The Frugal Garden

I recently watched a YouTube video on frugal living. In the video, someone asked if gardening and canning was a good money-saving option. The woman recommended that people have a garden only if they enjoyed maintaining one as a hobby, because it wouldn’t necessarily save any money.

I was surprised. Isn’t having a garden classic frugal advice? Isn’t that why gardens were so common during the Great Depression? This woman went on to say that if you factor in the cost of canning jars, lids, seeds, fertilizer, tiller, plus your time, you might as well buy a few cans of vegetables and save yourself a lot of hassle and hours and hours of work.

The more I think about her advice, the more I disagree. Sure, if you calculate the worth of something by cost alone, you could argue that gardening and canning doesn’t always save money. We’ve all observed the people who’ve bought a flat of strawberries, ingredients, and all the canning gear, only to make 6 jars of jam, at a cost of about $10 a jar and complain that canning is expensive. I believe that if it’s done well, however, gardening and preserving your harvest WILL save money, and quite a bit, too.

Here are several ways to maximize your savings if you have a garden and want to put up the harvest:

  1. Grow the produce yourself instead of buying it, unless by chance you get a fabulous price or make a beneficial barter. Beyond growing produce, start seedlings instead of buying expensive starter plants. Seed packets hold fewer seeds every year and cost a little more, so harvest and save your own seeds for the next season.

  1. Grow the produce that saves you the most money, especially if space is an issue. Potatoes and carrots are relatively cheap in the store and don’t always yield the best return for the space.  For me, I couldn’t afford to buy all the raspberries that we’re able to eat by growing our own.

3. Use your produce in ways that maximize your savings. A can of store-bought generic whole tomatoes is pretty cheap. A can of tomatoes with added jalapenos increases the cost significantly. Tomato sauce with herbs added becomes spaghetti sauce, which is also more expensive. If I didn’t have the space to grow many tomatoes, I would focus on canning things like spaghetti sauce and salsa. As a bonus, every jar of spaghetti sauce represents a meal during the winter. It’s an efficient way to meal prep! A few cups of berries might makes one small jar of jam worth a couple of dollars, but those same berries infused in a jar of balsamic vinegar is a bargain compared to that ridiculously expensive specialty store product.

4. Canning jars and lids are an unavoidable cost. However, you can often find jars used so they are cheap and sometimes free. Reusable lids are more expensive, but if you use them regularly, you decrease their cost. Occasionally, you can find lids at garage sales, too.

5. Produce doesn’t have to be canned! You can eat out of your garden from spring through fall. A single packet of lettuce seeds will provide you days, or perhaps weeks worth of summer salads. Canning is great for long-term storage, but it does take more time. Freezing is much less laborious.

One lemongrass plant, started from seed

Freezer bags are super cheap, and like canning jars, the cost of a large freezer (if needed) will decrease with every year of consistent use. And don’t overlook drying. Dehydrators are relatively cheap and easy to find in thrift store and at garage sales. You may not even need a dehydrator for everything. The mint plant I got as a cutting from my neighbor years ago provides me with more than enough mint tea for the winter. I just cut the stems, tie them and hang them upside down until they dry and crumble.

These are a few ways that gardening saves me money–can you think of more?

I also think there are more benefits of a garden than simply saving money. But that’s a whole other post. 🙂

 

Peggy and Bill–Be A Kind Neighbor; 1935

May I say a word to the readers about the little bride who lives in the house down the road? Have you called on her yet? And did you tell her how to regulate her life and household so that it will be an exact replica of your own? Perhaps the next day the neighbor from over the hill visited her and gave her a similar line of advice, but not in line with yours.

A few more visits from well-meaning neighbors and the young husband will come in some evening to find his wife in tears. And if neighbor Number One should happen to see the trace of tears, how the news will fly that Peggy and Bill are finding that married life isn’t all it’s “cracked up” to be!

