Lettuce The Prudent Homemaker

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I’ve decided to increase our budget $25 a month to $300. This amount includes non-food items like toilet paper, shampoo, etc.  We are a family of 9.

Several readers have asked me what I will do about rising food prices. I know that not everyone has an increase in income in order to cover food prices–in fact, I don’t think most do.  I do not. Raising the budget $25 a month will not even come close to making up the difference in the increase in food prices that we have seen. In addition, as my children continue to grow, so do their appetites. While I would be really happy to raise the budget to $500 (ad buy the same things I used to buy with that amount), it just isn’t feasible. I have made changes in the past to our menus to help us make the most of what we have, and I will continue to do so.

The extra $25 needs to come from somewhere. I am continuing to make cuts in my utility usage, which will help me come up with that $25 for a while (until rising utility rates eat up the difference). 

I expect that I will serve even more soups with homemade bread, and beans and rice (and less meat). I will serve more salads with lettuce from our garden during the seasons when lettuce grows, along with homemade dressings.

My garden plans for this year:

I’ve been saving money in my Paypal account from taking surveys to buy seeds. I still have many seeds left from last year, and I harvested many seeds of my own last year to plant this year (some, like lettuce and Swiss chard, are growing right now in my garden). I will be growing almost all open-pollinated seeds, so that I can collect seeds from my garden to plant again in years to come.  I am working to eliminate my need to buy seeds, but this year, I still need to buy them.  I expect to spend between $25 to $100 this year on vegetable seeds (including shipping).

This year, I want to do an even better job of making the most out of my garden. I plant to do more succession planting to have continous harvests thoughout the year.  I will focus on more looseleaf lettuces, which can be harvested 2 to 3 times each.  I will plant more parsley, as I use a lot of it and I want to have enough to not need to purchase it (I was successful in growing enough basil and oregano for our needs last year, both in the front yard. My parsley grew poorly last year, so I will plant it in some new places this year so that I will have enough).

I will grow more beans and peas this year. This will take some good planning, as I moved two grape vines last year, and they take up my main growing space for beans and peas. I need to practice better crop rotation, so I will be growing more beans and peas on trellises that I have formerly used for tomatoes.

I will not be adding any fruit trees or bushes this year to my garden. I will buy tomato plants at the local nursery in late February. Our last frost date in February 15th, and the nursery will have plants then. I will spend between $5 and $35 on tomato plants this year ($5 if I buy the small ones on sale and up to $35 if I decide to buy the larger plants this year; I may try a combination of both, but I haven’t decided yet. Also, plant prices may come in higher this year, as they did last year, so that will also play a roll). I will buy seeds this month.

The garden is currently producing lettuce, parsley, sage, Swiss chard, green onions, radishes, beets, and a few other herbs. I harvested lemons last week and those will keep in my fridge for a while. I will also freeeze the zest and juice from my lemons.

Mid-January is when  I typically plant many of my cool-season vegetables (especially lots of lettuce). You can see my garden calendar here. I usually cloche these to keep them growing faster for a much earlier harvest (you can read more about that here).

I still have many fresh onions and potatoes, some apples and carrots in the fridge, a butternut squash in the pantry, and canned, dried, and frozen fruits and vegtables (I did not buy any oranges last month, as they were more expensive than I had hoped and not good looking). The freezers are full. 

This month I am focusing the bulk of my shopping on pantry essentials, for which I am either out completely (like canned tomatoes) or am very low (oats, ketchup, rice, oil). 

I’m hoping for a seasonal sale on broccoli below .99 a pound that will allow me to buy a bunch, which I can blanch and freeze. I don’t now what price will be the lowest this year, so how much I buy will depend on what price I see. This is my family’s favorite vegetable. (I have 5 broccoli plants that germinated in the garden that are growing right now, but they are not yet producing florets). If .99 is the lowest price, I will buy some, but not as much.

I also will be looking to restock my medicine cabinet with over the counter remedies, vitamins, and first aid products. These typically go on sale in January and have coupons as well.


I will buy multiples of several of the following items:


Sam’s Club:

ketchup (I buy the refill Bakers and Chefs container and use it to fill several squeeze bottles that we have; $3.64 for 114 ounces).

white vinegar ($3.88 for 2 gallons)


brown sugar (we use this mostly on oatmeal and occasionally in baking; $2.63 for 4 pounds)

canned tomatoes (I buy these in a #10 can. I split the can into a couple of recipes for the week; $3.28 for 102 ounces)

tomato sauce (#10 can size; $2.98 for 105 ounce can)

rice (I will buy 75 pounds, which is $18. We go through at least that much in a year.)

popcorn (I buy this in a 50 pound bag for $23.98.)

feta cheese

iodized salt (I gave some away in November to a friend in need so I am low) $1.12 for 4 pounds



broccoli (unless I find it lower somewhere else)

oats (In the past, we have gone through 75 pounds a year. We seem to be eating much more than that now. This is the very least expensive breakfast we can have, as a 25 pound bag is $14.74.  I will buy 50 or 75 pounds this month ($44.22 for 75 pounds). A friend informed me that this is on sale for $13 and something, so that will save me a little on this–enough to buy at least a gallon of milk.

milk (this may be on sale for less elsewhere, so I will watch)

washing soda (to make laundry soap)



vegetable oil (I buy the Great Value brand in the gallon container; this is a zero trans-fat oil for those who are looking for one; $5.68 for a 1-gallon jug)

Oxi-clean stain remover refill

dish soap (Great Value brand is $4.64 for 60 ounces)

Knorr tomato bullion (Several readers have asked what this looks like so that they can find it. You can see it here). I love to cook rice with this and use it in bean and rice burritos, and also as a simple meal of black beans and rice (not having to use torillas makes for a less expensive meal. I add lime juice and onions to the the black beans when I make this and all of the children love it for lunch; I will be making it more often this year as it is a very inexpensive meal, and goes well with a simple lettuce salad from the garden).

Knorr chicken bullion





There are coupons for .75 off up and up brand (Target’s brand) vitamins and allergy medicine on Target’s site (limit one per transaction, expiring 1/31), plus a 5% off Cartwheel that you can stack for up and up adult vitamins and allergy relief (expiring 1/3). There is also a $1.50 off $7 coupon for pain relief  or first aid(exp 1/31) and a 5% off Cartwheel deal (exp 1/3). There are more details on this blogger’s post here.


individual vitamins

over-the counter remedies

antibiotic ointment Update: I just did a price comparison online and it looks like Walmart’s brand is cheaper if ordered online; the lowest price is $1.99 an ounce in a 2 pack for $3.98 (free shipping on orders over $50). I don’t have $50 to spend right now, but if you are doing a big stock up order of first aid supplies and/or other things, this would save money.

Salon Graphix Unscented hairspray. Target has buy one get one 50% off on styling products this week that should include this.

Oil of Olay face lotion for sensitive skin. I use the kind that’s around $8.94 a bottle. I have a coupon for $3 off 2 bottles, and I am hoping for a sale and a Target coupon, or a rebate offer to stack with this. (Walmart also carries this). 


I’ll use a Swagbucks gift card to purchase a couple of 280 packs of Band-Aids . This amount won’t come out of my budget, since they will come from Swagbucks. We went through about a package and a half of these last year.


Besides these items, I will look for other good sales during the month, but these items are my primary focus.



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  1. Happy New Year, Brandy! Smith’s is having their Case Lot Sale right now and Mandarin Oranges are 50 cents a can, 5 lbs of Tillamook shredded cheese is $12.69. What is a good price for Tomatoe Boullion for you? My local Hispanic store has it on sale often for $5.98 for the jumbo size.
    I have been pouring over my new Territorial Seed catalog and noticed a few new “hot weather” ones.
    I hope you and the family have a healthy and prosperous New Year.

