We’ve had an increase in income this year. While we don’t know how long it will continue (due to the nature of a job in sales), we have decided that for now, we will be increasing our grocery budget to allow us to buy more of the things we love. For April, our budget will be $400. 

Strawberry Jam The Prudent Homemaker

Strawberries should be in season here this month. Last year I bought loads of berries on sale and made jam. I’d like to do that again this year, so I’ll look for great sales on berries. I also want to freeze strawberries to use throughout the year. Last year I paid $1.25 a pound on sale for strawberries. While I have expanded our strawberry bed, I’ve never had more than a few to harvest, so buying them in season will have to do.

April is a month that usually sees lots of sales on toiletries and makeup, and lots of coupons and rebates on these items as well. I’ll be looking for sales on these items.

The case-lot sale is also happening here this month. There aren’t a lot of states where there are case-lot sales (nor stores who have them). We have one store that has them in our area, which is Smith’s. I’ve decided to stock up on some items at the case-lot sale.

I’m seeing some great meat sales (this week has whole chickens for $0.79 a pound and boneless pork loin on sale for $1.89 a pound) if you need to stock up on meat. I will be using up meat from the freezer this month; I have several large items (like turkeys, hams, and pork roasts) that, once cooked, will last for several meals. 

I intend to cook several pots of beans (from the pantry) this month, to make burritos and soups.


Case-lot sale:

Canned green beans ($0.50 a can in a case of 12 cans for $6)

Canned tuna fish ($0.50 a can in a case of 48 cans for $24)

Canned mandarin oranges ($0.50 a can in a case of 24 for $12)


Fresh Produce:





Milk (the current best price in my area is $2.49 a gallon, on sale at Smith’s this week)

Heavy whipping cream (to make strawberry shortcake)

Sour cream

Mozarella cheese (bought in a 5 pound bag at Sam’s Club; the current price is $2.10 a pound)

Ice cream (I’ll watch for a sale on the big buckets at Smith’s)


Breakfast sausage links (I have a raincheck from a sale that I went to at Vons in February)


Other Fresh:

Flour tortillas



POM Toilet paper (from Sam’s Club)

Oil of Olay Moisturizer (I usually stock up for the year with coupons, sales and a rebate deal in April)

Aveeno Baby Lotion (there should be coupons)

Mascara (I’ll look for a deal with purchase)

Salon Graphix unscented hairspray (there’s a $1 off coupon on Coupons.com)




Chocolate chips (Sam’s Club)

Craisins (Sam’s Club)

Almonds (Sam’s Club)

Snow Peas 2 The Prudent Homemaker 

We’ll have lots of salads from the garden this month, as lettuce and radishes are both ripe. The 30-day snow peas that I planted are covered in flowers, so I will be harvesting snow peas this month and making museum pasta salad (which wil be rather refreshing to eat with our temperatures in the 80’s!)

I’m still picking lemons from our trees. It’s wonderful. I love that they can stay on the trees for a long time. They’ll all need to be picked this month.

The Swiss chard in the garden is growing tremendously. We could eat it every day this month and still have tons left in the garden. It is going to bolt in a few weeks, so we’ll be having it often. We’ve been eating it as a side dish, as well as in several soups.

The beets are ready to harvest, as are the beet greens.

The turnips are growing quite a bit, and I can harvest them sometime this month.

I’m also harvesting a few asparagus spears from the garden.

Red and White Strawberries The Prudent Homemaker

I am picking a few red strawberries now, and I’ll have some tiny white alpine strawberries ripe later this month.

I have green onions and leeks ripe in the garden.

I have thyme, oregano, parsley, garlic chives, onion chives, dill, sage, lemongrass, and rosemary available to cut in the garden. 

My Katy apricot tree in the white garden will be ripe this month. I put in this tree three years ago. I harvest several apricots last year, and this year it will have a good number to eat fresh, though the tree is still small. 

Roses in Glass Bowl The Prudent Homemaker

I’ll be cutting flowers from the garden this month, too: nasturiums, white Iceberg roses, iris, and at the end of the month, David Austin roses (yellow Graham Thomas [shown above from last April] and peachy-pink The Shepardess).


That’s it, unless I’ve forgotten something. I’ll certainly keep an eye out for great sales. I may buy eggs again towards the end of the month (5 dozen at Sam’s Club, since they’ve been holding around $1.25 a dozen there) if we go through all of the others.


Happy April! I have lots of lovely posts and projects planned to share with you this month. (In fact, I have several sewing projects to finish in the next two days that you’ll be seeing very soon!)



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  1. Brandy, another way I use up my chard is to cut it into small pieces and put it in my potato salad instead of celery. It is pretty and tastes good too.

  2. I am so happy to learn that you are able to make this change at this time. I admire you and your ability to handle your current situation – whatever it may be – with such grace and thoughtfulness.

    Our garden is still just a brown patch – we have had heavy snows and cold temps throughout March. Our ‘safe’ planting date is end of May, though I do a small cold frame to start a few things earlier than that.

    I have also wondered – do you ever have any trouble with people walking by and picking items from your front gardens? Flowers, or ever vegetables or fruit? I have wondered, because whenever we’ve lived in neighborhoods (we are semi-rural now), I have found people in my front yard, picking flowers right up next to my house a time or two…..

  3. Thankfully, no, but that would be awful! I do have a problem with a neighbor who lets her dog dig in my yard (and everyone else’s yard, too!) It stopped after we put in our current garden, but it happened twice last month where I had put down seeds. I had to replant. I currently have several jars in that area over seedlings, so hopefully that will keep her and her dog out.

    We did put in a narrow sidewalk (only 2 feet wide, and regulation ones would be 3 feet). Our neighborhood does not have sidewalks, so when people walk on ours, they are technically trespassing, but they aren’t damaging things (except for the above mentioned) so that is not a problem.

    Most people don’t notice the food, and just see the flowers. When the lemons fruited, one neighbor was surprised to see them. As the garden gets fuller, it is also less noticeable.

    I also put in hedges, which help hide a lot of the garden from the street.

