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Grow Your Own Herbal Tea

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Chamomile The Prudent Homemaker

This post contains affiliate links.

Most of the time, we drink water at my house. I start the morning off with a 16 ounce glass of water, and I drink many more glasses of water during the day.

For many years, I have grown peppermint and chamomile in the garden. I had the children cut the chamomile when it was ready, and I cut the peppermint and brought it in before we had our first frost about 5 weeks ago.

The peppermint will grow back when it warms up, but the leaves need to be harvested before it freezes.

Both of these are really easy to grow. Mint can be in full sun to filtered shade. You can buy a tiny plant at the nursery in the spring and gather plenty by frost (you can also plant mint from seed; I have the most success from a plant). You can take cuttings from that plant, put them in water, and have them rooted in a short time. You can then have more mint plants to take over your garden to share with friends. Mint spreads by runners and seeds and can be quite invasive, so choose a dedicated spot for it. Some people prefer a pot, but mine kept drying out in our extreme heat, so last year I purchased a new plant and put it back in the garden.

I put some dried peppermint leaves in a tea ball and fill the cup with boiling water, and let the tea ball soak for a few minutes. You can use a teapot if you wish, or you can heat a regular pot on the stove, or heat the water in the microwave.
Peppermint Tea The Prudent Homemaker

Chamomile is easily grown from seed. There are two types of chamomile: Roman and German. I have had the best success with German Chamomile. The seeds are very tiny and are sprinkled over the top of the soil, as they need light to germinate. If planted in an undisturbed place (where you don't till) they can reseed all on their own. Chamomile is quite fun, as the flowers look like tiny daisies.  To harvest it, you cut the flower heads and dry them. I usually assign this job to the children. (I also allow them to pick some to make crowns). This year I planted seeds in the front yard, where they will be able to grow among the other white flowers in the white garden. You can sometimes purchase chamomile as plants, but you'll need several, so buying seeds is the more economical way to go. You can find seeds from several different seed companies.

Both herbs are lovely for an upset stomach, and peppermint is wonderful in combating queasiness. I enjoy having them on occasion on a cold day, though peppermint tea* would also be lovely iced.

Growing your own herbs for herbal teas is much less expensive than buying it in a tiny box of tea bags, or than buying dried herbs in bulk.

Do you like to drink herbal teas? Do you grow any of your own herbs for that purpose?

* Note: Americans generally refer to herbal infusions as herbal teas (even though they do not use the tea plant), whereas they are known as tisanes (pronounced "tee zans") in other places. I prefer the term tisane, as it is more clear, but I defer to the term most commonly used in my country.

I primarily drink herbal teas for medicinal purposes. I drink red raspberry tea, which strengthens the uterus, and is helpful during pregnancy as well as during the menstrual cycle. It is high in iron, and helps remove back pain, menstrual cramps (I find that it is more effective than ibuprofen), and helps remove pregnancy pains.

During my last pregnancy, I also brewed a mixture of half red raspberry and half nettle tea to increase my iron, as I was anemic.

Red raspberry does not grow well here, and I do not grow nettles, so I purchase those cut and dried in bulk from San Francisco Herb Company. They also sell peppermint leaves.
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While our income has been decreasing and our children's appetites are increasing, food prices are increasing. Some things have doubled and even tripled in price in the last few years. The 50 pound bag of popcorn that we buy in bulk went from $17 a bag in June of 2012 to $29 a bag in July of 2012. The less-expensive cuts of beef (chuck roast, ground beef, and London Broil) have increased from $1.79 a pound to $2.99 (and usually $3.49) a pound on sale. Potatoes went from 10 cents a pound in season in November 2012 to 30 cents a pound in November 2013.

Not everyone has an increasing income to keep up with the rising cost of living. While we're already feeding our family of 9 for $3.33 a day, I can't just spend more on the same things because the prices have gone up. It's time for some changes.

Here's what I intend to do to keep food in our bellies:

Waste less:

Food waste happens a lot more than any of us would like. I want to be more diligent about using what I have purchased and grown. To help ensure that I make better use of the resources I have, I plan to do the following:

1. Clean the refrigerator more often. This will help me to make sure I don't miss something I've moved to the back.

2. Be more diligent about using food that is about to go bad in our meals.

3. Be quicker to can items that need to be canned, even if it means staying up late to get them done

4. Chopping small amounts of vegetables before they can go bad and putting them in a bag in the freezer to use in soup. This means if I have a couple of carrots that need to be used before I can eat them, they'll be stuck in a bag for a soup later on.

5. Drying and putting away herbs from the garden to use later. In the past I have mostly used the herbs from my garden as fresh herbs. I want to be better about drying and storing them.

