Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Continuing to Build My Pantry

I have wanted to keep you updated more about my pantry efforts, but my progress occurs in the span of months, not weeks.  That is poverty.  Growth is very slow, and hard to accomplish...and to maintain.

I can tell you that I am eating cheap foods and trying get to save as much of what I have as I can.  I have to buy my staple foods, like pastas and dry milk and coffee, but I am also trying to buy extras of the least expensive foods.

I finally made the decision to buy a small pressure cooker (4 quart instead of 6 quart) so I can start to learn how to cook dry beans and other foods with it.

Deciding how much I need as a three-month supply is becoming an interesting quest. 

I am also deciding on my primary storage options.  I like the clear plastic securely locking containers I currently use, so will try to decide how many I will need for my food items.  If I can work out the storage for one month, I can just multiply that by three.  It will be a lot easier for rotating supplies.

As I figure out my emergency pantry, I will try to update you.  I will use the starting keywords "food emergencies" so you can easily find those posts among my other food-related posts.

Until next time, I hope you are thinking ahead to your own possible emergencies, whether in food, money, or health issues.

In Christ,
Deborah Martin

I decided to take a photo of my food supply...
and my storage containers.  Not much, but where I am right now.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

After Shopping

I thought I would let you know what happened with my first shopping exercise...

I ride the bus to do my traveling, and that includes shopping.  I really didn't have much food left yesterday.  As I was getting ready to go, I was weak and shaking, so I decided to eat what I could before I tried to leave.  I didn't expect that physical reaction, and consumed some almonds I had, a section of the homemade bread I had made the day before, and the last of some cinnamon applesauce I made this past weekend.  After resting a bit, I was well enough to try to leave.

Imagine what it must be like for people all over the world who are battling starvation... I have been hungry before, lived on foods that were cheap, gone to community meals, and sought out food boxes for the poor...  the effects of hunger and starvation are not something I welcome.

I finally made it to the store in the later part of the afternoon.  I could only go to one store because of my morning experience, so I decided to start at WinCo.  They have good bulk food prices, and reasonable prices for many other food items.  Starting to fill my empty shelves with new supplies took half of the food stamps I had left for this month.

I did purchase several of my planned meal supplies, but these were for my consumption.  I'm not sure how long my new food supplies will last, but the effort has begun.  Stretching food supplies has been a constant part of my poverty experiences.

As I realized how difficult this new food effort would be, I decided I might need to make a separate list of my emergency foods.  In thinking more about what I would be doing, including some kind of purchase references (when, where, etc.) and possibly the expiration date, if it applies to that food, would help keep track of what I have saved.  Special storage containers may also be an important thing to consider.

The need to separate my regular food budget from my emergency food effort became an obvious issue as I shopped.  I noticed how little $11 would buy... this was going to take a long time at this investment level.  Maybe I will need to find other resources to help me speed up the effort.  Making a food record for my emergency pantry seems like the best way to deal with creating my meal plans and keeping trwck of sources and expiration dates.

When I did my recordkeeping later, I made a new shopping list for my immediate needs.  I am still trying to build my current food pantry with staples like flour, sugar, dry milk, condiments, bulk foods that store well, and everyday food needs. 

This is an new and evolving experience for me even though I have been keeping some kind of emergency pantry for as long as I can remember. Creating a meal-based pantry is very different.

Until next post,  Deb 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Budgets and Emergencies

I am again working on my budgets.  At the end of one financial month, before the beginning of the next financial month, I try to plan how I can make my small funds last until the next infusion of money.  It has always been a survival issue for me... started way back when I had kids and lived on welfare only.  Now I only have a small Social Security Retirement check along with a small amount of food stamps (currently called SNAP).  Not much has changed in my income, despite lots of efforts to change it, but it is only me right now.  My kids have grown.

Right now I am at the end of my food supplies and planning to create a better emergency pantry than I have had in the past.  I know I have talked about it before, but let me update what I can as I write this new post.

