Food Storage

I’ll never buy hot cocoa mix again…

My girlfriend and her son have arrived, and we’re settling in for a good visit through the end of next week. This morning we took a little pre-hike – a test hike, so to speak – down to the creek in the horse pasture.  This afternoon our plan is to take a longer hike into the Rattlesnake Recreation Area north of town. But in the process of checking out the creek, Kyle managed to get himself half soaked. The water here is cold. It’s always cold from mid-winter to mid-summer. Poor Kyle learned that the hard way. Boots, socks, pants and gloves were soaked through.

So we got him back up to the house, and of course that was a perfect reason to drink hot chocolate!

I’ve been out of hot cocoa mix for a while, so I decided what better time than the present to test out a batch of mix from the Mix-a-Meal cookbook. I will never use processed, store-bought mix again. So simple! So rich! So delicious!  I’m sold…

To make yourself a giant batch of hot cocoa mix to get you through the long hard winter, combine:

  • 9 cups instant dry milk (or 4 ½ cups regular dry milk)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup cocoa powder

That’s it!  Mix it all together in a big bowl, then transfer to the canister of your choice to enjoy all winter long.

To make a cup o’ cocoa, use 2/3 of a cup of the mix to one cup of hot water. Dollop some whipped cream on top, or drop in a few mini marshmallows, for some added oompf and you’re good to go!  (If using regular dry milk, as opposed to instant, use only 1/3 cup of the mix to one cup of water.)

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Categories: Food Storage, Recipes | Leave a comment

Juice feast, day 14

Happy Friday!

What an absolutely outstanding day… The high today reached 63 glorious degrees! After a visit to the naturopath this morning, I came home and puttered around the house for a little while, took an hour nap, then spent the rest of the day outside in the sunshine. I read, basked in the sun, and wandered around my quickly melting yard to check out the new growth on the fruit trees and bushes.

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I’m ready for spring, and I’m ready for garden season.

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I started the day with something a little different: coconut water. Sweet and tasty.

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Lunch: celery, cucumber, pineapple and orange. Delightfully refreshing on this spring day.

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Dinner: beet-pineapple.  This was a bit thick for my tastes, so I ended up watering it down. I probably should have stuck with only one beet. It was still good, but not one of my absolute favorite beet-based drinks.

So we’re half way through the feast. This, coupled with another family issue, has caused me to do some thinking about my food storage. I’ll be doing a separate post about that later this weekend.

In the meantime, have a lovely Friday evening!

Categories: Food Storage, Misc Musings | 1 Comment

I’ll have a side of Toxic with that…

Shall we chat about food storage again?  Oh sure, why not!  🙂

Over the holiday break a reader watched my video on long term grain storage and commented with some questions on storage containers.

Thanks for showing us how you store your grains and encouraging us to be better prepared! What size mylar bags did you use to where 2 could fit in 5 gallon bucket? I too wanted to not use one bigger mylar bag for 5 gallon bucket to have less opened up at once. Would you say putting 3 bags would not be good? Also could I store the 2 mylar bags in a rubbermaid roughneck plastic bin? If not, why is that? Thanks for sharing and all your help!

Thanks for your questions, Shari!

I bought my mylar bags in bulk a couple of years ago, but if I remember correctly they were either one gallon or 1.5 gallon bags – fitting two per bucket (my memory is leaning more toward the 1.5 gallon).  I would say that you could use as many bags as you want to fill a bucket – it all depends on how much and how fast you’ll be using whatever’s stored in that bucket.  If you don’t go through a lot of whatever you’re storing, then definitely go with smaller bags so you don’t have the item open to the elements for longer than necessary.  The #1 enemies to food storage are light and air.  That’s what makes them spoil.  So if, like me, you’re only feeding one or two people you’re not going to be burning through the individual items.  So smaller bags are better so you can keep your food fresh longer. If you have a family of six, and you’re using larger amounts of the items, then it makes sense to use bigger bags.

