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Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Part Ten: Snacks

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This post is dedicated to Nadine in Lyon, France, who opened my eyes to healthy, simple snacks when her 9-year-old walked into her living room after school one day, asking for a snack while we visited. She told him he could have a piece of cheese, a yogurt, or an apple.

Pre-made snack foods are expensive, which is why I don't buy them.

At my house, we have one afternoon snack. Our dinners tend to be late (between 6:30 and 7 p.m.) and our lunches tend to be around 11:30 a.m. I don't serve any other snacks.

(If you're used to giving more snacks, I highly recommend the book French Kids Eat Everything for an eye-opening perspective on less snacks and getting children to eat at regular meal times).

Snacks at my house tend to be simple. I do a lot of cooking each day and the afternoons are a busy time for me. Simple snacks are also the least expensive.

What simple, inexpensive snacks can you serve in the afternoon?

Fresh fruit. In season apples, oranges, peaches, grapes, etc. make the easiest snacks. Purchased on sale in-season, they'll give your family some nutrition, and the fiber will help to fill them up. If you want to save even more, grow your own fruit. My garden gives me apricots, apples, plums, peaches, grapes, blackberries, figs, pears, Asian pears, pomegranates, lemons, and tangerines.

If I don't have anything fresh on hand, I will put together a simple fruit salad made with home-canned fruits that I canned when prices were at their lowest and taste was at its highest.

Carrots and ranch dip, made with homemade Greek yogurt. The yogurt provides calcium (sour cream does not) and homemade yogurt is less expensive than sour cream, even purchased on sale. Carrots are one of the least expensive vegetables to purchase. I usually buy a 10 pound bag of carrots at Winco for .39 a pound. In the summer I may include cucumbers from my garden, and in the spring I'll have snow peas as well.

Homemade bread with homemade jam. This simple snack is almost forgotten in modern times. A loaf of French bread costs me .25 to make. Homemade jams and butters are simple when I've made and canned them earlier.

I get asked about my popsicle molds quite often. The popsicle molds I used are no longer being produced. Mine are starting to break and I have been thinking about replacing them with this one sometime in the future.

Homemade popsicles. Popsicles can be as simple and easy as freezing the syrup from your home-canned fruits, to making smoothies and freezing them as popsicles, freezing home-made grape juice, or to making a cooked chocolate pudding from scratch and freezing it for chocolate pudding popsicles. 

Popcorn. I buy a fifty pound bag of popcorn from Sam's Club, which usually lasts us a year. We pop popcorn on the stove with two tablespoons of oil, and then we salt it. It's a simple, quick, and inexpensive snack.

Muffins. When my children were smaller I could make a batch of 18 muffins and have leftovers for snack time. Now they eat all 18 for breakfast. I can make a double batch at breakfast time if I want leftovers for snack time, or I can make a batch during naptime.

Homemade pita bread and white bean dip. The dip is simple and filling. To keep the price low, I buy white beans, kosher salt and olive oil in bulk. I grow lemons and parsley in my garden.

Smoothies. A simple smoothie is a refreshing afternoon treat.

Homemade crackers and cheese. I'll make a batch of wheat crackers, or saltines and we'll have them with thinly sliced cheese, or with tomatoes or cucumbers from the garden. On occasion I'll make graham crackers. Crackers are only a few cups of flour per batch, so they're just pennies to make.

There are occasions when I'll make something else for a treat for snack time. If I do this I usually do it during nap time/quiet time. I'll make a double batch of cookie dough and make enough cookies for everyone to have a few. Cookies are a more expensive and time consuming snack, so I don't make them as often.

What are your favorite inexpensive snacks to serve to your family?

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Most people will compare the price per pound of meat. We'll eat chicken instead of beef because it costs less. We'll compare the price for meat on sale.

In my family, we eat a lot more turkey and ham bought on sale during the holidays because these are the lowest priced meats per pound. I can have meat a lot more often when I'm spending .69 a pound than when I'm spending $1.99 a pound, so I'll buy a lot more of the less expensive meat.

If you want to lower your grocery costs even more, compare the price per pound of everything that you purchase.

