Pumpkin and Marigold Centerpiece

This centerpiece is not difficult to make using a mid-size pumpkin, or even one a bit larger. It can be placed on the dinner table. A second can be made to be used as a mantle decoration.


1 pumpkin

sharp knife

flower-pot to fit inside the pumpkin

large spoon

organic potting soil

fresh Marigold plants, assorted colors if desired

  1. Cut the top off the pumpkin and discard. Scoop the insides of the pumpkin out, reserving the seeds for roasted pumpkin seeds.

  2. Allow the pumpkin to dry over night.
  3. Fill the flower-pot 2/3 full with organic potting soil, placing the plants in the pot how you want them, and cover their roots with more soil if necessary.

  4. Place the pot into the pumpkin.
  5. Water lightly when needed.


  • Grow your own pumpkin and marigolds to save money.
  • To save even more, reuse an old flower-pot or pick one up at a yard sale. Be sure to disinfect the pot and allow to dry completely before using.



Edible Flowers for Your Frugal Garden

Not every flower is edible, so it’s important to identify each correctly before consuming. Many flowers can be eaten raw or used in cooking, and quite a few are excellent for cake decorating. They are even said to have health benefits, particularly for emotional health.

This list will be helpful when deciding which flowers to grow for culinary purposes. Be sure you are purchasing the plants or seeds from organic sources, and using organic methods of planting and caring for them.


Carnations are often used by cake decorators. Candy and wine can be made using them as an ingredient. Some carnations tend to have a spicy flavor that may seem peppery. Others have a sweet flavor.

Day Lilies

Also used in cake decorating, they can be used in salads as well. Some may be bitter, but many have a mild flavor. Their unopened buds can be steamed, and can be used in a stir-fry.

Johnny Jump-Ups

These add a decorative touch to desserts, and can be used in salads as well. Freeze them with water in ice cube trays and use the cubes in your lemonade and iced tea.


The lilac has pretty purple or white flowers. Use these in ice cream for a nice treat. This will go very well sprinkled over Paleo banana ice cream.


Rose hips are members of the apple family, making them edible as well as beautiful. They will provide your body with vitamin C. Use these in jams and teas.

References and Resources:

What’s Cooking America: Edible Flowers

Quick Tip: Using Tea in the Garden

After reusing tea bags a couple of times, add the liquid and tea leaves to your garden. Let the liquid cool after pressing all the liquid from the tea bag, then add the liquid to the water you’ll use to water the plants with. Then, cut the tea bags open and add the leaves to the soil.

Both the liquid and soil can also be added to your compost heap, or be used for indoor and outdoor plants.

Happy gardening!


Successful Harvests

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015My parents had a successful harvest this year, and they always seem to plant enough to share with my siblings and me. It started with the cucumbers that mom brought over, a couple of times. Once, because she knew I was visiting with my daughter, she sent some for me to take to her. There was zucchini and kohlrabi as well. Then tomatoes. Huge beefsteak tomatoes. And kale. All this food, tasting so much better than what I would have bought in the store. Delicious!

I gave a few cucumbers, zucchini, and a squash to friends as well. Everyone loves the fresh produce!

I went to help my mother with the harvest one day. We got all the squash in, and the tomatoes (sadly, most were lost to blight!), the last of the kohlrabi, and a few plants for me to bring home.

And chives. When the girls and I lived in the apartments, back when they were still my precious little girls <3, there were chives growing in our little garden from the previous tenant. When I moved us to the trailer park, I brought them with me and replanted near the Day Lilies. They thrived. I gave some to my mother, and missed them when I moved again – for I can’t have a garden where I am. I harvested a bunch when I was visiting with my mother that day, brought them home, and froze them in water making ice cubes for soups and other recipes I’ll make this fall.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015After this all-important harvest, for we did not want the frost to harm the produce, mom sent me home with quite a bit of stuff. Two beefsteak tomatoes, a couple of bunches of celery, two kohlrabi, two more zucchini, chives, and two of each type of squash.

In the front, notice the mini squashes. They aren’t good to eat, but are perfect for autumn decorating. And notice the four potted plants. Two chard and two kale. We harvested all this, and much more, on September 23rd – the Autumn Equinox – and these four plants are still growing in my room. They are so good!

The food in this picture is quite the harvest for a single lady such as myself; imagine what else my parents harvested! For themselves, and for my siblings. And we all share with others, at least somewhat. Plus what they gave me before our harvest day.

