commodorified: a capital m, in fancy type, on a coloured background (Default)
commodorified ([personal profile] commodorified) wrote2011-12-14 01:06 am

Thoughts on Bulk Food

Since it was either that or Freezers, and Freezers is, really, a subset of Bulk, at least the way we do it. For now I'll talk mostly about bulk that can be kept at room temperature.

We buy a lot of stuff in bulk; it's one of the ways we keep food costs lower and food quality higher than we otherwise could. Over the course of many years and a lot of mistakes I've developed some criteria for deciding what should and what should not be bought in bulk, and some ideas about how to make bulk buying as painless as possible.

By bulk buying, by the way, I don't mean "buying from the bulk bins", which is almost always a good deal IF you are able to get the same quality of product out of a bulk bin and don't need to worry about cross-contamination or have a way to manage it.

By bulk buying I mean "deliberately buying enough of a given thing that you will not have to buy it again for one or more shopping trips". And yes, you can do bulk buying if you live alone: indeed, you sort of have to, as an amazing number of things are only available, or only available at a tolerable price, in sizes intended for a family of four. If you live alone, Bulk Buying may mean "getting the regular sized bag of rice", but the basic principles still apply.

1) Don't short this week's food to buy something in bulk. If the only way you can buy the 40 kg bag of rice that's such a good deal is by getting fewer vegetables and less milk... that's a bad deal. It is difficult to manage a balanced diet by bulk purchasing alone, and it is very very difficult to manage an appealing and decently varied diet by bulk purchasing alone. If money is tight, setting aside 5-10 percent of your grocery budget every week to put towards building up a nice cushion of bulk-bought foods is going to work out much better.

2) Don't buy what you can't store safely and conveniently. If a bunch of your big bag of flour goes off, or attracts pests, or gets spilt all over the floor, you have not saved money. If the enormous club pack of lightbulbs won't stay on the closet shelf and keeps trying to land on your head, well, eventually it will and they will break.

We have had a couple of outbreaks of meal moths in our kitchen, and once we had mice. We learned fast.

Good storage:

i) Repurposed bulk food containers. Restaurants will often be delighted to let you have some of the white plastic 5-50 gallon jugs that they get food delivered in, if you ask. Scrub them out with dish soap, let them air dry open. If there is any remaining smell of the original foodstuff, put a 1/4 cup of baking soda in the bottom, pour in 4 cups of very hot water, slap the lid on and leave it overnight. The next day your tub should be ready for your new food.

ii) Repurposed jars. Most of our bean stash lives in pasta-sauce jars and similar. The baking-soda trick works here as well - I love pickle jars, but not so much pickle-flavoured tapioca.

iii) Ziploc bags. Not as sturdy as the others, and not free, but more flexible: you can put your purchase in lots of small bags or few large ones, you can split a purchase with someone else, you can freeze stuff in them, you can use them to organise, say, several kinds of rice within one large plastic container. Keeps out bugs but not mice.

iv) Purchased storage, if you can afford it and you're in a hurry. Ziploc, Rubbermaid, Tupperware, or, if you're truly flush at the moment, lovely matched canisters in ceramic or glass. I have a rice jar I inherited from my Gran. I love it to death.

v) For semi-perishables: apples, onions, potatoes, etc do well a) hung up not touching the floor b) in CLOTH bags which c) let air circulate and d) if possible, keep light out (the mesh bags onions come in are okay in a pinch, but your onions won't last quite as long as they would in cloth, and potatoes go green exposed to light). Rotate them regularly, though, so you don't end up with one forgotten spud down at the bottom of the bag going moldy and tainting the rest: just reach in and stir them around some.

Bad storage:

i) Don't repurpose non-food containers to store food in. Even if you've cleaned them out absolutely perfectly, you can't be sure what's leaching out of the plastic. It's not worth it. If you're buying new stuff, make sure that it's marked as food safe if food is going to touch it.

