What Should I Plant in my Raised Garden Beds? Excellent Question!!

Filed under :Gardening - producing your own food, Raised Bed Gardening

Isn’t this garden awesome?  I found this at http://www.thegardenglove.com/raised-vegetable-garden-beds/  I love the way they’ve used pavers set in sand (so rain water can still seep thru to and into the ground) to eliminate having to mow grass between the beds.

So what’s next after you’ve built your raised vegetable garden?  What are you doing to plant?  If you’re like me, you’ll spend hours deciding what is going where.  And there’s so many other things you’ll need to consider as well.  Let’s talk about it.

First – you really need to consider what time of the year that you’ll be ready to plant.  Is it early Spring, late Spring, early Summer, etc.  Why is this important?  Well, different vegetables grow better during different seasons.  So you’ll want to familiarize yourself with this information.

Second – what produce do you or your family eat?   While turnip greens might seem like they would be easy and fast to grow, does you or your family eat them?    Only plan on growing what you know your family will consume.  If you’re not into broccoli, then don’t waste the space growing it.

Third – What grows well in your gardening zone?  For example, vegetables with very long mature dates do not grow well in northern zones due to the shorter growing season.

Fourth – How many plants of each vegetable do you really need?   If you rarely eat lettuce, maybe you only need a couple of plants compared to someone who loves to eat salads everyday that would need a bed full of lettuce plants.

Fifth – When you harvest your first planting of radishes, what are you going to “succession plant” in the vacant space?

Sixth – Are you going to “direct seed” or use transplants (seedlings)?  If you are going to use seedlings, are you going to purchase them or grow them yourself from seed?

I hope these questions help to lead you in the right direction with your plantings in your new raised garden beds.  I will continue to write more posts about gardening and growing your own fresh produce.


SOIL for Your Raised Bed Vegetable Garden – An Easy HOW-TO Guide

Filed under :Gardening - producing your own food, Raised Bed Gardening

Usually with a raised bed vegetable garden, the soil will require a little investment.  It’s one of those things that you are not going to want to ”skimp” on.  You’re going to want to make sure you get started off on the right foot.  When talking about soil, you are going to want to make sure that you’re starting off with “sterile” soil – that is soil that is free from bugs and weed/grass seeds.    And it’s really easy to do.  I’m going to show you two ways to get started with getting soil for your raised bed vegetable garden –

  1. #1 the first method will be fast, simple, and easy but will require some $ investment on your part
  2. #2 the second method will be slower, still simple and easy but will require little to no $ investment on your part

So let’s start with method #1.  If you are starting off with a small vegetable garden and would like to get your seeds and/or plants into the ground and growing as soon as possible, I highly recommend a couple of different methods that will get your garden started off on the right foot.  Each of these methods will require some $ investment – one a little more than the other – but you’ll be able to immediately get your seeds and plants in the ground and be assured of clean, sterile and high soil that you will only need to “amend” to continue gardening in the future.

I recommend purchasing Miracle-Gro® All Purpose Garden Soil to fill your raised bed if you have a small raised bed.  This soil is sterile and ready to go.  Each time you harvest and then “re-plant”, you will need to amend the soil by adding a scoop of organic compost where you are going to plant the seed or vegetable seedling.  Each of the large bags contain 2 cubic feet of soil – this will cover an area 2 ft wide x 2 ft long x 6 inches deep.   So, if you had a 4′x4′ raised bed, you would need 4 bags to fill your garden (if your intended depth is 6 inches of soil).  If you use this method of filling your raised bed with soil, you will start with a good, sterile and enriched soil that will just require organic compost amendments in the future.  Miracle-Gro also makes a “raised bed” garden soil as well – but I haven’t seen that around the area that I live in.

My second recommendation would be to create your garden soil by using a mixture of vermiculite, cow manure and mushroom compost, and sphagnum peat moss (recipe is 1/3 by volume of each material).   This involves a little more time to acquire all the materials and mix them before filling your garden bed.   But once again, you’ll be starting with a sterile soil that is rich in nutrients to grow your vegetables.   As with the 1st recommendation above, you’ll need to continue to amend the soil with compost each time you replant.

Now on to method #2.  This method will take a good deal longer to achieve but you’ll  be able to use items that you normally throw away to create amazing soil for your garden.  Create a composite bin from old pallets.  Fill your compost bin with “browns” and “greens”.   Browns are typically your carbon type materials like fallens leaves, cardboard, etc.  Greens are items like vegetable scraps, green lawn clippings, coffee grounds, etc.  You want to achieve a ratio of 1:1 browns to greens.  It will take several months for your compost pile to heat up and transform into rich soil.  So if you have some time to plan, then you can actually create your own garden soil to fill your vegetable beds.

