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Sunday, March 27, 2011

5 Priority Planting Tips To Maximize Your Grocery Bill Savings

Photo: 4 ears of corn cost $5.99 at our local Safeway

The price of food is rising.  You may have already noticed or at least heard about the rising cost of corn, soybeans and wheat.  Just the other day, I noticed that four ears of corn cost $5.99 at our local grocery store.  To mitigate the rising cost of food, I encourage you to try and grow some of your own fruits, vegetables and herbs.  To maximize your savings on your grocery bill this year, I suggest you follow the 5 tips listed below.  These tips are especially important for apartment gardeners or other gardeners that have only a small area to work with.
  1. Give Expensive Produce Priority Planting.  Think about the foods you love or frequently use, then walk down the produce aisle, and get an idea of what these items cost.  Take in account that out-of-season produce will generally cost more than it would be in-season.  Then give the pricey items priority planting.  For example, I love corn.  Our local Safeway is selling four ears of sweet corn for $5.99.  I also know that the price of corn has increased dramatically, and will continue to rise so I will be planting sweet corn in my garden this year.  Sweet corn will have priority over vegetables like broccoli because broccoli is only $0.79 per pound and it has a long shelf-life.      
  2. Plant Food You Frequently Consume.  I alluded to this in the previous point, but make sure you give priority planting to foods you actually consume frequently, and not just foods you love but rarely eat.  For example, I frequently use tomatoes and bell peppers so I allotted a good chunk of my garden to tomatoes and bell peppers.  For this reason, I will probably not plant eggplant this year although one of my favorite dishes is Thai green curry chicken.  I do not eat eggplant often enough, and that space would be better utilized by planting vegetables I frequently consume.  
  3. Plant Rare or Hard-To-Find Varieties.  Heirloom vegetables are delicious, pricey and hard to find so why not try planting heirloom plants this year?  Seed Savers ExchangeFedco Garden Seeds, and Seeds of Change are some sources of heirloom seeds and/or plants. 
  4. Plant Easily Perishable Produce.  Plant foods that are easily perishable.  For example, I love asparagus, but it has a short shelf-life.  So this year, I purchased 3 different types of asparagus crowns.  I planted them in the garden weeks ago and I already see thin asparagus shoots emerging from the soil.  Because asparagus is a perennial (meaning it will live for years without needing to be replanted) this small initial investment will provide me years of future enjoyment.  I will have the freshest possible asparagus spears only steps away from the kitchen.  If you want to grow asparagus for consumption, skip the seeds and purchase the crowns.  Normally asparagus is not harvested before its third year so planting crowns will give you a head start.   
  5. Don't Forget The Herbs.  Many herbs are easy to grow, and generally do not require a lot of space.  They provide great flavor with a negligible amount of calories, and they are packed with vitamins and minerals that give our bodies many health benefits.  Fresh herbs can also be pricey, they have a short shelf-life, and they are not always available at the grocery store.  So invest a little time, money and space to an herb garden.  Trust me, the next time you have a recipe that calls for a couple of tablespoons of four different herbs, your pocket book will thank you.

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