Short form: Plastic that "smells like plastic"? Is not food-safe.

ii) The plastic bags bulk food comes home in: no matter how careful you are, they rip, and your food spills and makes messes and attracts pests.

iii) The outdoors, or areas that are not climate-controlled: I am always tempted to store food in our back extension. And we always end up regretting it when we do. Pop cans explode in winter and shower you with shrapnel - seriously, and also OUCH. Canned food thaws and refreezes and goes mushy. Onions get absolutely disgusting if they freeze and then thaw. And so forth.

If you have a chance to get a really amazing deal on more of something than you can store, see if you can split the purchase with another person or family.

3) Be cautious of buying "exotic" things, or very inflexible things (things that can only be used in a limited number of dishes, prepared or semi-prepared things) in bulk. Are you absolutely SURE that you want to eat five gallons of garlic stuffed olives in the next 18 months? Given that you only decided last week that you really like jasmine rice, or Earl Grey tea, do you want to use it and no other kind of rice or tea for the next three months?

Equally, buy a quantity you will go through while it's genuinely GOOD, not just "still safe to use". The savings on 4 months' worth of coffee over 2 months' worth just doesn't make up for drinking stale-tasting coffee for six weeks.

4) Be cautious of things that require additional steps to preserve them: those olives have to go in the fridge as soon as you break the seal on the jar.

You can get a lot of stewed tomatoes at a pretty good price if you can them yourself, but a) buying a canning setup plus jars is a lot of upfront cost: are you sure you're going to do preserving every year? and b) do you have a friend or relation who cans, or at least have you got a good book out of the library and read it very carefully before investing in the tomatoes? "Putting up" food isn't terribly hard, but it does require some skill, and the penalty for messing up ranges from being out the cost of the food AND the jars and having to clean up a nasty mess, because your food fermented and broke them, to making yourself and others really really ill.

My personal feeling is, only do your own preserving if you enjoy doing it; as with knitting or sewing for yourself, it doesn't honestly save you that much money, and if you paid yourself for your work it wouldn't save you any. If you do like it, it's great; even better if you have friends who like it too.

5) Take your calculator shopping. Some things just don't get all that much cheaper in bulk, and some things are already so incredibly reasonably priced that the cost and trouble of getting set up for massive bulk storage isn't worth it: all-purpose flour. Dried legumes. Noodles or pasta.

Exception: if you can get a higher quality at the same price by buying in bulk. We get Rancho Gordo beans and distributing the shipping over a big order is worthwhile. Buying cheddar in a 5 lb block lets us have really good extra-old white for the price of supermarket own-brand medium cooking cheddar. Etc. This is what Costco is especially good for.

Also, petfood has some special problems: your pet can't exactly tell you the food has gone off, but if it does you may end up with a vaguely poorly, hard-to-diagnose animal who isn't eating well, or even who is being made ill by their food. Also, pets are notoriously kind of volatile about what they will eat: I have returned an awful lot of now 9.5 kg bags to our vet or fed it to the neighbourhood ferals because Mr and Ms FussyPants, who were wolfing The New Food down happily when I was bringing it home in pricey little 500 g sachets have suddenly decided that I am feeding them dirt topped with chopped slug.

6) Remember to factor in transport. [personal profile] random and I have hauled home some truly ridiculously huge boxes and bags by public transit, but I can't do that anymore. OTOH, one cab from the store, or one delivery charge, every three months, can be pretty reasonable, as can getting a friend to drive you and paying them off in shares.

7) Do your bulk shopping when you have as much time, help, and energy as possible, and when you get it all home do the necessary splitting, repacking, labelling and storing right then. Talking of labels, pop into Staples/Office Depot and get a lot of those ones that come off fairly easily; then label everything. If you have to open it to see what it is, you are less likely to use it. Also, you really want to write the purchase date on things.

