The Game Changer for my Long Term Food Storage

I am so incredibly excited! I ordered a food dehydrator today!

Much like canning, I’ve been contemplating getting a dehydrator for more than 10 years. Why have I put it off for so long? Heck if I know!

Dehydrating is an economical, space saving way to store a LOT of food for long term. And it looks so pretty on the shelf!

Modern Survival Blog

I love to stock up on fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables when they are in season or on sale to freeze and have throughout the year. I also like to do bulk cooking to have “dump and go” meals ready to throw in the crockpot or put together quickly for busy night dinner. I currently have a small top freezer unit, so space is at a premium. I have to keep in mind what will actually fit rather than how much I necessarily want to have in storage.

But now I’ll be able to have a fuller freezer and pantry!

During the winter, we eat a lot of soups and stews. Mixed vegetables, carrots, celery, onions, tomatoes – these are all the base for so many dishes that I make. It’s going to be so great to have a half gallon mason jar full of my bases instead of having to unpack my freezer every time I need to find something for a recipe.

Another application I’m excited about is making meal packets for camping. What an amazing idea! This makes so much sense and I’m so mad I hadn’t thought of it before. A true “well, duh!” moment. While traveling down the youtube rabbit hole looking for reviews of dehydrators, I ran across so many videos of backpackers, hikers and campers showing how to do this. If we plan right, we could quite possibly eliminate the need for a cooler or ice! And the space it will save!

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After much research, I decided to purchase the Nesco FD-75A. I bought mine online from Home Depot for around $66.00. This seems to be the common price across the internet, even Amazon.

Nesco FD-75A

Nesco is a “tried and true” brand that has been in business since 1931. Their products are made in USA of global and domestic components in Wisconsin. The trays and sheets are made of BPA free food grade plastic. Many of the youtubers I follow who use this exact same dehydrator have had them for 15-20 years. It’s a quality product that’s made to last. It comes with 5 trays, but can be expanded up to 12 trays. You just have to purchase additional trays separately.

This particular model has a top mounted fan, as opposed to a bottom or rear fan placement. Basically, the fan and heating element are located on the top of the dehydrator. As with virtually any appliance, there are pros and cons to their particular features.

With a top mounted fan, there is no chance of food spilling on the fan or the heating element, it’s easy to clean and maintain, it results in even drying of the food and they are easy to operate. Some of the “cons” are the trays have to rotated and the air is pushed to spread on the trays so some of the foods may be “less dry”. So, when I rotate the trays, I may need to move the foods around for the best drying. I don’t think it will be a big deal.

If you are interested in this particular model, let me save you a bit of research time. When I would search for the FD-75A, the search engines would sometimes take me to an FD-75PR. After a bit of confusion and side research, I found that these are the exact same machine. The only difference is the packaging.

Again, I’m so excited to add this appliance to my kitchen. I feel that it will pay for itself rather quickly and will be an invaluable tool for my food storage needs.

~Blessings~

How I Created A Simple, Efficient Home Filing System And How It Changed My Life

OK. I’m going to talk about the elephant in the room.

You know the one.

It’s disguised as a big pile of papers in the corner of your bedroom or on your dining table. Maybe you’ve managed to tuck it away in a closet or a drawer.

It doesn’t really matter if it’s in plain sight or hidden away – it’s BIG. And it takes up a LOT of valuable space – physically and mentally – of your life.

And it’s not necessarily a friendly elephant either! It’s causing you stress and anxiety – probably a lot more than you even realize. The thought of dealing with it and ordering it out of your life is so overwhelming that you can’t even begin. And maybe the times that you have attempted to tackle it, it wasn’t long before you realized just how heavy an elephant can be.

I’ve been there.

I speak from experience when I tell you I understand. I know what it is like to be reduced to tears, completely defeated, drowning in a disorganized, chaotic mess of paperwork.

“I know that receipt is here SOMEWHERE!”

Three years ago, my husband and I downsized from our home, where we had raised our children to adulthood, to a one bedroom apartment. About a year before we moved, we got serious about de-cluttering our whole house taking a good, hard look at exactly what we needed and what we could do without. We also devised systems to effectively store and organize what we do need for the management of our home. There’s nothing like packing up a house that you’ve lived in for more than 10 years to make you realize just how cleverly you can tuck away clutter and things you’d rather not deal with! (Big ‘ol elephants can hide anywhere!) Absolutely shameful!

