Plant a garden to save money.
image by sanja gjenero : sxc.hu
Families are always in a money crunch, it seems, and the food budget takes a large part of many people's disposable income. Gardening is a good way to save a percentage of your grocery budget, both for immediate use and also for use in the months to come. Your garden can become a source of dozens of meals for your family.
Plan your garden in detail, especially if this is your first try at gardening. List all the fruits and vegetables that your family enjoys throughout the year, and find out if each one will grow well in your particular climate. Use a general gardening book or seed catalog to get an idea of the range of possibilities.
Choose the best varieties that you can. If you normally serve your family iceberg lettuce because it's not very expensive, this is your chance to expand their horizons and enjoy a treat. Romaine, butter lettuce, red sails and other gourmet varieties are about the same price to grow as iceberg and can actually be easier to grow.
Colored peppers are often out of the price range of families, but they cost exactly the same as plain green peppers to grow. You can get seed packets with mixed colors of peppers if you want a rainbow. Plant peppers as soon as all chance of frost has passed. Harvest some of the fruits when they are green, and allow the rest to ripen into red, orange, yellow or purple.
Tomatoes may be inexpensive in the middle of summer, but they are so prolific that it's easy to grow them for storage. Plant varieties that can or freeze easily, and try a couple of different types. Roma tomatoes are good for freezing, storing and making sauces. Other varieties are good for general-purpose cooking, such as in soups or stews. Plan on storing a large variety, and you can save the cost of canned tomatoes and pasta and pizza sauces for an entire year.
Protein is a large expense in any family. Dried beans can be an inexpensive addition to your menu, with very little effort. Plant beans after any chance of frost, and grow in bushes or on trellises. Wait until the bean pods are totally dried and brittle before harvesting. Store the dried beans in clean glass jars or other airtight containers. Use the beans in one vegetarian dinner per week, and you can save hundreds of dollars in the next year.