Jul 29, 2019

Weekend Links & Updates...Early...and Late!

The plum harvest has begun!
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

James 1: 2-4
My friends, I'm sorry I have been so absent from this blog. 2019 has been one heck of a year. Let me backtrack a little so you can get the big picture.

In February, just as I was finishing a book project for Dover Publications and planning to put in a big garden - I got a call that shook my world. My dad was going home from the hospital with hospice care. My husband, kids, and I drove out of state to be with him. We cared for him for about a week, but on the very day my husband took my kids home (he had to get back to his job), my dad died. I remained out of state for more than a month, looking after Dad's estate.

When I finally came home, I was utterly exhausted, but still dealing with SO MUCH PAPERWORK related to Dad's estate. And, on the same day my dad died, my husband's grandmother also had a terrible stroke; the family was trying to care for her in her home, then struggling to find a foster care situation for her, since her care was more than anyone in the family could handle.

In the meantime, Dover Publications sent me another contract. It was something I told them I would do before my Dad went home on hospice, and while most of me wanted to turn it down because I already had my hands too full, I knew the publisher was relying on me to fill a spot in their catalog. I didn't want to let them down. So I signed the contract and began working hard on finishing the job under a tight deadline.

Then my mom had a heart attack. And another. Docs put two stents in her arteries, which were 90% blocked. And today, she's had another heart attack.

And did I mention that I've been having some issues myself? The nausea, dizziness, vertigo, and passing out my doctor and I thought were related to my severe anemia last year have returned. Oy.

I completely trust in the Lord, but this is all still pretty stressful. All I really want to do is cuddle my kids and enjoy summer with them.

So, the blog, writing for magazines, and a whole lot of other things have fallen by the wayside.

We did go to the county fair last weekend...the first fun family thing we've done since...I can't even remember. And I have taken up sewing again - purposefully making time for fun, easy, cheerful projects. (I've been on an apron-making spree, as you can see from the photos below.)
From a 1980s pattern: McCall's 608
From a reprint of a 1940s pattern: Simplicity 8571.
From a 1940s pattern: Advance 5998. It's my new orchard harvesting apron and it works GREAT!
(If all these aprons put you in the mood to make one yourself, check out The Best FREE Apron Patterns on the Net.)

So...that's why I haven't posted. But for those of you who don't follow the blog on Facebook, I thought I'd take a few minutes and share my news and some interesting links. I hope you enjoy them!

First harvest out of any consequence this year.
* Even though I didn't get a big garden in this year, my husband did build a beautiful asparagus bed. I got the asparagus planted and it's doing well! But because the asparagus is still young and relatively small, I also planted beets, radishes, turnips, and carrots in the same bed. Yesterday was my first harvest off this garden. Isn't it lovely? In the basket you'll also see a few greenhouse tomatoes, a bell pepper, and some yellow and red plums.

* My dad had several small mandarin trees he started from seed. I brought them home with me, and we'll see if they survive our cooler climate. Here are some great tips on growing citrus in cooler-climate areas.

* I get bored cooking and eating the same things over and over, so I like to regularly try new recipes. Here is something I made for the first time last week. Everyone loved it, including my chicken-hating husband! Spicy Chicken with Cauliflower Rice. I may change up the seasonings for the cauli-rice, however, since it was too cauliflowery for my kids ;)

* Being a canning "rebel" has consequences. Often it's children or the elderly you're putting at risk, but in a recent case, it was the canner herself who nearly died. Follow the rules, people. Proper canning isn't hard. There's no excuse.

* Gripe water is a safe, old timey remedy for colicky babies. Here's how to make your own.

* I cringe when I see people asking what type of poisions to use in their gardens. There are a lot of effective ways to get rid of weeds without using RoundUp. Here are a few.

* A few reasons your children should have their own garden.

* Do you participate in Operation Christmas Child? Here are some great tips for doing so most effectively.

* Such a wonderful story: "A Group of Lions Save Christians" 

* I saw this and HAD to have one. Wore it to my last doctor's appointment and my doctor LOVED it,
too! (He tells me I should be the poster child for getting diabetic blood sugars under complete control...You might want to read How I Reversed My Diabetes, if you or someone you love is suffering from diabetes.)

* An article I recently wrote for Backwoods Home magazine: How to hatch chicks with a broody hen.

Oldies But Goodies:

* Keeping the House Cool in Summer (With or Without AC) 

* The 7 Wonders of the World Homeschool Project 

* Low Sugar, No Added Pectin Blackberry Jam 

* Canning Pickled Green Beans (Dilly Beans)

Jun 26, 2019

How to Make a Salve - with a Plantain Salve Recipe

How to Make a Plantain Salve
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information.

The simplest way to begin making herbal medicine is to dry herbs and use them in teas or decoctions (the latter are very much like teas, except they use more heat to draw out the medicinal properties of tougher plant materials, such as roots). Another easy method of making traditional plant medicine is to create a salve - a sort of medicinal lotion. This post will show you how to make a plantain salve, but the steps are the same no matter what herb or combination of herbs you choose to use.