After filling your raised vegetable beds with soil, you’ll want to provide some type of “mulch” to cover the soil.  This will help to hold the moisture in the soil (due to evaporation) and keep your soil cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.  Another reason I prefer to mulch my raised beds is to keep the soil from splashing on the underside leaves of my vegetable plants when I water or when it rains.

There are also other methods of filling your raised garden bed with soil – i.e. lasagna gardening, etc.  I’d love to hear from your – what have you used to build your garden soil in your raised beds?


Frugal Gardening Tips! Building A Raised Bed with FREE Materials

Filed under :Gardening - producing your own food, Raised Bed Gardening

How do you even get started?  Well, that is a great question and we’re going to talk about some ideas that will help!  First, a raised bed?  What is a “raised bed” garden?    When we talk about a raised bed method of gardening, it means that we are gardening above the normal level of the soil in some sort of container.  The container can be wooden, plastic or made from some other material.   The soil that you are growing in, is contained and raised to prevent soil erosion and to promote good drainage.  Your garden area is separate from the rest of your yard.

The raised bed also help to make it a little easier to stoop over or bend over when you are maintaining your garden or harvesting from garden.  It helps to keep weeds out as well because you have concentrated all of your garden area into one space that you will mulch.  Also, when you are mowing, the raised bed helps to keep grass seed from being blown in.

I highly recommend the raised bed method over the traditional “row” garden method.  But let’s get back to the “how do I get started” question.  Building your 1st raised bed is easy and can cost you nearly nothing at all.  Materials can be unused items you may already have or even free items that are easily obtainable.  I suggest that before you invest a lot of time and money into purchasing materials to build a raised bed, or purchasing a pre-made raised garden, first make a bed out of “FREE” materials and see if raised bed gardening is something that you are really interested in.

First, let’s go back to the definition of a raised bed.  A raised bed is basically a “container” that you build that is higher than the normal soil level.  The two things that we are going to discuss in this post is what materials you’ll need to build the “container” (the raised bed frame) and what materials (soil) you’ll need to fill the “container”.  In this post, we are going to address the actual garden “container” materials – what you can build your garden from.  And more specifically, what FREE materials you can use that make excellent raised beds.  In the next post, we’ll discuss what to use as soil to fill your raised bed.

Raised bed container materials — as I mentioned above, you may already have the materials that you’ll need to build the “container” in your shed!  Or it maybe that you can easily and cheaply obtain items that you can use.  Raised beds can be constructed from many different items – here’s a list of suggestions from raised beds that I’ve seen:

There are so many different options and it really just depends on your preferences or what items you may have available. I’ve tried to give you some inspiration in the ideas and photos above.   Be creative!!

 


The ULTIMATE Money Saver (and Health Too) — Grow A Garden!

Filed under :Gardening - producing your own food

Yes, it’s that time of the year when we need to start planning for spring!

One of the best ways to save on your grocery bill is to grow your own food.  You would be surprised just how much money you can save even with just a small 4′ x 4′ raised bed.   And you can be very frugal with the costs of gardening as well.  Let’s start with some frugal gardening tips that are sure to not only help with your initial costs for setup with your garden, but will help you long-term to provide amazing vegetables for your family and save you on your food bill.

I’ve researched many different “methods” of gardening over the years and I’d like to share my thoughts with you on what I’ve found that works and what doesn’t work.  Far too often, people set out to construct a garden that will feed their entire family the first year.  The garden is usually way to large in size and no one has given any thought to the amount of time and energy it will take to maintain.  That usually results in the person failing at their gardening attempt and just giving up to the weeds.  I would like to show you what will work and how you can be successful with your own vegetable garden.

First, the traditional “row” method is very labor intensive and time consuming.  I’ve found several major flaws with the row method that eventually leads to the home garden abandoning their garden.

  • Weeds – with traditional row gardening, there is weeding that must be done routinely.  This can take a good deal of time and energy.  Many gardeners call it quits.
  • Soil erosion – you work so hard to build your soil so that it’s rich and full of the nutrients your vegetable plants need.  One rain can wash all of that hard work away and leave the gardener walking around in a mud hole.
  • Space – so much of your garden space in traditional row gardening is dedicated to your walking paths and not to growing your vegetables.  That’s more space that the garden has to maintain and weed regularly.  And the gardener ends up with a garden which is larger than really needed.

