaves to my backyard. We use them for layering with ‘greens’ in the compost bins, for mulch around everything and as a soil amendment in our heavy clay soil when preparing new beds. They’re delivered free, and this year I had the load dumped right on top of an old tree stump where the grassy slope makes it hard to cut around! I’m hoping by the time we get to the bottom of the pile next fall that the grass around the stump will be dead and we can then easily convert that area to something beautiful and food-producing. Savings: priceless


 Tuesday:  In our efforts to keep food costs lower this month, and because we love soup in cold weather, we gladly used the small turkey carcass we were left with after a potluck meal we’d attended on Saturday night to make a pot of turkey/potato soup. Michael spent this cold day in the kitchen simmering it along with a couple of loaves of homemade bread, made using bread flour and yeast both bought in bulk. The only new expense was for fresh celery, which I bought on sale for 88 cents, since we already had the carrots, onions and herbs for seasoning growing in the garden. This pot o’ soup made six generous servings, and with the bread, we figure those meals cost us about 25 cents each It was delicious, healthy and warmed our bellies and the kitchen on a cold day. Savings: Panera Bread Company sells large bowls of chicken noodle soup w/celery and carrots for $3.99, with a slice of bread and a loud TV included in the price. Comparing that, six of their meals would’ve cost us $24.00. OUR soup meals include unlimited bread and free WiFi. Just sayin’…

Wednesday: I harvested four mature cabbages, a bushel of kale, and a ton of onions from my garden beds before the deep freeze hit. Then I covered the plots with hoops and plastic for the remainder of the winter. This is the third year I’ve used the same sheets of plastic and they’re in good shape because I wash, dry and store them away as soon as the weather warms, in order to get more use out their ‘made-from-oil’ life. (under that tunnel is broccoli, kale, chard, lettuces, spinach and more onions…all just waiting in cold storage to be harvested.)


produce on counter(1)

Thursday: I had some cooked rice, fresh snow peas, ginger, broccoli, carrots, peppers and more that needed to be used up. Stir fry to the rescue! I used up some left-from-summer Sesame-Ginger ‘grilling sauce’ that I’d bought at the discount grocery in this mix, and we loved it for supper and again for lunch on Friday.


Friday: The bag I keep in the freezer for onion, celery and carrot tops was full and I was out of my homemade veggie broth, so…


Quarts of organic vegetable broth at most any grocery store are $3.00 each. It’s a great way to use up something that would otherwise be thrown away, and after it’s simmered for a couple hours, the broth is strained and the softened, cooled veggies are given to the neighbor’s chickens as a treat. Savings: $21 since I use reusable canning lids on my jars, and add home grown herbs for flavor. I like saving that kind of money,  and I like knowing what’s in my food, don’t you?

A Mid-Winter Festival of Bannocks, Roots, Seeds and Groundhogs

groundhog-day-groundhogA little history lesson today dear readers:  February 2nd was an important day in the Celtic calendar. This ancient holiday earmarked the midpoint of winter.  As winter stores of food began to be used up, Imbolc rituals were performed to ensure sufficient food supplies until the harvest six months later. Imbolc was a feast of purification for the farmers, and the name oímelc (“ewe’s milk”) is likely in reference to the beginning of the lambing season, when the ewes came into milk. Imbolc celebrations were marked by bonfires, special foods, and the old tradition of watching to see if serpents or badgers came from their winter dens~ perhaps a precursor to the North American Groundhog Day.  One of the special foods that was prepared for the feast was bannocks, or bannock bread. A blogger that I like to follow posted a recipe for these last summer and today was the day I finally tried my hand at it. These little breads were quite good!

Easy Bannocks

  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil or melted butter
  • 3/4 cup water

Measure dry ingredients into a large bowl.  Stir to mix.  Pour oil (or melted butter) and water and stir to make a ball.

Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface, and knead gently about 10 times.  Cut the dough ball into 4 equal balls and pat into a flat circles ~ 3/4 to 1 inch thick.