  2. Dear Brandy, I have been reading your blog for years and love what you do. I live in Melbourne, Australia and think of you often. As the mother of three hungry teenagers your recipes and ideas for saving come in handy. Your children are blessed that they haven’t been continually exposed to this consumer world we seem to live in these days. I am often filled with despair when i hear what comes out of my teen’s mouths. The expectation for a car (once driving age), a double bed, mobile phones, holidays, etc, etc. My husband and I are completely ok with saying no, I worry though about how as a society our teenage children have become so entitled. Keep up the fantastic work that you do and know that you have touched someone else’s life all the way in sunny Ferntree Gully. Cheers and happy new year, kind regards Christine xxxxx

  3. I use tomato bullion also. Did you know that it can really boost the flavor of beef also? I use little beef in my soups but it somehow makes it taste beefier. My husband made some chicken soup the other day and added some and it made it taste much richer. Normally I don’t like chicken soup because it taste so bland. Anyway, I get my tomato bullion in the Mexican food section of the store. It’s a larger bottle and it costs much less.

  4. I saw the case-lot sale. I have been sick in bed and haven’t looked over the case-lot ad enough. I missed the cheese on a quick glance but did see the mandarin oranges, and I do want to get some if I can budget that in. I may get the Tillamook cheese; that is lower than Sam’s Club by .90, though I was thinking to get mozzarella this month.

    I am ordering from Territorial Seed soon; I based my list on what did well last year and am only trying one new lettuce 🙂 They discontinued the snow peas I got from them last year that I liked so much, but I still have some; I will plant them all and hopefully I can collect enough seeds this time to keep growing them.

  5. As homeschoolers, they do miss a lot, but they also go to church, church youth activities, and Scouts, so they do see and hear quite a bit. Many families from church have annual passes to Disneyland, and they go multiple times a year, in addition to other vacations during the year. Many children have cell phones, too. Winter wants to have a real conversation with the people in front of her, and doesn’t want a cell phone. She especially values those who do not have a cell phone, and recently noted that a girl her age, who before was all about her phone and having a matching phone cover for every outfit, is now happier and participates more in Sunday School now that she doesn’t have a phone (her parents took it away). This was a girl who rarely smiled or participated–and now she is smiling and contributing in class.
    Our children know they need to earn their own money to young women’s camp and Scout camp; Winter has saved enough from doing odd jobs and babysitting for different people this year that she has saved enough for next year’s camp already.

    There are always going to be people who have more money than we do–whether we are children or adults. I think it’s important that we learn, as children, that not everyone can afford what everyone else has, and to be content with what we have. Otherwise, we may end up helplessly in debt, trying to live beyond our means. Understanding what things cost and how long it takes to earn enough money for those items is always a good lesson for children to learn.

  6. Brandy, I have always been curious if it would be possible for you to grow some food in containers inside your home. Because we live in a northern climate, we have shorter days of sunshine in the winter making it harder for us to do this. But if I had a nice, sunny south facing window, it would definitely be possibe. Since your in a more southern climate, could you grow small pots of herbs or lettuce indoors during times when they won’t grow outdoors? It would be cooler in your home during the hot summer, which may help the lettuce to grow. I’d be interested in your thoughts on this idea.

  7. Thank you for the inspiration to live on less. I too am adding to my grocery/household money as the prices have gone up. I have been putting extra on my credit card and that has to stop. I am putting it away for large budgeted purchases and will go back to cash only for our daily expenses.

    I am also going to try shopping twice a month instead of weekly as I will not see things that I don’t need. I hope to keep out a few dollars in case there is a stock up price on the on the off weeks. I have also found that one local store is much cheaper than the other. I seem to spend more when I go to Walmart as I see things so although the prices on some things are cheaper I think in the long run it is better for me to stay away and go once a month for those few items that are an extreme deal, like olive oil, some cleaning supplies and milk.

    it will be a huge adjustment but it needs to happen if we want to stay out of debt. I also look forward to commenting in the frugal things I do each week…I feel like I have gotten away from being purposeful in my daily savings.

  8. How do you cook your rice? Mine always comes out too mushy or hard. What kind of rice do you buy? I would eat more and serve it more often if I could figure out a way to make it better. My husband isn’t a big fan to begin with so I need to make it taste good. Also, any tips for cooking brown rice? I am gluten free for medical reasons and find that brown rice helps with my fiber intake so I am hoping to eat more brown.

  9. Our south-facing windows are not in places where I can set up seedlings in front of them without them being knocked down. Herbs do fine in the heat. We just plan for lettuce in the cooler seasons, which is fall though late April–and sometimes a bit into May, though they are usually bolting then. The hottest types can go into the 90’s, which we hit in April. Fortunately, Armenian cucumbers produce well in the heat, so I have those in summer.

    I have tried lettuce indoors, but it always dies on me. My indoor growing is limited to succulents and orchids.

  10. Brandy, I was at Sam’s Club a few days ago, and the bottle of dry Ranch seasoning has an instant savings of $2 until Jan. 26, I think. I know you’ve mentioned using this in the past, and I bought some as well!

    I would love to hear more about how you frugally till and fertilize your soil for both in-ground and container gardening. We grow tomatoes, squash, and a few other things in the summer in containers. The costs each year to start with soil and fertilizer seem high, but nothing seems to do well in the ground. Maybe we should have our soil tested?

    Thank you for all the wonderful inspiration you give through your blog! My husband is in straight-commission construction sales and while we weathered the recent recession well, I have often wondered what we would do if the bottom truly fell out on us, and your story has encouraged me greatly!

    Tracey in AL

  11. Happy New Year!
    Every time I read a new post from you, you continue to amaze me. I’m scared to death I’m getting in over my head trying to start a small garden this spring. I don’t even know when to plant or start my seeds. If there are any readers in the Middle Georgia area that garden, could you please reply to my post with some advice.
    Brandy, I would also love to know what other types of salad dressing you make besides the 2 recipes listed.
    I just have to keep reminding myself- Philippians 4:19

  12. Rachel, brown rice and white rice are cooked for different times and without different amounts of water. Do you measure the rice and water each time? White rice is suggested to be 2 cups water to 1 cup rice, but I cook it with the lids off and stir it more frequently, and we like it softer, so I use a 3 to 1 ratio. Brown rice is supposed to be a 4 to 1 ratio, and 40 minutes instead of 20. I use brown, white, basmati, and Jasmine rice, but I will be buying long-grain white rice this month. (Sams has all but the brown rice for a lower price than Wino; they don’t carry the brown rice. Winco does have it in bulk. A nice thing about brown rice, being a whole grain, is that you become full on less).

    There are a lot of great rice recipes out there; it really depends on what your husband likes. My husband will eat more rice if it’s white rice; he’s not a fan of brown rice. I have several recipes that use rice on this site; you may like some of those.

  13. When you add onions to the black beans, do you cook them or leave them raw?I assume the lime juice gets squeezed on at the end (when served).

  14. Have you tried Dollar Tree equivalent of Oxiclean? I really like it. I have also found their “Awesome” cleaning products to be great,expecially the floor cleaners. I also buy bleach there. I make my own bleach wipes by cutting paper towel rolls in half and adding bleach and water,putting in a pastic coffee can and pulling out from middle,I remove the cardboard middle. I use 3/4 bleach and the rest water and add liquid a cup or so at a time until the towels are all damp.

