Spices: Bulk Bin vs. Jarred

Bay Leaves

Would you pay $343.38 for a pound of bay leaves? While I know that sounds too absurd to consider, you’re already paying that much, if you buy yours by the jar. And here’s the crazy thing: those same bay leaves cost just $21.99 a pound, if you buy them from the bulk bins. Is a plastic bottle really worth the extra $321.39? Apparently grocery stores think so. I sure don’t.

On several occasions, I’ve recommended buying your spices from the bulk bins to save money, but I haven’t shown how much it will save you. And I think you need to see the math to be convinced that we’re talking about a significant savings opportunity. So, I did a side-by-side price comparison — jarred spices vs. bulk bins spices. I checked the bulk bin prices at Earth Fare (a health food chain), and I checked the prices on the spice aisle at Kroger. To make the comparison as fair as possible, I recorded the price of the cheapest jarred spice option that I could find. In many cases, that meant the cheapo $1 bottle. How did the two compare? See for yourself: [Read more...]

I Joined a Mushroom Club!

Identified Mushrooms

I’ve been foraging for years, but I’ve always stayed clear of mushrooms. They fascinate me, but they also scare me. There’s just too much room to make a mistake, and I don’t think a book can teach you everything you need to know. Mushrooming is definitely something that you need to learn first-hand from an expert. Or better still, a whole group of experts. And that’s just what I’m doing. My husband and I joined a mushroom club last week, and we went on our first foray over the weekend. [Read more...]

Free Fall Apples

Free Fall Apples

While we were out yardsaling this morning, we passed a house with a GIANT apple tree out front. The ground was absolutely littered with apples, so we decided to stop and ask if we could pick some. An elderly man answered the door, and told us we were welcome to as many as we wanted. He said someone else had just gathered some, so we might not find many, but that we could come back whenever we wanted. Score!

We rounded up a few pounds of good apples …

Chickens Eating Apples

and a few more pounds of blemished apples for our chickens (as you can see, they approved).

These are a tart keeping apples, so they’re perfect for long-term storage, and the tree is absolutely covered with them. Looks like we’ll be doing a daily tree check for the next couple weeks. Gotta love free food!

Vegetable Blanching Times Chart

Vegetable Blanching Times Chart

Freezing vegetables while they’re in season is a smart move that can save you a ton of money. And it happens to be really easy, too. Just chop your vegetables into whatever size you want; blanch them to preserve their quality; then, cool them off in an ice water bath, and pop them in the freezer.

Not sure what blanching is? While it sounds really fancy and complicated, it’s nothing more than submerging vegetables in boiling water to stop the enzyme processes that cause them to go bad. Different vegetables have different blanching times, so I put together a chart to help you keep them all straight. I plan to stick mine on the side of the fridge for easy reference. And this time of year, I’ll be looking at it A LOT.

Want to add a copy of my vegetable blanching chart to your fridge or recipe book? Get it here.

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How to Dress for Blackberry Picking

Blackberry picking – it’s no beauty pageant. If you want to have a good time doing it, you have to dress for the occasion, and that means leaving your house in a crazy get up. If your neighbor’s don’t raise an eyebrow when they see you heading out, you’re doing something wrong. It’s as simple as that.

Over the years, I’ve perfected my blackberry picking look. It isn’t pretty, but it does a good job of protecting my family from the thorns, chiggers, ticks and poison ivy. My youngest daughter was kind enough to model it for you (quite generous given her fashionista tendencies). I now present, the key ingredients to a good blackberry picking outfit:

Galoshes

Long pants and tall boots are a blackberry-picking must. They’ll protect you from chiggers, ticks and poison ivy, too. I recommend a pair of galoshes. They’re tall enough to tuck your pants into.

Blackberry Picking Sleeves

Wild blackberry canes are thorny, and you’re bound to get a few pokes and scratches along the way. Protect your arms with a long-sleeved shirt or make yourself a pair of blackberry-picking sleeves out of an old pair of cotton tights. Just cut the top and feet off of your tights, and you’ll be left with a set of sleeves. These are great because they allow you to wear a short-sleeve shirt, and they’re thicker (read: better protection) than most shirt sleeves. The elastic in the tights ensures that they stay in place while you pick. I consider these a must-have accessory for kids, but it wouldn’t hurt to make yourself a pair, too.

My husband also likes to wear a glove on his left hand (he’s a righty). This allows him to grab a briar with one hand, while he picks the berries off of it with his other hand.

Baseball Cap

A good hat is my final must-have accessory. It helps to keep the ticks off, and provides some much-needed protection from the sun.

John Deere Hat

Bonus points if it’s a John Deere hat :)

Once you get home from picking, I’d also recommend jumping straight in the shower to wash off any bugs or poison ivy oils that may be hanging out on your skin. An ounce of prevention, and all that good stuff.

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