Another thing to keep in mind is how much the bags cost.  The more bags you use, the higher the cost.  Unfortunately mylar bags aren’t super duper cheap. Depending on the size, they can cost anywhere from a few dimes to a coupla-few bucks each.  Of course, the smaller the bag, the less it costs.  So you’ll just have to do some math and figure out what’s best for your budget and your usage needs.  A good source of mylar bags is USA Emergency Supply. One product they offer are mylar bags with a zip-lock top.  I like these!  They’re definitely a bit more expensive, but they also offer a way to re-seal the bag while the item is being used.  You can heat-seal the very top of the bag initially, then once it’s open and being used, use the zip-lock to keep the contents fresh.

As far as using a Rubbermaid bin to store your bags… well, unfortunately I’m not well versed on Rubbermaid bins. Most plastic products have a number on the bottom that refers to its recyclability.  That number refers to the material the container is made of – some, like soda bottles and whipped cream tubs are safe for food.  Others are not.  For those that are not considered food-safe, even if the item is contained in the mylar bag, I would still not advise using it to store the sealed bags. You can find a list of the numbers and if they’re food safe at http://ecovillagegreen.com/903/what-do-the-plastic-recycling-numbers-mean/.

You may be wondering why – even if the food is stored inside a bag before being in the bin, you shouldn’t use it.  Well, it all comes down to chemistry and all that brainy stuff.  I asked a similar question on a forum a few years ago when I was first beginning to store food. The answers that came back eluded to the gas permeability of the bags.  Air molecules are bigger than gas molecules, so I’m told, and therefore may be able to pass through the bag and into your food, thus contaminating your food with toxic nasties. Now, is this true?  Got me.  I’m no brianiac when it comes to science – but it sounds good!  What it comes down to, I suppose, is whether you’re willing to risk if it’s true or not.  I think of sometimes when you get a cheap plastic tub, and it smells super chemically – that’s probably not safe.  That smell is indicative of the toxic gases being emitted from the plastic.

So first I would say take a look at the type of plastic the bin is made of and check the number against the list linked above.  If it’s a number that comes back as food safe – then go for it.  If it’s a number that equates to non-food safe, then you have to ask yourself if you’re willing to risk it.  In the end the food will probably still be edible – but will it be contaminated is the question. Many plastics are being linked to cancers these days.  So it’s better to be safe than sorry.

I go to the bakery counter at a local grocer and buy left over frosting buckets for about $1.50 each. You can buy brand spanking new ones from places like USA Emergency Supply, but they can be pricey compared to my used ones from the Bakery.  The Bakery buckets come with lids and are more often than not clean.  They may smell like butter cream or chocolate… but if that’s the worst of it, I’m a-okay with that!

If you decide to go with the Rubbermaid bins, one other consideration you might want to make is how big the bin is.  Those buckets I use end up being pretty heavy when they’re full of grain.  Close to 25 pounds each.  Not an impossible weight – but at the same time I don’t want to carry them more than a few feet to move them around.  So if you go with something that would hold a larger quantity, keep that in mind if you ever have to move them around.  Or heck, even for stacking them.  You could end up crushing the bottom container if you stack them more than two high.

So I hope this helped answer your questions.  And I’m glad to hear you’re starting to store food.  It’s never a bad idea to have that little insurance policy in the pantry.

Categories: Food Storage | 1 Comment

Long Term Grain Storage

I want to thank 4Nana for commenting on my General Store post, and asking specifically for more information on long term grain storage.  I branched out a little on Ditch the Grid this morning, and prepared a how-to video on grain storage.

Although I briefly mention it in the video, one of the questions 4Nana asked was if I wash my grains prior to storage.  I do not wash my grains. And honestly, I don’t think I would recommend doing that.  There’s too much that can go wrong – like not having all the moisture out of the grain before repackaging it, and ending up with bags of moldy grain.  If you don’t trust the quality or cleanliness of your grains, I would suggest finding another source.  With that said, I present you with the following tutorial on long term grain storage.   Enjoy!