First, Why Plantain?

When most people think of plantain, they think of bananas, but in the world of herbs, plantain refers to a common weed found growing in the cracks of city sidewalks, in suburban lawns, and in rural locations. There are two types of plantain in North America: Plantago major, which has broad leaves:

Plantago major.
and Plantago lanceolata, which has narrow leaves:

Plantago lanceolata.
Click here to read a previous post on the medicinal properties of plantain.

Recently, I decided I needed a plantain salve in my life because I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes and spiders. I know from past experience that crushing a plantain leaf and applying it to bites and stings works amazingly well at removing discomfort and pain, all while encouraging healing. But it's not always convenient to hold a wad of leaves against the skin. A salve is easier to apply, quick to grab off the shelf, and doesn't require that a plantain plant growing nearby.

Gathering broadleaf plantain leaves.
Part One: Drying the Herb

To ensure the salve doesn't become moldy, it's important to dry the herb before moving on to step two. Sometimes you can get away with just partially drying the herb. I recommend this sometimes in my book The Ultimate Dandelion Medicine Book, for example. But for beginners, or when dealing with an especially wet herb, I highly recommend drying the plant thoroughly.

It's possible to air dry herbs, but to get true medicinal value from them, it's vital they hang upside down (in a small bundle secured by a rubber band or string) in a dark, cool location. Drying them in the sun or in a hot location results in discolored herbs that have lost much of their medicinal properties and flavor.

Drying herbs in a good electric dehydrator is easier and, if done correctly, probably retains more of the herb's medicinal properties. You don't need a dehydrator that costs hundreds of dollars, either. I love my Nesco American Harvest, even after a decade of use. It's never let me down and does the job just as well as an expensive machine. But whatever dehydrator you use, it should have a temperature controller that goes as low as 95 degrees F.

1. Lay the herb (in this case, plantain leaves) on the trays of the dehydrator. They will dry more quickly if they are in a single layer, not touching, but it's okay to just spread them thinly on the trays. (By the way, you can always buy more trays for your Nesco, to increase capacity.)

Dried plantain leaves.

2. Set the temperature to 95 degrees F. (This temperature ensures relatively quick drying while also ensuring the herb's medicinal properties and flavor are not compromised.) Don't pay attention to people or articles that tell you dehydration will be finished in a certain prescribed amount of time. There are way too many variables (including the humidity in your house) to say how long the process will take. The herb is done when there is zero trace of moisture when you break a leaf, flower, stem, or root. To speed drying time, always rotate the trays of the dehydrator, even if the manufacturer says you don't have to. For more dehydrating tips, click here.

3. If you won't be going on to part 2 ("Creating the Oil") right away, allow the herb to cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight glass jar in a cool, dark location. Be sure to mark the jar with the name of the herb and the date.

You may stop the medicine-making process here and drink the dried herb as a tea or decoction. Some herbs can also be rehydrated and used in a poultice (a wet mixture applied to the skin), though it's better to use fresh herbs for that application.

Part Two: Creating the Oil

1. Fill a quart-sized glass jar with the dried herb, crushing or chopping it first to help release its medicinal properties. Really stuff the jar full, all the way to the first screw band on the jar.

2. Pour oil over the herb. Most herbalists agree the best choice is olive oil; although some people use coconut or other oils, these are more likely to mold. If you won't be making a salve, but instead will be consuming the oil (obviously only using an herb that's safe to consume), you'll also want to make sure to use a good-quality, natural oil and not a highly processed, unhealthy oil.

Plantain leaves covered in olive oil.
3. Cover the jar with a lid. (If you've chosen to use the herb not fully dried, cover the jar with a double layer of cheesecloth; this allows water from the herb to evaporate.) Place the jar in a warm location, away from direct sunlight. Allow the mixture to steep 2 - 6 weeks. Ideally, shake the jar once a day.

You may also speed up the process by either simmering the oil and herb mixture over low heat for 30 minutes - 1 hour (using a non-reactive pan), or by heating the mixture in a crock pot set to LOW for 1 - 72 hours. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.

4. Strain the infused oil using a fine sieve or a strainer lined in a double layer of cheesecloth. Compost or otherwise discard the herb.

If you won't be moving on to part three ("Making the Salve" right away, store the oil in an airtight glass jar in a cool, dark location. Be sure to mark the jar with the type of herb and the date.

If desired, you may stop at the oil-making stage and use the oil topically - or for culinary purposes, as long as the herb is safe to eat. (Plantain is safe to consume.)

Part Three: Making the Salve

For every 1 cup of infused oil, you will need:

1/4 cup of beeswax pastilles* (If you prefer, you may instead use grated beeswax.)
Containers for the finished salve (I used these 1 oz. cans, but 4 oz. canning jars work, too.)