  15. I don’t till. My garden has tree roots and grape vines roots in it, so tilling would cut those up. I do shovel in composted manure and fertilizer when I can; there have been years when I have not, as I couldn’t afford to. The garden grows better when you can add to it. I spread out manure on top and turn it a bit with a shovel, and spread it out with a rake. The lowest price I have seen here is at the local nursery for manure; it is $2 for a 2 cubic foot bag. There is a saying that says, “If you have $1 to spend on a garden, spend $0.90 on dirt and $0.10 on seeds.” Good dirt is really important.

    You can improve your existing soil each year. If you have clay, you can build raised beds over it. You can also buy dirt for gardening in quantity from your local nursery, which we did. It makes a difference. I still need to add to it each year. You can try lasagna gardening now if you are waiting to plant until spring. Here is an example: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/52635889371140635/ You can also use newspaper in place of the leaves. I would still top it with soil for planting seedlings.

  16. Have you ever planted tomatoes from seed? I am in SE Ohio so I know my climate is very different, but I have found that I can plant seeds in Mid-May that will catch up to the nursery plants and produce tomatoes at almost the exact same time, AND they keep producing longer, which is really nice. If you could get seeds to grow, you could save a lot of money on tomatoes. I have bought packages of seeds for a quarter that will last for several years. I also get a lot of volunteer plants that produce smaller tomatoes, but they are very abundant.

  17. I cook them. You can cook them separately and dump them in (you could keep some in the freezer for this purpose if you wanted), or cook them in a pan and then add the cooked beans to rewarm them and mix it through.

    I cook pintos like this, too, and when I cook the beans again, I add more liquid to make a bit of a sauce. When my tomatoes are ripe, I top them with tomatoes. When I do pintos like this, I serve them over white rice. I was served them this way in Switzerland from a woman from Brazil, and I loved them. When I went back to college after that, my roommate from Mexico had her mother visiting, and she saw me making it. She suggested adding lime juice, and I love that addition. You’ll also want to salt them.

  18. Rachel – I, too, had a difficult time cooking rice until I purchased a rice cooker. I really don’t like single use kitchen appliances but made an exception for this. I am so glad I did as my rice comes out perfectly now. In addition, I don’t have to worry about the pan boiling over or the rice burning. OK, so maybe I’m just not the best cook in history (smile). I also use the rice cooker for my oatmeal. I measure my oats the night before and leave in the measuring cup on the counter and pour the water into the rice cooker. In the morning, I add the oats to the rice cooker, plug in and start. By the time I’ve walked the dog and showered, breakfast is ready. I’ve found rice cookers at my local thrift store – most have never been used.

  19. Have you tried baking the brown rice? I could never get it right either but now I make it in the oven (dissolving a chicken bullion cube in the water first for extra flavor) and it takes a little longer, but comes out perfectly every time!

  20. Janell, I have another; I just need to update it and put it back on the site.

    First, you need to figure out your garden zone. This site is good for starting: http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/ That will help you know what your first and last frost dates are. Middle Georgia looks like an 8a, so your dates are probably March 15th and October 15th. Some seeds are started indoors 6-8 weeks after the last frost date; some are seeded directly in the garden as soon as the soil can be worked (i.e., not frozen), some go outdoors after the last frost date. The seed packets or catalogs will tell you these things.

    Right now, you can figure out where you want to garden. If you want to do a raised bed, you can build it now and get it filled with good dirt. If you want to kill the grass in an area to start a garden, you can also do that now; cover the area with black plastic garbage bags or newspaper and hold it down with rocks. If you have dead leaves, you can put those down first and then cover it up.

    Know that you will have more success the second year than the first. Every time I start a new garden area, it doesn’t do real well the first year, but does much better the second year. Like any skill, the more you practice it, the better you will become. Also, even experienced gardeners have trouble. Just keep planting and working to figure out what didn’t work, so that you have more success the next time.

  21. Hi Brandy, you mentioned that you have a couple of recipes where you use the #10 cans of tomatoes from Sam’s. I was wondering about those, because I’ve been wanting to find ways to use those cans. For us, it would be a source of freezer meals, because there are only three of us, but those big cans are so affordable that I would really like to find a way to use them. Thanks so much!

  22. I’ve noticed that sales are not so generous in the last year, prices have definitely gone up, and coupon deals are harder to come by or not as great as before. One of my goals for the year is to start shopping at Sav-A-Lot which is a short drive but the prices on produce are so much better than going to Publix or Target. Similarly I’m going to keep a better eye out for sales on things that we need like cat food which goes on sale regularly at the Dollar stores. I used to drive all over for great deals, but I’ve slowed that down in the past year with my night class schedule taking precedence. Last week I cleared up my coupon binder and organized it, my goal this year it so try and have a one year stock on hand of all things we need. I realize that I’ve already done this with toiletry products and paper products, so now to work on the food. I’ve also started cleaning out my shed and garage to make more room for storage. I’m undecided about putting in some shelves though as I’m on the fence about selling the house at this time. New Year….new things to do =)

  23. I have tried several times, but I always have problems with damping off and mold. I don’t do well with seeds started indoors. I also lack a great place indoors to put the seeds without them getting knocked over.

    We have a short growing season for tomatoes; once it gets too hot, they stop producing. Because of that, indeterminate, early-season tomatoes (like Early Girl) are recommended by the extension service here. I have about a month and a half to two months when my plants will set fruit. After that it gets too hot and the plants stop flowering (it is in the 90’s here in April). I get ripe tomatoes here in late May through early July from those that set in April through June. Starting with bigger plants helps with the possibility of getting something. If I started this week with seeds (6 weeks before my last frost date) the plants would be too small to set fruit in May, and I wouldn’t get anything at all. I would need to start them indoors in October to have the bigger plants, and then keep them from molding until mid to late February.

    Come April, seeds from other tomato plants will self seed in the garden. Last year, I let a few grow. They won’t flower until it cools down enough at the end of October. If we get a late frost, I may get tomatoes in November (green ones) and possibly a few ripe ones in December, like I did this year. If my plants live though summer, which they usually do, they will flower again in late October and in November when it is cooler.

    I really need to rotate my garden this year, and I don’t have a lot of places to grow tomatoes, so I will probably only do a few plants this year, and plant more Armenian cucumbers (which do set fruit in the heat) in their place, along with some more yard-long beans there March through June.

  24. Years ago when I first started cooking non-instant rice (which is what I grew up eating) I bought a vegetable steamer which came with a rice bowl insert. Not only was it easier to cook the rice, I could also steam my veggies at the same time.

  25. I used to buy advanced tomatoes but found punnet sized produced as quickly. I put them in well before last frost (1-2 months) but plant in a plastic protector that is still open at the top (used to plant trees). Once growing you can strike 10 cm laterals very easily or peg down branches to form additional plants for free that fruit very quickly. Apparently to get them to flower in the heat you only need to drop the temp a few hours. Have seen suggestion to cloche overnight with a few frozen water bottles to get to flower. Gets very hot here in Australia too (mid 40 degrees C) but -13 C frosts where I am so have similar challenges and I also can’t seem to get tomatoes right from seed. One last suggestion do you have seed savers over there? Great organisation to join and all about saving and swaping seeds

  26. I am so inspired by your grocery budget! I am planning to make some additional items at home to keep prices down. I was hoping to see a sale on Turkey’s around Christmas but I never did.
    I am struggling with produce prices right now so I am trying to come up with some new ideas. My son loves apples but the cheapest I saw yesterday was $1.49/#. Going to check Costco tomorrow. In the past I have bought cases from a local group buy but that won’t be an option until later this year.