This process will work for most any dry products: grains, legumes, seeds, dry milk, dehydrated fruits and veggies, nuts, etc.  The only item I wouldn’t really suggest doing this with is ground flour.  The reason being that flour doesn’t retain it’s nutrition all that long anyway.  So it’s not a good item for long term storage.  You’re better off storing your whole grains and grinding your flour as needed.  I’ve included some links at the end of the post for where to buy grains and supplies for your long term food storage.

On another note:  I just ran out to give my landlord this month’s rent check, and he mentioned that he’s going to drop a load of aged horse manure in the garden for me today (aka: compost).  Yay!  Of course, it was supposed to be nice today, but it’s raining and snowing again.  *sigh*  I hope Spring shows up one of these days! But I’ll get that spread out, and run to town to get some black dirt to add to the mix.  It’ll need another tilling or two (whenever it stops being awful outside!) before planting.  But at this rate, I’m clearly NOT going to be planting a single thing until June 1st, which is the traditional planting date.  So I’ve got a couple weeks to keep working on the plot to get it in the best condition possible before sewing seed and transplanting starts.

The landlord also mentioned that the neighbor at the end of the road saw two mountain lions in the pasture the other day.  Apparently one killed a deer out there.  So I’ll have to keep a close watch on Bella.  I’ve seen bears out here, but never mountain lions.  Those are not my favorite mountain critters.  They’re scary, and just so unpredictable.  *shudder* 

Here are some links for places to purchase good, clean whole grains and food storage supplies:

Wheat Montana – They carry gamma lids for your buckets, as well as whole grains, beans, specialty grains and cereals.  I can personally vouch for the quality of their grains.  They sell both organic and conventional grains in a variety of quantities.  If you live in Montana, you can order at your local Wheat Montana deli and save the shipping charges.

GrainMaker – This is my manual grain mill.  I love it!  Although, I understand they’ve raised the price of their mills.  But still, I think it’s worth the expense.  There are other companies out there that make both manual and electric grain mills.  I recommend finding one that you like – fresh ground flour is light years ahead of mass produced store-bought flour in terms of nutrition, taste and quality!

USA Emergency Supply – providers of mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, buckets and gamma lids, as well as other supplies for your long term food storage.  They offer bags and oxygen absorbers in a variety of sizes, and also have mylar bags with zip lock tops to help keep your grains fresh after you’ve opened the bag for use.

Categories: Food Storage, Gardening, Preparedness | 9 Comments

Random Musings on gardens, groceries & the grid

I knew it was too good to be true…  I stopped at a different market today, and winced at nearly every item I put in my cart.  Luckily I didn’t have to get much.  I picked up another 10 pounds of sugar for the pantry – yikes!  I think those price increases are starting to take effect.  I don’t often go to Albertson’s.  Personally, I hate the store.  But I was nowhere near Safeway, so I had no choice.  I won’t be making that mistake again. So I guess the aggregate of my shopping this week puts me back at the average per bag.  Oh well.

Took a little nap on the couch this afternoon – woke up about an hour ago to the sound of a tractor.  The guy across the road was using a giant tractor to till his garden plot.  A tiny little garden plot – maybe 15 x 20 (?).  Using what equated to a full on plow.  Nice.  The landlord hasn’t been up to skim my plot yet.  Which is fine by me.  It’s not really gardening weather out there this weekend.  Brrrrr.   Father Winter’s still trying to keep his grasp on western Montana.  There was fresh snow up in the hills behind the house this morning.  Looks like there’s another squall blowing in from the drainage.  I keep tellin’ folks – just wait…  in another month or so we’ll be praying for these cold and cloudy days!  So enjoy ’em while you can.  Speaking of a squall – the rain just started pouring down out there.  At least it’s not snow.