Beeswax pastilles.
1. If you have a stainless steel double broiler insert, use that. If not, use a quart-sized canning jar. (It really must be a canning jar, since it must be resistant to breaking in hot water.) Place a small pan of water on the stove, and insert either the double broiler or the clean canning jar in the middle of it.

2. Pour the beeswax pastilles into the jar or double broiler. Now pour the infused oil over the beeswax.

3. Turn the heat to low and gradually warm the water. Stir the contents of the jar or double broiler occasionally, keeping a close eye out for when the beeswax suddenly melts. When this happens, immediately remove the canning jar or double broiler from the stove and turn off the heat.
Stirring the mixture of beeswax and oil.
4. Very carefully (so as not to burn yourself) pour the mixture into containers. Allow the containers to cool until they are room temperature, then secure the lids on the containers.
Preparing to pour the beeswax mixture into salve containers.
Allowing the salve to coo
The finished salve.
5. Mark the containers with the type of salve and the date. (I just used painter's tape and a Sharpie, but if you'll be giving the salve away as a gift, you'll probably want to use a nice-looking sticker-type label.)

Always mark the finished salve with a name and date.

* For a softer salve, use a little less beeswax. For a firmer salve, add a little more.

To Use the Salve

Using clean fingers, apply externally to the affected area. In the case of the plantain salve, apply to bug bites, stings, or minor abrasions.

I am not a doctor, nor should anything on this website (www.ProverbsThirtyOneWoman.blogspot.com) be considered medical advice. The FDA requires me to say that products mentioned, linked to, or displayed on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this web site is designed for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for qualified medical advice or care. There are no assurances of the information being fit or suited to your medical needs, and to the maximum extent allowed by law disclaim any and all warranties and liabilities related to your use of any of the information obtained from the website. Your use of this website does not constitute a doctor-patient relationship. No information on this website should be considered complete, nor should it be used as a substitute for a visit to, consultation with, or the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider.


Jun 18, 2019

Healthy No-Noodle Goulash - Keto, Low Carb, LCHF, Gluten Free Recipe

Keto Goulash, Low carb, LCHF, Gluten Free Recipe
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information.

When I was a kid, my mom loved to serve her family something she called "noodle roni:" a simple dish made of margarine (back when science told us it was healthier than real butter! Ugh!), macaroni noodles, and tomato juice. (I posted the recipe years ago; you can see it here.) It was a frugal meal, perfect for tight times. But to my mom's kids (including me!), who had no clue about household budgeting, noodle roni was simply a favorite. It was what we wanted when we were fighting a cold. It was comfort food. And years later, when I married and had kids, noodle roni became one of their favorites, too.

Then, near the end of 2017, after about a decade of feeling ill yet not getting real help from any doctor, I found a new M.D. who finally gave me some answers. "You're diabetic," he said. "I can put you on insulin and blood sugar lowering meds, or you can go on a keto diet." Keto? Or Needles? That was an easy choice! And it's a choice I've never regretted. While others I know are following the American Diabetes Association way of eating and progressively becoming more ill, my body is healing. Within months of starting keto, my blood sugar was normal (my last A1C was better than my doctor's), my autoimmune disease went into remission, my cholesterol and blood pressure normalized, and I lost 45 lbs. (Learn more about reducing blood sugar through a therapeutic keto diet here.)

But let's be honest: Going keto means giving up certain foods. It helps to know those foods are slowly killing you (!), but still, I missed noodle roni. Doing a little research online, I discovered most people don't call the dish noodle roni - they call it "goulash." Turns out, the dish is based on Hungarian stew and Americans have tweaked it into a tomato and noodle dish. I could have made the meal just by omitting the noodles: tomato juice, butter, and ground beef are all keto. But I didn't think it would be very filling. After a lot of time spent browsing Pinterest, I decided cabbage would make a good substitute for the noodles, rounding out the dish nicely.

My husband and I now actually think this healthy goulash is better than Mom's noodle roni. (Sorry, Mom!) My picky eater kids love it, too. So whether you want comfort food, or food to make you feel better when you're getting sick, or a frugal meal to fit into a tight budget, I hope you'll enjoy this healthy goulash, too!

https://sites.google.com/site/proverbs31womanprintables/healthy-no-noodle-goulashHealthy, No-Noodle Goulash Recipe

2 lbs. ground beef
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (25 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoons coconut aminos (or soy sauce, if not strict keto)
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 tablespoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 cabbage, cored and sliced into thin strips

1. Place a large pot of medium-high heat and add the ground beef, breaking it into small pieces with a large spoon or fork.

2. When the beef is no longer pink, pour in the onion and garlic and sautée until tender.

3. Stir in the tomato sauce, tomatoes, coconut aminos, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium heat.

4.  A handful at a time, add the cabbage, stirring well after each addition. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring once in a while (to prevent scorching), until cabbage is tender.

