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.

Friday, 31 January 2020

The Vicky Challenge. Preserving.

I hope you had a week of savings and opportunities.  Because I am in Australia and we are in summer this is fruit season.  I thought this weeks subject should be preserving.  Now there are many ways to make the most of and not waste any fruit or produce that comes your way.  When I have fruit everything else is put on hold as fruit does not usually wait!

This year I finally learned to water bath can.  So it took me long enough!  And I love it!  I have always made jams, relishes and things like Lemon Curd, I have dried lots of herbs and fruit.  But never canned!  I had help and encouragement from friends to get started.  One of them was Vicky!  She helped me so much.  She has written something for you.  This might help anyone new to canning to get up and running!

Let's talk canning! 
Some of us are old hats at this, but for the beginners or anyone who would like to start, but haven't yet maybe we can change your mind. 
First: canning or bottling are just loose terms we use, but there are different processes to them. Some of us say we "put up" something and again it's just a loose term. 

Why can? Many reasons! From adding to pantry, making sure all of the juicy goodness we grow, forage or are gifted doesn't go to waste before we can use it all, convenience, to save money and control what is in some of our food and offset the costs of organic food. 
There are 3 methods - water bathing, pressure canning and steam canning. 
We will look at the water bath method first. 
This method is for foods that are acidic or enough acid can be introduced to safely can it. For example tomatoes, tomato juice, tomato sauce,  pizza sauce, bbq sauce, fruits,  relishes and pickled foods like cucumber pickles and pickled peppers. The relishes and pickled foods generally have vinegar which makes them acidic enough to water bath can. An acidic environment inhibits bacteria growth. 

There is some initial investment to canning and some thereafter like lids, but we can keep the costs down by accepting free jars and getting the best deals on lids and rings or caps and clips. I've found many at yard sales and thrift stores. 

Granite ware pots are usually what is used and come in different sizes, but a heavy stock pot deep enough that your jars can be covered with water will do. And this is why it's called the water bath method. Your jars of food are boiled in the water for a certain length of time to ensure that not only is the jar sealed, but to become hot enough to kill off any bacteria if any is present which is usually from dirt believe it or not so make sure what your canning is washed really well.  You cannot see botulism. Also a funnel and jar lifter are helpful. 

Do you want to try canning and haven't yet? Water bathing is so easy and a good start. Tomatoes are so easy and can be used in so many ways. so if your wanting to add to your pantry like Nana did this would be one of the ways. Another plus is if you are able to can,  is if the next year's garden isn't good or there is some income loss it is security. It is also becomes one of the items we don't have to buy at the grocery store unless we choose to as a back up. 
I recommend starting off with a batch of something easy just to get the hang of maybe some tomatoes or applesauce? Also when you do can some foods eat them! Don't just leave them on the shelf or toss them later use them up otherwise you will not know what you like or dislike. As long as your fruits and veggies are washed well and you follow the proper canning time and instructions there is no limit to what you can do in your own kitchen! 

Canning for me was like soap making.  Everything I was worried about turned out to be easy.  So then I was thinking "why oh why did I take so long to start!"
So if this is something that would help you make the most of fruit that comes your way then put the word out that you are starting! I did this and jars in all shapes and sizes began to come my way then even a canner!   Ball and Fowlers Vacola have very easy to follow instructions and videos on their web sites.

If you make the most of any produce you can get your hands on this will likely last you for many months.  Sometimes we have to learn new recipes and new ways to set something to good use.  It can be a new challenge.  I am waiting to see what I end up with this season.  I am thinking I will have a lot of apples, quinces and figs.  But you just never know what else.   I am happy to make jams, relish, sauces,  can some, make pies, cobblers, crumbles, muffins,  dry some for snacks...   Also I am happy to put everything aside and work all day and into the night if needed... which sometimes is if you have soft fruit and time is running out!  

There are many ways to preserve the fresh produce of the season.  I think many of us have been heavily dependant on the freezer, I know I have.  Then we have the issue of the freezer is full!  The power goes off!   So I think the more we can diversity the way we preserve the better.  Canning is going to save me a lot of freezer space.  It is also going to be find if we have an extended power outage.  My dried foods are also in this category.  So there is an advantage to having your jars ready to fill.

I have had great success with just putting the word out that I want to can and  that I am looking for supplies.   I say do this with the fact that you are wanting fruit and produce too!   Ask and you shall receive!  If you see fruit falling to the ground knock at the door and ask to pick it.   
The other day Mum and I were driving to see the girls.  As we turned a corner of a little country road I spotted an apple tree!    Covered in small apples!   It is not on private property but the road side.  You can be betting I will be inspecting it each week and hoping to pick the apples!  I never go anywhere without a basket in my car!