When it came to our paperwork, I knew two things:

1) I did NOT want to move all my paper clutter with me, and 2) the “filing system” I had was just not working,

My previous system involved a Pendaflex file box that I bought our first year of marriage (!), a cardboard box, a nightstand drawer, a 2 drawer vertical filing cabinet, an end table drawer and a stand up file.

You know where I’m going with this. As long as I had my paperwork “put” somewhere, I was organized, right? Yep!

Up until the point I needed something anyway.

Like the title for the car I was selling. Or the vaccination record my son needed to get into college. Or the receipt and warranty information for the washing machine that had quit working.

I cannot tell you how many times I said, “I know I have it, I’ve just got to locate it.”

The next step is not easy. It’s just not. There’s no way around it. There are ways to make it manageable, but it can still be daunting and overwhelming. All that mess has to be sorted, gone through and somewhat organized before we ever get to the point of purchasing pretty file folders and a nifty label maker. But, you know what they say –

“there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time”

I tackled each storage (ahem!) area individually. Sometimes I would set a time for 15 – 30 minutes, sometimes I would just work on it until I was completely disgusted and in tears. Either way I did it, I was still making progress. And the more I chipped away at it, the more motivated I became to conquer it and make sure it never consumed me like that again!

I armed myself with sticky notes, a pen and notepad and got to work.

I dumped the nightstand drawer onto the floor of my bedroom and did a quick “pre-sort”, just quickly glancing at everything and assigning it to a pile. Once everything was kinda sorta sorted, I was able to get an idea of what I actually needed to keep and began formulating my organization system. I labeled each pile with a sticky note according to category and if I found a receipt for something, I made a note to match it with the manual (wherever it may be!) and vice versa. With each stack labeled with a sticky note, I was able to create a stopping point for myself enabling me to walk away and save my sanity. If I needed to do something else, if my timer went off, or if I just simply needed to take a break, I could stack the labeled piles and pick back up when ready. Having an “In Progress” pile let me know that’s where I had left off.

I then moved on to the box, to the pendaflex, to the other drawer, etc. sorting in the same fashion until all my “put” places had been emptied and sorted. Next, I took each category (pile) and did a further sort. I was amazed at how much paperwork I was able to actually get rid of!

One of my curses is I love sub-categories. I also love to take a simple project and make it very complicated. My brain does not think in a straight line. With that being said, I’ll spare you the next several paragraphs it would take to explain how many times I created a system and dismantled the system to finally arrive at what works best for me. 🙂 Since we were downsizing, I had to take into consideration the amount of actual space I could designate as well as keeping it efficient and something that I would actually stick with.

I keep our bills in a folder until they are paid. Once they are paid, they are moved to the Tend To tray. This is a designated tray (just ONE!) that I keep on top of the Pendaflex file for incoming paperwork. I started the habit of clearing that tray each and every Wednesday. Receipts for purchases, paid bills, paystubs, recipes I print, etc., all go into that tray. By dealing with it on a weekly basis, I’m able to stay on top of it and easily keep everything organized.

I broke the actual filing system down into 3 key areas that satisfy my sub-category addiction while managing to keep it simple!

  • Current Quarter/Easily Accessible In the Event I Need to Grab It: Contained in the Pendaflex file, I have 3 hanging file folders for each month of the current quarter. Paystubs, paid bills, and bank statements are examples of what go into the monthly files. Also contained in this file box are our medical insurance benefits booklet, our auto loan paperwork and insurance dec page, apartment lease and storage unit agreement, a folder for each of our cats, a folder for financial or medical bill disputes, and a folder for each tool and piece of equipment we’ve recently purchased containing the receipt, manual and warranty registration card. These are the items I felt were important to keep within “arms reach” for referencing if needed.
  • The Archives: I purchased a file tub to store papers that were important enough to keep, but also didn’t need to be “front and center”. Since space is a premium right now, I wanted something that could go onto a closet shelf and not be too heavy or bulky to deal with. It holds letter size hanging file folders so I didn’t have to purchase any special supplies. At the end of each quarter, everything is moved from the monthly folders in the Pendflex box into one hanging file folder labeled for the whole quarter in the Archives box. This is also where I keep copies of the past 5 years tax returns.
  • The Vault: This is where our important legal and identification documents are stored. Car titles, birth certificates, social security cards and statements, medical records, advanced directives, life insurance policies, and our will are all stored in this locking fireproof/waterproof safe. My Person has a copy of all the pertinent documents contained in the safe as well as a spare key.