Pretty soon these will be a common occurrence once again:

When I was in town this morning, after the sticker shock at Albertson’s, I decided to drowned my sorrows at Barnes & Noble.  Much to my dismay, nothing new or interesting in the Home & Garden section of the books.  So I wandered over to the magazine rack to pick up two of my favorite magazines: Mary Janes Farm and Back Home, when a magazine I hadn’t seen before caught my eye.  The issue number on the masthead tells me it’s not a new publication – but apparently not one my local bookstore thought to carry in the past (I pretty much know exactly what farm and rural life titles they carry).  The magazine is called The New Pioneer: The Complete Guide to Self-Reliant Living.  Apparently it’s a quarterly, because this is the “Summer” edition.  Not feeling terribly summery outside…  Looks like some really good articles in there – on solar ovens, the modern back to the land movement, garden critter control.  Heck, if I can’t be gardening, I might as well read about it!  Although, I should probably get some seeds started.  I’m only about 5 weeks out til planting.  Many things will need to be sewed directly into the earth at planting time, but a couple things will need a head start…  tomatoes, hot peppers, etc.

I also received my latest Lehman’s catalog in the mail when I stopped at the post office the other day.  That delivery always gets my mind rolling. In my terribly humble opinion, electricity is a necessary evil.  But one I hope to make unnecessary as soon as humanly possible.  The other night I watched a video clip that was up over at Joel the K’s site The Patriot Cave.  Although, he seems to have replaced it with a different video by Michio Kaku.  ???  But the gist of the video was a brief history of Chernobyl.  I was relatively young when that went down, and really never made it my business to find out exactly what went wrong.  I didn’t realize it was a controlled experiment that went terribly wrong, causing what, up until this Japanese crisis, had been the worst nuclear accident in the world’s short atomic history.  I was outraged.  Furious!  Which, then, led me to wonder why on earth we find the most dangerous, dirty and destructive ways to provide power to our world.  The sun, daily, provides more power than our earth could use in a year.  Cleanly, free of charge, with no danger, and with no potential environmental side effects.  I went further to look at how many nuclear plants were in this area of the country.  There are three in Washington state – two of which are in various states of being decommissioned.  I feel confident, because of the not-so-close proximity of the plants that none of my power is generated by nuclear means.  I took a look at my local electric cooperative – apparently their energy is produced by a combination of wind, solar, hydro and coal.  Meaning 75% (in theory) of their energy is clean.  Now, I’m not sure what percentage of the actual grid is made up by each of those means.  I will have to find out.

But this doesn’t make me any less weary of electric.  Power in general.  Last month’s power bill came in the other day (on the same day as the Lehman’s catalog) and my usage last month was 154 kwh.  I’ve been looking at my own usage, and there are few ways to cut down even more on what I use.  Unfortunately my stove is electric, but soon it will be summer, and I’m looking forward to trying the solar oven experiment.  Have yet to figure out what to do about the refrigerator/freezer.  (although, LLM uses a typical picnic cooler and a propane freezer – that’s it.) I’ve cut down my light usage to one lamp each evening, only turning on other lights in the house on an as-needed basis.  I may take a look at oil lamps.  We’re getting to that point in the year where the sun is up later and later.  As it is, my lights don’t come on until around 8 o’clock.

But I think I’ll start taking a very critical look at each power-generated device in my life, and see if there’s a way to do without it.  Let’s see just now un-necessary I can make this electric power grid in my life.  I’ve decided I don’t need to live 100 miles out in the bush to ditch the grid.  Twenty miles is good enough to start with!

Categories: Food Storage, Gardening, Technology, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Seems impossible, but…

I walked out of the grocery store today, and for the first time in ages I don’t feel like I got taken… by force!  Safeway had some good sales this week – BOGO on chicken breasts and big boxes of strawberries.  $1 a can (or less) on some of the canned goods I needed to replenish.  Even my fancy schmancy hummus that I like was on sale.  Usually I plan on about $20/bag anymore.  A couple years ago I figured that it was $10/bag – so food had doubled in price in not a long time period.  Makes me happier and happier that I have a deep pantry.  Wish I had more room -I’d store even more.  But I came home with about 8 bags today for $85.  Granted – there were quite a few canned goods, so the bags weren’t filled to the top.  But still…  Appearances are everything!

