Quick Tip: What to do with all the Celery

Celery is a nutritious addition to the diet. As well as being used in one-pan-meals, casseroles, and soups, you can do other things with it. Use some of the stalks or the greens in salad or smoothies. Add celery to juice. Snack on it plain. I love mine with nut butter. You can also use it when making vegetable stock.

Celery will store just fine for about a week in the refrigerator, but to extend it’s useful life you can cut it into sticks or shorter stalks and store in a jar of water in the refrigerator.

As for the greens, I just rinse and towel dry them, then place in a freezer container if I won’t use them within a couple of days. They’ll keep for at least a couple of weeks in the freezer. I use these in smoothies. They aren’t even noticeable.

How do you use celery? How do you store it?

~ Shannon

Food Storage in My Small Space

It may seem, by reading some of my recent posts, that I am stocking up because of COVID-19 and the issues come with it, but that is not the case. I always stock up on many items with the income tax refund, and I had just bought a little refrigerator with a working freezer when all this was starting – at the time when everyone started crazily hoarding the toilet paper.

So naturally I had to fill the freezer. It isn’t even a big freezer. The only thing I did when I knew that the virus was going to be a huge thing in our state was buy two extra half-gallons of almond milk, two pounds of butter, popcorn kernels, and an extra dozen eggs. I also bought an extra pound of meat, and a large bunch of bananas. And there was still plenty of all of it left for many, many more people. I didn’t think things would last as long as people are saying it might.

I really didn’t need more than a few other items, and did my shopping accordingly. About a week later I went shopping with my sister for more immediate needs, like Airborne, a little fresh fruit, a few cans of food, and some other items. Still I did not go overboard.

I just spent two weeks at my house, and am only now finding that I need a few things. Not too much.

So, my food stockups are helping me.

  • I don’t eat huge amounts of meat, so I took and split a pound of ground beef, a pound of ground sausage, 3/4 of a kielbasa, and just over a pound of some stew beef into 20 servings.
  • I made 28 smoothie packs, that will make 2 servings each.
  • I froze some banana slices. I can use them for more smoothies later, or make some banana ice cream as a treat.
  • I organized the food I had bought previously for the purpose of stocking up. (I’d been waiting on the canning jars I’d ordered to arrive.

I am going to share a post about my organizing efforts in my little kitchen, but right now I just want to share how I am organizing the food I had been stocking up on. The shelves under my printer are actually part of the “living area” of my room, and lives between my two chairs. These shelves hold the items I have on back-stock, like the oats I always have on hand, and the napkins I bought as a backup for toilet paper – because people keep buying that stuff up!

The other shelf is in my “kitchen area” and is full of the stuff I use regularly. See how I used canning jars to organize a lot of what I have? It looks so much neater than having all those bags and partially used boxes.

The little jars hold organic spices and herbs. I recently went through all of my stash, and found that most things had expired. So I threw it all out and am starting anew. Right now I have whole cloves, ground cinnamon, fennel, thyme, and parsley. It takes a little time to stock up on herbs and spices, because it is an extra expense. This shelf is also where I store my sea salt, vanilla, frother, and dressing jars.

In the second picture, you’ll notice that I also store my oils on that shelf. And above is my store of teas. I have a lot. They also fill all three of those boxes. No, I didn’t buy them to hoard, haha. People buy me teas at Christmas and my birthday. It’s the perfect gift for me! I never run out.

As you can see, I don’t have a lot of space for food storage. I do what I can. I feel confident that, even if I can’t get any food for the next few weeks, I will not go hungry. I may not always be able to eat the way I want, but I do have plenty of food.

Do you have to store food in an extra small space? Please share tips in the comments, or email me at shannonlbuck@gmail.com.

~ Shannon

 

Smoothie Packs

I finally got a new refrigerator for my room! The other one was so old, and was used in this room for I don’t know how many years before I moved in eight years ago. The extra tiny freezer wouldn’t freeze food properly, and I don’t think it was keeping the food in the refrigerator part as cold as it should have. And the little freezer area was needing a full defrost ever 5 or 6 weeks, verses the once a year when I moved in. Ugh. It desperately needed to be replaced.