8) If there are instructions, save them. Nothing fancy: cutting off the relevant part of the box and chucking them all into a shoebox or a drawer will do fine. But do save them; different cereals and rices, for example, have very different cooking times and water/solids ratios, and you will need this information. And if you get serious about bulk buying, chances are you will, at some point, have a lot of jars/bags/canisters of food that look almost, but not quite alike. This is where being able to cross-match the labels and the instructions will save you from accidentally making, as I nearly did once, vegetable-oatmeal soup. You wouldn't think that steel cut oats and pot (as opposed to pearl) barley could look so alike...
jest: (gossip)

[personal profile] jest 2011-12-14 08:16 am (UTC)(link)
This is true to my experience with bulk buying. Would it be all right if I post a link to this in [community profile] homeeconomics101?
epershand: An ampersand (Default)

[personal profile] epershand 2011-12-14 09:03 am (UTC)(link)
Oh yes, this is very true. *Eyes pound of sesame seeds ruefully, determined to work her way through*

A lot of times I clip the label from the bulk food's original packaging and tape it to the container that I've got the food stored in, for an even closer tie. And with things like flour, I clip out and tape on the expiration date too.

Depending on the source, takeout food containers can provide really excellent storage containers--the standard soup containers from Vietnamese restaurants, for instance, are heavy-weight and last forever, as far as I can tell. And since they come either in pint- or quart-size, they're also really handy sizes for small bulk storage eg rice, tapioca, SESAME SEEDS >:(. However, if you're re-using a container that's intended to be disposable, you start to have the same problems as with non-food containers over time--cheaper plastics can break down and start to leech into your food.
reyl: (Default)


[personal profile] reyl 2011-12-14 03:16 pm (UTC)(link)
Sesame seeds are delicious in homemade granola too! My favourite kind is Baklava flavoured; oats, honey sesame, walnuts and a tiny bit of rose water if you like that sort of thing.
jenna_thorn: text "happy dance" Joyfully smug Rodney McKay (happy dance)

Continuing in my thought train from below...

[personal profile] jenna_thorn 2011-12-14 02:54 pm (UTC)(link)
Wanna trade some sesame seeds for frozen sliced jalepenos? 8-)

I have honey and Silpats. This isn't the recipe I use, but it's close.

Edited (spelling error) 2011-12-15 01:09 (UTC)
krait: a sea snake (krait) swimming (Default)

Too many sesame seeds?

[personal profile] krait 2011-12-15 09:42 am (UTC)(link)
There's always grinding them into tahini, adding chickpeas and garlic, and devouring the resulting hummus! :D
st_aurafina: Rainbow DNA (Default)

[personal profile] st_aurafina 2011-12-15 10:27 am (UTC)(link)
Sesame candy is an awesome way to motor through large amounts of sesame seeds. I make it in large sheets and cut it into slices.

(Anonymous) 2011-12-16 06:31 pm (UTC)(link)
If you make bread, you can add some there. Very tasty in a whole grain or multi-grain bread.

Can try adding to hot cereal ... I'm thinking oatmeal, multi-grain, granola, or Grape-Nuts, but I bet there are others.

- Harimad
jenna_thorn: auburn haired woman wearing a tophat (Default)

co-operation and bulk buying

[personal profile] jenna_thorn 2011-12-14 02:50 pm (UTC)(link)
One additional thought: make friends with limited budgets and split/trade/barter accordingly.

Splitting the Costco pallet of toilet paper or paper towels makes storing half of it myself (and the other half herself) easier which meant we were more likely to do it (as opposed to the entire pallet taking up a third of my kitchen for six months). We hit Costco twice a year, bought stuff we'd share, went to her house, split the pacakging and I paid half the bill, and ta daa! It takes some organizing, and as I said, a friend with similar toilet paper needs, but we were both in small apartments and single at the time. It made sense.

