The little birds...

If you watch little birds you will see they are busy and happy! Using whatever they can find they create the most gorgeous little nest.
I would be the little bird with some glittery thread in her nest!
We can be like this. Happily working away with the things that are available to us to create a beautiful and happy home.
All the while with a little song in our heart.

Banner by Free Pretty Things for You.

Tuesday 1 September 2015

Pantries and Preparedness. Stocking your pantry for free.

I am a person who does best in the company of others. It is due to the encouragement of others that I started stocking my cellar in the first place (thanks Wendy!) And day to day seeing I have company helps a lot. I don't have to be with people, just kind of know there are others working away at the same things. Then I just feel encouraged. From the days of reading Laine's Letters I am a person who if I have a good voice to listen to I am really motivated and do lots. Her letter a week kept me going on the right track until the next one arrived! 

We can easily be surrounded by people who have no interest at all in homemaking etc. I am fairly lucky that way but many people aren't. It can be lonely in a world of NOT like minded people! Even worse we might be discouraged to do the right things and encouraged to do the wrong things.  I see a lot of that, where young women are encouraged to not "waste their time" raising children and go out and do something "more important". This makes my blood boil. That's the work of the enemy right there is broad daylight.  The internet is a big help though. I can talk canning fruit with the US ladies just like talking over the fence to my neighbour!

One place I frequent is A Working Pantry's facebook page. It is lovely. I get to see what everyone is canning, picking, planting and all sorts of things. Last week there was a report I just loved. Rosanne (in the U.S) was saying how her local McDonalds has a apple tree in the car park.  There was an apple tree laden with apples with many on the ground. They asked a lady that worked there if they could pick them and she was amazed. She said she had never thought to pick them! Rosanne and her son picked eight shopping bags full of apples!
Rosanne is my kind of woman! I messaged her and next they are going foraging for Sumac. Then back for more apples. Also she is teaching her son about all the free food that is around. Many people do not see it. They think food comes from supermarkets. 

Also in the last couple of weeks Teri has been busy preserving.
She was given peaches and was busy canning, then she had a lot of tomatoes and, most recently, free zucchini. She counted each thing as a blessing and didn't waste anything. At these times we need to get busy and make the most of it, cook, preserve, freeze, eat and share.

This is one way many people build up their pantry. Free food. Last week we talked about free and super cheap containers for food storage. This week lets see if we can fill shelves with free food!

It is going to vary according to where we live but sometimes it is amazing what we can find. Where we live now we get a lot of free food. But I always have as I have never been shy about asking someone who has a tree with falling wasted fruit if I can pick it and return with jam or a pie. Mostly you get a yes. I am amazed at what is around and is wasted. 

My free food list currently is:
Rosemary in the garden,

Mint in Mum's garden.
Oregano, chives, parsley, thyme, strawberries in my pots. 

(I am about to plant my basil, tomatoes etc. but have none currently)
Bay leaves from the farm.

Mandarins from Tania.
Fish Andy catches. Plus crabs sometimes.

Occasional figs from the farm.

Plums, quinces, oranges, lemons. limes and figs from my Aunts.

Lemons from Hilde.

Peaches from the neighbour. (two types)

Nectarines from another neighbour.
Quinces from a park.

I think thats it? At times the quantities are huge like last summer I had bucketsful of plums from my Aunts and perhaps a a couple of hundred big peaches from the neighbours tree.
Then it is time to get busy! This is a lot of food. It gives me pies, crumbles, jam, stewed fruit, cakes, muffins, fruit for smoothies and eating fresh and also some of these become presents. 
It is true I buy the sugar, flour and other things to make some of these but the majority of it has come to me free and it is a big chance to add a lot to our pantry and freezer. 

Over the years some of the ways I have found to "come by" free food is to keep your eyes open at all times. I notice blossoms and come back later to see what they turned into!

It is important to make the most of what you find. Not to dream about finding a certain thing but to dream about what you can make with that thing you do find.

If I am not sure what to make with something I look up recipes I have not tired before. There are usually so many ideas that it is easy to find ways to use even something unfamiliar. Just search "things to do with ....." and you will find so many options.

There are people who would not notice the apples in the car park that Rosanne did. She sees a big opportinity! I would see apple pies, apple crumble, apple sauce, baked apples, apple cake... oh my goodness there are so many things you can do with apples. Did I mention baked apples with pork? How about stewed apples and apple baby puree? Make an apple slice as a birthday present....  There are just so many possibilities!

When I lived in the country there was an apple tree on the side of the road half way between two towns. We took an annual trip to that tree. I would make apple recipes for about a week.
For years I swapped eggs with an old lady who lived over the road from me. In summer I was allowed to pick as much as I wanted from her peach and nectarine trees. 

