As I mentioned last week, this is the time of year when seed catalogs start to arrive in your mailbox, full of bright glossy pictures of various vegetables and flowers that you can grow in your garden. Perhaps you’ve never had a garden before or have only purchased plants from a garden center but his year you want to plant your own seeds. How do you decide what to order?

seeds, ordering seeds, vegetable gardening, prudent living

So many choices!

The first thing you have to decide is whether or not you want to start your seeds inside or just plant your seeds directly into your garden. There are certain seeds, which must be started early, there is just not enough growing season to directly sow these seeds into your garden. Such plants as tomatoes, peppers and eggplants must all be started inside.

tomato seeds, vegetables, gardening

Tomato seeds must be started inside.

There are other seeds such as lettuce, which can be either started early inside or directly planted into your garden. Beans and corn can be directly planted outside in your garden once the soil has warmed up and the danger of frost has passed.

bean seeds, vegetable seeds, gardening

Some seeds are sowed directly into the garden.

I have been starting seeds indoors for years. It’s an enjoyable winter project and a relatively inexpensive way to grow a wide variety of plants. The first thing I do is to check the seed packet for the number of days before harvest, I want to make sure my plants will have enough time to produce before our first frost! Several years ago I found a wonderful link online for a booklet that helps you determine when to start seeds. Little House in the Suburbs offers a free download for their Spring Garden Planner. You print it out and put together a little booklet where you can easily see the dates of what needs to be planted when. The only thing you have to figure out is your frost date, when the last frost can be expected in the spring. It’s a great tool for keeping your seed-starting adventure organized!

Another important factor to consider is the size of your garden. If this is your first garden start small! Pick a few vegetables you enjoy and you know your family will like. Plant a few tomato plants, some cucumber, lettuce and beans. You will have an enjoyable time picking the fruits of your labor and knowing that your family is eating fresh, organic vegetables.

Spend some time reading a seed catalog, read the descriptions and have fun planning your garden! Once your have your garden planned and have decided to start some seeds indoors, I will tell you how to make your own seed starting mixture!

flower seeds, vegetable seeds, gardening, prudent living

I have quite a collection of various seeds!

 

First of all I want to wish all my faithful readers a very Happy New Year! I enjoy the first of a new year, a time to reflect on what happened in the previous year and a resolve to do  things better for the upcoming year. I like to look over our budget and see where we can save more money. As I examine at our annual budget there are many areas in which the budget is fixed and we can’t really do anything to change it. However one area, which you can change, is your grocery budget. One thing that has really helped me over the years is to make a weekly menu plan.

calendar, planning meals, menu calendar

A view of my menu calendar.

By planning ahead what we are going to eat I don’t have to think about what we’re going to have for dinner. Even if I don’t follow my menu plan exactly I know that I have shopped for these meals and have what I need on hand to make them. After I have planned my weekly menu I write a grocery list. When I go to the store I stick to the list. Using my list I know I will have the ingredients on hand to make the meals I have planned for.

Buying in bulk is another way you can save money on your grocery bill. You can buy in bulk through a food warehouse or a local co-op or just be aware of when certain items go on sale. It is important that you know your prices. If you can’t keep them all in your head make a price book. This is a little notebook where you keep track of the prices of items you purchase all the time.

Try to stay away from processed foods. Whole food is much better for you and often processed foods and convenience packaged foods are more expensive.

Eat one vegetarian meal a week. There are many options for meatless meals. This is also a great way to make sure your family is getting in those extra vegetables. One of my Christmas gifts was a wonderful cookbook called Eating Well In Season, it’s full of vegetarian recipes all of which look delicious!

cookbooks, vegetarian, vegetables, prudent living

A Christmas gift!

Plan on eating leftovers for dinner once a week. Have fun and combine leftovers to make a nutritious dinner. Some of my best soups were made from leftovers!

Learn to bake! Making your own bread, cookies, granola is so much healthier for you and will save you money! A favorite in our house is homemade pizza, when you make everything from scratch this is a very frugal meal which everyone enjoys.

Make your own cleaners and laundry detergent. It is so easy and the products you can make yourself work just as well as store bought products. Check out my blogs about making household cleaners and laundry soap. You’ll be amazed at what you can make at home!

Make it a New Year’s resolution to try some of these ideas at home and save money on your grocery bill!

I debated which recipe to write about today as I have two wonderful recipes for using up leftover turkey or chicken. Since we weren’t home for Thanksgiving we had turkey for our Christmas meal just so we could have leftovers! One of the recipes I love is Turkey Curry, which indeed we had last night. However I didn’t take a single picture so I’ll have to share that recipe another time. I made a delicious turkey stock with the last bits of the turkey and the recipe I am going to share was one given to me several years ago. Hopefully they won’t mind my sharing with you! It’s the best Turkey/Chicken Soup recipe I’ve ever had!

