Na Na pinches her pennies (aka frugal living)

Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.

Twenty pounds of onions

What would you do with twenty pounds of onions?  On my shopping trip last month I bought sweet onions buy one five pound bag for $4 get one bag free because that was a very good price.  I can’t remember the last time I saw sweet onions at 40 cents a pound.  I wish I’d bought a couple more bags.  I prefer the sweet onions and we very rarely get even one sweet onion from the food bank.   The next day was mobile food bank day and  I got about ten pounds of boiler onions.  Each person was given a bag of a little over 3 pounds.  I traded the processed foods I got for the onions a couple of other people got.

Hmm…. just what could I do with all those onions?  I dehydrated the sweet onions.  That left me wondering what to do with the 10 pounds of boiler onions.  At first I thought I might can a few jars of onion soup.  I didn’t have any beef stock or soup base so I decided to use the boiler onions for pickled onions.  Usually pickled onions are made with pearl onions for their tiny size but these will work too.  Boiler onions are small, about the size of a golf ball, with tough skins making them difficult to peel.

Start by cutting off both ends and making a shallow cut (one layer deep) on the side.  Drop them into a pot of boiling water for about 15 seconds.

Drop into cold water to stop the cooking process.  This is the same process for peeling tomatoes quickly.

Peeling is now very easy.  Especially because of the cut on the side.

As each one was peeled I dropped it into more cold water to rinse away any stray bits of peel.  I loosely packed the jars with the onions.  Some were cut in half to get more into the jars.  Cover with pickling juice and into the canner.

Canning the onions is ok with water bath canning because it’s pickling.  Without the pickling brine I would have to do pressure canning.  My small canner holds 8 pint jars so one jar is put in the canner empty as a place holder.  I set aside some of the onions and baked them for dinner.

Water bath processed for 10 minutes then removed to set and cool completely before putting away.

The recipe I used for the pickle juice is one I found in an old cookbook:

  • 5 1/2 cups vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons canning salt (do not use table salt)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 8 teaspoons mustard seed
  • 4 teaspoons celery seed

Put everything into a pot and heat until the sugar melts and it comes to a boil.  Turn off the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes before pouring over onions.   I had some juice left over so instead of just throwing it out I made pickled eggs.  No cooking necessary except to boil the eggs.  Put them in a jar, cover with the brine, put into the refrigerator.

Both the onion and egg recipes recommend leaving them to set for two weeks before opening to get the best flavor.  The egg shells were set aside to dry.  I’ll save them just in case there is a miracle happen that gets me a garden.  So that’s what I did with 20 pounds of onions.  If I get more I may make onion jam or maybe onion relish.

Ok, along with those onions I got a cloth reusable grocery bag full of small sized sweet potatoes.  No photos but I’m guessing it was about 15 pounds.  I managed to can 30 pints to eat when the supplies are gone.  I still need to wash most of the jars before I can write the date on the tops.

I may not have a backyard garden but I can still preserve food as if I did.  I may not have the money to buy from a farmer’s market but who can tell by simply looking at the jars?



23 comments on “Twenty pounds of onions

  1. Nin
    May 12, 2017

    I’m always super impressed with how far you can make a meal/food item stretch. I feel like I’m fairly frugal but when I look at your posts I see just how much better I can be. Thanks for the inspiration😀

    • Anita
      May 14, 2017

      Thank you Nin, I read a lot. My favorite reading is the old “household” type books I get from the library. My current read is “Woman’s home companion household book” published in 1948 by Doubleday Press. I read old books on the Gutenberg web site too. I’m always surprised by how much frugal information is found in the old books.

  2. T
    May 10, 2017

    re new Kroger construction- yes there are now two Anita, I have not been there they are not in convenient locations for me. But they are each close to enormous expensive planned communities, the people there probably won’t be targeted with bargains…

    • Anita
      May 10, 2017

      Watch for some really good deals on kitchen gadgets and electronic items. Some will be marked 90 percent off so if there is something you had planned to buy but couldn’t afford now is the time to look at them again.