Been hearing an awful lot about hyperinflation coming our way soon.  Spurred by some comments made by some higher up at Wally World.  We’ll see if it comes to pass.  Not sure I can see a reason why it won’t.  But even if things continue on this frayed thread of an existence, I’d rather be safe than sorry.

I plan to hit up the Belknap Store this weekend.  The Amish store up in St. Ignatius was okay, but I need to replenish some dry goods in a more major way.  So up to T-Falls I go…  I plan to fill the back of the Suby so I don’t have to make that trek again soon.  250 miles round trip is an awfully long drive.  But at least it’s a pretty one.  Hoping for some nice weather.

Speaking of T-Falls…  LLM’s sanctuary is not long for this world.  He sold the homestead about 9 months ago, but got a sweet deal where he could stay there until May 1st…  rent free.  He’s been increasingly cranky as the time nears.  He built the cabin himself, by hand.  Lived off the land.  Made the place his own.  But he wanted out from under the debt service.  Needless to say, as soon as he signed the papers he regretted it.  He still hasn’t bought a new place yet with the proceeds.  His mind is pulling between Montana and Alaska.  We’ll see what happens.  The whole world is up in the air right now.  *shrug*

Need to start some seeds soon.  I’m about 5-6 weeks out from being able to safely plant.  The landlord’s going to skim my plot soon, then I just need to get a truck load of manure and till it in.  Really looking forward to digging my hands in the dirt.  It’s that time of year where everything’s in limbo.  Winter activities are pretty much done, but it’s not nice enough outside to do anything spring or summer-like.  So for the time being I’m dreaming of plants and working on the pantry.

Categories: Food Storage, Gardening, Misc Musings | 3 Comments

Apocalypse Chow

“Eat what you store, store what you eat.”

“Know how to use your food storage.”

There are any number of cliches that accompany that stockpile of food sitting in your pantry (and under your beds, and in your closets, and anywhere else you can think to stow your food storage…).  And, like most people, I thought “I’ll just figure it out when I need to.”  Admittedly, not the brightest plan.

I do abide by the #1 rule of food storage, which is the: eat what you store, store what you eat law of common sense.  If the time comes where I have to rely on this stuff, I sure as heck don’t want to worry about whether I’m going to like what I have stored.  So when I say I’ll figure it out, that doesn’t mean I have to start from square one because I’m familiar with a lot of these items.  But a lot of my recipes contain more “freshies” than the canned and dehydrated foods that I have for the longer term or “emergency” storage (which can consist of anything from a lost paycheck to the unthinkable) – meaning there may, in fact, be a slight learning curve.  As I began to watch the cost of energy skyrocket and the cost of food steadily increase, I considered the residual effects of those increases, and my thought turned instead to “There’s no time like the present!”

A couple years ago I was browsing in a used bookstore in town, and came across a little book called Apocalypse Chow by Jon and Robin Robertson.  With a name like that, how could I resist?  So I picked it up for a couple dollars and stowed it in the kitchen with my other cookbooks and kitchen reference manuals.  The book came about after the authors experienced a hurricane, and the aftermath, which caused them to consider “how to eat well when the power goes out” (which is the subtitle of the book).  They are self-confessed foodies, so the book immediately interested me since I’m quite the food snob.  Every once in a while I pull it out and give it a quick peruse.  But recently I pulled it out and actually sat down on the couch with it.  There were some amazing sounding recipes inside, and they pretty much used nothing but canned and dried foods.  A few of them suggest using fresh onions or garlic if you have them available, but they’re not a necessary ingredient if all you have is canned, dehydrated or freeze dried.

