28 January 2023

Food storage - stop wasting food

This is the first post in a short series on cooking for one. If you're in a larger family, search in my right side bar, under my photo, and that will give you recipes and information about family food for two, four, or larger. But before we get into cooking, we need to have our systems in place so we don't waste food. Food prices are still rising and it's wise to look at how you store food so you don't throw food (money) out every week.

When my kids left home, I fell into shopping and cooking for two quite easily. The shopping trolleys full of groceries were gone, I was cooking smaller meals and it was convenient to cook for four, eat two of those meals, then freeze two for later. When I'd done that for a couple of months, I had a very healthy stockpile of frozen homemade meals ready to go for the days I didn't feel like cooking. That system worked for Hanno and I for many years and I never had a reason to change. But when you're solo, cooking for four isn't such an attractive option. It's better to cook for one. And you have to set up a system that will help you do that and not waste food.
The simple art of stockpiling - a previous post on stockpiling 
How to grocery shop for one - a good article on grocery shopping

This is the stockpile we created in March 2020 when we realised that the Corona virus wasn't the short-term virus we all hoped it was.  It seems that no one saw Covid coming - there were rumours coming out of China in December 2019, then within a couple of months we were all locked down. Back then, no one thought we'd still be dealing with it in 2023. You never know what's in the future but with a stockpile, at least you'll be able to safely stay in your home and feed yourself and your family. Take every opportunity to increase your skills because at some point, you'll need them.

Before we cook food, we have to buy and store it first. I no longer have a vegetable garden but I do grow all the herbs I eat and I have a fruit trees and passionfruit vines, so I have occasional fruit. I buy the rest of my food. If you're trying to work out a way of cooking for one, first work out how you'll store your food. When Hanno got sick my sister stayed with me for a couple of months so I continued shopping, storing and cooking the way I had for the previous 20 years but when Tricia went home, I started wasting food and that was what triggered most of my current changes. Almost every week I threw out a half-eaten lettuce, a collapsed cucumber, a mouldy wedge of pumpkin or something else that died before I had a chance to use it. One of the problems with buying fresh food is that you don't know how fresh it actually is. Most food at the supermarket looks fresh but you don't know if it really is fresh or if it's been sitting in a cold room for a month or two. If it's the latter, it will wilt when you put it in the crisper of your domestic fridge and probably won't last a week. If you're growing your own vegetables, they should last for weeks before you notice any problems.
Most of us have a fridge and freezer, most have a pantry where we store all the open packets or jars of food currently in use. If you can add a small stockpile it will help you a lot - by cutting down on the trips to the supermarket and money saved, as well as the knowledge that you can feed your family well into the future if you lose your job, someone in the family is sick or any weather-related catastrophe hits. 

I had all those storage options - the fridge, freezer, pantry and stockpile cupboard, what I added last year was a Zwilling vacuum sealer unit. I saw a vacuum sealer on sale at Aldi but I wanted reusable bags, and that's what Zwilling gave me. I've worked with it for a few months now and I love it. Even though I tried hard, I was wasting food every week but now I've gone back to almost zero food waste. It's particularly good for storing fresh vegetables, fruit, meat, cold cuts, cheese, left over meals. The starter pack I got comes with bags for flat storage and two containers - one is glass, one a plastic lunchbox. I've had coleslaw in the glass container and it's lasted almost a month so far. You can store soup and other liquids as well as dried foods.  I bought my starter set from amazon.com.au. I've just bought another set of bags, they're bags are strong and can be washed and dried after use and be reused many times.

I love cauliflower and now I can buy a larger one and know it will remain edible.

Here are the three Zwilling bag sizes, with a box of tissues so you can work out the size.

I bought this Iceberg lettuce for $1.90 on Thursday. Now it's in the bag, I know it will remain crisp and delicious until I finish the last leaf.  And no, the vacuum pack doesn't crush it. 

I had to put the lettuce in the larger bag because it didn't fit through the opening of the smaller bag. I made sure it was at the bottom of the bag before I packed it so I could neatly fold the bag in two for storage.

Corned beef cold cuts. I cooked this meat and enjoyed it during the week with cauliflower, cheese sauce and sweet potato. Now I have one pack in the fridge for sandwiches or a quick salad meal and one in the freezer for eating next month or the month after.