      • T
        May 13, 2017

        Nothing like that on sale so far, loads of the whole food power bar type products being sold off; I don’t usually buy them at $2 or $3 each…but they do have a good iron supplement the ones I have bought.

  3. Julie V
    May 6, 2017

    I just planted bulb white onions…bag of 80 little bulbs on clearance for $1.35. When they get green tops I clip a portion off and dehydrate them for dried green onions and let the onion keep growing. I have never made pickled onions.. how do you cook with them or do you eat them like pickles? I have chopped and frozen them in little baggies and its been really convenient for cooking purposes. I thrift shop most of my stuff and have been able to build up my canning supplies over the years… its very frustrating when I see thrift stores selling jars at brand new prices and I let them know the price is “the new price”. I agree, this is a great site and full of good tips, ideas, inspiration, and hope.

    • Anita
      May 8, 2017

      That was a good bargain for those onion sets. I doubt I’ll get a garden made this year but I’m gathering things I’ll need. Like you I gather things as I find them.

      Pickled onions are used the same way as any onion. Have you seen jars of bread and butter pickles with onions in them in the store? Same thing. They have a sweet/sour taste which gives you another onion flavor option. Personally I don’t eat the pickled ones often so the seven pints will last me a long time. I believe people in Europe eat onion pickles more often. The pickled pearl onions are sometimes put into martini drinks instead of the olive.

      Yeah I’ve seen many things in the thrift stores selling for the same as new or sometimes higher. Its frustrating.

  4. T
    May 6, 2017

    The small sweet onions are currently @50 cents lb loose at Kroger, red onions @ 99 cents lb. I don’t use a lot so I just buy one at a time.

    I bought a load of laundry soap recently, for some reason Kroger sent me loads of digital coupons, the reduced price was $1.99 if you buy 4 so I got them for 99 cents each. I would only do that for the brand I like though. I don’t have a lot of storage space.

    I read an article on ‘simple dollar’ the other day about coupons and special offers and the writer said she only uses them if she knows the stuff will get used and if it’s for healthy food.

    If something is very cheap and I can’t use it I will get it anyway and donate it.

    • Anita
      May 8, 2017

      Of course its better to get only the amount of onions you know you will use. That was a really good deal on the laundry soap. I check out the digital coupons every now and then. They seem to have improved quite a bit over the last year so maybe I need to study them a bit more.

      I was an EXTREME couponer back in the day when very few people used coupons. I started in the 1950s which was many years before the tv show. Back then there were tons of coupons for unprocessed healthy foods. Fruit, veggie, meat, and dairy coupons were everywhere. No one bothered to use three cent, five cent, or ten cent coupons but I did. I was an expert at combining sale items, with coupons, with doubling or tripling coupon value, and then getting a full value rebate from the manufacturer. In the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s I earned more from couponing than my salary at work. Sometime around 2000 when the really good coupons stopped so did I. The cost of our local paper tripled in cost too so it was no longer worth buying for the meager coupons available.

      Holly (the simple dollar) is right, the best way to use coupons is only for what you know you will use. I don’t donate items anymore because most charities can get better bargains just by being a charity. Its better to donate cash.

      • T
        May 8, 2017

        there are loads of food pantries and soup kitchens here always requesting donations. The foods they want are often the things I try to avoid eating, I guess to make it easy for people.

        I won’t donate cash to almost any charity, they pay their CEOs etc too much to even justify being a charity in many cases, and the not-for-profit status of many medical charities is simply business-tax-avoidance so far as I can see, most don’t provide any assistance to the poor who get sick.

        I don’t know what is going on with Kroger here, some stores there are whole shelves empty or half-empty, and they do seem to be downsizing product lines, less and less choice. I got some bargains with canned fruit and unsweetened apple sauce, but I guess in future there will be fewer brands and choices on that aisle.

        The digital coupons are good sometimes if you can combine an item on special with the coupon, but often they don’t work at checkout, and some of the staff don’t know how to help put it right.