And just yesterday my mother and brother stopped by, bringing me two more of each type of squash and some carrots. I do so love carrots, and I have experimented with stuffed squash recipes this year.

All-in-all, I would say my parents had quite the successful harvest this year. What do you think?

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015All I have left are the frozen chives, the four plants, six squash, and the carrots. The food was delicious, and I loved every bit of it. Harvest time is my favorite time! And it is a great money saver for me.

Did you grow food this year to help lower your food budget? How was your harvest? Did you enjoy the experience?

Let us know in the comments, or email me privately at shannonlbuck@gmail.com. I answer all emails.

Some of what I made with the harvested produce:

Harvest Salad

Four Meat Chili with Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash and Carrot Mash

You May Also Enjoy:Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015

September Baking Day

Have a wonderful autumn!!!


Best Ways to Save Money on Food While Keeping it Healthy

It’s difficult to eat healthy while sticking to a small budget, but it’s important we try. Our medical bills later on will be astronomical if we don’t, and the future of health insurance is unsure at this time.

  • Grow as much of your own food as possible. Having an indoor window garden for growing herbs year round will save quite a bit of money, as will having a garden outside.
  • Even a small garden where greens, carrots, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes can be grown will allow you to save a lot of money on your grocery bill, especially if you learn how to extend the gardening season.
  • Be sure, when gardening, to use organic seeds. Heirloom varieties are the best choice, but any organic seeds will work. Find these online or in catalogs. Organic seeds may seem to cost a bit more, but will provide you with the healthiest possible produce.
  • Use organic soil for gardening as well. Make your own by building and maintaining compost bins. Don’t put anything that is not organic into the bin, and your soil will be the healthiest soil around.
  • Learn to can, freeze, and dry the foods you grow, and those that are given to you – or that you purchase. Canning supplies can be found at yard sales and in junk stores, but be sure to get new lids. Also, you may be able to find them free online.
  • Try to refrain from buying many overly processed foods. These are the least healthy.
  • Learn to make your own items, such as breads and pancakes, using healthy ingredients. Cooking and baking from scratch is usually cheaper in the long run.
  • Look for organic products such as tomato paste and pure vanilla extract, or at least products with no added sugar or ingredients that you are unfamiliar with. For convenience, Walmart sells unsweetened applesauce in individual containers. A multi pack costs under $2.00. Read the labels.
  • Couple coupons with sales on items you much purchase, whenever possible. Search these coupons out. Get on mailing lists for the companies.
  • Brand loyalty should only come into play when one brand has a healthier version of something than the other brand. For example, stick with a brand that offers no sugar and preservatives on an item. Forget about the brand that is loaded with both.
  • Store brands, when healthier than the name brands, are an option as well. The taste of store brand items is comparable, and sometimes better. If this generic brand is the same as the name brand nutrition wise, choose whatever is going to be more affordable after the coupon is applied.
  • Look for store coupons that can be applied to your overall grocery bill, even if that means stocking up on a few items (as long as they will get used). A general coupon of $7.00 off a total purchase of $75.00 is a good deal, if you can swing it. Especially if there is a good sale going on and you’re able to combine other coupons with some of the sale items. You will save even more money this way.
  • Farmers markets are great, but some of the items can be pricey. Check the prices. Cucumbers are often sold three or four for a dollar, and they are a good size. Zucchini is another good item to purchase, as are plant starts. Talk with the vendors about whether or not their products are organic. And, if it is close to closing time, ask about a discount on the more expensive fresh produce and meat products, as well as the eggs. You never know.
  • Farm stands often sell fresh items at affordable prices. Strike up a conversation with the owner to see if you can get a discount for buying a bunch of stuff right then.
  • Whenever someone offers you food items for free, take them. Then worry about figuring out how to use and store them. This will save you a great deal of money.
  • If you notice that someone owns a fruit tree or berry patch, and they don’t seem to take advantage of the bounty, ask if you can have the produce. They wont have to rake up all those little apples, making less work for them.

NOTE: If you are in an emergency food situation, nutrition be gone! Get to a food cupboard and take whatever they will give you. If you’re normally eating fairly nutritious meals, these foods will not hurt you sometimes. Unhealthy food is better than no food.



Create an Herb Garden on Your Windowsill

Having an herb garden will allow you to save a lot of money over the years, and will give you healthy seasonings for your meals. A windowsill herb garden can be grown year round. If your pantry or kitchen has a window, use that. If not, choose another window or two within the home. A table set in front of any window will hold pots of herbs.