Ask. Ask around and let your family and friends know that you love to preserve, you love to cook and make jam etc. 
Do deals. You will bake a pie if you are allowed to pick that fruit!
Look  online and in the local paper if there is a free and give away section. You might even find a canning kit, jars or who knows what there.
Place a free ad in one of these places pr your church newsletter. Say you will pick fruit! Offer to return with a pie.
In Australia there is Ripe Near Me website. I am sure there are others too. I will be checking this everyday in summer. I check it weekly now.

Grow what you can. 
Do swaps. If you have a lot of something see if you can trade/barter to increase your variety.

Encourage fishing, hunting, foraging and activities that cause you to end up with produce. 

If you end up with produce you don't like still say yes and trade it. I used to get lobsters. I am allergic to seafood. But I leanred how to cook those lobsters and freeze them. I traded lobsters for all kinds of things! 
Also at the farm we got a lot of field mushrooms. Hundreds of them. I traded a lot of those and used them as gifts for two people I knew who really loved them.

When you are away from home keep your eyes out. One time we were away on a little holiday and we ate at a cafe. I noticed a huge lemon tree and hundreds of lemons on the ground. I asked. That cafe did not use one lemon from that tree and said I was welcome to pick them. And as I would never travel without a basket and bags we filled several! 

Lots of places have Face Book buy, sell and swap sites. I keep an eye on an Adelaide Hills produce swap fb page. Then there is Free Cycle, free advertising sections in local papers...  You can check them regularly but be brave and post that you are looking for fruit, jars, canning equipment and you are willing to swap with whatever you might have you can trade with. You might get a shock by the results!

Also it pays to get to know your local op shops (thrift stores). Tell them what you are looking for. I have asked and found that out the back they have just the thing. Or if I come in next week they will save me this or that. Once in a country op shop I asked about old preserving jars. They had none. But the lady said out the back of their church they had boxes of them! She asked me to meet her there once the op shop was shut. Another time a lady said no but she had a whole box of jars in her shed she would love to get rid of!  Always ask. These times have often led me to free fruit as well as they ask me what I am doing with all these jars!

Many times old people don't pick their fruit as they can't manage. Offering to pick it for them usually helps them and results in a share. 

Many times we are going to have one thing in excess. It happens that your zucchini go crazy and you have a ridiculous amount. One of mine is parsley. I have commercial quantities much of the year! And basil. That goes crazy and is tough to keep up with. At Mum's hers is Bay Leaves. 
I always come home from the farm with Bay Leaves. Recently I had three huge bunches hanging on my drying ladder.

I have not bought Bay Leaves in many years so I had no idea how much they cost. In our supermaket I looked and a tiny packet with a few leaves was expensive. It was working out that they were 40 or 50 c each! Really? I am sure you can get them cheaper than that but this was the price in our supermarket. I decided if they are this expensive I should be giving them as gifts. 

My bunches were dry so I picked off the leaves and packed them into cellophane bags. 

I got three large bags of over 100 leaves and 14 bags of about two dozen leaves plus a jar full for my pantry. As I am giving pantry themed gifts this year these will go well. So I added to my gift supply.

I am always saying "be ever watchful" and "ask and you shall receive".  Both these seem to work a treat in relation to free food. You can really build up your pantry. Also when we have free peaches or other fruit I am not buying fruit. We eat that. So the money that week is saved and can go into the other bargains for the pantry or the emergency fund.

My Nana had the same knack for getting free food and always had vases of free flowers. Yep, she would see a giant Lilac and march up the driveway of the house and introduce herself and ask if she could pick some. She made many friends this way! But she was good, she would return with eggs or a cake and so it would go on as a permanent arrangement!

I am heading off to the farm for a few days. Partly to see Dad for Fathers Day and also he was in hospital a few days with an infection in his arm. He talked the doctor into letting him out in the mornings to check cattle then come back to go back on a drip for the infection. Yep, thats him. More amazingly they agreed to it! At 79 he still works more than full time and has never slowed down. No one can keep you with him. Of course I worry ...

This means I will not be able to reply to comments until the weekend but I love your comments so please just give me a few days to reply. Also Fridays post will be a day or two late. But I will still do Feather your Nest Friday as I hopefully will have a lot to report. Also hopefully my farm trip will give me free food to bring back! 
Andy has to work so he will keep the home fires burning.