    In general, people in our neighborhood stay inside. They do go by my house to get their mail, but they rarely pay attention to my house. I have a couple of neighbors who comment on it, but most only get out of their car to get their mail.

  4. So happy that you’re able to increase your grocery budget. I’m guessing your kids, just like mine, are eating more and more as they get older and go through growth spurts.

    We planted an apricot tree last March. This February, it was covered in flowers, but I don’t see any fruit. Will we likely have to wait another year or two to get fruit? I can’t wait (but I’ll have to, I guess. :))

  5. I would not feel too bad about not getting fruit this year. You need it to grow this year; without fruit, it will concentrate on growth and will most likely double in size (make sure to fertilize it 3 times this year). Apricots fruit on the previous year’s growth, so this year’s growth is very important for next year’s crop. The following year will be even better. It’s hard to wait the first few years, but if you did have fruit, it would be recommended to knock any fruit off the tree this year to let it grow.

    The peach tree that I planted at the same time, across from the apricot, did not give me fruit last year, but I’ll get a bit this year.

    There could be other reasons for not getting fruit in future years. No bees, strong winds that blow off all the blossoms (and it’s been VERY windy here; the trees were pretty thinned of fruit by the wind, even though they set fruit), hail, heavy rain, or a frost after blooming can affect your fruit set.

  6. Brandy, you mentioned that you have an excess of Swiss chard in your garden, and if I remember correctly, this grows nearly year round for you (except during your hottest times). Do you ever harvest and freeze it for later use or is that even worth the effort? Alternatively, if you do have excess in your garden, do you share with family and friends? I know that others have mentioned doing this, but I don’t remember if you’ve mentioned sharing extra produce from your gardens with others, perhaps because you always find a way to preserve your extras for your family to eat.

  7. It can be frozen, but I prefer the taste of it fresh, and since in a few months I can have new seedlings big enough to harvest, I don’t bother to freeze any.

    I do share with others, but most people aren’t interested in chard. I gave some to two families last month. If I could find more people willing to take it (and the beet greens, too) I would love to share more this month.

    I have had no trouble sharing lemons! I gave away many lemons last month. People are excited about those. Leafy greens just don’t generate the same kind of excitement. . . 😀 Meyer lemons make people stop, hold them to their noses, and breathe deeply.

    I normally have enough lettuce to share, too, but this year it has not grown as abundantly. I would actually like to have more for us than we currently do. I am going to try planting some more in the next few days.

  8. I am curious, at $1.25/lb, how much do you figure that it costs to make a pint of strawberry jam w/sugar and pectin, assuming you already have the jar? I am just curious as I would love to can jam and even invest in jars, but I don’t know if it’s worth the cost.

    And I’m so glad that your income has gone up! It’s always a good time to stock up and buy things that you need or love for your family. I hope it’s not a seasonal thing!

  9. I am so happy for you and your family concerning the budget increase! I’m sure the treats, such as ice cream, will be huge hits. However, I think your children have benefitted from seeing how their parents make do nicely when circumstances turn; that one does not have to be defeated by economic downfall, but can thrive. That lesson is priceless.

  10. In my family, the turnip greens were the best things to eat, and yet from reading, I get the idea that many people only use the turnips themselves and toss the greens. Turnip greens were my favorite dish my grandmother ever made! She cooked a very southern (read: unhealthy, but oh, so good!). I have never managed to make them taste exactly the same, but turnip greens and cornbread make an awfully good meal!

  11. I live on a busy street. There are no side walks on my side of the street. (strange to have side walks on 1 side of the street and not the other) Also live within 2 blocks of the elementary school. Kids walk by my house and pick flowers all the time. I guess over the 30 some years I have lived here I have got used to it. I have Iris in the front, Lilies, roses, and lots of lavender. It is my guess the kids take the flowers to their teacher because most are picked on the way to school. I will not lie and say it makes me happy, but I do not mind if a kid takes a flower.
    Our veggie garden is in the back yard. It is also fenced to keep OUR dogs out of it.
    When we were first married when I had a son still in diapers, it never failed that the neighbor’s dog would take our trash can and turn it over and tear it up all over the yard. We cleaned it up. I talked to the neighbor. It happened again the next week. I cleaned it up again. Yep, you guessed it; it happened again. This time David had enough. I cleaned it up. Took the can to their yard and put it all on their front sidewalk with a note. We never had another problem. I am not too proud of how that was handled. But when you are a Marine you tend to take things into your own hands and FIX the problem.

  12. I have wondered about this. I tried cooking our turnip greens a few years ago, but they are covered in spines. When I cooked them, they still had sharp spines. I wonder if I have a different type, but the ones I have are too spiny to eat. I cannot even get chickens to eat them because of the spines.

    So instead we grow a lot of Swiss chard 🙂

  13. If you’re home in the morning, I suppose you could sit out there while the children go by to school and tell them not to steal flowers from your yard.

    Also, I would consider a sign that tells children that picking flowers from your yard is stealing.

    Our street seems to be busy with cars, but there are only a few small children in the neighborhood, and a large number of retirees.

  14. I have raspberry bushes in my front yard, quite a few of them and very prolific. More than once I have looked out my window to see people picking the raspberries and PUTTING THEM INTO BUCKETS! That means they didn’t just pop one into their mouths as they walked by, this was a planned outing. AND, the bushes are behind a chain link fence and people have opened the gate and walked into the yard. I finally unlocked the gate that connects our front and back yards so that my three Irish wolfhounds can come thundering out into the front yard when they hear someone. They actually are gentle and don’t bite but when they open their mouths to bark, it sounds like the hounds of hell and looks like they could swallow your head if they wanted to. That quickly eliminated repeated thieves but I still get a few who don’t seem to understand the idea of private property or fences.