6. Incorporate more rice-based meals into our menus

Shop wisely:

1. Continue not to purchase the items on my list of food items that I don't buy

2. Stick to my price points for food, even when it means doing without items that have risen above those price points

3. Focus on meats that are under $1 a pound when buying meat, with most purchases being under $0.88 a pound. (Fortunately I have a freezer full of hams and turkeys purchased under $1 a pound during the holidays. This will be the bulk of our meat for the year).

4. Continue to stock up with large purchases on items when amazing in-season prices come along (like the 152 pounds of oranges  and 80 pounds of onions that I bought for .20 a pound in December).

4. Eat more soups

5. Eat more salads from the garden while lettuce is in season. I expect we'll have salad as a first course every day at dinner for 3-4 months, starting in late January. We may have some soup and salad lunches with homemade bread as well.

Grow more in my garden:

In 2013, I ripped out our front yard, brought in new dirt, and planted fruit trees, herbs and vegetables. The walkway to the house is lined with parsley, basil, and lettuce.

I added 6 semi-dwarf fruit trees in the front yard. Two will need to be kept smaller for the space that they are in, and 3 will be trimmed as a hedge, but they can still get quite large. I planted a lime, 3 Meyer lemons, an apricot (that blooms and ripens 3 weeks earlier than the apricot in my backyard, which will mean fresh apricots twice), and an Early Elberta peach.

On my back patio, I planted 2 oranges in pots and a pomegranate in a pot. (I moved another pomegranate in my garden to another pot on the patio last week).

I'm also growing more of what works well for my area--and gives me a great return on my money. Lettuce, Swiss chard, and green onions do really well for me, and they are also a great way for me to save money.

Just a few years ago, looseleaf lettuce was $0.79 and $0.99 a head on sale where I live. Now a sale price is $1.49 a head, and a more regular price is $2.49 a head.

I can purchase 400 lettuce seeds for $2.95.  That's a much better deal! As an additional bonus, each head can be harvested 2-3 times, by either harvesting outer leaves and allowing it to continue to grow, or cutting the leaves off at the base and allowing it to regrow. When lettuce is in season, we can have a salad every night as a first course. With some homemade dressing, it's a great way to keep our meal costs down.

Swiss chard grows year-round here. It's not-only packed full of vitamins, it's a cut and come again plant, like lettuce--but I can harvest it even more times! I grow the Fordhook Giant variety, and the leaves can grow 16  to 24 inches in length. We'll steam it, chop it in soups, blend it in soups, and every once in a while, toss it in salads.

Green onions grow year-round in my garden, and they self-seed every year. I haven't bought green onions in 7 years. Like lettuce and Swiss chard, I trim the side leaves of the plants, and they continue to regrow. In the late spring they go to seed, and pretty soon I have new green onions growing. I will be making an effort to collect seeds as well to plant additional onions in the garden this year.

Zucchini and green beans are difficult to grow here, as they won't flower much in our heat, but in many places, these are two other plants that will produce food in abundance for a family. I grow a bush variety of zucchini to save space, and I found last year that a mid-summer planting will allow me a plant that flowers when it cools below 90º in October, so I plant some then to allow us to have some for our family.

In short, I plan to:

1. Grow more of what works well and grows abundantly where I live; for me, this is more lettuce, more Swiss chard, and more green onions

2. Expand the garden by growing in pots and planting food in the front yard

3. Grow heirloom and open-pollinated varieties of food so that I can collect seeds to use in the future, reducing my need to purchase seeds

4. Use my garden space more efficiently; this includes lots of vertical growing

5. Be more diligent in planting and maintaining a fall garden; this includes covering all fall lettuces with mason jars before the first frost, so that I can harvest earlier and better protect the plants

6. Grow more herbs to keep me from needing to purchase them at the store

What new things are you doing this year to keep your grocery budget low?
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How to Eat Beans Every Night

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My vegetarian readers can stop laughing at the title now and be prepared to add lots of awesome comments.

For the rest of you, who need to eat on a beans and rice budget, but don't want to eat beans and rice every night, I hope you'll enjoy these ideas for having a variety of meals.

First of all, it helps to have several kinds of beans in your pantry. I stock pinto beans, white beans, black beans, kidney beans, lentils, and mung beans. Don't forget that peas and beans are both sources of protein, so you could have pea soup one night as well.

I buy beans in bulk (25 pound bags) to get them for less. They usually cost me .65 a pound, and since they double in size when cooking (except lentils and peas), you are really getting them for .325 a pound. Need some ideas for bulk sources (including those that deliver)? Check out some bulk sources here.

