Skip to main content

Posts

Waste Not Freezer Space: Bone Broth Bouillon Cubes

When you buy a quarter of beef, you end up with several packages of soup bones. (And if you ask, the butcher will probably inundate you with a ton more beef bones than you've ever dreamed of, because if nobody takes them he has to pay the renderer to discard them for him.) Now, if you just consider them to be part of the package of beef, they can sit in your freezer alongside the stew cubes, patiently awaiting the day when you'll need to make beef soup. This is a very legitimate way to keep them. Unless...

Unless you've had your beef in the freezer for about three months and you're about to have to add half a pig to the freezer as well. Or unless your brother-in-law is butchering 50 chickens next weekend and promised to give you 5 if you come and help with the dirty work. Or unless you just got back from the garden, panicking with the realization that the sweet corn must be harvested now and the new gasket for the pressure canner hasn't arrived in the mail yet, whi…
Recent posts

The Waste-Not Plan: Financial Fire Drill

When I thought of the title for this blog post I had this little thrill, like, "Wow, if I can come up with something like financial fire drill, I must be really cut out for this blogging thing!" I started planning what I would do with the money when sponsors started paying to advertise on my site, and made a note that I really need to at least outline my planned cookbook.

And then I googled financial fire drill and found out that literally every financial blogger talks about them, and so do most of the frugality bloggers.

Oh well.

What most people mean when they talk about a financial fire drill (outside the investment world) is to write down a plan of how to pare back expenses if you lose your job or have a major expense that suddenly arises. Things like having a list of non-essential monthly services that you need to cancel (like Netflix and your YMCA membership), knowing in advance how to apply for student loan deferment, and having some idea of what your minimum grocery …

Waste Not a Crisis

"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste."--Rahm Emanuel

Don't worry. The above is the first time I have, and the only time I will, open a blog post with a quote from a left wing terrorist! And this post is not a manifesto regarding the use of tragic current events to further one's own political ends. No, the crises that I'm focusing on today are personal and specifically financial in nature.

How can a crisis go to waste. you may ask? After all, for most people a crisis is something that happens, and must simply be survived. Your bread winner loses his/her job. The car needs a transmission. The power goes out for 36 hours. These things can and do happen through no fault of your own, and present major challenges that have to be overcome to the best of your ability; it can feel at the time as though anything beyond mere survival is asking too much. Furnace broken? You'll just have to fork over that $450 and live on old Rice-a-Roni and tuna fish for a wee…

Waste Not Grain: Soaking Animal Feed

In case you haven't noticed, I am very phytic acid aware. If I'm going to be feeding a whole grain or a legume to my family, you can bet it's going to be soaked for a minimum of eight hours before I start cooking or baking. This is because I want my family to receive the full benefit of the good food I'm cooking, and phytic acid is an antinutrient that latches onto minerals in your diet and carries them right out the back door. It doesn't matter how much magnesium you eat if it all ends up in the toilet, and that's exactly what happens when you consume whole seeds, grains or legumes that haven't been soaked.

So when I look at the bags of pelleted grain or ground, dry "mash" that people feed to their animals, I have to wonder: why would I feed uncooked, unsoaked, unaltered grain to my animals when I wouldn't feed them to my family? Beyond my desire to take good care of my animals, I'm paying for their feed, and if they aren't absorbing …

The Waste-Not Plan: Level One

For us, the Waste-Not Plan is a blueprint to arrive at our ultimate goal of total independence in terms of food (for us and our animals), energy (at least in terms of heat and cooking, and using the grid only for luxuries that can easily be dispensed with) and money (we want to be able to have both me and Ben at home or at least working very minimally, so what land we have needs to at least pay for its own taxes and hopefully a bit extra). For others it might just be a matter of becoming progressively more self reliant: having enough food to know that a couple weeks without buying groceries won't reduce you to eating expired spaghetti-Os from the back of the cupboard, being able to pay down debt and add to a nest egg, reducing your carbon footprint and plugging your particular holes in the waste stream. That's why I call these "levels" instead of "steps," because even if you never get past "level one" or "level two," you're here. You…

Waste Not Water: Canning on a Hydro-Budget

What a summer we've had. Because the last dairy farm in the town of Manlius finally succumbed to low milk prices and high land taxes we had to move into our Fixer-Upper investment house before it was done being properly renovated. All the main living areas had electricity before we moved in or immediately thereafter (I put a light fixture in the kitchen ceiling and hooked up a couple of wall outlets within the first week or so), but we've spent the summer with no water save that provided by the garden hose--which is often suspiciously black, unfortunately. So potable water is obtained from WalMart's kiosk at a rate of $.35/gallon or sometimes from the church's taps if our supply happens to be low on Sunday. For most of the summer the hose produced water when the well's breaker was switched to "on," since the system hadn't been tested under pressure yet, so we tried to fill as many buckets as we could at a given time--which translated to being as spari…

Waste Not Tomatoes: Seeking a Best Practice

It's an age old question among home gardeners: how many tomato plants does an individual or family need? Clearly there are multiple factors at work in the search for an answer, including the number of people said tomatoes are intended to feed, chosen preservation and usage methods, and available space. Still, one family of four who intends to can tomatoes might plant eighteen plants, and another family of the same size with similar goals might plant sixty or more. Why the broad range of answers to a seemingly simple question?


The Combatants
On one side of the debate stand the restrained growers, with plants often numbering in multiples of six because that's how stores sell tomato plants. The vines are carefully spaced in their gardens, almost always caged if not staked. Virtually no tomatoes touch the ground, barring some awful accident like a freak windstorm or the neighbor's blundering dog; as a result their rodent problems and unnoticed rot problems are practically non-…