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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Why I make salsa, yogurt, jams, etc -- and it might not be what you think

Yesterday morning I took a breather from harvesting and processing fruit. I made the last batch of salsa and another 4 quarts of yogurt, instead. 

I got back to the orchard in the afternoon and harvested all the late apples. Yippie! They're nicely tucked into the spare fridge in the garage. I sorted as I put them away. Good eating quality apples went into the drawers and sauce-worthy ones, front and center where I'll be reminded every time I open the fridge, to put applesauce-making on my to-do list.

But back to the salsa and yogurt. As I was making both, I had a similar thought process about why I make these things. If you'll recall, I make my salsa from all store-bought ingredients. So it's not that I'm using up garden surplus. (Our garden has never been abundant with sun-belt type produce like peppers and tomatoes.) 

Is it because I absolutely cannot afford either salsa or yogurt? No, that's not it at all. 

Is it because homemade is cheapest? Well, being inexpensive is part of it.

Is it because homemade tastes so much better (or more accurately, can be made to suit our tastes closely)? Yes, that's a part of it, too. But there's a much larger reason why I make these things (including jams, pickles, muffins, cookies, anything really, that I prepare in large quantities).

When I have so much abundance of salsa or yogurt, obtained so inexpensively by making it at home, I feel more inclined to be generous with the amounts that I have. 

I've offered loaves of homemade bread to friends whose pantries were much barer than mine. 

I've given jars of homemade salsa to people who've offered me assistance with projects. 

I've thanked people who have gone out of their way to help a child of mine, with a jar of jam or two. 

I've gladly supplied the coffee hour at our church with trays of home-baked cookies.

It is because I can readily see that we have so much, that I easily give. I don't think that's the true definition of generosity. So I'm not confusing what I've done with being generous. I think a truly generous soul is one who gives, though they have little. 

It may not be true generosity, but having an abundant supply eases my sense of "we need to conserve, we could run out".

Where the effect is really felt, though, is right here at home. If I were to buy salsa from the store, I'd likely buy one 8 oz. jar per week, and we'd use it sparingly so that it would last for the 5 of us, for the entire week. But because I make salsa so inexpensively (50-60c per jar), we have at least double that amount per week. 

And the same is true for the yogurt. I used to only buy yogurt when I found it on clearance, and then my family members would be limited to just a couple of small containers each. And there was no telling when I'd find more on clearance. 

By making 4 quarts at a time at home (for under 50c per quart), they each get the equivalent of about a quart of yogurt, as often as I have the time to make it.

By relying only on what is within my budget at the store, there's a feeling of scarcity. By making my own in large quantities, (for the same cost as buying just a little), there's abundance. And that makes my family very happy! And for me, the saying goes, "when the family's happy, Mom's happy!"

Now that is the real reason that I do all these home-makey things in my kitchen!


  1. Good for you for understanding your natural tendencies and learning how to make the best from them. We all need to examine how we treat things (including food) and their quantities.

    A question? I hear about a lot of people making their own yogurt, but use whole milk because they said it works better. If I made it, I would use skim milk for health reasons. Have you made it with skim milk? Did it work well?

    1. Hi live and learn,
      The whole milk makes the yogurt thicker. You can use skim, and add some powdered milk (also skim) and come out with a thick enough yogurt. The Frugal Girl has a good post with numerous comments on making yogurt. There are probably several people who have commented on that post who've made the yogurt with skim milk. It might be worth a look. I've linked to that post in my post "My foray into making yogurt", that I posted in August.

      The alternative to adding powdered milk is what I do when I make soy yogurt. Soy yogurt does not thicken as well, either. So I put the yogurt through a strainer the next day and make a Greek-style soy yogurt -- very thick and creamy! I posted on making soy yogurt, as well, also in August.

  2. Cool :) It's always a great feeling to be generous!

    1. Hi Mallory,
      Thanks! I agree, it's nice to be able to do something for someone else, or allow my family to just have as much as they want, without feeling we're about to run out.

  3. It is always nice to have items on hand and you are right -- it does make you feel like they don't have to be conserved the same way.

    Salsa is something I've never canned. Do you have a favorite recipe? I make it fresh on occasion. I'd love to make my own though because I could reduce the sodium content a little.

  4. Hi Shara,
    I use the recipe below (sorry I don't know how to embed a link in a comment, just cut and paste).
    I've done fresh tomatoes, but mostly use canned ones. You could use low-sodium canned tomatoes, and reduce the salt that is added to the recipe, and still have a good salsa.
    Good luck with it!

  5. You have such thought-provoking posts! That's a good thing (hmm, am I channelling my inner Martha?)!

    A few years ago I was in the midst of making a $5 impulse purchase for my son and I realized how easy that was for me to do but how hard it was for me to spend $5 to support our church's food pantry. Funny how little moments of awareness like that can hit you. If it's not for immediate friends or family, I'm really pretty stingy. I like your definition of generosity (I know a woman like that--she lives in a trailer, drives a beater car, but is always giving things away) but I have a loooong way to go to get there.

    1. Hi Kris,
      I know what you mean about how it's easy to spend on family and friends, but so hard to give outside of that circle.

      We plan our giving in our budget and that makes it easier. But when it's in the moment, like the Salvation Army at Christmas in front of the store, it's just hard to stop and be generous. For me, my way around that is realizing that is how I am, and to plan ahead. So every year during the holidays, I send a check to the SA. And then I don't feel so badly when in the moment I'm not very generous.

      It's like tithing. If I know ahead of time that I'm giving XX amount, I can mentally prepare for it. I don't know if I could ever be generous, like the woman living in a trailer and giving so much away. But I can still be a mindful giver. And I think that counts for something.

  6. Yup, we tithe and try to be mindful givers, too, and that doesn't seem so hard to do; but giving money (or time! My most valued commodity!) beyond that is just.plain.hard. You're right, it counts for something! Glad to know I'm not alone. :)

  7. I like how you explain it. I was in a similar position when my boys were teens with frequent friends. There is no way I could have let them eat the way they did if I hadn't made most of my food from scratch.

    1. Hi Lois,
      Thanks! I can only imagine how a couple of teen boys and all their friends might just gobble everything up. Sometimes it amazes me how much a teen boy can eat!


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