My monthly budget is $350. This includes food, medicine, clothing, cleaning supplies, etc. Everything for the care and keeping of my family comes out of that one pot of money. I use many frugal living strategies to stay under budget each month. Most people assume that being an "extreme couponer" is how I do it, but that's so far from the truth that it's laughable. I wish it were that easy!
This series of posts will help you learn how One Fabulous Mama rocks one fabulous budget for her family of five. In Part One of this series, I described how I use coupons and sales ad match ups to help keep my family under budget and living a fabulous life. Today, we'll explore how I use gardening to supplement my family's meals all year long.
I am no gentlewoman farmer.
First, let me explain that I do not have a huge garden that sits on an acre plot, requiring massive machinery and a full time staff. Most often my gardens are containers, but some years I have had the in the ground kind. It is amazing how much you can grow in a limited space. I also want to make sure you understand that I am no gentlewoman farmer. I have no more gardening know how than most amateurs. I'm just a crazy, frugal woman who is the child of first world poverty and so having a full pantry means peace of mind to me.
Some helpful tips for getting started
I write a regular post called One Fabulous Garden. Last year, this was more of a gardening diary. This year, I am providing useful tips and tidbits to help others on their paths to backyard (side yard, front yard, patio, or wherever you have room!) gardening. I think it's good to share and starting is half the battle. That goes for those of you who believe in black or green thumbs.
What a garden means for my budget
I estimate that my family grows and/or trades with other families between $900 and $1,200 worth of herbs, fruits, and vegetables each year. I estimate that I invest around $50 to $75 a year to do that. My goal is always to can and freeze as much as my family needs for one year during harvest season. Sometimes, I reach that goal and sometimes, I don't. Gardening is a good return on my time, energy, and money. Will it be for your family? Only you can be the judge of that.
Buying seasonal fruits and veggies
Some fruits and veggies I don't grow myself. I gather blackberries, huckleberries, elderberries, and others in the wild (and by "wild" I mean, beside the highways and back roads in my country community). If I watch the sales ads and pay attention to what is in season, I can also purchase fruits and berries at their lowest price point for canning and freezing. This is how I can and freeze strawberries for an entire year. My number one favorite place for purchasing inexpensive produce is Aldi Foods. If you don't have one near you, that is sadness.
If you have an affinity for growing a particular fruit, herb, or vegetable, consider trading your surplus with friends and neighbors. I often giveaway my surplus and find that folks feel better about receiving a gift if they can can give one in return. I have a neighbor friend who loves to grow vegetables, but not eat them. I haven't figured out what's wrong with this neighbor friend yet, but in return for their gracious giving, I often bake for them. It's a good exchange for us. I tend to always have an abundance of herbs, so I'll offer herbal infusions (teas), dried and/or fresh herbs, pesto, herbal remedies, etc to my friends who bring me their surplus of fruits and veggies. I love a good trade. Everyone walks away happy.
If your community has a gardeners/farmers' co-op, get in on that as soon as you can. It's like what I described above, only bigger and better.