If you're a meat eater and you have a freezer, it's wise to buy small bulk packs of meat or chicken because they're a cheaper price for the same amount of meat on a flat tray. Repackage them at home and freeze them in meal-sized portions - for one or ten, depending on the size of your family. Zwilling makes this type of freezing, efficient and convenient. When you have your bags full and vacuum sealed, you can store then in a drawer or container like in a filing cabinet. Standing them on their sides so you can flip through them, allows you to see exactly what you have. When vacuum sealed in Zwilling bags and stored in the fridge, your food will last five times longer than in a plastic bag or container.

The food I eat now is mainly the food I grew up eating - it's the old fashioned casseroles, curries, stews, soups and salads that most people had in those days.  It's nourishing, easy to cook and delicious. If that's the food you want to eat, I have plenty of recipes here on my blog. Just search for "beef casserole", "curry", "soup" etc in the right-side search bar and they should come up. Most of those recipes will be for four servings, so freeze or vacuum pack two serves, eat one serve straight away and store the other in the fridge to eat tomorrow or the next day. Or if you have a Zwilling unit, eat one serve and vacuum pack three serves to add to your fridge or freezer filing cabinet.

For those days when I want to try something different, there are plenty of websites for cooking for one. I've chosen this one because their recipes look nutritious and satisfying and there's a vegetarian section at the bottom of the page. I like this one as well because it shows how quick and easy it is to cook tasty food at home.

In my next post, I'll have some recipes for you - some are what I eat, some I've found on the internet and am happy to recommend.  Of course, we'll also talk about storage again, specifically how to store any leftovers from the recipes I share.  I'll also talk about prepping food - this is for carers, working folk and parents with kids who may benefit from new ways of getting through housework. 

I hope you'll have time to change your food systems if they need changing and if you have any questions about your changes, ask questions in the comments and I'll see if I, or the other readers, can help you sort out any problems you have. So get stuck in because if we all stop wasting food and the money it costs, we can move onto tweaking other areas in the home that will make life better.


14 January 2023

My chest freezer died

I am so grateful to have such a wonderful group of readers. I don't say this often but your comments really do keep me blogging. When they drop off, I do too.  So thank you for being here with me and thanks for the thoughts and prayers you send me. It's such a lovely thing to be thought of by people near aand far.  I think of you too. Every time you comment, I build up a picture in my mind of what you're like - how you talk and wear your hair, how you make a cup of tea and harvest flowers or tomatoes. I carry those picture with me and sometimes when I sit on the front verandah, someone from here sits in my brain for a while and makes me smile.  So thank you all for that and for giving me the time it takes to visit and comment.  

 ๐Ÿ’› ~ ๐Ÿ’œ ~ ๐Ÿงก

At the beginning of the week there was a bad smell in the house. At first I wondered if Gracie had found a mouse and killed it but mice in the house in summer is very rare so I searched for another cause. My nose lead me to the bathroom, the bathroom I don't use. It used to be the main bathroom but when we added another bedroom with en suite, that became our main bathroom. The old bathroom is used by visitors and if they use the toilet, that is where they wash their hands.  The room also contains an old freezer, a cleaning cupboard and a shower. As soon as I walked in I knew I'd hit pay dirt - the smell was very strong and I could see the freezer light was off.   ๐Ÿซข  Then I remembered, I'd used my robo mop at the end of last week. That one electrical switch in the room has a dual purpose. It charges the battery on the mop and it runs the freezer and has done for over 20 years. I must have forgotten to turn the switch on again when I removed the mop cord. ๐Ÿ˜‘    

When I opened the door on the freezer my head nearly lifted from my shoulders. ๐Ÿ˜ต‍๐Ÿ’ซ I put it down again but I could see rotting steaks, mince, two roasts, homegrown chard, a large bag of fresh ginger and chillies picked from the backyard. There was also two litres of lemon juice ready to be made into cordial for the second half of summer and about 5 kilos of bread flour I'd been storing in there.  Funnily enough, the loss of the food was a distant second place to worrying about the smell. 

This freezer was bought the first year we lived here. It was a medium sized freezer that served us well all that time and never caused any problems. It had started to rust in a few places and enamel paint chips on the outside wall fell off sometimes in the last year, so I knew it was on the way out. I didn't want to replace it but I knew I had to start thinking about getting rid of it. I don't live a freezer lifestyle anymore - no live-in family, no bulk meat purchases, no bread making and no garden to harvest from anymore.

