Think Out Of The Jar: Canning Mushroom Soup

Grow your own mushrooms! The compact Indoor Mushroom Growing Kit is dampened with water spray, and the mushrooms sprout from the included medium. At or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Cream of mushroom soup is one of those staples that you really need in your pantry. My husband likes a hot bowl of soup after an afternoon spent hauling wood or shoveling snow. A jar of soup will turn meat and vegetable leftovers into a comforting pot pie or filling casserole. Continue reading

Be Safe, And Take Care

We encourage you to help anywhere you can during this time of need.

Here at Lehman’s, we’re taking stock of things and doing some last-minute preparations as Hurricane Sandy drifts closer to the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes region. All of us have seen the pictures and video of the flooding and damage on the East Coast, and we’re praying for the safety of those affected by this mega-storm.

We would encourage those who are in safer places to consider helping out. Many organizations are putting together blood drives, food and clothing drives and other things that will help those devastated by the storm. Look around in your community and see where you can be of help.

On February 28, 2011, we found that a flash flood had swept through our retail store, and through downtown Kidron. In the hours that followed, friends, employees, and neighbors turned out to help us sort, clean and take stock. Their help was invaluable, and we couldn’t have done it without them. We’ll always be grateful for those helping hands.

No matter where we live during this hurricane, we are all, in a greater sense, neighbors. And neighbors help each other out. It’s how we do things here in Kidron, and how we’ve always done them. Stay safe, and we’ll see you soon.

19 Storm Preparation Tips From An Expert

Prepardness expert Kathy Harrison shares 19 storm prep tips to help you cope with Hurricane Sandy.

With Hurricane Sandy barreling towards us, I’m getting a lot of calls and emails about preparing for an extreme weather event. First, stay calm, and prioritize. Review the list below and delegate age-appropriate tasks to the family. Continue reading

Home Canned Filling Is Easy As (Apple) Pie

Find this classic essential glass pie plate at or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

My family loves apple pie, but it’s rather time-consuming to make and to be honest, I don’t really enjoy peeling apples. That’s the biggest reason I like canning apple pie filling—once it’s made, we can simply pull out a jar to make a quick, no-fuss homemade pie. With a colorful piece of calico or ribbon tied around the lid, a jar of pie filling also makes a lovely little gift. Continue reading

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Save That Squash Seed!

Do you enjoy winter squash or pumpkin? Whether you grow it yourself or buy it at a farmer’s market or grocery store, you can make a tasty, nutritious snack from the seeds. Any kind of winter squash seed can be used and they all have their own slightly different flavor. Some are larger than others and some have thicker shells than others, but you’ll learn that as you experiment.

Some of the best squash seed I ever made and ate was from a stored spaghetti squash, which is officially a summer squash but can be kept like a winter squash. If you have a fresh or stored one you’d like to try to roast seeds from, wash it well and then puncture it in several places and place whole on a baking sheet – don’t split or cut it. Bake at around 350 degrees for an hour or until it’s tender.

Let the squash cool, then split it open and scoop out the seeds from the center, remove any strings or other material and put them in salt water at the ratio of about a cup of water to two tablespoons of salt. Pickling, canning or kosher salt is best for this, but you can use whatever you have on hand. Let the seeds set overnight or about 6 to 8 hours, then drain. Continue reading

Beat Down That Grocery Bill!

The holidays are coming upon us quickly, and we’re all looking at the budget! Contributor Kathy Harrison has some suggestions to trim costs at the grocery store. –Editor

A thrift classic! The Tightwad Gazette is available at or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

I was talking with a group of friends this week and the subject of food shopping came up. No surprise as the cost of filling a grocery cart is going up at an alarming rate and many people are looking for ways to reduce their grocery bills.

One thing that occurred to me is that when talking about groceries we were often comparing apples to oranges. Most people buy a lot more than fruits and vegetables at the grocery store. Do you count the cost of pet food? How about paper products? What do you do about the amount you spend on take-out food or dinners out or shared with family members? If you have a garden, do you compute the expenditures for canning jars and soil amendments? It’s a bit more complicated that it would first appear.

When I started to seriously look at my grocery budget the first thing I thought about was what it was worth to me to reduce my spending. If I had to get a job to earn three thousand dollars I would have to consider the costs of childcare, transportation and taxes as well as the inconvenience of being away from home. If I could “earn” that money by not spending it the savings would be multiplied. That gave me the incentive to do the work to cut my spending.

I first separated my groceries into categories: Food, Personal Care, Paper Products, Pet Care, and Cleaning Supplies. For a bunch of complicated reasons, my garden costs are not included as I found that they amortize to a negligible amount over the life of things like tools and soil amendments. For each category I asked several questions.

Traditional and non-traditional cookbooks help stretch your budget! Find them at or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Can I do without this? For things like paper towels and napkins, the answer was yes. I replaced my disposables with cloth. Can I make a version at home that will meet my needs? For most convenience foods, this led to another yes. Instant anything usually has a home-made recipe that works just as well, tastes better and has no added ingredients that aren’t good for you. I started making my own instant oatmeal and now have the quick breakfast for a fraction of the cost.

Can I purchase this in bulk? Flour, salt, sugar, vinegar, all are much cheaper in large sizes. There is less packaging and fewer trips to the market for the forgotten necessity.

Can I replace this with something cheaper? I love a good cup of coffee. I really love it with cream and sugar. I finally had to admit that I didn’t need the calories, the caffeine or the expense of imported coffee. I switched to herbal tea from my own garden for my everyday drink and have coffee as the rare treat. I do miss coffee but when I have a cup it is such a luxury. I know I enjoy it more now that I have it far less often.

