About gDonna
The photo is my son and myself. Now days you can get a photo made to look old like this one. This photo was taken when this was the new look.

Harry S Truman was president when I was born and world war II had ended. I grew up in a time when lunch was put in a brown paper bag and a sandwich was wrapped with wax paper. There was no such thing as pantyhose, we wore stockings that attached to the rubbery clippy things that attached to the girdle. Convenience stores were not common and when we took a trip we packed a picnic basket because many places did not have fast food. Highways had places to pull over and stop, some with picnic tables. Read more ....

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Straight talk because....

August 5, 2020

Because we are in a worsening pandemic. Some of you have lost your job, some have lost loved ones and it may seem to you that no one cares.  But I care.

I thought about starting this post off with some history facts about pandemics and wars and such as that but I just want this post to be a simple common sense post.

We can find patterns after events in history and if we learn from this we should have already learned enough to live a prepared life.  But this is not what people normally do and I do not know why.

I was very fortunate to live a time that I was able to be close to my Grandparents that had lived through two world wars, a very very bad pandemic and a great depression.  I know now why they were so wise and stayed the same and not as eager to buy into all the modern goods.

This pandemic that we are in right now is extremely serious.  People that read my blog live all over the world but I can only talk about from where I live and where I live it is not a good situation as far as this covid19 virus stands.  Our numbers are out the roof. Deaths and lingering sickness is just terrible. 

We personally know people that have had it and have it now. Some in our family.

At this time, we are in a serious, declining situation.  We do not need to sit by and just watch what happens, we need to be doing things that will help us get through this and what is to come.  We cannot predict, we do not know, but I for one am thinking about the what if's. 

We have already experienced shortages in the beginning, middle and still now with certain items we use daily. We cannot depend that just because some items have come back that they are going to continue to be available. We should be slow, deliberate, building a stock of items that we need.  

We have seen flour disappear from the shelves, yeast, toilet paper, certain canned goods, disinfectants and all kinds of things. We should be cutting back on expenses to purchase extra food. I have read enough on the great depression to know that food, shelter, underwear, shoes, socks and some savings is absolutely necessary. 

Charles and I want to be on top of things should the economy get worse and it already is.

I want you to be okay as well.

If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you know that Charles and I live something like the past.  We have been doing history projects and studying about the past and what it was like on the home front during world war two and then we started studying the great depression and have been moving backwards in time in our studies. I have wondered lately if this was God's plan for us to be doing these history projects.

We are starting a new study of minimal grid and water living in the city. There are laws that we must have the grid in the city but it is up to us how much we use.

We have enjoyed our studies and so much that we started changing our home to live more like the past. We started feeling safer, we paid off  bills, we started saving money by decreasing the flow.  That was reducing our electric and water bills, getting rid of our televisions and cable costs.  We kept one very small television and bought a $35.00 digital antenna so we could watch the news and weather and play movies for a Friday night movie night. We never saw a pandemic coming.

We started gardening and preserving food.

We could not grow a lot of food in our back yard so we grew enough to make soups and then we found ways to grow more food by making lasagna gardens and we purchased some cattle tanks. This picture above is from this mornings stroll through the garden.

We added fruit trees and started doing more permaculture which is adding more plants and trees that will grow year around such as perennials.  Yes, I am back to taking lemon pictures again, it is getting that time of year. 

But still not enough to sustain us.  So we increased our pantry space by adding shelves into a utility closet. We grow what we can grow and then we preserve our food from what we grow and what we purchase at the produce market and grocery store.

We slowly purchased the right tools to preserve food such as dehydrators, canners, jars and lids.

We are getting older and we cannot handle storing food in large buckets and putting away ready made meals and such as that. We had to be reasonable in what we store and able to rotate without wasting food.  Until we got better at it we donated to the food bank anything we felt we would not be able to rotate in time until we learned how to store food properly.

What I could not remember from growing up, I learned by books and mostly by doing.  Here I am washing gold potatoes to get them ready to bake and then slicing them and dehydrating them. I am using a pan to wash them in so I can reuse the water on garden plants. 

 I would love to just keep a storage of fresh potatoes but we live in a very warm climate and we have tried many methods to store potatoes and we have wasted potatoes with them going bad before we could use them so I came to the realization that I needed to can or dehydrate them.

I bake them first until I can pierce a long toothpick type stick through them without resistance. Then I cool them and slice them like this. I normally dry anything that i dehydrate longer that is recommended to make sure it is very dry.  It is better to be real dry than any moisture left. 

Just last night, I dehydrated 20 pounds of potatoes. I say last night because I normally put them on in the late afternoon and let them dry overnight.  What you see above is seven one quart jars and one pint jar of dehydrated. The twenty pounds of potatoes, after dehydrating them, fit into these jars. Dehydrating saves space in the pantry. When rehydrating them they will lighten back up, most food darkens when dehydrating. 

When I first started dehydrating food, I really did not know what to do with the food, how to cook it but I continue to learn new ways of rehydrating and using the dehydrated food and we are getting better at it.  We have learned that it will not always look like it did before it was dehydrated but close enough. The taste is what matters. 