  27. Have you seen the Big Allotment Challenge? I only heard of it recently – it is a BBC show where gardeners are given a lot that they develop and then they compete in challenges toward midsummer on best vegetables, what you can do with your flowers, and making foods from their garden. My son and I watched the first episode on Youtube and really enjoyed it.

  28. Brandy, this idea might stretch your garden a bit further. There are some parts of produce we don’t normally eat, but which are edible. For example, the leaves of radishes are tasty sautéed or in salad. At our farmers markets, Asian vendors sell the tender tops of pea vines (and sometimes squash vines) vines which are good in stir fries. The leaves of green bean plants are edible too, along with beet greens, turnip greens, kohlrabi greens, etc. There are all sorts of reference documents on the edible parts of plants online. A lot of people don’t know about this.

  29. Another vote here for a rice cooker, especially if you can find one at a thrift store. (If it doesn’t have the manual, many owners manuals are available online now, so that’s handy.) We lived in Japan for 4 years and got used to self-serving our rice out of cookers at buffets and such. Having the rice so “perfect” convinced me, because I’m the type who always had it undercooked or boiling over the pot. 🙂 Mine has settings for sushi, white, brown, and other rices as well as “porridge” (oatmeal) and such. I don’t like to have appliances but this one was well worth the investment.

  30. The problem is we get a few months of 44-48º C here, so it’s hard to drop the temperature enough; even at night it is too high to set fruit. I experimented with a few large plants last year; I’ve always bought the 6 pack (what you call the punnet in Australia, I believe) and last year I bought a couple of gallon ones, because the people I know who had more had the larger plants. It did make a difference last year. I don’t know how you would cloche them overnight when they are a meter tall or higher (about the size mine are before they start to flower). I do cloche them February to March; once I bury the stems on the big ones, they are still small.

    I know someone who has a cooled greeenhouse here; she is off-grid and powdered from solar and wind, so keeping her greenhouse cool and humid (she uses a swamp cooler) is possible without a huge bill. She gets tomatoes in the summer when no else does, but not being off grid, I couldn’t afford to run it. The greenhouse allows her plants to get bigger in early spring, and then once it gets hot, they start cooling it. The humidity helps, too; it is so dry here, and her plants were loving the humidity.

    We do have seed savers here. There were also some libraries who started doing seed swaps, but the Department of Agriculture just came down on them and told them it was illegal; it has been in the news here lately. It looks like Seed Savers still can continue, though–but it costs $40 a year to join.

    I hope to plant more seeds this year so that I can collect enough to plant in years to come. Hopefully, I can get to the point where I no longer have to buy seeds. It may take a few years.

    Where are you in Australia that it gets so cold in winter? Those extremes sound like high desert. We are desert here, but not high desert with colder winters; those are much harder growing areas. Do you grow silverbeet? I find that it grows well year-round for me here; you may be able to cloche it in winter.

  31. Our Wal Mart carries The Works cleaners here. It’s worth a look, and one of the lowest cost cleaners that actually work.

  32. Hi Brandy I love your blog. We live in Ontario Canada, Zone 5B and our last frost date is April 30th and first frost is Oct 15 so we have a relatively short growing season. I have been inspired by your garden and have been putting in espaliered fruit trees. Currently I have 2 apples, 2 plums, 1 Asian pair, 1 3in1 pear and a fruit cocktail tree. I have space for 5 more fruit trees and I am hoping to put them in this year. I grew 150lbs of tomatoes and 50lbs of cucumber last year but all my harvest comes in October so its not as useful. I would love to grow more veggies but I’m having a very hard time. I have an area of 200X3 ft fence space to plant the fruit trees and veggies. What would you recommend to maximize our food production. I am trying to grow cucumber vines behind the fruit trees and tomatoes in front of the fruits trees with lettuce and strawberries in between. Since the tree roots are all around I’m afraid to dig deep to plant veggies.

  33. In addition to the great advice from Brandy you might contact your local County Extension Service (it’ll be in the phone book or look online http://extension.uga.edu/about/county/index.cfm). They’ll be able to give you area specific advise and they might be able to put you in contact with a Master Gardener that could assist you. You’ll do great!!

  34. Nisha, what about herbs? Most do not have deep roots and many perennials will overwinter in a zone 5b (rosemary should be in a pot and brought in, but others should be fine).

    You should be able to grow a good number of cool season vegetables, including lettuce, chard (silverbeet), green onions, spinach, tunrips, and peas. Several of these can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked, about a month before your last frost date. If you can cover your space with jars or plastic, you could add a month in spring and one in late fall to your growing season.

    Look for cool season vegetables with a shorter growing time. One of the lettuces I am going to grow again this year takes 29 days, while others take 53 days. If I cover them then they grow faster. Looseleaf (instead of head lettuce) can be harvested 2 to 3 times; just cut off the outer leaves and it keeps growing. Silverbeet is the same way. This should get you more from your garden. Also, lettuce can be planted in the garden every 3 weeks for a continuous harvest.

    Under the lettuce you can plant garlic (which can be fall planted) for a later-summer harvest.

    You can also plant radishes, which don’t take long to grow. I am growing long French Breakfast style ones so that I get more from my space, rather than small round ones. I just read in a seed catalog to plant parsnips and radishes together, and then harvest the radishes first, so I will do that.

    This should be helpful to you: http://www.thevegetablegarden.info/resources/planting-schedules/zones-5-6-planting-schedule

  35. Hi Brandy! I wanted to make a comment on larger tomato plants. I would recommend not buying larger plants or ones with blossoms or fruit already on them. If they already have fruit on them they will not produce as many tomatoes. The purpose of the plant is to reproduce. The plant will put out all of its energy into making sure it produces fruit and will not grow roots well if stressed(which they are if they are in little pots at the stores). The best tomato plants are the small ones that are only 6-8 weeks old from seed. If you are worried about the tomatoes being too cold you can make a wall of waters from 2 liter (or similar) bottles taped together (about 5-6 of them) in a circle shape with the hole in the center for the plant to fit into. Fill the water bottles with water and it will help the plant grow fast and be protected from winter weather. The walls of water would need to be removed when around 90 degrees or it will cook the stem. I hope that helps keep your tomato purchases cheaper. Thanks for your blog!

  36. Just yesterday I was looking for recipe that use radish leaves, as I was wondering how to cook them in such a way as to not get poked when I eat them! I cannot even touch them with my hands for the tiny spines (how do you eat them in salad?) We have had the same issue with turnip greens (and of course on squash leaves) but the radishes are the most spiny; I get them in my hands while cutting the radishes off. I have tried pea shoots, but I hesitate to eat them as my plants are producing peas during that time. One thing I do harvest is grape leaves, but I would like to harvest more of those this year and use them in more recipes. They are very lemony tasting and are wonderful.

    I also want to harvest the leaves from my passionfruit vine, as they can be used for an herbal tea.

  37. Melissa,

    Thank you so much for your comment! I really am on the fence about what size to buy. I bought a combination of big ones and small ones last year and had fewer tomatoes than ever before, but many plants also just sat there. I did, however, get earlier tomatoes than ever before (a few in April!) from the bigger plants. Your comment encourages me to try again with small ones–which is good, because I think I may only be able to afford those ones, anyway!

  38. Different varieties of radishes have different kinds of leaves – I’ve seen spiny/fuzzy ones and smooth ones too. I’d only use the smooth radish leaves in salads, the others I have cooked. I usually wear thin latex or neoprene gloves when I handle things like that (and I reuse the gloves several times, even though they are intended for one use). In my experience, the radish leaves are no longer spiny once cooked (kind of like with nettles).

    I agree, if the peas are producing you probably don’t want to cut off the tops. Some rats got into my peas last year and destroyed the plants, but I was able to salvage the tops, thankfully.

