Friday, February 24, 2012

A New Kind of Shopping

So most people will probably cringe when you start talking about powdered milk and freeze dried vegetables but we have learned to adapt. We have been living here in Fort Yukon for 7 months now and have learned a lot about how to adapt to a changing environment of available amenities. Although we do have a fairly well supplied store in town it can be very spendy to shop there. One example is the cost of a gallon of milk. In Pennsylvania we used to purchase a gallon of milk a couple times a week for about $4 per gallon. Here in Fort Yukon the store does not even carry gallons, only half gallons. A half gallon of fat free, 2% or Homogenized Whole Milk will cost you about $8. When you do the math it becomes very prohibitive for us to maintain the same milk drinking habits we had in PA.  Not to mention the fact that the milk here is ultra pasteurized and is not that pleasant to drink.  It tastes about the same as the shelf-stable stuff, which some people like but we most certainly do not.

We discovered that if you regularly drink powered milk you do in fact get used to the taste, and it isn’t actually that bad. One of the tricks to drinking powdered milk is to make sure it is as cold as possible, sometimes even with ice cubes in it.

When we were getting ready to head out to the Yukon Flats region of Alaska we knew we were going to run into these issues so we stocked up on some of the necessities and had them shipped to us. As we began to run out of some of the things we stocked up on we began our search for new sources of food to stock up for the winter. We discovered some others here in the area that buy freeze dried vegetables and meats and said they are happy with them. We were turned to a company called Shelf Reliance and we ordered a kit of things to try.

In October we got our first package of fun lightweight food. We got an assortment of vegetables, fruits and even a couple meats and a few other things. A couple of days after we received our shipment, I decided it was time to try a few things and see how we like what we got and see what else we might want to order. I made omelets for breakfast, made almost entirely from ingredients that I had to “reconstitute” with water.

So the first ingredient to make an omelet is egg. Whole egg powder is a strange thing to work with. To reconstitute you mix 1 tbsp egg powder to 2 tbsp water per egg required. I decided I was going to make a 3 egg omelet to split with Joc and see how we like our strange stuff. So I mixed the egg and while I was letting it sit for a few minutes I looked through the cans of other things we had that I might put in an omelet and decided on Green Peppers, Onion, TVP Ham and Diced Chicken. I put a tablespoon of each freeze dried item in a bowl added up how much water I needed to reconstitute them all mixed that up and let it set while I started cooking the egg. I discovered that cooking reconstituted egg powder is a little different from cooking regular egg, it requires a slightly higher temperature and acts a little bit different as it is cooking, but I managed ok. So the only thing I used that was a fresh ingredient was some shredded cheddar I had in the freezer.

When the omelet was done I tried it and was happy with it, Jocelyn tried a bite or two and asked if I would make one for her but to add a  little salt and pepper, I knew I forgot something. I made her omelet for her and we decided that it was actually amazingly good and given the cost of the ingredients and the ease of storage of all the ingredients, well worth it.

So after our first experiment we decided we really liked what we got and decided to get more. We got a couple of other kinds of meat and some more fruits and vegetables.  We also liked the milk soooo much that we got a whole case!  Since getting this, we have been drinking a lot more milk (it’s actually pretty affordable, a gallon is about $5.50!).  The best thing about all of this is that Jocelyn is able to have real food when traveling and not just canned soup.  It’s really easy to take with her and is really easy to make in the limited kitchens that the schools have for the traveling staff to use.

We also make pizza regularly.  We never thought we would like pizza made at home but when you don't have a local pizza parlor, you learn to adjust.  Joc despises frozen pizzas, saying they mostly taste like cardboard and don't have near enough toppings.  We found that Jiffy makes a great pizza crust mix that's easy to make and tastes really good.  We have tried to make our own crust but for the hassle it's not worth the $2 savings.  The store has the mixes and pizza sauce and even having to buy these here it's not that expensive.  The most expensive part is the cheese but even that isn't that bad if you watch the sale items at the store.  So we have gotten to be really creative with pizza toppings and mixes.  Since neither of us likes sausage, we are able to make a supreme pizza that is much more to our liking (we substitute roast beef from Thrive for sausage).  Having the Pampered Chef Large Bar Pan is the key to making wonderful pizza as the crust turns out crispy on the outside and still soft on the inside.  

Sure we still eat "fresh" foods but not as much as we thought.  When we "go to town" (aka flying to Fairbanks), we usually stock up on meat and butter.  While the butter powder is actually really good, it is sometimes a pain to wait to "churn" butter (put it in the kitchen aid and whip for 15 minutes or so).  We buy butter as more of a convenience thing than anything else.  The meats from Thrive are really good but they do actually end being more for the most part unless we are not able to get into Fairbanks to do our own shopping.  We have learned better ways to buy in bulk and also are pros at finding deals in the local AC (1/2 price items are actually really worth it).  

So this is how we live now... Not bad at all if I might say so!

~ Andrew


  1. Andrew has found that the meats make good snacks... sounds funny but it really is good just the way that it comes.

  2. We found the the 1/2 price section in our Native Store saves a lot of money, too. Last year, we bought ten pounds of cheese (mozzarella and Jack) and threw them in the freezer. Since we cook with both cheeses, they are perfect from the freezer!