What are your favourite methods of preserving?   Do you have something in abundance each year that could be put to better advantage?   Also do you have any tips on saving money on preserving equipment or methods? This is an area we can really save and get ahead in.

Now for my own Vicky Challenge this week.

I was given two large pot plants and 21 rooted cuttings of succulents and Aloe Vera plants.    So this week was wonderful as far as my "stop buying pot plants" challenge.   I estimate all of this would have usually cost around $230 to buy at our local nursery.  You can bet I am counting these savings!
I also got busy the minute I got home and planted it all and water them in.  Now we have had all this rain I think my new plants will take off.  It was a lot to add to the garden in one week and I filled some bare spots.

I saved $36 on coffee.

My sachets cost around $1 each to make (for the lavender) and a few cents each for the rose.   When I convert them to gift value the savings are just enormous.  Pretty lavender sachets in the gift store are at least $10 each and I have seem them up to $30.  Then I think the value of having gifs in the cupboard rather than rushing to the store is a saving too.  When we need a gift, and fast, I think this is when it is easy to totally blow the budget!

My homemade pizzas were so very cheap and a big savings there.

My 7 dozen eggs for the week save at least $30 a week even considering chicken feed.  I turn this saving into more by bartering with my eggs and making so many homemade goodies.

The essential oil roller balls and sprays I made up were a significant saving.  Now I am set up each time I make up a roller I am probably saving close to $30.  I can make up a set as a gift that might be worth $100 from an Essential Oil website or shop yet it has cost me a tenth or less of that price.

How did your challenge go?  
I am so happy to catch up as I felt my internet might never work again!  But I think it was just so much storm and electrical activity that took it out!   I will get a bit of sewing in this afternoon and make an impossible pie for dinner.  I call that a good day! xxx


  1. Dearest Annabel, your preserves and sachets look just gorgeous !! Here in nsw everyone is using surgical masks which actually don't work ! Masks need to have a filter the P 92 kind recommend during the fires. I have mine but know as a child of God I will be protected, and only 9 cases of hundreds arriving each day from China. Now that's not to say I'm complacent but it just puts fear into people from the media storm. I think handwashing is key !! Santitiser here has run out off the shelves. I am using wipes I got at ALDI. Got a big pack for $2. No rain here but a massive heatwave. Cold salads and water is my staple. I didn't get into nursing. I desperately need to move out of my council flat. The neighbourhood is dire. Poverty and drugs around worse than ever is bringing me down. I am applying for jobs like crazy. Please pray with me at this time so I can move onto a life that God means for me. I know his plans for me are good !! Jeremiah 29:11. I love all your little goals. I know you are far across the country but I'm so blessed to call you friend ! And be part of this online community. Blessings, Sonia

    1. Hi Sonia, I put you on my prayer list for a good job so you will be able to move and improve your life. I know he has great plans for you!

    2. Hi everyone. Annabel, I know where to go when I need encouragement and ideas! Your photos and words are so inspiring and I feel the same way about all the contributors here. Thank you all!
      My favorite preservation method is pressure canning. There's more work involved but being able to preserve meats and veggies long-term is worth it. I like my dehydrator for drying herbs and spices plus small amounts of veggies and fruits that don't warrant using canning methods. This week I experimented with drying lemons and I made candied orange peel. I like the results. These are some ways I saved money this week:
      1. Signed up for free 30 day Amazon Prime and saved shipping on a new printer I needed for my office (printer was also on sale but I don't count that as savings)..................................................$20
      2. Used Amazon awards points towards a set of chalkboard paint and stickers I plan to use for future crafts.........$8
      3. Grocery store savings (coupons and sales)..............$9
      4. Ordered a magnesium supplement online and saved........$7
      5. I used wood racks to dry laundry instead of the clothes
      dryer. I had quite a few kitchen scraps for the chicks plus
      I gave them greens from weeding the garden. This saves quite
      a bit on our feed bill. I need to step it up on savings this
      month as my husband said a lot of our stored-up batteries had
      gone bad and he spent $88 on new batteries. Yikes! I almost
      fainted :D.

    3. Dear Sonia!

      I pray that the Almighty will continue to guide you. As He closes doors for you, may He also open the right doors to help you in His ways!


