Monday, January 26, 2015

Personal Pantry Challenge Lessons Part 2

I went through 10 lessons, or things, I learned in my 2 week PPC in the previous blog.  Here are some more:

11) Points out where I over/under buy.  E.g.  I have too many dried tomatoes.  I like to buy 20lb boxes of local tomatoes at the end of the season.  I dry tons of them.  This is fine because they store for ages, but not great from a food variety stand point.  More of them diced and canned, more as tomato powder, and using what I have before I buy again would be good.  Next fall I will try to remember to get OTHER things than just tomatoes.  We won't even discuss the number of pints of ketchup...  On the other hand, I ran out of grains.  I could use a bit more backstock of rice, barley, and the like.

12) Inspires me to be more creative with cooking.  Turns out you can make a damn fine soup with a jar of diced tomatoes, the remains of a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes, dehydrated onion, spices, a bit of fried garlic, and a can of coconut cream.  Coconut milk would be great too, but I had coconut cream.  It was quite a rich soup.

13) Made me plan ahead so I had protein and veg at every meal. I bought a dozen eggs at the start.  I didn't want to run out after the first week.  So I paid attention to how many I was using up.  At the end I boiled the last 3 so I could eat per meal without being tempted to make a giant frittata and use them all up at once.  I also rationed the carrots, onions, and celery a bit so I would make it 10 days with those to start a meal like soup, or lentils and cracked wheat.  Dehydrated veg are good, but not a soup is much much better with a newly sauteed onion rather than just dehydrated onion.  At the end, I remembered the sprout seeds in the cupboard and had sprouts under pickled beets as my side salad.  Quite nice really.

14) Made me more careful to use of all of a jar/bag/can of something.  If you've only got one can of coconut cream, scrape ALL of it out when making that soup.  I made muffins with the dregs of 3 different flours (regular, whole wheat, and cornmeal). I also remembered a tip that making salad dressing in the scraped out but unrinsed jam jar adds a bit of berry to the dressing (and avoids dirtying a new jar).

15) It was easy to meet calories per day due to honey and nut butters and seeds.  It was harder to feel filled up once the fresh fruit and veg dwindled.  I added gelatin (homemade jell-o with 2 envelopes knox gelatin, 1 can of zevia soda, a tablespoon of blackberry shrub, and 2 C hot water) for volume.  I even tried to be thrifty and filling by making gelatin with the juice from pickled beets.  It wasn't great and didn't all get eaten.  I'll go back to putting peeled boiled eggs in it as a quick lunch.

16) Some starchy veg like squash or potatoes was sorely missed after I ran out in the first week. With also being so low on grains, I was eating a very dense diet. 

17) Found the Mennonite cookbook, More-with-Less by Doris Janzen Longacre, very useful.  Of course the internet and having decades of cooking experience helped too. 

18) Herbs/spices became important for nutrition, such as putting 2T of herbs in an egg for a breakfast with a bit of fiber.

19) Condiments became side dishes.  I have large quantities (all homemade) of mustard, ketchup, kim chi, sauerkraut, and fermented carrots.  I started eating larger quantities than most people would.

20) It takes time, energy, and creativity to work with the remains of a food supply, even with a good amount in stock.  People in tough circumstances may not have time, energy, and creativity enough after coping with the rest of life. 

I'm sure I learned more but let's stop now, shall we?

I'm thinking of trying a food stamp budget one of these days.  I watched the documentary Food Stamped.  It's excellent and it's easy to point out all the mistakes both the bourgeois dabblers trying to live one week on a food stamp budget, and the actual food stamp recipients are making...but when one tries it either for interest or through necessity it's different. The documentarians tried living on a food stamp budget for a week.  They ended up not eating enough calories to maintain their healthy weights and activity levels.  One of the documentarians is a nutrition educator and was trying to find out if she and her husband could eat healthily on the budget.   Well...sort of. They were a bit low on the number of servings of fruit and veg, and low on calories.  A couple of the long term food stamp recipients knew the calorie game instinctively and bought foods that provide calories and bulk for the price.  These are cheap processed foods.  Neither approach is sustainable.   One thing the documentarians didn't do was buy flour or other grains.   I'd like to see if one could make up the calorie gap by making one's own bread and pancakes and muffins, and still leave enough $$ for the fruit and veg. 

I got my dander up on this watching them buy a challah for the sabbath dinner (this was a giant compromise since they should have had 2)...I was thinking that they could have gotten pounds of flour for the price of that one loaf of bread.  To that end, I looked up a recipe for refrigerator dough.  I already own yeast.  With refrigerator dough I won't need to make a giant quantity of bread at once.  It should also make a 100% whole wheat loaf more doable since it will have lots of time to slowly digest the flour.  I'm starting with regular flour though because that's what I found on sale (along with organic blue corn meal!  Gorgeous stuff!)  Sourdough bread is one way I got through a couple of my poorer times.  Not the world's most nutritious food, but not bad and extremely cheap.   Clearly I'm going to have to try it. 

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