The beauty of this is all three of these storage areas fit in my bedroom closet. They are out of sight, but still on my mind. When I open them, they are neat and organized rather than a looming pile of “I’m not sure what’s in there”.

Yes, this was a tough area to tackle and deal with. This is one of those organizing projects that can be not only physically exhausting, but mentally as well. I don’t know why, but for some reason I had a certain amount of guilt, and even shame for just how out of control this area of our life was! I felt like I had been lazy and inattentive. And i would get downright ANGRY when I couldn’t find paperwork that I knew I had!

Was all the pain worth it?

Absolutely!

I cannot tell you how much better I feel since taking that last bite of elephant and creating a system that works with me and for me. It literally takes me about 5-10 minutes TOPS each Wednesday to deal with the paperwork from the week before. I have mental peace, knowing that should I need a document or receipt, I know exactly where to go to get it. Stress is one of those “death by a thousand paper cuts” things. And often times, it’s the stress that we don’t even know we feel that does the most damage. I truly felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders once I started using my system and seeing how well it worked.

So , really the only advice I can give is just start. Work on things a little at a time. Get help from a friend or family member if you’re comfortable in doing so. Any little bit of progress is still progress. Remember, this is YOUR system and it has to work with YOUR personality and YOUR family. No one else!

~Blessings!~

Love, Acceptance and Sage Wisdon

I am not a clothes horse. Never have been, and never will be.

Spending hours at a store trying on clothes is frustrating and not enjoyable at all to me. Spending the time looking through rack after rack, trying to find what I think is my size, taking two different sizes into the dressing room “just in case”, only to find that the style or cut of the piece was not made for my body. Always going back to “square one.” Ugh! Drives me bananas!

I’ve not had too much luck shopping online either. Garments just don’t fit like I thought they would. Or buying a shirt – same size, same brand – can fit or feel completely different.

It’s taken me a few years to be comfortable in my own skin and love my body. To accept that I don’t look like the women in the magazines, clothes won’t possibly fit me like they fit the store mannequin, and just because I like the way something looks, it doesn’t mean it’s suited to me to wear. But, that doesn’t mean there’s anything – at all! – wrong with ME. It just means, I’m not choosing styles that are right for my body type or that I would feel comfortable in. But once I found my “style”, it was very liberating!

Through a lot of trial and error, I now know exactly what I’m looking for when shopping. I noticed that I gravitate toward a certain cut and style of blouses. Levis are my best bet for jeans. Pants and skirts need to fit just a bit above the waist to be most flattering. I like patterned, printed or textured tops paired with neutral bottoms. Polyesters, cottons, linens or blends of these fabrics are essential. My wardrobe, while not extensive, is versatile and comfortable.

I buy a majority of my clothes from thrift stores. I love the hunt for good bargain and since there are so many different styles to choose from, I find it easier to find pieces that I’ll actually wear and that can be mixed and matched for maximum potential.

In my area, as I’m sure most areas, fitting rooms are closed due to the pandemic. But I really don’t mind that they’re closed. Not only for safety concerns, but because this fits perfectly with my clothes shopping style. I’d much rather run through fast as I can and take things home to take my time trying them on. I’ve needed just a few pieces since we’re in between seasons, so this is especially helpful since I’m in the process of creating sort of a capsule wardrobe for myself. I have the pieces here so I can look and see just how many outfits I can create rather than second guessing if they will go with something I already have when I’m at the store. That factors into the decision of keep or return – does it fit and how many outfits can I put together. I’m making purposeful, practical decisions about how to get the most out of my wardrobe for minimal money using minimal pieces. The Goodwills in my area are actually accepting returns and issuing refunds in the form of a store gift card. Which again, suits me perfectly because I shop for a lot of things at Goodwill and other thrift stores. And the pieces that don’t work for me, I can always donate to my local shelter or clothes closet.