Rice is less per pound than pasta. On sale, I can find pasta between .50 a pound and $1 a pound. I can buy rice in bulk for .39 a pound all year long. By eating more rice than pasta, I can greatly reduce the cost of my meals. At this point my family will eat 1 1/2 pounds of pasta in a meal. Even if I purchased the pasta on sale for .50 a pound, the pasta cost me .75 for the meal, compared to .59 cents for the rice. At the higher sales amount of $1 a pound for pasta, the difference is $1.50 a meal compared to .59. However, I don't cook a pound and a half of rice a meal. I cook 2 1/2 cups of dried rice, which is 1.14 pounds. That's only .44 for the meal, instead of .75.

When potatoes go on sale in the fall for .10 to .20 a pound, I'll buy lots of potatoes. I usually only purchase them at .10 a pound, buy buying russets on sale in November. My family eats 50 pounds of potatoes in a week from November through February. At .10 a pound, I'm spending $5 a week for 50 pounds of food.

Bulk oats (around $14.50 to $15.35 for a 25 pound bag) are another great food that doesn't cost much per pound. At $15.35, they are .61 per pound. Last year Winco had them on sale for less than $10 a bag in the fall. We normally have oatmeal 3 mornings a week for breakfast.

Bulk dried beans run around .65 to $1 per pound.

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, I'll look at what is the lowest in-season price per pound. Instead of deciding that I want to buy apples, I'll choose fruit based on what is the lowest price.

If a store has apples on sale for .79 a pound and oranges on sale for .39 a pound, I'll buy oranges, and lots of them. I know the oranges can last a few months in my refrigerator, so I won't hesitate to buy 40 pounds (or even 80 pounds).

If the sale is oranges for $1 a pound and apples for .50 a pound, then I'll buy 40 (or more) pounds of apples instead (which will also last for months in the refrigerator).

If I really want to have both apples and oranges, I'll buy some of both, but I'll only buy a small amount of the more expensive fruit.

The least expensive fruit options are going to depend on what is in season, as well as what prices you normally see where you live. Some readers have commented that they can always find bananas for .39 a pound. Where I live, a normal price for bananas is .59 a pound to .79 a pound. This means that I don't buy a lot of bananas, but if I lived where they were .39 a pound, I would buy a lot more if they were my least expensive option.

I evaluate vegetables in the same way. For me, this usually means purchasing a large amount of a particular vegetable to blanch and freeze (such as broccoli and bell peppers), buying it already frozen on a seasonal sale (such as peas, which I usually buy in November on sale), or buying it canned on sale. Onions and winter squash are two things that I can buy on sale in the fall and keep for many months in my pantry. I usually look for onions to go on sale for .20 a pound, and winter squash for .79 a pound.  (I usually grow butternut squash in my garden instead of purchasing it, but this year and last year I haven't had a single squash grow).

Carrots are a vegetable that I can find for the same price all year round. I used to buy these at Sam's Club for .39 a pound in a 5 pound bag, until Sam's switched to organic carrots at .79 a pound in a 3 pound bag. At that point I started looking around again for a lower price on carrots. Winco ended up being the solution for me. They carry 2 pound bags at .44 a pound. On closer examination, I found that they carried 10 pound bags for .39 a pound. Ten pounds of carrots for $3.90 sure beats buying a pound of baby carrots for $1! I have found that at .39 a pound, we'll eat a lot more carrots, cut up for pasta salad, cut up for dip made with homemade Greek yogurt, and put in several soups, including Tomato Basil soup (which uses 10 carrots).

Lettuce is quite expensive per pound, which is why I think lettuce is one of the best crops to grow at home. In a week or so as the temperatures cool down, I'll be planting a fall crop of lettuce in my garden.

Pomegranates from my garden
Pomegranates, figs, apricots and blackberries are very expensive where I live. I don't purchase them at all. I only grow them in my garden (I have also gleaned pomegranates on three different occasions). The more produce I have in my garden, the lower my costs will be. This year I added 9 fruit trees to our garden. In the front yard, I added 3 Meyer lemons, an Early Elberta peach, a Katy apricot (this ripens 3-4 weeks earlier than the Royal Blenheim apricot in my backyard, which means I'll have fresh apricots twice), and a lime. On my back patio, I added two orange trees and a pomegranate in pots. The pomegranates above are from this new tree.