But friends are even more helpful for preserving. I make kick ass pickles and one good season from the cucumber and pepper plants in my garden can give me three households worth of pickled jalepenos and garlic dill pickles. I'll trade those for a smaller number of jars of marmalade which I will never make again, ever, it's been years and my knuckles still hate me. Or jelly. Because the friend who makes the fabulous jelly (I screw up the pectin and get syrup. It's tasty syrup, usually.) doesn't do brine or booze, but likes pickles and soused fruit. Soused fruit is easy peasy and I like to eat marmalade more than I like to make it. Tadaa! Co-operative household stocking with less waste than if either of us had tried to do it on our own.
brownbetty: (Default)

Re: co-operation and bulk buying

[personal profile] brownbetty 2011-12-14 06:51 pm (UTC)(link)
This. When I was in college, we put together a tiny onion-buying co-op and bought an eighty pound bag of onions, and holy shit that was cheaper.

But this preserving thing sounds brilliant. Finally, a way to get rid of those jars of jelly! (Must find someone else in the city who preserves!)
jenna_thorn: auburn haired woman wearing a tophat (Default)

Re: co-operation and bulk buying

[personal profile] jenna_thorn 2011-12-15 01:13 am (UTC)(link)
I'm just reeling at the idea of eighty pounds of onions. It's hard enough coordinating two or maybe three people. How many people did you get in?
libitina: snake across an open book (Default)

Re: co-operation and bulk buying

[personal profile] libitina 2011-12-23 04:29 pm (UTC)(link)
Do you have a local food swap? I've been having a lot of fun with mine.
jenna_thorn: Jayne, armed. text reads: let's be bad guys (let's be bad guys)

repurposed jars

[personal profile] jenna_thorn 2011-12-14 03:22 pm (UTC)(link)
Editing to sound less snippy isn't working, so I'll caveat up front that I have issues and leave it at that.

Just after the annual glut of Martha Stewart/Paula Deen/Rachael Ray "how to preserve" shows, take a friend and a Saturday morning to drive around the trendier/pricier suburban neighborhoods and hit garage sales or church sales, which can be a better investment of drive time. You will find, still sealed in original boxes, canning equipment, often underneath an uncracked copy of the trendy bullshit "Better living by pretending you're a frontier woman" cookbook of the year.

Don't buy the cookbook, not even for fifty cents. But I have picked up a brand new box of two dozen quart jars for two bucks. Never re-use a ring seal, toss a jar if it gets scratched or mark it as canister storage (for orzo or seasoned flour or salt mix or whatever you use) and watch your storage spaces.

If you buy canisters second hand, check the ring seals. They dry and crack and are no longer airtight. Depending on your climate, this can be nothing or it can lead to spoilage. Spoiled is wasted, and that's not cost-efficient.
jumpuphigh: Pigeon with text "jumpuphigh" (Default)

Re: repurposed jars

[personal profile] jumpuphigh 2011-12-14 04:25 pm (UTC)(link)
That's a great idea for getting more jars. So far, I've been able to reduce my cost in jars by half by using a Groupon for my local ACE Hardware store and buying jars there. They were still pricey though.
krait: a sea snake (krait) swimming (Default)

Re: repurposed jars

[personal profile] krait 2011-12-15 09:45 am (UTC)(link)
Yard sales (and the awareness of a neighbour who regularly attends yard sales) are how my mum acquires most of her jars. :D It's also how she acquired her canning pot to begin with.
brownbetty: (Default)

Re: repurposed jars

[personal profile] brownbetty 2011-12-14 06:51 pm (UTC)(link)
When does this annual glut occur? I mean, is it a predictable event?
jenna_thorn: auburn haired woman wearing a tophat (Default)

Re: repurposed jars

[personal profile] jenna_thorn 2011-12-14 09:18 pm (UTC)(link)
I haven't noticed a calendar pattern, though there may be one. I tend to look around only when in need. Try in the first flush of spring, when the Christmas gifts are old hat and people who actually change out their closets seasonally are doing so.

But I can tell you that two to three months after Martha Stewart Living publishes an article on canning (or giving gifts of the soup-in-a-jar or cookie-in-a-jar type) there's a whole bunch of unused jars in the neighborhood two over from mine. Mine's solidly middle class, Sharpie on an Avery label, and we use our own cookie-inna-jar recipes, which call for chocolate chips and not macadamia nuts, thankyouverymuch. Closer to the Tollway, it's trophy wives and private schools and zero lots and 18 foot ceilings and professional interior designers. That's the neighborhood you want.

