Having your own garden is such a wonderful feeling. To grow your own food and know where it came from, gives you a sense of accomplishment and saves you a lot of money and trips to the grocery store. Plus it's a lot of fun!
Lets first start with what you will need:
1) Seeds- I buy mine from tractor supply, Walmart, almost every store sells them. I've ordered certain rare variety seeds online too such as Bakers Seed Company. I normally buy all of my vegetable seeds and herbs from tractor supply since good quality seeds will have fewer diseases later on in your garden than a cheaper seed from the dollar store. The brand does help with making this shopping easier so try and stick to the Burpee brand. Flowers I buy from the dollar tree and Walmart. Those normally do fine and if they don't it's not a big loss for me since I'm usually more excited to grow food than beauty. The best time to buy seeds is at the end of the planting season. They are dirt cheap and you can use them next year and they last usually up to 2 years or longer depending on how you stored them.
2) Soil- I buy miracle grow potting soil for my seedlings. Later on when I re-pot them if I'm going to grow them in a container for good, I will switch them to miracle grow low moisture soil to prevent mold growth in your soil when you water them ( I tend to be an over waterer as opposed to an under waterer). Buy a big bag, that way if there is leftover, next year you have some. Walmart I've found has the best price for this.
3) Containers- you can use anything as a container to start seeds, as long as it has proper drainage and is clean, you will be good. I save my yogurt cups and drill a hole in the bottoms. You can use egg cartons to start seeds and then pop the little seed pockets into the ground or re pot them since the egg carton is biodegradable. You can use saved and washed cans with holes drilled in the bottom too. I've also used saved washed milk jugs cut in half as pots and they work well if you save the chopped top and use it as a little greenhouse for the seedling. This part of gardening allows you to be frugal and creative with ways to start your seeds :).
4) Labels- I use masking tape or you can use popsicle sticks or just write what is in the pot on the side of the container and next year, simply cross it off.
5) Water Tray- I use all sorts of things to catch water from my seedling pots such as: large tops from Tupperware, cardboard boxes lined with plastic wrap, egg carton tops lined with plastic, or anything plastic that has a lip to it to prevent run off.
6) Plastic Wrap- this is used to cover the tops of each seedling container to act as a little greenhouse for your plants.
Preparing For Your Garden:
A lot of thought should go into planning for your garden. Thoughts like; Do I want a surplus of squash this year? Or just enough to feed my family? Do I have the space for everything I want to plant? Will some of my plants be in containers or in the ground? Will I have a raised bed garden? Do I have a sunny place to put them outside? How will I keep up on the weeding?
But don't despair! Just keep a few things in mind to help you plan, such as:
This is what my area looks like when preparing my seeds.
Now that you have all the items and have planned for your garden, now begins the prep work of indoor seed starting.
Step 1: Get out all of your ready made supplies and begin filling your containers with soil. Fill containers all the way up, leaving about half an inch head space.
Step 2: Set up your containers on their water pan catchers.
Step 3: Read each seed packet and place seeds in containers according to the package directions. I like to place at least 2 seeds in a container in case one of the seeds is a dud and doesn't grow.
Step 4: Label your container after each seed has been planted. Keep track of your inventory by keeping a list of everything you have planted along with the quantity of each.
Step 5: Once all of your seeds have been planted, you can now cover each container with plastic wrap to create a green house effect.
Step 6: Place your containers in a semi warm, dark place until the seedlings appear. Once they appear, you can move your plants to a warm, sunny location to promote growth.
Note: As time goes on, your plants will outgrow their "green house" and you can remove the plastic.
Things to remember when starting seeds:
Transplanting Basics : When your plants have out grown their container, you can transplant them into a larger pot, or outside depending on the time of year and after the threat of frost has diminished. I usually transplant my outgrown seedlings to larger containers if they are going to stay in the containers that I plant them in permanently, or if they are tomatoes.
