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!!!

Shannon

Don’t Like Vegetables?

Vegetables are such an important part of a healthy diet. They are essential and provide the body with, among other things, vitamins and provitamins, minerals, protein, and healthy carbohydrates.

I used to think I only liked a few: Corn, peas, white potatoes. Raw carrots, celery, and cauliflower. For the most part, that was what I ate for vegetables. Let’s face it, not all of it was truly even healthy.

Truth?

I just don’t like a lot of things cooked.

Yup. I prefer most of my vegetables raw. I kept trying all these cooked vegetables, and was not impressed. Cooking changes the taste too much for me. It took me years to realize that I just prefer to consume a lot of things without them being cooked.

For instance?

Carrots, broccoli, pickled beets.

There are others.

How did I find this out?

In an effort to eat healthier, I decided I must start trying new foods. This took place about five or six years back and, each year, I try a few new things. It’s not always easy, but it’s working well for me.

I have learned:

  • I do not like many things cooked, but will eat them raw.
  • If you mix half white potato and half sweet potato you will get used to the latter two more easily. Then start using 1/3 white to 2/3 sweet. Eventually, that sweet potato will taste fine on its own. I do eat them cooked, and will also eat white potatoes raw. I do not, however, indulge in white potatoes all that often any more. Mainly when I’m very strapped for cash.
  • I don’t liked cooked carrots, unless I make a mash of them with white or sweet potato, or squash. The tactic above has not brought me any closer to liking cooked carrots on their own.
  • Raw baby spinach tastes wonderful. I despise canned spinach, and have not tried fresh cooked (yet).
  • I love tomatoes, cooked or raw, but they do not love me. Sadly, I can only consume a little each week, or I end up with horrible heartburn. Cooked, they mess with my stomach.
  • Raw peas and green beans in pods are delicious!
  • I like salad mixes. The kind that include chard and kale, even. If I don’t care for a green or two, I know I can add it to a healthy smoothie to derive nutritional value from it. Interestingly enough, if I don’t pack in too much, I will not notice the greens in a smoothie at all.
  • Beans are good, and not just the navy ones! However, I only really eat these once in a great while. Maybe two or three times a year. They are a bit of a no-no.
  • I used to only eat iceberg lettuce, but now I eat a variety of different types. They are delicious!
  • Sometimes it will take a few, or a few more, tries of something to realize you do really like it. If you aren’t sure how you feel about it, try it another way. I have to do this with Brussels sprouts. I have had them once. Steamed, I think, with butter. They did not work for me, but were not horrible tasting. Just not real pleasing. I’ll be trying them another way.
  • I love cabbage raw. Hate it cooked. This is why I don’t like boiled dinners.
  • I do like zucchini and yellow squash, raw.
  • I love celery raw.
  • Cucumbers are delicious, and I like them pickled.

So, I have learned a lot. And there are still vegetables I have yet to try.

What about you? How do you like your vegetables?

Shannon

 

Vegetable Jars

Vegetable jars are so easy to make. You’re simply filling small canning jars with raw vegetables, covering, and storing in the refrigerator until they are ready to use. The produce will last for most of the week this way. They can easily be grabbed as a component to a work or school lunch.

Some vegetable ideas for jars

  • Cucumber rounds
  • Celery sticks, broccoli, and carrot sticks
  • Cucumber, zucchini, and yellow squash
  • Carrots, broccoli, pod beans
  • Pod peas, carrots, and cucumber
  • Pod peas, pod beans, and yellow squash
  • Cherry tomatoes, snow pod peas, and carrots
  • Grape tomatoes, broccoli, and cucumber

As you can see, there are plenty of combinations to choose from.

What other vegetable combinations can you come up with? Let us know in the comments.

You may also be interested in

Fruit jars

Shannon

 

A Good, Healthy Lunch, on a Budget

Earlier I showed you a typical breakfast. Now I’m showing an example of a budget friendly lunch. This is not necessarily a typical lunch for me, as one usually consists of a salad, a piece of fruit, and some type of protein. But this was an affordable option for me a couple of weeks back. It worked and, while not 100% Paleo, it filled me up for the cost.

The picture shows what I had, except for the beverage.