I can put these in any casserole or dish I would normally use potatoes in or just rehydrate them and saute them in some butter or oil. The pint jar I sliced like french fries so I can experiment with making fries.

Food can be dehydrated without a dehydrater but we live in a very humid climate and I just do not know how well the food would dehydrate. Food also can be dehydrated in an oven.  I am just not experienced with these methods. I would like to be though to save on electricity.

Our home canned food.

This past week I was not well and so I opened a jar of some beef stew that I had canned. Our canned soups and stews are our fast food. It is so quick to go to the pantry and pull a jar of stew off the shelf  and know what I put in these jars of food that I canned.  There are no preservatives. I use the Ball canning book recipes and methods to make sure that it is safe. 

To have a full meal ready in minutes, it was open the jar and put it in a pan to heat it up.

Whole chicken, onions, carrots and bits from the garden simmering. 

The main thing is to figure out how to keep enough food in the house to be able to shelter in place if necessary or to get through if we get to where we should not get out again. All the while when food costs are going up, there are shortages and money is short.

I feel a little late on this since many people are already struggling because they are out of work.  If you are out of work and struggling there are many ways to stretch the food and utility bills and expenses..

So let's talk dumplings.

When I was growing up we ate dumplings quite often.  Matter of fact many people in our family ate dumplings.  It was a common food dish. My father loved drop dumplings and so we ate drop dumpling but then when I married my in laws ate flat strip dumplings.  So I learned to make both.

Dumplings are simply made from biscuit dough. There is no need to buy canned biscuits because they are easy to make and so are dumplings.

But the point here is dumplings is a very good way to stretch a meal and very tasty.  Dumplings are cooked in a broth.  Most often a meat broth but it can also be a vegetable broth.

This is where the food stretch comes in.  I hardly ever fry or bake chicken anymore, I normally boil a whole chicken, one, because whole chicken cost less, and because I want the broth from the chicken and bones.  If I did not have meat I could simmer vegetables to make a vegetable broth.  Carrots, onions, celery, parsley would be a basic broth.  Maybe garlic added and bay leaves. 

In my family, my grandmother would usually have something simmering on the stove. This is a very fond memory for me and something I do now.

People really need to learn to cook because we can make so many dishes with basic ingredients. Always remember that the nutrition is in the broth, never throw out the juice or broth from vegetables and meat.

In this cabinet we keep our dry goods and baking goods such as flour, sugar, raisins, currents, prunes, ready made pasta. I also enjoy making our own pasta.

Instead of buying ready made snacks just make them with basic  ingredients. We make our own muffins and cookies, cake and pie. We do not make or eat them regularly now but if you have children it is better for them instead of processed snacks and really helps the food budget too.

Baking is different than cooking.  Baking and cooking are basically different skills. 

If you have a gluten problem then you have to figure out other food items and ways to make food out of corn meal that has no flour in it and rice flour and such as that.  

Long ago we used more cornmeal than flour. I was always cooking cornbread, and people cooked hoe cakes and corn dodgers.  People had different ways of cooking them but one of the ways for our family was the corn dodgers were laid on top of the greens that were simmering in a pot.  We would look forward to drinking the pot liquor as we called it. It was the broth from cooking the greens, normally turnip greens, collards or mustard greens.  I cannot tell you how many times I have heard stories about greens, pot liquor and cornbread or corn dodgers. 

A normal meal long ago would have been garden peas, such as crowder peas or purple hull peas, cream peas,  greens, cornbread maybe some fried green tomatoes.  Also we had potato pancakes which was leftover mashed potatoes, flour, egg, chopped onions, salt and pepper, mix together and slow fry them in a bit of oil.

Somehow we got to a time in this modern world where food became Hollywood and food challenges and every kind of food to adore, not just simple food anymore.  That is troublesome to me. 

Charles loves when i cook chicken fritters using our canned chicken  It can also be made with leftover chicken from cooking a whole chicken.  It is basically the same way as potato pancakes, just add a egg, some flour, chopped onion, salt and pepper and fry.  I do not deep fry anything anymore, I use light olive oil and a small amount of oil.

If you see a trend here, these common things that we once ate are just not eaten as much but the cost of cooking this way is doable because it is with simple ingredients. These meals came from those generations I spoke of above that lived through some very bad times. 

I stay away from recipes that call for a lot of ingredients that we have to go out and buy or never keep on hand.

But because my father was from the north, upstate New York, and my mother from the south, Mississippi, I understand that there was a very big difference in what people ate.  Meat pies were very popular in the north. All made with simple ingredients. 

So when we keep a pantry we need to make sure to keep plenty of the basic ingredients that we need to be able to stretch meals and start practicing to stretch the meals.

So I sat down and did some figuring. If we made spaghetti once a week for the two of us we would need 4 cans to make a month of once a week spaghetti.  If I make meatloaf I needed a can of tomatoes for that too. . 