Taking a closer look at the book helped prompt my “there’s no time like the present” train of thought.  I decided I would start working through the recipes that I thought sounded good to help give me a quick training session on using all these items taking up space on my shelves and help me rotate the goods so they don’t end up expiring, unused, on those same shelves. It was also a strategy to change up my diet.  We all get “bored” with the regular, everyday stuff we make night after night, week after week.  I’m certainly not immune to that boredom.

A couple weeks ago I tried the first recipe.  A spicy concoction of chick peas, potatoes and tomatoes with garlic, tarragon, basil and red pepper flakes.  Delicious! In fact, so much so that I’ve made it three times already.  Twice with 100% food storage, and once with 100% freshies (with the exception of the chick peas).  It’s quick and extremely tasty.  The original recipe called for savory, not tarragon – but I don’t have savory so I figured the tarragon was a good close second.  I can’t imagine it could be any yummier, even with the savory.

Tonight I decided to try recipe #2.  This one was billed as an “almost instant” black bean chili.  Two cans of black beans (drained and rinsed), a large can of salsa, a can of corn (drained), some dried minced onion and chili powder.  Now, I had to use fresh onion tonight because I don’t actually have dried minced onions in the spice cabinet, and I decided to add some Indian red hot chili powder on top of the regular chili powder for some extra heat.  And since I had some cheese in the fridge, I topped it off with some of that.  Once again: delicious!

In neither recipe have I changed much beyond adding an extra spice to each.  So, right out of the starting gate, these recipes are two for two awesome!

I’m so excited by the recipes in this book!  I’m really looking forward to the next experiment.  I’m sure I could make recipe #2 with freshies as well by making my own pico de gallo and adding some fresh corn in season.  So these recipes can easily be adapted regardless if you want to use nothing but canned or dehydrated foods, or if you want to go with all fresh.  And I do believe all of the recipes in the book are vegetarian.  Of course, meat is easy to add to any recipe if you wish.  But I’m happy as a clam with the vegetarian options since I just began eating meat again a couple years ago after a nearly 20 year run as a vegetarian.

So I guess the moral of this story is two fold:  first is to start using those cans in your food storage and learning what to do with them.  Second is that food storage dinners can taste absolutely amazing!  I’m a terribly picky eater, so for me to say that really means something.  🙂   I’m energized to see what else I can make using the food I already have on hand!

Next up:  seeing how I can make some of these recipes without using my regular kitchen stove.  🙂  Ahhhh, always a challenge on the horizon.

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Peanut Butter = Love

Apparently I’m not the only one addicted to these darn cookies…  I created a monster by bringing a plate over to a friend’s house when he made me dinner last week.  But he doesn’t want the recipe – he just wants me to make more freakin’ cookies!!!  In his words: “there’s only one thing better than a homemade cookie, and that’s a homemade cookie made by someone else!”  Can you believe the audacity?  Yeah, I can too.  LOL

I developed a wheat allergy a few months ago, and wrote about finding the recipe a while back.  A new reader asked that I share the magic potion so she can become a peanut butter cookie junkie too.  (Don’t say I didn’t warn you!)

This is for a double batch (approx. 24 good sized cookies) of:

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

  • 1 cup chunky peanut butter
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar (if it’s soft and fresh, it works best)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp baking soda (not powder!)
  • 1 TBS+ of vanilla extract  (I always add a bit more…)

Optional:

  • 1 cup combined mini chocolate chips and/or butterscotch chips.  (I can’t find mini butterscotch chips, so I just put some regular sized ones on a cutting board and chop them up with a kitchen cleaver… but the bits should be smaller so they mix in well)

Add all the ingredients (except the chips) to a large mixing bowl and set to mixing with beaters.  It does take a while, and you have to keep pushing the mixture through the beaters until it’s all mixed thoroughly in a granular concoction.  Once completely mixed, if you want (and I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to) you can add the chips and mix them through by hand.

Take about 2 tablespoons (or a small handful) of the mix and smoosh to together into a patty and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  If you want to be all fancy, you can try to make the cross hatches with a fork…  But I’m not that fancy.  I keep a little space between cookies because they will definitely spread out.