Orange sections, left over from a pitcher of fruit water I made. (Try this water recipe for something refreshing to go along with this lunch.)

Peas in pods, carrot rounds, celery, broccoli, tomatoes

4 slices of ham

4 slices of cheese

I wasn’t sure if this would keep me full or not, but it held me over just fine. I did have a few cups of water in between lunch and dinner, so that may have helped.

What healthy lunches do you make when your budget is tight? I rarely eat grains and dairy, so I’m always on the look out for Paleo type lunches.

Shannon

Tasty Beef Soup

Don’t know about you, but I love soups. Each winter I try to come up with one or two new variations. This is what I came up with a couple weeks back. Let me know what you think, and try some of your own recipes.

Ingredients

2 pounds beef stew meat

4 russet potatoes, rinsed and chopped into bite size pieces

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into bite size pieces

2 carrots, rinsed with tops cut off

1 can diced tomatoes, with juices

1 can vegetable or beef broth

2 tablespoons basil

water, if necessary

  1. Place the root vegetables in the crock of a slow cooker.
  2. Put the meat on top, then pour the can of tomatoes over everything.
  3. Add the can of broth, then use water to fill the crock about 2/3 full.
  4. Cook on low 4-5 hours, or on high about 3 hours.
  5. About 20 minutes before you are done cooking, add the basil and give the soup a good stirring.

Tips

  • Try different vegetables, such as turnip or parsnip.
  • Grow what you can in your garden to save money.
  • Grow herbs on a windowsill year round.
  • Save money by using the potato skins and carrot tops for something else.

Serving Suggestions

  • Serve with a salad of greens and cucumbers.
  • Use the carrot tops in smoothies, salads, or like an herb to flavor other dishes.
  • Use the potato skins to make sour cream and chive topped potato skins. (I don;t eat sour cream often, but do consider it a treat once in a while.)

Shannon

Harvest Soup

Autumn is my favorite season. I love watching the leaves change, photographing yards dressed up for the autumn months, and creating new recipes from the foods local farmers are harvesting.

While Farmer’s Markets may seem expensive, you really can find good deals when shopping them just before closing time. In-season produce is often on sale at the grocery store, and roadside stands sell produce pretty cheap this time of the year. My stepfather recently purchased a 50 pound bag of potatoes for $10.00. This was a good deal for fresh potatoes.

Soups are just one meal I enjoy experimenting with. This is a recipe I came up with for the slow cooker.

Ingredients:

10 baby red potatoes

1 sweet potato

1 small acorn squash

10 baby carrots

about 10 pumpkin chunks

1 small can diced tomato

1 small can vegetable stock

water

fresh parsley

fresh rosemary

crushed garlic grinder

sea salt grinder

black peppercorn grinder

  1. Wash the produce. Lay on a towel to dry slightly before beginning to fill your crock.
  2. Cut any bad parts off the red potatoes, cut into halves or thirds, depending on their size, and place these in the bottom of the crock.
  3. Add the carrots to the crock.
  4. Cut up the squash and the sweet potato, placing these over the carrots.
  5. Add the pumpkin chunks, the tomatoes with their liquid, and the can of vegetable stock.
  6. Fill the crock to the 2/3 point with water, then add the seasonings. (I do seasonings to taste, adding a little now and more toward the end of the cooking time.)
  7. Cover and cook: High – 2 to 3 hours, Low – 4 to 6 hours.

Tips

  • To save the most money, grow most of the produce. Look for deals everywhere else.
  • For added savings, make your own vegetable stock. Or, purchase store brand types at the grocery store.
  • Feel free to add some meat, if desired.

Serving Suggestion

Hannaford Salad

I like to get my salad at Hannaford sometimes because of the choice selection at the salad bar. They used to have a decent melon selection as well, but not so much now. However, I can still make a hearty salad with the given options, and this is far healthier than stopping at a fast food restaurant.

Ingredients

iceberg lettuce

Romaine lettuce

baby spinach

shredded carrot

peas

2 hard boiled eggs

chicken

pineapple chunks

strawberries (sometimes)

diced celery

grape tomatoes

cucumber slices

Yummy!