I hope you are having a great week. We have welcomed Spring! And a good thing is that in spring and summer I get a lot of free fruit and can really add hugely to my pantry. I also need to do some planting and grow as much as I can. xxx


  1. Dear, lovely Annabel. Your post just oozes abundance and wealth on so many levels. Thankyou. We are fortunate to currently have two enormous bunches of Lady Finger bananas courtesy of our own banana trees. Of course we've given a lot away and the rest have all ripened at the same time so I'm peeling and freezing some for banana bread, making some banana jam, and freezing some on icy pole sticks for the grandchildren. Topped with a little of that chocolate Ice Magic, they're an almost healthy treat! We get free pawpaws from a neighbour with whom we shared our bananas, and oranges from a now abandoned house near us. Bags and bags of them. I make marmalade with whiskey or Cointreau, orange curd, and curls of candied peel for Christmas, which are gorgeous in puddings and cakes and on top of home made yoghurt with the orange curd stirred through, and I'm experimenting with a variation of my home made Limoncello, using the orange peel. These go into my Christmas hampers for gifting. Herbs are a good one and I envy you the Bay tree. I think I'm going to have to invest in one. Just imagining huge bouquets of bay makes my heart sing! I hope your Dad is on the improve. He's one of a disappearing generation, isn't he. Love, Mimi xxx

    1. Mimi, I have never heard of banana jam. Would you share the recipe?
      Paula in Kansas

    2. Hi Paula. You need to bring 2 cups of firmly packed soft brown sugar, 1/4 cup water, 1/3 cup lime juice, a tablespoon of butter and a large pinch of salt to a simmer, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. While you're doing that peel 2 1/2 pounds of bananas, mash them roughly and add them to the brown sugar syrup. Add two teaspoons vanilla essence or extract. Reduce the heat to medium-low, stirring frequently to prevent the jam from sticking. It's done when you can scrape the spoon across the bottom of the saucepan and the spoon leaves a visible trail, if that makes sense? About 20 minutes of low simmering usually does it. Decant into sterilised jars. This keeps for up to four weeks, refrigerated.

    3. Dear Mimi, you have a great selection of free supplies and you make the most of them!
      Your fruits seems exotic and luxurious to me. Helen was telling me she gets avocados and mangoes in large numbers. I would love that! But it is about using what we come by and you are using things well.
      I am having a lovely time at the farm and picked giant bunches of fresh bay leaves today to re start the drying of bunches when I get home and replace the ones I just packaged up.
      I hope you are having a good week! With love,

  2. Thankyou for the great post Annabel! My husband gets paid monthly and I usually stock up my pantry the first half of the month and then even though we have plenty of food to eat, I get frustrated when I can't add more to my pantry in the second half of the month as I have already used all the grocery budget for the month. I am really going to make an effort and try out a few things you have mentioned and will be very happy if I even add one thing to my pantry for zero cost.
    I would love to start canning food, but every time I start to look online about how to do this, I get so confused and overwhelmed because there are so many different techniques and equipment to use. I'm also worried I will can something and it won't be properly preserved and will be wasted or worse-make us sick from eating it.
    Where online do you think would be a good place to start for instructions? Which step-by-step instructions do you usually use? Thanks so much if you have time to reply in the future (no rush for a reply!)
    From Marge xoxo

    1. Marge, you might want to get a Ball Blue book for canning. That is the book I've used repeatedly. It has all the information you need about water bath canning, steam pressure canning, dehydrating and freezing. Great book!

      Also, do you have a friend, family member or neighbor who already cans/processes food? Possibly they could be a "coach" and that could take the fear out of canning? When you start out, can something like applesauce, make jam or just try freezing some fruit or veggies. :)

      The more you do this, the more confidence you will get! Teri

    2. Dear Marge, I agree with Teri, Ball Canning is the way to go. You can go to their website. There is a getting started section. It is complete with step by step instructions and videos. They have been so reliable for years. I trust them. So just start with something simple and your confidence will grow. I hope this helps and soon you are filling your shelves.
      I used to get paid once a month. It helped me to divide my grocery money. I had a main amount and then did a big shop. but first I set aside three amounts in envelopes for the other three weeks and kind of rationed them. This helped. I hope you can find free produce to work on and build up your supplies, that would be wonderful! love

    3. Thank you Teri and Annabel. I will start with the Ball Canning website. Have a lovely time with your Dad
      Marge xoxo

  3. Sorry to hear your dad is unwell, Annabel. I hope he improves soon and I am sure he will enjoy Father's Day with you there as well. I guess you know already but you can write a post and schedule it for another day if you are going to be away from your computer. I often do that when I am visiting my daughter just in case the internet isn't working at her place as it is a bit hit and miss there. I would also love to harvest my own bay leaves. You are very resourceful and an inspiration to lots of other young women who read your blog I am sure. Enjoy your time with your folks.