Once your cookie sheet is full, bake at 350 degrees for 11 minutes.   Your oven may be different – if I let them go 12 minutes, they’re too dark on the bottom.  So it’s a matter of only a minute either way depending on how your oven bakes.  So I would say give them a quick check at 10 minutes and go from there.

The best part is that you can really make these cookies completely from food storage if you wanted.  All you’d need is some powdered whole eggs to sub in for fresh, and you’re good to go!  When I visit the Mission General Store this weekend I’m going to see if they have any available.  I know there’s been some controversy and restriction from Big Brother on selling powdered whole eggs recently.  So I’ll see what I can come up with.  That’s what I get for not adding those to my larder when I had the chance!

Anyway – enjoy the cookies.  They’re quick, easy, pretty much fool-proof, and sooo addicting!  Don’t say I didn’t warn you!  My strategy is to freeze them upon cooling so I don’t eat them all at once!  (yes, I’m a cookie glutton…  They say the first step to recovery is to admit that you have a problem.)  🙂

Categories: Food Storage | 4 Comments

The General Store

General store interior. Moundville, Alabama, USA

As anyone building a deep larder knows: buying in bulk is best.  Especially when it comes to dry goods.

For the past couple of years, when refilling my store of dry goods in the pantry, I would drive nearly 120 miles northwest to a place called the Belknap Store.  It’s about half-way between Thompson Falls and Trout Creek, Montana.  Great little place run by a Mennonite family.  Cheerful gals behind the counter, stacks and stacks of every type of dry cereal, grain or legume you could imagine.  Baby chicks in the spring.  Dehydrated this and that, spices, yeast, local honey, local cheese and meat.  Just an all around fantastic store.  But…  120 miles away.  Each way.  That’s alotta miles to restock the dry goods.  Worth it, yes.  But still a mighty long drive.

So this past weekend, a friend and I took a drive up to a little town called Lakeside, on the shores of Flathead Lake, to visit a micro-brewery.  It was a glum and rainy Sunday, and we were both chomping at the bit to leave our houses.  So north we drove to drink yummy craft beers and eat tasty pub fare.  A drive well worth it.  About 100 miles each way.

Hey – I live in Montana.  Nothing’s close!

So on the way home, we were driving south through the Mission Valley when a billboard caught my eye just north of St. Ignatius.  A sign for a place called the Mission General Store.  Now, I didn’t garner much as we flew past at 70 miles an hour.  But I did happen to see the words “bulk” and “cheese and meat” and “dry goods.”  Somehow, miraculously, I remembered the name of the store on the sign.

A quick Google search tells me that this may be a replacement for Belknap!  I’m excited!  With the exception of wheat, which comes from Wheat Montana, all my bulks came from Belknap… at over 200 miles round trip!  (And now that I seem to be allergic to wheat, no more Wheat Montana.  Ohhhh what to do with the 150 pounds of wheat in the pantry?  Anyway… I digress..)  St. Ignatius is only 40 miles away – so one-third the distance that I was driving.  And from the picture on the website, the store looks to be two to three times the size of Belknap.  AND!!!!  (AND!!!!!!!) Proceeds benefit the local AMISH school!  HA!  Can you get any better than that???  Mennonites are okay.  But they’re not AMISH!

Yes, we all know I have an unhealthy obsession with the Amish.  And to be honest, I had absolutely no idea there were Amish folks in these parts.  I’ve never seen a buggy on the road before.  And yet, to make it a little more odd…  St. Ignatius is on the Flathead Indian Reservation.  Amish Indians?  Hey – I’m not one to judge!

The store is open on Saturdays (which Belknap only is on rare, random occasion) …  So, I bet you know where I’ll be this coming Saturday morning!

Too excited for words.  A near-by bulk food source!!!  It doesn’t take much to amuse me – and boy howdy, does this amuse me!