Turkey Victoria

3 Tbsp butter
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 ½ cups mushrooms, sliced (baby bella if possible)- optional
2 cups turkey broth
1 ½ cups diced cooked turkey/chicken meat
3 Tbsp flour
¼ cups cold water
1 Tbsp tarragon leaves
1 tsp basil
½ tsp rosemary
½ tsp thyme
1 tsp onion salt
1 tsp celery salt
1 ½ cups light cream

In a soup pot, melt butter; sauté the next four ingredients.

saute, vegetables, carrots, celery, onions

Saute vegetables before adding broth.

onions, carrots, celery

Onions, carrots and celery chopped and ready to be added to the soup pot.

 

Add broth and turkey/chicken; simmer for 15 minutes. In a small bowl, mix flour and water; add to soup and stir until thickened. Season with the spices.celery salt, tarragon, rosemary, spices Continue to simmer over low heat, adding 1 ½ cups light cream.

Serves 6

soup, homemade soup

Turkey soup, perfect for a cold, snowy day.

 

frugal tips, prudent pantry, prudent livingLast week I talked about using vinegar in the household for cleaning and laundry. Did you know that you can also use vinegar in your gardening and for your health? Here are some more tips for ways to use vinegar:

1. Kill weeds and grass growing in unwanted places by pouring full-strength white distilled vinegar on them. This works especially well in crevices and cracks of walkways and driveways.

2. Give acid-loving plants like azaleas, rhododendrons, hydrangeas and gardenias a little help by watering them with a white distilled vinegar solution now and again. A cup of white distilled vinegar to a gallon of tap water is a good mixture.

3. Stop ants from congregating by pouring white distilled vinegar on the area.

4. Discourage cats from getting into the kids’ sandbox with white distilled vinegar.

5. Preserve cut flowers and liven droopy ones by adding 2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar and 1 teaspoon sugar to a quart of water in a vase.

6. Get rid of the water line in a flower vase by filling it with a solution of half water and half white distilled vinegar, or by soaking a paper towel in white distilled vinegar and stuffing it into the vase so that it is in contact with the water line.

7. Clean out stains and white mineral crusts in clay, glazed and plastic pots by soaking them for an hour or longer in a sink filled with a solution of half water and half white distilled vinegar.

8. Remove crusty rim deposits on house planters or attached saucers by soaking them for several hours in an inch of full-strength white distilled vinegar.

9. Clean a birdbath by scrubbing it often with undiluted white distilled vinegar. Rinse well.

10. Get rid of rust on spigots, tools, screws or bolts by soaking the items overnight or for several days in undiluted white distilled vinegar.

11. Avoid skin problems after working in the garden by rinsing your hands in white distilled vinegar.

12. Increase the acidity of soil by adding white distilled vinegar to your watering can.

13. Eliminate anthills by pouring in white distilled vinegar.

14. Sanitize outdoor furniture and picnic tables with a cloth soaked in white distilled vinegar.

15. Kill slugs by spraying them with a mixture of 1 part water and 1 part white distilled vinegar.

16. Remove berry stains on your hands by rubbing them with white distilled vinegar.

17. Clean plastic patio furniture with a solution of 1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar to 1 gallon of water.

18. Wash fresh vegetables with a mixture of 1 tablespoon of white distilled vinegar in 1 ½ quarts of water.

19. When cleaning an outdoor fountain, soak the pump in white distilled vinegar to remove any mineral deposits.

20. Clean a hummingbird feeder with white distilled vinegar—soap or detergent can leave behind harmful residue.

White distilled vinegar is something good for you on the inside and the outside. The next time you’re not feeling well, consider taking a break from expensive over-the-counter products and try a home remedy that is made with vinegar.

Stave off high blood sugar and other Alzheimer’s risk factors with a daily dose of vinegar.  According to researchers, there is evidence that vinegar sinks risk factors that may lead to memory decline and dementia — namely, high blood sugar, insulin resistance, diabetes and pre-diabetes, and weight gain. While vinegar does not confront Alzheimer’s directly, studies at Arizona State University have found that vinegar can curb appetite and food intake, helping prevent weight gain and obesity. Swedish investigators agree. In one study, downing two or three tablespoons of vinegar with white bread cut expected rises in insulin and blood sugar by about 25 percent. Pour on the vinegar — add it to salad dressings, eat it by the spoonful, even mix it into a glass of drinking water. Any type of vinegar works because it’s the acidity that counts.

–Source: AOL Health and “100 SIMPLE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO PREVENT ALZHEIMER’S AND AGE-RELATED MEMORY LOSS” by Jean Carper. Copyright © 2010

1. Stop insect stings and bites from itching by dabbing them with a cotton ball saturated with undiluted white distilled vinegar.

2. Soothe sunburn with a spray of white distilled vinegar, repeating as often as you like. Ice-cold white distilled vinegar will feel even better, and may prevent blistering and peeling.