So figuring if I wanted to keep a 6 month pantry just to make spaghetti once a week I needed 24 cans just to make that spaghetti.  I am using this to show how to figure a basic on what to keep. If you do a one month or three month or six months you figure out what  you want to cook each week or a menu for every two weeks.  I use a six month pantry as just a figure but considering we have already been in this pandemic for 6 months now and it is only worsening, I feel a six month pantry is absolutely not a bad move. Our generations before us stored up for much longer harvest to harvest.

During gardening season the garden helps with fresh vegetables. 

So say we are in the grocery store shopping and we pass the chip isle or the soda isle or the cookie isle, we keep going and we go for the bag of flour, sugar, carrots, potatoes, eggs and basic foods so we can make many different food items.

We keep basic supplies to make the basic food.  This goes a long way..

Now in the perfect world for the perfect diet, we just go back to before the covid and to the store everyday if we want for the fresh food.  But covid has happened and is happening and we should be back to long ago now. 

As far as fresh food, Charles and I normally keep on hand onions, sweet potatoes, potatoes, cabbage, celery, apples, bananas, lemons, squash, zucchini, lettuce, tomatoes because we use these often.  But we have back up now so we do not have to shop very often because shopping is just not a safe thing for us to do right now.  Charles does the shopping now and we try and get what we need and make it last. 

If you live in a part of the country or world that is not having a lot of covid cases, good but if you are reading this, I hope you understand that your situation can change quickly.

Now we buy potatoes I keep some and dehydrate some, cabbage the same and all the rest the same. I keep and use it both ways to build a food storage.

There is no sense in keeping a pantry without a plan on how to use the food or how to cook or we find ourselves staring at the stored food and not figuring out what can be made from it, I know because I have done this.

We use to buy fresh green beans often but now we buy some eat some fresh and dehydrate some.  I also can green beans from the produce market.  Zucchini, I freeze some, keep some fresh and dehydrate some.  We have a very small freezer and only keep certain food in it such as whole chickens and zucchini, broth etc.  I also can broth too and can chicken.  We do not like to keep a large freezer due to power outages.  We do have a generator now but you have to have gas to run a generator. We live close to the gulf of mexico so we get hurricanes here.

Under all these leaves are sweet potatoes growing.  These are sweet potato vines pictured above.

We also keep powdered goods such as powdered milk, powdered eggs, even powdered cheese. But we do not keep a lot of this for it is expensive and we have to consider the shelf stable dates. However I do air seal it in jars and this makes it easier to use and to keep longer.

I mark the top of the jars such as bag A.  What I did was I cut the bags after I emptied them into the jars and I cut the back of the bag off and marked it to match the jar lid.  So if I need directions or information about this product I have a reference.  I stapled them together and I keep them laying across the jars. 

We keep Ghee on the shelf for butter replacement and ghee is shelf stable and normally has a fairly long shelf life.

We always concentrate on saving our electric and water use, not buying sodas and snacks to have the money to buy the extra items for the pantry and put some in savings.

Charles and I are basically a middle class family that could be in a real bind as well if things get really bad with the economy so we practice how to do things the simple way to be able to continue on during a difficult economy even when things are going good.

We do not know what is to come with the economy and will our retirement money be there? We also live in a country that even a short trip to the doctor or hospital could cause a serious financial burden. I honestly dread going to the doctor for a check up for fear that I will be put on a medication. Prescriptions in this country are just not affordable and insurance, that we pay a lot for, often leaves us with high expenses we have to pay. 

Now we are in the real deal, a pandemic of all things and a crazy on at that, so instead of pouting and arguing against it like it is really something to even blame, just do something about it, right now!

So if you are reading this and have lost your job or feel you may, there are still things you can do.

Do you have a way to save water? Water costs money.  Hang your laundry? Clothes dryer costs to run.   Wash your clothes by hand to keep from using electricity? Each of these things add up dollars.

When I was growing up, we did not have a lot of things plugged into the electric sockets in our house.  There just were not that many things other than lamps to plug in. Now we have things plugged in that trickles power even when it is turned off.  We can do something about that.

There are things we can do.  If you still have your job right now it is time to pay attention because things could get worse, will you still have your job?

There are things we all can do right now, one thing is practice it before it happens and hope is does not.  If it already has happened then cut everything out but the very necessaries. 

Food, shelter that is the most important. Clothing we should already have and be taking good care of it. Same for shoes.  Hand washing clothing and hanging it to dry is the best way to make your clothing last.  Do not dry good dress shirts in the sun, nor black pants. I turn black pants inside out and hang them in a shady area such as our back porch. 

We cut off our hot water heater for a year when we were doing one of our history projects.  Our bill went down. We heated water in the kettle when we needed hot water.  Watch what flows in and what flows out.  Our water charge coming in is twice going out.  There are so many things that can be cut to keep you in your home. It can become an addictive challenge if we let it and that would be better than a pitty party because those make things worse.

Watch your pennies used to be an old saying but small things add up.  I say watch the flow, that will save you money.

Only use what you "Need".  Don't buy anything extra until you have food stored then save the rest.

I hope that something here today helps in some way.  It is smart to keep a pantry, grow any kind of food, cut expenses to the bone right now.  I want you all to stay safe.  

I am trying to set up an area for our next history project.  I hope that I can start on it real soon.  

Grandma Donna

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