Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Friendly Thanks

My lovely friend Becky over at All My Sisters/We Are Family has changed my life.

First, it was canning. Annalee and I spent a day over at Becky's house with the girls last spring. As we were preparing to leave, Becky gave me a homemade, canned jar of BBQ sauce. I'm sure she didn't think much of it. But, I took that jar home and got to thinking. And, I thought even more about it after I became a happy hausfrau.

I started thinking about how cool it would be to can my own stuff. I could make jams - I love jam! I could make pickles, like my mom and my grandma used to make. I could make foods for my family with fresh, local produce from farmers' markets purchased in season. (I was also reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver around the same time.)

So, as I am apt to do, I went to the library and took out a whole lot of books about canning. And, I read like crazy. Then I asked Becky a lot of questions. Then, I went to a local orchard and picked fresh strawberries and bought local honey. I went to my friend's house and picked rhubarb. After all that, I took the plunge: I made a batch of jam and a batch of preserves. And, they were good!

Becky came over a week after my first round of canning, and we made two more kinds of jams. Since that time, I've been buying fresh strawberries, raspberries and blueberries and freezing them - to the point that my chest freezer in the garage is nearly full.

A couple weeks ago, I was itchin' to make pickles. So, I took Annalee to a farmers' market that we hadn't been to before, and we bought cucumbers and dill and garlic. I made two different kinds of pickles. They're still setting up, so I can't say how good they are, but I sure liked the way canning them made my kitchen smell like my childhood.

As wonderful as it is to make and taste these fresh canned goods, I think I love giving jars of my homemade jams away to friends even more. People get so excited over homemade stuff!

So, if canning was the first way that Becky has changed my life, there must be a second way, right? Yes, indeedy. While I was at Becky's making peach jam a few weeks ago, I noticed a weekly menu planning sheet on her refrigerator. I asked her about it, found the planners at Heavenly Homemakers and printed a few out.

Can I just say OMG! these things have made meal planning and grocery shopping a breeze! I start with my calendar and jot down on the weekly planner the scheduled activities we have, if Ron will be home for dinner, what I might be doing during the day that would impact my dinner prep time, etc. Then, I come up with ideas for dinners. I plug them in on the planner. For instance, for this week, I knew I was going to be canning today, so I didn't want to make a dinner where I'd have to be standing at the stove or grill to cook. So, I planned ribs in the crock pot.

After I have the week's menu, I flip the sheet over and make out my shopping lists for the grocery market and farmers' markets I frequent. When I shop, I buy just what we need. And, when I start to cook, I have all the ingredients necessary to complete my meals. Truly, these menu planners have done wonders to my sense of meal planning and organization.

So, to you Becky, I extend my heartfelt thanks. You have given me great inspiration. And, you have made my homemaking life even more happy! In time, I may even follow you on your $75 weekly grocery challenge.

1 comment:

Chinamama4 said...

Aw, shucks, Jackie - I'm blushing!

Seriously, though, I'm so glad I could share some ideas that have worked for me, and could introduce you to a "hobby" that has brought me so much enjoyment. I have gotten so many of my best parenting and homemaking ideas from other moms - I'm happy to be able to "pay it forward"!