  15. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit this, but we did the same thing with dog poop our neighbor’s dog would leave right in front of our front porch. The first time we thought the neighbor did not know, but then we watched the dog do it while the neighbor was standing at the end of the driveway watching and when the dog was done, they both walked off. My husband went and talked to the guy, who acted like he would take care of the problem. He didn’t. We started to shovel the poop into a bucket. When the bucket was full, we both walked it over and tipped the contents in his yard, and put a note on his door that we were returning what he had loaned us. The next time we saw the guy walking his dog, it was on a leash. I think his dog was attracted to the smells left by our wolfhounds, but that is no excuse.

  16. I think it’s wonderful that your income went up. You eat so well, as it is..
    I have no plans for April. I feel like this is the month to take it easy even while i feel the need to stock up. Balance, Grasshopper! 🙂 There’s meat bingo at the Moose tomorrow; maybe i’ll win some meat and not have to think about it!
    Have a wonderful week ahead!

  17. Hi Brandy and a deterrent for pooping anyway is putting full soda bottles with water with their lids on with holes in them upside down with the neck buried in the soil, apparently they don’t like it and won’t do their business so you never know it may deter your digger as well. Worth a try, but the owner should be watching and keeping the animal in check and not letting it wander and destroy the neighbourhoods gardens.

    Also a good way of watering the plants too.

  18. Hi Mabel and that is just plain stealing and not to mention rude that people would walk blatantly into someone’s yard and steal food, and picking with a bucket as well takes the cake 🙁 .

  19. The snow pea leaves are edible too. I had them at an Asian restaurant and now I buy them when I see them at the international market. I usually saute them like spinach with a little sliced garlic and chicken stock.

  20. This area is watered with drip irrigation, so it gets enough water already. Right now I have upside-down glass jars over the seedlings in that area that came up after the second sowing.

    The dog is on a leash; the owner lets her dog dig in people’s yards on purpose. She doesn’t like my garden, either, and has been very vocal about it to her family as she walks by our house. But she let her dog dig in the garden before we changed it (at one point her dog was doing his business in my yard 3-4 times a week!), and she lets her dog dig in other people’s yards, too. She stops her dog and lets it go in everyone’s yard that it wants to. 🙁

  21. Hi Brandy & all from Australia :). Fantastic that your gardens are producing so well and you are able to feed your family so much nice fresh produce and that you are blessed to be able to increase you budget this month is wonderful. In times of plenty which are few, we should all take full advantage and stock up for the leaner times.

    Incidentally I do love the direct way of dealing with neighbours who don’t care what the heck their dogs or animals do to others property, sometimes blatantly dealing with the problem is the only way to do it if you have tried the “nice way” first and that has failed.

    In the garden we are blessed to be picking –
    – Lots of silverbeet ( swiss chard) – we cut blanch & freeze this if we have an abundance for our own use and for service to others.
    – Strawberries – despite the 30oc + days we are having
    – Snow peas again despite the temperatures.
    – Turnips
    – Spring onions & chives
    – Pumpkins by the numbers :).
    – Sugar baby watermelon – just got the last of crop harvested.
    – Cucumbers by the numbers :).
    – Green beans by the numbers :), looks like the steamer will get another workout to blanch and freeze the excess for us & others in need.
    – Sweet basil, Thai basil, Sage, Thyme, Rosemary & lemongrass in abundance. I dry for our herbs for us, some to sell, & sell the rest on the internet.

    For this month’s groceries it appears that we will most likely come in under budget hopefully. I have been blessed to find such great specials for the first 3 months of this year and have already increased stock levels on most things which was our intent. Any money left over will carry into our buying more food storage containers for increasing our flour storage.

    Our grocery shopping plans this month are to stock up on only items used & a few cheaper items I have noticed-

    – 4 kg of sultanas – only restock when 1 of our storage containers are empty.
    – 15 kg of raw sugar (already purchased) – we only restock when 1 our storage buckets are empty.
    – 8 kg all purpose flour (already purchased) – we use this for bread making instead of bread flour as it is much cheaper.
    – 2.25 kg of cocoa powder (already purchased), we use this for cooking and hot chocolate drinks.
    – top up on some vanilla extract now I have seen it being restocked in Aldi at a much cheaper price.
    – 2 x 1kg blocks of cheese.
    – 2 dozen eggs
    – 3 kg of butter
    – 4 lt ice cream ( we then use the washed containers for food storage too)
    – tinned two fruits & pears (already purchased on special)
    – 21 lts of full cream milk
    – 3 – 4 kgs of powdered milk (we use half and half mix for our everyday house use to cut costs).

    Have a wonderful frugal shopping month everyone 🙂

  22. Hi Brandy and unfortunately we live in an age where there is no accounting or reason for some people’s lack of behaviour. That is even worse that the animal is on a leash and she let’s the dog do the damage, perhaps something missing in the top storey :p .

    Here in instances like that we would report it to our local council, which you can incidentally do anonymously here anyway, it would pay you to get a photo of it happening on the sly and send that in with your report. Perhaps a large fine may deter her.

    In my previous home I woke up in the morning and opened the curtains thinking ohh what a wonderfully sunny day only to see the neighbour running around completely unclothed beating up someone’s car with a yard broom, curtains quickly shut with me shaking my head. Not a sight I care to remember and sooo glad I have moved now. He also drove like a complete loony and no-one could park out the front of our home as he drove so badly he would collect anyone’s car on the street. Needless to say he had both a drug and alcohol substance abuse problem.

  23. Set some mouse/rat traps 😉 That should scare the little $@#*@&# enough to keep him out! And if she complains just make up something about a problem with a little critter destroying the seedlings.
    People use them on top of trash in a trash can to scare dogs enough to keep them out (unfortunately it did not work on our nose oriented beagle – she just skittered back and then decided to try it again :/ ).

  24. It’s still quite cold here. The occasional 70ish temp, but mostly 50-60. With the occasional almost freezing temp at night. Definitely getting frost. I’m running a bit behind. Getting ready to attempt a couple plants by using seeds indoors. I have to use pots, so I’ve been gathering different items to use. I have collected 3qts of dandelion flowers this past week. I’m getting ready to make 3 batches of jelly. It makes 5 8oz jars each batch. I’ve gotten a few things on special… like eggs for $1.49 dozen, because of Easter. We have a Deal$ changing to a Dollar Tree… they are clearancing everything over $2, so I grabbed some games and simple presents. Plus some planting pots. My GM gave me some brand new canning jars. She had attempted something crafty, like bread in a jar. Didn’t care for results so gave them to me. My grt aunt gave my grandma 2 boxes of qt jars for me. 🙂 I’ve collected some pretty spring dish towels on clearance for my grandma on Mother’s Day. She’s worn hers out. I also purchased a Ball canning book w a gift card I got.

