Summer Produce Savings

But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop; some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Matthew 13:8

The food budget is being pinched in all areas but none more than produce. Aside from the normal inflation, floods and draughts have depleted supplies. Here in the middle of summer local crops are coming in. We’d be foolish not to take advantage of fresh produce in our own backyards and the farmer’s market.

Back in April I had a post about saving on the food budget by growing your own produce. Obviously you have a big advantage if you have a garden. But if you don’t, take advantage of those who do, and put up those fresh fruits and vegetables to enjoy all year. Yes, I mean canning and freezing your own.photo 3 (2)

Pick It If You Can

We used to go to the blueberry farm every year and picked at least a bushel or two. I stored them in the bottom bin of my refrigerator and they kept for two months. The rest I froze. Some farmers let people pick their own peas, corn, tomatoes, and beans, peaches and berries. The cost is much less than you’ll find in the frozen food section. But the real benefit is the freshness.

Get out the mason jars and can. It’s time consuming but not hard. Home canned foods don’t have all the preservatives and salt. They don’t have to have a shelf life of ten years, so they’re healthier and taste much better.

Adjust Your Diet

If you’ve been thinking of going on a diet, there’s no better time than when fruits and vegetables are in abundance. Did I mention fresh tastes better? I can’t believe people would eat those pre-packaged meals in some diet plans. So it takes more effort to gather and prepare your own. You’ll learn what good eating really is. And guess what? You’ll consume fewer calories.

Visit your farmer’s market every week in the summer. There’s more than salads there. Get out your recipe books. Add several servings of fruits and vegetables to your family’s meals. They’ll all feel better—and you’ll lose weight. I guarantee it.photo 1 (4)

Savings All Year

Buy more fresh produce than your family needs for the week and put up the rest—freezing or canning. Freezing takes little time, and in my opinion the best way to preserve fruits. The refrigerator freezer won’t provide adequate space, so buy a freezer. They are relatively inexpensive, and will pay for themselves the first year. With the money you save on produce, buy half a cow, a pig, chickens, and freeze them.

There’s not much more satisfying to have a freezer full of food for fall and winter. Let the food prices fluctuate.

Convenience Vs Money

It all comes down to a question of convenience versus money, doesn’t it? Maybe in this modern age we’ve forgotten to appreciate effort. It might help to remember the more important things we could do with our money than spend it on inferior, unhealthy food.

I won’t be posting next week. This is the time to spend our annual vacation money.

Here’s a site for free books, if you need a beach read.

http://www.freebooks.com/

Money Really Does Grow on Plants

Another parable He put forth to them, saying: The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. –Matthew 13:24

As I was writing a blog about gardening, it hit me that spring was the perfect season to remind people if they grow their own food, they’ll not only eat healthier but cut their grocery budget as well. Why don’t we? Some are like me and just don’t have a talent for growing plants, but the greatest reason is convenience. Grocery stores are a lot more convenient than clearing land, preparing the soil, planting, watering, harvesting. Besides, most of us don’t have a lot of real estate to invest.

We do Things When the Need Becomes Great Enough.

Everyone was called on to contribute to the war effort in WWII. One of those ways was to grow a Victory Garden, the idea being if people grew some of their food, there’d be more to send to the soldiers overseas. Gardens sprang up in the country and in towns. I’m sure even apartment dwellers had their container gardens. That was a real “get ‘er done” generation.photo 3 victory garden

We don’t have a world war going on now, but the economy has made it expedient to do anything to stretch the budget. Produce is an expensive item. You can do a lot of stretching with not much effort.

Consider a Herb Garden.

The price of fresh herbs is outrageous, and if you want “organic” you’ll pay even more. It takes little effort to construct a box planter, and those helpful garden supply people can answer any question. Just remember they may want to sell you more than you need. A container, soil, and a sunny spot is all required. Put it outside if it’s warm enough, or keep it in a window, and you can grow herbs all year. The garden may inspire you to cook more, and the dishes you do cook may be more flavorful, motivating everyone to want to eat in, and eating in will definitely save money.

Expand to a Kitchen Garden.

If you have the space and the energy, think of a kitchen garden. Lettuce, cabbage, carrots, radishes, beets, tomatoes, onions, berries. All those salad and stew vegetables that cost a lot in the grocery store, and you don’t know how they were grown despite what they claim. Adding all those vegetables to your family’s diet can only improve your health, so you’ll save on health care costs too.

I admit the only vegetables I’ve successfully grown are spinach and tomatoes. They’re the only vegetables I’ve ever tried to grow, but they make a good salad. If they just grew at the same time… But I count the effort worth it. I get two months of the freshest, most tender spinach possible, and a whole season of the sweetest, juiciest tomatoes on the planet.

Go Big Time with a Truck Garden.

photo 4 truck garden

With enough land, you can even grow a truck garden and have an abundance of vegetables. You can stock your freezer and pantry for the whole year. But anyone serious enough to have a truck garden already knows that. Here’s something else to consider.

Grow more than vegetables.

Most large gardens produce more than the needs of the average family. Gardeners are a generous people, and they share with friends, relatives, and neighbors. I’ve been on the receiving end of their generosity many times.

Even so, sometimes produce dries up in the field or is thrown away. I’ve seen this happen many times, and it’s a sad sight when so many are malnourished. Take care not to let this happen. Call on your church or children or anyone to help harvest the vegetables and take them to food shelters or just leave them at the corner of a street in a needy neighborhood. They’ll be snatched up.