When creating your windowsill garden, keep in mind

  1. Environmentally friendly/ low or no-toxin pots can be found to start an organic garden.

  2. Organic potting soil is also available, but you could also use composted soil.

  3. Organic, heirloom seeds are not much more expensive than others, and will be healthier.

  4. The pots you use, as well as the soil and the seeds, will indicate how healthy your herbs will be.

  5. You can dry herbs at home easily and store them in your pantry.

  6. Some herbs can be frozen.

 NOTE: The herbs you grow organically will be far more affordable than the herbs you purchase at the store.


  1. Research the pots, soil, and seeds you wish to use.

  2. Order what you need.

  3. Set up an area for your windowsill garden.

  4. Happy planting!



Quick Tip: Save Money by Growing Your Own Herbs

As a quick note, I want to point out that it is far cheaper to grow your own organic herbs than to purchase them.

Keep in mind that organic foods are healthier, and are not significantly more costly to grow than the alternative. Use organic soils, and organic seeds that have not been genetically modified. Growing these herbs can be done in a raised bed in the yard, in containers on the porch or in pots on a windowsill.

Do a little research to see how each herb is harvested and dried so that you can store them.


The $3.15 Garden

Yes, it can be done. There are ways to do it. This type of garden is not generally used when trying to eat in the healthiest manner possible, because it doesn’t account for organic seeds. But it will feed a family on significantly less money than what would be spent on the same produce at the grocery store. Do what you have to do to feed your family.

You can work soil with a cooking spoon if necessary, or even a stick. No tools are necessary. You can plant directly into soil, so planters and beds are also not necessary. You can even plant below and slightly in front of a porch where you can train vining plants to grow up, or near a fence to train them to grow along it.

How do you plant a garden for $3.15?

By purchasing seed packets at a local store at a rate of 3 or 4 packets for a dollar. You will acquire 9-12 seed packets this way, and pay $3.15 cents including tax.

  • Spend the first dollar-five on herbs that you’ll use in salads, cooking, and to make teas. Parsley, basil, chamomile, chives, rosemary, and/or thyme are good choices.
  • Spend the second dollar-five on greens. A combination of different spinaches and lettuces are an important part of healthy meal preparation. Other greens may also be used.
  • Spend the third dollar-five on other vegetables. These may be used in salads, sandwiches, and in cooking. They may also be eaten as-is for snacks. Try tomatoes, peas, beans, zucchini, and/or cucumber.

Plant as much as you can reasonably use and preserve for winter.

Shannon L. Buck

The No-Cost Food Garden

It’s all fine and dandy for me to tell you to use only organic seeds and soils, and that said seeds should be heirloom ones when possible. However, what is to be done when you have absolutely no money to start with, and you must get a garden in to help you with food costs for the year? Well, never mind my previous advice and take what you can get.

There is no point in going hungry if you can possibly prevent it. Do what you have to do, and do it well. Plant as much as you can, grow it well, and figure out how to preserve anything you wont be able to eat right away. Do what must be done. There are times in a persons’ life when these types of decisions have to be made. Just be aware that this is not the healthiest way to eat. It is the cheapest, however.

Now, how are you to go about gardening with no money to start?

  • Do free seed searches online. Be aware that many of these come with agreements that you’ll share a portion of your food with someone else in need. What a wonderful type of program.
  • Use any leftover seeds from your previous gardening efforts.
  • Ask friends and family if they have leftover seeds that they wont be using.
  • Freecycle.org and Cragslist may be helpful. Follow their guidelines to request seeds, pots, and whatever else you may need to get started.
  • Let people know, by word of mouth and posting fliers around town (and speaking to people who run nurseries) , that you are looking for items such as leftover seeds, seedlings, planters, etc.
  • Speak with people who are clearing land. Offer to cart away things that will be useful to you if they don’t want them. It saves them work, so they are often willing to give this stuff away. You may be able to glean some berries this way, at the very least.
  • Find out if anyone is willing to part with compost.
  • A few sturdy wooden pallets can be used to build a compost bin.
  • Accept cuttings from others, as well as seeds, seedlings, and full-grown plants.
  • Spring clean-up days in your town may net you much of what you need. People place unwanted items by the road, and you’re free to cart them off. Do so. Look for things like window boxes, a trellis or two, a spade, planters, bricks, cinder blocks, wood, and nails. Whatever you think might be useful. Even an old boot can be used as a planter of you want.
  • Build raised beds using the free wood, bricks, and cinder blocks that you find.
  • Build raised beds using free rocks that you cart home. Be sure to find out if this is legal in your area.
  • Water is a precious commodity, and expensive in some areas. This is what I do to combat the cost:

I have old buckets galore. I place these around the outside of my trailer where the most water collects when its raining. This is what is usually used when I’m working in the garden.