What produce do you buy more often because it is less expensive per pound? Do you grow the more expensive items in your garden?

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Swiss chard soup The Prudent Homemaker
Swiss Chard (Silverbeet) Soup

This tip works regardless of where you live. This last week I've received letters from women in Denmark, Brazil, and Australia. I know that not all of the things that I am doing to keep my grocery bill as low as possible will work everywhere in the world (buying in bulk, for instance), but this is a tip that works for everyone, in every country. It's something that has been done for thousands of years.

The tip is simple: Eat more soup! Not just once in a while. Having soup once a day really helps us to keep our grocery bill down.

There are all kinds of soups, including very expensive soups, but the least expensive soups are the ones I strive to put on the table at my house.

Chicken Noodle Soup

Most of them are meatless. If they do have meat, it is a very small amount, and I serve those soups less often.

Soups can be cold or hot. They can be made ahead of time and you can eat from them for several meals. If you're single, a large pot of soup might be your lunch for the week. If you want variety, you can freeze several servings of the soup to pull out for a quick meal for another day.

Minestrone Soup The Prudent Homemaker
Minestrone Soup

Most days, our lunch is where we have soup. It's easiest for me to start a pot of soup in the morning while I'm making breakfast for us to have at lunch. This is the beauty of soup as well: it can cook while you're doing something else. You can make a batch of soup while you're preparing another meal, and it can cook while you do something else (like make bread!)

Pea Soup

"But Brandy, wasn't it 105º at your house today? I don't want to make soup when it's hot outside!"

We had soup for lunch today anyway. Of course, when the weather is colder soup is more welcomed. Perhaps for your family, you will find that you can serve soup every day when it's colder and everyone will be thrilled (especially if you make homemade bread to go with it!) In the springtime, I can serve soup with a salad from the garden. Occasionally, we'll have soup with a sandwich, which usually means I'll have leftover soup for another meal.

There are days when we have leftovers for lunch and soup for dinner.

And while we don't always have it every day, it's on the menu at least 4 times a week, and often more. I find that when I get away from having soup as often, the cost of our menus rises significantly. Soup is the best solution for quickly lowering our costs.

Tuscan Tomato Soup
Tuscan Tomato Bread Soup

If you're looking for a few low-cost soups, check out my soups page.

See how I incorporate soups into our fall menu (and our spring menu, for those of you who are reading from the other hemisphere!)

I'd like to take this opportunity to announce that my recipe for Swiss chard soup is now available on my website! You can find it here.

What are your favorite frugal soups?

(We're not talking about lobster bisque here! Make sure they're inexpensive.) Share the soups that cost you very little to make! You can post links to some of your favorites in your comments.

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I've had several emails lately asking me about potatoes. Readers have written in to say that they are not seeing potatoes for .10 a pound; they are seeing them for .40 -.50 a pound, and they are wondering how I get them for so little.

The answer is simple: I buy them for that price in season.

It's not potato season right now.

I generally buy several hundred pounds of potatoes on sale in November, when they are on sale for .10 a pound. I watch and wait for that price. I will see them on sale for that price a few more times, and then I'll buy more. In the middle of summer I don't buy potatoes; they're four times as much and the quality is bad, because this is what is left of last year's potato harvest.

Modern day grocery stores tend to offer everything all year long, but that doesn't mean that it is the right season for those items. If they're not in season, they're being shipped from somewhere else, which means the costs go up, and the flavor goes down, because they are picked slightly under ripe in order to get to the stores in time. If you're buying grapes in the middle of winter, they're coming from the other side of the equator. They're going to be mostly tasteless, and they're going to be four times the cost of grapes in season.

Watch your local grocery ads within that season for the lowest price, and when it gets down to that price, stock up! Can, freeze, and dehydrate what is in season. You'll have the tastiest fruits and vegetables to use throughout the year at the lowest prices.

Some things are easy to keep for months if you have the refrigerator space. Apples, oranges , and grapefruit will keep for months in your refrigerator. (Not all varieties of apples last real long off the tree; some can last months and others need to be eaten right away, so watch which apples you have and if they need to be eaten faster than you can eat them, make applesauce with them and can it).