Nutritional Information: It's always smart to calculate your own nutritional information using the exact products you cook with. However, the approximate nutrition per serving for this dish is, according to LoseIt!: Calories 448,  Fat 23.2g, Carbohydrates 12.8 g, Fiber 2g, Protein 35.3g 

May 22, 2019

9 Ways to Preserve Eggs

How to Preserve Eggs
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information.

It's the time of year when every chicken keeper begins wondering "What am I going to do with all these eggs?" If you've had your fill of scrambled eggs, omelets, frittatas, quiches, meringues, custards, and other egg-laden dishes, here are nine ways to preserve those eggs for later use. After all, just as spring is the season of egg glut, winter is the season of egg famine. Wouldn't it be great to have preserved eggs for those times when your hens aren't laying well?

First, a Note about Egg Condition

Before we delve into how to preserve eggs, it's important to understand that only eggs with intact shells should be stored long term. Any cracks, chips, or holes in the eggs allow bacteria to get inside, compromising the safety of the food. In other words: Such eggs could make you very, very sick.

If I find damaged eggs in our hens' nesting boxes, I typically feed them immediately to our dog. Cooked right away, and cooked thoroughly, they are probably safe for human consumption, but I cannot recommend that practice.

In addition, when preserving eggs, it's always best to keep each egg's "bloom" - that is, the natural protective coating on the outside of the egg shell. This is removed if you wash the eggs. Therefore, really dirty eggs are best consumed right away, or preserved only by freezing. Lightly dirty eggs may be preserved by first gently scraping them with a fingernail or brush to remove light soiling.

Unwashed eggs last a long time in the fridge.
Preserving Eggs in the Refrigerator (6 months - 1 year)

While it's true that unwashed eggs store safely on the counter, they last considerably longer - at least 6 months - if you refrigerate them. (Store bought eggs, which are washed with a chlorine solution, don't last as long. Read more about why I don't wash our homestead eggs, here.)

Personally, I like to store our hens' eggs in 18-count cardboard egg cartons. Mine are saved from back in the days before we had a homestead flock and I was still buying eggs at the grocery store; sometimes family members gift me their cardboard egg cartons, too. You can also buy unused cartons at feed stores or online. These containers last a long time - and when they finally do start falling apart, they compost well. Other options include plastic containers designed for storing eggs in the fridge.

To extend storage length, be sure to store eggs pointy end down. The reason for this is that there is an air pocket at the fat end of every egg. This pocket helps protect the yolk (which is more susceptible than the white of the egg) from bacteria. When eggs sit pointy end up, the air - and any bacteria in the egg - will rise, making the egg go bad more quickly. Also remember that washing eggs before refrigerating them may make them go bad more quickly; I only store unwashed eggs in our fridge.

I stack my cartons, oldest eggs on top, so I know which to use first. You may also wish to date each carton. When I'm ready to use eggs, if I have any question at all about their age, I do a simple water test to make sure they are perfectly safe to eat. (Click here to see how.)

Pros: Quick and easy; eggs can be used fresh; eggs last at least 6 months.

Cons: Takes up space in the refrigerator; requires electricity.

First, whip egg yolks and whites together.
Preserving Eggs in the Freezer (1 - 2 years)

Freezing extra eggs is another easy preservation method. Once thawed, frozen eggs can be used exactly like fresh eggs. To properly freeze eggs:

1. Break open one egg at a time and pour the contents into a bowl. Whip to mix, using an immersion blender (I use this one), a whisk, or a fork.

2. Frozen eggs can feel gritty once thawed. To help prevent that, stir in 1/2 teaspoon of salt for every egg. (You may also use 1 1/2 tablespoons of granulated sugar for every egg, but really, the last thing our society needs is more sugar, right?)

3. Pour the whipped eggs into the cups of an ice cube tray or silicone mold. Freeze until solid, then transfer to a freezer-proof, airtight container, like a Ziplock or vacuum sealer bag. If you put the frozen eggs in a single layer and vacuum seal them, the eggs will take up very little space and will stay good for a year or two. Or you can just pop them in a freezer bag without vacuum sealing and use them within a year.
In most cases, a frozen cube equals about 1 egg.
Ice cube trays vary, so if you think you'll need to know exactly how much frozen egg equals a fresh egg (say, if you plan to bake with them), test your trays: Whip up a single egg and pour it into one hole in your ice cube tray. If the egg fills the one hole, one cube equals one egg.

Before using the eggs, be sure to thaw them completely in the refrigerator.

Pros: Quick and easy method; eggs can be used like fresh; eggs store up to a year (without vacuum sealing) or two (with vacuum sealing).

Cons: Salt or sugar should be added for best quality; must wait for eggs to thaw before using; takes up freezer space; requires electricity; loss of electricity will make eggs go bad.

Preserving Eggs by Dehydrating (up to 1 year)
Dehydrating eggs at home.