By the way, this is NOT frugal. It fills you up when you are on the run, though. To save money, grow the produce at home and make your own salad 🙂

Shannon

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.)

Shannon

A Few Tomato Descriptions and Their Estimated Harvest Days

When researching tomato varieties, it is important to consider descriptions of each type. Many gardeners also want to know how many days it will take for each variety to mature. Knowing certain types of information will help you determine which plants will grow well in your area, as well as which ones you are likely to enjoy eating the most.

Brandywine

These large tomatoes are dark pink in color. They are meaty, juicy, and should weigh up to a pound each when ripe. These are heirloom tomatoes, meaning they are of an old-fashioned variety often found at farmers markets. The Brandywine can take up to 100 days to mature.

Great White

The great white tomato is named so because it is a large, white beefsteak variety. This tomato will mature in 85 days. The fruits of this variety grow up to 2 pounds each. Their flavor is sweet and mild, and they are juicy. You wont find a lot of seeds in the great white.

Sun Gold

The sun gold is a sweet cherry tomato variety that is orange in color. It will need 57 days to mature. Sun golds are a possible option for making dried tomatoes, and is ranked one of the best-tasting cherry varieties of tomato. This variety is a hybrid tomato.

Yellow Pear

This is another cherry tomato. It looks like a yellow pear, hence its name. This is a tart tomato variety. The fruits grow in clusters of little 1-inch tomatoes that mature in about 70 days. This tomato will provide the gardener a high yield of fruit.

Opalka

The opalka tomato is considered a paste variety, which is an ingredient when making homemade tomato-based sauces. It has a superior taste, and is fine to eat fresh. This tomato is long and red measuring 3-by-5 inches, resembling the shape of a jalapeño. The opalka matures within 85 days.

Pineapple

The pineapple tomato matures in 90 days. This tomato is a large heirloom variety that grows to 1 or 2 pounds, and produces a mildly tart flavored fruit. It is yellow in color, with red streaks. This is another heirloom tomato variety.

Roma

The roma is paste tomato that will mature within 78 days with fewer seeds than other varieties. It is used to make ketchup, as well as sauces. These are plum-shaped fruits without many seeds, and are dark red in color.

References and Resources:

WindSpirit Farm: 2009 Tomato Varieties

University of Illinois Extension: Tomato

Star Chefs: Heirloom Tomatoes

The Backyard Gardener: Pineapple Tomato

Natural Hub: Tomato Varieties

Tomato Dirt: Choosing Tomato Varieties for Large Containers

Basic Potato Salad

Recipe contributed by Sheila Buck

(Update January 2017: This recipe could also be made with Paleo mayonnaise, but I came across a recipe last year that didn’t even call for Mayo. It was a Paleo version that sounded so good. This version here may be fine for your nutritional plan, and that is great, but if it isn’t, then just know you have other options. ~Shannon)

Potato salad is a great summer recipe, and a wonderful side dish to many meals. Here is a basic potato salad recipe from our kitchen. It is one of my youngest son’s favorite recipes.

Ingredients:

6 potatoes, halved
4 hard-boiled eggs
1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
Paprika

  1. In a medium pot, boil potatoes until tender.
  2. Put potatoes in refrigerator until cool.
  3. Peel potatoes and cube them.
  4. Place cubed potatoes into a medium bowl.
  5. Peel off shell of hard-boiled eggs.
  6. Chop eggs and add them to potatoes, and mix.
  7. Add chopped onion to mixture, and mix.
  8. Add mayo to mixture, and mix well.
  9. Sprinkle Paprika over the top of salad.

Tips:

  • Spices can be very expensive. Sometimes paprika can be found at dollar stores for a better price than at the grocery store.
  • Store brand mayonnaise tastes very good.

Serving Suggestions:

  • Other vegetables can be added to this salad. My mother sometimes adds tomatoes and cucumbers to hers.
  • Serve this as a side dish with cheeseburgers and corn on the cob.
  • My youngest sometimes eats the salad with no main dish.

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Sheila Buck is the single mom of two teenage boys. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Clinical Psychology. Sheila is a freelance writer, and also writes books and short stories in her spare time. Sheila also writes for Frugal is Fabulous!.