Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Thrifty Nutrition--Planning for Next Growing Season

Let me start this by saying I'm by no means an expert on nutrition.  If I was, I wouldn't be needing to lose 200 pounds.

Many of us are on budgets.  Food prices go up much faster than incomes.  (Can I get an Amen here??)  It gets harder each week to feed the family, let alone feed them nutritional foods.

But you can!

Sure, it doesn't look easy on the surface, but with some work, some planning, and willingness to roll up your sleeves and put some elbow grease into the mix, thrifty nutrition can happen.  You can have healthy, satisfying foods on a budget.

Since we are nearing the end of the growing season in most of the states, produce options and prices will be changing very soon.  But, this is also a good time to think about the things you've enjoyed this past summer and into the fall.  Did you enjoy corn on the cob?  How about freshly snapped green beans?  Cucumbers?  Zucchini?  Yellow squashes?  Salad?  If you said yes to these, or can think of others, you can possibly grow these for yourself in the next growing season and save yourself a tidy sum of money while getting healthy homegrown foods!

We are blessed in our rural area to have plenty of land to work with.  We personally live in town, but have access to my husband's family's yard, which in the growing season through the hard freeze is a jungle of vines and bushes and all kinds of yumminess.  Papa's back yard is a bounty of over 40 years of tender loving care and the richest soil one can imagine.  In our own yard, it needs a bit of work, but can be easily done.  If you don't have a yard to work with--don't despair--simply purchase 5 gallon buckets and smaller pots and you can have your own garden on a smaller level.

We are slowly plotting out ideas for next year's garden and flowers, and using what worked this year as a guide for the coming year.  This year, the tomatoes produced up to 2 pounders a piece.  Yep, those will be returning!  Cuban beans will make a trip through the garden again, as will butternut squash, green and red bell peppers, zucchini, and asparagus.  I hope to add in rhubarb.  Black seeded simpson lettuce and various spinach seeds always make it in as well.  Then there's radishes, garlic, potatoes, sweet potatoes.  Yes, it's a rather large garden!

At home, I grow herbs.  This year has been many started but lots of failures due to not realizing what the soil needed--this is our first growing season here in this house/yard.  I put out basil, lemon balm from our old house (brought with us), spearmint from our move, thyme I started a year ago by seed, lemon thyme, peppermint, chocolate mint, rosemary, pineapple sage, greek oregano brought along with us, italian oregano, borage, citrus mint, coneflowers, and fern dill.  There were others tried, but they simply didn't survive.  Not biggie, there's next year's season!

I also put out edible flowers.  The borage (also known as star flower) is edible, as is marigold.  And I had "mini" sunflowers that grew to 8 feet tall.  They were supposed to be a foot and  a half, but they had an awesome bed of horse manure from a wonderful family in our church, and the flowers and herbs grew absolutely beautifully in that bed.  I love fresh roasted sunflower seeds, as does hubby.  In past years we've grown the 12 foot Russian Mammoth variety and would get a half gallon bag of seed off of one head, and we'd have out at least 20 to 40 sunflowers.

If you don't have room for a garden, by all means use anything that will hold dirt.  Potatoes will grow in a bucket, and there are tutorials on how to accomplish this.  Tomatoes will grow in big pots or buckets, with plenty of water needed to keep the dirt hydrated.  Peppers do well in pots.  Lettuce is a mini garden of its own in a pot or bucket, as are spinach and other greens.  If you have a trellis or cage, you can grow things that vine, like beans or varieties of squashes.  Zucchinis can be potted as bush zukes.  You can also purchase potted dwarf fruit trees!  Fruit bushes can be potted as well.

Herbs do very well in pots.  If you purchase a pot large enough for room to grow, you can have a full herb garden and never have a root touch the ground.  Oregano, thyme, and others that are perennials tend to stay low and spread, and will trail over the sides in time.  Mints almost need a pot to keep contained or they take over any place they touch.  Sprinkle seeds of any type of herb into a pot of good soil, such as Miracle Gro, Scotts, or other brands, keep moist and in plenty of sun, and you've got yourself a good shot at an abundance of flavor.  It is easy to do, and you'll enjoy the benefits when you prepare your home cooked meals, when you want a glass of mint tea, and so on.

You do have the basic costs of your containers and dirt....look for sales at your home improvement stores and you'll catch some bags on sale at good prices.  Containers can be anything as long as it has some drainage.  Seeds can be as little as 20 cents at Walmart for off brands (which in my experience grew as well or better than the name brands).  One package of 20 cent basil for us produced enough to dry as well as freeze into cubes of olive oil to last a year.  One package of 20 cent lettuce seed produced an abundance of greens.  The same goes for marigold and zinnia seed, they produced beautifully.  If you enjoy more of a variety, seek out places like Baker Creek  Heirloom Seeds,, Gurnseys, and other seed/plant/tree venues.  For starters, look at your local nursery first, then work your way out.

It doesn't have to cost a lot to get started, and the reward at harvest is worth it.  A little sweat goes a long way!

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  1. I dabble a bit with gardening & my zucchini plants did quite well. It sounds like you have a lot of wonderful fresh produce & ideas! Love & prayers, in Jesus, Cynthia

  2. Our zukes didn't do so snazzy, the squash bugs got them. But the maters did amazing, and most of the other things did well. Even had opportunity between the fresh eating and giving away to can some of them as stewed and salsa. :) We love gardening and playing in the dirt in general, so it works :)


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