Cook in a greased frying pan over medium heat, allowing about 5-10 minutes for each side. Best when served hot.navajo-fry-bread

This is a perfect recipe to round out a meal that may be a bit on the lean side, and has ingredients that most of us have already on hand. (Other recipes suggest adding a bit of sugar or blueberries to the dough) They were more biscuit like than I imagined them to be, so next time I’m going to flatten them more, cook in less time and I imagine it will make more than four that way too. I’m going to try making them over a fire the next time we go camping! Imagine-hot bread when  you’re camping!

To go with our bannocks, I made a  stew of sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, cabbage and tomatoes simmered in a quart of  home-made veggie broth, all of which we’d produced ourselves, so the only thing store-bought was the peanut butter, soy sauce and spices that made this recipe from my favorite old Moosewood cookbook perfect for the affair!

As we ate this ‘root crop’ feast, we were reminded of how concerned over their stored food supplies the ancient Celts must have been at this time of year, hoping the rituals they performed during Imbolc would protect their food and their farmers and  see them through ’til spring. We were also very thankful that we live in a time when food supplies are available year ’round.


To ensure my own crops were ‘sufficient to last until spring’,  I decided today was the day I’d go back to my plot at the community garden and dig those parsnips that I’d deliberately left behind, so I could see how they would fare with the minus zero temps we were expecting at the time. The parsnips were crunchy and in good shape!  They had actually begun to sprout new green growth underneath that 2″ layer of leaves I’d piled on!


I found one more Imbolc-like reason to celebrate today:  Our annual seed order arrived in the mail AND a local nursery donated lots of seeds to our community garden, so there’s PLENTY to celebrate and look forward to!

Seeds-big camera

To everything there is a season… and for every purpose under heaven. During these dismal final weeks of winter, I sometimes have to look really hard for those signs, but they’re there! The sun was out just long enough this morning that when Phil the groundhog poked his head out, he saw his own shadow, so, according to the legend, spring will arrive early this year. If that’s not something to celebrate, nothing is! Join me next year for the SECOND ANNUAL IMBOLC FESTIVAL-you’re all invited!


Souper Food

I began January by promising I’d write about FOOD this month and have covered ways we keep food costs down, seasonal eating and the value of keeping a well-stocked pantry. Today, it’s more of the same, tied up in one big pot~of soup!

The next couple of days are forecast to be some cold ass days, so what better way to feed the fam than by making a big ass pot of soup? There are entire cookbooks devoted to soups but it seems most of them start with “saute chopped onion, garlic and celery”, add broth, then the main ingredients. In preparing for the coming cold, I  decided to harvest some kale, parsley and lettuce from the hoop house before tightening the plastic…


Then as usual, I took a quick survey of what I had on hand and decided  last night was Minestrone night, since I had small amounts of lots of different fresh veggies on hand. I added tomatoes that I’d frozen in bags last summer, fresh potatoes and carrots that were grown by a fellow gardener, the remaining cabbage and broccoli that I’d harvested from the hoop house last week when the weather was warmer, herbs and peppers that were dried last summer and stock from my pantry.


Stock+Veggies and Leftover Beans+’Store Bought’ Bay Leaves, Fennel and a handful of Pasta=This:


Total Cost: About $1.00…at most. There’s at least a gallon of delicious, healthy and filling soup in this pot with enough to share with my brother and a cup over the dog’s kibble too! We enjoyed a salad prepared with the lettuces I’d picked earlier in the day, topped with another fresh vegetable from my windowsill ‘garden’:

100_1135This pint jar full of fresh alfalfa sprouts was made from one tablespoon of seed. Sprouts are considered to be a ‘super food’ meaning they have benefits that are so nutritious they’re considered a superior food. Right up there with blueberries, which I don’t have a lot of this time of year 😦  But I’ve got a LOT of sprouting seeds that will last for many, many years if I keep them dry in a sealed glass jar in a cool dark place. For about a dime, I can have fresh sprouts of any kind to add to casseroles, salads, soups-even breads-in 3 days! The sprouts we enjoyed tonight were exceptionally fresh and tender, and can really perk up an otherwise ‘plain’ winter salad. Dressed with our own honey/mustard dressing, we ate like kings for under a dollar, with plenty left for lunch tomorrow.