Back in 2012, I learned many people were dehydrating eggs in electric food dehydrators. Not knowing this was a safety concern, I tried it. It was a complete flop. Not only were my dehydrated eggs terrible for baking (never giving the rise fresh eggs do), but they tasted awful when I rehydrated and scrambled them.

But the biggest reason to not dehydrate eggs at home is that the process may not kill salmonella or other, similar bacterias. In other words, it's not a perfectly safe preservation method. (Some people argue that as long as you cook the raw, re-hydrated eggs to 160 degrees F., they are safe to consume. But there are risks in handling and cross-contamination to consider, too.)
Dehydrated eggs aren't safe - or tasty.

In order to circumvent the bacteria issue, I also tried thoroughly cooking the eggs before dehydrating them. Because fat goes rancid in dehydrated products, it was necessary to cook them without any fat in a Teflon pan. (Click here to learn why Teflon is a bad idea.) I found the resulting dehydrated eggs had little flavor. In fact, they were just gross.

If you want to know the process, see The Prairie Homestead's post on the topic. In my experience, there are better - and safer - ways to preserve eggs.

Pros: None.

Cons: Not a safe preservation method; poor quality; requires electricity.

Preserving Eggs by Freeze Drying (20 - 25 years)

Freeze-dried eggs are the longest-lasting.

When you purchase dried eggs at the store, they are actually freeze dried, not dehydrated. (Click here to learn what the difference between the two is.) Freeze dryings is the only way to safely dry eggs at home.

For the cost of a refrigerator, we now have a home freeze dryer on our homestead - and I find I'm constantly using it to preserve eggs. (Please note: Harvest Right is currently the only manufacturer of consumer grade freeze dryers.) Here's how I do it:

1. Each of Harvest Right's medium freeze dryer trays easily holds about 12 eggs. Begin by whipping up one tray's worth of eggs. It's best to use an immersion blender for this job; if you don't get the whites and yolks blended well, the eggs may "burst" in the freeze dryer, causing a big mess.

2. Pour the blended eggs into one freezer dryer tray. To do this without spilling, I recommend putting the tray on a shelf in your regular freezer (like the one attatched to your fridge - not the freeze dryer itself), then pouring the prepared eggs into it. Slowly and carefully slide the tray back in your freezer. Repeat steps 1 and 2 with the remaining trays.

3. Allow the eggs to harden in the freezer; in the meantime, turn on the freeze dryer for about a half hour. (This allows the chamber to get good and cold so that when you insert trays of frozen food, they won't thaw.)

4. Transfer the trays of eggs to the freeze dryer. (You can just pop the trays immediately into the freeze dryer, without pre-freezing in your freezer, but you'll likely spill eggs in the Harvest Right, since it is designed to not sit level.)
Raw eggs going into the freeze dryer.
4. Run the eggs through the freeze dryer until completely dry and warm to the touch. Transfer to mylar bags, add an oxygen absorber, and seal the bags.
Eggs come out foam-like. Before cooking, powder and rehydrate with water.

Stored this way in a cool, dry location, the eggs should last 20 - 25 years. After rehydrating, use these eggs just like you would fresh. To rehydrate: Mix 2 tablespoons freeze dried egg (crumbled into a powder before measuring) with 2 tablespoons of water. If you'll be scrambling the eggs, add a little extra water (or milk or cream) to allow for evaporation.

It's also fine to cook the eggs (for example, scramble them) and then freeze dry them. Because they will contain some cooking fat, they probably won't last as long on the shelf. Most people agree they don't taste quite as good when they are cooked first, but they do make for a super-easy meal.

Pros: Easy method with little hands-on time; can use the eggs like fresh; can make a quick dish by just adding water; lasts up to 25 years.

Cons: Requires mylar bags and oxygen absorbers; requires electricity.

Preserving Eggs in Mineral Oil (6 months - 1 year)

Coating eggs in mineral oil.

This is a traditional method, but one that's been studied scientifically, and is still used on about 10% of store bought eggs (after the eggs have been washed - often in chlorine). To preserve eggs in this way, you will need food grade mineral oil (found online or in pharmacies).

I also recommend using gloves during this procedure because mineral oil is a petroleum byproduct and a known endocrine disruptor that raises estrogen levels in our bodies. This, in turn, is linked to cancer and many other health problems. Does the mineral oil seep into the egg itself? I've been unable to find an answer to that question. However, literature widely says chicken eggs are semipermeable, meaning moisture can pass through the shell. Will the oil pass through each egg's membrane? I honestly don't know. You'll have to decide.

In addition, it's important to note that this method of preservation works best on freshly laid eggs - ideally, eggs no more than 24 hours old.

1. Warm 1/4 cup of food grade mineral oil in a nonreactive pan and don some gloves.

2. Dab warmed mineral oil on your hands and pick up an egg. Cover the entire surface of the egg with mineral oil; it doesn't matter if the coating is thick or thin.

