Friday, August 29, 2014

It’s Back-To-School Time: Is Your Classroom Storage Ready?

Save Space & Beat Budget Concerns with These Easy Storage Tips

Preschool, daycare, and elementary school classrooms need plenty of space to store supplies and items, especially at the beginning of the school year. The more organized your storage, the smoother your classroom runs—but the costs of storage can add up fast, especially if you’re working with limited space.

These storage tips will help you create more storage room in your classroom for less, and save you time and money throughout the school year.

Save big on large storage items

There are several storage solution companies that offer great discounts for teachers and daycare owners. The Container Store carries nothing but storage options, from toy storage and kitchen containers to wheeling drawers and stack baskets—and they offer 15% off all purchases for teachers. You can also check out Discount School Supply for affordable storage solutions and classroom furniture.

If you have older kids in your classroom and you’re looking to save on storage furniture like cubbies or bookshelves, look for an unfinished furniture store in your area. These stores typically offer drastically reduced prices on new, unpainted furniture, and you can make painting your new storage units into a great class project.

Think outside the (storage) box

You may have noticed that products designated for classrooms often cost more. So when you’re shopping for storage containers for your preschool, daycare, or classroom, look to non-classroom specific solutions. Everyday items like cleaning buckets, laundry baskets, plastic shoe boxes, and hanging closet organizers can be affordable and convenient solutions for your classroom storage needs.

Find free, gently used items on Freecycle

Donation drives can be effective at getting new equipment and storage for your classroom, but there may be a faster and easier way. Check out, a worldwide nonprofit community network that helps connect people with the things they need for free, while letting people donate unwanted items without the hassle of hauling them to a charity store or throwing them away.

Freecycle is easy to use. Once you join your local community, you can browse offerings for free stuff posted by members, and post messages asking for donations of the items you need. People on Freecycle love donating to teachers, because they know their items are going to a good cause.

Use vacuum sealing bags to increase storage space

Vacuum sealing can be a great storage solution for any classroom. This airtight, compressed method of storage isn’t just for food—you can store just about anything you can place in a bag quickly and conveniently, for as long as needed.

Just a few ways you can save money and space by using vacuum sealing bags in the classroom include:

  • Purchase a year’s supply of soap, sanitizer, and other hygiene products in bulk, and break up the supplies into monthly units. Then, store each unit in a vacuum sealed bag—this keeps the products fresh and ready to use.
  • Buy classroom snacks in bulk, and store them in vacuum seal bags for long-lasting freshness. Vacuum sealed fruits and vegetables enjoy a dramatically extended shelf life, and this storage method also keeps things like crackers and cookies fresh and crisp.
  • Store bulky blankets and spare winter clothing in vacuum sealed bags to save lots of space until cold weather arrives.
  • Vacuum sealing bags are very durable and have a high capacity, so you can use them to store miscellaneous items like small toys, building blocks, and loose crayons, markers, and pencils, and leave them unsealed for fast access.

September is just around the corner, so make sure you’re prepared. With some creative planning and looking around, you can make sure your classroom storage is ready to handle back-to-school time, while you save money and space.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Inspiring Canning Stories


Inspiring canning stories

Retort, canning, jarring, bottling, name it as you like, we should add pouching to the list of words for retort don’t you think so.

Retort experiences are quite inspiring when you listen to what people have to say about their canning adventures. Many of them are already canning since childhood, you know that ‘my grandmothers recipe thing’ that you find when people talk about cooking their favorite dish, I found the same experiences when I was looking for retort tales.

From here


To here

Many of them were really very inspiring and I like to share a few of them. If you are inspired after this read, share your story here and inspire others to eat healthy homemade food made with their own retort produce.


In abundance 

I found this story of a lady who says that she has been canning for 45 years now and started when she was with her, now husband, in college, the budget was tight and behind their house was a yard with apple trees, she gathered the apples and made apple sauce and apple butter from it. Canning is work she says, but unlike house work it is very rewarding to have rows of jewels on the shelf that you can pull out in winter and have the taste of summer.

Her favorite canning memory was that her daughter once called her in the middle of the night and asked how to can peaches; because her husband loved the mother’s canned peaches to bits. She gave her the recipe and her daughter has been canning ever since.  