What type of garden do I recommend?  The raised bed system.  It is probably the easiest method that I’ve found and it’s the most productive method.  With proper mulching, weeds are easy to keep at bay.  Weeding is probably the number one reason that people abandon their gardens.  Weeding is very laborious and time consuming – and not something you can do with a bad back.  With a heavy rain, the amazing top soil that you’ve worked so hard on isn’t all washed away.  You can intensively garden in a much smaller and compact space and that will ultimately save you time.   I suggest that if you are interested in starting a garden to grow food to feed your family, please research the raised bed method.  I will write another post on building your raised bed garden for LITTLE OR NO COST.

If you live in an apartment or in an area that is prohibited for you to install a vegetable garden, you may want to consider what you can do with “container” gardening.  I’ll write a post on this at a later time.

Yesterday, I headed over to the Dollar Tree to do a little shopping and I was pleasantly surprised to see that even the Dollar Tree (where everything is $1) had their gardening items stocked.   The seeds were 4 packets for $1 and plastic gardening pots were only $1.

Do you grow a vegetable garden?


Good Monday Morning! Let’s Talk About Saving Money on FOOD :-)

Filed under :Food Storage, Freezer, Meal Planning, ZIPLOCK Bags and Containers

This past weekend was a test for me personally.  I know that you’ve been there before too.  You take off on a Saturday to run errands, visit some friends, go places with the family and then you come home and it’s late and everyone is HUNGRY!  But you didn’t leave out anything to thaw and you didn’t really have plans for your dinner today because you thought you would be back home much earlier and you’d just take care of it them.  But you didn’t arrive home early – you arrived home LATE.  Now – what are you going to do?

Let me introduce you to DOUBLE COOKING.  Yes…. There are times with some of our favorite meals that I will DOUBLE UP and cook two of the same meals (at the same time).  We have one of the meals for dinner and the other meal I place in the freezer for times that I’m unprepared and I need to cook something quick!  Now this doesn’t work with all meals – some things freeze well and other food items do not.  I’ll share some of the meals that I like to DOUBLE COOK and they work well for my family.

Our favorite of course is spaghetti – it is to easy to cook a double batch of sauce and noodles.   And it is so easy to freeze and lasts very well in the freezer too.   Just double your recipe for sauce – put aside 1/2 of what you cook and let it cool down.   Then place into one of the ziplock plastic containers and pop into the freezer.  It’s equally as easy to do the spaghetti noodles as well.  Just double up on the noodles you are preparing for your meal, drain and rinse.  Many times I will let the extra noodles sit in cool water while we eat our meal.  Then when I’m cleaning the kitchen, I’ll scoop them out and place them in a ziplock plastic container (or I’ve even put them in a ziplock freezer bag) and then place them in the freezer.

Another item we like to double up on cook is beef or pork roast.    It can be reheated and eaten again.  Or, if you want to change things up a bit, make BBQ for sandwiches from it :-)   That is always a hit.   Baked or roasted chicken is a great item to double up on when cooking.  It takes the same amount of electricity to cook one as it does two – so you’re saving some money there too!   For the 2nd chicken, I like to let it cool down and then remove the meat from the bone.  I separate the white meat from the dark meat.  The white meat is used for preparing items like chicken salad and the dark meat is what I use in soups and casseroles or even chicken pot pie :-)

Another item that freezes well is soup.  We love soup – beef, chicken, pork or just plain vegetable soup.  And it’s so easy to cook in the crock pot or the pressure cooker.  Let your 2nd batch cook well and then place in the freezer in a large ziplock plastic container.  When you’re ready to re-heat it, let it thaw for about an hour or so and then just heat and serve with some cornbread or garlic toast.

So where’s the ‘SAVING MONEY’ for this post?  There are several money saving tips – first, when you cook the meal it usually takes the same amount of electricity to cook one batch as it does two.  Second, instead of coming home and ordering pizza delivery, you’re saving money because you already have a home-cooked meal right inside your freezer than can be microwaved :-)

I’d love to hear from some of you – what meals have you had success freezing that would work well for double cooking?

 


Monday – November 28th, 2016 Meal Costs :-)

Filed under :Challenges, Daily Meal Costs Challenge

Here’s the recap of our meal costs for today.   This is for two adults:

  • $3.39 Breakfast
  • $1.86 Lunch
  • $1.40 Dinner
  • $6.65 TOTAL for the day

It’s amazing that two adults can eat for a full day for a price that is less than the cost of a extra value meal from McDonalds :-)   Yes, it takes some planning and it takes a little time in the kitchen, but it is so well worth it!