I bought it myself, and opted for one of the little refrigerators with the separate freezer. One door for the fridge, and one for the freezer. Yay! It cost a pretty penny. Just over $150. But it was well worth the money. And I just love having the freezer separate.

This freezer is more than twice as big as the other one was, so I needed to decide what to put in it. Smoothie packs were the first thing I thought of.

Using quart size freezer bags, I made 28 smoothie packs, each with two servings. So I got 56 smoothies out of my efforts, and still had plenty of room left for other things.

Smoothie Packs

bananas

frozen mixed berries

kale

frozen cranberries

fresh strawberries (leftovers)

fresh blueberries (leftovers)

celery leaves

***** These were super simple to put together. Here is what I did.

  1. Opened the bags as I needed them, setting them up as a sort of assembly line.
  2. Peeled and sliced the bananas, using about 1/4th banana per bag. This gave me 24 bags.
  3. Split the fresh strawberries and blueberries between eight bags.
  4. Split the frozen berry mix between between the rest of the bags.
  5. Split the cranberries between the all of the bags.
  6. Split the celery leaves between six of the bags.
  7. Split the kale between the rest of the bags.
  8. Pushed the air out of each bag, closing it.
  9. Placed them in the freezer.

I didn’t label them because I know I’ll use them before they go bad, and before I make more.

It feels great to have a freezer I can actually use.

Do you freeze smoothie packs? What are your favorite combinations?

~ Shannon

Quick Tip: Freezing Bananas

Why would you freeze a banana? Why not. You can, and there are a few different ways to do so. I want to talk about my favorite way to freeze them.

First, I wait until the banana peels have some brown spots on the them. These will make for sweeter bananas.

I peel them, then slice into rounds. These rounds go on paper plates in a single layer, and are placed in the freezer for an hour or two, until frozen. (Baking sheets are too big for my little freezer, or I would use then instead of the plates. I know this would be less wasteful.) Then I place the rounds into into a quart size freezer bag and close, being sure there isn’t much air inside. I don’t pretend to be able to get all the air out, but I do squeeze out as much as I can.

How do I use these bananas?

  • in smoothies
  • to make banana ice cream
  • to make muffins
  • to make bread

How do you freeze bananas? What do you use them for after they’ve been frozen?

~ Shannon

Stocking Up

Every January I order stockup food, and I hope most of it will last until summer. I did this late last month and have noticed that much of the items are taking longer to get here than in previous years.

Anyone else notice their Amazon orders are taking longer than usual?

That’s not to say that some of the items didn’t come in after just a few days, but many others are taking two weeks or more to get here.

Anyway, I am also going to order canning jars from Wal-Mart, because that’s how I plan to store all the food I bought from Amazon. Usually I just leave things in there original packaging, but I think my food shelves will look better if I use the jars. And this will help in my organizing efforts as well.

So, I’ve ordered these items:

3 pounds Organic Almond flour

4 pounds Organic Coconut flour

.02 pound Sea Salt

8 ounces Cacao Powder (Trying this for the first time.) (Will buy more if I like it.)

14 ounces Ground Flax Seed

10 ounces Slivered Almonds

4 pounds Organic Unsweetened Coconut Flakes

2 Paleo Pancake Mixes (Trying this for the first time.) (Will buy more if I like it.)

2 packages Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips (Will not last until summer.)

56 ounces Organic Coconut Oil

16 ounces Organic Maple Syrup (Will not last until summer.)

3 pounds Raw Honey

3 small jars Almond Butter

3 jars Cocoa Bliss

At the grocery store, I bought: (These will not last until summer)

2 dozen eggs

Organic Almond Oil (Trying this for the first time.)

Sesame Oil (Trying this for the first time.)

5 pounds Potatoes (Trying this for the first time.)

2 pounds Butter

1 bag Organic Popcorn Kernels

1 pound Ground Beef

1.25 pound Stew Beef

1 pound Ground Sausage

From Misfits Market

Fresh Organic Parsley to dry (This will not last until summer.)