    I have heard raspberry leaves make good tea too – I plan on trying that this year, as I have access to raspberry bushes at the community garden. I think you can use blackberry leaves too. I should try that, as blackberries grow wild here everywhere.

  39. I also cook my rice as Brandy does, in addition I was gifted wild rice (technically not a rice:).
    I also cook barley on occasion as a side in the oven when other items are cooking. (3cups water, with a bit of bullion in to 1 cup barley. I add browned onions (that I precook and package in the freezer to add) and sometimes a can of mushrooms .The barley absorbs the liquid in about 45 minutes-1 hour at 350″
    I frequently will take the stock I make from my cooked chicken carcasses and make up rice . I will then portion and freeze the rice into containers that I can quickly thaw to add to a meal during the week.

  40. Brandy, I live in Southern California and have fantastic luck with tomato plants from seeds (which is much cheaper for us) I don’t start all plants from seeds but our tomatoes grow so well. I’m fact one year my kids threw cherry tomatoes into the dirt where I grow flowers are they grew and took over the whole section! I’m not bragging, but I am wondering why you don’t do the same from seeds. Maybe our climates are much different.

  41. Melissa, that hasn’t been my experience. The larger plants that I bought last year did much better than the smaller plants, mainly because it also gets very hot in central Maryland in July and August and the plants no longer set flowers. I put the larger plants in pots and got several dozen tomatoes from each of them while the smaller plants in the square foot garden produced just a few tomatoes.

    FYI, the larger plants were about 3-4 feet tall and grown in a hothouse by students in the horticulture program at a local high school. They cost me $3 each, less than the smaller individual plants at the local nurseries.

  42. Libby, I grew up in Southern California. I don’t know where you are, but it’s generally a zone 7-8 there, and we’re a 9. We’re hotter in summer and colder in winter.

    If I could get tomatoes to actually grow taller than 2 inches from seed, and then not mold, I might have some success. That’s the best I’ve done with them–and then they die. So, I stick to plants–generally they are $2.50 for a 6 pack, which often actually has 8 plants in them.

  43. Brandy, I have a suggestion that you and your readers may find helpful not only because is it saves money but is healthier too. Long ago I began making my facial cleanser at home. Since then my skin is healthier, no longer has dry patches and actually glows! I also greatly reduced (and now completely eliminated) the use of a separate moisturizer.
    The recipe starts with 1Tbs of Olive oil and I Tbs of Caster oil. A drop or two of an essential oil may be added if you desire a bit of a scent. To use, rub several drops of the oil mixture into your skin including the eye area. Rinse a face cloth in the warmest water you can comfortable stand and cover your face with the cloth, allowing the heat to open pores. Remove the face cloth once it begins to cool. You can repeat this or simply rinse out the face cloth in warm water and gently rub the remaining oil off of your skin. That’s it! Your skin will be clean and soft. When I lived in the Arizona desert I did sometimes use a very light moisturizer afterward, however, since moving to a more humid climate I find that a moisturizer is no longer necessary.
    The oil mixture works because the castor oil dissolves and breaks down dirt while the olive oil moisturizes. You can play with the ratio of the two oils depending on your skin; you can also add or substitute other oils–such as jojoba which is a lighter moisturizer–to the mix. I have used a caster/olive/jojoba combination every night for 2+ years and wouldn’t go back to store bought stuff ever!! I simply rinse my face with cool water in the morning and I’m ready to go!
    It is a small investment to purchase a bottle of castor oil from your health food store–but no more than a bottle of the Oil of Olay that you currently use. The olive oil is already in your kitchen. Even the smallest bottle of each of the oils will yield enough facial cleanser for a year! That would be a huge savings over what many are spending now each month on facial cleansers and moisturizers. The natural oils are also much better for your skin, can also be used as a makeup remover (including eye makeup) and do not contain petrochemicals, artificial ingredients or irritants of any kind.
    I hope you find this helpful. I absolutely love reading your blog every month including the comments from all of your readers. I am grateful that I am finally able to contribute!

  44. Hello Brandy,
    I have a quick question for you. What would you budget for groceries if you had a family of 5 (the 3 children are 5 and under) and could not garden?
    We tried balcony gardening last year and we just don’t have enough light for anything to grow 🙁
    I am asking because I sort of consider you to be the frugalista queen.

  45. I have not had much success with planting in pots or inside either. I am able to plant the seeds directly into the garden. I hope you figure out something. Every year is a learning experience in the garden!

  46. Happy New Year Brandy, and everyone.

    Thank you for yet another inspiring and thoughtful post – our circumstances are so very different but it still helps me to think and look for new ideas for our own budget.

  47. That sounds like a great show. I hadn’t heard of it, but I’m going to look for it. Thanks for the recommendation.

  48. Brandy thank you so much for sharing your goals and plans with us. You are such an inspiration to me. Does your $300 grocery budget also include your garden expenses? I’m wondering because we also budget $300/month for food, toiletries, diapers, and household items (basically anything I can buy at the grocery store, Costco, and Target) but we only have a family of 3 and a cat. And to be honest, I’d like to go up to $400 a month, but we can’t afford it because my husband just had his work hours cut in half. We do live in a very expensive part of the country though in an apartment with no outdoor space and all our windows face an alley so it’s not really feasible for us to garden. If your budget was $300 plus garden expenses it would help me to feel more reasonable in my budget. Though some women from playgroup had a facebook discussion about grocery budgets and I was shocked to learn most of them are spending $1000-$1200 per month on groceries plus going out to dinner multiple times a week and they have small families like I do.

  49. I really used to enjoy grocery shopping and now with food cost being as high as they are, I find it to be a stressful task. Starting this month I will need to decrease my budget by 100.00 to a grocery budget of 400.00. I plan to then decrease each month moving forward by 10.00 until I reach a budget of 350.00. I live in a high cost area so this will prove to be very challenging. Menu planning and zero food waste will be very important for us.
    The good news is that our new home has ample space for bulk storage and we have been gifted a freezer. This will allow me to take advantage of sale prices and our Sam’s Club Membership.

  50. If you are in the southwest division of Albertson’s, right now they have Red Gold brand canned tomatoes (several varieties including diced w/green chiles, stewed, and even sloppy joe sauce) for 39 cents when you buy 6, no limit. This works out VERY cheap – around .02 to .05 cents per oz depending on the can size (they vary by item). For many of the sizes, makes them even cheaper per ounce than the big can at Sam’s, and you don’t have to use a whole big can at once. They also have canned vegetables for 49 cents on the same “Buy 6” sale. Just passing this on in case it may help anyone!

    I also use the Albertson’s “cash in your quarters” sale to stock my pantry up. In November they had sugar & salt for 99 cents for 4-5 lb bags. They also frequently put pantry items on for 25 to 50 cents each – things like cornmeal or cornbread mix, salt, seasoning & gravy mixes, canned veggies.

  51. Nisha, I too live in Ontario. I am not an expert gardener, in fact I’m just a beginner gardener myself. However, I work at a pioneer village, which has been a wealth of knowledge on gardening practices that fair well for the area. I would highly suggest visiting one in your area and asking questions about what was typically planted in the area during the 1800s. These people depended highly on what they grew to survive. Therefore only things that grew dependably well become popular choices for their gardens. I have yet to find an area in Ontario where rhubarb wasn’t grown. It is a perennial that comes back every year once grown and can be blanched and frozen for use in winter. Asparagus is also a perennial plant that can be grown here. The natives taught the pioneers to grow corn, beans and squash together, as told in the “three sister’s” native legend (here’s a link to the story: http://blogs.cornell.edu/garden/get-activities/signature-projects/the-three-sisters-exploring-an-iroquois-garden/a-legend/ ). The corn stock is used to support the bean vine, and the squash provides protection and shade around the base (here’s a link explaining how to plant it: http://www.reneesgarden.com/articles/3sisters.html ). You can make “the three sisters soup” from the harvest (google search this for multiple recipes). Many shrubs, including raspberries and currents are easily grown here as well. The list that Brandy provided is quite a good list as well. There are also numerous vegetables and fruits that were also native to Ontario, and therefore still grow well here in cultivated gardens, such as blueberries, blackberries, cranberry bogs, and fiddle heads to name a few. I hope this helps!

