When I first announced that I wanted to plan out my menus for an entire year many thought me totally NUTS! My thought was you plan a menu every week, so why not collect all 52 menus and end up with your menus planned for the next year. The benefits of having a meal plan are numerous. These posts are about the menus I planned and how I did them.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


In this next segment of back to basics I’ll be looking at salts, sugars, and storage. 

Let’s start with storage containers. 

I personally prefer canning jars for just about everything.  I have them from the ½ pint size to the half gallon size.  I have both the regular mouth and wide mouth sealers for my Foodsaver that will vacuum seal these jars easily. 

I also have what was called a Winesaver, that the Foodsaver people put out years ago. It is a handheld unit that only works on specialized caps.   It allows me to avoid having to hook up the hose to use those attachments.  If you find one at a thrift store you might want to grab it up, since it has been discontinued.

You can also vacuum seal the jars using oxygen packets, however I prefer using the Foodsaver so as not to waste the oxygen packs I save those for other uses.

If you don’t have a Foodsaver or Winesaver, or if you want to use recycled glass jars from other products that have a rubber seal on the lid you can also use a non-electric product called Pump and Seal.  I own one of these also and have used it with great success many times.

If plastic is your preferred storage container, like in a camper that will be bouncing down the road a lot, you can use those too.  I have never tried an oxygen pack in one of those, but it would probably work if the lid seals tightly. I will be experimenting with that option soon.

Some metal storage containers will work well too. 

Before switching over to canning jars I often used 2 liter soda pop bottles to store in.  I would make a funnel out of the top of one bottle by cutting off the top 1/3 of the bottle.  Then as I filled I would tap the bottle on the counter or with my hand to fill in all the spaces and force the air out.  Fill the bottles to maximum and you create an almost oxygen free container. 

I also us Foodsaver continuous roll bags to store larger volumes of flours, mixes and such to keep them fresh until I need to add them to my canning jars.   If it is going to be a long term storage I then put that Foodsaver bag in a sealed mylar bag. Then stored inside a food grade bucket. Whatever your storage method choice is making your own cooking basics will save you a lot of time and waste.

You can recycle shaker bottles from other spices or you can create your own by using recycled jars with metal lids.  Poke the desired number of holes in the lid with a nail or ice pick and a hammer   Then use the hammer to flatten any sharp edges. To seal these jars when you aren’t using you can either keep a solid back up lid of the same size or put a layer of plastic wrap, wax paper or parchment paper between the lid and the jar.

No shakers on hand, or don’t want to mess with making your own shaker lid.  Do as I do, just dip it out of a jar with a spoon and sprinkle it on.

So on to more basics recipes.


In my Spices of Lifeblog post I gave the recipe for making celery salt, garlic salt, onion salt and seasoned salt.  In case you missed those in that blog you can click on the hyperlinks for each one and it will take you to the recipe.

Gourmet Salt Blends:  Salt is very good about absorbing the scent and oils of various herbs.  You can create your own blends or try one of these. Chili, Citrus, Herb, Pepper, Seaweed or even expensiveTruffle salt, all by far cheaper than you can buy pre-made. 

Kosher and Pickling salt are basically the same creature in most cases and can be used in place of each other.  Sometimes Kosher salt is a little more of a flake than a crystal. 

The only thing you need to watch for is that the Kosher salt doesn’t have an additive to prevent caking, generally it is cornstarch   if you are going to pickle with it.  That additive will cause cloudiness and possible mushy pickles.

Neither is iodized and neither can be replaced by table salt in a recipe. So for most households a container of one or the other is all you need instead of both.  If you are going to use it for pickling as well as for Kosher salt a container of pickling salt would probably be your best choice.   

Smoked:  A family member loves this stuff and was paying premium prices for it until we discovered this recipe.

SUGARS:  Use either regular granulated sugar or raw sugar for any of these recipes. Be aware that raw sugar will not be white because it still has the molasses sap in it.

WARNING: If your blender or food processor has a plastic bowl on it whirling sugar in it may scratch the bowl because it is crystals.

Brown, Agave, or Maple: Whether it is light brown sugar, or dark brown it’s simple to make and so are the other two.

Cinnamon: The first time I saw the shakers of cinnamon sugar in the spice area of the grocery I was stunned that anyone would pay that high of a price for something so easy to make.

Citrus:  Flavor beverages or rim a drink glass with this special sugar.

Colored Sanding: Whether it is for decorating sugar cookies, cakes or pies colored sugars in those little bottles seem cheap when you first look at them in the stores, but if you do the math as to how many of those little bottles would be needed to create a pound of it you will be aghast.  Who pays $25 or more for a pound of sugar? Even better, you can use raw sugar if you like in this recipe. You can make it with either actual white sanding sugar or save even more and use your regular granulated.

Powdered: A commonly used sugar that it always seems like you are just a little bit short on when you are in a hurry.  End that problem by making your own as you need it.

Superfine:  when making meringues and other foods recipes sometime call for superfine sugar.  I make these items so seldom I prefer to make my own than to buy the more expensive sugar.

I hope these recipes help you simplify your pantry storage and cut your grocery budget.

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