Learning the skills of growing some of your own food, preserving some of that food for winter time use, planning and cooking meals from scratch, and taking care of your health by eating a nutritious diet will help you stretch your food and health care dollars while offering you resilience and self-sufficiency during uncertain times. Learning to ‘make do’, whether it’s in the kitchen, keeping an older car running, living in a smaller house, or repairing and wearing older clothes is a mindset that can help us truly learn to ‘live MORE on LESS’. Ain’t that souper?

STOCKing up

Stocks are up at my house today. Homemade vegetable stocks, that is 😉  It’s one of those eazy- peazy things I do to save money and eat healthier, while  helping us to reduce our dependence on store-bought goods. If those weren’t good enough reasons, I’m able to make it from otherwise wasted foods, and I wrote recently about how I’m trying to reduce that too. Here’s how easy it is. I save all my onion, celery and carrot tops, mushroom stems, squash and tomato ends and other vegetable scraps in a gallon sized plastic bag in your freezer. When the bag is full, it’s enough to make about 7 or 8 quarts of rich, golden brown, good tasting stock that can be used in any recipe that calls for it. Here’s the before:

Dump the frozen contents into a large stock pot, and add 8 quarts of water, 4 bay leaves, 12 whole peppercorns, 4 crushed garlic cloves and 1 heaping tsp of whole thyme. Then I usually add a couple of diced sweet red peppers that are diced and frozen or dried when the garden’s is pumping them out faster than we can eat them, 2 or 3 quartered potatoes or turnips, (a good way to use culled potatoes, with the bad parts cut out) and then, depending on how much celery, carrots and tomatoes I see in the bag, I’ll add a few more of those things if necessary. I also added the leftover cooking liquid I had from a pot of fresh green beans I’d cooked earlier in the day to make part of my 8 quarts. Notice too, there’s no added salt. Most commercial stocks are heavily salted because I don’t think they add things like red peppers and thyme. Salt is cheap, after all. Anyway, bring  it all to a boil, then simmer while covered for a couple of hours on the stovetop, woodstove or solar cooker. Strain the stock, discarding the vegetables and seasonings. Ladle hot stock into hot, sterilized  jars and process at 10 pounds for 35 minutes. Pints for 30 minutes. I’m guessing that you could add chicken or beef  drippings to this recipe for a meat-based stock, but I’ve never tried that. Seems it would be a good way to use up those pan drippings after cooking those things. Chickens and worms both LOVE the soft-cooked veggies that are left over from this, or you can toss ’em on the compost pile. Here’s the after:

Spot checking at a local grocery store, a quart of Swanson’s vegetable broth costs $3.29. At that price, the 8 qts I made today then are worth $26.32 (plus tax!). And since I’ve started using Tattler Brand Reusable Canning Lids and Seals, I don’t have to pay for metal ones anymore either. All my canning jars were collected free over the years, and my canner is now 38 years old. My total cost: about 60 cents worth of carrots. The self-sufficiency and pride in producing something that tastes so good from food waste~ PRICELESS!

So, what’s this got to do with Transitioning? Skills like growing food and preserving it for later use, being able to repair things rather than buying new ones, or repurposing something old into something new can help us cultivate an inner resistance and resilience that, regardless of where the stock market ticker stops at the end of the day,  can help us feel in control of our lives, at a time when many of us are having  a hard time with that. Even if Peak Oil was a myth, even if our futures turn out rosy, isn’t that a good feeling to have? 

