Thursday, September 15, 2011

The harvest of savings . . .

I use a lot of different ‘tools’ to help our household lower its grocery budget. Coupons, sale shopping, menu planning and more go into my efforts and will continue to be built upon to work to my goal.
But nothing is as effective as Mr. Amazing’s only real hobby – our family garden. Measuring the size of an average city lot he grows potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, strawberries, onions, carrots, corn, dill, sunflowers, peas, cucumbers, pumpkins and glory knows what else.
Planning starts in late February or early March. See types are carefully chosen based on what happened last year and what we want to eat for the following year. What we have left in the cold room is reviewed and seed pricing and availability is researched.
As the May long weekend nears plans are made for having the plot tilled and scheduling planting, seeds are purchased and the garage and green house are investigated for the necessary tools. A reconnaissance trip to every single green house in the area is made to determine the best prices and plant quality and quantity for those things we don’t plant from seed. We generally spend the May long planting things.
Then we wait, watch and hope as sprouts pop through the ground. We hold our breath and race to cover tender seedlings when the temperature gets to low. And Mr. Amazing begins his summer long battle with the weeds, wind, bugs and Mother Nature. Most any summer evening he is home you can find him down in the garden tending his babies.
The result? A bounty of goodness. This year we’ve pulled more then 40 cups of strawberries, 30 gallons of tomatoes, 5 gallons of bells peppers and a gallon or two of jalapeno peppers. We’ve given away bag after bag of carrots and haven’t pulled even a quarter of them yet, I lost count of how many cucumbers we had and the corn harvest will likely overwhelm me.
How does this help my grocery bill? Well, besides the obvious savings on fresh veggies, I can them as well. So far – I’ve done 30 (or is it 40?) quarts of dill pickles, 18 jars of relish, 5 pints of strawberry jam, 21 pints of pepper jelly, 36 pints of salsa and two quarts of hot sauce. In the crock pot right now is a batch of tomato sauce I’ll be canning tonight and four large flat boxes of tomatoes in the basement wait their turn for processing. The corn will become cream corn (diet busting but oh so amazing). The potatoes and carrots will be carefully stored to be eaten all winter long. The pumpkins will become grinning Jack-O-Lanterns for many of the neighbourhood kids and then pumpkin puree for muffins and pies later in the season.
Sure, my time has value. But the grocery bill savings this processing creates just can’t be denied. Dill pickles are $3 a quart!
By the way. If anyone knows another way I can use up the remaining 3 gallons of green peppers I’d love the tip! I’ll likely put through another 15 pints of salsa but I know I’ll still have some left over!

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