Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Garden Evaluation

It is now that time of year when we pick veggies for this years garden.  I generally start with seeds to save more money, but some people prefer plants.  Please get the plants on sale ;)

Here is one way to determine what seeds to use:

#1 - you need to know what will grow in your area, also knownn as your climate zones, there are 10 in the US, I personally live in #8

#2 - what do you eat?  What I mean is, if you like salads, plant lettuce, cukes, tomatoes, etc (according to #1 of course).

#3 - what can be stored long term?  For instance, I like tomato products, and I know how to can, so I plant more tomatoes.  We like salads, but there is no way to store it long term, so I still plant lettuces, spinach, radishes, etc, but not in excess.  I also know how to pickle, so I am okay planting extra cukes, peppers, onions, etc.

#4 - look at your list, then look at your alloted space, if you love lots of things, and live in an area when a large variety grow, but you ave limited space you have to either A) curtail your plans to fit in your space or B) get creative and make more space with containers ~

My space is pretty large and easily expandable, but currently my list looks like this:

Main plot (8' x 20'): 10 Roma tomato plants, 5 basil plants (around base of tomato plants), onion patch (usually about 50 plants in a bunch), 10 bell pepper plants, 5 jalapeno plants, radishes, various lettuces and spinach, green beans

Flowerbed (I am not a flower person):  herb garn - basil, cilantro, thyme, savory, oregano, applemint, parsley, sage, chives, scallions, various lettuces scattered throughout, 2-4 cherry tomato plants, radishes

Containers:  various lettuces and spinach, various herbs, strawberries

I realize I have lettuces and spinach in all 3 places, but every year they grow differently in different locations in my yard based on sunshine, rain, wind, children, animals, etc.  Plus each seed packet has about 500 seeds because they ar so tiny so I spread them out, AND with succession planting you can have fresh, unbolted lettuce for longer!

Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Pancake Breakdown

I make a lot of pancakes around here.  Not the boxed kind, but the homemade-measure-your-own-flour-and-baking-powder kind.  And they are great.  My kids eat them up, they are hot, they are soft and fluffy and they are healthier than cold, processed, sugar covered kids cereal - by a long shot.  Here is what I do, and some of the variations and their costs:

1 cup flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
1 tiny pinch salt
1 egg
1/4 cup oil
3/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla

#1 - flour
  • I buy all purpose white fluff at sam's or costco for about $8/25lb ($.32/lb).
  • 1lb of flour is about 3cups
  • Therefore, 1 cup flour = 11 cents
  • However, if I use my homeground flour from organic wheatberries, the price changes to .85/lb which makes it .28 per recipe
  • Sometimes I put some rolled oats in the blender and turn them into powder and mix half oat flour and half white flour which increases cost to about .16 per recipe.
#2 - baking powder
  • I bulk purchase both baking soda and cream of tartar and the last time I added it up, a tbsp of home mixed baking powder cost about 1/2 of a cent
#3 - sugar
  • this is totally optional, but if you use it, here goes
  • I buy sugar at sam's/costco for about $.55/lb, 1lb = 2.5 cups ($.22/cup = 1.5 cent/tbsp)
#4 - salt
  • negligible cost, but don't leave it out!
#5 - egg
  • locally at the store they are $3.05/18 = $.17/ea
  • at sam's/costco $4.50/36 = $.13/ea
#6 - oil
  • this can be highly variable, but for me I generally use EVOO purchased for $14 for 3 L at sam's/costco  $14/3L = 4.67/L (about a quart), 4cups/qt = 1.17/cup = .29/1/4cup
  • this is also my most expensive ingredient, but if you are using canola or plain vegetable oil, it will be about 1/3 this price
#7 - milk
  • I used to use regular gallon whole milk ($4gal = $1 qt = .25 cup = .19 for mix)
  • I now reconstitute powdered milke for this recipe ($5/8qt box = $2.5/gal = .63/qt = .16 for mix)
  • I do realize that the end result does not look like a major difference, but powdered milk has a long shelf life and you are less likely to run out of milk during the week if you are only using it for drinking
  • BTW, you can't tell the difference b/t milks in the pancake recipe
#8 - vanilla
  • this is also an optional ingredient, but we like it
  • cost on this is highly variable, if you only buy the tiny bottle of vanilla at the grocery store, then the 1/2 teaspoon will cost you about $.33 per recipe, if you buy the large bottle at bulk store it comes to about $.04 per recipe

So, for $.92, I make enough pancakes to feed 3 children (using the wheat flour and olive oil), when I use other oils, or get things at better prices, of course I save even more.

PS - the mix can sometimes be a better price if you get double coupons and find it on sale at the same time. always compare wisely though, because you usually still have to add ingredients to the mixes