No waste week…

That’s an awful lot of food piled up in the picture above, isn’t it? I’ve been reading a lot about food waste lately, and then NPR did a ‘Talk of the Nation’ show last  Friday called “The Ugly Truth About Food Waste in America” about the growing problem of it all. You can listen to the 20 minute program here. It just seems to be a subject calling me to write about, hoping in the process that I can challenge myself and my good readers to reduce our own food wastes. I’ll begin by admitting that I thought I was doing a pretty good job of not wasting food, until I began this little experiment of mine, and have realized the ugly truth is, I do waste more than I’d like to admit! So, I’m being more mindful of it now and consequently I have been able to reduce it some. I’ve also learned that the  average food stamp recipient receives approximately $4 per day, per person to feed themselves. That’s $112 a week for a family of four. Could you meet that challenge, week after week? It’s obvious you couldn’t have much food waste, or you’d run out of food before you ran out of month! Of course, making wise purchase decisions plays a large part in how far those SNAP benefits will stretch, but I digress…

I’ve never really considered it food waste if the dog eats it and I’m then able to reduce her daily kibble a bit. But in reality, with billions of people on this planet literally starving to death, feeding the dog that last spoonful of leftovers really does count as food waste. The dogs in those places are starving too, and I’m pretty sure a starving person wouldn’t give his last bite of food to a dog. So, with that in mind, and learning that 1 in 7 kids in the US are on Food Stamps, I’ve set out to reduce my own food wastes.

Onion, carrot and celery tops go into a bag in the freezer and then made into veggie broth once it’s full. The onion skins give the broth a warm, golden color too by the way! I started this little personal challenge last Monday, so I began the week carefully going through my frig to see what needed to be eaten first. I’d thawed a 2-cup box of cooked Cannellini beans over the weekend, but had only used one cup, so I spent a few minutes going through the indexes of my recipe books until I found one that called for that one leftover cup of beans. Because it was a coolish, rainy day, I decided on “Mushroom-Barley Soup” which also used up the quickly drying fresh mushrooms AND a medium-sized head of spring cabbage that were in the frig! Yes, harvested fresh and stored properly, cabbage will keep for months in the bottom of the frig. This was a great soup that gave us 2 big bowls for supper Monday night, as well as 2 more for lunch the next day, with none left over. The dog was NOT happy however. I made a skillet of fresh corn bread to go with it and we polished our meal  off with grapes and fresh-cut pineapple we’d bought on sale the week before. Tuesday evening we enjoyed ‘Aloo Gobi’, a curried dish that used half the head of cauliflower that I’d bought on sale for $2, our spring-grown red potatoes, fresh tomatoes from our garden, lots of spices that we buy in bulk, and 1/3 cup of cilantro that was beginning to droop. I usually cook a pot of brown rice on Mondays, and use it up by week’s end in endless combinations. We ate the Aloo Gobi over cooked rice, and I cooked  sides of Chana Masala and stir fried kale to go with it, using up some leftover garbanzos and the rest of that droopy cilantro in the process, plus the last of the Farmer’s Market kale too. We ate the leftovers for lunch on Wednesday, but after a busy day of gardening and biking and appointments, we decided to order a pizza for supper-something we do only once or twice a year. This pizza was from Scratch Bakery, a small, wood fired, family owned pizzeria, and Michael was able to walk to the corner to pick it up, saving both gas and delivery fees! We both agreed, it’s probably the best pizza we’ve ever eaten and as you can imagine, there were no leftovers of that either after lunch the following day. Thursday I was able to use up some zucchini and yellow squash, more tomatoes, black beans I had in the freezer, rice and homemade salsa to make killer burritos wrapped up in homemade corn tortillas that Michael has learned to make with our little $10 tortilla press. The last of the cilantro was chopped into the burrito filling. Friday was an Indian dish, called Harira that used the last of the celery and carrots in the frig, as well as lentils, spices, fresh hot chiles that came in the pizza box and yep, rice. Michael made fresh chapatis to go with it and we were in heaven. Saturday we ate our main meal at a wedding reception we attended and Sunday I put the leftover lentils that I’d cooked on Friday into the slow cooker for a meal of ‘Sloppy Lentils’ which we ate with Oven Baked Fries. We ate the leftovers for lunch today and we’re back to Monday! The dog is a little thinner I think, which is a good thing, and my refrigerator doesn’t have any questionable food in it. My compost bucket didn’t get emptied as often this past week either I noticed. Just some cabbage, apple and pineapple cores, some tea leaves and tomato tops went into it last week, for the most part.