  25. I don’t mind if they pick a flower or two. I have gone out a couple of times and said something to the children, but to see the sad look on their face made me feel bad. We live in an area that is older. It has not kept pace with the rest of our city. It is not a ‘slum’ area, but it is not pristine either. We do not have an HOA for example. When I see a child pick a rose I will sometimes go out with my clippers and a paper towel to help. Like I said, I adore children and as long as they are not ripping up the whole plant (had that happen with an IRIS) I don’t much mind. Yes, I guess it is stealing, but does a really young child really know taking a flower is stealing? I would feel like a Grinch if I put a sign in the yard like that.

  26. It partly depends on the recipe you follow. I’ve used both powdered and liquid pectin. They both work. They have different directions, so double check before you start. I measure out sugar ahead of time. You have to use cane sugar. Dominoes (which is yellow) is cane. For liquid pectin you need one pouch (3oz), 3 3/4c hulled berries, 4T lemon juice, and 7c sugar. This makes 8 jelly jars (8oz). There are various recipes, including freezer jam, no/low sugar. YouTube is great. Ball has multiple recipes also. The old fashioned ones don’t use pectin. ~~I haven’t attempted strawberry. It does taste better than what you buy at the store. I’ve made dandelion, mulberry (I have trees), apple (a you pick farm- using peels and cores-left from making sauce and pie filling), and violet. (unique and I was curious.)

  27. Since we are in an income lull for my husband, we are eating mostly food storage which isn’t a big deal. The freezer needs to be eaten down a bit as there is NO room for anything right now and I’ll need a bit of space for veggies (broccoli and cauliflower) as it comes ripe in the garden. We did take advantage of $1.99 a pound English beef roasts but only bought 2. I am really tired of trying to come up with decent flavored meals with grd. beef and chicken (picky, picky husband) so I told him to go pick 2 up while I was a work so I could make a beef stew – It’s a comfort food for me which I crave when I’m stressed. So, other stock up plans are:
    Purchase 2 more bags of dog food (one puppy, one adult). That will bring us to 8 weeks for puppy and 9-10 weeks for adult.
    Purchase all flea and tick meds and heartworm meds for the summer – this is a huge expense but fleas are a constant battle in our house + ticks are more than likely going to be bad this year again. Heartworm meds are cheaper than treating any of them for heartworms!
    4 bags of poultry feed since it’s on sale and I can store it in the house to keep the mice out of it. This is at least 2 months worth during the growing season.

    Chocolate chips
    Big box of baking soda
    more flat bread from the discount bread store (love, love, love the convenience for chicken shwarma night)
    There really isn’t anything else we need – the pantry is full too – other than maybe some fresh produce here and there and milk.

    Toiletries/paper products:
    Two 36 roll packs of TP – I am watching for a sale and hoping our current supply carries us through – this was an opps for me – I thought we had more than we did.
    Everyone has a different preferred brand of deodorant, shampoo and toothpaste so, since both our children have decent jobs (full time college students living at home), I have decided that I will no longer be keeping a supply of theirs on hand – [i]they[/i] can purchase it (welcome to the real world kids) That means I only need to buy a few things for us while things are tight.

    plastic safely buckles (cat collars)

    These may or may not happen – I may just have to make do with what I have for some of these if there is no extra money!
    Since I no longer own any rabbits, I will actually have to buy some manure this year for my raised beds – somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 bags (I have to check prices on getting a load delivered as that may be cheaper)
    30 bags of top soil for my new raspberry bed and 2 new raised bed boxes. $1.25 a bag = $37.50
    1 dwarf yellow delicious apple (10.00)
    1 dwarf peach (12.00)
    1 dwarf cherry (12.00)
    4 new concord grape vines ($4 each = $16)

  28. There is something seriously wrong with someone who acts like that. How could anyone not like your garden? So, clearly, she doesn’t like anything. Poor woman. She must not have a life filled with very much happiness, with an attitude like that. I hope the glass jars work and deter the dog. I think the hedges would help with this problem, too. I’m taking notes:( for when I may have to live in town. It’s a skill I don’t have, as I’ve almost always been in a rural setting.

    For the short time I did live in town, I was in a very sheltered place with a creek on one side and an art center on the other. Someone did come careening around the corner and totaled our car one time when we were gone for the weekend….. I’m not super excited about the idea of moving back into town, but I’m sure I’ll adjust and will stay positive. I’m sure there are good things, too.

  29. I’m super excited for you that your budget is going up. You are so good with what you have, but kids can really pack it away as they get older, and there might be some times when you could take it just a shade easier on a day when you don’t feel well or are very tired, if you had more money to work with. And, you will end up with more variety. So, yea!

    In April, I plan to continue to use things from the freezers and cupboards in anticipation of moving when the house sells. I emptied about 10 freezer cartons and freezer bags today, making soup, cherry crisp and chicken wings. My sister and I did some freezer consolidation and organization, then I cleaned and arranged some more today. After months of working on it, I have 2 freezers empty and ready to give away tomorrow. I don’t plan to buy very many groceries–just salad stuff, bananas, etc., for the most part.

    After the first intense week of being gone camping and then leaving almost daily for hours so the house could be shown, things have slowed a bit. That has been good for my budget. Yesterday, we had 2 more showings after a break for a few days. During the break and today, I took the opportunity to cook at home a lot, and made things for Sunday’s family dinner, meals for today and tomorrow, and cookies for the freezer. I was given enough notice yesterday to make a picnic lunch and we already had plans to take our daughter out for her birthday.