Juicy and Succulent

Another lady said that she loved canning tomatoes, crushed and stewed with onions and peppers. She makes salsa’s, pizza sauce, taco sauce, pickled jalapenos, dill and sweet pickles, soups and apple pie filling from their own green house and garden. She grows a lot of vegetables on their 1 acre land and says ‘Yes it’s a lot of work but I have so much fun doing it’.

Then I loved this comment, ‘A trip to the local farmers market is better than taking a vacation for me,’ working with the herbs and vegetables I bring home with me extends the sensory experience I brought with me from the market.   

‘I can fresh produce and control what ingredients go into my family’s food and that makes me feel good. The reason that I retort, is the sense of accomplishment I feel when I watch my shelves fill up with food that is not only safe and healthy but which is as nourishing to my senses as it is to my body’.  How true

One man said, ‘the amount of money we have saved by canning produce from our garden is hard to say, but it is a considerable sum for sure. It involves hard work but an enormous sense of pride and an incredible feeling of accomplishment and living.

I did not want to waste to excess produce from my garden and started canning for that reason, I can tell you now that there is nothing than to open a packet of your own produced retort in the middle of winter and smell your garden, said another contributor. 
Yes it may be harder work then going to the grocery store but knowing what is in my own produced retort, or maybe more importantly, what is not in it, justifies all the effort.


He added that he makes tomato sauce, chili sauce and his own sausages that make to best hot dogs imaginable.

The last one: ‘Best thing is that we do it together, we clean, cut, cook, pack and process everything together, spending precious time together and enjoying every minute of it.
This couple’s favorite product were peanuts, wash them very well, boil for 5 minutes with salt and retort for 50 minutes under 11 LBS pressure.           Worth a try I would say.

My immediate assessment after reading some retort stories is the joy and feeling of accomplishment you get from making your own, if you do not have a garden, go to the local farmers market for more inspiration.

I found that some people manage to save up to $800.00 per year which is the icing on the cake.

Pouch retort is pretty cheap, clean, saves storage space and rewarding, go for it!!  for USA and for Canada 

By: Marinus Hoogendoorn

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Emergency Water and Pouch Retort


Emergency Water and Pouch Retort

Are we talking water? What is there to talk about water you might say, well true, but water is our main source of survival. We use water for almost everything we do in our daily chores and you only find the importance of water when there is no water. You cannot wash your hands for example, an exercise we perform more often than you think.

The need of emergency water

There is a good chance that you do not have access to clean drinking water when a calamity occurs, something that happens more often than you think also and when it does we have a recipe for disaster. Disastrous news enters our lives every day through the many media services available to us. Floods, droughts, earthquakes, hurricanes and wars are scattered all over the world. One wonders if there is still a single safe corner left on this planet.

Being hit by a natural disaster is already a devastating experience on itself, no water during the aftermath of such catastrophes is a serious problem. In areas, prone to disasters, people are very often advised to store emergency drinking water in their homes, a gallon per person (and pets) per day is advised, preferable for two weeks.    

When water is our survival during the Apocalypse, how does water survive when it is stored for a long period of time?

The trouble of safe water storing 

Good, but Porous 
Then there is the advice to replace that water every six months, not to store water near to pesticides or gasoline, store in a cool place with a constant temperature and a few more advices that are pretty troublesome. Emergency water is not something everyone wakes- up with in the morning.

Water stored in badly sanitized containers may still be alright after a year or so but the containers may develop molds, another problem you are not looking forward to.  

When you finally have the emergency water woes in order and under control, it is time to think about some more fun things in life, a weekend hiking or camping with the family for instance. Again the water topic pops up. No shops in the woods, trees and thirst in abundance. Now, size becomes an issue, your backpack is only that big. Huge bottles of water are out of the question, small bottles then? To store and carry many of them is also a bit uncomfortable.

The solution

Here is an interesting solution to all these water problems, retort water in small convenient packets. Expensive? Yes, when you buy them, No when you make them.

An 8 oz pouch holds 16 oz of water. Retort at 10 LBS pressure for 30 minutes.
An 4 oz pouch holds 8 oz of water. Retort at 10 LBS pressure for 30 minutes.