  52. That’s hard to answer, since the garden makes up a considerable amount of our produce now. Hopefully, this year it will make up even more. You can still can produce when it is bought in season on sale and look for gleaning opportunities. If you have space on top of your kitchen cabinets, your home-canned produce can be put there.

  53. As I wrote in the post, the money for garden seeds will be paid for from survey money, so it’s not part of our grocery budget. But, a little packet of seeds goes a long way; I can get a lot of lettuce from that, especially when I collect seeds to plant in subsequent years.

    You can try green onions in your alley-facing windows; they’ll regrow from a grocery store bunch in a glass of water and they don’t have to have full sun (they’ll just grow a bit more slowly).

    If you can only afford $300, then make that $300 go as far as you possibly can.

  54. Also you can do them without lime juice and top with sour cream instead. It’s more expensive but a nice change. We did that last night for dinner–pinto beans and a little broth, cooked with dried onions, with rice cooked with tomato bullion. I think we’ll be having this meal at least once a week.

  55. Wow – I love this. I managed to stockpile some of my favorite products – Boot’s #7 from Target – when they were on clearance 50% off. The one product they didn’t have was moisturizer. I have rosacea and need to be careful with what to use on my skin – and I live in a semi-desert area so need to use moisturizer. I think I will try your recipe and then top it with my sunscreen (also purchased on sale at 70% off at the end of summer -L’Oreal for $1.98 a tub/bottle!).

  56. Thank you Brandy – this was very timely. I have created spreadsheets for my pricebook and will take them with me next week when I go to Sam’s. Thanks to you I actually know the ‘usual’ and ‘cheaper’ prices for our staples! It really helps when I look at the ads and when I stumble across something while shopping (like my score of $4.00 a huge pack of Bounty paper towels at Staples of all places). As part of my spreadsheets I am also creating an inventory list so I know what I actually have. We have two upright freezers and a smaller chest one in addition to the fridge freezer. It seems crazy given it is just the two of us but living on a farm 14 miles from town means that I need to keep food on hand.

    I am also reviewing our preparedness situation. In addition to living in the country, which mean that when we have a blizzard like the one a few years ago and can’t get out for a week, I like to know that we are prepared for any eventuality. Or at least as much as possible. I am currently looking for lamp oil for our oil lamps. I keep three of them on hand as they are safer than candles when we lose electricity which happens fairly frequently due to high winds. I have found oil at craft stores but would like to find larger bottles if possible (and not as expensive). We have propane and can fill bottles from our tank if necessary – rather a difficult process but doable. That means I can cook on our grill with the side burner. I have some cans of sterno I’ve found on sale and could use my fondue pot if necessary (I thrifted two of them for $5.00 each – new and in the box – one for oil and one for cheese).

    I am starting my garden plan for this year. Last year was a trial run as we hadn’t done a large garden here before. I am going to plant only those things I know 1. we will eat and 2. that I can put up. We live in an area that has a lot of market farms that have produce stands. So I can buy corn, chiles, potatoes, onions in bulk for much less than the grocery store or Sam’s. I will plant tomatoes (early girl work well for me), cucumbers (am going to try Armenian for the first time!), green beans, squash (summer, zucchini, calabacitas) and lots of herbs. My goal for grocery/sundries/pet food/ is $200.00 a month at most – $150 preferred. It is essentially everything other than utilities/clothing/entertainment/gas/insurance/etc.

  57. We love the dollar tree for first aid supplies. Not all stores are created equal. I’ve found finger splints, instant ice packs, gauze, and more.

  58. Not sure if this is an option where you live but we have a u-pick veggie farm in our county. They grow and offer u-pick veggies (corn, green beans, leafy greens, beats, zuchinni, etc…). We go and pick and freeze (green beans and corn) and pick some to eat fresh as well. Might be another option 🙂

  59. Great comments by all…so inspiring. Brandy you touch so many of us with your encouragement. Thank you so much.

    DH and I are working to stay out of the grocery store and use up what we have. Being in the midwest, my vegetable garden will get planted in May. I have a small area however, enjoy cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, cherry tomatoes, squash etc.
    I am going to review what I have in my pantry, straighten things up and organize.

    I want to push myself to do a better job of planning and trying some frugal saving recipes.

    Grocery cost continue to climb especially meat. My DS and DIL got frozen “meat” as a gift from her parents for Christmas. The meat was purchased from a local farmer, and is now in their freezer. I thought it was a very thoughtful and useful gift.

    Just feel so blessed to have what we do and gently remind myself of that when some days are more challenging than others.

  60. I’m not sure if you know this, but if you register at samsclub.com and select which Sam’s Club you shop at you can look up the price for anything you have on your spread sheet if they carry it. When I get my grocery ads I like to compare prices/sizes with Sam’s to see which has the better price. Usually Sam’s Club comes out the winner. They will also say if the item is out of stock that way you know before you drive there 🙂

  61. Yes, a rice cooker is perfect for cooking rice. They can often be found in thrift shops or garage sales. It just turns itself off when the water is all absorbed! No boiling over or burning the bottom or having to stir even. I think the lack of rice-cooking-failures paid for the rice cooker pretty sharply!

    But for oatmeal, we use our slow cooker. We put the oatmeal/water/salt/dried fruit all in the slow cooker last thing at night, and in the morning, it’s all piping hot and ready to eat.

  62. Happy New Year!

    We’re a family of two, both working full-time and living in an apartment… Our living situations couldn’t be more different, and I still love your blog and appreciate your experience so much!

    We kept a balcony garden in Southern California, but we moved to central Texas last year in the heat of summer, so we’ll see what we can grow this year. Hopefully tomatoes and peppers, and maybe cucumbers.

    I’ve put off making a price book for months, but it’s one of my goals this year, and I’m starting this weekend. My other area of focus is eliminating food waste: it’s easy to over-buy for just two people, and I’m committed to preserving both our cash, and our planet’s previous food resources… For those reasons, I particularly appreciate your focus on combining home-grown foods with long-lasting pantry staples, and aspire to emulate your practices on a much smaller scale.

    Thank you for sharing your life with us and best wishes for the coming year!

  63. Thanks for the reminder about this! A few years back I used this cleansing routine for my face and I remember my skin looking great! I’ll have to start doing this again. For the past 2 years I’ve been using sweet almond oil as a night time moisturizer. I can get a large bottle at the local health food store for about $15 and it lasts me well over a year!

  64. I have seen a rise in food prices as well this year and a decrease in good couponing deals. I am lucky that we have an Aldi near us which allows us to keep our grocery budget low, but meat prices are much higher this year then last year. I was quite disappointed that the lowest we saw ham for this year was $1.49 a pound. I have seen a few bloggers post about a NO spend January. We are going to try that this month, only pay the monthly bills and put the rest towards debt/savings. We are lucky that we generally have a little set aside in our budget for extras (household updates, craft supplies, maybe a date night with a coupon every now and then). This year we have really decided to focus on spending our money very intentionally so that we can put in an orchard in our side year along with a few other home improvements, if all goes well. So I have decided to challenge us to a food/supplies budget of $40 this month for two people. I think it is doable using our pantry and freezer, if I get creative with our meals. We shall see!