By looking at any basic necessary material possession with gratitude, I have a deeper respect for the blessing of owning it. By taking stock of what I actually NEED instead of having more for the sake of having more, I’m again, more purposeful and practical in my decision making. I’ve found how to do so much more with so much less.

You know that old saying “a smile is the best accessory a girl can wear”? While it’s a nice sentiment, I also feel a smile can hide a whole lotta pain and insecurity. Until you truly love and accept yourself, in all your fearfully and wonderfully made self, complete with stretch marks, pimples, dimples, sags, bags, scars, crookedness, cracks and spots, clothes are nothing more than a curtain you’re hiding behind.

Stop hiding! Wear what you LOVE. Wear what makes you feel like YOU. And then you can accessorize with that beautiful smile.

~ Blessings ~

Dutch Baby Pancake Recipe

A Dutch Baby, (or German Pancake or Puffed Pancake or Bismarck) is a cross between a pancake and a popover. It has a soft tender texture, much like a thick crepe, with the egginess of a popover. The sides puff up and rise above the edge of the skillet while baking, turning a golden brown. While there are different recipe variations out there, the basis for the batter and cooking technique are virtually the same.

I use my father-in-laws recipe. I’m not sure if it was handed down to him through the ages, or if he got it from one of his many (many, many, many) cookbooks and it became his “tried and true”. He’s made it for years for our family when we go to visit for the holidays. It’s so quick and easy to put together and is perfect for breakfast or brunch. It can be paired with fruit or yogurt for a light satisfying breakfast, or made into a more hearty meal with a side of bacon or sausage.

To make one, you will need a 9-10 inch oven safe skillet. My father in law and I both use cast iron, but I think it would work in any oven safe skillet or dish, as long as it is the right size and has sides.

The secret to getting a good puff on your sides is a preheated skillet, so go ahead and put it in the oven when you set it to preheat to 400 degrees. Once your skillet is good and hot, add about 2 tablespoons of butter and return to the oven for the butter to melt and heat. This usually only takes about 3-5 minutes, but watch it closely. You want the butter hot, but not browned.

For the batter, beat 3 eggs and 1/2 cup milk until blended and frothy. Then add 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour and 1/4 tsp salt and mix until very smooth. I use a whisk and beat vigorously. You can also use a blender or mixer. Unlike pancake batter that you’re mixing just until blended, Dutch Baby batter needs to be mixed until smooth and silky.

Remove the preheated skillet from the overn, swirl the melted butter around to coat the bottom well and pour the batter in. Bake for about 25 minutes until the sides are puffed and well browned.

This is what it looks like when done…

Isn’t it beautiful?! It’s light, fluffy, tender, flaky and so delicious!

We like our toppings simple. Just a sprinkle of brown sugar with some maple syrup or honey. Or butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Sometimes we make it fancy and dust it with a bit of powdered sugar. My granddaughter loves it with sliced strawberries and banana. Even though the Dutch Baby is the star of the show, it’s very easy to customize it to your liking!

If you’ve never had one, I encourage you to give it a try. It makes a delightfully simple, delicious and versatile breakfast item.

~ Blessings ~

Canning Okra

Okra is one of my favorite things to grow in the garden. It’s not difficult to germinate, grows quickly and produces like crazy. Not to mention the flower of the buds are absolutely gorgeous. The bees love them!

Quite honestly, over the years, I have ended up giving most of it away to friends and family. For as much as I love to grow it, there’s only so much of it we can eat. And when your freezer space is limited, well, you have to choose your battles.

Now…

When I first came across this tutorial from one of my favorite Youtube channels, I had my reservations.

I watched the next video with a turned up nose. One of the draw backs of okra is its tendency to become excessively slimy when not cooked properly. So, I was a bit surprised when at the end of the video, it seemed to have turned out crunchy and light.

I decided to make a small batch and give it a try.

