Thursday, February 14, 2008

Buying in bulk

A couple weeks ago marked a momentous occasion in the life of my young, large family: the first time we purchased a five gallon bucket of food. Oatmeal, to be precise.

Growing up in a large family as I did, with a mom who is frugal by necessity, our kitchen and storage area were filled with buckets of all manner of dry goods: rice, pastas, cereals, wheat berries (to grind into flour), and the inevitable beans. When Y2K and the accompanying stockpiling began, my parents' basement family room had an entire wall of buckets. It was a sight to see!

When dh and I first married, cooking what I considered a normal-sized meal would yield us at least three meals: one for that night, and two for the freezer. In the years since I have adjusted that expectation as our children came along and started eating real amounts of food. This last year in particular, the three oldest have begun eating about as much as myself and their daddy. And they are still quite young--I can only imagine the sheer volume of food we will need when we have six teenagers in the house!

So a couple of weeks ago, when there was a special food storage sale at a local grocery store, I bought our first seriously large bulk food item: a five gallon bucket of rolled oats. Ever since my brother visited from NYC and made a truly memorable pot of oatmeal the kids have loved the stuff. They always request it made "like Uncle Josh made it," and scrape the bottom of the pot clean. Over the year since his visit my memory of exactly how he made the oatmeal has grown a bit hazy, so my apologies to my brother if it's not quite right:

Uncle Josh's Oatmeal

10 cups water
1 cup raisins
1-2 apples, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
5 cups rolled oats
1/2-3/4 cup sugar
generous shake of cinnamon

Bring the water, raisins, and apples to a boil. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer and reduce heat, stirring frequently. Simmer for about 5-8 minutes, until most of the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let sit for a few minutes. Serve with milk or half-and-half if you're feeling particularly decadent.

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