Preparing Your Plants For Outside: If you just place your plants outside and expect them to just "make it", you may be sadly disappointed that it's not that easy. In order for your plants to successfully live outside, you need to gradually have them be outside for short periods of time, bring them all in, and then do it again the next day for an extra hour or so. This sometimes takes at least a week before they can be hardy and strong enough to survive living outside permanently, but it does take time and patience.
I love popsicles, and so does my 3 year old. But 100% juice popsicles can be expensive. I was buying the 100% juice ones at Walmart for 5 dollars a box and that was starting to get pricey! Popsicles are great for little ones who have a sore throat or just need a little more liquid intake for them during the day, so instead of the store bought ones, I turned to making my own! It's super easy and very cost effective in the long run. Here is how I make yummy, homemade, kid friendly, healthy popsicles!
Step 1: Invest in a popsicle mold. There are many kinds out there that range in price from $5-$20, but this one is very simple to use and inexpensive. I bought it online at Walmart.com. It's called the CookArt Ice Pop Popsicle Mold and it makes 6 popsicles. They didn't sell it in the store, but it had free shipping on it. The cost I paid was $8.99.
Step 2: Get creative! For my daughter, her digestive system is pretty sensitive, so I opt in making grape juice and orange juice popsicles the most for her. To do this, just pour the juice into the mold and freeze for simple juice pops, or get fancy by making your own concoction of juice varieties!
Using over-ripe fruit to make popsicles!
One method that I like to do that not only uses up over-ripe fruit that you may otherwise toss, but it also makes for a yummy, healthy treat for your kids without throwing out fruit!
Step 1: Take your washed, over-ripe fruit ( this includes any kind of fruit that may be either: bruised, a little mushy but never rotten-such as grapes, blueberries, bananas, & strawberries) and toss in ziplock baggies and freeze. The beauty with over-ripe fruit, is that it is super sweet from the sugars it builds, thus making it perfect for popsicles!
Step 2: Once you have built up enough frozen fruit, you can pull it out of the freezer to thaw.
Step 3: After an hour or so, the fruit should be almost thawed. Take your fruit and puree it in your blender. Once it's blended to your liking, you can fill your molds and freeze!
There you have it, healthy popsicles for you and your kids :) Enjoy!
If you've ever bought a big bag of spinach, you've probably had this happen: You buy it and use it in a salad or in a meal and just a few days later, it's wilty and mostly unusable. I had this happen several times and when it did happen, I ended up giving the spinach to the chickens. Well this time, I wanted to try another way of saving my bag of spinach before it went to the birds. I normally buy the pre-washed stuff, it saves time and who doesn't loves saving time? This is what I did with any leftover spinach I'd have in the bag after using it for it's original purpose. I would put a large portion in a Tupperware with a clean paper towel on top of the spinach to absorb any excess moisture from being in the fridge, and that would keep for a few more days. Then the rest of the spinach would go into small ziplock bags in 1 cup measurements, dated, and labeled. Try to get out all of the excess air from the bag, then pop it into the freezer. It is important that you select near perfect pieces of spinach to put into the freezer so that they keep their nutritional content at peak. Any wilty looking pieces that weren't near perfect, went into my veggie scraps bag or to the chickens. Now this way, no spinach goes to waste! You can use the frozen spinach in soups, and if you need to cut the spinach, they are super easy to cut when they are half frozen. Keep on Frugal-ling!
This is the easiest method I have found for making your very own Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar ( or HACV) and it starts with apple scraps!
At first, you will need:
Then, once you have filled your bag, you can place the apple scraps into your crocks or containers to age.
This is what you will need for the next step;
After your apples are in their containers, add the water to your measuring cup, followed by the sugar and mix until the sugar is dissolved. Pour this on the apples and keep repeating until you have covered all the scraps. Note: Sometimes I have a few apple scraps pop up or have tips showing, but that's ok. In the end of the process, you may have to just skim off the scum that may appear.