3. Place the egg in an egg carton, pointed end down.

4. Repeat until you've covered all the eggs (1/4 cup of mineral oil will cover 4 - 6 dozen eggs), then store the egg carton in a cool, dry location (like a cold cellar or garage) where the temperature stays 68 degrees F. or less (but is always above freezing). If the temperature gets warmer than that, the eggs won't last but a few weeks. You may also store the cartons in the refrigerator, the mineral oil extending the life of the eggs even longer than if stored without a mineral coating.

5. Flip the eggs over once a month. You cannot skip this step! However, to make it easier, you may simply (and carefully) turn over each egg carton.

Before using mineral coated eggs, be sure to conduct a water test to make sure they aren't bad.

By the way, a common question about this method is whether or not a different type of oil may be used. The answer is no. Other food safe oils will go rancid.

Pros: No electricity needed; eggs can be used like fresh; eggs last up to a year.

Cons: Mineral oil should be used with caution; may be unhealthy (although the FDA allows it on commercially sold eggs); requires rotating the eggs once a month.

Preserving Eggs in Water Glass (up to 5 months)

This was a common preservation method in the 19th century, said to keep eggs good for up to five months. Most people today have never heard of water glass, or its scientific name, sodium silicate (a naturally occurring mineral). Unfortunately, this chemical can cause serious breathing and lung issues if inhaled, can burn the digestive tract if consumed, and can burn the skin and eyes upon contact.

Again, I question whether sodium silicate seeps into eggs during storage; I feel there are better ways to preserve eggs. For instructions on how to water glass eggs, see this article.

Before using water glass eggs, conduct a water test to make sure the eggs aren't bad.

Pros: No electricity required; can use eggs like fresh.

Cons: Must be handled carefully; may be toxic.

Preserving Eggs in Slaked Lime (6 months - 1 year)
This is another old method, using calcium hydroxide (which is created when calcium oxide - a.k.a. lime) is mixed (i.e. "slaked") with water. For directions, click here.

Do note that food grade lime is potentially dangerous stuff. It's toxic when consumed in quantity, may cause skin and eye burns, and leads to life-threatening conditions if inhaled. Personally, I'm not comfortable with that in or around my food, even knowing that for decades, calcium hydroxide was used to crisp pickles.

Before using eggs in unslacked lime, conduct a water test to make sure they aren't bad.

Pros: No electricity needed; can use eggs like fresh.

Cons: Must be handled carefully; can be toxic.

Preserving Eggs by Pickling (4 months)
Pickled eggs, courtesy Green Mountain Girls Farm.
It's a myth that it's safe to can eggs - even pickled and canned eggs - at home. The truth is, canning eggs opens people up to botulism. (To learn more, see this CDC report.) So why can you buy canned pickled eggs at the grocery store? Because commercial canneries have different equipment and therefore different abilities than home canners.

That said, making pickled eggs to store in the fridge may extend the eggs' life a wee bit.

1. Hardboil the eggs using your favorite method. (What I do: Using a pin or sewing needle, poke one hole in the fat end of each egg; this makes fresh eggs easy to peel. Pour 1 cup of water in the bottom of a 6 qt. Instant Pot. Place a steamer basket inside the Pot, and stack eggs atop it. Steam for 5 minutes. Let the IP reduce pressure naturally for 4 minutes, then quick release and plunge eggs into cold water. Cool completely in the fridge before peeling.)

2. Peel each egg and place it in a freshly washed canning jar.

3. Choose a brine from The National Center for Home Food Preservation's website. Heat the brine to boiling, then simmer 5 minutes.

4. Pour the brine over the eggs, completely covering them. The eggs must be completely submerged in the brine to remain safe. (A quart-sized jar holds about a dozen eggs.)

5. Let the eggs sit in the fridge for at least a couple of weeks, so they can take on the flavors in the brine. The National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends eating home pickled eggs within four months.

Pros: Unique taste.

Cons: Uses up refrigerator space; requires electricity.

Preserving Egg Yolks in Salt (4 weeks)
Salt cured egg, courtesy of Practical Self Reliance.

This very old method is similar to curing meat. In it, high amounts of salt inhibit bacterial growth so that other (good) bacteria can release lactic acid (lactobacillus). This method has become all the rage lately, but it's really more about a gourmet treat than storing eggs long term. Once cured, salted eggs should be eaten within four weeks, and for optimal safety, should be stored in the refrigerator. For details on how to salt eggs, see Practical Self Reliance's excellent how-to.

Pros: A gourmet treat.

Cons: Takes up room in the refrigerator; requires electricity to be safest.

This post featured at the Farm Fresh Tuesday Blog Hop.

May 15, 2019

Pros and Cons of Walmart Pickup - Plus $10 off your first order!

Review of Walmart Pickup
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information.