An aside on bulk buying and storage:  Yes, many grocers now have bulk sections where you can fill up your handy-dandy plastic bag with a pound or two of lentils or rice.  But in the end, it’s not terribly economical.  And could you imagine the look on shoppers faces if you rolled up to the check-out with fifty pounds of lentils in plastic bags in your cart?  It would be mayhem!  So to save the chaos, I choose to seek out stores where I can buy 25-35-50 pound bags of dry goods.  Then I pack ’em up in 1.5 gallon mylar bags with oxygen absorbers, and into food-grade buckets they go in the pantry.  To be used as needed.

For those who don’t know, storing bulks in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers is a great way to significantly extend the shelf life of your whole-grain bulks.  Won’t work much for ground flour (so you should buy a wheat grinder, like my beautiful, red Grain Maker mill to process your whole grains as needed).  But whole wheat, lentils, rice, beans, oat groats, etc. work great with this style of storage.  In fact, I’ve read accounts of whole wheat storing for 30 years via this method!  Now, my food certainly doesn’t last 30 years, since I “eat what I store, and store what I eat.”  But I suppose if I forget about a bag of oat groats in the back of the pantry, at least I have some leeway on usage.  🙂

So for now, I will be delighted to be checking out the Mission General Store up in St. Ignatius this coming weekend.  And if I’m feeling froggy, I may take some pictures to post.  Keep your fingers crossed.  I really need a more local source for my bulk foods.

Categories: Food Storage | 4 Comments

75 min. @ 10 lbs.

Today is canning day.  I decided a week or so ago that I needed to clean out the freezer and start using up the stuff that’s in there.  Including the four whole chickens and four containers of chicken stock.  So I’ll bet you know what I’m making.  🙂  Yep, a gigantic stock pot of chicken-veggie soup.  I’m just running the jars through the dishwasher right now to make sure they’re good and clean – and hot.  In the meantime I’m enjoying a cup of the soup to make sure it’s not missing anything before bottling it up and putting it in the canner… for 75 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure. (I think it could use another shake of Herbs de Province.)

Robin’s Chicken Soup:

  • 2 whole chickens, boiled and deboned
  • Water from boiling the chickens
  • 2 additional containers of frozen (homemade) chicken stock
  • 4 potatoes
  • 3 large leeks
  • Frozen peas
  • 1 can chick peas
  • 1 can white beans
  • 4 cloves of garlic – crushed
  • A bunch of herbs de province

I don’t measure anything.  I’m not a measurer.  When baking I measure more precisely, but soups, stews, chili, etc. – no way.  I’m old school, just add it till it tastes good.

I’m also a huge leek lover. I wish our growing season was long enough to grow them here.  I’ve tried twice, and by summer’s end they look more like skinny green onions than full blown leeks.  So I’m stuck with the ones from the grocery store.  But they still taste super yummy… especially in soup.

On another note:  In November I apparently developed an allergy to wheat.  Not so good, taking into consideration that I have about 150 pounds of whole wheat in my food storage.  (Apparently I can use the wheat if it’s been sprouted – but that’s another story.)  So I’ve been on a mission trying to find a substitute since I was quite the carb-whore.  LOVE bread, pasta, cream of wheat – if it’s made with wheat, I love it.  But I don’t love that it’s giving me hives.  That’s no fun.  I have no problem with other grains, for which I’m extremely grateful…  grains are #2 next to wheat.  They give me my carb fix.

In the process of looking for wheat-free wonderfulness I came across a recipe for flourless peanut butter cookies.  OH my heck…  These things are like CRACK!  (do people still do crack?  maybe they’re like meth now… but either way, they rock! totally addicting!)  They’re so good that I have to freeze them upon cooling so I don’t eat them all in one peanut-butter-enduced-slob-session.  I take out two when I get home from work, and those are my desert for the evening.  So after I’m done with the canning madness, my next plan for the evening is to make a double-batch of peanut-butter-crackies… err, I mean… cookies.

Oops – the dishwasher’s done.  Time to get cannin’!

Categories: Food Storage | 1 Comment

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