Simplicity by Choice

Off-Grid Living & Self-Reliance

Our Home Pantry September 17, 2013

Filed under: home canning,homesteading,pantry building,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 8:16 pm
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I have been receiving questions lately about the home pantry.  The main focus of the questions has been on what I stock up on and how much I store for our family.  First, let me state that we eat a predominately vegetarian diet.  Most of the time our diet resembles more of a vegan style, but we do use eggs, cheese and yogurt from time to time.  My husband is definitely a meat eater.  He eats meals containing meat when he is out on the truck away from home and sometimes here at home as well.  So, this brings it back around to what we store.  Most of the food stores are vegan in nature.  By not storing animal products, I eliminate the need for a freezer or refrigeration.  I am careful to not make extras of any meal unless it can be home canned into jars for another meal later on.  This also eliminates refrigeration.  In fact, on any given day, the only items we keep cold are drinks, opened jar of jam, salads in the summer and the rare times I buy eggs, cheese, or butter.  As I write this, my chilled items are eggs, jam, and a small container of milk.  For this reason, I am looking for a small propane refrigerator such as what you might find in an RV.  Using a large refrigerator is a waste of energy in our home.  The only time it is actually coming close to being full is during the holidays.

The following is a basic listing.  The amounts that I have beside each will last our family of 4 for about 8 months unless otherwise specified.

Baking Items:

White flour (30 lbs per month)

White sugar (10 lbs per month)

Dry Active Yeast (I buy a twin pack of 2 – 1 lb bags at Sam’s Club for $4.00 which lasts over a year)

Flax Seed Meal (2 quart jars will last nearly a year, use as egg substitute in baking)

Cornmeal (2 gallon size jars will last about 6 months)

Sea Salt (a quart jar will last about a year and costs only $1.65 at the health food store bulk bin)

Baking Powder, 60 oz tin

Baking Soda, 13.5 lb box (use for cooking and making cleaners)

Cornstarch, 35 oz. container

Brown sugar, 14 lbs. (nearly a year’s supply)

Powdered Sugar, 7 lb., (year’s supply)

Powdered Milk, 10 lbs.


Seasonings: I purchase all of the seasonings at Whole Foods health food store in their bulk bins.  The cost is far less than a grocery or other store.  I use the clear plastic deli containers to store the dried herbs in.  One reason for using the deli containers is due to the easy stacking for storage.   I have never had any problems regarding quality of the herb by storing them in this way.


Quart size containers:


Cinnamon sticks


Pint size containers:





Sweet Basil

Herb de Province

Italian Seasoning

Ground allspice

Ground Nutmeg

Ground cinnamon

Ground cloves

Whole peppercorns

Cream of Tartar


There are other herbs and spices that I use less frequently, which I do buy in much smaller amounts, such as a baby food jar size container.  Some of the small jars also contain my own spice mixtures marked with an (*).


Red Pepper Flakes

Ground Cardamom


Pumpkin Pie Spice*

Taco Seasoning*

Onion Powder*

Onion Salt*

Garlic Powder*

Garlic Salt*

Vanilla* (this I am making in a larger bottle, but less than a pint)



This is the largest portion of my pantry.  We eat grains daily in one form or another.  Nearly every day, we eat some type of bean, lentil, or legume.  Note: a gallon jar (free from a sandwich shop) will hold 6 pounds of dried beans.


Pinto Beans, a 5 gallon bucket will last one year

Northern White Beans, 2 gallon jars

Black Beans, 1 gallon jar

Garbanzo Beans, 1 gallon

Lentils, 2 gallons

Dried Split Peas, 2 gallons

Kidney Beans, 2 gallons

Navy Beans, 2 gallons

Barley, 1 gallon

White Rice, 5 gallon bucket

Quinoa, 2 gallons

TVP (Textured vegetable Protein), 1 gallon

Egg Noodles, 14 pounds (2 lg bags from Sam’s Club)


Grain Mixes

Falafel Mix, 1 gallon

Hummus Mix, 1 gallon

Nature Burger mix, 2 gallons

Dried Soup Mix, 1 gallon


#10 cans of various items

Crushed Tomatoes, 4 cans

Tomato Sauce, 6 cans

Tomato Paste, 2 cans

Spaghetti Sauce, 4 cans (I use as a base, adding veggies to make my own)

Pizza Sauce, 2 cans

Apple sauce, 4 cans


14 oz cans of Vegetables

Whole Kernel Corn, 4 flats

Creamed Corn, 2 flats

Green Peas, 4 flats

Green beans, 4 flats

Waxed beans, 2 flats


Extra Food Items

Tahini, 2 jars

Peanut Butter, 12 jars

Jams of various flavors, 12 or more jars

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 6 quarts

Butter flavor Crisco, 2 lg cans

Vegetable Oil, 1 gallon

White vinegar, 1 gallon

Apple Cider Vinegar, 2 bottles

White Wine vinegar, 1 bottle

Red Wine vinegar, 1 bottle

Farina Cereal, 4 lg boxes

Old Fashioned Rolled Oats, 5 gallon bucket



This is the bulk of what I am working towards. It does not include the home canned soups, stews, fruits and veggies that I put up in jars,  which are based upon cost and availability.  I home can items such as the following:

Ground beef – plain, as taco meat, in spaghetti sauce, and as sloppy joe mix

Meatballs – various types of meat, canned plain to be added to anything later

Chicken – boned and skinned, shredded in BBQ sauce, or in chunks with some broth for a soup base

Stew Meat – in beef broth, in a stew, in BBQ sauce, or in a soup

Turkey – done the same as chicken

Carrots – both as whole baby carrots or sliced

Potatoes – peeled and cut into chunks

Cabbage – cut into chunks or wedges

Various homemade soups and stews

Baked Beans with lil’ smokies or ground beef

Fruit if price is low enough to make it worth while









Perpetual Salads September 16, 2013

Filed under: gardening,green living,homesteading,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 7:53 pm
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Do you have a sunny window in your home? Why not sow some spinach or a leafy variety of lettuce in a planter?

It is very easy to grow spinach and leaf lettuce all winter long this way. As you’re plants produce, you break off or cut the outside leaves. The plant will continue to produce for a long time. As the plant begins to slow down, sow new seeds in another planter.

By doing this, you can enjoy fresh leafy greens long after the winter snows begin to fall.


Dieting September 12, 2013

Filed under: family,homesteading — ourprairiehome @ 7:37 pm

I have been noticing that the further that the menopause moves along, my weight bothers me.  I have been blessed with none of the common symptoms that many women complain of.  No hot flashes or anything.  What I have noticed though is that I have gradually begun to gain weight.  Not enough to have to buy new clothing, but enough to get my attention.

Years ago, I had a significant weight loss of nearly 150 pounds.  I have been so happy to have kept most of that weight off, even after having 2 more babies while in my mid-40’s.  I know that the older you are, the harder it is to lose weight and keep it off.  So, this weight gain is not a welcome thing.

I am great about the kids’ eating habits.  They have 3 meals a day in addition to 2-3 healthy snacks in between meals.  A healthy snack meaning granola bars, fruit, or a bagel with cream cheese.  That type of thing is typical for snacking in our home.

When it comes to my own eating habits, I started to really pay attention once I realized I was gaining weight.  Ever since I was a teenager, I have rarely (more like never) felt hunger.  I literally do not feel any sensation in my body that tells me when it is time to eat.  I can go all day long and not eat anything only to suddenly realize at night that I forgot to eat that day.  The problem is that if I don’t feel hungry when I am feeding the kids, then I just go on about my day after they are done eating.

This means that my body’s metabolism is very low.  It isn’t burning the calories that I do take in very effectively.  The end result being that even though I take in a low amount of calories, my body is still gaining weight.

So, here is my challenge that I am taking on.  Each time I feed the kids, I am eating. It is a real change for me.  I am actually having to eat more to lose weight.  What got to me was that I kept track of my daily calorie intake and I was averaging about 750 calories on a really day, versus the kids averaging about 1800 calories or more a day.  The kids’ caloric intake is right on track for their ages and activity level.  According to WebMD, I should be taking in 1800-2000 calories per day for my lifestyle.

Eating a vegan diet, I sometimes wonder just how I am supposed to get that many calories.  It seems a high amount when I eat a lot of vegetables and foods that are low calorie.

I am also increasing my activity.  LOL  Yeah, you would think that living off-grid that I would be active enough to keep my metabolism on track.  Well, since it seems to be sleeping, I have to wake it up.  So, I am exercising for an hour each day.  I start by doing some stretches that I learned in martial arts, then bellydance or some other exercise.

With the increase in exercise and calorie intake, I am beginning to feel a difference.   Now, to get creative in how to get the caloric intake I am supposed to have while eating mostly grains, vegetables, and fruit.


Surprise! Life Changes September 3, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — ourprairiehome @ 7:18 pm

Life has a sense of humor. You can be going down your path then suddenly look around and realize that a change took place while you were unaware. That has happened to me.

I have been staying fairly busy. Tending to the home, family, homeschooling, therapies, they all require daily attention. So much so that I hadn’t noticed the changes going on until recently.

While taking stock of our pantry, specifically the paper goods area, I was brought sorry by the thought that I haven’t needed certain feminine products for a while. Checking my notes, I found that I haven’t needed then since March. I know that I am not pregnant, so it could only be that I have hit menopause. At age 50, it doesn’t surprise me.  What does surprise me is that I have not had any of the other symptoms that women speak of. No hot flashes or any of the other issues that are common, except for one…weight gain. It is as though someone flipped a switch and shut off that one area of my body’s function.

The weight gain bothers me.  I am blessed with a husband who years me like I am absolutely cherished by him. The weight gain doesn’t bother him. As long as my overall health is good, weight isn’t an issue to him.

For me, I am having trouble with it. I went through a 150 lb. weight loss years ago before he and I met. I look at myself now and cringe at the thought of gaining it all back. I am far from that weight, but the memories of that time are still there.

I have gotten away from eating a strictly vegetarian diet. Recently, my lactose intolerance has started bothering me again. So, I am going vegan. I an also cutting way back on carbs.

Now, instead of a sandwich on bread, I am making a lettuce wrap. I love it! I do still eat some carbs, such as tortillas, but am significantly limiting the frequency.

As soon as the weather has cooled enough, I will be starting to exercise more. Not using fans or an A/C unit to cool our home, I won’t exercise in the heat.

I hope to lose a reasonable amount of weight. No time frame to lose it in, just plan to lose it at a rate that will allow be to be healthy