Awhile back I purposely tried to live on my back-up food supplies.  I discovered the meal options were not very good.  I had a lot of easy to store foods like rice and dry beans, but little to go with them to make a decent meal.  I decided then to make a change in how I prepare for unexpected food emergencies.  I am trying to make a pantry that would create meals I like to eat.  I am now working on that challenge.

Since I live at such a low income level, I am going to work on a three month pantry first.  My food budget is so low (only $126 each month), I can only use a small amount of food money to begin the building process.  This morning I decided there is only $11 available for my emergency pantry efforts each month.  This will be quite a task.

I have created a plastic container to act as my starting storage option.  Naturally, I will eat the food if I have to, but the bigger goal is to stretch my other purchases to meet the regular food needs of November.  I see a lot of rice and pasta ahead... maybe a steady diet of ramen, a great meal stretcher !!  😃

Actually, I have been reading a lot of materials about food and diets and weight loss.  FOOD RULES by Michael Pollan is the latest book I have been reading.  Eating healthy and eating cheaply is the main difficulty in poverty.  I hope to find some useful solutions to those problems.  I will share them with you when I do.

What will eleven dollars buy for my first month doing this?  I don't know...yet!  My staples for quick meals are Rice-a-Roni Spanish Rice, ramen, and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese... they will probably start the process.  Canned milk is good to have on hand.  That might be all I can get in one budget.  Dried fruits store well, so I need to decide which ones to get and how to package them.

By the time we get to December's budget, I should have more meal ideas to start collecting for.  Let me know if you have any good ideas for this effort.  I search lots of resources, and will try to share those with you as time goes by.

In Christ,  Deb  💛

Friday, May 6, 2016

Friday, 6 MAY 2016 :: Checking in and catching up with everything

I have been trying to develop an Excel sheet for farm income options this week... it has been a challenge because I am just trying to get the data into some kind of a projection order.  I haven't been able to operate a farm yet, so I need to know maximum CSA possibilities before it can even begin to make sense, but the idea of making money farming is important to me and to Working Together. 

In my ongoing research about food issues, I decided that CSA's are the way for small farms to go because each farmer can work to find their own customer base.  Income sources can be expanded to other products or activities, like Farmer's Markets, restaurant supply, and finished products for retail sales, but the funding that CSA's provide can be the base that keeps a farm going.  Once you know the minimum and the maximum number of CSA's your farm can handle, they become your goals and your limits.

My primary focus is poverty populations.  I have never been able to take advantage of CSA's because they are often way beyond my income level.  I would need some kind of monthly payment plan.  In my Excel effort, I have CASH and CREDIT options at FULL, HALF, and QUARTER share levels.  The cash, paid in full, option receives a major discount, the credit, pay by the month , option is charged a 20% credit fee.  The product shares are the same for each category, but the pricing levels are different.  It works on paper as a guide, now I need the real figures to decide how to make it work in real life.

A lot depends on what is available during each month of the year... and I have the price of the share as my guide for product contents.  It seems to me that vegetables and fruits are not the only food that needs to be included... eggs, cheese, meats, and other farm products can also be included in the share contents.  The details are the issue for me... I need to know how many acres, what kind of land, where it is located, what to grow, how much it costs to produce and deliver.  Just a little bit of details....  :-)

These are the directions I am moving in, and business plans with cash flow projections have gotten me started. 

I am wondering if a co-op would work, if urban options can work, if I can find land on major bus routes to let low-income households reach me, and lots of other possibilities.  I want to find a way to make it achievable... and have a lot more to learn about the process of reaching these goals.

If you have any great details to share, let me know them...

In Christ,
Deborah Martin


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

4 AUG 2015 :: Learning about healthy foods

My latest listing at my Etsy shop (work2gather.etsy.com) was a digital form for tracking your food intake.  It is part of my quest to eat better and lose some weight.  I have finally started moving in the downward direction in pounds, so I don't want to stop that trend!!!   :-)

Every information source I go to has a "unique" twist on the food issues they are concerned about.  It has taken some time (in years) to get through all this mixed information and begin to create a plan I can live with.  My new form is the latest of many, and already I am thinking of revisions to make it better.  I have decided just to keep developing my forms and list them all, watch which ones are preferred by people (if any), and continue developing healthy food directions as one of my priorities.

