Saturday, March 7th, 2009


I just finished organizing my baking supply cabinet. I composted an awful lot of outdated spices. I think, in the future, I will buy smaller amounts from the health food store of those spice I seldom use. One can get into a bulk buying frenzy and it isn’t always best. I grow and dry most of my herbs and those have held up well. I can have trouble with ants because of the honey and molasses I keep. After washing the cabinets and replacing the shelf paper, I sprinkled some Cayenne pepper around the edges. Ants hate it. I had a bumper crop of hot peppers last year. I whizzed them in my spiced grinder and used that.

I am getting ready to tackle my pots and pans. I have a few Teflon coated pans left. I am tossing them. I do not feel good about using anything that flakes for my food. If my food is excellent, it deserves the best for cooking. I am slowly replacing my old pans with better quality cookwear. Tools of all kinds are investments. I am willing to have have fewer to have better. In fact, I look forward to fewer. This is the essence of preparedness and sustainability. I have been through 10 sets of pots and pans in 35 years of marriage. If I had gotten better stuff to beging with, I would have been using the same ones now. Less in the landfill and less overall money. I plan to buy stuff that can be handed down to my kids. One of my favorite pans is my mother’s old cast iron skillet. It is my go-to pan for biscuits and popovers.

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I am still on my cleaning fest. I decided to use the whole process to design a better inventory system. Right now, I really don’t know what’s left in the freezer or in the parts of the basement pantry I haven’t tackled yet, I am pretty convinced I have used up some of the supplies in the upstairs, long term storage room. Could I really be out of dried cranberries? Part of the problem is having so many spaces to keep organized. In addition to the kitchen, where I keep the food I use every day, I have two separate basement rooms for the storage of things that can take cool and damp or cold and damp, an upstairs pantry for warmer and drier storage and a spare bedroom that is used for bulk storage of food that is less affected by temperature but does need to remain stable.

I am going to use a dedicated 3-ring binder so I can add and subtract pages as needed. I will use tabs to separate the sections for spaces. I am thinking of using graph paper for the pages devoted to cans and jars so I can just put a pencil dot in each square as I buy or put up each food. (Thanks Helene!) Then I only have to erase the dot as I use each thing. My previous system, the one I noted in my book, got pretty cumbersome. I will record bulk purchases like flour, oats, salt and sugar as buckets. As I empty a bucket, I will know it is time to order another sack from the co-op. My goal for amounts is not so much in terms of pounds but rather usage. I bought 80 pounds of salt. It will last a long time around here. I may not need more for years. 80 pounds of sugar won’t get me through a month during bee feeding and jelly making season. Bees go through tremendous amounts in the early spring. I use a lot of flour and wheat. The freeze dried milk supply looks pretty good as I buy local  milk and save the canned stuff for an emergency. Today I am reorganizing my canning supplies. I bought 2 cases of canning jar lids last year and I already had about 2 years worth in storage. The lids can’t be reused so I need a steady supply. If I continue to buy 2 cases each year (one large and one small) I will have a good surplus.  I figure they will be worth more than gold someday. I have a lot of rings. I take off the rings after the jars cool and I am sure of the seal so I don’t need so many of them but I hate to throw them out. The darn things take up so  much space and I get new ones every time I buy a new case of jars. I may have to steel myself and toss some today. I tried to freecyclethem and got no takers. I am thinking of getting a new pressure canner. I can a lot of meat and vegetables. I just want to be sure this is a real need and not a want as I am a sucker for kitchen equipment and not above concocting an excuse to buy something. Just the kind of thing I  complain about others doing.

I have an idea for the freezer. We are getting two new freezers this year. I want 2 small ones rather than one large because at some times of the year, like now, we have a lot less food and could shut one down to save energy.  I think removing food will be easier as well.  I put all of one thing like blueberries in baskets that can be lifted out to provide access to the food below but in a large chest freezer, it is still a chore to get to something on the bottom. What I always plan to do is arrange food in layers, some meat, then some vegetables, then some fruit but the road to hell as they say. I plan to hang a magnetic, write on-wipe off board on the side. I can jot down what I remove and update the notebook inventory once or twice a month.

Nothing feels quite as good as being well organized but it is not easy when you store as much as I do. Today, I will look at the spaces I have finished and get motivated to tackle the rest.