I’ve been thinking a lot lately on my garden and pantry. I’m excited to be able to grow as much as I can handle, but I don’t want to go overboard and end up with more than I can eat in a year. I once planted several zucchini plants naively thinking that I would only get a couple fruit from each plant. Haha! Yeah, anyone who has ever grown zucchini knows that I had the damn things coming out my ears that year! I’ve done the same with green beans, cucumbers, and peas. I’m pretty good at over-doing the garden. This year I want to be smarter about it, so I’ve started calculating out what we go through in a year.
Some are much easier to calculate than others. Like carrots, for instance. We go through about a half pound of fresh carrots a week, but I can see us going through up to twice that if I have them on hand. A half pound times 52 weeks means about 26 pounds of carrots a year. I’ve only ever grown about 10 pounds at a time, so I’ll be planting at least three times as many seeds as I have in the past.
Tomatoes are my biggest hangup right now. I need them to can up diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, ketchup, salsa, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, whole tomatoes, and chili. I’d also like to have an abundance of dried tomatoes for various recipes and snacking. It seems like no matter how many tomatoes I grow it won’t be enough. We eat a lot of tomatoes! As I have my list right now, I’ll have 72 plants. A few are new varieties, a few were free, and a few are tried and true. Of the 72, 32 are the tried and true. I’m grappling with whether I should even bother with the new and free ones this year. I could always sell or give away the extra fruits, I suppose. I’m so torn! I hate not planting perfectly good seeds. I guess for now I’ll plant them anyway (in a few weeks). I can sell extra plants along the way.
Thinking about food for a year got me going on the things I can’t grow, like sugar and flour and rice. Yes, I will be growing tiny plots of rice and wheat, but nothing on a grand scale yet. This year is going to be an experiment to see how much I can get from how many square feet. Anyway, this summer I’d really like to get a jump start on the next year’s groceries. It’s so nice not having to run to the store multiple times a week, and to have that food security would be a wonderful gift. I’m anxious about my husband coming home because we don’t know where he’ll work or what he’ll make when he comes back. We have been in rough patches before, and I want to mitigate the risk of that happening again. I have many reasons for thinking about stocking up on food, and those are only a few.
I started thinking about simple things that I make, like bread. I’ve had a few months of a break from making my own bread due to not having the time or space to do it, but I’ll be getting back into the swing of it in the next week or two. Once I do, I’ll be baking at least three loaves a week. Each batch takes about 2 pounds of flour, so over the course of a year I’ll need 104 pounds of wheat to keep us in bread. Each batch takes a half ounce of yeast, so I need 26 ounces of yeast for a year. Each batch takes 3-7 ounces of sugar or honey, so I need about 23 pounds to last a year. That’s all for bread alone! I also make biscuits, rolls, tortillas, pizza dough, breadsticks, pies, cookies, cakes, and muffins. I think I could easily breeze through 400 pounds of wheat in a year if I baked all of our own goods, which I plan to.
Sugar is another big one. I need a bit for breads and baked goods, but it’s also a main ingredient in jellies/jams, preserves, ketchup, sweet pickles, and many other recipes. If we do get started on bees this summer, we’ll need to stock up on powdered sugar for keeping track of the mite population in our hives.
While I was making all of these calculations, I came across a great chart with conversion rates for basic baking ingredients. It has been very handy for calculating how much I’ll need of certain ingredients for each recipe. I’m going to put it here on my blog so I can come back to it in the future.
All-Purpose Flour: 1 cup = 4.5 oz
Bread Flour: 1 cup = 4.8 oz
Cake Flour: 1 cup = 3.9 oz
Pastry Flour: 1 cup = 4.25 oz
Whole Wheat Flour: 1 cup = 4.25
Cornmeal, coarse: 1 cup = 4.85 oz
Cornmeal, fine: 1 cup = 6.3 oz
Oats, rolled: 1 cup = 3 oz
Walnuts, chopped: 1 cup = 4.3 oz
Walnut/pecan halves: 1 cup = 3.5 oz
Coconut, dry shredded: 1 cup = 2.5 oz
Chocolate Chips: 1 cup = 5.35 oz
Eggs and Dairy
Egg: one large egg = 1.7 oz
Egg Yolk: one egg yolk = .7 oz
Butter: 1 cup = 8 oz
Milk: 1 cup = 8 oz.
Heavy Cream: 1 cup = 8.4 oz
Cream Cheese: 1 cup = 8.2 oz
Sour Cream/Yogurt: 1 cup = 8.6 oz
Sugars, Syrups and Oils
Granulated Sugar: 1 cup = 7.1 oz
Brown Sugar, packed: 1 cup = 7.75 oz
Powdered Sugar, sifted: 1 cup = 3.6 oz
Powdered Sugar, unsifted: 1 cup = 4.4
Corn Syrup: 1 cup = 11.5 oz
Honey: 1 cup = 12 oz
Molasses: 1 cup = 11.6 oz
Vegetable Oil: 1 cup = 7.7 oz
Solid Shortening: 1 cup =7.25 oz
I know I’ll still have to run to the store for the occasional things even if I am able to store up flour, sugar, rice, beans, canned/dried fruits/veggies, etc. There are perishable things like dairy products, exotic fruits (bananas and citrus), meat, and whatnot that I will need to replenish on a weekly basis at the very least. We’ll have chickens for eggs and meat in the start. That should help. We’ll be able to hunt deer and turkey on our own land, too. If I didn’t have so much on my plate already with the house and garden, I’d probably be pestering my husband for a dairy animal like a cow or goat, or some more meat animals like rabbits. For now, the best I can do is try to hit sales and stock up for what is likely to be a low-income year. Plan ahead. Maybe in a few years we’ll work our way up to being self-sufficient for our meat and dairy.
Whew! Meant this to be a quick post to keep those conversion rates handy. Rambling over. Hope y’all are enjoying this beautiful winter day! I know I am, because we finally get to see something green sprouting…