Re: repurposed jars

(Anonymous) 2011-12-16 06:35 pm (UTC)(link)
Do these neighborhoods have garage sales? I've patronized the Goodwill/Salvation Army near these neighborhoods instead.

- Harimad

(reposting to add my name, feel free to edit as appropriate)
jenna_thorn: battered Lorne in uniform with water bottle. text reads All in a day's work (All in a day's work)

Re: repurposed jars

[personal profile] jenna_thorn 2011-12-15 02:31 pm (UTC)(link)
Yeah, mom read my post and reminded me of the hazards of buying in bulk in an area with iffy power, because if the freezer goes out (because the whole area is dark or because the power cord frayed or the garage breaker tripped or whatever), you're out not only your investment, but also replacement and that can be devastating.

But barter does work as an income supplement, and if it's two Saturdays of labor now for a bucket of tomatoes in a month and both parties consider it a win, well, go team. (I didn't even think about hunting, because I don't enjoy tromping through the woods in wet socks with a strap pulling against my shoulder and being choked by the binocs and I do not pack out, ick ick ick, but I've got tricks for venison or elk (marinate!) so I'll join the party after "Bambi" has been reduced to "meat". I'll invest my time elsewhere.

But that's really what it is. choosing where you put your time (with a nod to the idea that time = money, to an extent.) and determining how to use your skills and thinking outside the concept of food coming from the drive-in window (I was astonished, when I went to college, to find that my dormmate, and later another flatmate, honestly didn't know how to cook, and she bought mashed potatoes from a box because that's where they came from.

Gardening, for me, is rolling around in the mud like a puppy and a five year old's wonder at watching the seed leaves unfurl and taking out my job frustrations on weeds (and we won't discuss the language I use while pruning in polite company). Then I give away half the produce I do get. I've traded home cooked meals and jars of preserved fruit and pickles for computer services, and traded other skills for food. But that's getting away from the idea of bulk buying and wandering back toward co-operative or communal living.

Might eat your money and give you back $15.00/kg lopsided tomatoes and more experience of the life cycle of the potato weevil than anyone anywhere ever ought to have. ah yes, that would be 2008 to 2009. Or, similarly, knitting. $$ of yarn + hours of labor = my handknit socks are worth a hundred bucks. Each. Possibly more.
Edited (html fail) 2011-12-15 14:42 (UTC)
jenna_thorn: Text reads: the other captain tightpants, over a close shot of Sharpe's hips (Captain Tightpants)

more thoughts!

[personal profile] jenna_thorn 2011-12-15 05:29 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh!Oh! If you do a post of false economy (not that you have to, I was just thinking that you were continuing the series) because trying to Victory Garden without help or resources really will cost you money and drive you nuts ... (or preserving without help or knowledge will poison your ass) and I'm thnking here of the Save Money by Living in the Grapes of Wrath (okay, yes, I read bad food blogs, whatever, issues, I have them.) nonsense...

Wait, I lost my thought...

Okay, the note upthread about buying cheap ass oil and flavouring it is just...I can't even. No. Just no. That's not helpful. *shudder* Oh! right, that was my thought.

Coupons (or other "deals", but you really see it with coupons) for stuff you don't want isn't worth it. You wind up with forty boxes of bran cereal that's past its expiration date. Even if you paid a penny a box, that's forty cents gone to the rats in the dipsy dumpster in the alley.

A seltzer bottle and generic soda syrups are a great idea. If they are palatable. Moving a weekly soda from the food budget to the treat budget is an option, and certianly a better idea than spending $2 on tonic water and $1 on syrup and letting it sit because it's just nasty.

aaand now I'm completely off the original topic of buying in bulk. Sorry!