About this time another neighbor makes her first call. It matters not to her whether Peggy’s kitchen is done in blue and white, or in henna; whether she does fancy work or patch overalls; whether she uses rouge, or doesn’t. She admires everything about the new home and leaves with the admonition, “Don’t be afraid to call if you need help any time.”

Just think back to your own “bride days” or your “first baby days.” Don’t you remember how that wealth of advice overwhelmed you? Your head was in a mad whirl. You were longing for friends but you had to fight the impulse to say, “Won’t you please just attend to your own fish-frying?”

So let’s quit wondering if Peggy is satisfied with Bill, and with life in general, and resolve that Peggy and Bill shall not be disappointed in their neighbors.

 

 

A Garden–A Declaration of Independence, 1870

…the garden does begin to yield…It is kind of a declaration of independence. I have never read of any Roman supper that seemed to me equal to a dinner of my own vegetables, when everything on the table is the product of my own labor. -1870

I agree and know the feeling of that same independence when I raise, harvest, and store my own food.

It’s a game I play often. When we sit down to eat a meal, I often point out the ingredients and where they came from. Of course, I do this most often when a majority of the meal’s components are homegrown, but it’s fun when I’m able to identify even minor ingredients that come from our own hands and property.

I had my own little “declaration of independence” day this week. Every morning in the summer I do a daily tour through the garden. I assess the progress of the produce to determine how much time I’ll be spending in the kitchen in the afternoon. If I’ve brought a container with me, I’ll gather any produce that’s ready, which inevitably includes Our Daily Okra.

I’d been planning on making Butter Chicken for dinner that day–one of my favorites. But when I looked at what I’d picked, I knew I needed to re-think my menu. It only made sense to eat what I’d just harvested, instead of processing it all for the winter before pulling dinner ingredients out of the cupboard.

So, Butter Chicken became Pesto Chicken, grilled okra, pickles, and bowls of raspberries with whipped cream, using our own basil, okra, cucumbers, and raspberries.

Dinner, in a theme of green

From backyard to grill to table in a matter of hours. And it tastes even better when I’ve done “all by myself.”

Reading For Pleasure & Knowledge; 1937 &1903

From 1937–

I try to read one book every two weeks–and 25 books a year can do much to brighten and make interesting a practical, overworked housewife.

I try to vary my reading diet, for I believe the menu for our minds should be as well balanced as the menu for our tummies. So I include four types of mental food from which I choose:

  1. Non-fiction (biography, travel, etc.)
  2. Poetry (or plays)
  3. Worth-while fiction (perhaps something old and tried, or perhaps something new)
  4. Light fiction (which may include anything at all even to detective stories if I am so inclined! This is dessert!)

I choose from these four types in order, then start all over again.

I can’t tell you what this plan has meant to me. I think I’m becoming better educated than I was, I know I’m becoming happier and more interesting and you know, there’s nothing like interest and happiness to erase lines from one’s face!

From 1903–Of  course, the quotes below would apply to women as well as men.

“What shall I read?” This is an important question to all, and especially to those living in country homes, for those having few associates are influenced much more by what they read, where books become real companions, either to elevate or degrade. Let us be very careful in the selection of our books, not selecting a book that is simply harmless, but choose those that will broaden and ennoble our lives.

It can be truly said, “Show me what a person reads and I can tell what sort of man he is.” How many times we read of boys leaving all that is good and pure, leading dissolute lives, often guilty of grave crimes, who were led to such lives by reading pernicious books. And again how many times the reading of a good book has turned the scale in persons’ lives and they have become noble, helpful men, whose lives are an inspiration to all.

Watch a child, that has few young companions, during the time he is reading such a book as “Little Men.” See how he lives with the characters of the book; he enjoys all their sports, feels all their sorrows; in fact, his imaginative life becomes as real to him as his real life is. Knowing all this one begins to realize the great influence of books.

For older readers in the field of fiction we find too many good authors to mention their names; but we would say in selecting a book, remember to accept nothing that is unreal or sensational, which gives a young person a too romantic or sentimental view of life.