Next step is to mark your coffee filter/napkin with your marker, and date it for 2 weeks later so that you know when to check your vinegar. I also like to mark my calendar or make a reminder on my phone to check it in two weeks, as a back up. Then cover and tightly secure it with either a rubber band or tape. Store your vinegar in a cool dark place ( like a cabinet or closet ). Note: Make sure you have it secured nice and tight or you may have visitors like fruit flies show up unexpected...not fun...believe me!
After the 2 weeks has passed, smell your HACV, if it has that smell of vinegar, it's ready. If not, just check in another week. But if it is ready, it's now time to strain it.
You will need:
Set up your station as pictured above, then begin to put the scraps in the strainer and push down the scraps to get all of the excess pulp and juice from the apples. Once it is strained, you can either compost your scraps or feed them to your chickens :).
Next, take the vinegar and place it into your new, clean containers that they will be holding your vinegar in for now on. I use a funnel to do this to make it easier.
Finally, cover your container with the same or another coffee filter/napkin, secure with a rubber band or with tape, and date for 2-4 weeks later and store in a cool, dark place.
I stored mine in a lower cabinet :)
After the 2-4 weeks have gone by, you should have a cloudy, yummy smelling HACV! Give it a taste just to be sure, and if it still isn't up to par, just let it sit for another week and check it again. In the end, you just have to cap the containers. Now you're finished making a useful, from scratch product that you made yourself! Enjoy and happy frugal-ling!
Not sure what to do with your HACV? Check out this link to see the wonders of Apple Cider Vinegar :)
This is where I learned about making HACV, She has some great facts about making it as well!
When I first started gardening, I had an indoor herb garden. I loved growing Basil, Oregano and Thyme. It was awesome having fresh herbs for recipes and they made my house smell so good too...and they look good! The easiest way to dry herbs is by hang drying or drying on paper towels and letting time do the rest! Here is a simple step by step guide for doing that and saving yourself some money by not having to buy herbs at the store!
Drying by Hanging:
What you need:
Instructions on Hanging:
Drying by Using Paper Towels:
What you need:
What to Do With Your Dried Herbs:
This picture above is of dried Basil.
Once your herbs have dried, you can put them away to be used for recipes! Here are two ways of doing just that.
Method 1-Placing Herbs in an Airtight Container:
I like to save empty herb containers that I buy at the store to put my home garden herbs into once the herbs have dried, but you can use a simple zip lock bag too! In this description, I'm using Dried Basil used from the paper towel method. You'd do the same with your hung herbs, just take the herbs off the stem and place in your airtight container.
Step 1: Tear your dried herbs with your fingers into little bits. ( If they are leafy herbs you tear them up, if they are stem type herbs like Rosemary, just run your fingers along the stem the opposite direction of how they grow on the plant, and the herbs should just trickle off the stem and onto the counter.)
Step 2: Place your herbs into your container and store in a dry, dark place!
Method 2 - Placing Herbs in Your Freezer:
Placing your dried herbs in the freezer is super easy. No pics necessary! Just take your dried herbs, (removed from their stems ) and place in a zip lock bag, labeled and popped into your freezer! I like to keep mine on the door in my freezer to make them easier to find :).
This is the cheapest way to preserve your herbs but you can also use a dehydrator to dry your herbs faster as well as a coffee grinder to shred your herbs :) I prefer to do this by hand but to each his own!
I hope you enjoyed these frugal tips, keep on frugal-ling!!
There are a lot of recipes that I use that require Veggie broth. This is the most cost effective and easiest way to make your own veggie broth in the crock pot!