Re: repurposed jars

(Anonymous) 2011-12-16 06:42 pm (UTC)(link)
One can start small with gardening. A used food can, 1-2 c. dirt from almost anywhere, and a $1 packet of herb seeds is not a big investment. Lots of room for failed experimentation.

- Harimad
giglet: (Default)

[personal profile] giglet 2011-12-14 03:33 pm (UTC)(link)
This sounds a lot like my experience!

I've also found that I can sometimes de-smell plastic bickets with vinegar. I also tape (relatively fresh) bay leaves to the underside of the bucket lids to discourage moths. I haven't noticed any transfer of smell/taste.
jenna_thorn: auburn haired woman wearing a tophat (Default)

[personal profile] jenna_thorn 2011-12-15 02:37 pm (UTC)(link)
cheap white vinager is wonderful for odor removal and cleaning in general. Also for setting dye in cheap fabric, though that may not be a general concern.

Lavender, too, will discourage moths, though bees love it, and will grow cheerfully in a number of climates in a pot on an apartment balcony. Does need sunlight, though.

labeling jars

(Anonymous) 2011-12-14 04:42 pm (UTC)(link)
I have a shelf of glass coffee jars full of... rice, beans, pasta, chocolate chips, a different shape pasta, a different type rice...

for labeling, I usually cut off the cooking directions and maybe the brand name of the original food package, and tape it to the glass jar. instant ID, and when the food runs out, the jar can be re-labled at the price of a small piece of sticky tape.

very useful, and the glass lets me see how much leftovers should be used up before i open another big box of leftovers.

zivya, enjoying your food posts

with intermittent pictures of nanny ogg and 'the joyes of foode' running through my mind...
legionseagle: (Default)

My own personal tip...

[personal profile] legionseagle 2011-12-14 06:36 pm (UTC)(link)
(well, apart from "Never get into bulk buying while living in University accommodation and your boyfriend is the one with the ideas about bulk buying but he also expects you to keep the plastic sack of brown lentils which leaks under the sink in your student room" but several aspects of that you already covered)

Do not under any circumstances take any of the hints included in Jocasta Innes The Paupers' Cookbook (sample nastiness: "I use the cheapest vegetable oil I can find, sold in 7-gallon drums, for cooking and salad dressing. To give olive oil flavour, pack a jar with black olives and fill with oil - keep for making vinaigrette"). In case you find a copy in a charity shop for 10p or less (more if it's a charity you really like) do buy it a) to keep it out of the hands of the inexperienced and naive; and b) because the later sections on "programmed eating" can keep an entire storm-bound household (or crew) enthralled if brought to dramatic life through the medium of charades or interpretative dance.
brownbetty: (Default)

Re: My own personal tip...

[personal profile] brownbetty 2011-12-14 07:17 pm (UTC)(link)
I have always wondered what species of madness compels parents to name their daughters Jocasta. Clearly, madness bought on by poor nutrition and botulism.
legionseagle: (Default)

Re: My own personal tip...

[personal profile] legionseagle 2011-12-14 07:20 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm tempted to suggest that if you do name your daughter Jocasta you want to be even more scrupulous than usual about the boys she brings home, possibly insisting on DNA tests....

Laurence Durrell called his daughter "Sappho". That ended badly, too.

legionseagle: (Default)

Re: My own personal tip...

[personal profile] legionseagle 2011-12-14 07:34 pm (UTC)(link)
One of these days someone will name a corgi after a Chaos deity and will deserve all they get...
tiferet: cute girl in pink dress captioned "not all bad girls wear black" (Default)

Re: My own personal tip...

[personal profile] tiferet 2011-12-14 09:13 pm (UTC)(link)
I still remember all the stories that were told me about a cat named Eris Raven.
recessional: a small blue-paisley teapot with a blue mug (Default)

[personal profile] recessional 2012-02-03 12:17 am (UTC)(link)
My sister and I had a lengthy argument about whether or not she was allowed to name her kitten "Loki". Neither she nor my parents understood my flat "No. No. NO. NO. No. I will keep saying no for eternity. NO. No pet under a roof I live in will be named 'Loki'. NO." But eventually they realized I was serious, and gave up.

