Category Archives: love food

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How Much Money Can a Small Garden Save You? An Update

How much money can a garden save you

This is an update on a post I published over a month ago when I thought my plants were done producing. Guess what? They weren’t done! And I’ve saved more than I thought initially! I’ve updated all the prices to reflex my bumper crop ;) 

Remember when I thought I couldn’t grow anything. Remember?! REMEMBER?! Well, I am beyond excited to report that my brown thumb has turned green, ya’ll. And today is your lucky day because I have a run down of the costs of my garden and, AND the cost if I simply went out and purchased the food. I am on fire.

Price of Seeds Cost at CSA* or Harris Teeter Amount Produced Price if purchased
Heirloom Tomatoes ($1.79) $2.99 (for 2)* 53 $79.24
Squash ($1.35) $2.99 (for 2)* 0 $0.00
Zucchini ($1.19) $2.99 (for 2)* 16 $23.92
Bell Peppers ($1.59) $1.99 (for 2)* 133 $132.34
Banana Peppers ($1.59) $0.43 151 $64.93
Onions ($1.59) $1.27 2 $2.54
Pumpkins ($1.43) $6.99 3 $20.97
Cucumbers ($1.35) $0.79 21 $16.59
Sunflowers ($1.35) $2.29 7 (about 2 cups) $2.29
Brussels Sprouts ($1.59) $3.49 0 $0.00
Supplies
Potting Soil (used sparingly to start seeds, previously purchased) $0.00
Gloves and a trowel (given as birthday gift) $0.00
Plow (borrowed) $0.00
Fencing to keep out critters ($34.97)
Garden Safe Insect Killer  ($5.79)
Garden Safe Fungicide ($5.47)
Miracle-Gro Shake ‘n Feed Fruits and Vegetables Granules ($12.47)
A cucumber plant when my other cucumber plants died (gifted from my FIL) $0.00
Tax
$5.14
Total Spent Total Produced (plus tax) Total Savings
$78.56 $366.82 $288.26

Additional Notes:

Garden Start Up Costs
I kept my start up costs very low. I didn’t create raised beds and my garden was by no means
“pretty.” I can’t keep up with Martha here. This isn’t rural New England!

Quite a few people around the blogosphere make a big deal about the start up costs of gardens. There’s very low start up costs if you keep it low. And yes, there is no guarantee that anything will sprout (just look at my squash!), but if you are successful, growing a garden can be a fun way to save on grocery costs.

Store Pricing
I used my CSA’s veggie pricing when available because I think it more accurately reflects the pricing of local produce. When not available, I used the pricing of a local grocer, Harris Teeter. (Yes, I know veggies might be cheaper somewhere else, this is just a good estimate, ya’ll!)

Novice Gardener
I think it’s also important to note that I am totally a beginning gardener. This is my first time keeping anything alive– including houseplants! I know there will be bad years and good years, but I believe with experience my vegetable gains will increase, thus increasing my savings.

The time factor
Yes, growing a garden (even a small one, like mine) takes time. Most weekends I was out there pulling weeds. I watered the plants almost every day (unless it rained). P.S. We have well water, so there was no cost for the water. But growing something, ANYTHING, keeping it alive, then eating something I grew with my own two hands has been one of the most rewarding things that I have ever done. EVER! And that includes getting my Master’s degree.

Have you ever planted a garden? If so, were you successful? Do you think it saved you money? Did you make an insane chart like I did? Let me know in the comments!

love,
melanie

Mama’s Famous Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread2 So my mom’s famous chocolate chip banana bread is actually from a recipe! She does make a few tweaks to the recipe (like the addition of chocolate chips!!!) and she uses honey instead of brown sugar for a moist bread. I gotta give the woman some credit. She also has a secret trick–after she butters the loaf pan, she dusts a little sugar on pan so when baked, the outside of the bread has a sugary crunch. So good.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread This bread takes me back. Way back. I’ve been eating this bread since I was a wee thing. Home to me smells like freshly baked banana bread. Unfortunately, I don’t eat it now because of the wheat, but I love giving it as a gift. A small loaf of bread is such a good gift, don’t you agree? This is also a great recipe to use up those too brown bananas. It’s super versatile, ya’ll.

This recipe makes two small loafs or one large loaf.

Banana bread recipe Notes: Try honey instead of brown sugar, add 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of nuts and make sure to dust that pan with sugar! We don’t want to be too healthy :)

Do you have recipes that remind you of home? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

love,
melanie

 

 

Adventures in Wine Making

wine making I’m calling this post “Adventures in Wine Making” instead of “Homemade Wine Recipe” or “DIY Wine” because really, I can’t believe this wine turned out half-way decent. I also don’t want to share a recipe just yet because I may have just been lucky with my first batch. And I don’t want to be liable for poisoning you all. I tried using this recipe from All Recipes, but the portions were off, so I just heated up some sugar with water, threw in the yeast after it had cooled, mixed it with Aldi-brand fruit juice and went with it.