We have the ability to sow good seed in the spirit as well as in the ground, and while saving money in your budget by growing your own food is good, this by-product of generosity is more important. If you truly want to live richly, there’s no better way than this.

Whether it’s a pot of herbs set in your kitchen window or a field of vegetables to fill up your own pantry and share with the needy, nearly everyone can benefit from working in the good earth. So get those little seedlings growing.photo 1 speedlings

Next week I’ll be discussing buying second-hand, where you can find items for one-tenth the price of new, and serve the purpose just as well.

Eat Well, Save More

Man does not live by bread alone. –Matt.4-4

No matter what your grocery budget is, you can cut it by at least $10 a week…easily…and eat just as well. There are so many options and so many items. Take coupons. Here is a short list of places you can find coupons.

www.coupons.com

www.Lozo.com

www.familygrocerynetwork.com

www.printingfreecoupons.com

www.smartsource.com

www.valpak.com

www.mommysavesbig.com

www.coolsavings.com

Some people save hundreds of dollars on their monthly grocery bill by clipping coupons. I’ve never gotten into it. Usually the stuff I’m looking for doesn’t have a coupon available, or the store brand is really cheaper or, and here’s the biggie, I don’t have the time. But if the coupons are conveniently available, and they’re for something I need, I use them and save maybe $10 a month. Not much, but every little bit helps.

If you’re not a coupon clipper, or even if you are, I’m going to give you two ways to make a big dent in the grocery budget. They’ll save at least $10 a week, probably much more. In case you don’t think that’s worth the effort, consider that’s $40 a month, $480 a year, $2400 in five years. Whoever said time is money was right.

Buy in Bulk

photo vegs

On the American prairie of the 1800s, there was only one grocery store. Actually, it was pretty much the only store. Every food item, and every household article, every implement, was packed into its 500 or so square feet. It was the town’s mercantile. We have them today. They’re called Walmart, Sam’s Club, Target. But we don’t shop like the settlers.

They didn’t drop into the mercantile every day on their way home like we stop by Walmart for a couple of items and wind up buying ten. The farmer or rancher often lived far from town, and they made the trip once a month or once a season to buy what food they needed to supplement what they grew, as well as other items they required. Beans, flour, meal—all came in huge sacks. Yes, they had to deal with weevils, but things like that didn’t bother them the way they do us.

We could learn a lot from the settlers. Things that come in small volume naturally cost more because packaging and handling add to the price. So, for items you use anyway, buy in bulk and when they’re on sale, stock up. This applies to more than food. Groceries include all those household items we have to have—cleaning supplies, paper products, personal grooming items. Even when they don’t come in large packages, they can be bought in large numbers. If shampoo is half priced, buy a three-month supply.

Some of those store brands are almost always on sale. You don’t even have to look at the sales circulars. If the item is on sale, and you’re not already overstocked, grab it.

Brand names are almost never the best buy. Advertising is built into the product. But I have to admit only one brand of toilet paper will do for me, and it has nothing to do with advertising. It’s habit that keeps me stuck to that brand, but a habit I want to keep indulging, even if it does cost more. I stalk the aisles for this brand, and if it ever goes on sale, a lot of it goes in my buggy.

Targeted Shopping

Targeted shopping requires planning, but not much. You already know your menus. Make a list of the ingredients you’ll need for the entire week. Make a list of all your needs. Is there an app for that? There should be.

Once you have your list, target the store. Your neighborhood grocery store may be a better source than Walmart. If food items are better, fresher, and cheaper at one store, go there. Another store may be a better source for household items.

Consider dollar stores for non-food items, especially those that don’t have an expiration date, like paper towels. Speaking of paper towels, you do know to buy by unit cost? Appearance can be deceiving. Read the labels and compare. You can save big at dollar stores on things like napkins, wrapping paper, candles, foil, etc. But be careful of liquid anything that might have been watered down.

As you’ve probably already noticed, living richly on a budget requires being smart. The advantage of targeted shopping is you aren’t as likely to be lured into buying things you don’t need. Stick with what you know. There’s a reason you’ll find 580 varieties of the same cereal. Companies know people (especially children) want the latest and greatest. If possible, leave the children at home when you go shopping, or take the time to explain to them why they can’t have that cartoon shaped cereal.photo cereal

Target the time you go shopping. Not when you’re hungry, tired, rushed, or when the stores are crowded. I don’t have to explain why. We just don’t think well under these conditions.

Resolve and Commitment

Success in any endeavor requires resolve and commitment. Developing smart shopping habits certainly do. It doesn’t help to cringe and shake our heads when that grocery budget isn’t stretched enough to cover costs with a bit of reserve.

Man doesn’t live by bread alone. God has given most of us the brains to figure out how to feed ourselves, and I’m pretty sure He wouldn’t want us to waste food dollars. Yes, it takes effort to change attitudes, but it gets easier with time. Let these two ideas get you on the road to better money management. Buy in bulk when possible and target what, where, and when you buy groceries. You might well be able to save enough in these efforts alone to buy a good used car in two years’ time.

Speaking of cars, next week I’ll discuss transportation. For most of us this is another one of those necessary living expenses. So rev your engines.

In the meantime, if you have other ideas for saving on the grocery budget, please share.

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