(So he's Optimus Prime instead, Appa for short, because he is white and shaggy and fluffy.)
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Default)

Re: My own personal tip...

[personal profile] nineveh_uk 2011-12-14 09:12 pm (UTC)(link)
I have fond memories of a billboard-style advert for some sort of large car/people carrier that bore the legend "For people whose child is not called Tarquin".
phi: (Default)

Re: My own personal tip...

[personal profile] phi 2012-02-04 12:08 am (UTC)(link)
Oh god, that oil "tip" sounds appalling. I'm not sure I can even use 7 gallons of any kind of oil before it goes rancid, and even at my most skint, a gallon jug of store brand vegetable oil is cheap and not disgusting.
ranunculus: (Default)

[personal profile] ranunculus 2011-12-14 07:40 pm (UTC)(link)
Second hand shops often have large storage jars, the kind with the metal wire closers, for a fraction of new cost. Replacement rubber rings are available, check anywhere new jars are sold, or online. Jars like this are great for bulk storage. Not only do they keep moths or other pests out of the food, they can keep moths -in- a jar and NOT contaminating all the rest of your food. I put all my dry-goods in glass and I've had no trouble with pests for years.
Moths will chew through plastic bags.

nineveh_uk: Picture of fabric with a peacock feather print. (peacock)

[personal profile] nineveh_uk 2011-12-14 09:16 pm (UTC)(link)
and if you paid yourself for your work it wouldn't save you any.

Oh yes. I always cost my work in, even though I pretty much only sew for myself. I can genuinely save on summer skirts (1m outer, 1m lining, 1 evening's work), but for anything else it is about using my labour as payment in kind towards a better quality product.
beable: (Default)

[personal profile] beable 2011-12-14 11:27 pm (UTC)(link)

I am now vaguely tempted by the idea of vegetable-oatmeal soup.

ursula: (Default)

[personal profile] ursula 2011-12-15 12:05 am (UTC)(link)
I had an oatmeal-bacon-vegetable stew once-- it was somebody's re-creation of a medieval recipe for pottage. It was pretty good.
ursamajor: the Swedish Chef, juggling (bork bork bork!)

[personal profile] ursamajor 2011-12-16 04:38 am (UTC)(link)
See, to me, that just sounds like putting savories in your oatmeal instead of sweets, and I already do that with lugaw (rice porridge), so it makes sense to me! Though I guess I would prefer it to be a thicker-textured soup, closer to a porridge than a broth with oats and veg floating around.
libitina: snake across an open book (Default)

[personal profile] libitina 2011-12-23 04:40 pm (UTC)(link)
I had a recipe similar to this one in a soup cookbook I love. That recipe called for steel cut oats, and it was only good fresh because it separated awkwardly. This thread is making me think I should try it again with rolled oats.
sollers: me in morris kit (Default)

[personal profile] sollers 2011-12-15 08:02 am (UTC)(link)
Of course, a lot of this depends on having storage space in the first place. In my small two-up-two-down house, my total room temperature food storage area is six small cupboards, three under the worksurface, three fixed to the wall above. I can buy large packets of spices at the Asian supermarket and decant them into jars, but that's about it.
sollers: me in morris kit (Default)

[personal profile] sollers 2011-12-15 02:46 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm in a somewhat better situation than you were, but lack of space means that basics have to be bought in relatively small quantities - the biggest bag of rice I can store the contennts of, for example, is 2 Kg. If I make blackberry jam in the autumn I have to give away anything more than two small jars.

(Anonymous) 2011-12-16 06:47 pm (UTC)(link)
If you're interested, I bet the assembled readers can provide storage ideas for you to consider. Let us know.

