A lot has been written in various media for quite a while now on how easy it is and how much better for you it is to grow your own vegetables at home. In many ways I agree but, for me, it's totally unviable and not very economical.
Raised garden beds, garden beds made from recycled materials, permaculture, organic gardening, companion planting, succession planting, saving seeds, etc etc are all terms I hear and read about all the time. I would love to eat nothing but fresh, homegrown produce but it's just not worth my while.
Don't get me wrong, if you've got the time, the resources and the people to eat all of this produce, then it might just be worth your while. My grandmother grew her own vegetables (and fruit) on her dairy farm and then also in retirement. Whatever she grew, she ate. There wasn't much she had to buy except for pantry staples. It was all there in her backyard. My mother tells me stories of how they'd eat green beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner (just kidding) but when the beans were in season, that's all they ate. I couldn't even get my children to hold a green bean.
Buy in season
Rather than menu plan and then buying what I need, I plan the meals I will cook based on what fruit and vegetables are in season. They will always be in great supply, in peak condition (hopefully) and, most importantly, cheap. Here are some websites to look up what and when will be in season.
Australia: Fruit & Vegetable Season List
New Zealand: What's in season?
USA: Interactive Peak Season Map at Epicurious
UK/Ireland: Eat the Seasons - What's good to eat this week? (Updated weekly)
Canada/USA: Eat the Seasons - What's good to eat this week?
Look out for specials at your local supermarket or, when fruit and vegetables are in peak season and cheap, and you have the room, freeze them for use later. This is also to good to remember if you do happen to grow your own. There is quite a lot of information on how to freeze and preserve vegetables and fruit on the internet but I found The National Center for Home Food Preservation in the USA has quite comprehensive information on freezing, canning, drying, smoking or pickling fruit and vegetables on their website.
Some people may argue that frozen vegetables are far superior than canned but some vegetables actually increase the phytochemical content of some foods, for example lycopene in canned tomatoes and the beta-carotene in canned carrots and pumpkin. I use a lot of canned tomatoes and find they are full of flavour, cheap and easy to store. Canned beans and pulses such as lentils and chickpeas are a great standby as a source of protein.
In a family where I am the only one who eats capsicum, zucchinis, eggplant, varieties of lettuce, cucumber, beans, celery, silverbeet and spinach, just to name a few, I'll choose to buy a little when it's in season and use other seasonal vegetables in a way my family will eat them to get the most from my dollar. I'm talking about pureeing the fruit or vegetables and adding them to muffins and cakes or using the puree in pasta sauces, curries, patties and any other deceptive way I can. I also just put them on my kid's plates and cross my fingers, sometimes with success.
|No, that's not me. That's Martha. I find it hard to believe she gets her hands dirty.|
Some excellent resources to get you started on a home vegetable garden, should you so desire.
Gardenate - A worldwide resource to keep your kitchen garden growing and producing
Easy organic permaculture garden
Step by step no dig garden
Growing vegetables in pots
There is a lot of information out there on the internet and at your local library and hardware or garden centre.
This post is part of domesblissity's THRiVING - Thrifty Living feature.