For over 100 years, Fels-Naptha has helped clean clothes, floors, and more. Available in a 3-pack from or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Can I make a substitute? For most cleaning supplies and personal care items I am sure you can. Vinegar, baking soda and a mild soap are all that is needed to clean most things. I make my own detergent and dish soap. I love not shoving all that plastic into the recycle bin each week.

Can I get this locally? For meat and milk and anything else I don’t grow I can usually source it locally. It isn’t necessarily less expensive but I would rather use less meat and know it was ethically raised and processed.

Can I barter for that? Sometimes yes and sometimes no but it never hurts to ask. Can I forage it? For apples and grapes, mushrooms and spring greens, Foraging adds a good deal of food to my pantry. Can I get this in bulk when it’s in season and preserve it for later use? Potatoes in a 50 pound sack can be bought from a farm stand or a farm and stored in a root cellar. A win for a farmer and a win for you. and Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio carry hard-to-find aluminum-free deodorants!

Can I get this cheaper from another source? I almost never buy toothpaste or deodorant from the supermarket. It makes a lot more sense to get 24 tubes of toothpaste when it’s on sale at the pharmacy and pack it away for my year’s supply. Is it available on-line or in a catalog? It takes some research but I have gotten some great deals this way and there are a good many things that are only available this way.

I will admit that I have turned my shopping into a pleasant hobby. It’s like going on a treasure hunt. The real reward is knowing that without leaving home for a paying job, I can still contribute to my family’s bottom line, feed them better, healthier food and do my part to keep packaging out of the waste stream.

Need Safe Water? Here’s How!

Scientists tell us that:

  • Water covers about 71 percent of the Earth’s surface
  • Water makes up 61% of the human body
  • An average person will only live 3 days without water

Having a steady source of good clean drinking water is a must. If you don’t believe so, visit a third world country where the water is unsafe to drink and consume a few glassfuls. (I did on a mission trip 15 years ago and spent the next six months with sometimes excruciating stomach pain.)

But you don’t have to travel to the jungle or some other far-away place to need help securing a fresh water source. If you find yourself in an emergency, it’s good to be prepared to treat water scavenged from a creek or stream, or even rainwater from a cistern system to create potable water. You’ll just need a good filter … be it a whole-home, tabletop or portable unit.

Whole House Units
The traditional whole home water purifier system that uses salt tablets has been around nearly as long as door-to-door salesmen. You know the type, a reservoir and few small cylinders and lots of hoses hiding somewhere in the basement or a hall closet. They were decent for making hard water softer, but still couldn’t eliminate all microbial contaminants.

This reverse osmosis system is available at or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

The “reverse osmosis” systems provide the most pure water possible, free of sediment, minerals and natural or man-made impurities. A five-stage system uses five specialty filters that separate impurities on the “inlet” side of the system where they are flushed away down a waste drain. Clean water then travels into the home for use.

Good systems also utilize carbon filters to remove additional contaminants, odors and unpleasant taste. Such a system will start at about $400, and can be installed with basic hand tools.

The stainless steel Big Berkey and other Berkey brand water filters are available at or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Convenient Purification
If you’re not looking to build a system into existing plumbing, or you must rely on water carried from an off-site source, or maybe you just want a moveable option for a cabin or camp, then consider a tabletop model.

Companies such as Berkey and Katadyn have taken countertop water purification from a science to a convenience. Models come in stainless steel or safe polyethylene.

The main difference between a built-in reverse osmosis system and a tabletop unit is that the plumbed-in system uses water pressure to assist with filtering. Tabletop/countertop models rely on gravity to force the water from an upper chamber through a series of carbon-impregnated ceramic elements into a lower reservoir.

Tabletop systems filter much more slowly than built-in systems, at a rate of one to three gallons per hour. But the countertop units cost much less than the plumbed-in option. The smaller units’ replaceable filters will last through thousands of gallons of filtering.

In my personal experience, a tabletop unit is great for our hunting cabin, which only sees use a few weekends a year. The drilled well pump failed years ago, so we rely on water from a cistern for most uses, and carry water in jugs or buckets from a neighbor’s hydrant for drinking. Even though that system is used regularly, a tabletop gravity-fed filter can assure any microscopic critters are separated out before we use the water for drinking or cooking.

Compact and inexpensive, the water-bottle type filter is ideal for camping or travel. Available at or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Portable Potable Water
The most compact and least expensive way to make any water suitable for drinking is with a handheld filter. These compact filters are carried by soldiers, backpackers, and survivalists. Most are not much larger than a store-bought bottle of water, with several models even smaller. The most common types have some form of hand pump to force water through ceramic filters. It can be a lever handle extending down the side, or a knob which actuates a pump from one end of the unit much like a traditional bicycle tire pump worked.

Small filters from companies such as Katadyn or Berkey will cost $70 to $250 depending on the exterior finish and filtration capacity. Most of these pumps will have an exterior suction hose with a particle filter on the end. Just drop the suction hose into a water source and begin pumping. You can purify up to two or three quarts per minute from most water sources.

Filters like these can easily purify enough water to provide for drinking and food preparation for two or three people or more with little effort. While it’s an option for a hunting cabin or remote camp, I’d recommend you keep at least one spare filter on hand. It only makes sense to be prepared.

If you’re on a tighter budget, for $50 or less you can purchase a filter “bottle”, a water bottle with a carbon or ceramic filter built into the straw. Simply fill the bottle like normal from any water source, and when you draw water through the straw it filters out impurities and leaves them behind in the bottle. Manufacturers of these type filters promise up to 99.9 percent separation of drinkable water and impurities. Filter replacements are easily available.

The good news is, regardless of your needs – a personal system for backpacking of survival, tabletop model to purify only drinking water for a rural home or cabin, or a reverse osmosis unit plumbed into your home’s pipes for continual use – fresh water is within easy reach.