Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How to Squirrel for Winter

Squirreling food is an excellent idea, especially for the homemaker short on time and money. Spending a few hours a week can safely save you hours of time and effort as well as pennies on the dollar. Here's a couple of tips to stretch your supplies while stretching your dime (I sound so American):

1. Always make extra. Always. Even if you're baking cookies, make extra dough. Wrap it in baking paper in a log shape and then some clingfilm and you have yourself pre-made cookie dough packets in the freezer ready for the time you don't want to cook... but you still want cookies. It's especially nice to do this with cookies because you can simply slice off the number of them you want and bake as needed (1 for yourself and 3 for your period). With things like meat and soup - they can make excellent portable microwavable lunch meals or even a second dinner for the family - without the effort!

2. Get into jamming! This is highly unprofitable if you decide to go Ball-jar deep and buy a bunch of new jars and a pile of fruit from the market. Does not work like that. Source your jars second hand and make sure the fruits you use are local and fresh and well priced. Try to buy them direct from your local farm and you're in business. Jarring is not hard and there are many books and recipes on the topic. Anything from strawberry jam to gourmet deli spreads to mango chutney - they last forever and make use of the prices of seasonal items. That way when you're really craving an orange in summer, you can open a homemade jar of mandarin marmalade and dig in! Cheaper than buying one orange out of season! Also consider doing this with meats.

3. Dehydrators are your friend! I've been known to make anything from raw crunchy granola bars (damn hippies!) to dried fruit leathers to jerky. Heck, I've even made Packet Vegetable Soup, without the packaging! They are a bit pricey - mine was $120, but to be honest, I bought it at a pretty snotty little designer shop, so I'm sure you can find yours cheaper. Then - use them! Constantly! There is no need to ever stop it. One rack is empty, wash it and shove something else in there. I wish I listened to my own advice. (PS: potpurri is nice when you make it yourself. Not all gross and granny-like - but actually smells nice!)

4. Try to split a cow. With a spoon. No, really - try to split a cow. A whole cow costs about $6 a kg in Australia... when the cheapest meat you can get from one is $9 a kg. Most expensive being around $32 a kg, for things like (I think?) porterhouse. This also gets you nice things like tongue and liver! Mmmm. If you get a few friends together to share in buying this cow, you may spend $200 in one hit on beef - but it should last a family of four, oh... about 6 months. This is considering you don't have a slab of beef with every meal. The meat is fresher, more delicious, incredibly cheap and stores nicely. If you organize the buying of the calf yourself, you may even be able to make a deal so that the farmer gets $5 a kilo but you charge everyone else $6 for packaging and the like - you can even make money! (but please don't get into the business of selling cows for profit unless you get proper insurance!)

5. Make deals with friends for bulk. Okay, really, the cow thing should've been under this - but I needed five things otherwise a list just looks silly. Cows are one example but friends can make deals for bulk things in general - like fruit and veg, cheese, hell - fencing supplies, if y'all need a fence. Anything can be bought in bulk for less than just buying one. Even cars. (Don't buy cars with people. That's just a terrible idea.) So look into how much you have, how much you want and how much you can pawn off onto other people. But hey, if 30 people go in on that giant storage-sized package of toilet paper from Sam's, you'd all be toilet-papered for life for probably little more than the cost of 50 rolls by themselves. So try it.

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