1 Organic Fennel, drying the herb part

1 Whole Cloves package Organic

1 Organic Cinnamon

It was a pretty penny for all of this, for sure, but I used my income taxes to pay for it. Like I said, I do this every year, then I replace items as I use them. Eating mostly organic does cost more, and I don’t pretend to eat organic all the time. I do the best I can, when I have the money. I also live alone, and am only buying food for myself. And my Misfits Market organic produce doesn’t cost much more than regular produce at Wal-Mart.

I feel good about having a good stock of food, and can’t wait to get it all organized on the shelves.

I am trying to get back to the healthy eating, at 80% of my food intake being Vegetarian/Paleo/Whole30. Super healthy most of the time. Having these items on hand will be helpful.

Most of my food dollars for the next 4 or 5 months will be spent on fresh produce.

What does your healthy pantry look like?

~ Shannon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Favorite Kitchen Tools: Reusable Sandwich & Snack Bags

I’m not perfect by any means, but I do like to try to tread somewhat lightly on this Earth. I am learning new ways to do this often enough to feel like I’m making a little bit of a difference. Being eco-friendly is important. I’m happy as can be that come April here in Maine everyone will be expected to bring reusable bags with them to the store, I now have stainless steal straws at my house, and I signed up for a monthly MightyFix by Mighty Nest more than a year ago. (Yes, that is an affiliate link, because I use their products and love them! I will be compensated if you click on the link and sign up.)

Because I signed up for this service ($11.00 per month at the time of this posting.), I’ve been introduced to some great products. Many times the item they have sent has even been worth more than that $11.00 and, because I am a member, I get discounts on anything else I buy from them.

I don’t like to spend all kinds of money on cheaply made things, but I don’t mind paying for things of good quality – especially when a discount is offered.

These baggies are two of my top favorite things in my kitchen right now, and I use them when packing my meals for work. I pack for four meals during my weekend shifts, and find these super helpful. I don’t make sandwiches, so the larger bag is used for other foods. The snack baggie is the perfect size for trail mix.

You could also use them for sweet potato chips, Paleo crackers,  throat lozenges when you are sick, Paleo cookies, and more. I have used the snack baggie for my vitamin C tablets during the winter months, and kept them in by tote bag so I always had some near.

Once I learn how to make Paleo sandwich bread, I will be using the bigger baggie for that purpose. These come in handy for school/work lunches, hikes, day trips, and more.

Sign up for MightyFix and get a surprise in your mailbox. (Again, this is an affiliate link. See above note.) It’s like a present every single month.

Do you use these types of baggies? What are your experiences with them? And, if you shop through MightyNest, let us know your experiences with that.

~ Shannon

Quick Tip: Freezing Zucchini

Buying zucchini when it’s on sale or cheap at farmers’ markets or stands, or growing your own and harvesting them at the end of summer and into autumn, can save a lot of money on your grocery bill. If you stock up when it’s cheap (or free), then you’ll save money throughout the year. This is a frugal way to add to your freezer stock.

This is how I freeze zucchini. I only use it shredded, and in things like breads, muffins and cakes, so I do this quickly and easily.

Rinse the zucchini well and cut off the ends. Do not peal it. Grate the zucchini, then put it into quart size freezer bags/containers in one cup measures. This makes it easier to take out only what I need.

Shannon

Quick Tip: Keep a Few Homemade Single-Serve Meals on Hand

You never know when you may need one. In a hurry and need a meal for work? Grab a container of chili-topped squash or sweet potato from the freezer? Not feeling good and don’t want to cook? Take out a container of chicken noodle soup and heat it in the microwave.

It’s easy to prepare these extra meals without too much extra effort. Simply make a little more than you need at each meal, and freeze a meal or two from that. Here are some recipes that lend themselves well to freezer storage.

Label each container with the meal name and the date it should be eaten by.