I know that a lot of people are connected to internet apps and other smartphone products, but I like to have paper options to work on...so, I will act as though there are others like me who want to have that information in a private place, not on the internet, and where notes can be kept about the process for their personal history.

In my quest for information
  • I discovered a Canadian government source that was a lot better than the American government sources I had accessed before.  I will have to find it again so I can share the web address.
  • I discovered a website that has some great information products I can use, and is from the vegetarian/vegan perspectives.  (Healthy foods are all about the recipes... I will look almost anywhere for a good recipe that might become a favorite.)  I was happy to find an infographic on nuts because I haven't quite figured out how much of what nuts are the best to eat. (I have read about almonds and walnuts being protein sources, and know that sunflower seeds have great nutrition, and wonder about other nuts and seeds.  I thought it was good to eat some every day, then I read it was every week.  This part of my nutrition quest is still being researched!)  I printed a lot of pages to read and add to my main collection. 
  • I found out the US government food site is updating their serving size materials... and will have to check back for that.  I had to use a 2011 PDF for serving requirement information for my new record form.
  • I discovered a popcorn website when I was trying to find out how many calories were in the amounts I eat all the time -- and whether it was part of the grains food group.  (It is.)  I discovered some recipe ideas that I never would have considered for popcorn, but want to try, including making popcorn into a crumb mixture like we do for crackers, bread, and other foods.  Reading through their recipe book inspired me toward making some flavored toppings that are different than what I normally eat.
  • I returned to the 21day Fix program's blog website for more videos and recipe ideas.  I discovered some great salad ideas that go beyond lettuce and dressings.  (I had my first "Cucumber Salad" the other day because I noticed one on this site.)  More about this site follows....
Portion control is a huge problem for everyone that wants to lose weight.  I loved the color-coded containers that the 21day Fix program uses.  Their containers go in this order and are sized largest to smallest...

PURPLE  ::  fruits
GREEN  ::  veggies
RED  ::  proteins
YELLOW  ::  carbs
BLUE  ::  healthy fats
2 ORANGE  ::  seeds and dressings
and now they have a drink cup for their newest "smoothie" product.

I decided their containers follow the USDA recommendations in some ways.  I looked for the exact measurements of the containers when I first went to the site awhile back, but couldn't find them anywhere.  I did find some of them with the recipes and/or food videos.

  • I think the YELLOW carbs container is probably 1/2 cup size because the regular portion for brown rice and other grains is 1/2 cup. 
  • I wasn't totally sure about the GREEN container.  I know that dark leafy green servings are suggested to be 2 cups by the USDA, but regular veggies are listed as 1 cup portions.  I think the program container is probably 1 cup.  (I did see a YouTube video that measured the volume in the containers with water in a measuring cup and BOTH the Purple and the Green containers were about a 1 cup measure.)
  • The ORANGE container is for seeds and dressings, which I have read are both recommended at 2 Tablespoon portions.  The photos make it look larger, almost at a quarter cup portion, which would be 4T.  I still need to find out more.
If I had enough money to spare, I would purchase the program, but it is approximately $80.  From what I read or heard the first time I checked on this site, the cookbook would be worth the price!  :-)  -- not really, but it sounded like a great thing to have.  There are YouTube reviews of the package you receive through your purchase and food prep hints and more.  (In checking on the YouTube reviews I noticed an ad for the containers separate from the kit - at about $18, and probably plus shipping.)

In watching some of the videos, I discovered other links to calorie/container guides.  You might find these helpful, too. 

I need to find my previously collected materials and try to figure out some more menu plans, maybe using the container guides for a week or so.  I will try to let you know how it turns out.  I wish I could make a video like all those other people!   :-)  One of these days....