When I tried to move it, it wouldn't budge an inch. So I rang my son Shane. He told me not to worry and he'd be here the following day to get rid of it. And that's exactly what he did. He moved the freezer out of the house and onto the trailer hooked up to his car and took it to the dump. It was like losing an old friend. But when I thought about it, it was another decluttering exercise. Yes it happened out of the blue, yes, I couldn't rescue any of the food it contained, yes, it made a mess but if it hadn't happened like that I would have had to slowly use the food in the freezer, turn it off for the final time, cleaned it out and ask Shane to take it to the dump for me.  In this instance, I think the faster option was better.

When Shane removed the freezer it was clear by some stains on the floor that it had been leaking for a while. I cleaned the corner of the bathroom with bleach, then with disinfectant and washing up liquid in almost boiling water, finished it off with dry rags and set up a drying rack in the space.  I have to admit, I miss that old freezer. It was such an important part of our first year living in our home and one of the first appliances I bought with visions of home productivity in mind. After I bought it, I set up a stockpile cupboard and a pantry and those three things - the freezer, stockpile cupboard and pantry helped me think in creative ways about home cooking, baking, fermenting, creating a food budget, food storage and cutting back on food waste.

I'll miss the old girl but in the future she'll help me remember what life was like for the Hetzels when we picked her up from the shop and brought her home. I didn't fully realise her potential at first but she helped me answer a lot of the food questions I'd started thinking about. She allowed me to buy bulk meat from a local farmer for a fraction of the supermarket price and she provided space to place newly purchased dry goods - flour, oats, rice etc. - so that if they contained any insect larvae, it would be killed in the freezer.

I guess it's strange feeling sentimental about a freezer but it really did kick start how I changed my thoughts about food production. And I'm pleased the end came fast and that Shane was there for me when I needed help. It's a pity about the smell though. ๐Ÿ˜ต‍๐Ÿ’ซ

Kerry, Sunny and Jamie gave me a Cuckoo rice cooker for Christmas.  I used it for the first time today because I made chicken curry for my main meal. It's a pressure cooker so it makes rice in 6.5 minutes. All I had to do was wash the rice until the water was not milky, add the rice and water to the cooker and turn it on. It worked out its own cooking time according to the weight of the pan and it kept the rice warm until I used it. Made in South Korea, I expect creative technology and I can see myself making more rice dishes because the rice it makes is much better than the rice I used to make. ๐Ÿ˜

Many of you know my good friend Grandma Donna who blogs at Generations Before Us. Her blog is full of wise ideas about living simply as well as wonderfully nostalgic photos of her home. Recently Donna started a forum and I told her I'd tell you about it. This year she and her husband are conducting a study into 1930s living - you can read about that on her blog. The forum is a way for the people doing the study with her to swap ideas and get support. There's also a general chat area so you can socialise with like-minded people, everyone is welcome. If you click the link to Donna's blog, look at the top of the page and click on  Forum to go there.  You have to join but there's no hidden agenda.  Donna's not well at the moment so it may take a little while to be welcomed into the forum, but it won't take too long. I'll be there to greet you. ๐Ÿฅฐ


4 January 2023

A general review of how things are now

When I took a break from my blog I spent a short amount of time online but I didn't do much communicating; it was just a way of filling in time. I hope I'm never in that situation again. Staring at a screen isn't a healthy way to live. I'm happy to tell you that it was productivity and housework that got me back on track and brought me closer to an understanding so familiar to me - that doing, creating, moving, organising and planning are just as important as breathing.

Christmas lunch at home with my family.  We had ham, prawns, salads and pavlova. I bought beer and no one drank any of it, and champagne to toast Hanno and the bottle wasn't finished. I guess we're post-alcohol now.

I never thought of life after Hanno and the huge changes I faced as one thing. I got through it all by sitting on the verandah with a note book then breaking it into smaller pieces and focusing on the next thing I had to do. That's worked really well for me. Even if something is a huge task, breaking into smaller bits and doing it piece by piece makes it feel doable.