Shannon

Invest in Containers for Meal Prep

And don’t worry about spending all outdoors on them. I found the containers I mention in this article at Walmart at reasonable cost. They are BPA free, and will be perfect for my work meals. These containers can go into the freezer, on the top shelf of the dishwasher, and even into the microwave if you have one, and are reusable. There is a place on the covers where you can write the date by which the meal or food items should be used; nifty for freezing. And these containers even have stay-cool handles.

Photograph copyright January 2017 by Shannon L. Buck.

These little containers come six to a package, and are each 4 fluid ounces. They’ll hold dips and sauces, as well as small bits of leftovers. You could also use them for pudding cups or trail mixes. The cost for these was $2.47.

Photograph copyright January 2017 by Shannon L. Buck.

I bought a variety pack as well, which includes two snack size (9.5 fl oz) containers, five entrée (25 fl oz) containers, and five soup and salad (24 fl oz) containers.  The cost for these was $4.47.

Photograph copyright January 2017 by Shannon L. Buck.

I also bought these round containers. They are bigger than the 4 fluid ounce ones, but I cannot seem to find the information for the exact size. They came in a four-pack, and cost $2.17.

I paid just under $10.00 for all of these, and they are going to be perfect for bringing my meals to work with me. I work 40 hours in 4 days every week, and I like to prepare my meals the day before my first shift. When I get everything to work I can put a couple of meals in the freezer to be moved to the refrigerator Saturday morning, put the snacks in the office, and put the other containers straight into the refrigerator. Easy-peasy!

NOTE: For items that may stain plastic container, such as my chili, I use glass canning jars or glass bowls with covers. Glass items are easier to keep clean under these circumstances.

What do you use for meal prepping?

Shannon

Review: Beetology Juices + How to Reuse the Bottles

When I was contacted about trying the Beetology juices by Kayco, I was skeptical at best. The thought of beets as a juice base just did not seem appealing. But I had them send me a few juices to try, because I’m all into trying more and more healthy things, and I’m so glad I did.

These juices are organic, 100% cold pressed. I’m looking more toward organic as I move forward with my nutrition goals (as my budget allows), so this pleased me right off the bat. I also like that they are not from concentrate, something else I look for when I want juice. They are non-GMO project verified as well, which is also plus.

Another benefit is the lack of preservatives and additives. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want those types of things in my fruit servings. And there are no artificial flavorings or colors.

It really is the color of beets.

Beetology juices are certified fair trade.

I tried these five flavors:

  • beet + cherry
  • beet + berry
  • beet + veggie
  • beet + lemon + ginger
  • beet + tropical fruit

While I enjoyed them all, my favorites were the beet + cherry and the beet + berry. They really pleased my taste buds!

Sadly, this product is not yet sold near me. However it is sold in Portland, I will have to buy a few bottles the next time I visit Zowie’s family. I don’t drink a lot of juice, so one bottle would last me three servings – about what I would drink in a week’s time.

Now, the suggested retail price for this juice is $3.99 per 8.45 fluid ounce bottle, but I consider this a good price for me for a few reasons:

  1. I don’t drink juice often enough for the price to make a huge dent in my budget, and I know I’ll get three servings from each bottle.
  2. They are a source of nutrients my body needs.
  3. I can reuse the bottles for short-term food storage.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck, copyright August 2017.

Check out the bottles in the picture above. They are made of sturdy, thick glass, and can be used for short-term storage of food items and liquids. I removed the labels (an easy task that took little time) and washed the bottles and covers well, then allowed them to air dry.

I had bags of partially used food items that I decided would look better if they were in these cute little bottles. The bags look so messy, I wanted a better look in there because I’ve been organizing the small closet in my room to serve as a pantry.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck, copyright August 2017.

Here you can see where I put unsweetened coconut flakes in one bottle, dried cranberries in the second, and dried berries in the third. These are going to work just fine to store smaller portions of foods and liquids, and look much better in my little pantry space than those bags of food did.

Because I now have five of these bottles, I no longer need to go out and buy containers for this specific purpose.

How would you reuse the bottles?

Shannon