    1. Dear Nanna Chel, Thank you, I a, at the farm and Dad is going well. He left at 7 am for work anyhow. Plus I have internet reception! Thankyou I hadn't thought to organise a post to "post itself" I will try to remember I could do this. It is lovely to be at the farm and just spend some time with Mum and Dad. Also it has rained heaps. With love,

  4. Inspiring post! I loved Laine's Letters as she was so encouraging, creative and resourceful. :)

    1. Thank you Tracy, Laine taught me so much and had such an impact. I am glad you loved her too? With love,

  5. Annabel,
    You are so right! There are a lot of resources for free food if you look or ask. I get berries and walnuts from my niece's house and for my Christmas baskets I give maple walnut syrup and blackberry jam. I have grapes and jostaberries in the woods behind my house and I have made acorn flour from the acorns at my uncle's house. All the free stuff you can add to your pantry for sure frees up some of those grocery dollars to help add to the pantry! Corn smut is called a poor man's truffle and they sell it at the markets in China. I was going to dry some this year and try it, but no corn smut this year just little ears! I love, love this post!!! I hope you Dad is feeling better and you have a great trip to the farm!

    1. Dear Vicky,
      I have reception! It is really nice to be at the farm and Dad is going well.
      It is so smart to turn your rescorces into gifts!
      I have never heard of acorn flour but I love acorns and you seem to get a lot of berries which I would love.
      Today I picked bunches of Bay Leaff branches and tied them up and bunches of wild flowers. Very nice!
      I sat near the fire and crocheted with Mum, also very nice! Hope you are having a really good week, with love,

    2. Annabel,
      Acorn flour is not bad, but a flavor you have to get used to. I made pancakes with the batch I made. Acorns are a lot of work as you have to keep leaching them or they are really bitter. I wanted to try it though in case I ever had to use them as a food resource. And I do get a lot of berries which is good because my son will eat a quart of them at a time! Sometimes he eats them all and I am lucky if I get to make anything so I was smart this time and made my jam first and froze some for when I start making struedels!

  6. Dear Annabel, Great post! Have a great time at the farm! Hope your dad's health is improving!

    Love, Teri

    1. Dear Teri,
      Things are going well, Dad seems good and I have reception! I hope things have gone well there and all is well.
      It is lovely to be here. Quite relaxing. Thinking of you, with love,

  7. Annabel I hope your Dad is on the mend. Mine is in hospital recuperating from an operation and as grumpy as hell as he hates not being able to do for himself. We moved interstate two years ago. As we pulled up our new neighbours introduced themselves and passed a bag of homegrown tomatoes over the fence. This exchange has continued and is just a wonderful way to share the abundance. A neighbour a few doors down has a mango tree and is more than happy for me to collect as many as I want each year, in exchange for a jar of mango ginger jam. This sharing of abundance helps ensure a sense of community, something we didn't have in our last residence. My garden and the produce I happily receive ends up on our dinner table or walks out the door in the form of jams chutneys and sauces when our grown children visit or when aforementioned Father visits with Mum. I love value adding to basic produce. I love sharing that with those I love.

    1. Dear Jane, Thank you, Dad is doing well and back to work. And I have Internet reception!
      I hope your Dad is doing well and I understand all about Dads who do not like being out of action :)
      Your neighbours sound lovely and the fact that you have Mangos sounds wonderful to me! It is beautiful to turn produce into gifts and just being able to share. With love and thanks,

  8. Oh my gosh yes, free food is definitely the best! I always get a little excited when I receive some. It is also a good feeling to give away my excess, so much better than the food going to waste.

    Hope your dear Dad is doing well Annabel and that you are enjoying your special time with your parents. I love this time...

    Lots of love,
    Tania xoxo

    1. Dear Tania,
      I am having a lovely time and Dad is going well, thank you.
      I have picked bunches of new supplies of bay leaves and wild flowers today. Sat with mum and crocheted away near the fire which is still on as it is cold and raining!
      Andy is still eating Mandarins!
      I hope you are having a really good week and you also got some rain as yesterday it poured in Adelaide. With love,

  9. What a blessing to have family that share their fruit! So many homeowners don't have fruit trees, just shade trees. This was a great post! We use to pick apples every year when we'd go to the city. The tree hung over the wall of a cemetery near a busy intersection. Those were the best tasting apples! Sadly, they cut the tree down last year. Too much mess, I guess.
    Keep up the inspiration!

  10. Hi Annabel. Just popping in to let you know I've featured this post at Five Star Frugal this week. Thanks for linking it. Your photos as usual, are gorgeous. Love, Mimi xxx


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