For more info on the right sizes of pouches that fit your vacuum sealer, go to:  for USA and for Canada 

Pouch Retort

The Convenience
These pouches are easy to store in your backpack, they last for years and can therefore be made any time convenient. Retort pouches are not porous so you can store them anywhere you have space, there is no need to replace them every six months also. Forget about installing an air conditioner and a heather in your garage to maintain a fairly constant temperature.  

The Money Catch

Now here is the ‘homemade water in retort pouches’ catch.
Store bought they cost around $2.00 for a 4 oz to 6 oz pouch.
Homemade they cost less than $0.50 cents. Great cost saving! And you make good use of your retort canner and vacuum sealer

All reason the more to go for pouch retort when it comes to emergency or convenient safe drinking water on camping trips.

No scientific data  from the FDA is available on home canning, the information and retort times given are guidelines and not authorized data.

PMG holds no responsibility for misuse of information provided and is void of any liability.
Home canning is at your own risk.

By: Marinus Hoogendoorn   


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Money Saving Cooking Tips


Money saving cooking tips

A few blogs ago I promised to give money saving cooking tips how to prepare fresh, healthy home cooked meals that fit your budget.

My point was, quote: “I reject to believe that you have no choice or that your only choice is a 99 cents fast food meal because the organic aisle is too expensive. To me that is just a cheap excuse.” End quote.

This was based on a study with the outcome that white bread and ground chuck were on average cheaper than healthy organic products and that is why consumers grab processed food instead of cooking with fresh ingredients.

Now, I do believe that organic artisan bread is healthier than factory made white bread but I also (strongly) believe that you do have a choice and there are more options than the organic isle.   

When preparing this article, I wondered myself what the best way would be to explain the subject.

You would probably say, easy talking for a chef.
Maybe it is, but read on, I am sure you will find something helpful.

Tip 1:   Vacuum to safe money


My first tip may sound exaggerated, but vacuum – sealing tools are truly revolutionary when it comes to preserving food in your freezer and refrigerator. The ugly food destroying freezer burn is eliminated and your food stays fresh and delicious for months in the freezer. In the refrigerator vacuum prolongs shelf life significantly. If that does not save money?

Tip 2:  Use cheaper cuts of meat

Great Roasting Meat

A cheaper meat cut is not necessarily ground chuck. Pork, lamb, beef have many cheap(er) cuts that are delicious.
You need to get familiar with some different cooking techniques but making a roast it as easy as searing a steak.

Shoulders of pork of lamb cost $ 2.00 to $6.00 per pound compared to steaks $10.00 a pound. These shoulders make a great roast and make one (or two) at a time, use what you need for dinner and use the rest for other means, these roasts make a great sandwich filling (cheaper than cold cuts), or filling for a pasta or a rice dish later in the week. On top of a cracker with a bit of mayonnaise and a salad leave it makes a nice snack to go along with a drink on a weekend.

Consider investing in a slow cooker, these cheaper cuts are fantastic to use in stews, turn the slow cooker on before you go to work and dinner is ready when you come home. 

Tip 3:  Think ahead

Buy meats on offer and prepare all at once and use the balance in a stir fry. Or marinate what you do not use immediately, vacuum and freeze, this way you always have something on hand when there is no time to shop. This saves energy and your time.
Pre-prepared vegetables keep well when vacuumed and frozen; take advantage when you find offers.

Tip 4:  Serve the right portioning

This is not good

Have a look at how much you really need to cook and put on a plate. Tons of good food are wasted daily because of over-portioning.  

Tip 5:  Clever ways to use left overs

Overripe fruits are sweet, take advantage and turn them into dessert toppings by simmering them for a couple of minutes with sugar, a bit of water, a slice of lemon and a cinnamon stick , vacuum and freeze.

Tip 6:  Make the best of fruits

Turn overripe bananas into banana bread, this can be done in an hour inclusive baking, lovely for breakfast or a snack when the kids come home from school. A lot cheaper than throwing them in the rubbish and buy ready- made jars of toppings and packets of snacks.

Tip 7:  Make your own juices


When the store has overripe fruit and sells it cheap, blend it with a bit of water or that little leftover of milk or yogurt
Delicious drinks/smoothies, I do that all the time and make healthy fruit juices for less than 0.50 cents per glass. If you know how packed fruit juices are filtered you will follow this tip.

Tip 8: Do not throw bread away

Do not throw stale bread in the bin, grind it in a food processor, fresh or wet breadcrumbs are a fantastic binding agent for sauces and stews. Easy to vacuum and frozen they last for months. If you have a lot consider a bread and butter pudding.

