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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

More ways to cut your grocery bill!

Ok.. the response to my post last week on super-producing garden crops that can cut your grocery bill has been immense.. I've gotten a lot of great e-mails and there were also some fantastic comments left on that post - great suggestions everyone, thanks!! So, I thought that perhaps, I should touch on a few easy-to-grow veggies that are inexpensive to cultivate, but pricey to buy at the supermarket! A similar topic and one that doesn't just talk about super-producers, but focuses on the expensive or gourmet crops.

The previous post covered salad greens (my top pick for saving $$$), carrots and pole beans. I won't repeat these, but do want to mention that salad greens really are the best way to save money in a backyard veggie garden - assuming that you like to eat a lot of salads! Gourmet greens like arugula and mache are super expensive at the grocery store, but a single seed pack will usually cover a good sized garden bed and provide months of salads. Just remember to keep succession planting for the longest and best quality harvest.

Here are a few other gourmet veggies that come to mind. Please feel free to comment with your own ideas!!

The amazing alliums (onions, scallions, shallots and leeks) - These crops are very accommodating in the garden. They don't take up much space and are very easy to grow. We're still eating our onions and shallots from the our harvest last September and the garden still has a few leeks hanging on in the frames and tunnels. We pulled the last of the scallions in late February - a mid-winter treat! Gourmet veggies like shallots and leeks are extremely expensive in the supermarket, but a no-brainer to grow.

Filet beans - As my kids would say, OMG! I saw a tiny packet of green filet beans (aka 'French filet beans') in the grocery store for $10! Yikes! Plus, it was last August.. prime picking season for these tender beans. Why on earth would anyone pay that kind of money for a handful of gourmet beans.. As I mentioned in my related post, pole beans are super-producers, but filet beans - pole or bush - are easily grown and offer a large harvest for minimal cost. The key to a bumper crop is to keep picking - every day for these super slender beans. As with snap beans, I like pole varieties to save space and increase my yield, so choose filet varieties like 'French Gold', 'Emerite' or 'Fortex'. $10!! I just can't get over that price! (In the photo, you can see an ultra-slender 'Maxibel' filet bush bean next to a slightly-overgrown 'Fortex' pole filet bean next to a regular yellow bean)

Celery and celeriac - Celery is public enemy #1 if grown 'conventionally' - a crop that is sky high in pesticide residues. Scary! (On a related note - why do we call these 'conventionally' grown crops.. wouldn't organic growing be more traditional and conventional??) Anyhoo, if we need to buy celery in the grocery store, we only buy organic celery and pay $3.99 for a small celery heart. I like to use the flavour of celery in soups, stews, sauces and a million other dishes, so, my goal is year round celery.. that's where celeriac comes in. We have garden celery from late June (baby stalks) until mid-December (mulched in the garden).. then, we begin to harvest our well-mulched celeriac roots for winter use.. they're very interchangeable in most cooked dishes and you don't need to pay big money for organic celery. Just remember that celery and celeriac LOVE moisture during the growing season.. plus heaping amounts of organic matter..

Heirloom Tomatoes - In my region, heirloom tomatoes have been very difficult to find at the supermarket - even the farmer's market! If you did luck upon some, they would be sky-high in terms of cost!! Yet, they are so easy to grow. We grow a wide variety in every colour and then we freeze them for winter in the deep freeze. They're great on a mid-winter pizza or baked into a rich sauce (with some frozen basil).. so good!

Asparagus - Spring is just 4 days away and I've got asparagus on the brain. To grow asparagus, you need to be a patient gardener.. easier said than done! I would recommend planting 1 year old crowns (locally grown if you can find them!!) and then waiting 2 more years before you harvest anything. After that, you can enjoy a gourmet crop of tender asparagus for up to 6 weeks each spring.. so good!

Well, that's all for now.. I'd love to hear your thoughts..

Happy Gardening!

9 comments:

  1. You are TOO kind Bren!! Can't wait to follow the progress of your garden through 2011.. 2010 was a treat! :)

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  2. I hear you about the farmer's market. Year after year ours seem to be selling less and less variety at higher prices. I travel out of town and the farmer's markets are bountiful. I think the city raised prices on the stalls had something to do with it. There were less farmers too. The last straw was one year when I could not find one decent pint of strawberries in June.

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  3. Great ideas! I grow what we eat and almost never buy produce at the store.

    However, I just had to laugh when you called Mache 'gourmet'. Maybe it's just that nobody grows that weed anymore. Hehe.

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  4. Now those are some great gourmet crops that do indeed cost a bundle to buy, and yes all those chemicals in celery...yikes. I would add garlic to your allium list, very pricey. Our favorite gourmet veggie that makes us laugh on the rare occasion that we see it on the store shelves is Belgium Endive, we laugh because the chicons are so tiny and expensive. Also, I couldn't agree with you more on salad greens, definitely have to grow your own salad greens.:) Excellent posts.

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  5. One more tip about onions....at home, we don't have a "cold room" for storing onions and we heat the basement, but the floor is concrete.I have placed my onions at the coolest part of the basement on the floor and covered the onions with thick blankets...etc. Since the floor is as cool as the earth,it seems to keep the temps around 50 degrees or so,and keeps things fresh.

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  6. So, I know this is a super-duper old post, but as no one's mentioned them, I just have to add: Herbs! At least in my area, fresh herbs from the super market cost an arm & a leg for a teensy tiny package, which often isn't of great quality anyway, even when the plants are in-season. Growing my own lets me save money, use better quality produce, and use fresh (or frozen)herbs instead of dried (which, in my opinion, just aren't as aromatic or flavorful).

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  7. Great suggestion Molly! I love fresh herbs.. we also keep thyme, oregano and parsley in the cold frames for winter long flavour. You just couldn't be more right - thanks for sharing this!!

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Please feel free to leave comments. I welcome your tips, questions, thoughts and ideas (and suggestions for new veggies to grow!)