  65. Look up Alton Brown’s baked rice- I use that method for both white and brown- makes a 9×13 pan, I can do 2 at a time and it turns out PERFECT every single time!!

  66. Jenni Thank you for mentioning The Big Allotment Challenge. I watched the first episode on you tube last night and I loved it! I learned a few things as well 😀

  67. You could also buy larger plants (ones with flowers but not baby tomatoes) and pinch off any flowers when you plant them out. Break off the bottom leaves and plant them deep so that new roots can grow up the stem. Then water them in–always water from the bottom to prevent leaf fungi. At the end of the season, let some of the tomatoes fall to the ground and rot into the soil. You will likely get many volunteers the following year.

  68. Ditto what Kristy said. I always wandered if you could freeze lemon, lime and orange zest. Now I know you can! Also, thanks for the tip about freezing ginger from a previous post.

    Another thing about Oxiclean. I always read labels and the (Dollar General) DG Home All Fabric Powder Bleach has the same ingredients but is so much cheaper. Also, the DG Home Delicate Wash 16 oz. for $1.00 washes delicates the same as Woolite. The DG Home Automatic Dishwashing Detergent cleans dishes in the dishwasher as good as Cascade. The DG canned goods and spices are just as good if not better than the name brands and so are the spices at the Dollar Tree. Thought this was worth sharing (probably again!). I used to be skeptical about buying store brands, but not anymore. It has saved us alot of money and they are all made at the same places.

    I also bought LA’s Totally Awesome Laundry Detergent for 89 cents for 64 oz at DG with the coupon. I asked the store manager if it was any good and she said she uses it all the time. She said she uses the pink bottle because it smells like Wisk and does not irritate her child’s skin. I have not used it yet though. I noticed they do not put the ingredients on the labels on a lot of their cleaners at Dollar Tree and that is the reason I have not purchased Totally Awesome from them.

    I love the fact that the Dollar Tree sells my favorite name brand breads for only $1 per package. I try to stock up there on Merita or Sunbeam Hot Dog rolls (12 in a pkg), Hamburger Buns, Nature’s Own Whole Wheat Bread, Nat. Own Bagels and Cobblestone Mills Rye Bread and stick them in the freezer. At the grocery store next door the prices ar 2 or 3 times higher for the exact same bread with the same dates on them. I am not that good at bread making.

    Happy New Year!

  69. Brandi, you can match Target’s online price at customer service therefore not having to do the big $50 online order for free shipping.

  70. Thanks for the suggestion. At one time that would have been a possibility, but we have been without a car for a year….so that won’t really work. My family will be exiting foodstamps this month or next, due to our income going up (yay!) and I am trying to establish a realistic budget. We received $404 per month and we have never used the full amount…so maybe I could just budget around $350 ish. I have managed to develop a large stockpile, so that will help.

  71. I thought I’d throw my 2 cents worth in on a few things that have been discussed so far.

    First, the answer you, Brandy, gave to the lady who had the $300 budget to use it and take it as far as she could, was extremely good advice, I thought. In actuality, that’s what everyone does, regardless of the dollar amount available. I have noticed that when I have more to play with, it’s very tempting to use it all up, and when I am low on cash in my purse (my preferred method of budgeting day to day expenses like groceries) I tend to tighten up. So, I have deliberately carried less cash somtimes when I don’t want to spend it. My kids are famous for being “hungry” and “thirsty” when they get near McD’s:) Trust me, they don’t suffer, but “I don’t have any $ for that” actually works well to defer them. Or, “we are planning on vacation/eating out Sunday/Dad’s birthday gifts…etc.” also seems to make sense to them.

    I have noticed that ever since my daughter got a job at a grocery store and we are driving her, it’s VERY tempting to grab that “one more” ingredient that would make dinner “so much better.” The next thing I know, I have $20 worth of items in the cart…… So, to everyone who says to stay out of the store more if you want to save–it’s always been true and still is. Growing up on a farm, a little out of town, my mom shopped once a week. She stocked up with sales, etc., but when we ran out of something, it waited until the next week. I prefer to shop every 2 weeks, or even monthly for unperishable things. One summer I bought 3 months worth of groceries. It took me a few weeks to gather it from various sources. Then, I just used the garden produce to fill in and a very small amount of $ I have saved aside for milk, etc. It worked well enough that I may try it again.

    When we were on the most restricted budget (5 kids at the time–husband on very low salary), I would carefully plan out 30 meals from a cookbook (there are several available from the library or to buy). I would buy the ingredients and make them over a 2-day period and freeze. We had roast beef once a month and it was small, and it had to go for 2 meals==one meat and the other French Dip. I made all rolls, bread, etc. I usually bought 5 chickens and cut them up, boiled the bones, etc. and make many recipes from the 5=some casseroles with cooked chicken in them, some soup, some pieces. I made some bean meals. I made at least 1 tuna casserole, usually. I stretched the recipes in the books with even more vegetables from my garden. I canned, froze, and dried anything I could grow or get my hands on. I still do that, although I don’t do the 30 meal cooking anymore.

    That goes for the mall, as well. Growing up, we rarely went. When we did, we bought from a list, and used a budget. Now there are so many good bargains when I go, that it’s tempting to buy extra because it’s such a good deal. My mother again: “A bargain is not a bargain if you don’t need it.” So, I only go rarely.

    My thoughts on gardening: I love gardening, but no 2 years are alike. I’ve had my entire tomato crop ruined by blight (100 plants I grew myself). I’ve had a bumper crop other years. I love the Encyclopedia of Country Living (Carla Emery). When I was younger, I studied it over and over, along with many other gardening books. I was terrible at gardening at first. I grew weeks and rocks. But, with time, I improved. So, for those of you who are starting out–just try it, study, do what works and change what doesn’t. Be patient with yourself. 2 years ago, I grew around 50 cartons of broccoli (after I froze it, plus what we ate). Last year–5, maybe 10?
    So, Brandy, there may not be an easy answer for the tomato plant question. There may be years when each option works best.

    Last: No one can do everything themselves. Trust me, I’ve tried. It’s only as I get a little older, that I realize more and more that I can’t do it all. So, it’s ok to buy plants. It’s ok to buy whatever you can afford. One reason that I may choose to save on one thing, is so that I can do another. I may save on groceries so I can eat out for my husband’s birthday, etc.

  72. Brandy,
    I must confess that I haven’t read all the comments for this post so this might be a redundant idea but have you thought about purchasing one of your favorite large tomato plants early in the season (as early as possible) and taking cuttings of that “mother” to root and make smaller tomato plants for your garden just a bit later in the season? The only con is that you are limited to the tomato plants that are available in the nurseries this time of year. Otherwise we’ve had great success with this technique.

    Good luck!

  73. Could you do a barter with this woman? She grows a few extra tomato plants for you, in exchange for some preserves you make?

  74. I vote for rice cooker , also. We got our first one back very early 80’s when my mother took a Chinese cooking class.

  75. Rhubarb doesn’t really need to be blanched. Just wash, slice and pack in freezer bags. We grow a lot and sell the extra. I freeze about 20 quarts for our own use. Also, in the deep freeze it’ll even keep longer than one year .