    4. Dear Pam,
      I am glad you feel encouraged!! You in turn are encouraging me to pressure can. The savings on the shipping were very good! It is important to have good batteries. One thing is to keep them separate so if one goes bad it doesnt corrupt them all, which can happen. The good news now is batteries have a longer shelf life than they used to. Many are good for around 10 years. I also am saving on chook food by everything from pulling weeds for them, saving scraps, Lucy even saves her scraps to send home with me... I also pick up the leaves at the grocery store and get a bagful for free. Basically anything I can think of! It all saves! Some grocery and fruit and veg stores will let you have boxes of scraps. Pat in Ohio does this and she said some of that they throw out is too good for the chickens! So ask everywhere just incase you could get a deal going with a local shop. This can amount to a lot!
      Well done for your week Pam! With love,

    5. Dear Sonia, Thank you for sharing the situation in Sydney. I saw on tv everyone wearing masks. I didnt know even hand sanitiser had sold out! I am praying for you to get a job in a perfect location for you!! Good luck too! Now I do know many country towns are having trouble getting people to come out of the city. So apply apply!! Bless you in your search and effort to get away from the inner city problems. I am praying and hoping so much! With love,

  2. Hello, Annabel!

    Your preserves look fabulous! I have not even been to the store yet this week, so I guess I've saved my grocery money so far. lol. I will be going soon though!

    My favorite method of preserving is canning! I think pressure canning is my favorite because you can preserve so much with this method, but I do enjoy water bath canning as well. I am hoping to do more dehydrating this year, too.

    Have a wonderful week!

    1. Dear Jennilee,
      You are ahead of me in canning as I have not done pressure canning yet. I do like dehydrating. I am doing this more and more especially with my herbs. Many thanks! With love

  3. I have never bottled anything but I will attempt it in a very small scale way this year. I have a large pressure cooker which I intend using.
    My biggest saving this week was in adapting one of my bags to become more usable for me, I'm calling the saving £40 because that was the cost of the bag, without shipping, that I very nearly ordered. I used stuff I already had or pillaged from an old bag.
    I walked a LOT this week, saving a fair bit too.
    Again, my savings are not huge, but they certainly add up.

    1. Dear Su,
      Well done on adjusting your bag to work for you! This was a good saving! Yes they really do up, large and small, they are amazing. Well done. With love

  4. I am happy for you that you have discovered canning and enjoy it so much! I enjoy all the methods of putting food by. Even though I have to pay full price at the grocery for some items it is smart to not waste those items. We never eat peppers quickly enough so I chop or slice and freeze within a day of purchase and then just use the exact amount needed. I really like having pressure canned meat on my shelved for quick and easy meals and canning dry beans is so easy and they are so delicious and buttery.

    I am counting $1900 in savings by having some dental work done before I lose dental insurance. It has been a rough week of healing but I am glad to have it over with and mostly paid for by the insurance. I got up this morning and so wanted to go out for pancakes which costs $28 for Hubby and I. We cooked at home for a total cost of $2.50 for a savings of $25.50 and eight pancakes went in the freezer for another day. I stocked the freezer with 3 dozen muffins for a savings of $25 over buying them from a bakery. I earned $85 in gift cards from Swagbucks in January. I purchased an additional USA Pan muffin tin using those earnings for a savings of $16. I like those pans because they never burn the muffins.

    Have a great week!

    1. Dear Lana,
      I do this with peppers and for the same reason! But the frozen chopped bits go so nicely into a casserole.
      It is very good to get your dental work done now. But painful I am sure!
      Significant savings! Pancakes are so nice and so easy. This is one treat we can do at home. Also I find I use jams I have made on them too so double the enjoyment. Your Swagbucks were great! A very good week Lana! With love

  5. Our food expenditure for January including groceries purchased and meals purchased out, was just 46% of our 2019 monthly average. Excellent for us!!!

    Hubby lost 10# and I lost 11# on our new high protein/low carb eating challenge. We plan to do this through March. We certainly have eaten pasta and some bread but they are no longer staples in our diet.

    All of my other low expenses are my long-term habits so I don't consider those savings.

    1. Elle,
      You did fantastic! You saved over half good job!

    2. Dear Elle!

      You have excelled yourself, and that is what this is all about! Beautiful!


    3. Dear Elle,
      You did wonderfully for January! That is a lot! Also on the weight loss challenge! That is amazing! I know for me it is carbs that are my problem. They are just so addictive if I have a bit I want more! If you can stick to it the results are fantastic! I think this is a great start to your year!! Well done! With love Annabelxxx

  6. I think my main achievement was not buying some items. I thought long and hard and decided against them. This saved me $90. I am eating down the food in pantries and freezers. I feel the need for a fresh start with some items.