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

22 APR 2015 :: Just a quick note

I found two really great old cookbooks today, at the Salvation Army's 50% Sale Day that I love to go to...from the early health movements.

One is called ::  WHOLE-GRAIN BAKING SAMPLER by Beatrice Trum Hunter.  I have been browsing through it and am already impressed by some of the bread recipes.  I am looking forward to trying them... and maybe the cracker recipes, too.  I would love to master the healthy cracker and eat it instead of bread when I can.  Then I can move on to chips for my salsa and bean dip cravings.  :-)

The other one is called ::  THE SIMPLER LIFE COOKBOOK from Arrowhead Mills, by Frank Ford.  I wanted this one because it has a section describing some of the health foods I read about but don't really understand why they are important. 

I will be sharing these efforts with you as time goes by.  Maybe I need to create a book review focus!
Until next time,

Thursday, April 9, 2015

9 APR 2015 :: Introduction - and a recipe!

It looks like I have found the blog title for food issues... it is a constant reminder that we cannot live without food, and we need water to create food, and seeds, and land, and air... 

I don't know how the content of this blog will develop. The issues concerning our food supplies are great, and little people (most of us) don't have the power to change what is happening in government and farming and commerce.  What we can do is to try to grow our own food, as much as possible, and learn how to make it last through the best recipes and preservation techniques.

For many years I have been trying to discover the best ways to preserve different food.  The idea, to me, is to recover the ways it was done before we had electricity for refrigerators and freezers.  Solar power may help to create better food storage that isn't dependent on someone else providing it...or the equipment needed to process food for long-term storage.

I like to collect as many ideas about food creation in urban areas as I can because big cities don't have the land space to grow a lot of food, and when neighborhoods start community gardens on vacant lots, they get lost to future development.  Roof gardening is a great concept, but buildings need to be reinforced for the added weight to the roof activities.  All of these things need to be explored.

GMO practices are taking over our food supplies, which means we need to make sure heirloom varieties don't disappear.  We need to learn how to make and save our own seeds...the smallest containers (or space) needed for different plants...new ways to grow food of all sizes, from herbs to tomatoes to trees.  I don't know how much we can accomplish in the area of GMO food, because a lot of damage has already been done, but we have to try.  The documentary GENETIC ROULETTE is worth watching.  Rodale has always been a leader in organic farming methods.  Permaculture seems to be the current rising force for permanent investments in healthy, organic, food sources.

I hope we can find ways to share our wisdom, but I have to figure out this blogging process on the way to that destination.

I decided to add a recipe that I use in my own kitchen.  Hope you enjoy it, and that I can provide more low-cost recipes in the future.

In Christ,

Deborah Martin


I don't know how healthy this quick and tasty (in my opinion) dressing recipe is, but it came from my family history. I don't know its origins, but it has been a stand-by for hard times in my kitchen.


Equal parts of white granulated sugar, cider vinegar, oil, and ketchup, with added garlic cloves, and a "marinating" period before use.

That's how I learned it as a child...watching my mother make it.
-----  In my adult life, I have tried it with white vinegar instead of cider vinegar, sliced garlic cloves or garlic salt instead of cloves, and spiced ketchup instead of regular flavor.

I'm not sure what else I might try as I make it in the future, but I do like the cider vinegar, several cloves of sliced garlic that let it fall into a salad as you pour it, and Heinz ketchup (they have a jalapeño flavor of natural ketchup now, which works really good in this recipe).  I use safflower oil now, but have used canola oil in the past, and maybe vegetable oil.

Glass vinegar bottles are really nice for this recipe, but plastic vinegar bottles work fine.  The small size bottle works for 1/2 cup portions of the main ingredients; a full recipe is usually 1 cup of the main ingredients and fits in the large vinegar bottle.  Since the recipe is made with equal parts of sugar, vinegar, oil, and ketchup, you can make any amount you want.

I recently used this dressing for a HEATED pasta salad meal because I needed to sauté some veggies before I added the pasta and canned beans.  It worked out great!  I loved it, and plan to do that again soon.