During the holidays, it is easy to get very caught up in buying, buying, buying and going overboard with things. Buying things for the house, buying presents, buying special food. There are people who already have quite a bit of “stuff” and do not need more. My sister fits in that category and I did not want to contribute to her simplifying process by buying her more stuff. I’ve also noticed that many times she winds up getting take-out food at the end of the day because she is tired from carting my brother in law around or doing other errands. (He doesn’t drive much anymore).
I am trying to simplify my life in many ways and wanted to incorporate that into my holidays this past season. So, I was wracking my brain trying to figure out what to do for them for the holidays. Finally, I decided to promise to bring them a dinner every month for twelve months. (A dinner that I would cook).
It has worked out very nicely. They were pleased and it works for me. I try to make something that can be frozen or refrigerated so that it can be saved for another day if they have other plans. It doesn’t have to be fancy. The first time I made spaghetti casserole. Today I made lentil soup and homemade bread. Next month I may do borek or a Turkish stew.
It is handy because I just make more of what I am making for us. I may adjust the seasonings a little, but essentially it is the same. And pop it into a dish that will travel and we are good to go. They have been pleased and it has been fun to do this. Obviously, this will only work if the person to whom you want to gift this lives within easy driving distance.
People who know me well know that I am frugal. That comes from a long history of trying to use what I have and make the best use of my available resources. I really like dried beans because they don’t take up refrigerator space, they cook up so nicely, and they do not come in cans that then take up recycling space and energy, and they are much less expensive than canned beans. Many people make the argument that using dried beans takes too much time, but I do not think that is accurate. All one has to do is soak the dried beans the night before they will be cooked. In the morning they can go into a slow cooker if no one will be home or they can go into a pan and simmer for a couple of hours. It is good to add some seasoning and salt at the end of the cooking period. But hands-on time is minimal. I am positive this saves time in the long run. It takes time and energy to go to the store, buy cans of beans, drive home, rinse them off, etc. etc. etc. Contrast buying a large bag of dried beans which will provide the equivalent of dozens of cans of beans in much less space. The quality of the cooked dried beans is usually higher and one knows what is in the cooking water.
Keeping dried beans on hand is just a smart thing to do. It is consistent with being self-sufficient in the sense that having readily prepared foods that are easily stored is a great way to be less vulnerable when storms make travel difficult. Saving money and time are smart.
People who are interested in self-sufficiency might be interested in following Rachel Falco’s blog How To Provide (www.howtoprovide.com)
This is such a simple idea and I thought I had written about it before, but I must have just thought about it. I do not usually mind prepping vegetables for cooking, except for onions. I do not really like getting onion all over my hands, which happens even if one uses the processor, as you have to peel it. Depending on the onion, the smell can be rather strong….and before you know it, tears are streaming down my face from the acrid onion smell. So, as much as I dislike using onion flakes in place of fresh onion, sometimes I cave in and do just that. But, in the fall at Costco, there were giant bags of giant yellow onions. I bought a big bag. Since the onions themselves were huge, I could not use a whole onion in most of the recipes I make. I tried saving half in a plastic bag in the vegetable bin in the fridge, but sometimes those get lost and become science experiments. So, finally, I had the idea to chop the whole onion up, save the unused part in a glass or plastic covered container, and use as needed. Most of the time, within a week or less, I had used the whole thing. Saved me so much time and aggravation. I am wondering why it took me so long to stumble across this idea. It works so much better for me and also means that I usually have enough onion for any given recipe. The chopped onions keep well for a week, my fridge does not stink, and neither do my hands, except for the first time I chop the onion and then I use lemon to clean them of the smell..