Save Seeds, Plan Ahead: How B. Girard Does Garden 2014

Tasty fall harvest!

Tasty fall harvest!

Our seed order has been placed and major braggathon on the frugal me. This is the end of the fourth year of gardening for us, and in true form I have gone big already for year five!

And by go big I don’t mean that I am growing a garden that would feed the masses, since I don’t, and don’t intend to. This is about us, after all and about being frugal and sustainable, which I am learning are two things that are so completely intertwined in so many ways that they are practically impossible to separate.

I mean that I spent WAY more money on organic, open pollinated and heirloom seeds in those first few years than we could afford. And it’s now paying off with dividends.

Find everything you need for preserving food (except the produce) at Lehmans.com or Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio.

Find everything you need for preserving food (except the produce) at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Not dividends in the form of a check, but in the form of organic vegetables in the freezer, dehydrated and stored and in the jars of what we lovingly refer to as HCMREs (home cooked meals, ready to eat) that are on the shelves in the basement. It’s looking like we’ll eat this winter with only minimal dependence on the grocery store. (Oh, nope, no pics of the basement, I don’t need anyone to call one of those hoarders TV shows on me.)

Next year will be even better. That’s promised in the bags and bottles of seeds that are in the freezer and drying on the kitchen sill and still waiting to be harvested on the vines out in the yard, that are now in some cases going into the 5th generation here at Pinch Manor. Let me just say that again: 5th generation.

That makes me smile in a goofy, happy way. Because I only have a very few seeds to buy for Garden 2014. In fact, I just clicked the ‘order’ button on this year’s order and the grand total for the seeds I needed to buy was, including shipping, $65.

Learn to save your own seeds! Saving Seeds is in stock now at Lehmans.com or Lehman's in Kidron, OH.

Learn to save your own seeds! Saving Seeds is in stock now at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, OH.

The Plans Include…
Here’s a list of what’s coming to supplement our home-saved seeds, not QUITE matched to the 12 Days of Christmas. Why? Because I am Christmas-happy about how our thrifty household is doing! Next spring, our planting will include:

One kind of bean
Two types of herbs
Three kinds of beet
Four types of pepper
Two kinds of cucumber
Two types of kohlrabi
One type of lettuce
Four types of flowers (to interplant)
One type of pea
One type of spinach
Two types of squash
two types of sunflower
and some swiss chard for the Hubbin to eat…

That’s $65 to feed us organic vegetables, local-and-fresher-than-anything-else-could-possibly-be. We’ll have those veggies available to us for most the year in varieties that are in some cases obscure heirlooms, and often not even available at the local farmer’s market.

Stretch your food budget and eat well--or better! Available at Lehmans.com or Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio.

Stretch your food budget and eat well–or better! Available at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

And The Results Are In
So allow me to brag and do some simple math here:

Let’s say that I include something home-grown in one and a half meals every day: three portions a day, 1,095 meals per year, in the long run. (We actually eat more than that regularly, but one must account for travel and so on.)

For about $130 total, really, I can put those 1095 means on the table.
$65 for seeds
$15 fertilizer (you know, horse poop)
$50 per hoop house (3 hoop houses, $150 total)

And the cost will keep going down, as we expect the hoop houses to pay for themselves in the next 3 to 5 years, estimating conservatively. I’ll keep harvesting fresh, and drying, canning or freezing the produce from those purchased and my saved seeds. It’s only going to get better!

In the end, I spend twelve cents on organic vegetables for the two of us per meal. Can I just scream that price-tag from the rooftops?

Granted, I’m not paying myself for any of that labor, or The Hubbin for the digging and hauling, or figuring in the fuel needed to haul the fertilizer or hoop house materials home or the energy and water needed to process and preserve, but I did round up to the $0.12, so I’ll call that even.

We eat probably 5 to 6 vegetarian meals a week, and yes, I’m counting the PB&Js in that number, but not the egg-containing meals, or the number would be much higher, but this is how we do it. This is how we eat healthy, sustainable food on a grocery budget that allocates less than a dollar per serving.

Could I do it without the garden? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked that (sometimes not nicely), and my answer is always, “Definitely.”

There’d probably be less organic foods, and more focus on the Clean 15 vs the Dirty Dozen for veggies (not a bad thing to pay attention to, no matter what your budget is) and we would not be having as much meat as we do, but I could easily feed us on our budget (again, that’s less than $1 per serving on average, we definitely eat more expensive meals, but balance them out with really, really cheap ones) without a garden. That’s a whole ‘nother article, though.

One thing I will allow that would not be possible without the garden and that I don’t talk about that much: When something is coming in in force and I am not sure what to do with the next basket of corn or the huge colander full of lettuce or the tomatoes that are not going to fit in the dehydrator, that’s what we eat. It’s free, it’s there, it’s fresh and we have more than we can shake a stick at, so it’s what’s on the menu. All day, every day. Until I’ve caught up.

These past few months are the ones where the grocery budget is mostly spent on filling the freezer with meats that are otherwise not on the menu and on improvements to the garden that are not in the budget otherwise and on putting money aside to pay for the food we eat on vacation.

The garden is our mainstay, and it shows up most June through September. There’s planning and pinching and sometimes eating salad for a week straight until the Hubbin thinks he’s gonna turn green…while I am considering making lettuce sandwiches for his lunch..how can I sneak some fresh cucumbers into his diet despite his refusal to eat them non-pickled…can I get him to eat peanut buttered swiss chard stalks one more day… but it’s what works for us :)

That’s all I got for now,
Happy Pinching

B.Girard records her urban homesteading adventure at Pinching Lincoln. She says, “I do entries regularly, except during harvest season!” She and her husband, known as The Hubbin, live on the edge of a large Midwestern city, and both work full-time in jobs unrelated to their urban homestead.