Think long-term when the lowest prices come around. Don't think just about how much produce your family will eat that week. Think about how much of that item your family eats in a month or a year. Then purchase the amount you need for the year. This will yield the largest savings for your family in the long run.

For many years, I have canned peaches and pears in August. I would buy them at the store when they went on sale and can what my family needed. Our trees were tiny, so I was still buying most of our fruit. (This year I planted a second Early Elberta peach tree in the front yard to provide more peaches for our family in the years to come).

Usually peaches and pears are ripe within a few weeks of one another. In August of 2009, however, they were ripe in the same week. Peaches were on sale for .49 a pound, and pears were .59 a pound. (Prices vary by year and the farmer's crops; in later years peaches are more and pears have been as low as .25 a pound).

I went to the store on the first day of the sale, which is a Wednesday where I live. I asked the produce manager to order in more boxes of fruit for me. I go the first day of the sale. The delivery came two days later on Friday. When I went it to pick up my delivery, the produce manager helped me by bringing the boxes of fruit to the register. I bagged a few more pounds of peaches as well to add to my total. The boxes are each a specific weight, so the cashier was able to weigh my bagged peaches and type in the weights for the boxed peaches and pears. (I highly recommend having the produce manager write the amount on the box and coming up to the register with you; some stores will question paying for a whole box of fruit and the cashier will wonder about ringing it up, even though they just have to type in the weight and the code. Leaving it in the box helps you avoid bruising).

That day I bought 324 pounds of peaches and 144 pounds of pears. My total was $243.72 for 468 pounds of in-season produce. The receipt said that my savings (over buying that fruit at regular price) was over $1000! The cashier had to get the manager to override it because the savings was so high.

That week I did a lot of canning.

165 quarts peaches
7 quarts peach nectar
46 quarts pears
1 quart pear sauce
5 pints pear sauce
35 half-pints of pear sauce (for baby food)
8 4 ounce jars of pear sauce (also for baby food)

I don't always can things.

When oranges go on sale, I fill the refrigerator drawers (both of them) and the bottom shelf of the fridge with oranges. (Remember, too, that with 9 people, we eat 9 oranges every time we sit to eat oranges, so a whole bag of oranges doesn't last long. We were blessed with a second refrigerator/freezer (a side by side) for free last year, so I now fill that with oranges in season, too.) Oranges usually go on sale for .99 a pound, but I look for prices around .35 a pound (that happen only once or twice during orange season) and then I buy half a cart full of oranges.

Earlier this year I found a deal on green peppers at Winco. Wincos prices change daily; that day they actually changed by noon (my mom went back to get some two hours later and they had changed the price). They had green bell peppers for .10 each. That is not a normal sale price for here--that is something amazing that I have never seen before! I bought 65--I spent $6.50.

At home, I washed them, and I cut them into slices. I put a silicone baking mat down on a cookie sheet and I put the slices on the top, not touching each other. I then put the sheet into the freezer.

Once the slices were frozen, I transferred them to freezer bags. Because they were frozen individually, I can get out just how many I need to throw in a stir fry or to use for fajitas.

I did this same thing earlier this year with broccoli crowns. They were at an amazing price, so I bought half a cart full.

I brought it home and cut it up. I rinsed it and then I blanched it. If you have never blanched vegetables, the process is simple: You drop the vegetables in boiling water for 45 seconds, and then you transfer them to an ice bath (I used a dishpan of ice water next to the stove). When they are cooled, drain them. When they are dry, freeze them individually (i.e., not touching) on the silicone baking mat on a cookie sheet.

If you don't garden, eating seasonally can seem like a mystery. What are the seasons for different things?

The answer varies by location. Strawberries are is season in Florida in February, in Southern California in March, and in New York in June.  I have a large number of readers in Australia who are going to have completely different months for everything. Blackberries ripen in my garden in May, but my readers in England won't be picking them until fall. Where you live plays a huge part on when items are ripe.

I found a great list here by season that can give you some ideas. Watch the ads in your area, and you'll come to know when the fruits and vegetables you buy at their peak, which is also when they are at the lowest price.