Tip 9: Think traditional

Two eggs, a cup of flour, 2 tbsp of oil and a bit of salt makes dough that gives you enough pasta for a family of four. It takes five minutes to make the dough, then ten minutes to make pasta from the dough and it cooks in three minutes.
With some left over bacon, mushrooms, broccoli or zucchini half an onion and two more eggs you make an unmatched traditional Carbonara. How does that sound?

Fry the bacon, add the vegetables until soft, boil the pasta, add the pasta straight from the water into the bacon vegetable mix. Off the heat, add the whisked eggs and toss. That’s how they make pasta dishes in Italy. Absolutely divine.  
Tip 10:  Spend wisely     
Invest wisely, buy fresh food that fit your budget and remember that recipes are ideas that sprung from somebody’s mind, change to your liking, recipes are no laws.

Shop Smart, Cook Clever, Waste Less

I compiled these budget friendly tips so that you will not be locked up in your kitchen every day. Be inspired and cook healthy foods.

By: Marinus Hoogendoorn

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Packing Tips for Summer Camping Trips

Many people assume there are only two options when it comes to packing for a camping trip: spend hours organizing all of your items, or toss everything together quickly and hope you didn’t forget anything. Packing for this year’s summer camping trip doesn’t have to be a daunting or haphazard task. Read on for a list of smart packing tips for your outdoor vacation.

Make sure to pack the appropriate clothing for your planned activities. Rain hats and coats, hiking shoes, sun hats, sturdy jeans, and other types of clothing are basic essentials. Pack your clothes in an airtight vacuum storage bag for protection against moisture and bugs, and for ease of transport. The bags hold a surprisingly large amount of clothing, and once sealed with a vacuum sealer, they become dense and compact, giving you room to pack other essentials efficiently.

Just because you’re roughing it doesn’t mean you have to forgo all hygiene! Remember to pack your toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, toilet paper, towels, sunscreen, bug spray, medications, and other essential items. Soaps and toothpastes with fragrance or flavor should be sealed tightly in a container or vacuum pouch to prevent attraction from bears and other creatures. This is especially important if you are hiking into the back country.  The bears can not smell through the vacuum sealed packages. 

Food & Cooking
If you’re planning on cooking your own food, it’s handy to have your meals planned out ahead of time so you can make sure to bring and prepare the correct amount of food and don’t run out. Dishes like pasta with tomato sauce, Dutch oven meat loaf, and various soups are easy, delicious meals that can serve multiple people. Keep perishable items in a large cooler, and keep canned goods in a cardboard or plastic bin. To minimize mess, prepare some items ahead of time and freeze them. They’ll keep other items in your cooler cold, defrost as the camping trip progresses, and you’ll have ready-to-use food.  Frozen, vacuum packed pre-made meals such chili can be ice blocks then quickly turned into dinner. Placed the frozen vacuum package directly into boiling water to reheat. 


Flat Commercial Pouches

Vacuum sealed individual portions of dehydrated foods are great for back- packing.  Boil a small pot of water and add the dehydrated meats, veggies and quick cooking pasta from your home vacuum packed meals. Save money with home made vacuum packaged meals cost about $1.00 verses the prepackaged back-packing meals run from $6.00 to $12.00 each. 

  See our top quality USDA meats to make your own dehydrated meals.  

  Dehydrated Meats

Utensils & Other Miscellany
Scissors, knives, spoons, forks, tongs, spatulas, can openers, colanders, bowls, plates, pots, and pans are all important items to remember on your camping trip. Other useful staples include vacuum-sealable storage bags for their high holding capacity and durability (even if you don’t have a vacuum sealer), kitchen baggies, paper towels, a wash tub, charcoal or a propane tank (plus matches or a lighter), and a first aid kit.  Vacuum pack 

Camping Gear
When you think of camping, you may picture a tent, sleeping bags, and chairs around a fire pit. These, the most basic items you can bring with you, are sometimes bulky and inconvenient to pack. Sleeping bags can be compressed in vacuum bags, as can blankets, towels, and even food. Don’t forget a mallet or hammer to anchor your tent.

Have a great camping trip this summer, and be prepared and save money with these helpful items!  

Words By Melissa