When it comes to grocery shopping, few things shove your budget over the edge, like fresh produce. Even with disciplined shopping, items like salad fixings and fresh fruit can add $50/week (or more) to a family’s budget.
With warm weather here to stay, now’s the perfect time to think about trying some easy-to-grow vegetables for this summer. Not only are the latest generation of seeds easy to grow, they’re also going to slash your food budget by hundreds of dollars by summer’s end. Which plants top the “hard to kill” list? Check them out:
1. Herbs: Start with basil, and add some oregano if you’d like. These types of herbs are easily grown, smell divine, and are fabulous when used fresh. Important side note: when fresh basil is hand-chopped and generously sprinkled over an overly-cooked chicken dish (read: charred), it looks much more gourmet.
2. Tomatoes: Personally, I only eat tomatoes when they’re pureed, boiled down, spiced up and thrown on top of a bowl of pasta. However, my husband loves them chopped up with olive oil and fresh basil, so I love the brag-worthiness of putting a dish down in front of him and saying, “Oh, it was nothing; I just got it from the garden!” I’m hearing fabulous feedback from people who have tried the tomato plants that hang upside down near their windows. If you’re at all unsure about your gardening skills, try one of those tomato gizmos and let me know what you think.
3. Lettuce: Have you seen the price of lettuce lately? Oh my! On the flip side, have you ever tried lettuce grown in your own garden? It’s fabulous! We’re talking easy gourmet varieties that work beautifully in any climate – check with neighbors (or store personnel) to see what they recommend.
4. Bell Peppers: These tasty little colorful guys cost an arm and a leg at the supermarket! Fortunately, growing a row or two of peppers from inexpensive seeds right at your own home is easy! The only thing better than eating a garden-fresh bell pepper stir fry in July is eating a home-grown bell pepper stir-fry next January!
5. Berries: Berries can get very expensive, as you know. Sure, you can find the occasional sale on these beauties, but imagine the thrill of putting a couple of inexpensive berry bushes in your own garden and enjoying them year after year! These lovely fruits also fall into the “freezes beautifully” category. What’s not to love? You can find them in most (if not all) of the garden departments at your local home improvement warehouses, as well as at your big box warehouse stores.
Final Note: As the economy struggles ever-valiantly to regain its footing, our local food banks have never been in greater need. Hard working families are finding their local food bank makes the difference between having a decent meal on the table, and going without. With that in mind, think about planting one extra row and donating the proceeds to your local food pantry. If you think it feels great to feed your own family with produce fresh from your own garden, imagine how great it would feel to help others in need as well, for just pennies.