 I've heard a lot of people dis Walmart Pickup without ever even trying it. Some of this criticism comes from people who just flat hate Walmart and would never buy anything from them. The rest seems to come from folks who are concerned that our society is getting more and more screen-centric and that Pickup service is just another way to avoid socialization. I neither hate Walmart as an entity (and no, I'm not being compensated by them to write this or any other post*), nor do I feel their Pickup service hurts anyone's social life. I'm just a girl who loathes grocery shopping - so I decided to give Walmart Pickup a try.

Why I Use Walmart Pickup

When you live in a rural area, as we do, going to the grocery store is a much bigger deal than if you live in the city or suburbs. There are no "quick stops" to pick up one or two grocery items; a trip to the grocery store eats up more time and gas when you live in the sticks. I've also found the less we go inside the grocery store, the less money we spend - because we grab fewer impulse items.

So, for the above two economical reasons, I shop only twice a month. At this time, our homestead isn't producing meat on a regular basis, and while we eat a lot of homegrown veggies throughout much of the year, I'm still working toward total self-sufficiency in that department. So for my family of four, with two fast-growing kids who eat an awful lot (My 10-year-old has nothin' on most teenage boys!), I do buy quite a bit at the grocery store. Each trip results in an overflowing grocery cart...and pushing it through Walmart crowds is hard work, guys!

Other great reasons to use a pickup service like Walmart's include:

* You are ill...too ill to shop or just thoughtful enough you don't want to spread your germs around to everyone else.
* One or more of your kids are ill...Saving the world from germs and giving your and your family a break, too.
* You have preschoolers or babies and they are having a tough day...Enough said.
* You have mobility issues.
* Crowded places stress you out!!! (Ahem.)

How Walmart Pickup Works

Step 1: Set Up an Account

First ensure Walmart Pickup is available in your area by going here, clicking on "Walmart Grocery" (currently in the upper left of the screen), and entering your ZIP code. If it is available nearby, you'll also need to create a Walmart account, if you don't already have one for the Walmart website.

Step 2:  Order your groceries.

Start adding items to your online shopping cart. I like to do this on my laptop, because I'm an old fogy and I find it easier to use my computer than my phone for this task. But you can use the Walmart Grocery app, if you prefer.

I typically use the search feature to find the product I want. For example, I might type in: Cheddar Cheese Block. From there, I can choose the brand and size I desire. (By the by, the next time you place a Walmart Pickup order, you can either just reorder everything with the click of one button or select a few items to order again, making filling your cart even easier.)

Everything I've ordered on the Walmart Grocery site has had clear descriptions, including price, nutrition labels, ingredient lists, and sizes.

Speaking of which, the only real problem I've had with Walmart Pickup involves sizes. Apparently, I have no clue about them. For example, in my most recent order, I purchased 2 lbs. of flour to make my kids a (these days) rare treat of homemade bread (recipe here). The bag I received measured 4 x 6 inches. Who knew they even sold flour in a bag that small?! (What can you do with it? Make six cookies???) Obviously, I'm used to judging size by appearance next to other items, which is impossible to do online.

Step 2: Review your shopping cart.

This is just like reviewing your shopping cart for anything you buy online. At this point, I've changed quantities, deleted items from my cart, and added items to my cart. All of that is easy peasy.

Step 3: Tell Walmart when you want to pick up your groceries. 

They will offer a variety of days and times for you to choose from, and the times are relaxed; for example, 1 - 2 pm, not 1 pm sharp.

Step 4: Tell Walmart whether or not you'll accept substitutions on any or all of your items. 

In your online shopping cart, the default is a check (in a green box) beside every item you ordered; this indicates you'll accept a substitution if Walmart happens to be out of that specific item. (An example of a substitution: You ordered a 4 oz. jar of sweet pickles, but the store was out, so they give you a bigger jar of the same brand of sweet pickles or the same size jar of a different brand of sweet pickles.)

If you don't wish to accept substitutions for particular items, simply uncheck them. (If you prefer, you can also easily uncheck all items with the click of one button.)

I find this is a  great feature, by the way. I, for example, never want substitutions for the breakfast sausage I buy because there's only one brand in my local Walmart that doesn't contain sugar and is low enough in carbs to suit me. As a diabetic who doesn't consume sugar, a substitution would not work for me.

Do note that your Walmart shopper will never substitute cheaper items without charging you less. In my experience, he or she will always choose an item that's the same price or more expensive than what you ordered - but even if the substitution retails for more than what you originally ordered, Walmart won't charge you the difference.

Step 5: Pay with your credit or debit card.

There is NO FEE for the Walmart Pickup service. You pay for your groceries only, with no added charges.

Step 6: Wait for Walmart to say your groceries are ready.

A Walmart employee will shop for you, then the groceries will sit in a refrigerated or frozen area near the Pickup center, waiting for you. When all that's done, Walmart will send you an email or text - whichever you tell them you prefer.