To make your broth, you first need a gallon or 2 bags of veggie scraps from your freezer. To start this bag of goodies, begin saving all of your washed veggie scraps! From onion tops and bottoms, to garlic wrappers, to skinned carrots, any veggie scrap you normally throw out that isn't rotten (those go in the compost) can go in your veggie scrap bag! You then start adding and adding and every time you add a scrap, you just simply pop back into the freezer! So easy, and so green! This bag of scraps will get frost bite but that's ok! There are still plenty of nutrients in those scraps that will add such complexity to your broth :)
Once you have filled your veggie bag, you can start your broth. In this recipe, I only used one bag of frozen veggie scraps, and still the broth came out perfect :)
The next step is to dump your scraps into your crockpot, add a few bay leaves and fill with water to cover. Turn in on high for 5 hours and let it cook!
After 5 hours, begin to strain your broth into a bowl to separate the veggies from the broth. To stretch my scraps even further, I toss them in the compost ;) Store your broth overnight, covered in plastic wrap so that it will cool.
Your broth should have a reddish brown color and smell oh so yummy!
Once the broth has cooled, start ladling it into small zip lock bags and just pop in the freezer, propped up in your freezer shelf. Each small zip lock bag measures approximately 2 cups, leave about an inch or 2 of head space when filling because the liquid will expand as it freezes :)
I put the broth into bags by using a large measuring cup and placing the opened bag into it, followed by the funnel. Then just ladle the broth into the bags!
So that's it! Now you can start saving your scraps to make this frugal broth, enjoy!!
Have you ever bought a loaf of bread and couldn't finish the whole thing in time and it went moldy? Or have you ever seen a sale on bakery items but thought, " oh I won't use that up in time before it expires. Never mind." Or have you ever made a huge helping of spaghetti sauce or Chicken Alfredo and thought," what do I do with all these leftovers? We can't finish all this in a week..." Then welcome to freezing!
Here are the first steps for getting into the wonderful world of freezing.
1) Get good Tupperware...ones that say you can put them in the freezer and thick ones, not flimsy ones you get at the dollar tree. The food you store in them will keep longer and have less of a chance of getting freezer burn, quicker.
2) Buy freezer bags. Don't use ones that are not for freezer use or, hello freezer burn.
3) If you don't have the freezer space, invest in a chest freezer. This will help you a lot with setting up your kitchen for winter surpluses and for freezing garden surpluses.
4) Have masking tape and a marker to write the item contents and date on each Tupperware.
Now that you have all this fun stuff, you can start freezing! Here's a list of what you can freeze.
1) Breads-includes all breads (hamburger buns, Beagles, sliced bread etc.) If it's a fruit based bread like: banana, apple, pumpkin, I recommend you wrap the cooled bread in aluminum foil first, then place in a freezer bag.
2) Dairy Products, such as: Ricotta (consistency might be a little waterier) but it's great for lasagna, butter (left in packaging), cheeses (left in packaging), and cream cheese (watery consistency but great for baking and cooking purposes). To do this, just pop in the freezer as is or separate packages and freeze in bags (for instance; you bought a big package of sliced Swiss cheese at Sams Club and need portions broken down because no one is going to go through 50 slices of Swiss in a month. )
3) Dinners-you can freeze basically all dinners but if it's a dinner that should have noodles (like Chicken Alfredo or spaghetti) leave the noodles out. The freezing will change the consistency of the noodles to mush and that's not yummy. Just Freeze the sauce. Also, dinners that contain potatoes don't freeze too well if the potatoes are formed. If the potatoes are mashed like in Potato and Bacon Soup, then by all means, freeze! but if they are in chunks, the consistency might be a little mushy. But it will still taste good :)
4) Veggies- Some veggies need to be blanched first, like fresh green beans, or snap peas. But some veggies are just fine washed, towel dried and frozen in a single layer on a baking sheet then popped into the freezer ( like my celery blog entry states ) and then added to freezer bags. The Veggies you can do just that, are: whole tomatoes, sliced or quartered peppers, sliced or grated zucchini, and cut up butternut squash. Those are the veggies I've tried and tested and they work out great!
