Will This Be ‘The Long Winter’?

When costly repair issues on our property arose at the start of the month, I concluded we had to begin to eat our winter stores seven weeks ahead of when I had originally planned to (in an effort to relieve the financial burden of said issues).

I felt entirely uneasy and unprepared. I had planned to do our pantry challenge beginning the week before Thanksgiving and seeing if we could last through mid-March. That timeline was just bumped up, however, ready or not.

Tapping into my administrative side, I created an inventory list of what was in our freezers and pantry, and tried to come up with a menu we could work from each day and still have plenty of food to last us through the harshest part of winter.

It was more of an emergency in my mind. We needed to save money, urgently, and we needed to stretch every last morsel of food we had.

Add to that the dietary preferences of Hubs who has done so incredibly well losing weight (and avoiding most all carbohydrates), I knew I also had to be a little creative.

But the first week is behind us, and I feel like we ate like kings. I am so thankful for how the Lord not only provided food, but peace of mind and heart this last week. He is such a good God.

Sunday (10/6): For breakfast we had eggs and muffins as we hurried our best to get ready and make it to church on time. Lunch was seasoned ground beef mixed with scrambled eggs and shredded cheese – a favorite and specialty of Hubs himself.

Dinner was salmon. Hubs had purchased a bag of frozen salmon filets sometime in August, and I decided now was as good a time as any to dig into those. I sautéed them in butter and spices in the cast iron skillet, and we had sautéed zucchini as a side.

The kids were none too thrilled to discover we were having salmon for dinner, but once they tasted it, they enjoyed their meal. Little Man even requested more fish!

Monday: Breakfast was eggs and muffins, and we got started back into the week of homeschool. It was a gorgeous, warm fall day, and I sent the kids to homeschool recess for a good part of the late morning. Lunch was sandwiches.

Dinner was pancakes and “skillet”. Skillet typically is sausage, potatoes, eggs, and cheese but since Hubs is anti-carbs these days, I leave the potatoes out. It’s still super tasty and a family favorite, especially when everything is fried up together in the cast iron skillet. It was my first ever piece of cast iron, gifted to me by Hubs years ago. It is our most used and most favorite stovetop cooking utensil, even if it is a bit of a hassle to clean and care for.

Tuesday: Breakfast was leftover pancakes, eaten in the glowing sunshine that poured in through the windows. It would be another gorgeous fall day, and perhaps the last warm day until next spring. A winter storm was making its way into the prairie beginning the next day.

Lunch was sandwiches again – same song, different verse. It was followed by more outdoor homeschool recess, in which the kids were fashioning homemade spears to prepare for going on a buffalo hunt. Outdoor imaginative play is my absolute favorite.

Dinner was tacos with homemade tortillas, ground beef, home-canned pinto beans, homemade salsa, and shredded cheese. I cooked two pounds of hamburger but used one pound for our meal and saved the other for a meal later in the week.

Wednesday: Breakfast was eggs and muffins for the kids, and a breakfast burrito in a leftover homemade tortilla for me. We have plenty of zucchini muffins, because we have plenty of zucchini. If we had more room in the freezer, I’d bake more muffins to store, but for now we’ll have to eat them fresh. That’s a fine price to pay for a full freezer! And homemade tortillas are now my own new personal favorite.

Lunch was sandwiches (creativity at lunchtime is not my gift). Dinner was roast chicken, using one of the meat birds we processed in August. It was delicious, and I saved the leftover meat to use for a different meal.

Thursday: More eggs and muffins for the kids, and another breakfast burrito for me. I’m hooked. Lunch for the kids was Mac & Cheese and I used the last of the homemade tortillas and made myself a quesadilla.

Dinner was made up completely, but also delicious. I took a package of stew meat and cooked it up in the cast iron with some garlic and seasoning. I made a mushroom cream sauce with the few mushrooms we had left in the fridge, and also made some mashed potatoes and zucchini fries. Hubs had the beef with the mushroom sauce and zucchini fries, and the rest of us had meat, potatoes, and zucchini. I saved the leftover mushroom sauce to include in Friday’s dinner, there was no leftover fries or meat, and the leftover potatoes will be put to use somehow at another date.

Friday: You guessed it, muffins. I made oatmeal for the kids and flavored it with pumpkin pie spice, but they were not fans. Brent and I had eggs and bacon. Lunch was a fend-for-yourself affair. I believe Little Man had a sandwich, Hubs and Little Miss had the hamburger/egg favorite, and I think I somehow powered through without eating, and not on purpose.

Dinner was chicken enchiladas made from Wednesday’s leftover chicken, some corn tortillas I had in the freezer, and a sauce made from the leftover mushroom sauce, sour cream, and salsa, then covered in shredded cheese. This used to be a frequent favorite of Hubs and me in our early married years. The kids aren’t fans, however, so we don’t have it near as often as we once did.

Saturday: Breakfast was blizzard skillet. Only because we were on the tail end of a blizzard (and I tried really hard not to think about how that would impact the ability for the repairs on our property to be completed).

For lunch, Hubs made sure everyone was properly fed with the quickest and easiest meals, and I kept up with my work in the kitchen. Saturday evening, we had invited farm friends and neighbors over for a harvest party.

It was something I had planned awhile back, before the repairs or the pantry challenge came up. We decided to go ahead with it, though, because even in what we were facing, the Lord had blessed us with an abundant harvest (after an irregular and challenging gardening season), and there was no reason we couldn’t share in that blessing by feeding others.

I made potato soup, beef stew, cornbread, pumpkin cake, and zucchini chocolate cake. We served up apple cider, and other guests brought corn, chips and salsa, apple cake, apple slices and caramel dip, and pumpkin bars.

We had an absolute feast on Saturday evening, and ended up feeding 17 adults and 14 children. By the time the night was over, I felt a little like the five loaves and two fish miracle, because we still had leftovers!

The week started with me feeling somewhat frightened, not knowing what our future had in store and how financially set back we would become. The week ended with me feeling like the richest woman in the county.

We had been blessed the whole week through, and having others join us on the tail end of a pre-winter blizzard to share in celebration of the harvest season was icing on the (pumpkin) cake.

The pantry challenge has become less of an emergency necessity and more of a reward for trusting the Lord. Just as the ant works hard all summer to store away winter food, we did the same, and have already been able to share it with others.

Here’s to another week of menu planning, harvest sharing, and praise sharing.

Long winter or not, we’re looking forward to it.

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