- Harimad
phi: (Default)

[personal profile] phi 2012-02-04 12:13 am (UTC)(link)
When I was in a similar situation (tiny apartment in Japan, kitchen was about 4 feet by 8 feet big) I had small jars of everything in the kitchen proper and then bigger bags or jars stacked up in my coat closet. Every week or two I'd decant more rice, spices, beans, wakame, and other dry food from closet storage to kitchen storage.
ar: A closeup of a painting: a white girl with blue eyes, dark hair, and red lips looks at the viewer a little insolently, (misc - sophie gray)

[personal profile] ar 2011-12-15 01:40 pm (UTC)(link)
Great advice! I'm looking forward to trying these out.

For saving instructions, one can always do like my mother does: Designate container X the rice container and tape the rice instructions to it. (Or, as my current setup goes, put duct tape on the rice jar and write the instructions on it in permanent marker. :D) It's always best to keep the instructions as close to the food as possible, ime--the more you have to hunt for how to cook it, the more of a pain it's going to feel like.
ravan: by Ravan (Default)

20 years of bulk buying

[personal profile] ravan 2012-02-03 03:11 am (UTC)(link)
I buy bulk dry goods in a big way, and have for 20 years. It has kept me and my roomies from starving, and helped friends too.

For the biggest stuff, I use 5 gallon buckets that I get new from the hardware store *lined with food grade liners* and Gamma Seal™ lids. You can find the lids, which are screw on lids for the buckets, at the emergency supply/survival shops online. The liners are a bit harder to find, and when I found them I bought like 20.

For the medium size, I use the rubbermaid square translucent containers, because they stack.

I bulk buy in 10, 25 or 50 lb bags: rice, sugar, 3 kinds of pasta (egg noodles, elbow mac, and orzo), split peas, lentils, flour, pasta flour, and oatmeal.

I get some of my hot cereal at the ethnic indian stores: sooji and ravi (IIRC cream of wheat/farina and cream of rice) - it's much cheaper than buying a dinky box of "Cream of Wheat&trade". I also get my beans and lentils there, or at the public restaurant supply house.

One thing I learned a looong time ago is never store anything in cardboard boxes for a long time. Grain moths, mice, and moisture take your investment and make it disgusting. Ziploc bags, unless they are in the freezer, can get chewed through too. Hard plastic that is food grade and tightly sealed is your friend.

Those cheap bags of ramen you get? Have a shelf life, and can get very nasty when they're old. Same with that nice cheap box mac'n'cheese. Pay attention to expiration dates, even on canned goods. The cheap canned fruit cocktail often blows up when it's been pushed to the back of the shelf too long. A gooey mess.

Buy what you use, not just what you get cheap but can't stand much of, unless you have friends to share with.

If you have to store in an outdoor area, you want hard plastic, or specially canned goods, and careful rotation. I don't advise it except for earthquake/hurricane/etc supplies (I live in CA, so shaking is always on my mind.)
amorettea: (Default)

[personal profile] amorettea 2012-02-03 04:14 am (UTC)(link)
Do NOT can unless you know what you are doing. You can get worse than bad food. You can get dead. Used to happen fairly regularly. Entire family done in by botulism. I am a historian who specializes in late nineteenth and early twentieth and this really happened. Obituaries for the whole family, dead from bad canning. Nasty. Freezing, for the average person who doesn't want to mess with pressure canning, is easier and safer.
phi: (Default)

[personal profile] phi 2012-02-04 12:15 am (UTC)(link)
These are terrific tips, especially the false economy ones about canning, or buying things you aren't sure you like/will use.
sentientcitizen: Rose Tyler throws her head back and laughs. (Default)

[personal profile] sentientcitizen 2012-02-11 05:02 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh my goodness, MEAL MOTHS, those are the buggers that keep getting into my barley! I never knew what they were called. It doesn't seem to matter how well I seal it up in ziplocs, eventually I open up the bag and lo and behold, out comes fluttering a moth! My barley lives in my freezer now.

(Also, I once made pot barley "oatmeal", so I'll chime in to agree how easy the two are to confuse.)