It is challenging to feed my family good quality, healthy food while sticking to a budget. I have four kids with big appetites and they love fresh fruits and vegetables. So, over the past few years I have taken on the challenge of giving them these foods they love without draining my bank account by creating a family garden and canning foods for the off season.
We began with the basics – tomatoes and bell peppers – in one four foot by eight foot raised bed. The whole family loved harvesting this little garden and as the kids grew, they wanted to try growing new edibles. Now, we have three raised beds as well as two in ground gardens and a significant container garden on the deck. We grow tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, strawberries, green beans, lettuce, radishes, sweet potatoes, tomatillos, basil and mint.
While the initial investment in creating a garden bed can vary based on location, soil, and type of garden; homegrown fruits and vegetables are significantly cheaper in the long run. And, if you start your plants from seed, the cost is much less than buying seedlings at the store. A quick Internet search will help you find the exact seeds that will grow well in your environment and in a pinch, you can buy the packets from your local grocery or hardware store.
My kids have loved eating strawberries straight from the garden and digging up our first ever crop of sweet potatoes. But despite having eight tomato plants, the season was coming to an end and I didn’t have any extra tomatoes to can for the winter. And the children ate, literally, every strawberry the garden produced, leaving me nothing to make into jams and jellies — and I really do prefer to feed my family homemade spreads.
For winter food storage on a budget, I highly recommend checking out your local farmers market and farms. I have been able to buy tomatoes in bulk at a discount by talking to farmers. An extra 40 pounds of tomatoes can make plenty of extra pasta sauce and canned tomatoes to get my family to the next growing season.
In addition, fruit is often cheaper at “pick your own” farms. Our family had a couple great days together picking blueberries, blackberries, peaches and strawberries. And each time I open a new jar of blackberry blueberry jam, I remember how much fun we had picking those fruits. Many fruits can also be stored in the freezer.
Don’t be afraid to get creative while trying to save money and still feed your family great foods. You might start with a windowsill herb garden and discover you have a green thumb!
*Find detailed food preservation safety information at the National Center for Home Preservation.
Mark your calender for another #CleanCouponing Twitter party October 23rd!