When it comes time to pack a lunch for your children this winter, you can put in a lidded container with canned peaches that you purchases for .49 a pound. You can put in oranges several times over a few months with oranges that you purchased on sale. You can make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with homemade jam, or send a turkey salad sandwich with apples that you bought in the fall for .79 a pound and kept for several months in the refrigerator and some sprouts that you grew in your own kitchen that week.

What is ripe where you are at right now? What produce do you buy in large quantities to save money for the year?

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Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Part Six: Glean

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Gleaning is the ancient way of providing for the poor. After the workers had picked the fields, the poor could go in and pick after them. The workers were also to let anything that fell stay where it fell, which the poor could then pick up.


How do you glean today?

Look and Ask:

Look for fruit trees in your neighborhood (or in neighborhoods that you pass) that are hanging full of fruit, and where fruit is dropping underneath. You may see them over a wall or fence as you drive by. Knock on the door and ask if you can pick the fruit. Chances are, the person living there will be happy to have someone use it.

Craig's List:

Look on Craig's list and Freecycle for offers of free fruit. One of my readers cans hundreds of jars of fruits and jams each year just from fruit that she gleans that she has found on Craig's list. She also puts out ads on Craig's list, looking for free fruit. She has been contacted by people this way as well who don't want to eat the fruit from their trees and would love for it to be used.

Friend of a Friend:

Let people know that you are looking to pick fruit. I have found most of my fruit this way. Other people have friends and acquaintances who have fruit trees, and those people don't want all of the fruit from the trees. I have found a lot of fruit this way.

When you go to pick, bring a ladder and something to put your fruit into. I prefer to bring handled baskets that can hang over my arm while I am picking. Be sure to pick up and dispose of any rotting fruit that has fallen while you are there, as a courtesy to the person who has allowed you to pick.

Glean in a Field:

After dropping off her children at an out-of state university, my sister-in-law drove past a farmer's field. He had closed his farm stand the week before, but frost had not yet hit his fields. My sister-in-law could see plenty of food still left on the vines.

She knocked and asked the farmer if she could pick the food that the farmer was leaving to rot in his fields. He was reluctant at first, but then agreed to allow her to pick. She filled the back of her pickup truck with tomatoes (green and red), cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon. She said that despite that, the field was still full of food, and it hurt her to leave behind so much. She brought the food home and shared it with her family and friends.

There are other ways to glean, too, that are different than just picking fruit, and that can involve more than produce.

Join a Gleaning Group:

There are groups that gather expired and blemished food from grocery stores and restaurants and make it available to others. These groups may ask for a regular fee to join, or ask for a donation to help cover the cost of gas that is incurred while picking up food.

They are not easy to find, and with good reason. I have seen several groups that I know of end completely, and sources choose to throw the food out and no longer donate it because of the abuse of others in one of the many gleaning groups that pick up. Abuses have included returning expired food and asking for fresh, stealing items from the gleaning location, and selling the food. These abuses have completely closed down avenues of food for the needy to all of that store's groups. Because of this, groups are quiet and hard to find. I have benefited from getting food in this way, but I have seen avenue after avenue close up because of this as well. The group I belonged to quit existing 4 times; once because of theft, once because someone complained, and for the other two reasons that I mentioned above. If you are receiving food in a gleaning group, be grateful. Know that the food is expired and some, if not much of it, will be bad. Cut around the bad spots on the fruits and vegetables, throw out anything that is no longer good, and don't take advantage. Do not steal from the location where you are gleaning; only take the food that has been offered and nothing else. Be quiet about your group, so that stores will want to continue to give.

Some people are picking up for their own animals, and taking anything good for their families. Mavis at One Hundred Dollars a Month writes about how she does this. You can see the quality of food that she receives in her photographs. That is pretty typical of what a gleaning group receives (however, the corn she considered unacceptable would be pretty normal at a gleaning group, and the bad spots can be removed, while the rest can be eaten).

Gleaning groups often pick up expired bread, blemished produce, dented cans, and various odds and ends. Each group has different resources and different opportunities.

Say Yes:

When an offer of free food comes your way, accept it. If someone calls and says, "I have all of these leftovers from a huge party we had and we can't eat them all before they go bad; would you like some?"--say yes. If you're at a church event or a party and someone asks if you would like to take home some leftovers, say yes. One reader mentioned that she was worried what others would think of her if she said yes to the leftovers, so she said no. The leftover food was promptly thrown in the trash, since no one said they wanted it. After that, she said that she always said yes.