3. For cuts and scrapes, use white distilled vinegar as an antiseptic.

4. Get rid of foot odor by washing feet well with antiseptic soap daily, then soaking them in undiluted cider vinegar for 10 minutes or so. Remember that cotton socks aid odor control more effectively than wool ones.

5. Clean a hairbrush by soaking in a white distilled vinegar solution.

6. Tone facial skin with a solution of equal parts white distilled vinegar and water.

7. If commercial aftershaves cause rashes and itching, try using undiluted white distilled vinegar as an aftershave lotion.

8. Lighten body freckles (not facial freckles) by rubbing on full-strength white distilled vinegar.

9. Eliminate bad breath and whiten your teeth by brushing them once or twice a week with white distilled vinegar.

10. Make nail polish last longer. Wipe fingernails with cotton balls dipped in white distilled vinegar before putting on nail polish.

Hopefully all these tips will help you to understand why vinegar is such an important item to have in your pantry.

 

Late December is not a time to be working in the garden in Vermont but it is a time to be planning next years garden. One of my favorite occupations in the winter is to sit by the woodstove and read through the new garden catalogs! Some of them have the best copywriters and can convince me to try many new varieties of vegetables.

Johnny's Seeds, Fedco Seeds, gardening, vegetables

My two favorite seed catalogs.

I usually order the majority of my seeds through the Fedco catalog. Not only do they have excellent prices but also since I order through our local coop I get an additional discount. You really can’t beat it! Fedco is not a fancy catalog, it is printed on what feels like newsprint, and is back and white, so no beautiful glossy photos to look at. They do have very good descriptions of their seeds and clearly explain whether or not a seed packet is heirloom or organic.

Fedco, seeds, vegetable gardening

Fedco catalog has great descriptions and illustrations.

Usually I have another catalog that does have the beautiful pictures to look up products if I’m not sure I want to order them or not. My other favorite catalog is Johnny’s Seeds, which is based in Maine.

Johnny's seeds, vegetable gardening, home gardening

Johnny's Seeds is another wonderful catalog.

I start most of my vegetable plants from seed and by the end of February I usually have quite a little garden going in our kitchen. In addition to a couple of grow lights I have lots of windows in the kitchen so I can give my plants a good start.

For now I just have to decide what I want to plant this year in addition to the regular vegetables! Starting your own seeds is a worthwhile investment. You have a much better selection of plants to choose from and you can also grown some wonderful heirloom plants that are hard to find in the local nurseries!

Do you plan to have a vegetable garden this year? If so, will you be starting your own seeds or picking up plants at the local garden center?

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas weekend. I feel like I’m still on vacation, after all our boys are home from college and they are enjoying time off. It also feels like a Monday when it really is Tuesday. It’s a lazy morning here, the boys are still asleep as I write and the dogs are crashed in front of the wood stove.

dog, woodstove, Boston Terrier

Riley crashed on the other side of the wood stove.

dog, pug, woodstove

Purtie crashed in front of the wood stove.

However for me it’s back to work. With our boys home we go through food much quicker, the bread and milk seem to disappear overnight! I make my own bread and no one prefers store bought so when we’re out of bread it’s time to make more! A friend of mine shared a fabulous no fail bread recipe with me years ago.

recipes, bread, well loved

My well worn original recipe!

I’ve made a few changes but basically haven’t changed it much. I grind my own hard white wheat berries and usually add a little King Arthur bread flour.

wheat grinder, wondermill, prudent living

My WonderMill wheat grinder.

I also use my Kitchen Aid to mix the dough.

homemade bread, mixer, bread dough

Mix dough until it pulls together.

homemade bread, bread dough

Using a mixer to mix the bread dough.

This morning we were out of bread so before the boys get up I’ve got a batch of bread dough made and rising. Should be ready in time for lunch.

bread, bread dough

Let dough rise about an hour before forming into loaves.

Here is the recipe that was shared with me; I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does!

Nancy’s No Knead Bread

4 cups all-purpose flour*
¼ cup sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
1 pkg active dry yeast
¾ cup water
½ cup milk
¼ cup butter
1 egg

In a large bowl blend 2 cups flour, sugar, salt and yeast. In saucepan, heat water, milk and butter until very warm (120-130 degrees F). Butter does not need to melt. Add warm liquid and egg to flour mixture. Beat 4 minutes at medium speed. By hand, stir in remaining flour to make a soft dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place until light and doubled in size. It usually takes 45-60 minutes.

Stir down dough. On a floured surface, form dough into a loaf and place in a greased loaf pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place until light and doubled in size.

homemade bread, loaves

Dough formed into loaves, ready to rise again.

making bread, bread dough

I roll out the dough before forming loaves.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden brow. Can brush with melted butter. Serve warm or cool. Makes one large loaf or two smaller loaves. Freezes well.

bread, whole wheat, homemade

We usually keep one loaf to eat and freeze the other two.

*I usually double this recipe to make three large loaves. I use 4 cups of freshly ground flour and 4 cups of King Arthur Bread Flour.

 

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