I use cooled water from cooking vegetables, pastas, and eggs, as well as leftover liquids from when I drink tea.

What tips do you have for starting a no cost garden?

Shannon L. Buck

Top 10 Vegetables for Your Frugal Garden

Growing vegetables, even organically, allows for saving a great deal of money at the grocery store each year.

There are many choices available when deciding to plant a vegetable garden. Obtain seeds for the vegetables that you use most often as sides, in soups and stews, and in roasts and casseroles. The most important rules of thumb are:

  • Choose vegetables you and your family normally eat, at least to start. Experimentation with new foods is fine later. Don’t forget to acquire seeds for vegetables that you will eat both fresh and cooked.
  • Buy organic seeds, when possible, from a place such as HeirloomSeeds.com, to be sure you know what you’re getting.
  • Compare prices from many places selling such seeds.
  • Plant in organic soil.
  • Remember that extra seeds can be saved if stored properly, so they should not go to waste.

My choice vegetables are able to be eaten either fresh or cooked. They can be stored for later use, if desired, and are versatile in nature.

My top 10 vegetable choices

  1. Carrots: Excellent eaten fresh, I prefer to grow short varieties. Try Thumbelina and Short n’ Sweet. Carrots may be frozen or canned for use during the winter months. They are delicious in a squash and carrot mash, in omelets, in fresh salads, these carrots are also tasty when added to a soup or roast. Carrots are also great in muffins and cakes. Plant these in spring, and at mid-summer for a double crop.
  2. Romaine Lettuce: This type of lettuce is great for using in fresh salads. It may also be used in wraps and sandwiches. Romaine prefers cool weather. Keep the soil moist where it is planted.
  3. Cabbage: Also good in salads, you can eat chunks off the heads for snacks and use cabbage in boiled dinners. The heads will last quite some time out of the refrigerator. Be sure to grow cabbage in fertile soil.
  4. Tomatoes: It’s recommended that tomatoes be stored outside the refrigerator. Use them to make sauces for rice, pasta, and pizza, dice them for chili, and can for later use. Great in salads, breakfast sandwiches, and scrambles, and many people enjoy eating tomatoes as they would a fresh apple. Tomatoes grow well with carrots or parsley.
  5. Zucchini: Given the right conditions, such as plenty of sun and water, these will grow huge. They are easily frozen by shredding and placing in freezer containers. No other preparation is necessary. You don’t even have to peel, simply cut off the ends.  One of the best chocolate cakes ever has zucchini as an ingredient, and it also makes wonderful chocolate chip zucchini muffins and breads. This vegetable has a high water content.
  6. Celery: Celery is great fresh, in salads, and in roasts and stews. Nut butter stuffed celery is a healthy snack. It grows especially well and zones 5 and lower.
  7. Cucumber: The vines of this vegetable will take up little garden space when trellised, though there are also bush varieties. Eaten fresh or on salads, or in wraps and sandwiches, this vegetable does not need to be peeled. Just cut the ends off and you are good to go. Cucumber loves water.
  8. Peas: Another space saver, this vining vegetable can be planted along a fence for maximum space savings. Simply train them along the fence. Sugar snap peas are great placed, as is, into a salad or stew, and can even be used in smoothies. Peas will grow well in cool weather.
  9. Beans: This is another vegetable to train along a fence or up a trellis, or up bean poles. Use these in stews and stir fries. They will grow in a variety of climates.
  10. Rhubarb: Eat fresh with sugar. Make a rhubarb pie. Make rhubarb strawberry jam… need I say more? This is a perennial. My grandparents had a bed of rhubarb on their property when I was growing up. It was a treat to go out back and pick the rhubarb, and to bring it in and be given a small bowl of sugar to dip the rhubarb into as my siblings, cousins, and I were eating. (Update January 2017: Rhubarb dipped in sugar is a precious memory from my childhood. When we would visit our Nan and Gramps, Nan would sometimes send us out back to get our own rhubarb. We’d bring them inside and she’d give each of us a little plate of sugar so we could enjoy the rhubarb. I might try this with honey now that I’m eating healthier.)