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Understanding the Dates on Our Food

Monday, January 17, 2011
posted by Jenn


“Sell By”, “Use By”, “Best By”, “Expiration”, our food is labeled with multiple and sometimes confusing dates. But, what’s behind them? What do they mean? Simply put, they are the date which signals when a carton of milk, bag of lettuce or pack of chicken may be the best-tasting or safest to use. What it doesn’t do is concretely indicate that the item is past its prime or spoiled.

Frugal Friday – Scrape it Down

Friday, October 9, 2015
posted by jenn

Image result for almost empty jar images

We all have them…those mostly empty jars of condiments, jellies or peanut butter. But, before you toss them out take a spatula and scrape down the sides and bottom. Most of the time you will gather up enough for an extra serving or two.

To get the last bit out of jars or bottles with small openings, like salad dressing or mustard, tip the jar upside down on a plate and let stand for awhile, then scrap off the plate to use.

Sometimes saving isn’t all about saving money. Sometimes it’s about using every last bit of something we already have already spent money on.

BTW – did you know that 45% of Americans throw food away while it’s still edible? Those “Best-By”, “Use-By” and “Sell-By” dates on packaged foods ARE NOT expiration dates. To learn more about the dates on our food check out this article.

Raising Meat Chickens in Suburbia

Wednesday, July 29, 2015
posted by Jenn

One week old: They grow

From Day Old to Dinner Entrée – If you want to make sure the chicken in your oven is raised well and processed humanely –Raise them yourself!

Most of my friends cringe when I tell them that we raise our own meat chickens and my daughter NEVER tells her friends for fear they will avoid eating over. But, this relatively simple process has become an integral part of our suburban homestead and food storage plan.

I’ve always had laying hens to provide us with eggs for the table and manure for the garden. And, when the girls were too old to lay they got to live out their life scratching around for bugs, churning up the soil and adding manure where ever they went; a mutually beneficial relationship I think.

It wasn’t until my friend Sandy bought and raised her first batch of meat birds that I really started to get interested in raising our own chickens for meat. But, raising 50 chicks seemed a bit too ambitious for a beginner, not to mention someone who lived in suburbia. So, several years ago I began by raising 8 Cornish/White Rock crosses, usually referred to as Cornish Rocks. These fast growing birds are the same breed raised commercially and sold to restaurants and supermarkets either as whole birds or in cut-up parts.

My test project was a huge success! All 8 chicks lived to their 8-week maturity, were healthy and seemingly happy, and the processing of the birds was nothing like I had imagined. When the project was over and we were feasting on own homegrown chicken, juicy and full of flavor I was determined that meat chickens would be an annual crop raised on our little suburban homestead.

Homemade Granola Bars

Tuesday, May 3, 2011
posted by Jenn

Granola Bar

My daughter is crazy for granola bars. Between sports workouts and working her show lambs granola bars are her snack of choice for a quick energy packed pick-me-up. Unfortunately, most of the store bought granola bars are nutritionally no better than candy. Their cleverly designed packaging only makes them look like they are natural. The few that are truly natural are so tasteless it’s like eating cardboard and they cost like the dickens.

So, out of sheer necessity I was on the hunt again for a homemade alternative to a store bought item. After a bit of research and a few experiments I think I’ve found an unbeatable recipe for homemade granola bars. The list below is the core ingredients for the recipe, but it can be easily changed to accommodate personal tastes and preferences.

The cost of making your own nutritious flavor-packed granola bars is pennies on the dollar compared to their store-bought counterparts. But what’s even better than their low cost and high food value is that these bars are truly delicious — as any snack food (nutritious or otherwise) should be in order to make the list of favorites.