  76. Hi Brandy, Thanks for the reply. I will definitely try the succession planting. I’m sitting here with the Riche Seed Catalog and planning the order. I tend to do a lot of work in the spring then ignore the garden but you ate right, succession planting would really help my yield. I have some asparagus, leaks, rosemary, green onions and sweet potatoes in the garden right now. The rosemary is in a pot but the roots have dug into the soil so let’s see how it survives this week’s -20C temperature

  77. Julie, now would be a great time to stockpile for the future. 5 gal buckets of flour, sugar, oats, rice, beans, pasta and anything else you use regularly. Read Brandy’s website to learn the basics and go from there. I use my buckets for packages of pasta, dried fruit, beans other than bulk, chocolate chips, nuts (unopened) and any thing else I can think of. The fact that you haven’t used the full allotment shows that you are doing something right already. Happy to hear your situation is improving and that you are wise enough to plan ahead! Blessings to you and your family.

  78. That’s a really great idea. I have been meaning to take the kids to pioneer village. I am not a huge fan of rhubarb other than rhubarb pie so I’m not sure what to do with it. Maybe I can plant it in the front yard since it gets so big. Last yearI tried 2 Kolarabi plants. They grew fantastic but I didn’t know how to eat it. I tried to use it as a root vegetable but it wasn’t a big hit with the family. I never had any luck with zucchini because of mildew do you have any tips

  79. I’m half-Japanese, and I’ve grown up with a rice cooker. If you frequently cook rice, a rice cooker is helpful. Rice is so cheap and can be eaten at every meal!

  80. That’s what I liked about the show too. Not only was it beautiful and inspiring to watch, they had really helpful tips on arranging flowers and standards for what makes a good jam/butter/etc. After all six episodes, I had serious greenhouse envy, though! 🙂

  81. Nisha,

    We live in Zone 5b too (but further down, in Kansas) so we deal with relatively the same frost dates. Have you started seeds indoors at all? My neighbor and I start our seeds in late Feb/early March so that they are ready to go once the last frost has passed. I also had good success this year with starting my cool-weather veggies (like kale and lettuce) in milk jugs outside on my front porch – the jugs act as a mini greenhouse and the southern sun warmed them up really well. My marigolds were started this way as well and I have never had such huge bushes of them, all started from one packet of Dollar Tree seeds in one milk jug. If you look up wintersowing you might find some ideas there.

    I am impressed by how many tomatoes you harvested, though – how many plants did you have, and what did you do?

  82. Rhubarb can be a great addition to muffins and cakes too which can be really tasty. There are lots of recipes on line if you do a search (especially through Pinterest). Also, you can make strawberry rhubarb jam, or pie. Strawberries are quite expensive to purchase. However, if you use homegrown rhubarb coupled with them, it make it cheaper and extends how far the strawberries go.

    I work at Lang Pioneer Village in Keene, ON (near Peterborough, ON). I’m not sure if you live near this area or not. Our Village extends from the 1820s to 1899, with three houses that represent different time periods. You can see the progression of the gardening through the different time periods. If you’re not in our area, there are numerous historic villages throughout Ontario. You should be able to find one near you. Many only represent a set time period, but should be able to give you lots of information about their gardening practices during the time they represent.

  83. Have you heard of the Mittleider gardening method? It produces amazing results with its very inexpensive weekly feed. You don’t have to make the garden boxes with the sawdust and concrete sand for soil; you would be able to just use the fertilizer mix. No more manure for me. It works so well for us in Houston, where we do have the garden boxes with the Mittleider method soil mix of sawdust and sand, because our soil is mostly clay and very hard.

  84. Thanks for explaining this. I usually cook it at a 2:1 ratio but keep the lid on during the cooking time. I’ll try your method and see if that helps! Also thanks to all the suggestions below for a rice cooker and baking the rice. I will look for one if I still cannot get it right!

  85. Brandy,

    I am a master gardener her in Utah. I love love love tomatoes. I plant between 30-40 plants every year. I grow mine from seed. IF you do grow them from seed then you need to have a fan blow on them once they are all popped up for the 6-8 weeks (for about 1 hour a day)that you have them indoors along with light so they don’t get to long and gangily. The fan helps prevent rot. It doesn’t always work, but I haven’t ever had a failure. Since you live in such a warm climate( I am from AZ and had that same as you) just make sure and have a shade over them in the hot months of summer. You can almost have tomatoes year round. Also the plants need to be planted with quite a bit of the stem buried too so it can develop more roots. I hope your tomatoes are successful. IF you do buy them from the store, just make sure there are not too many roots all wound up. Break them up if you need to. Just pick all the tomatoes and flowers off of the ones you buy at the store.

  86. I am stressed to the max about the grocery costs. It is just me (except I take a huge casserole to my three grown sons every week and they eat like horses). I just will eat more beans and rice, and soup. I cannot afford these new high grocery prices.

  87. Nisha, kohlrabi is delicious. Don’t let the bulbs get too big. They are crispy and sweet when smaller. (Clementine size, for example) Slice them and use with hummus or ranch dip, etc. You can also slice them and steam and serve in a white sauce. Mix in some peas. Goes good with salmon loaf.

    Rhubarb is good for sauce, with or without strawberries; pies, regular or custard, crisps and cobblers, jams. You can chop and add to muffins.

  88. Nisha, were you able to preserve all the tomatoes and cucumbers? They do have a tendency to come all at once. But we grow enough tomatoes that we have sauce and salsa and juice to last all year and enough pickles and relish with the cukes. No reason to let them go to waste.

  89. Brandy, I like the Mckesson brand band aids. The 1″ x 3″ in boxes of 100. They are a little more but if you are looking for band aids that stay on while working these are the best. They are flexible fabric and they form great to the fingers. I need to use them to cushion my finger joints just day to day, depending on which joints are inflamed at the time. I go through pretty many but I would have to use 3-4 plain band aids to cover the time that these ones last.

  90. Sweet almond oil is a great idea! I’ve read a lot about coconut oil so may try that in my next batch too.

  91. Dear Brandy,
    Thanks for all your information. I have been thrifty all my life. I have 4 grown children, so it is just myself and my husband. We also have a black lab. I too, have noticed the prices. Geez. I open my refrigerator and try to use everything in my meals. I very seldom throw anything away. I garden, can, dehydrate, freeze and buy in bulk. I also use my foodsaver. It is amazing how much I can save by using this. Needless to say, I cook from scratch. I use Costco and Sam’s a lot. I always use cash. I have been able to save quite a bit for food emergencies. I save any leftover money and put it in another envelope. I use that for holidays, unplanned guests etc.. Good luck to all.

  92. Their totally awesome cleaner (I think it’s all purpose) is great! I haven’t tried the oxy-clean, but will have to give it a go next time I am there. Thank you!

  93. Hi Brandy, I saw that you buy oxi-clean. I don’t know if you have tried this already,but it is my understanding that oxi-clean is mainly just sodium percarbonate. That is what I buy in bulk (50 lbs) from Soapgoods.com (I have no affiliation with them). It ends up a lot cheaper than buying the name brand, and it works just as well. –We use that in combination with Charlie’s Soap powder (which I get in a big bucket from Amazon) for our regular laundry, and we sometimes add some phosphate (officially called sodium tripolyphosphate – light density powder at Soapgoods). A big load of average laundry only uses 1 Tb of Charlie’s, 1 Tb of sodium percarbonate, and optionally 1/2 to 1 tsp phospate, and it gets our laundry clean. (It helps that we have a pretty nice front-loading machine). I like to add fragrance sometimes, but that’s optional. We save a lot on laundry soap this way. The bulk purchases last a long time so I only purchase it once a year. Just thought I’d share since oxiclean can be so pricey. Thank you for your site. You always inspire me!

  94. Thank you so much for mentioning that oats go on sale in January…I kept an eye out and found rolled oats for .69 a pound so got 100 pounds for a fantastic years supply…woohoo!!!

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