If you do a search for bean recipes, two difficulties usually arise. One is that many bean recipes contain meat as an ingredient, and the other is that they almost always contain cheese. Both of these ingredients tend to defeat the purpose of eating beans from a frugality standpoint. While you could add cheese or meat to the following recipes, none of them call for it.

Every one of these recipes can be made strictly from pantry ingredients, so if you cannot afford to go shopping right now, don't despair! You can serve up this menu for the week with plenty of variety.

Monday: Bean and Rice Burritos, with either pinto beans or black beans. My husband is actually the one who first got me started in eating bean burritos. My children absolutely love them, and my daughter asked if we could have them today, so we did!

Tuesday: Minestrone Soup, using white beans and kidney beans. French Bread at .25 a loaf makes a wonderful accompaniment. This is a great place to throw in some zucchini in summer or potatoes in winter. This is my children's favorite soup, and we usually eat it once a week. It's not a meal that my husband cares for, however, so you're more likely to see it on my lunch menus than my dinner menus. Just because your husband may not like a particular meal doesn't mean it has to be eliminated from the menu. Just move it to lunch.

Black Bean Burgers 540

Wednesday: Black Bean Burgers. I like these with tomatoes from the garden when I have them. Don't only think ketchup; these are fantastic with some barbecue sauce or some homemade steak sauce. A side of homemade pickles and oven-baked fries can round out the meal. Eating from your pantry? Have applesauce instead of fries.

Thursday: Rosemary White Bean Soup, or, if you have a bit more in your budget, have Pasta e Fagioli instead. Rosemary Olive Oil Bread at .30 a loaf is a nice addition to the meal. Fruit Salad makes a refreshing dessert.

Friday: Stir Fry. Make it meatless and use sprouted mung beans and/ or sprouted lentils (start sprouting them on Monday for Friday's dinner). In summer I'll make this with Swiss chard from the garden. If I have bell peppers, those go in too. In fall I'll include celery when it goes on sale. In the spring, I use sugar snap peas from the garden.

Saturday: Lentil Tacos. Lentils cook up quickly, making this a fast meal. I use tomatoes from the garden when I have them, and if I can buy lettuce in summer I'll buy lettuce for this, since it doesn't grow here past May. In fall we'll have lettuce again, and come late November/Early December it cools off for tomatoes again, so we'll have both lettuce and tomatoes from the garden then. Depending on when our first frost comes (anywhere from Mid-November to mid-December), we'll either have tomatoes picked fresh from the garden or ripening indoors from being picked green.

Sunday: Beans and Rice. I'll take cooked pinto beans, add lots of water, with lime juice and onions, and cook them again until they're a slightly soupy mix. Serve over plain white rice (I buy that in bulk as well for .33 a pound) with fresh tomatoes from the garden on top. The dollar store usually has a pack of 12 limes for a $1. (I've also made this using canned lime juice and canned tomatoes when needed). I first had this meal in Geneva, Switzerland. A sister from church invited my missionary companion and I for lunch, and this is what she served to us. It was the first time I had ever eaten rice and beans, and I loved it! When I was back at college making this meal again, my Mexican roommate's mother was visiting. She was standing in the kitchen while I was cooking. She looked at my meal and said would be so much better if I just added some lime juice. I tried it the next time, and I've been making it that way ever since.

Next Monday: Add a little cheese this time (it's Parmesan, so you can keep this in your pantry if you get the shelf-stable variety), and have White Bean Alfredo Sauce over pasta.


Taco Soup TPH

Next Tuesday: Taco Soup. No need for meat in this one! I spent a semester doing a cooking swap every night between the 6 girls in my apartment and an apartment of guys down the street.  This was one of the meals the guys made at least twice a month.

Next Wednesday: Chili. There are ton of chili recipes out there, and so far my family seems to like them all. Remember that chili doesn't have to have meat in it to be delicious. Chili is one of my husband's favorite bean dishes.

Need more information on cooking beans

(Of course, beans aren't the only way to go meatless. Other great meatless meals that we love: Fried zucchini with homemade ranch dressing, tomato cheddar cracker sandwiches, pasta salad, tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, mock chicken fried steak, soups, tomato basil sandwiches, salads of all varieties, tomato pizza, zucchini potato pancakes, and more!)

There are more great bean meals out there that are easy on the budget, like red beans and rice, baked beans and cornbread, falafel, navy bean soup, lentil soup, black bean soup, hummus and pitas, bean enchiladas, etc. 

So let's have beans for every meal!

What are your favorites? Feel free to add your links in the comments.

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