    1. Dear Suzan, Giving ourselves time to think over purchases can lead to big savings. Many times I find another way to do something and this is a saving. Well done! Love

  7. Dear Annabel, the photos of the fruit and the preserves are the prettiest pictures! Thank you also to Vicky for your wonderful depth of knowledge. It is something that I would really like to do. I love hearing about this! Thank you so much, Annabel! Lots of love, Bridge XXX

    1. Bridge,
      Once you can your first batch you will love it! And we will cheer you on.

    2. Dear Bridge, Do ask around in the family and friends as your Nan probably had canning stuff. What is stored in old sheds can be wonderful if you are lucky enough. I feel the space saved in the freezer is very handy. Also ask in the op shops and let the staff know you are looking for canning supplies... and buy swap and sell. I have been able to get going very cheaply. This is what I think... if we feel the nudge to do something God also helps supply what you need! I am also loving exploring ways to save and get ahead that a year ago I didnt do! With much love

  8. Sonia,
    I am praying you get a good job so you can move.

  9. Annabel,
    I'm so happy your canning. You like me share a lot of goodies and jars of food that someone can put up and not necessarily have to use right away is always appreciated. Plus when it's your winter you'll have your own tomatoes and such in your pantry to use.
    My drying rack got a good work out this week, but with the wood burner going most things don't take all day to dry. The cost of electric went up again here just as I was getting it down. So I have to budget an extra $20 a month for electric costs.
    Rick loved the brown paper Christmas we had and got a bunch of Christmas items on clearance for .25. He saved $8.
    I got a free can of deodorant and a free bottle of conditioning combing cream in the mail. $6 and $11
    I got 4 good perfume samples in the mail $5 and one is your Flower bomb scent so now I know what you smell like haha!
    Our ladies gave us 3 dozen eggs $6
    We got two rebates in the mail $21.68 and $3.78
    My son made my birthday cake instead of buying one. Lol it is the most lopsided cake, but much loved and I'm proud of him because he was going to buy a cake, but decided to join in on the Vicky challenge too in his own way. He learned last week with not paying $13 for donuts.
    I started on another hanger to put in the gift trunk and made a few small dust cloths. Addie likes to help do things when she comes so now she has a few little ones of her own.
    I hope everyone has a great weekend.

    1. Dear Vicky, I had great success drying bunches of herbs near the fire in winter. And it looked so nice too! It worked a treat! Free! (our favourite price!)
      It is so nice how Rick proffered the old fashioned brown paper and string. I love the look of it myself.
      I love Flowerbomb! That is a divine perfume.
      It is very sweet your son make your cake!! That is sweeter than any bought one! A good week! I hope you have had a wonderful birthday! With love

  10. Dear Annabel I love reading your weekly blogposts and wait impatiently each Friday for a new post.Annabel I would love a post on making preventative herbal mixes like those you talk about especially given the outbreak of a new dangerous virus.
    Re bottling/canning you have reawakened a new interest for me ; my parents bottled all their own fruit and I now am going to try my hand at it.

    1. Dear Virginia!

      In the Bluebirds archives is a folder on Home Pharmacy - essential oils....

      You might find this helpful.

      Also, a Bluebirds’ friend, Jes, has a web archive called “Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth” blogspot, which also features accessible home pharmacy projects, making home remedies from scratch with medicinal herbs.

      Enjoy the bottling challenge! It is wonderful!


  11. Dear Annabel and Vicky,
    I really enjoyed reading the post on canning. I do both water bath and pressure canning and dehydrating and, of course, freezing.

    Annabel, your sachets are beautiful, as is the crocheted grocery bag. Years ago, before someone came up with a pattern for it I took apart a plastic grocery bat and made a pattern from it and made reuseable bags from my fabric stash . Since they were just like the plastic ones they fit on the apparatus that the stores use and can be packed like the bags that they are now charging money for.

    This week was a relatively quiet one. I made more chicken tika masala, 2 quarts of seafood bisque, which in a resturant here is about $4 per cup so I figured with using after expenses of the things I had on hand there was a savings of approximately $24. I made several freezer bags of hash brown potatoes from potatoes that needed using up, saving about $6.oo

    The biggest savings was in the craft area. One of the craft stores was having a huge sale on their cardstock with envelopes. I got 100 cards with envelopes, regularly $20 for $6.50, 250 cards with envelopes regularly $40 for $20, and 4 boxes of 50 cards with 50 envelopes of printed cards with envelopes, regularly $10 each for $3.25 each., for a total this week of $96.00 Now, I off to start making valentine cards with some of my haul. Wishing everyone a lovely week ahead. Blessings, Cookie

    1. Dear Cookie,
      Yum your cooking sound beautiful. I really love tike masala. Wow what a deal on the cards and envelopes! These will keep you going for a while. His is a big savings. Plus you will have a lot of fun with them!
      I cannot wait to see what you come up with for Valentines Day! I hope your new week has started off well! With much love

  12. The BEST part of preserves? Controlling the sugar that goes into jam and syrup. I use 1/6th the sugar called for in berry preserves. They taste great!