Five weeks later, the balloon deflated, I filtered out the yeast with coffee filters and BAM! I had drinkable wine. It was a little too sweet for my liking, but my friend, Gabby loved it. It also helped that we called it “toilet wine” and thoroughly researched “How to Make Prison Wine” while drinking it. Did you know prison wine can be made with fruit cocktail, ketchup and bread? I HAD NO IDEA. This wine would be perfect for an Orange is the New Black party.

Have you ever tried making your own wine? How did it turn out? When I perfect it, I’ll have a recipe to share!

love,
melanie

Refrigerator Pickles and Banana Peppers

refrigerator pickles and banana peppers

For someone who has a black thumb, I sure can grow banana peppers. I have them coming out of my ears, as they say. In fact, I had so many I couldn’t eat them fast enough. And although I had a bumper crop, it still wasn’t enough to make the effort and learn how to properly can. I also had a couple of large cucumbers that were looking less than fresh. So refrigerator canning seemed like the perfect way to eat up those veggies! Here’s the how to:

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of white vinegar
  • 6 or so banana peppers
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp of minced, peeled garlic
  • 6 cloves
  • 2 jars with lids

refrigerator pickles and peppers Wash veggies thoroughly. Slice. I used a pair of scissors to cut my banana peppers and that made it super easy. Combine vinegar, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer with a lid on for 20 minutes. Once brine has finished simmering, let cool. Ladle brine into jars, covering the cucumbers and peppers. Add the cloves. Brine for at least 24 hours in the fridge. Keep for up to a month.

How easy was that?! Have you ever made refrigerator pickles? Talk to me about it in the comments!

love,
melanie

Easy Crock-Pot Chicken Cacciatore

crock-pot chicken cacciatore I know, I know, it’s kind of too hot to break out that Crock-Pot, but sometimes a busy girl has to do what a busy girl has to do. And sometimes that means cranking up the Crock Pot to make Chicken Cacciatore as the thermometer climbs into the 100s. It’s just too easy to use the Crock-Pot on those days when you know that 5,000 things will need your attention and you still have to work out and sleep and be a person. This meal is great for those days because you can throw everything in the Crock-Pot at breakfast and it will be ready for dinner or throw it in the Crock-Pot the night before and take it for lunch. It’s just good planning, people.

easy chicken cacciatore (Stupid) Easy Crock-Pot Chicken Cacciatore

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of chicken, cut up in pieces
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce
  • 6 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 -4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Throw everything in the Crock Pot and let cook for approximately 7 hours on low. Serve over pasta, rice or quinoa if you wish. I just eat it plain. No time for all that.

super easy, crock-pot chicken cacciatore

love,
melanie

 

Protein-Packed Pancakes

protein packed pancakes I’ve yet to find a protein powder that doesn’t taste like chalky chemicals or dirt. I’ve tried the organic, pea proteins, the body builder proteins, I’ve tried the ones that taste like “cake” (aka toilet bowl water) and the ones that taste like “cappuccino” (aka toilet bowl cleaner). I’ve yet to try a protein powder that I can drink just mixed with water. But not wanting to be wasteful and knowing I couldn’t gag down another smoothie (there’s only so much berries will cover up), I started making protein pancakes. God knows what Pinterest/blog/Internet hole I fell down to find my original recipe. But here’s the one I usually use. It’s not quite your usual fluffy pancake, but it gives you almost 30 grams of protein and doesn’t taste like dirt, so that’s an improvement!

protein packed pancakes with peaches! Ingredients
1.5 scoops of vanilla protein powder
1 tbsp of vanilla extract
1 tsp of cinnamon
2 tbsp of all-purpose gluten-free flour
2 eggs
A splash of milk

2 tbsp butter
Cinnamon and honey or maple syrup for topping

Melt 1 heaping tbsp of the butter in a pan over the stove top on low. Mix the 1st 6 ingredients together in a bowl. Put about 1/3 of the batter in the hot pan. When batter begins to bubble, flip over the pancake. Repeat until batter is gone. To finish, top with butter, cinnamon and honey or maple syrup.

Easy right?

Is there a protein powder that you love? Let me know about it in the comments!

love,
melanie

Easy Spaghetti Squash Recipe

spaghetti squash I wasn’t going to post about this week’s spaghetti squash. Spaghetti squash when it is cooked, really isn’t so pretty. It kind of looks like a big pile of mush. So forgive the pictures. But I mentioned that I cooked it for my lunches this week, and well, the people have spoken ;). So here it is by popular demand, my recipe for classic spaghetti squash.

spaghetti squash 2 Ingredients

  • 1 medium sized spaghetti squash
  • 1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce (alternatively, you could make your own)
  • 1 lb of lean ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 dashes of oregano
  • 1 dash of red pepper
  • 2 dashes of garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Roast spaghetti squash whole for 15 minutes. While squash is roasting, salt and pepper your beef, then brown it up. Sauté the onion and pepper in olive oil. Turn burners to low. Take squash out of oven and cut length-wise. I am use an Ove Glove for this part. Best invention ever. Roast squash for another 20 minutes or until squash easily peels out of the skin with a fork. Scrape the squash out of the skin with a fork and add to the beef. Add in the onion and pepper, sauce, oregano, garlic and mix. Salt and pepper to taste.

Congrats! You just conquered the illusive spaghetti squash.

love,
melanie