Imagine if two adults ate out for 2 meals each day for 5 days per week for an entire year.  That’s 260 days of eating out.  If each purchased meal for those two adults cost $7 each, then the total cost for the year would be 260 days X $14 (for two adults) = $3,640.

If the same two adults cooked those two meals per day at home at= $ a cost of $2 for each meal, then the cost would be 260 days X $4 (for two adults) = $1.040.

The savings would be $2,600 for the year or over $215 each month!


Monday – Lunch and Dinner

Filed under :Dinner Costs, Extreme Frugal Meter, LEFTOVERS!, Lunch Costs, Meal Costs

For lunch today, we took the easy way out and just had turkey and cheese sandwiches :-)   The cost for sandwiches made at home is very frugal LOL!    For us:

$0.48 — 4 slices of bread at 12 cents each

$1.12 — 1/4 lb of lunch meat (1/8 of a lb on each sandwich) at 56 cents per 1/8 lb

$0.26 — 2 slices of cheese at 13 cents per slice

$1.86 — Total for lunch for 2 adults

I didn’t cunt the cost of the mayo.

I had a question from a reader who asked what we drink with our meals.  We are drinking filtered tap water :-)   My husband and I both have a time drinking the recommended amount of water per day, so drinking water with our meals really helps.

For dinner tonight, it’s leftover black-eyed peas with ham :-)   And that cost is 70 cents each for a total of $1.40 for dinner for both of us.


Monday Morning Breakfast (Cyber Monday)

Filed under :Breakfast Costs, Extreme Frugal Meter, FRUGAL METER, Meal Costs, Meal Planning

Well this morning is a bit dreary and overcast.  Rain is in the forecast for tonight – finally!  We have been in a drought situation for about two months so rain will definitely help the situation and threat of woods fires.

As I continue to document and track food costs, it also gives me a chance to look more closely at how much money we are spending and where there are opportunities to reduce costs.  One of the immediate things I noticed was how incredibly expensive it is to eat out versus cooking at home!  In some cases, one meal for a person cooked at home is less than the cost of a soda when eating out.

So, this morning’s tally of breakfast costs for two adults:

  • $2.24 — 1/2 lb of Conecuh Sausage
  • $0.75 — 3 eggs
  • $0.40 — 2 biscuits
  • $3.39 — Total or about $1.70 per person

Analysis:  Today’s breakfast was a bit more expensive since we had the 1/2 package of Conecuh sausage.  But, I cooked more sausage because I only had 3 eggs (we usually eat 2 eggs each).  Plus my husband loves sausage :-)      Instead of just baking the two biscuits, I went ahead and baked an entire pan of biscuits (it takes just as much electricity for an entire pan as it does just 2).  So I will put these into ziplock bags and place in the refrigerator to go with other meals in the next couple of days.  For the price of the eggs, I always purchase the free range eggs so I pay a little bit more for those.

Back to the sausage — I will add Tennessee Pride Mild Sausage Patties (30 ct box) to my grocery list.  This would have been a better and more economical choice for breakfast this morning to go with the eggs and biscuits.  Each sausage patty cost is only about 26 cents each.

While $3.39 isn’t a bad cost for breakfast for two adults ($1.70 each), our breakfast costs could have been even lower:

  • $0.52 — 2 sausage patties
  • $1.00 – 4 eggs
  • $0.40 — 2 biscuits
  • $1.92 — Total or about $0.96 per person

I will be adding more eggs and the Tennessee Pride Sausage Patties to my grocery list :-)    How cool is it to get breakfast costs for an adult below $1!

 


Sunday Dinner – Making Use of Thanksgiving Leftovers (Ham)

Filed under :Extreme Frugal Meter, Meal Planning

Today we are making use of leftovers from Thanksgiving :-)

We have large family gatherings for Thanksgiving as well as Christmas.  It’s always nice to be able to take the time to spend with our families at the holidays.  And, food is an important part of our celebrations.   To ensure we have enough food for everyone, we always cook much more than what we know we will need.

Part of the cleanup after Thanksgiving dinner was putting away the leftovers.   We always purchase spiral cut hams (bone-in) because they seem to have the best taste.