    I PLAN to sell my house in April:) Let’s hope my plan works:):) We’ve had 34 couples/families through so far, and one offer that we did not accept, as it was super, super low. I’m hoping for the best since it’s still getting a lot of interest.

  30. It sounded like you were bothered about it, so that’s why I suggested it.

    When you mentioned flowers being stolen, it also reminded me of a story I read about someone who had a backyard with a high fence. They had motion sensor lights, but it did not deter people from stealing vegetables from their backyard. It wasn’t just a few–it was ALL of them! They switched to growing flowers and had the same problem, unfortunately. I wondered itf you had any flowers left; your story made me think of that.

    I actually had my mom rip up a basil plant like that one year. She wanted some and didn’t use scissors, and ripped out the whole plant. I was sad about it; most of my plants had not come up that year and I didn’t have a lot.

  31. The part that was dug was in the walkway, between the driveway and the walkway technically, where there is no hedge as it sloped down to the street.

    I have a short wall and then the hedge above it, so most of the yard is more private in a sense. I am not allowed to have a wall taller than 24 inches, and the wall is 21 inches, and then I have the hedges above it :D, and around the upper portion. I do like that I have two flat areas instead of a sloped yard now.

    But in many places, you can put up a fence, a wall, or tall hedges in your front yard to make your front yard completely private from the street. We have an HOA, and I didn’t have that option. There is no rule about the heighth of my bushes, though! I don’t want them real tall, as I want the roses to bloom behind/over the top of them.

    I usually get compliments from people on the garden, unless they’re quiet neighbors who just don’t talk to anyone at all (and we have those here too). I have strangers in the neighborhood who talk to me about it, too, who really like it, and the children in the neighborhood like the flowers.

  32. It definitely depends on the recipe. Whether or not a recipe needs pectin depends on the type of fruit; some naturally have pectin (pectin is naturally found in apples, for instance–you can even make your own pectin from unripe apples). It depends on whether you buy your pectin in bulk, on sale, with a coupon, etc. Regular sugar jam uses more sugar than berries; it’s cheaper and more solid. Low sugar jam uses less sugar and a different type of pectin (it says “low-sugar pectin” and costs the same as regular pectin). It’s a softer set, and more like having fresh berries in a thick syrup. We use our jam primarily in homemade yogurt, and the soft set it wonderful for this, so that is what I have been making the last few years.

    As to whether or not it costs less–you are definitely getting more fruit than you would with an inexpensive store-bought jam, so you get a MUCH better taste. It’s more like buying Bonne Maman when you have homemade jam–only even better!

    A friend of mine told me about her neighbor. He was saying to his wife that he thought it was crazy that anyone would go to the trouble to make strawberry jam. He didn’t see the point. My friend later gifted them a jar of homemade jam. After he tasted it, he had a complete change of opinion. The taste was so superior that he said he understood why people would make homemade jam!

    it would take a bit of math to figure it out for certain, and I haven’t bought pectin in a while as I still have some (plus once you have jars you will need to still buy lids each year, unless you invest in reusable lids (the Tattler ones)). The taste makes it worth it, though, even if it ends up being more. It’s that much better tasting!

  33. Hi Roxie and agree that young children do not know the difference.

    I remember when I was a young child one of the neighbours a few doors up had a huge macadamia nut tree and my sister & I looked longingly at them every time we walked back from school. One afternoon we snuck in and filled our pockets with fallen macadamia nuts. The lovely elderly lady sprung us and came down and in a lovely quiet tone said, you needn’t sneak in and steal them, if you want some at any time just knock on the door to let me know you are here and you can have as many as you want because I can’t eat them all.

    One other time again whilst young we also snuck into our neighbours vegetable garden & pulled up 2 carrots wiped the dirt off and started eating them. Again sprung and the same reply from this lovely elderly lady too. We learnt our lesson and did knock on anyone’s door from then on to ask before we took anything :).

  34. Hi Melissa V, just wanted to ask if you have room for a couple of Guinea Hens? They will happily clear your land of ticks!

  35. Enjoyed your upbeat tone in this post! So glad you can increase your budget as I know your children are growing and perhaps having healthier appetites! Mine are, my oldest is 13 and is 5’8″ and growing so fast. Already past mama and always asking for seconds! 😉

    We ordered an apricot tree this yeAr (not a Katy but another early variety). It is leaving so pretty and green and did have some blooms on it. I’m glad you mentioned that about pulling the fruit off the first year. I wouldn’t have done that had I not read it. Do you do that with strawberries too? Someone told me that. I just planted twenty strawberry plants that are growing so lovely. I certainly will pull off the first blossoms if I need to.

    Thanks for your input. You have always been so helpful for me with my having a Large family and being on a budget.

  36. Oh my, yes. I’m from alabama and turnip greens and collard greens (my favorite) are two of my favorite foods. Cooked with a ham bone, a couple jalepenos thrown in and a couple tbs of vinegar, the BEST. My fil grew collards all winter so I picked them every Sunday for a “mess” during the week. Yum! And of course, the cornbread! 😉

  37. I forgot to add. I grab my sugar on sale, just so I can have the right kind for jelly/jam making. I also buy the pectin on end of the season clearance. Check the dates. They usually are good for quite awhile. I’ve also found jars on clearance.

  38. Jenni, my husband has asked me the same question, especially after I have bought flats of strawberries for $25 and raspberry flats for $50 (yup, the going rate here). My response to him is that I am practicing and perfecting my canning skills, which is a good thing. It has built up my confidence to try canning other things as well.

    Yes, it is probably more expensive for me to make my own jam. However, I hope some day I will be able to grow my own fruit, which will significantly decrease the cost. I also make peach jam and cherry jam (both of which are expensive to buy in stores). I have tried fruit combination too (raspberry/blueberry, stawberry/peach/mango) using frozen fruits, with great success. I loved having lots of variety in my cupboard this winter.

