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My grocery budget and my garden.

Making Crock Pickles
The two are more related than you think. I know that later in the summer, with the garden expansions I plan to make, my garden will be providing a good percentage of our food. And, assuming all goes well, it will continue to do so through a good portion of the winter in the form of preserves, canned tomatoes, fermented vegetables, dried beans, frozen vegetables, and cold storage vegetables. This will seriously drop my grocery budget. Recently I have been pouring over seed catalogues and mapping out how much I want to plant of what and where. I have a LOT of plans, including almost doubling the size of my garden, separate herb and strawberry patches, taming the existing grape vine, maximizing the harvest from the wild blackberries, and planting several new fruit trees (as well as removing an old one). At the moment I feel they are reasonable plans; it will be a lot of work, and there are things that I should have done in the fall that would have made my coming job in the spring easier, but it's doable.

The only daunting thing in all of these plans is the expense. Seeds are cheap, and the amount of food produced by a cheap little packet of seeds is most definitely a wise investment. however, many of the things that I want to do involve more than seeds. I plan on starting some tomatoes from seed to keep the cost down, but some I will buy as plants. Strawberries are difficult to start from seed, so I will buy them as plants. The fruit trees I plant will be a few years old so they will bear fruit sooner (and will thus be more expensive). Potato sets and onion sets are more expensive than seed. And then the garden aides- I plan on using plastic mulch on some of the plants that thrive in warmer soil temperatures, and I need some pest control devices for my apple trees (not sure what yet- anyone know anything about growing organic apples?).

And I've been reading Nourishing Days. She's been feeding her family this winter off only what food she was able to store from last summer- local produce that they either grew themselves or bought from other local growers and that she figured out how to cold store, preserve, and ferment. So I was thinking about that, and my seed catalogues, and how I have SOOO much space. What I grow is not limited by space- we have plenty of space (perhaps limited by light, we have a lot of trees). And I am not limited by storage either. My house is small, yes, but with a little bit of creativity I could easily fit enough food to feed my family for an entire winter. What prevented me last summer? My garden was smaller, and my production was spotty. But also I was a little apprehensive. I was afraid I would put all of that time and resource into growing a bunch of stuff that would rot before we could use it. Then I got lazy and a little forgetful- I accidentally left my store of winter squash in a tub in the garage, and they froze and then rotted (I was able to save three of them). I didn't store my carrots properly and they shriveled. The stuff I fermented and canned is mostly doing fine, although I have some oil packed peppers that I'm a little too scared to try.

Then I started reading over at The Prudent Housewife. She fed her family for most of a year without a regular grocery budget. Of course she is LDS, and they are encouraged to always have a year of food on hand for their family. But all religious beliefs aside, I think that having a serious stockpile of food is almost as important as keeping six months of living expenses in the bank. If something happens and you suddenly find yourself without an income you know that, no matter what else happens, your family will eat. I also like the way she does it in comparison to others who stockpile- she doesn't stockpile things like cereal, snack bars, juice pouches, rice mixes... most of the things coupon stockpilers end up with. She stockpiles whole food staples- wheat (not flour- wheat), flour, sugar, honey, salt, oil, vegetables (dried, canned, and fresh), and dried beans. So, with these two sites and my garden on the brain, I decided that I will spend ALL of February's grocery budget on my garden. This will allow me to buy all the supplies that I will need to put in a substantial garden, and the idea is that my garden will "pay me back" in the summer months of fresh produce and in the food I am able to put up for the winter.

So I was just going to blindly stock up on the staples that I use the most and just wing my meal plan each week, planning the week before as I usually do. But after reading more at the Prudent Housewife, I decided to plan four weeks of meals. And not just dinners, like I normally do, but breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack. And surprisingly this meal plan only took me two nights (maybe three hours) to make. I tried to base it as much as possible on what I have in my house right now. Next, I'll make a trip to Sam's Club to stock up on staples, and right before February starts I will stock up on the perishables.

I'm excited about the garden, and apprehensive about not buying groceries for a month.

I'll keep you posted.

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