Stocking up

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20190919tp FHI creason mug Scott Slade | The Times-Post

About a year and a half ago, many folks quickly started the practice of “stocking up.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many shelves in the grocery (and elsewhere) were empty, and the prices of the products available were much higher. Recently, the shelves have been almost back to normal, and some of the prices are returning to more reasonable levels.

But are things returning to those past times? On our last trip to the grocery, there were many empty shelves again. Is this a sign of upcoming shortages, or just poor delivery or stocking practices? Some staples, such as eggs, milk and bread, cannot be held for long before going bad. We seldom buy large quantities of paper products and other non-food items. I figure we can find them somewhere, and I don’t want to be one of those people who cause the shortages by overbuying.

But, we do stock up on some items.

Meat can be purchased when the prices are down (not recently!) and stored for a reasonable period of time.

Last fall, we purchased a half of a beef and a whole hog at a total cost of about one third what the grocery was charging.

We order these amounts at our two favorite meat processors, (Knightstown Locker, and Rihms Meats in Cambridge City).

Then, I purchased some raffle tickets at our recent Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation banquet. I won a seven cubic feet deep freezer (which I have no room for) and gift certificates in the amount of $250 each from the above two meat locations.

I sold the freezer for twice what I paid for the raffle tickets and still have the gift certificates to redeem.

Then, I got a Needler’s coupon for three pounds of hamburger for less than $6. I took it home, sliced it into burger-size patties, bagged it, and added it to my stock of meat in the freezer. It will go on the grill the rest of the summer.

Because of my diabetes, I eat very few sweets, but I make a lot of jam and jelly to give as gifts and for bartering.

Years ago, I bought a Ball Freshtech Jam & Jelly Maker. This outstanding appliance makes jam and jelly in a fraction of the time and effort my mother used to make her product.

I watch Needler’s ads and buy assorted berries in bulk when they come on sale. I used to go to U-pick farms and pick my own, and many folks choose to still go that way. I add classic pectin to the bottom of my jelly maker, crush the fruit and spread it over the pectin, and add a small amount of butter to prevent foaming. I press the start button, the timer automatically sets to 21 minutes and begins stirring and cooking. The machine beeps after four minutes, I add the sugar and place the lid on the pot. In 17 more minutes, the machine beeps and the jelly is done. I then finish the product by freezing, refrigerating or canning according to the instruction booklet.

It’s amazing what my friends will help me with for a jar of homemade jam and a loaf of my baked bread.

Since we gained a foothold in the weeds in the garden, it is looking good again. Eighteen bags of peas went into the freezer, and I just planted six more rows early this month. Like last year, my lima beans are loaded with blooms and pods. The pepper plants are doing great, but the tomatoes and zucchini are really thin.

We have two food dehydrators, which we have used for drying fruits and vegetables and making jerky since we were married. (Which was 50 years ago this month!) I have almost every attachment for my KitchenAid mixer to assist in all of my food processing chores.

Recently, we picked up 10 dozen ears of corn at our favorite corn spot on Huntsville Road between Huntsville and Madison Avenue. We get corn there every year and freeze it. We just finished shucking, blanching, cooling, cutting off cob, bagging and freezing it. We ended with 48 quart bags to last us until next summer. It is so good, we take a bag from the freezer, empty it into a pan, and warm it on the stove. We don’t add salt, pepper, butter or anything to it. It’s great the way it is.

If I see a great deal on apples, I will buy some of those, slice them and put them in my dehydrator to make dried apples. Pineapple is especially good dried. The flavor is concentrated as the water evaporates and tastes outstanding.

I hope most of our garden is finished and all the stocking up is done before the doctor schedules my upcoming heart surgery.

Rich Creason is an award-winning outdoors and travel writer whose work has appeared in local, regional, national and international publications for 40 years. Born in Anderson, he is a graduate of Markleville High School. He lives in South Madison County with his wife, Susie. He may be contacted at [email protected].