    Now that I am making jam every year, I also watch for sales on the pectin at the end of the summer season. The expiration dates are usually good into the next year, but stores in this area only carry canning supplies during spring/summer, so they usually liquidate leftover stock at the end of the season. Paying $2/box for no sugar needed pectin instead of close to $4/box makes a huge difference! I currently have quite a few boxes to start with this year, possibly enough to take me through most of the season. I need to make more than I did last year (which was a lot) as I am down to only a few jars left right now, and strawberry season is in June for us…hope I make it until then!

  39. In my city they have a paper about events and other stuff going on locally. I know they’ve mentioned purchasing manure and mulch and compost. Inexpensively from local sources. Do you live by any local farms? If you have a farming supplies store (like Tractor Supply) they also might know someone. If you have a local fb of you might be able to ask.

  40. The ones my family grow did not have spines at all. I will have to ask my dad what the variety he grows is.

  41. I also know what is in everything I preserve. No added junk and that is important to me and my family.

  42. HAHAHHAHA NO, NO, NO and no again. We are in the suburbs with neighbors right next to our poultry area – we don’t even keep a rooster due to noise concerns – I can’t imagine what would happen if we got guineas! (Hubby hates them too!)

  43. Hi Melissa V and love the comment about the welcome to the real world kids & not you buying their toiletries.

    I remember eldest son when he said he was moving out of home. I decided as a welcome to the real world to take him shopping to show him how to do it. So off we went his money in hand to do the weekly shopping, we got to the dairy section and he saw a 1kg block of cheese and looked at me and in a super loud voice $8 for a blinkin block of cheese they have to be joking ?. No my reply was that is what the usual prices are. We were standing next to an elder couple who were in stitches at his comments and were laughing so hard they had tears running down their cheeks. I simply replied son No1 is moving out of home and has just found out just how expensive things really are. It got progressively worse when he got to his favourite disposable razors & replacement blades $13 you got to be joking. Adding it up as we went which I had taught him, he said he was out of money. I said well that isn’t good you still have to get toilet paper & dishwashing liquid. You will have to put back one of those expensive razor refills you have to get those.

    Have to say “so very funny to watch” :p.

  44. First time I have had a chance to read your blog in months! I sure have missed your inspiring ideas (and your readers’ too).
    While I’m going to school we usually spend $100-150 a month on groceries, mostly bread, milk, and produce. I stocked up before the semester and will stop by the whole-sale supplier only once every month or two if my schedule permits.

    Case-lot items:
    Ramen – two different cases which should last us the next year
    Cream of mushroom soup
    Mandarin oranges
    Diced chilis
    tomato sauce

    Bulk items: from wholesale or Smart and Final
    Produce (onions, apples, lettuce, tomatoes)
    Shredded cheese
    Cheddar block
    provolone or Swiss block (if it goes on sale – it’s about time)
    Frozen vegetables

    I will keep my eyes open for a great meat deal, but I stocked up on Beef round roasts and some brisket at $2.19/lb and 80% lean ground beef at $1.99/lb in January.

    I am also trying my hand at pressure canning today, with dried beans. I will probably do more next Saturday so we have beans on hand for meals for the next month as I get ready for finals.

  45. I guess I am naughty but I would gather up all its poop and deposit it in her front yard. I am a pet owner and one of the responsibilities I take seriously is cleaning up after my dogs if we somewhere in public. That is just common courtesy. Obviously she is not a courteous person.

  46. By the way, I am seriously waiting with bated breath to see how long those snow peas from Territorial actually took to make pea pods and how they taste! I love trying new varieties and Territorial is my absolute favorite place to buy seeds, but I’m not growing a garden this year, so I’m taking notes for next year, or maybe even fall. I can do snow peas in the fall if I plant them in July or August. Last year, I planted Oregon Sugar II (they were flat, snow peas, not snap peas), in succession, and had them pretty much all summer, except in the very middle when it got too hot. I like them so much better fresh, although I did freeze a few bags when they got away from me.

  47. I think building skills is a wonderful reason to can! I use so many fruits and vegetables that people give me or I grow that it all evens out and is much, much cheaper for me in the long run even if I have to pay for something. I often pay for pears, for instance, because only occasionally am I given any. Because I have practiced canning and freezing for so many years, I am not afraid to accept produce in large quantities, even if I’ve never canned or frozen that exact thing before. I am able to can much more quickly and efficiently than people I know who have not had as much practice, which just keeps me going stronger as I am so encouraged with my progress. I have friends who used to work at the Smucker’s jam factory in the summers when we were in high school, long years ago. I’m hoping it is better now, but there were quite a few things that went into the jam that I have the time, patience, and energy to make sure NEVER go into mine:) Also, when things are from a garden of myself or a friend, they are usually organic, which is nice, too.

  48. Such lovely gardens what a shame anyone would be so rude! But there are always some folks who are rude, dishonest and just plain nasty. Enjoy your bounty and your beautiful plants and the lovely products of your labor and ignore what must be ignored.

    I was laughing about those wolfhounds! A great solution LOL.

    So glad you get to indulge your preferences a wee bit! Hooray for extra!

  49. It’s wonderful that you can increase the budget in time for spring and summer harvests. I’m allowing some extra in ours for “opportunity costs” and I was able to pick up mandarin oranges to can for a really good price. I put away enough for at least one large dish of my favorite fruit salad each month. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but it will be a treat I can look forward to having. I’m doing a weird combination of adding to food storage and rotating other things out.

    I’m jealous of your garden. We aren’t where we can have one right now, but I am holding out hope things will be different this time next year.

  50. I am sorry, I did not mean to give the impression it UPSET me to see the kids pick the flowers. I don’t mind a flower or two as long as they don’t rip the whole plant out of the ground. That has only happened with my Iris plants. I have so many Iris that they bloom all the time here. Mine are needing to be thinned right now but it is too late to do it this year. My day lilies are not close enough to the road that they are bothered much. But my roses are picked too. Those don’t bother me too much except for when they pick the buds before they are ready to open….kids are just kids…

  51. you can get turnips that produce just greens, Hakurei is a good turnip. I personally grow purple top and only cut a few of the BABY greens and leave the rest while the turnip grows.