    And no chemicals. Reading ingredient lists is rarely a lesson in real foods. :-(

    1. Dear Elle!

      I have reduced sugar in jam, and preferred it, too. Then there is the no-sugar option of using fruit concentrates as the sweetener. I have not done this. Of course, many fruits can be preserved in water only, so this is another option! Berries can be preserved like this for use later on in baking!

      I like your way of thinking!


  13. Dear Annabel,
    I am glad that you are canning. This will add so much to your pantry and preparedness. Like you, I let people know I can and I end up getting a lot of jars for free or very cheaply.
    I will say our biggest savings these past two weeks is from the three deer that Colton harvested. I water bath can, but we had been wanting to pressure can venison for a long time and finally overcame the intimidation and did it. It was so easy and I wish we hadn't waited so long! When we sampled a jar of it for supper, it was so delicious that we decided Colton was going hunting again the next morning so we could have more. We ended up with 28 pints for the pantry and about 58 pounds for the freezer, all for the cost of a $35 hunting license.
    Another huge savings we had was in discovering a HUGE mulch pile while we were driving around town. It was on school property where the maintenance guys dump all of the branches, leaves, and apparently wood chips. It had been there for a long time because it was very nicely composted. We asked permission to take it home and they gladly gave it. Three truckloads later and there is still more for us to go back and get as needed! This will help our garden tremendously. So savings on the mulch, savings for growing our own food, and savings for not needing a gym membership because that was quite a workout loading (and then unloading) mulch one shovel at a time lol.
    I hope everyone has a good week!
    Love, Kelsey

    1. Dear Kelsey,
      Wow on the deer!! Well done to Colton! That is a lot of meat and supplies! I am sorry to be slow to reply and now I have seen this I am so excited for you! Meat is VERY expensive here and becoming more and more expensive. So a freezer full of meat is a huge asset.
      The mulch was another bonus! How good for your garden. The work involved is so worth it!
      I cant imagine your savings for the week but they are huge! I loved hearing this I am so pleased for your Kelsey! With much love

  14. Dear Annabel,

    I finally got a chance to check in here with my progress last week. I am so happy you are now canning with a water bath! We love canned peaches! I water bath can and pressure has saved us a fortune over the years and the food is so much better than its canned equivalent from the store!

    This last week I: made a couple of birthday cards; made a concerted effort to eat from stores on hand, which halved the grocery budget for the week (to help have $$ to go for a very expensive car repair); made a couple of huge batches of muffins, which have been portioned out in the freezer for lunch goodies; knit myself a scarf to update my winter wardrobe...from my stash; did some more painting on the bathroom door/frame from paint I had on hand from a reno last year; cut my hubby's hair; made cookies for lunches; sold 7 doz. eggs and gave 2 doz. away; hubby bottled a batch of beer.

    I now have a second sick person in the house, just as the first is beginning to feel better. More chicken noodle soup tomorrow!

    Love, Jen in NS

    1. Dear Jen!

      Thank you, as always, for your informative comment! Your canned peaches sound delicious (we get fruit fly badly here), and your hubby’s beer making sounds quite the craft!

      Seven dozen eggs is a great tally for your sales! We’d love to see the scarf you knitted for yourself!

      You add such depth to the discussion! Thank you!


  15. Sonia, I am writing to you from the middle of the USA in Missouri. I am praying now for you to find a good job and to be able to move to a safe location. In Jesus' name.
    God bless!
    Laura Lane
    Harvest Lane Cottage

    1. Thank you, Laura!

      Prayer can move mountains!


  16. I have several bags of jalapenos and cucumbers in my freezer that I didn't have the time and energy to deal with in our summer (northern hemisphere USA). I'm going to try to make jam or jelly sometime in the next week or so.
    who is getting more sewing done since I joined the 52 week sewing challenge!

  17. Dear Laura!

    This is wonderful - that you are thriving with the 52 week sewing challenge!

    Your work with jalapeños and cucumbers sounds wonderful!!

    It’s inspiring to share these industrious activities!! Thank you!!


  18. Just concerned about the storms, flooding and wind y'all are getting nailed with right now. Praying you are safe!


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