5) Fruits- some fruits should be put in a mixture of lemon juice and water to preserve them better in the freezer. This is usually done with peaches and apricots since they are so high in acidic properties. To do this, just slice up the peaches or apricots, skins and all, place in a Tupperware and add a Tablespoon of lemon juice and fill with water to cover fruit and freeze. Then there are some fruits that can just be washed, dried and lined on a baking sheet to freeze individually then popped into freezer bags. This list includes: Bananas, Strawberries,Blueberries, Cherries, Blackberries, and Raspberries.
6) Fruit and Veggie Based Sauces- This list includes: Applesauce, homemade or jarred Tomato sauce, cooked pumpkin puree, cooked butternut puree, and Tomato Paste. To do this, place the contents in a Tupperware and label. That's it!
7) Stocks- Veggie, chicken, rabbit, and turkey stock. To do this, measure out the cooled stock in a large measuring cup and ladle with a funnel into small freezer baggies. Label and date, as well as listing the cup amount. Stand up on a freezer door to help it freeze without spilling over.
8) Baked Goods-Whole frozen pies (I've only done apple), cookies, muffins, cakes, homemade rice crispy treats, fudge, scones, chocolate chips, and brownies.
9) Raw Dough- pizza dough, bread machine dough (any kind) and cookie dough. To do this, wrap the dough in plastic wrap individually, then place in a freezer bag and label.
10) Herbs- Dried herbs. After drying your herbs from the garden by placing on paper towels or hang drying, place the herbs in a freezer bag and label.
11) Meat- Any meat, raw, place in freezer bags. Cooked meats such as: shredded chicken, hamburger meat, place in Tupperware and label. Sausage and Bacon can be frozen in its package.
12) Misc Items: Dried fruits (left in package), baking yeast (left in package then in baggie), coffee (in package or in baggie), nuts(baggie or left in package), gravies (Tupperware), whole raw eggs (Tupperware), washed veggie scraps (baggie)and bones for stocks (baggie).
If you'd like to keep a freezer inventory, check out this link! Thank you Debbie for your comment email :)
So as you can see, there is plenty you can freeze and save for later! Any questions about freezing, please leave a comment at the bottom and I'll be sure to respond, happy freezing friends!
Over the years I have learned that having a helpful kitchen appliance or gadget, can make frugal living fun! It started when I got a small, 3 quart crock pot for my wedding shower. Then I learned from my mother in law about bread machines, (a must have in my book), and then the cast iron skillet (thank you dad), and I could keep going. I'm going to show you my favorite appliances, cookware, and gadgets that will spark a creative, cooking, saving feeling inside of you :)
The Crock Pot
Love love LOVE the crock pot! There are so many soups, dinners, sides, desserts and stocks to make in your crock pot. and so easy to clean up! There are some that are super cheap and some that are super stupid expensive...I got the middle quality ones because I'd rather buy an appliance once if I can manage it. This one is my smaller crock pot. It's a 3 quart and I also have a 6 quart. The 3 quart is perfect for two people. I have made many soups and sauces in this guy and it's a gem. The 6 quart is perfect for roasts and stock. Sometimes I make mac n cheese in it and that makes a huge batch to freeze. Definitely get these guys either used at a goodwill or a garage sale, or new on Amazon because they will save you a lot of money in the long run!
I could go on for days talking about my bread machine...I love it. It has made my life SO much easier with making pizza dough, french breads, raisin bread, dinner rolls, sweet rolls, sub rolls, the list goes on! So this is my second bread machine. The 1st one I had was a wedding present and it bit the dust 5 years ago...probably worked him to death. So I had to replace it with this guy who works great too! I bought him on Amazon and it was around 60 bucks new. It makes up to a 2 lb loaf and it's by Kenmore. You can find these used at Good Wills, garage sales, but make sure it's in good condition and not on its last leg or you will be replacing it again in no time. It has a lot of fancy settings but honestly, I just use the dough cycle. Most recipes, you only need to use the dough cycle but they come with user manuals with recipes so you could really have fun with it if you wanted :) Mines been through 4 moves, so it's in rough shape on the outside but it still works like a charm!