  52. I like to use the no added sugar pectin and sweeten the jam with honey, maple syrup or a 50/50 combo of both. Because it does not require any sugar to set with this pectin, I usually add only about 1 cup of “sweetener” total, just enough to give it more of a sweet jam taste. Even though this is a bit more expensive, I find the honey and maple syrup really makes the flavours pop.

  53. You are doing very well Brandi. Over 15 yrs ago we were feeding a family of 7 and was thought we were being frugal at it and spending over $1000 a month. I am glad you can increase the amt.

    We have decided on some changes this coming month after my follow up appt with my ENT doctor due to nose surgery. Got to roll with reality. After our talk my hubby asked if I would check your site and see if there was other things. OF COURSE because I reread your blog day after day after day. Something always seems to “speak” to me.


  54. Hi Juls and thoroughly agree that Brandi is doing so well on the budget she has to feed a family of 9 indeed, just the amount of time organising for the food alone must I would imagine be like running a mini supermarket on inventorying and on the cooking side of things running a mini café.

    Around 3 years ago we thought we were doing super well on around $250 a fortnight on groceries for the 2 of us in Australia, mind you we did not have a vegetable garden back then so therefor more expensive. Our grocery bill since we started reading this blog and implementing some of the strategies is $280 a month for the 2 of us now and with food storage we have built up, we think we could get to a lower amount yet again.

    We can now wait because we have a certain level of food storage for the 50% or more off sales for most of our groceries and other items which saves a huge amount of money.

    Our meat here is far more expensive than the States however with for instance
    – beef mince running at $9 – $12 kg or $4.09 – $5.09 lb.
    – Leg of ham bone in on Christmas sale $7 kg or $3.18 lb.
    – Leg of lamb bone in on super special $8 kg or $3.63 lb.

    Our vegetable & fruit prices if we had to buy them would from what I have noticed from seeing prices most people have written approximately double the cost you are paying over there. Dairy in a lot of cases cheaper on butter, powdered milk and things like that, fuel prices are around 400% higher than the States. So from what I gather our cost of living here would be 40 – 50% higher. The big killer to our budgets here are the cost of living not keeping up with lower income wages, one of the highest property prices per income in the world, and the cost of machinery and appliances on average 50 % higher. Our minimum wage here is however for example double what most people would earn in the States.

    So from the other side of the world we shall keep you up to date on our progress as well :), whilst renting and saving for our new home with cash :D.

  55. Brandy I love your lemonade recipe, but it is a lot of work hand squeezing a 2lb bag of lemons. Can you recommend a better lemon squeezer than my little plastic thing, I hope?

  56. Lorna,
    Thank you for listing the prices you face. Wow! Incredible. What a challenge for you to get to that $280 a month figure, congratulations on that accomplishment. I was reading a blog with prices from France and was also in disbelief. I haven’t been able to get below $300 a month for our groceries and supplies yet, just two of us at home, but agree 100 percent that following what I have learned here from Brandy and others made all the difference. Having the pantry and freezer led to those savings, plus the self control to cook at home 😉

  57. Lastyea, in April, I bought a vintage citrus juicer at a garage sale (I took a picture; it would be after the second Saturday in April) that I am using. It’s electronic 🙂 I imagine there are others out there. I know Kitchen Aid makes an attachment, and I actually have it, but I don’t like it; it is vertical and juice ends up running down my arm. I prefer this juicer that I got. My mom found one at a garage sale, and I borrowed hers last year, and then went looking at a garage sale, and amazingly we found one!

    Mine is made by Silex. I have no idea what options are out there now, but with a lot of lemons, it’s a definite need to get them all done. I’ve been juicing them for months!

  58. Being able to ‘up’ the budget, even if temporarily, is always great. Very happy for you that you were able to do it thins month, Brandy. I am sure with all the children growing so are the appetites!

  59. Hilogene,

    When I lived in France, I didn’t buy much meat, as it was too pricey. One thing I did buy was lentils for soup. I buy them now (the brown ones, as they are the least expensive type) at Winco in the bulk section. We made a lentil coup this past week, using dried lentils, dried onions, garlic, and fresh thyme and chard from the garden, as well as some chicken bullion powder that I buy in the big 4.4 pound jar.

    Soup really helps with the budget. It’s harder when it’s hot to want to make soup, but when the budget was super small, we ate soup no matter what the outside temperatures. We just let it cool a bit longer 😀

  60. I get a magazine here 4 times a year. We donate a small amount each year to support public television. Our kids watched it and now my day care kids watch a lot so when they have a fund drive we support them. The gift we got for our donation is a magazine about TX gardens. This month there was an idea for ways to protect tomatoes from birds. That is always a huge problem in our area. We are over run with starlings and black birds…any way the same writer sent in 2 ideas and swear they both work. He places old leather belts that he got at a thrift shop on the ground and among some plants to look like a snake. Birds hate snakes and stay away. He also places RED Christmas balls on his tomato plants as soon as they start to set blooms. He said it drives the birds nuts to peck the balls and get nothing. Soon the ignore it and go away. We are going to try both ideas this year. I bet it would work in a strawberry bed too. To keep birds from pecking the berries as they get ripe.

  61. Hi Hilogene and most welcome and thank you for the encouragement. I understand you a still building your food storage levels as well as us which will be more expensive on the groceries for a while till you get to the levels you want to reach. We have accomplished to get our food storage levels to where we want to be and can fit in our tiny workers cottage we rent which is around 140 square metres in total size . Only things we have noticed we need to stock up on more are the more cheaper items such as all purpose flour, sugar and some more powdered milk to get us up to the 12 month supply level, which we will work on gradually as we fit buying more food storage containers into the budget.

    Like Brandi we use our meat very sparingly and weigh out the amounts as per recommended adult requirements for 2 overly active adults such as ourselves which is in our case around 140 g each per day. We then top up our protein levels with loads of vegetables from the garden such as peas, beans, eat eggs & fresh nuts and more. We eat a lot of soups & stir fries as well which cuts down our use of meat as well saving us on costs. We also use a lot of tinned meats in our meals as well such as tinned chicken and tuna too, or if fresh fish is cheap we buy that in bulk as well.