        Today I bought chicken, the digital coupon showed up fine but the chicken rang up $1.75 over the marked price, so I had to claim that back. almost every trip there’s a problem, I generally am vigilant and have time to mess about with it, but I am sure many customers don’t, makes me wonder if it’s not deliberate.

        I think the purpose of the coupons is to get people to keep entering the store in the hopes they will make their other purchases their too, and impulse purchases: you and I are not the target shopper so less and less of the coupons are tailored to us. Kroger does send me coupons off produce but it’s $2 off $10, not much use to me. They do send me a regular free bag of frozen veg, and regular dollar off fresh chicken ( assuming the chicken doesn’t ring up $1.75 over marked price it’s a good deal anyway! )

        • Anita
          May 9, 2017

          Sounds like the Krogers with the empty shelves are closing. That’s the way it was here. Watch for some really great bargains near closing day but they will go quickly. The stores here gave only a two week notice the store would be closing. They put one, only one, sheet of paper on the door with the announcement. Nothing else. But it could also be because food stamp people have shopped and a stock clerk is out sick or something similar.

          I donate to a food bank charity I’ve gotten help from in the past. I donate cash because some items just don’t get donated. The food bank buys those items if there is enough money to buy them. One example is toilet paper. This was years ago but I had gotten an emergency food box filled with food. When I got home I was looking through the box when my daughter said Mom did you buy toilet paper because we are out of toilet paper. She didn’t know I had gone to the food bank. I searched all through the box and there was no toilet paper or any other non-edible item like soap or deodorant or toothpaste. A few months later after I had gotten back on my feet I took a donation of food back to the food bank. I asked why there was no toilet paper given out and was told no one donates toilet paper or money to buy it. I went straight to a janitor supply store and bought a box of 50 rolls for the food bank. I said if they put one roll in each emergency box it would help 50 families. That food bank still puts a roll of toilet paper in each emergency box and I still donate cash when I have enough to donate.

          You are so right about the purpose of the coupons. The same with loss leaders and two days only sales and ten for ten sales. Young people are always in a hurry and always distracted by their electronic devices. Most simply slide a card through the machine without even looking at the total on the register so they don’t even notice if a five dollar purchase is actually paid as twenty dollars. I catch register mistakes all the time. I’m like you I think it deliberate but it might also be that the person entering the price information into their computer system is distracted too. Electronic devices are making our young generations DUMB.

          • T
            May 9, 2017

            Funny! I don’t like ‘smart-phones’, they seem to take over people’s lives.

            Well you were right, lots more bargains today and a sign up saying they will no longer be open 24 hours. One step on the road to closing?

            • Anita
              May 10, 2017

              It sure is! Our 24 hour Kroger was the first to close its doors about one or two months after that announcement. Have you seen any new building construction that may look like a super store? Kroger new store is like a Walmart or a Meijer. Selling clothing, toys, gourmet food, wines, and so forth. BUT, the selections are much fewer and in my opinion more expensive.

  5. Peg
    May 5, 2017

    Lilly PIckles, I am teaching myself to can. Canning jars are expensive and prices can vary greatly between stores. You may want to check your grocery stores for pectin right now. I’ve been seeing Ball Instant Pectin (for freezer jam) on clearance at my Krogers. Blessings to you & your daughter.

  6. Donna
    May 5, 2017

    That’s eating high on the hog in my book. Yummy.

