At the start of every gardening season, my husband asks me what I’d like to have in the garden for that season. Because I discovered a new love for cabbage last season, I asked for more cabbage this season. The only problem was that, for whatever reason, it was difficult to find the cabbage seeds we were looking for at the time we were actually planting seeds. Instead, my husband picked up bok choy seeds. So, we got bok choy. Lots of it!
Get the picture? The bok choy is what has taken over in the middle of the garden. It’s kinda crazy. I never planned on making a lot of Asian food. But we didn’t want to see all that food go to waste. So…
Almost every day, I pick at least one of the bok choy plants.
I prepare it for chopping. (They’re pretty, aren’t they?)
If you look at the chopped leaves (not the stems), what does it remind you of?
Spinach, right? What’s funny is that we discovered that when you don’t include the stems, it tastes a lot like spinach, too. So…
That’s not spinach in that spaghetti sauce; it’s bok choy!
And there’s our Italian meal, using bok choy!
Since we like to include whatever green vegetable growing in our garden in our meals, we threw some into our tacos too! Here’s a closer look in case you can’t see that lovely green below the chicken and black beans.
Since it is Asian cabbage, it wouldn’t be right not to use it in Asian food. So, here’s a curry dish using the bok choy (probably as it is more normally used). 😉
Don’t let marketers and magazines tell you what you must include in your favorite recipes. Just use what you’ve got!
What fun, thrifty substitutions do you make in your meals?
Gardening can be a therapeutic and productive pastime when done correctly and frugally. Here are a few tips to keep the cost down.
Seeds are much less expensive than a young plant. You can get them at dollar stores, grocery stores, and even at pharmacies. Learn to read the back of the packet to help you pick out the right seeds for the time of year that you will be growing plants in your area. The package will also give you directions on proper care and let you know if your plant is an annual (lives for the season only, must be replaced annually) or a perennial (comes back year after year).
Create More With What You Have
When gardening it’s nice to only have to buy the plant once. This is usually possible by using your first plant to grow other plants of the same type. Learn to take cuttings and to collect seeds. There are plenty of posts on Pinterest and videos on Youtube to teach you how to multiply your one plant into many.
Instead of throwing out those biodegradable left overs throw it in a compost bin outside. Compost is a great way to create a rich loam in which plants thrive. With proper care a compost heap will not smell. Using compost also reduces your amount of waste and even makes what you would consider trash useful.
Don’t buy new planters. Instead use an old kiddie pool, wagon, or even an old boot. If you have children just growing out of sippy cups and toddler bowels, these are great for planting herbs. Just create a way for water to run out of the bottom of your planter so you don’t drown your plant when watering it. (A drill and drill bit are the easiest way to form drainage holes.)
Child and Pet Safe
I don’t mean that the plants you grow are safe for your children and pets to consume (although that is highly recommended as well). I mean make sure your plants are safe from your children and pets. Hang them from porch rafters. Fence your garden off. This could save you in medical and vet expenses, but can also save you from needing to replace half your garden.
Of all the different types of cuisine, Mexican food has got to be my favorite. If we go out to eat, I tend to think about going to a Mexican food restaurant. And, although I cook a variety of types of food at home every day, I make tacos and fajitas quite a bit. And, one of the most fun (although not at all good for you) parts of a Mexican meal is chips and salsa, right? The combination is virtually irresistible, if you ask me! 😉
Well, our garden produced a bunch of yummy tomatoes, cilantro and peppers. Check these out! (Cilantro not pictured below.)
What was I supposed to do with these…make salsa, of course!
So, I got to work. I used about 7-8 tomatoes and chopped them up.
Then, I chopped up about half of an onion.
I also chopped up the peppers but didn’t take a picture. (Sorry, I forgot to. And, I was getting very excited about the salsa.) Then, I crushed two cloves of garlic and chopped a handful of fresh cilantro.
Next, I dumped everything into my food processor, added the juice from one lemon, salt, pepper, about a teaspoon of cumin, half a teaspoon of chili powder and a dash of cayenne pepper.
I ran it through the food processor for about two to three minutes. Then, I poured it into a bowl and let it chill in the refrigerator for about half an hour. (That was only because it was almost dinner time. We had leftovers that sat overnight and that batch was even better.)