You’ll start by washing and chopping your okra into 3/4″ – 1″ pieces. Then you make a simple brine on the stovetop, fill your jars with the okra and brine and put on the lid and ring. Easy peasy. Then, you just wait for the PING!

The texture held up beautifully when cooked. It was not mushy or slimy. And I just love how it looks in the jars. So pretty!

Even if you don’t have a garden, this is a great way to add more veggies to your storage pantry. You could purchase fresh okra from the farmers market or a pick-your-own farm. As with most foods, the fresher it is, the better it will preserve.

I love the simplicity of the process. Especially during the hottest days of summer when the garden is producing at full tilt and there’s always something that needs to be processed, preserved and put by. Even though it’s a complete labor of love, it can still be exhausting. But with this easy method, I’m excited to grow even more beautiful okra plants and add to the bounty of my pantry!

~Blessings ~

Keeping calm and canning on

Growing up, I heard countless horror stories about the dangers of pressure cooking and canning. That distant relative that had a canner explode, impaling the lid into the ceiling. Someone’s sister got third degree burns and horrible cuts from a jar that exploded. And that aunt whose kitchen was ab-so-lute-ly COVERED in beans that they never really were able to get clean. Oh, the drama!

Now, once I started gardening, I really got into water bath canning. Pickles, relish, salsa, apply butter and jams, and oh so many jars of stewed tomatoes. It was so thrilling “putting stuff by” and decorating my pantry shelves with my treasures. I just knew there had to be a way to conquer my fear of the pressure canner and really get into some serious food preservation. There’s only so much freezer space that can be dedicated for long term storage.  And it’s not necessarily the best option for long term to maintain the quality of many vegetables.

I liked the idea of being able to store various items that I didn’t grow myself. Buying them in season and preserving to have them year round. It also appealed to me to have items that take a long time to cook – like dried beans – ready to go simply by opening the jar and heating them up. Not to mention the huge savings of buying items in bulk and canning myself.

Over the years of watching countless Youtube videos and reading blogs and tutorials, I usually found myself left with more questions that I couldn’t find the answers to. I’m sure most of it was my over thinking and paranoia. But still. It paralyzed me and I couldn’t seem to get over it.

This past year I too became concerned about food shortages and the increase in food costs. Having a store run out of toilet paper is one thing, but the dried beans and rice shelves bare – that’s a whole ‘nother level of concern.

This Summer while at Walmart, I ended up on the canning supply aisle. I wasn’t there for canning supplies, but when I saw the shelves, I was gobsmacked. These shelves were just as ravaged as many of the grocery and cleaning supply shelves! I had heard about the stores – online too – selling out of canners and supplies. I had also witnessed that once those items were back in stock, the price was increased, sometimes ridiculously.  There was one remaining Presto weighted gauge canner and it was a decent price, so I went ahead and got it along with a flat of pint and quart jars and a pound of dried pinto beans.

I re-watched a few videos, re-read a few blogs and read my canner manual very carefully. I unboxed, inspected and washed my canner and supplies. I carefully and methodically followed the directions EXACTLY as written, took a deep breath and locked the lid down on my canner. I kept reminding myself that I had followed all the directions and I just needed to practice to gain confidence. It’s gonna be fine.

That first batch,  I was a nervous wreck! Was there supposed to be steam coming from the petcock, was I supposed to actually smell the beans, should I hear the water boiling, is the weight rocking too fast, is my temperature too high? Finally, the timer was done and I could relax.

Once it was time to remove the jars from the canner, I was so excited! They were beautiful! Ping! Ping! Ping! I’d done it. Not only had I stepped outside of my comfort zone and overcome a paralyzing fear,  I was on my way to mastering a new skill. Currently on my pantry shelves, I have a variety of beans, vegetable and chicken broth, and butternut squash. I’m hoping to add a greater variety of vegetables this coming spring and summer.

So, if you’re wanting to try pressure canning, go for it!

Do your research. Follow all the safety guidelines of your recipe. Read your canner manual and inspect the canner itself carefully. While it’s not hard, you do have to be mindful of the correct and safe way to do it.  Believe me, I wish I had started years ago!

~ Blessings~