So, with a little more awareness on my part, some advance planning and a willing spirit, we ate healthy, delicious meals all week and didn’t have any waste. Can we pull that off forever? Maybe so. The self-challenge makes it fun, a game almost, although I’m fully aware that not having enough to eat is no game at all for many people. We made sure to make JUST ENOUGH chapatis, and JUST ENOUGH corn tortillas, with one extra for the damn dog.

I was going to end this ‘no food waste’ litany here, but last night I ground some corn in my mill for my friend, and in return, she gifted me with a pint of her home-canned salsa verde that I’ll use to make tempeh/black bean enchiladas with tomorrow, and this morning I was the lucky recipient of a quart of homemade vegan kaboucha squash soup that another  friend brought to us when she stopped for a cup of tea! We ate the soup for lunch today with those leftover Sloppy Joes Lentils, and we felt positively rich!

As we head into fall and winter, I’d like to encourage you to turn to soups, international foods, meatless meals and seasonal foods to round out your family’s meals. Food prices are predicted to have sharp increases this winter due to this summer’s wide-spread droughts that affected so much of the soybean and corn crops, which are the mainstay of livestock diets and many other foods. By not wasting a single thing, you should be able to save yourself enough to offset those increases. Let me know what you’re doing to decrease food wastes at your house. Leave it in the comments section below.

Blackberry Winter


According to Wikipedia, “In the South,  Blackberry Winter is referred to as a period of cold weather as low as 20 °F in late spring when the blackberries are in bloom. Prior to technological advances in meteorology, farmers would use such terms to know when to plant certain crops.” According to the wild blackberries that are blooming all around the edges of the woods that surround our cabin, and according to our outdoor thermostat, I’d say “we’re there”.

Sometimes it amazes me how reliable some of the weather terms are in this part of the country! ‘Dogwood Winter’ is another uncannily accurate occurrence, as is “Full Moon, Frost Soon”. I love learning about our region’s sayings, folklore and wive’s tales (or, as a young friend of mine calls them “Wise tales” which is often closer to a truism than the standard ‘wive’s’ tales.) Regardless, it was cold enough to have a farewell  fire in the wood stove today. Tomorrow I’ll  apply a good coat of stove black to it and clean the glass window so it will be ready for fall’s first frost next October. I decided to take advantage of the unexpected  free heat this morning and baked some foil-wrapped potatoes in the coals to go with our supper and simmered 2 gallons of homemade vegetable stock on top of it.

After the broth simmered for hours and hours, I strained and canned it, then fed the warm, soft veggies to the worms and the chickens. ‘The girls’ loved the special treat, and I loved not having any waste!

This unexpected ‘winter’ day offered us plenty of bread labor, as well as personal time-Michael went to the library and the feed store, then made a crock pot of oatmeal and transplanted all the tomato seedlings to larger pots -freebies that a friend that is downsizing her garden gave to us. The tomatoes will go into the main garden around Mother’s Day. I did my canning, wrote some thank you letters and caught up on some other correspondence, mixed up a fresh batch of laundry detergent, and finished the book I’ve been enjoying: “See You In A Hundred Years”- the true story of a modern-day couple and their young son that decided to spend a year living as one would in 1900. The author writes for National Geographic’s “Adventure” magazine, and decided to have an adventure all his own to write about. And boy, did he! It’s in the library if you’re interested. I can honestly say today was busy, but precious. Hope you’re enjoying your Blackberry Winter too!

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