    We buy a lot of ground beef which we purchase in bulk amounts as they have cheaper prices on the more kilograms you buy, and sausages as well which are running currently on special 1.8 kg for $8 or $2.02 lb. Mostly our meat is whole chickens as it is a far cheaper cut of meat most of the time, on special running out $2.99 kg or $1.35 lb. When I see super specials on markdown meats of any variety I grab a heap and separate into portions & freeze it, now as we have 2 freezers since we just purchased another one new.

    I hope this information gives you a few tips on lowering your costs as well 🙂

  62. Hi Brandy! How do you use your chard and beet greens? I love them and just usually steam or saute them with onions or garlic and a little oil and vinegar but I’m the only one of the 7 of us that will eat them. Any suggestions?

  63. Hi Melissa and we use them in stir fries and you could also steam them a little, and pop them in a meat pie for some greenery too. It would be a good way to conceal the chard and beet greens so other family members will eat them, if you chop them up finely and pop some other veges with them too :). We make family size chicken pies out of our leftover meat from roasted chickens, and sometimes pop these veges in them along with others, we also make a white sauce that we pop in it as well, tastes yummy :).

  64. I use beet or cane, never a problem with my jams and jelly. I make a combo of canned and frozen. We tried a low sugar once, by accident, that had to use added fruit juice and did not care for that. It was gluey.

  65. These problems make me happy we live in the country and are pretty much inaccessible to walkers. But we have our own problems, like finding abandoned newborn puppies and kittens (alive and not:( ), agressive antiquers and junkers trying to talk us into parting with just about everything, quilt thieves who take the quilts right off the lines.

  66. A few years ago I planted eggplant in my front flower beds. Just as they were ready to pick, they disappeared! I assume it was carted off by someone, but I do have squirrels in my back yard that sample the strawberries and cabbage when they are ripe.

    My neighbor three houses down has started a garden in his front yard the last few years. He must not have too much theft because he replants it year after year.

    If I have any extra plants this year, perhaps I will put them in the front beds again to see what happens.

  67. Congratulations on your income increase. I am sure you will plan and spend wisely and get many good deals. We always work with just my income which is steady; my husband varies being a small business owner.

    Not really in need of anything at the moment, other than some fresh fruit and salad materials. We are supposed to get another 2-4 inches of snow tomorrow. We are in the spring cycle of snow-melt next day-snow again-repeat for who knows how much longer.

  68. I had a neighbor who brought her own basket and picked my blackberries–I didn’t see it but my daughter did and told me about it. I don’t spend a lot of time looking out the windows so had no idea. She moved away to a new house and I don’t see her very often, so I don’t worry about it any more.

  69. I do use Swiss chard in with my salad greens –it might help stretch your lettuce while it’s in short supply! I just cut it small like I would the lettuce.

  70. We have a Mennonite store near us that sells bulk pectin. It works well and is MUCH cheaper than the boxes!

  71. Brandy,
    A trick I’ve used to try to keep dogs/cats from digging in the garden…Whenever you plant seeds, bulbs, or set out plants also “plant” a few plastic forks with the tines sticking up. It has worked great for keeping my cats and dogs from digging up or laying on areas I’ve planted. Once I had to resort to cutting wire clothes hangers into pieces and sticking them in the ground when I ran out of plastic forks and had an abundance of wire hangers.

  72. Hi Athanasia yes I do have to agree that now we are in the country we don’t have the same or as many problems as we used to have in the city, including the unclothed broom car basher who lived across the road previously.

    We are blessed to have wonderful neighbours here and we all work well together and regularly do each other favours & combine resources.

    So sad about the beautiful puppies and kittens, loosing things off the clothesline especially beautiful quilts is so sad too & I did have that problem in a unit I lived in where we resorted to hanging all of our clothing indoors on drying racks instead of hanging them on the combined units clotheslines. Unfortunately we live in a society where a lot are doing it hard financially , dependency problems on drugs & things rampant, and I do have to say the old fashioned values are rare to find in a lot of people today.

  73. We used to garden at a community spot and finally had to quit for this reason. It costs us $35 for a 10 x 18 plot and right around the time to pick we would suddenly see neighborhood people “out for a stroll”. I think one year I didn’t even get one pepper off of 12 plants. Ridiculous.

  74. Happy Birthday Brandi!! I hope your day is a peaceful, happy one. thank you for spending so much of your precious time answering all these comments, very caring of you. Ann Lee S

  75. Strawberries – Are yours local or where are they coming from? I live in Arkansas and right now at Walmart they are 2.48 and from Watsonville CA, I am hoping we may see some from FL and they will be cheaper. Locally they are being sold for 4.00 a pound. We grow strawberries but seem to be losing them to squirrels. Last year we covered them better and got to eat a few more. I am hoping to dry some.

  76. There are no local places here in the desert! Sometimes the grocery ads advertise “locally grown in California” in the ads! This is the season for California grown strawberrries (I grew up in California and we would always buy lots this time of year.)

    I bought some for $0.99 last week, and another place has them on sale for $1.50, but “regular” price is $3 and up a pound. I only buy them on sale in season; I won’t pay more than $1.50 a pound for them, so that means stocking up in April.

  77. Hello, I’ve been a long time reader, but haven’t commented much. So many of your posts really inspire me, though!

    I have a question regarding your flower display in the crystal bowl. I have a very similar one that used to be my Grandmothers and would love to do something similar (she was a lover of roses). I feel doing something like this would be such a beautiful reminder of the presence she had in my life. Anyway, I’m new to displaying in anything other than a cylinder shaped vase. Is there anything special I need to do to keep a display like that?

    Thank you so much!

  78. Hi Shannon!

    For something like the bowl where the opening is really wide, it helps to have something to hold the flowers. In the picture in the post, I used a ball of chicken wire in the bowl to hold the flowers. You can also use a flower frog to hold the flowers (a disk with a bunch of nails sticking sharp-side up in it). I’ve tried both in this particular bowl and I think the chicken wire was easier.

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