Gleaning often means changing your schedule to accommodate picking, canning, and freezing that day. An offer to glean can't wait; fruit will go bad. Being willing to glean will change your day or the next couple of days, depending on the amount of food that you glean.

Even though I live in the desert and very few people garden here, I have still found fruit to glean. I have gleaned apricots, peaches, apples, figs, grapes, and pomegranates. (If you go to glean pomegranates, wear long sleeves, even if it's hot out. Wear gloves and take a pair of pruning shears or strong scissors to cut the fruit off of the vines.)

Do take into consideration the cost of gas involved in going to glean. I was offered the chance to glean from 3 apricot trees earlier this year. I was very excited--until I learned that the trees were 45 minutes away. The cost of gas there and back did not make it worth my while. Likewise, I have passed on many opportunities to pick up from my gleaning group when the gas is too much for me to justify the drive. Unless you're coming out ahead, gleaning can cost you more in gas than you receive in free food.

Have you gleaned food? What resources have you found for finding food?

Tagged in: 40 Cents a Day
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If you have a garden space, are you using it to the best advantage possible?

I have a .24 acre lot. Most of my garden is behind the house. In that space, up until January of this year, I had 35 fruit trees, most of which are semi-dwarf varieties, and 40% of which are espaliered trees. My trees are of several different types so that I can have fruits ripening over many months.

One wall is covered in grape vines.

Another wall (not covered by espaliered trees) has a 1 foot wide planting space, and it is covered with blackberry vines.

I grow my tomatoes up in cages that are 5 and 6 feet tall.

I grow herbs under my citrus trees.

I know that I could still do more.

This year, I added several more blackberry bushes, including along two walls where there were none.

I added 4 large pots to my patio. I planted a pomegranate and two semi-dwarf Washington Navel oranges. The fourth pot will be planted with another fruit tree (most likely pomegranate) this fall.

I was able to redo my small front yard recently, which was previously rocks, a patch of grass, some bushes and a tree. Into that area I added 5 fruit trees, including 3 semi-dwarf Meyer lemons that will be grown as a hedge, a lime, an Early Elberta peach, and I will plant the fifth tree, a Katy apricot, as soon as possible.

The front yard will also include chamomile and caraway (grown between other white flowers). Parsley, basil, white pumpkins, sage, French tarragon, and white strawberries will line the walkway to the house. In the fall and winter, lettuce will line the walkway.

Cucumbers, garlic chives, alpine strawberries and oregano have been planted under the lemon trees.  A passionfruit vine will grow on a trellis on the house. I also planted Swiss chard and will be planting more strawberries.

Despite all this, I know I can still do more to increase productivity in my garden.

Here are some things to consider to harvest more from your garden:

1. Address the shade issue

Can shade trees be removed to make more sunny garden space? If not, can limbs be trimmed to allow for more sun in the garden below?

If you have a large property and want lots of shade, and haven't planted a garden yet, look for edible trees that will also produce shade. Here in the desert, good choices for edible shade trees include figs, pistachios, and almonds. Nut trees of all kinds are great shade trees. Semi-dwarf fruits will also provide shade without being quite as tall.

2. Grow semi-dwarf and dwarf varities of fruit trees

Left to right: Dorsett Golden Apple, Desert Gold Peach, 20th Century Asian Pear (espaliered on wall), Mission Fig, Pomegranate, Green Gage Plum, Early Elberta peach (near blossoms).

A semi-dwarf tree yields earlier than a full-sized tree. In addition, you can fit 5 semi-dwarf trees in the space when you would grow one full-sized tree.

Blackberries, Mission figs, Green Gage Plums, and Royal Apriocts

3. Grow different varieties of fruit

I have two kinds of peaches in my garden: Desert Gold and Early Elberta. Desert Gold (a low-chill type)  requires less chilling hours than Early Elberta (a mid-chill type), which means it ripens sooner. I pick Desert Gold peaches in May and Early Elbertas in July.