Who needs store bought salsa when you can have such fresh, tasty and even kinda healthy salsa. If you can manage to eat it without tortilla chips, it really would be healthy. Good luck with that, though!
What’s your favorite make-at-home indulgence?
Sharing a container garden between a few households is a great way to save on expense and time. Each person picks a specific plant to grow and then shares their harvest with the rest of the group. The more people participating the better the variety of the garden. This is a good solution for those of us without access to a community garden and/or living in a small apartment. Members of the group can participate with a few potted plants, even without a balcony.
Be Creative with Planters
Planters and pots don’t have to be store bought or expensive, but they don’t have to be old coffee cans either. Re-purpose a child’s old beach bucket or that last pretty bowl from a broken set. Another option is to find creative containers at a dollar or thrift store. A dose of creativity, a hot glue gun, and a roll of gift wrap could even re-purpose that old coffee can, if that is your talent.
Pick a Potting Day
Select a day with the group to start your collective garden. Instead of each person buying their own potting soil share one or two bulk priced large bags between everyone. Pots can also be traded and shared between fellow gardeners. Decide what plant would be best for whom. Some plants are easy to grow with just a little water and sunlight. Others require a little more care. Let each gardener determine which plant would be best for them to commit to.
Enjoy the Harvest
Decide how the harvest will be shared and when. It might be best to try to give everyone an equal share of each crop. Harvest could also be done by preference. For example, if a group kept an herb garden and one person didn’t like chamomile, they wouldn’t take a share of it.
How’s your garden growing?
My little friend here is helping to keep my garden healthy and my vegetables free from pests!
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I’m gearing up for my fall garden already getting some new seeds started!
The garden is doing well! I’m waiting for my Roma tomatoes to ripen and meanwhile my Little Leaf Cucumbers have already produced 6 cucumbers and working on more. I love this time of year!
Even if you haven’t started your garden this year, it’s not too late! There’s still plenty that can be planted now for a fall harvest.
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Farmville on Facebook? No thank you. I prefer the real deal! At least as much of the real deal as makes sense in my small backyard. 😉
For me that means gardening! Not only is it way more fun than an online game, you get to eat the rewards of your time and effort.
Gardening can be as frugal or as expensive as you want. But if you’re like me and trying your best to keep it on the cheap side, here are my tips.
1 – Plant what’s easy to grow but expensive to buy. That will make the best use of your time, energy, and financial investment into your garden. My go-to suggestions are salad greens. Spinach, romaine lettuce, leaf lettuce, swiss chard, kale, etc. They are all super easy to grow, some take as little as 60 days from sprout to harvest, and these healthy greens get pricey when you’re buying them every week so growing your own will quickly pay you back your investment and then save you plenty of money in the long run. Not to mention, it’s so much more nutritious straight from your garden!
2 – Container gardening on the cheap. If you don’t have a backyard, or if you’re like me and your backyard drainage drowns plants in the ground, or you just prefer to weed less, container gardening is an option for everyone. However, it does require a bit more investment up front. The good news is that you can skip the fancy, expensive planters and just use 5 gallon buckets instead. These can be bought cheap at home improvement stores, or if you have a friend at a restaurant or bakery, you can ask if they have any (such as frosting buckets). Just drill holes in the bottom for drainage and get planting.
3 – Dirt is not dirt-cheap, but it can be bought for less than full-price. If you need potting soil for your containers, or garden soil to amend your backyard garden, you’re going to have to get bargain hunting! I bought potting soil, big 1.5 cubic feet bags, for just $1 each after this rebate. But you’ll have to hurry because that ends June 2nd. Or perhaps you can save some money by putting together your own potting mix.
4 – Make your own watering can. I used one of those hard plastic orange juice jugs with the handle. I drilled holes in the cap and voila, I have a watering can for free!
5 – Make your own compost. Put those kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, fall leaves, etc. to work! It may sound complicated, but honestly you can take one of those 5 gallon buckets, drill a few air holes in the lid and along the sides, then add your scraps and leaves as you get them. Ideally, mix up the contents once a week. In a few months, you’ll have compost!
If you’re feeling a little more determined, find a few earth worms to add to your compost bucket. They’ll speed up the work and make your compost even better!