Gracie and I have a good routine worked out. She went through a period of searching for Hanno but I think she's given up on that. Now she doesn't like being alone. She loves being outside and I held the door open for her many mornings but she won't step out unless I’m with her. So she patiently waits for me to have my breakfast and after I put my plate in the sink, I make another cup of tea and we both go on to the front verandah and greet the morning sun. She inspects the entire verandah, drinks out of every water container, looks for lizards and March flies, stands at the gate and looks up the street, checks the boundary fence and finally settles down to closely monitor the neighbourhood from her surveillance position on the verandah. She won't let any black and white bird land in the yard now but ignores those feathered fiends, the native minors. Grrrr. They have been feasting on the capsicums I'm growing in the container garden near the bins. 

Gracie was following the Korean robot mop around as it cleaned the floor. She's very suspicious of it. It was a gift from Sunny, Kerry and Jamie a few years ago. For Christmas they gave me a little Korean Cuckoo rice cooker.  I'll write about that when I use it.

When Hanno died I spent a lot of time working out what I'd do. There were a lot of options but there was only one thing I knew for sure - I wanted to stay here in my home. But that provided problems too, mainly that I couldn't do the work Hanno used to do maintaining the house and mowing the lawn. I had to apply to the government for a Home Care Plan. I got one which started in December. For those of you unfamiliar with Home Care Plans - in Australia, our governments have a bipartisan policy to support older Australians who want to continue living in their own homes, even well into older age. There are four levels - level one is for basic care needs: $9,179 a year, level two is for low care needs at $16,147 a year, this is what I have; level three is for intermediate needs care $34,500, level four is for high level care at $54,000. There are strict rules for what the money can be used for. Once approved, the monthly funds are sent to an approved community care facility of your choice and they administer the funds on your behalf. They also provide records to the government to prove you spent the funds according to the rules. So I will never see the money, will never have to pay the bills to have the lawns mowed or the roof fixed and never have to provide documentation regarding the use of the money. So it's a win/win for me and so far it's working well. 

The ever-changing fruit bowl.

It's that time of year when I review my finances and negotiate prices for insurance, internet, phone and utility bills. Yesterday I spend quite a bit of time phoning my providers to see what they're charging this year and what I get for my money. Oh my! The cost of home and contents insurance is skyrocketing and I'm guessing it will be the same for car insurance, I'll check that in March. Last year my home and contents insurance cost $1713 and this year I got a renewal notice for $4695!!! I phoned around and all of them have big cost increases. I finally stumbled on to Australian Seniors insurance. They were good to deal with, are recommended by Choice and Product Review and they're charging me $2116.  If you're over 50, check them out if you're renewing your insurance.

Another batch of homemade, three ingredient laundry liquid. It costs about three to four dollars for 10 litres and does and excellent job.  Here is the link to my recipe for laundry liquid.

I'm continuing to reshape my home to suit me and not we. What you choose to surround yourself with in your home will help define the person you are. Those same items also have the power to nurture and soothe you or to take away your strength and ability. When we first came to live here 25 years ago, I decluttered to get rid of things I no longer had a use for. My main goal was to have a productive home with the tools, utensils and appliances that made that happen and to use the production of the home to nurture and strengthen my family and guests. After Hanno died and with the help of my sister, I removed Hanno's clothes and the things he loved but I kept a few small items he treasured. Now when I declutter, I'm choosing what I treasure and don't want to live without. It's not an enjoyable job, but it does improve life. You have less to look after and clean and it seems a weight is lifted with every bit you let go of.
This is how long my hair is now.  I was thinking of growing it longer so I could plait/braid it around my head but as it grows, I'm losing the feeling for it. It's a pain to wash it, which I do twice a week and I can see myself rushing over to the hairdresser soon.  I haven't been there for two years.

I hope you like the changes I've brought to the blog. I simplified it all and if I wasn't sure if I should keep something, I got rid of it. LOL I will continue to write here. Many of you have told me that you enjoy my writing and look forward to each post. But I won't commit to a regular post because now when I make those commitments they have not worked out. What I will say though is that I enjoy writing here as much as you seem to enjoy reading it, so that's a good start. I'll work out a new routine for myself for taking photos and making notes and I hope that will result in a regular post being here. Sometimes that will be a full post, sometimes a single photo with a note attached, or a recipe, and at other times, something else. I hope you stick around and see what these days present for you and for me.  And thank you for being here today.  xx

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