Dine Out or Eat In


I don’t know what ratoiulle costs in a restaurant, but I figure it might cost me a couple of bucks for this whole pan.

In the nine years that I’ve been writing this blog I’ve probably talked more about food than anything other subject. That’s partly because food and water are the absolute basic requirements for life. It’s also because we grow so much of ours. And finally, it’s because I just do not understand the mindset of those who are willing to waste so much money by not cooking – their mantra is always “Dine Out.” I ran across a couple of articles recently that compared the cost of cooking at home to eating out. The figures are interesting, but there are a couple of sub-threads as well.
Cheapism compared a chicken dinner at home to those of four top national chains. The dinner included a quarter of a chicken, a potato, a cup of green beans, and ear of corn and other items like herbs, oil and garlic. Dining out cost $13.41 plus tip, for a total of $16 per person. Total cost for the same meal at home: $6.41. So, what’s interesting (aside from the significant difference in price)? Leftovers! For a start, unless you’re feeding a hungry teen, who could probably eat the whole chicken and all its sides, most people aren’t going to eat a full quarter of a chicken. Even if they do, there will still be enough meat on the bones to turn that carcass into chicken soup. This is true of many home-cooked foods. Roast beef with baked potatoes can become hash a couple of days later. Leftover hot dogs can be sliced into macaroni and cheese. Stale bread is resurrected as panera or French toast.

I can make chocolate chip cookies for less than half what they cost in the store – and they taste better!

The second sub-thread has to do with debt. As of September 2019, a study showed the average American carried $29,800 in debt. This includes mortgages, credit cards (with one third of American adults paying 15% or more in annual interest), autos and education loans. When it comes to monthly income, more than 34% of monthly income for adults is used to pay down debt. At the same time, the average household spends $3,008 a year to dine out. Lunch alone, at an average cost of $10 per meal for one person, runs $2,500 a year. While I have a hard time believing it, one family of three spent $30,000 in one year to dine out! Being in debt always comes back to bite you at the worst possible time.

Not only is it less expensive than buying ready-made, cooking with kids is great fun.

Dine out or eat in? I say it’s no contest.

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Seed Longevity


Beans and peas often have good seed longevity.

I’ve discussed the issue of seed longevity before. In many cases, it’s worth trying to germinate older seed. But just how old? Thereby hangs a tale…
One of the benefits of the internet is that you can often find scanned copies of old books and articles you might otherwise never lay eyes on. (Of course, you can also find everything from junk to outright c**p.) What I found was a handy little booklet published by the USDA in 1978 titled “Principles and Practice of Safe Seed Storage.” Its 259 pages are crammed with data on seed saving, seed longevity and seed storage. It includes research from back in the day when Big Ag hadn’t started to sway studies with money – meaning the data is much more likely to be honest.

Setting up for seed germination testing.

Among the studies the authors mention were the following:
A researcher named A. J. Ewart tested seeds sent from Kew Gardens in England to Melbourne, Australia, in 1856. They had been stored in a dark, dry cabinet for at least 50 years. Many of the seeds germinated and grew. Scientists G. Aufhammer and U. Simon proved that barley and oat seeds 123 years old could be germinated successfully. In 1906 and 1934, Paul Becquerel conducted germination tests of seeds collected as early as 1776. He successfully germinated seeds 158 years old.
I discovered in my reading that the stories of seeds from the Pyramids are just that – stories. No one has ever successfully germinated wheat from a pyramid. However, a seed from a date palm found in 1973 at the ancient Jewish fortress of Masada was germinated in 2005. The date palm seed was from an extinct species, the Judean date palm, and was estimated to be 1,900 years old. The seedling that resulted was named Methuselah. The Anasazi cave bean was discovered in ancient ruins in the early 1900s. It may have been as much as 750 years old, but the original seeds were apparently never carbon-dated. Researchers have found that hard-coated seeds typically have the greatest longevity – members of the legume family tend to be the winners in this race.

An overnight soak often helps in germinating hard-coated seeds like legumes and morning glories.

When you buy seed, you should consider these facts:

  • A seed packet sold this year may contain seeds that are several years old. The packet says “packaged for 2020.” It doesn’t tell you when the seeds were grown.
  • Germination tests vary according to the state. Your seed might have been tested as early as six months or as long as 18 months after harvest. The seed may have been tested as long as 36 months prior to sale. By the way, flower seeds are exempt from testing regulations.
  • You may store your seeds properly, but you have no way of knowing how they were stored by the grower, seed company, transporter or store from which you bought them.
  • Wish books!

    If you buy new seeds every year, how you store them probably doesn’t matter as long as you don’t allow them to get wet. If you save your own, store them in the coolest, driest conditions possible. The best option is to place seeds that are carefully labeled and very well-sealed in a glass jar in the fridge. Scatter desiccant packets in the jars to take care of any residual moisture. You will know exactly how old they are. If you do the job right, it may be that your great-grandchildren will know as well.

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    Food Map USA


    Wild plums from our trees.

    I talk a lot about food on this blog – growing it, harvesting it, prepping it, preserving it and cooking it. It’s probably the most basic of human needs outside of water. You can cobble together a shelter in an emergency (we’re not talking modern housing, OK?). You can scavenge something to wear. But if the cupboard is bare, you’re SOL. So this food map should make you sit up and pay attention.

    These eggs feed us, pigs, dogs, cats and (if hard-boiled and smashed) the chickens themselves.

    For most people, their food comes from somewhere else. It’s transported by trucks, planes and trains, all of which run on oil. As the food map shows, a tremendous amount of that food comes from a very few locations. A whopping lot of it comes from southern California – six counties, as a matter of fact. In other words, your food supply is dependent on a LONG supply chain. What do you think is likely to happen to this food map if there’s a trucker’s strike, a major California earthquake (The Big One is long overdue) or we get into a shooting war in the Middle East?

    Summer apples, grown on our trees.

    Summer squash: Black Zucchini, Early Prolific Straightneck, Cocozelle, Yellow Patty Pan and a few Crystal Apple cucumbers.

    It ain’t going to be pretty. Now is an excellent time to take a good hard look at your local food sources. Support them – it could be your life you save.

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