Cast Iron Cookware
I loved my 9'' cast iron skillet so much that I bought 2. They are super durable and every time I cook on one, they make my fries crisper, my chicken have a more flavorful glaze and char to it, and you can even bake pies in them since they are oven safe. They also retain heat the most efficiently compared to any other cookware, so you use less energy when you cook! I bought mine new for $20 at Gander Mountain, I believe it is Lodge brand. They are pretty low maintenance too after you follow the manufacturers directions on seasoning them. After I cook in one, I wipe it out with a paper towel as best as I can, then I use a tiny amount of dish soap and water to clean the gunk off of it. Then hand towel dry completely and immediately spray the areas you just dried with cooking spray to keep it from rusting. Done. They say they last for years and so far, both of mine have! Just one warning, don't heat up your cast iron skillet on too high heat for too long, or they may crack, and that's no fun :(
Ceramic Coated Cast Iron Dutch Oven
This is another wonderful cooking item I own that I highly recommend. I like the ceramic coating because it doesn't rust as easily as the just cast iron dutch ovens do, and it looks pretty. They are lower maintenance and they can tolerate soap better than the cast iron ones. I use mine for making sauces over the wood stove ( if you have a wood stove that you can cook directly on the top, this is so handy!) and for cooking soups and roasts. They can cost from $30 to $80 depending on the brand. I went with the $30.00 since there are no motors or batteries to worry about...so why not go with the best deal? Click here for the exact one.
If you've always wanted to preserve your own peaches, tomatoes, peppers, etc., then canning is a good place to start. You will save so much money canning your own food and it costs basically nothing if you are canning your garden. If you don't have a garden, or didn't yield enough of something that year, you can still can and it will still save you money. I go to farmers markets and roadside stands when I didn't plant something that year or didn't have enough of the produce to can. You can buy the whole set (minus the jars) brand new for around $50, here. Or you can buy everything separately. I was given most of my canning jars, but there are always canning jars for sale in the penny saver, craigslist, garage sales, just to name a few. I've even seen some free on the side of the road! Just make sure they don't have nicks and breaks or they will be useless. Of course you can buy them brand new too, like I did at Tractor Supply or Walmart too when they are on sale. The most common sizes are Pints and Quarts. The lids and bands are dirt cheap too. I found mine at Big Lots believe it or not, on sale. The citric acid is a must when canning tomato based recipes. The tongs are super helpful and cheap. And the funnel I bought on sale at Tractor Supply, and that helps make the process easier too. The most important item to buy besides the canning jars, is the stock pot that comes with the canning rack. It is designed for canning and not so expensive for an item that lasts forever, Mine was $40, at you guessed it...Tractor Supply but they are sold at other farm stores and department stores. After you have all the items, all that's left is buying the delicious fruits and vegetables to can and a handy recipe!
I bought celery a few days ago at my favorite place, Aldis, and I got it because it's in season for .69 cents a head! Cheap ! So of course I can't go through a whole head of celery, so...I freeze it. Here's what you do to have celery all year long for soups, stocks and used in other dinners like my Juicy Roasted Chicken Recipe.
step 1: wash the celery very well and dry on towels.
step 2: cut off the stumps and tops ( the leafy part ) and either give to the chickens, compost, or add to your Veggie Stock freezer bag.
step 3: cut up the celery in small strips, like 3 inches long.
Step 4: pat dry one more time to make sure all the excess water is off and do a single layer on a baking sheet that you can either line with parchment paper or don't.
Step 5: pop in the freezer over night or until frozen solid (a few hours)
step 6: your celery should look like this
now you can stick a handful into little baggies and voila! You have celery in your freezer on hand for anything your little heart desires! Enjoy!
note: over time, your celery will develop freezer burn, these are perfect for veggie stock and chicken stock so don't throw them out! :)
Tip 1 for Saving: