Simplicity by Choice

Off-Grid Living & Self-Reliance

Emergency Ingredient Substitutions December 20, 2013

Filed under: family,off grid,pantry building,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 6:10 am
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Living off-grid, you learn new ways of doing things.  I have quickly realized that simply eating a primarily vegan or vegetarian diet can significantly reduce the need for refrigeration.  Only 2 types of items need refrigeration.  The first is animal products.  Eggs, milk, cheeses, yogurt, meats, and other food items that we get from animals all need to be kept cold to slow down the process of the food spoiling.  The second group of items that require refrigeration are leftovers.  This can be eliminated very easily by being more careful in the amount of food that you prepare.

With winter storms coming more frequently, I wanted to share some ideas.  These are things that I do on a regular basis but are great for others to learn in case of power outages.  There are substitutions that you can make in place of the perishable ingredients.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Eggs:

1 Tbsp. flaxseed meal + 3 Tbsp. warm water, let set a minute to thicken

1/2 of a banana, mashed

1/4 cup of applesauce

 

Dairy:

almond milk, I buy cartons that are not refrigerated until opened

Butter:  substitute with 1/2 the amount of butter with applesauce. I keep a pack of the individual size serving cups on hand as they are 1/2 cup each.

 

Ground meat:  TVP (textured vegetable protein)

seitan (gluten powder mixed with water to make a very stiff mix)

homemade veggie burger made from beans and finely chopped veggies

 

All of the items mention above are things that can be stored on a pantry shelf.  No refrigeration is needed for the base ingredients until you use them.  The almond milk needs refrigeration once the quart sized box carton is opened.  The remaining items only need refrigeration if you make too much and have leftovers.

Just these few things can help to lessen the stress of trying to keep perishables cold enough in a power outage.  Pick a couple of them and learn to use them before a situation comes up and you are forced to rely on them.  Testing them in recipes also will allow you a chance to see which options your family enjoys and which ones you do not.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Common Sense Diet December 18, 2013

Filed under: cooking,family,simplicity,Uncategorized — ourprairiehome @ 8:19 am
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It seems lately that I keep seeing posts on the social networks about one diet or another.  Fad diets have always been around.  I have found though that if you follow common sense, many diet issues can be avoided.

I come from a family with a history of health problems.  My mother’s parents were both diabetic.  Common sense would dictate that I limit sweets and the foods that cause diabetics’ blood sugar levels to rise too much.  On both sides of the family there are problems with high blood pressure and high cholesterol.   Just as with the diabetic history, it is wise to moderate the amount of food that I eat that is known to affect blood pressure and cholesterol.

I began to really pay closer attention to the foods that I ate back in 2007.  Little Miss was approaching her first birthday and I was having a lot of chronic pain and mobility problems.  In fact, I was using a walker and when away from home used a wheelchair.  I did a lot of reading online to find natural means to address the problems.  I found that by eliminating processed foods, I was able to be pain-free and regain my mobility.  Fast forward a couple of years and I was dealing with high blood pressure.

Since that time, I have continued to make adjustments to my diet that has had great affect on my health.  My family has benefitted as well.  The first change was to eliminate as much processed and refined foods as possible.  the hardest to eliminate was foods containing high fructose corn syrup.  I was dismayed at how many foods contain it.  I remember hearing as a teen the idea that if you cannot pronounce or recognize the name of the ingredients in a food, then you probably shouldn’t be eating it.

Next step was to identify the foods that contribute to high cholesterol.  In the simplest of terms, animal products are the culprits.  If I stayed away from the animal products, then I wouldn’t have to be quite as concerned about my cholesterol levels getting too high.  I found that it also had an affect on my blood pressure as well.

Today, my blood pressure has been under control and within the normal range for just over 3 years without taking any prescription medications.  For a time, I was taking garlic capsules as a natural cure for high blood pressure.  I also took cinnamon capsules to help control my blood sugar levels.  Though not diabetic, I do have problems with low blood sugar from time to time.

Overall, our family eats whole foods, cooked from scratch, and eat lean meats sparingly.  My husband, son, and I each have lactose intolerance in varying levels.  We avoid milk most of the time.  We use almond milk or a low-fat powdered milk to help reduce the lactose problems.  I also cook eggs only when necessary.  Instead of using eggs in my recipes, I substitute them with flax seed meal mixed in water.  A tablespoon of the ground flax seed meal mixed with 3 tablespoons of warm water equals one egg.

When using white potatoes, I peel, cut, and soak the potatoes in water overnight before using them.  The potato water is cloudy and often thickened from the starch in the potatoes soaking out of the potatoes.  This cuts done considerably on the amount of starch you eat.  The starch turns to sugar in your body.  For those with diabetes, this can cause a lot of problems.  We also use sweet potatoes in place of white potatoes quite often.  They are far better for you and do not have the starches that russet potatoes contain.

Our diet is based on vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.  For us, this is simply common sense.  I buy the basic ingredients and cook as much from scratch as possible.  We eat very little of the heavy sauces such as gravies.  I keep healthy snacks on hand.  We typically eat 5-6 times a day, including 3 light meals and 2-3 snacks.

For us, the way we eat make sense.  It isn’t following any specific diet but it works for us.  I am slowly losing weight.  Yes, I would love to lose it faster, but a slow weight loss will last longer.  The healthy eating habits we are developing will stick with us.  They will become a habit.  They will be a part of our daily lifestyle.  Eating smaller more frequent meals/snacks each day will help maintain energy levels throughout the entire day.  Come summer, when our garden is producing, the daily meals will include pickings from the garden each day.

Now, we eat very few packaged foods.  I find us eating them less and less as time goes by.  I also find that our grocery bill each month lowers even further with the whole food approach.

 

Planning Ahead for Next Canning Season December 12, 2013

It seems as though we just finished harvest and canning seasons.  Most families who utilize home canning and pantry building are now able to set back and able to take a breather….for a little while anyways.

Soon the garden seed catalogs will be arriving in the mail.  It will be time to start planning next spring’s garden.  While doing so, it is also a good time to take stock of your pantry.

I have been realizing over the past few years just how much preplanning the home canning allows me to become more efficient.  I found a printable Home Canning Inventory form on a blog called “My Pantry Shelf.”  If you scroll down the page you will find both a .docx file or a PDF option of the inventory sheet.  She also gives great ideas on things to consider when planning what to home can.

Each family has favorite home canned foods.  In our home, some of the favorites are Tomato Soup, Beef Stew, Meatballs, and a Vegetable Soup.  When I have these items home canned, we always seem to go through them quickly.  Taking time to record the canning inventory will aid me in better utilizing what I have stored.  I will be able to gauge what adjustments I need to make in the amount canned next time.  Did I can too little and run out too soon?  Did I can up too much and have a lot of jars left over at the end of a year?

I am working on customizing my household binder…again.  A master sheet of the pantry inventory will be kept in the binder.  On this, I am going to have the amounts of each item that I want to keep in the pantry will be listed on this form. I designed a set of forms that I am using for my binder.  You can find the forms in my Organization folder on Google Drive.

I have the pantry inventory forms in both .doc and PDF formats.  There is a Pantry Inventory sheet which has room for the items to be sorted by category, items, amount to store, and more. I based the general layout upon the Canning Inventory sheet.  There is also a pantry sheet that can be made up as a master pantry list of the items only.  In the column beside each item listed there is a space to tally the amounts used.  When it is time to write up your grocery shopping list, you have a quick reference of what needs to be replenished.  I would suggest either tucking the pages into sheet protectors or laminating the pages.  This will allow you to use a Vis-a-Vis marker.  You could use dry erase but they wipe off too easily.  For my shopping list, I am going to be putting together a page for each item category.  This will allow plenty of room to add new items over time.

When making up your list, don’t forget the non-food items such as canning jars & lids, paper supplies, First aid items, cleaning supplies (or ingredients to make your own), and emergency items such as batteries, matches, and lamp oil or lantern fuel.

 

 

Learning To Crochet Idea December 10, 2013

Filed under: Crafting,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 4:07 am
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I have been playing around with trying new stitch patterns trying to decide which one I want to use to make an Infinity Cowl.  I am a very visual person.  I have to see a nice size swatch to get a true feel for how the pattern will look on a finished project.  So, I have been doing something that I find I am quite enjoying.  Instead of doing a small 4″ square as my pattern swatch, I am making a dishcloth.  This not only gives me a better representation of what the stitch pattern will look like, but I have a new dishcloth to use.

