Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Our garden progress

This was our first year living in New Jersey and we were very excited to start working on a garden again. While we were living in Hawaii we tried several times to have a garden and it never worked out for us. You would think it would be the perfect location. After all it was always a beautiful 85 degrees with not a cloud in the sky. Unfortunately we found that was part of the problem. Turns out vegetables need a bit of shade every now and then or they fry. They also like to have some rain every once in a while. Oh and giant African snails that eat everything in sight really don't help matters either!

Anyways we were so excited this year to get our garden in the ground. By "we" I mean my oldest daughter and I. She is so much like her mama it is a bit scary at times. Now that the growing season is almost over we are enjoying lots of great vegetables and already planning what we are going to plant for this fall as well as items like garlic that will need to be planted this fall to be harvested next year. 

Our carrots were a bit small....okay a lot small! We have a compaction problem it seems. I am planning on growing them in a raised bed with loose dirt next year so hopefully they will do better.

My tomatoes on the other hand are out of control and doing wonderfully. We planted a variety of different types. I think the tear drop ones are my favorite.

The purple beans were not a hit at all. They tasted like dirt or so I was told. We will probably skip the beans next year since I couldn't bribe anyone to eat them.
 My potatoes were a total loss.  I only got the handful you see here before my plants rotted in the ground. Way to much rain this year. Learned a lesson there as well. We are going to be doing them in containers next year with drainage holes. My cucumber you can see go too much rain as well. They are doing better now and I actually have my first one on the vine right now. I am looking forward to eating it! I had wanted to do pickles with them but I seriously doubt I will get that many from them. My peppers as you can see are doing well also. We have several types that are just now getting to the point of being ready to pick.
 You know the best part of growing your own veggies? Eating them :) Here we have a BLT pizza made with fresh veg out of my garden. Mmmmmm it was good!

Once a month shopping :)

Alright I admit I was skeptical at first when I read how much money you could save by doing once a month shopping. I first read about the concept in the book America's Cheapest Family and while I was intrigued it just seemed like a LOT of work! I mean I am shopping for 7 people! That is a lot of food per month. However being ever the frugal mama I was willing to give it a try.

I have been doing a lot of research and reading on the subject and a few months ago I decided to give it a go. With my husband deploying, morning sickness, and 5 children to cart with me anytime I left the house I was the poster child for once a month shopping.

Some concepts took some time to wrap my head around, like freezing milk. While  others were a no brainer, freezing bread. I did stumble a bit with the fresh veg and fruit. After all banana's won't last a whole month.

For the fresh stuff I have a tiered approach.

The fresh fruit like banana's and berries are for week one
Hardier fruit is for weeks 2 and 3, think apples and other longer shelf life fruits
Then week 4 is canned and frozen stuff. My kids LOVE frozen blueberries and I think actually like this week the best.

The same goes for the veg. I actually have some peppers that have been in my fridge for 2mths and still look great! I do freeze a lot of stuff when I get home from the store. Peppers can be cut into strips and frozen, etc.

We also have a garden where we grow all our herbs, tomatoes, beans, lettuce, cucumbers, zucchini, etc.

Milk and dairy we freeze. I just started freezing my milk and it is great Before I would have my dh pick up a gallon his way home from work. With 5 kids and him deployed there is NO WAY I am going to the store for just milk!

Bread we freeze as well. I buy about 15 loafs a month all at once and man do I get the looks! I can't tell you how many people have pointed out that it will all expire in a week. I explain it is going in the freezer and they still carry on about the expiration dates

Meats I do two ways. I either separate out the BIG packs to singles and freeze that way or I go ahead and cook it and then freeze it in meal portions. Just makes my life easier.

Also while I am doing all that meat at once I go ahead and make up massive batches of some stuff that is on my list for the month. Like homemade spaghetti sauce. I will just go ahead and make a quadruple batch and then separate and freeze. Then on spaghetti day I just throw the sauce in the crock for a few hours to warm and all I have to do is boil the pasta. Can't get easier than that!

Meal planning becomes essential with this process I have found. I sit down with an inventory of my pantry and freezers and come up with a game plan for dinners for the entire month at once. I actually think this is easier than doing a meal plan once a week. I have a set structure to my menu planning in that every 5th day is leftovers. Makes my planning so much easier! Here is an example of our meal plan for September.

 1 Frozen Pizza’s and thai pizza for mommy
2 Meat loaf and mac & cheese
3 Spaghetti
4 Leftovers
5 Italian chicken
6 Enchilada’s
7 Roast with veg
8 Beef stew
9 leftovers
10 Cheese burger pie
11 Taco’s
12 Chicken stir fry
13 Sandwich
14 Leftovers
15 Spaghetti
16 Taco’s
17 Chicken Fajita’s
18 Sloppy Joes
19 Leftovers
20 Pizza Casserole
21 Sandwich
22 Spaghetti
23 Chicken pot pie
24 Leftovers
25 Roast with veg
26 Beef stew
27 Sandwich
28 Meatloaf w/ mixed veg
29 Leftovers
30 Spaghetti

You probably have noticed the meal plan does not include breakfasts, lunch, or snacks. I am sorry but I am not that advanced in my organization yet.  I have a list of staples that I keep on hand based on a predetermined list of meals I know my family will eat through out the month. That way I can just wing it as I go on those meals.

Breakfasts....I am NOT a morning person. I wouldn't eat at all in the mornings if I didn't have to. I also do NOT cook on weekday mornings. Getting 5 kids up, dressed, fed and out of the house for the school run is enough for this crabby morning momma. So all breakfast items have to be pre-made or seriously simple to put together.

*Baked oatmeal Bars
*Homemade (Hmd) pancakes, frozen
*Breakfast cookies
*Fruit smoothies


*Hmd bread
*Cottage cheese
*String cheese
*Jello from a box
*Hmd granola bars
*Hmd Cookies
*Hmd pudding

Drinks...we go through a gallon a day plus milk

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