Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Growing your own groceries the frugal way

Ive dabbled in this for many years now on my own. My mind is flooded with memories of taking a drive to my grandmothers house during the growing season. My grandmother had a large old house (little spooky too) with a huge garden. She grew just about everything you could think of. Mom and my favorite Aunt Robin would be helping with weeding, watering, harvesting, and storing all our yummy produce. From our very own tomato sauce, zucini relish, green beans, and many more things. My favorite thing about going to Grandma Mary's house was on the dinner table, there was always a clear vintage drinking glass filled with water and small green onions for everyone to munch on. Yep, onions. I never ate them but I sucked on them for the flavor.

So here are a few tips I have found that you might find usefull.
Keep overhead low. No need to invest in fancy garden gadgets. Make your own plant supports out of twine and tree branches. Use newspaper, grass clippings, or straw for mulch. There's no better fartilizer than compost-and its free!
Avoid spraying as much as you can.Tolerate a few holes in your leaves instead of pulling out the pesticides. You'll avoid ingesting chemicals and spend less at the garden center. Hand pick pest and drop them into a bucket of soapy water.
Invest for future savings.Some food will take a while to give you a return. Most fruit tree's dont produce for 3-5 yrs. Combine these with long term investments with other foods like lettuce and radishes, that produce in just a few weeks.
Consider time. I would focus on low maintenance foods such as lettuces, peppers, asparagus, squash and fruit tree's. Some produce takes more time than others.
Save food for later. Instead of buying expensive jar sun-dried tomatoes, dry your tomatoes in your own oven and freeze them in small bags. Love pesto? Make your own and store in small bags . Also consider refrigerator pickles, apple butter, and no-cook or no-seal jams. Much cheaper. You can find jars at thrift stores all the time, just get new seals and rings. Make sure you check for cracks or chips. Alot of older seniors have garage sales and 100% of the time they have these.
Grow vegetables that store well. Some produce, such as squash, is easy to store at room temp . Just pick them and keep them in a cook, dry place, like a pantry or in a bin in a cupboard. Apples and pears will keep a long time in the fridge.
Assess your space. Unless you have a very large garden, plants that take lots of space, such as sweet corn and pumpkin, will be hard to accommodate. Instead grow produce like sweet peppers and tomatoes.
Consider a deep freeze. Yes, these are expensive, but sometimes you can find them secondhand. It will allow you to not only freeze vast amounts of produce, but also store meat, bread and other items you purchased on sale for even bigger sales.
Plant these to save the most money
Fresh Herbs
Bell Peppers
Tree Fruits

Tips for saving even more money
Buy after the season sales. Seeds you can get for as low as 10 cents. Stores just want to rid their stuff from their stores. Need that garden hat but dont want to spend the money? Target and Walmart have huge sales after the season is over. Get a $20 hat for as low as $5. Worth every penny when your out in the garden when its 100 degree's out. Garden clogs? Most handy item's ever. Get them as low as $5. Plan ahead. Want a garden next year, start planning, and gathering your items after the season when they are on sale. Hit up your second hand stores. I find most my canning tools this way. Super cheap. Have a friend giving stuff away, ask if they have any gardening items. Most always you find them at thrift stores. Why spend over $50 for a pressure cookier for canning? I bought a large canning pot for $15 at Walmart that worked just fine. Even better if you find it second hand. Think around what you need and plan ahead.

In my new home were movng into, the last owner had about 12 garden beds nice and seasoned. So these will be mine this growing season. So excited! When we went to look at the house, there will still tomatoes and squash growing in them. My heart just about jumped out of my skin. I said " I want this home". I knew this house was meant for us. Old house made very well, play structure for my kids, storage unit and garage for the hubby, very well built 1967 home never touched original everything, and on a cultasack. It was meant for us. This home is in a highly saught after neighborhood that homes go for over $300-$400,000. We snuck in ours for only $297,000. Only thing new in this home was the carpet. Eye sore for most, opportunity for us. Plus we just like retro old stuff. 4 weeks till we move. I cant wait.

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