Keeping Small Flocks Free from Salmonella

Tuesday, September 21, 2010
posted by Jenn

raising chickens

With the recent recall of more than 500 million eggs fresh in our minds the debate over caged or free range hens still rages on. Most in the industry still insist that raising hens in small confined cages is actually better and safer for them. Just this year, the United Egg Producers, a leading U.S. egg industry trade group, announced that caging hens is better for food safety. But not all industry groups agree. In fact, the U.K. egg industry takes a completely opposite view. Nine studies have been conducted throughout the U.K. over the past five years, and all report that egg operations where hens are caged have a higher incidence of salmonella. The studies were so convincing that the U.K. has adopted new legislation making it illegal to cage hens anywhere in the U.K., which begins in 2012.

The U.S., however, stands strong in its conviction that caged eggs are safer. But, that stance is starting to waiver. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed state legislation to ban caged hens by 2015, and many food outlets, such as Wal-Mart, Safeway, Burger King, Wendy’s and Subway, have committed to decrease the number of caged-hen eggs purchased.

In all my years of raising hens I have never caged my hens. But, with all the reports and studies and information out there I have to wonder…Do I need to worry about salmonella? Does the fact that hens run free let backyard enthusiasts and small farm flocks off the hook? Not at all!! Every study performed in the U.S. and the U.K. found other factors contribute to the incidence of salmonella besides keeping birds in cages.

From Field to Fork

Wednesday, January 6, 2010
posted by Jenn


I finally had enough down time this past weekend to watch a movie I’ve been wanting to see for quite some time – Food, Inc. As an Ag Business major in college who has worked for some of the countries largest agricultural companies, who was married to a production farmer for 15 years, and who has since turned agrarian homesteader I was impressed with the information given in the movie.

It was also sad to see how far we (farmers) have fallen. Saddened because this is an industry that I fell in love with almost 30 years ago, grew up with really, and have since separated from because I can no longer identify with or condon many of its practices.

It was just past my 9th birthday when I spent the summer at a cousins farm in a small town in the middle of Missouri. Joe had a few hundred acres and raised cattle and hogs, corn, wheat and alfalfa. Each morning I would go with him to “take care” of the animals. My job was to sit in the back of a flatbed truck and throw flakes of hay over the sides for the cattle. This was no feedlot operation, but cows on pasture with hay as a supplement. When we finished we would pick up a load of feed and fill big hoppers in the pig pens. Even though the pigs were not on pasture or rummaging around wooded areas they were out in the sun with plenty of mud holes to wallow in.

When the time was right we cut and baled alfalfa. Because I was not big enough to stack hay on the trailers I got to sit on the tractors wheel covering and watch the whole thing like a bird high up in its nest. The view was great. I loved being outside, the smell of fresh cut hay, picking corn off the stalks to take home for dinner. Even when the occasional animal died, a fact of reality on a farm, I was not put off by the experience. Not even a little.

Every few days we would stop by the farm next door, a dairy, full of black and white cows munching on cool green pastures. We’d stop just after the afternoon milking was finished, I’d take our stainless steel milk pail to the cooling room and out of the biggest tank I’d ever seen I would pour us a gallon of milk. Fresh and ice cold, milked from the cows just moments before, I had never tasted anything like it. I couldn’t drink the milk right then, we had to wait for the cream to separate so it could be skimmed off and made into butter. This was the full on, unadulterated, unpastuerized real stuff – smooth and creamy.

Once a month Joe and I would go to the sale yard to sell hogs or cattle that were ready for market. When we weren’t at the yards we were taking grain to the mills or visiting other local farmers either on their farms or at their local gathering places, small cafes or coffee shops where locals would meet to talk shop, farm subsides, politics and the like. It was here, between the summer chores and the small town talk, that I fell for this world of farming. I loved the people, the places, the smells, the work. You name it I was hooked.

At night, Joe and I, would listen to farm radio programs for weather updates, market prices, harvesting info and news. Even at nine I was beginning to understand that there was more to getting food to my table in California than just stopping by the store, there were people I’d would never see, places I’d never visit, trucks and trains involved in the whole process that I didn’t know anything about. But, on that farm in the hot humid mid-west summer I knew I wanted to know, wanted to learn, wanted to be one of them. I wanted to be a farmer!