I package up ham leftovers in ziplock freezer bags with enough to make a pot of beans.  So this year I ended up with 6 packages of ham and 1 package that contained the ham bone with some meat.   I froze all of the packages of ham except for one that I saved in the refrigerator to make a pot of black-eyed peas for today.

So our Sunday dinner costs are as follows:

Pot of Beans:

$1.48 — Great Value Black-eyed Peas from WalMart 16 oz bag

$0.68 — Great Value Diced Tomatoes w/Green Chilies 10 oz can

$0.16 — Chicken Bouillon Cubes (from Sam’s Club) QTY 4 cubes

Dill Weed / Salt for additional seasoning

 

Rice — I purchase the ParExcellence Premium Rice from Sam’s Club (10 lb or 25 lb).  I found that this is the best rice to pre-cook and then dehydrate to make instant rice.  I re-hydrated 1 cup of rice to go with our black-eyed peas.  I would estimate that the cup of rice costs no more than $0.50.  Next time I purchase rice from Sam’s to make instant rice with, I will price out the exact costs per cup.

After eating dinner, we have enough food for another meal – which we’ll be having for lunch tomorrow :-)    So, the total cost per person per meal was approximately 70 cents :-)   I didn’t count the cost of the ham since it was just leftover from Thanksgiving.   I love costing out the price of our meals and then comparing it to the cost of going out to eat.  It’s amazing how much money you can save by cooking your meals and eating at home.


A Couple of Important Benefits to Food Dehydration Versus Other Methods of Food Storage — Food Storage/Dehydration – POST #4

Filed under :Dehydrating, Food Storage

A Couple of Important Benefits to Food Dehydration Versus Other Methods of Food Storage — Food Storage/Dehydration – Post #4

First, let me go ahead and say this – yes, dehydrating your food for storage can take a little more time in preparation than maybe other methods of food storage.  But, most of time spent in dehydrating items is in the dehydrator – so, you can multi-task and do other things during this time.

Many items such as yellow squash, corn, okra, etc. have to be blanched regardless if the item is being prepared for frozen storage or dehydrated storage.  So, the prep time is about the same.  These same items can be much more labor intensive in preparation and processing it they were being canned.

Now, let’s take a look at several very important benefits to dehydrating items for your food storage versus other methods such as freezing or canning.

The most important benefit that I have for using dehydration for food storage is the longevity of the finished product.   Dehydrated food, when stored properly, can last up to 20 or more years!    Yes, the extended shelf life is so worth the effort.   Let’s dig a little deeper into the phrase “when stored properly”.   The best method of storage that I’ve found and works for me is canning jars and using my FoodSaver and the FoodSaver Wide-Mouth Jar Sealer and Regular-Mouth Jar Sealer.   This ensures I have vacuum sealed storage of my dehydrated food in food grade canning jars.   I also store my sealed jars in my pantry – a dry, cool, and dark place.

I live in an area that is prone to hurricanes.   This means that there can be times that we are without power for a week or more.   If my food storage was frozen and I did not have electricity for a week or more, all of my food storage would ruin.  This is another reason that I like to dehydrate.   There are similar issues for those of you who live in other areas of the country that are prone to power outages for various reasons.

Another benefit to food dehydration is dehydrated foods maintain the majority of their nutrition and color.  Dehydrated foods don’t lose their nutritional value and maintain water soluble vitamins and minerals.   And yes, I had to test this because it was a little hard to believe that a dehydrated corn could be re-hydrated and look just as it did before I dehydrated it – but it did :-)

A very important benefit is SAVING MONEY!   I noticed this especially with herbs and spices.  At the grocery store, herbs and spices can cost quite a bit per container.  But, if you purchase these items in bulk (or better yet, grow your own) you can dehydrate them for a cost that is a fraction of what you’d have to pay for the same items at the grocery store.

Space – dehydrated fruits and vegetables take up substantially LESS space than their canned or frozen counterparts.

Another money saver – dehydrating items can help reduce waste!  Yes, every time I dehydrate, I check out my refrigerator and freezer for items that our family will not have time to consume before their spoil.   These items also go into the dehydrator :-)

Time Saver – using dehydrated food can be such a time saver for me and my family.   It’s so easy to make those “convenience foods” and even snack foods myself (without preservatives!).  One of the greatest time and money savers for me is dehydrated rice (instant rice).   When I use my rice cooker, I go ahead and cook an entire cooker full – not just the amount that we are going to consume for the one meal.  Then, I dehydrate the rest and make my own “instant rice”.

I would love for you to post some of the benefits that you’ve identified :-)