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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Frugal Kitchens 101 - The Kitchen Garden

Frugal Kitchens 101
One of the easiest ways to save on your food dollars is to put in a garden. There are a few problems with this recommendation in the minds of many. First there is the idea that in order to have a successful garden that will put food on your table it has to be big and that means land. This belief causes those living in apartments or rental property and those with small urban lots to give up on the idea of gardening because they think there is not enough room to garden. It is surprising at how much produce a small 4' x 4' raised bed can produce. A raised bed planted in the square foot gardening method is an ideal gardening solution for tenants and small lot owners because it can easily be removed. It is also surprising at how much produce can be grown on a small urban balcony using containers. Herbs and greens can easily be grown in pots indoors year round. Make use of hanging planters for strawberries and herbs. Even cherry tomatoes can be grown in hanging planters. A few years ago we knew we were moving the first part of June. That year I planted our garden in large containers filled half way with Styrofoam packing peanuts then filled the rest of the way with soil to reduce their weight. When moving day came, we loading all the containers into a pick-up truck and simply brought our garden with us. It took three truck loads but we still had a very successful garden that year! So really where there is a will, there's a way.

A popular gardening trend is to plant a kitchen garden. Ideally this small garden will be just outside your kitchen. It usually includes cherry and/or beefsteak tomatoes, radishes, green onions, leaf lettuce and herbs or it may simply be all herbs. There is no restriction on what vegetables you can grown although some plants do not grow well with others. It is meant to supply you with produce for salads and fresh herbs for cooking. Using the square foot gardening method is ideal for a kitchen garden. A 4' x 4' bed will hold 16 different plants. Any sprawling plants are trained to grow upwards by staking making use of vertical rather than horizontal space. The bed does not need to be square either. Run a 2' x 8' bed along the side of your house and plant your kitchen garden there.

There are many ways to save money when setting up your kitchen garden. Containers for growing do not need to be fancy or expensive. Look for discarded 5 gal food grade pails or ask for them at doughnut stores and restaurants. Quite often they are free but some may charge a small fee of $1. You can even use an old kiddie pool or tires to make raised garden beds! Growing from seed can greatly reduce your costs. Seeds are quite inexpensive but if you get involved in a seed exchange group they will cost no more than postage. Get to know other gardeners who will gladly give you clippings.

How much can a kitchen garden save you? Your savings will really depend on what you grow and how you use your produce. We eat salads almost daily. Leaf lettuce usually averages about $1.29 at the grocery store. On average we use 4 heads of leaf lettuce per week or $5.16 per week. Over the course of the outdoor growing season, growing lettuce saves us $103.20 which is a pretty good return on the cost of the seeds at about $3.95 (5 pk 79¢ each). A flat of strawberries cost $15. An established bed will produce at least 3 flats so a savings of $45 less the cost of the initial plant. Yes, that is one plant because strawberries spread rapidly and they come up every year. Considerable saving can be seen with growing herbs as well. About the only thing I do not grow in my gardens is corn because it does take up a lot of space for the yield. Essentially anything edible you grow is going to save on your food dollars!

1 food lovers commented:

redkathy said...

I just started an herb container garden this weekend. I hope it turns out as planned ;)