I have never written a pattern for crochet before, so please let me know if the directions are not clear.  Unfortunately, I have no picture at this time of the dishcloth.

Cotton Dishcloth

Materials:

Peaches and Cream cotton thread/yarn

Size G crochet hook

Stitches used: HDC, SC

Starting chain of 25 stitches.

Row 1: Chain 2 stitches, turn and HDC in 2nd chain from hook.  Continue crocheting a HDC in each chain stitch.

Row 2:  Chain 1, turn and SC (single crochet) 1 stitch in each stitch across the row.

Repeat row pattern until your work is square.

At this point, you can weave in ends to finish off the dishcloth or add an edging all the way around.

One other option to consider is to save the dishcloths (without an edging) until you have enough to stitch together and make into a baby blanket, tote bag, or some other project.  Sewing/crocheting  2 of these squares stacked together will make a wonderful potholder.

Don’t want to make a dishcloth sized pattern sample? Try making 3″ or 4″ size squares.  Once you have 6 of these, sew/crochet together to form a cube, leaving one edge open.  Fill with polyfil stuffing and close the opening.  Voila!  You have a soft baby toy.  Consider making these in a series of sizes beginning with 2″ squares to make a stacking toy of blocks.

Enjoy!

 

Hot Cocoa Mix Recipe December 9, 2013

Filed under: cooking,pantry building,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 1:32 am
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When winter storms hit, it is time to make up a batch of hot cocoa mix.  I’ve made this recipe for several years. It is not too sweet and using the non-fat dry milk makes it a recipe even those in our family with lactose intolerance able to drink it.  The recipe is as follows.

Hot Cocoa Mix

25.8 ounces dry non-fat milk
4 cups powdered sugar
2 cups cocoa powder
8 ounces powdered chocolate flavored creamer

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl or stockpot.  Place into an airtight container.

To use:  Add 3 Tbsp of mix per 1 cup of hot water.

Variation: if I have some on hand, I often add 1 large box of chocolate pudding mix to the recipe. The result is a cocoa that is a bit creamier.

 

Homemade Air Fresheners December 1, 2013

I typically buy the little gel pellet style air fresheners from Dollar Tree.  These pellets come in a jar with a vented lid.  As the gel pellets dry out, they shrink until becoming hard little beads.  I had a couple of the jars right now that have fully dried up.  Instead of throwing the container and all away, I came up with a couple of ideas for recycling these jars.

Idea #1  Use the jars for moth balls.  If you ever have stored your clothes only to find that a mouse or other damaging pest has gotten to your clothing, you know that adding moth balls will repel most pests.  Fill the empty jars with the moth balls.  Tuck them into your clothing storage shelves around the boxes or into a large tote.

Idea #2  Fill the jars with potpourri of your favorite scents.  A favorite mixture that I like in the kitchen is to place a blend of broken cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, whole allspice, and dried orange peels.

Idea #3  I found a wonderfully easy recipe for making homemade gel-type air fresheners on One Good Thing by Jillee.  The ingredients are very simple: liquid potpourri, unflavored gelatin, and salt.  A second recipe that she shares in her tutorial used water and essential oils in place of the liquid potpourri.  I would recommend testing the containers first by placing hot water in them to make sure they are heat safe.

For those times when you need a spray, here is a very easy recipe.  In a small dish mix together 1 Tablespoon of baking soda and 2-3 drops of your favorite essential oil scent.  Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and fill with water.  Shake to dissolve the baking soda.  Use just as you would a store-bought freshener.  You can adjust the strength of the scent by adding more essential oil.  This mixture is safe for using on furniture or anything that needs a bit of freshening.  Knowing the benefits of aromatherapy, I am thinking of making some in a lavender scent to use on bed pillows.

Learning to make your own fresheners, you can easily customize the scents to meet any aromatherapy needs that you may have.  Aromaweb has over 60 recipes for making your own aromatherapy blends.

While I am at it, I am going to throw this link out here.  Frugal by Choice blog has the recipe for making homemade “Vicks” shower disks.

Enjoy!