Step 7: Let Walmart know you're on the way. 

This is easiest to do on your smartphone. If you have any technical difficulties with this step, the email or text also gives a phone number where you can call and tell a real person you're on the way.

By the way, this text or email also tells you exactly what substitutions, if any, were chosen. In the four times I've used Walmart Pickup, one order had one substitution and another order had two. How often you will see substitutions depends entirely upon your Walmart and how well stocked it is.

Step 8: Pull into the Pickup area of your local Walmart. 

The email mentioned in step 7 includes a map to show you where it is, if you don't already know. The grocery Pickup area is designated at the store by signs and orange paint, so it's easy to spot.

Park in a designated Pickup spot and a Walmart employee will come out to your car and verify any substitutions with you. If you decide you don't want the substitutes they chose, they will remove those items from your bags and you won't be charged for them.

The Walmart employee will then load your car with the groceries and have you sign that you received them. In my experience, they are careful about delicate items like bread and fruit, even putting special organge stickers on the bags containing them to remind everyone to use care.

Step 9: Take your groceries home and put them away!


What I Think about Walmart Pickup

I unabashedly love, love, LOVE this service! Grocery shopping used to be a 2.5 - 3-hour affair for me. Now I can quickly place my order online (in the comfort of my home) and pick it up in just a little over the time it takes to drive to Walmart. No fighting a crowded store. No waiting in line.

I've used Walmart Pickup four times now, and every time my order has been accurate, with no mistakes made. The produce has been in excellent shape, and so has the meat. (Walmart does have a policy that if you're unhappy with any item the Walmart shopper chose for you, they'll give you a full refund.)

Really my only complaint is that I no longer receive a traditional receipt that I can scan into apps like Ibotta, which give coupon-type rebates on certain items. Instead, Walmart emails me a receipt, which cannot be scanned into such apps. This is a bummer, but it's not enough to keep me from using Walmart Pickup.

Pros to Walmart Pickup:

* It's easy to order online (via your computer or your phone).

* You can order non-grocery items, too! I've ordered items found in the pharmacy and home goods sections, for example.

* Walmart remembers your preferred items and you can easily either re-order everything or just some things without having to add each item, one-by-one, to your cart.

* You get to choose the pickup time, which is flexible. (You don't have to be there at 9am sharp, for example. You have a window of one hour.)

* You can choose whether or not you'll accept substitutes, and before you accept your groceries, you can choose not to accept the particular substitutions, if any, your Walmart shopper picked for you.

* When a substitution is needed, if your Walmart shopper chooses a more expensive brand or a bigger size, you'll only be charged the price of the item you originally ordered. For instance, I recently ordered a small container of Great Value real maple syrup. My store was out of that size, so they substituted a larger container of the same product - but only charged me for the smaller size.

* You can change your order or add items to it within several hours of placing it. I've used this feature every time, because even though I make a shopping list ahead of time, I always seem to forget something!

* I've never had a long wait to get my groceries loaded. Usually, in a minute or two, someone comes out and starts loading my groceries. I'm sure as more and more people start using the service, this could potentially change. Hopefully, Walmart will be on top of demand. (And do remember that every Walmart has different management - some better than others.)

* The Walmart employees who bring my groceries out to me are friendly. In talking to them, I've learned they are excited about the new service, and love the variety they experience when shopping for other people. (It's got to be more fun than scanning items at checkout all day long.)

* Walmart has said they will never charge for this service. Walmart Pickup is FREE and is supposed to remain that way.

* Walmart does not allow employees to accept tips for this service. Depending upon your point of view, this can be a con, but if you're thinking in terms of expense, it's a bonus. (When I was in California caring for my father, I used Safeway's delivery service. It was easy, but there was a fee for delivery - plus I felt I should tip to the delivery guy. This was an added expense that under normal circumstances I could not justify at home.)

Cons to Walmart Pickup:

* There is a $30 minimum order.

* There's no "normal" print receipt that you can upload to coupon or rebate apps. Print coupons are also not accepted when you use Walmart Pickup. (Someone recently mentioned that if I go to eBates before hitting the Walmart Grocery site, I can earn money on my Pickup order that way. I'm going to try it next time I shop!)

* At this time, you can't use reusable grocery bags with Walmart Pickup.

* If you're like me, it might take time to learn what sizes to order!

* You have to place your order at least four hours before picking it up.


Overall, I'm blown away by how good the Walmart Pickup service is. The whole process is super easy, and it saves me tons of time and work. Although I plan to continue making a quick stop at Safeway for on-sale meat, I'll still use Walmart Pickup for most of my grocery shopping needs.


If you use this link, you'll get $10 off your first order with Walmart Pickup.

* Although no one is paying me to review Walmart Pickup or promote Walmart, some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I earn a wee bit should you choose to purchase anything through them or use the sites mentioned. Please see the FCC disclosure for full information.