Apricots The Prudent Homemaker

I am planting a Katy apricot in the front yard, which ripens 3-4 weeks earlier than the Royal Bleinheim that is growing in my backyard.

Dorsett Golden Apple and Poppies The Prudent Homemaker

I have several different types of apples. Dorsett Golden apples are considered a "no-chill" variety. They are the very first tree to blossom in my garden in February, and they are ripe at the end of June/beginning of July. In warmer climates they can double and even triple crop! I also have several other types of apples that are ripe throughout the rest of the year.

Speaking of double cropping, Mission figs are wonderful for this. They actually try to triple crop here but are always halted at our first frost, which is typically in December (it can be anywhere from November 15th to December 15th). I already picked from these once, and they are growing again. Figs are amazing in that they fruit without flowering, which is a great help when it's too hot for bees to leave the hive.

4. Grow up

So many things can grow on a trellis. A trellis can be attached to a wall or a fence, or even be a trellis in the back of a growing box (a great use of space for those growing on a balcony).

Some things to grow vertically:

apples, pears, and quince as espaliered trees (these can also be grown cordoned as a fence, or grown as hedges)

Grapes The Prudent Homemaker

5. Grow grapes

Grapes love full sun. They'll even grow in the 118º heat which the extra reflected heat of a cinder block wall behind them. There are types that will grow in a U.S. zone 3, types that do well in the rainy and cool Pacific Northwest, and types that grow in the desert. Find out what types grow best where you live.

I really feel that grapes are one of the best things I have planted in my garden. What we cannot eat fresh can be frozen or made into grape juice.

Grape leaves are edible and can be used to make stuffed grape leaves. They are also wonderful in soup.

6. Plant a fall garden

Most people think of spring and summer as gardening weather. If you're not growing a fall garden, you could be getting a whole other harvest from your garden.

You don't have to live in a temperate climate to grow a fall garden.

Swiss chard (silverbeet)

Fall gardens are great for all of the things you would grow in spring, including lettuce and spinach. If you cloche your plants, you can also extend the harvest. Some plants, like Swiss chard, even grow when it's colder; Swiss chard will grow to 15º F, and can overwinter in colder areas if cloched.

To read more about cloching plants, read my post here.

For detailed information about growing a fall garden read my post here.

Territorial Seed Company (based in the Pacific Northwest) just published a great fall/winter planting guide.

Mavis at One Hundred Dollars a Month wrote a fantastic post on planting a fall garden. She's in Washington state.

I've mentioned Eliot Coleman before. He gardens year-round in Maine using a greenhouse. He has written several books on the subject:  Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long,  The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses and The Four Season Farm Gardener's Cookbook.

7. If at first you don't succeed, try again!

If the bugs and birds eat your seedlings, plant again. If a disease wipes out your crop, try again.

It may be that you can plant the same thing in the same spot. It may be that it is later in the season, and now you have to plant something else in that space, or that you need to use that space for a fall crop. Don't waste the space you have. Grow something!

April Garden Nasturiums 2 The Prudent Homemaker

8. Plant an edible landscape

Our garden surrounds our grass on three sides. We still have a place for the children to run and play, but every bed around includes food. All of the trees in the backyard produce fruit.

The front yard will also be an edible landscape when the seeds all grow in.

I've written more about our backyard edible landscape here.

Check out this book for several ideas on landscaping with fruit: Landscaping With Fruit: Strawberry ground covers, blueberry hedges, grape arbors, and 39 other luscious fruits to make your yard an edible paradise.

I also have an edible landscaping board on Pinterest.

9. Increase your garden space

If you have a small raised bed, look into adding more. Don't limit yourself to just one small garden. If you have areas of grass, consider changing some of that to garden space.

Don't forget the front yard! It is part of the space that you have. Our non-edible front yard has been wasted space for many years. I am so grateful that we were able to change it this year, to be a source of beauty as well as food. Because it is an edible landscape, it won't be obvious to the neighbors that I'm growing food.

10. Grow more of what costs the most

If you want to make the most of your garden, make sure to grow things that cost the most at the store.

Lettuce, Swiss chard, herbs, and blackberries are things that really give me the best return on my money. Lettuce, Swiss chard, and herbs can all be grown in containers, too!

What do you think you could add to your garden to make it more productive?

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