  7. Lilly pickles
    May 5, 2017

    I just love this post. I decided I wanted to start canning. After all I often find really good deals and I want to plant a garden. But, the obstacles continue to annoy me. My ground is Georgia red clay with all pine trees. It looks like next year we will do a square garden on raised beds and for the time being, a few container items. Next year I should be able to buy some dirt and meanwhile we will start composting. Grrr, I have a glass top stove. I am reading that if I try to can on it I will be chancing it cracking. I am still growling. Canning jars are expensive. The few I found in the thrift store weren’t any cheaper. I will keep an eye out for seasonal markdowns. I really wanted to make some freezer jam. I was wondering if it could be put in bags? Also, I could invest 100.00 now in future food storage. Should I save for a good deal on jars, buy a chest freezer or a good storage system. That rolled wrap seems expensive but yet I would like to put up meat without freezer burn. My stove is around 9 yrs old. My experience is they last around 10 yrs. I hope to not replace it, but I imagine it will be my next replacement needed. I appreciate your blog. My grand and great mothers were extremely frugal. Sadly everyone is gone. I am getting old and have special daughter. Medical needs are heavy on my soul and our income is minimal. We have what we need but being frugal certainly gives us more security. I would certainly appreciate any thoughts you have. You remind me of the women of my family and it feels like home.

    • Anita
      May 5, 2017

      I guess you could put freezer jam in plastic bags but I’d imagine getting it out of the bag would be kinda messy. 🙂 Wouldn’t an empty peanut butter jar or pickle jar work better? Yes, using a heavy gauge metal pressure canner filled with several jars of heavy liquid might crack the glass. Don’t let that stop you from doing some water bath canning though. A small water bath canner would not be nearly as heavy. In this area canning jars are hard to find until late spring. They go quickly too. The farther away from a big city you get the easier it is to find canning equipment. Canning items are treated as seasonal in most places like Walmart, Kroger, and Meijer.

      Its taken me several years to gather things or save for expensive items. When my neighbors or friends were going into debt paying for cable tv, movie rentals, fancy cars, liquor, visiting the casino, going to bingo, and buying lottery tickets, I was studying history books and hoarding my money to buy frugal living stuff. I happen to think getting any new money saving thing is very exciting. I started with a freezer because it gave me immediate money saving ability. I could take advantage of unexpected bargains and the preserving was easy to do. The money I saved with bargains helped get the other things. I did inherit some things over time too.

      Thank you for the compliment. I’m often told my writing style is “soothing” but I just say what’s on my mind. At the old neighborhood I was everybody’s nanny. I rounded up lost kids or pets, kept spare keys and alarm codes, and acted as a nurse when needed. I don’t have that here. It takes a lot to get me riled up but it does slip out now and then.

      • Lilly pickles
        May 5, 2017

        After posting last night I continued to click and read on various posts you made about canning. The whole freezer of lost food terrified me. I got a lot of good info from you and will continue to pick bits of info from your back posts. I have a plan in place to collect jars etc and a year from now, I should have everything I need. I have a stockpile for now so we are good. I would just like to adjust some freezer items to canned instead.

        • Anita
          May 6, 2017

          I can relate to wanting some items preserved other ways. Freezer food loss not once but three times in a row due to natural disasters. Ice storm, hurricane, and flood. That taught me a valuable lesson and is the reason I decided to go back to the old ways. I wanted to be prepared for any future natural disaster. I love that I’m able to can meats as well as the veggies. Its fun looking for the old canning recipes in old books from the library too.

  8. Margie in Toronto
    May 4, 2017

    You’ve given me some new ideas! I can often get 10 pounds for $2.00 – the last time I chopped, measured and froze ziplock bags full. Then I got some peppers on sale cheap and mixed chopped peppers and onions and froze them. After that I made a large batch of caramelized onions and then froze them in 2 cup batches for soup or sandwiches. I kept the smallest ones for baking or creamed onions. It was a lot of work (and a few tears) but definitely worth it.

    • Anita
      May 5, 2017

      Ooo, that is a VERY good price for onions. Yes, the tears are the worst part of chopping onions aren’t they? I find it’s a little better if I cut the onions away from directly under my nose. Its a little awkward but does help. I want one of those onion chopper gadgets but not enough money for it yet. Still have to peel the onions though. Hmm.. creamed onion sounds good. Maybe on biscuits or toast.

  9. Linda S
    May 4, 2017

    You’ve been a busy girl! I would love it if you would share your recipes for onion relish & onion jam. You are one creative cookie!

    • Anita
      May 5, 2017

      I’ll be happy to but it may be a few days before I get to it. Thanks.

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