Saving Money by Canning and Pickling


 Over the weekend, during Hurricane Irene, I took some time to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a while- pickle peppers!

As many of you know, I planted a garden this year. I recently wrote an update on it here. One of my favorite foods is jalapeno peppers and I normally buy them at the store for around $3 a jar. If I have a coupon or they are on sale, I might get a better deal, but I go through about a jar a month. So, this year I planted two of my own jalapeno pepper plants and one banana pepper plant. I was amazed at how much these little plants grew and produced! They grew so easily and apparently the more you pick them, the more they grow! I placed them in a flower bed at the front of my house and as a bonus, they have added color and beauty to our yard. Had I known how well they grow I would have planted more and I certainly will next year.

So, the day before the hurricane hit, I had my son go out and pick all the peppers. He picked probably 25-30. I already had jars from the Ball jar company (they give out coupons each summer and I got them on sale at Harris Teeter). I had vinegar, water and sugar, which is all you need. I had never done this before so I looked up a video on Youtube to guide me through the process. Here it is below:

I followed all the steps, which I will list at the bottom of the post. It was easier than I thought and when I finished, I had a whole jar full of peppers! I was too thrilled. I have to wait a week before they are ready for eating, but I want to show you the finished product:

I can’t wait to add these to some tacos! Another bonus is that each pepper has tons of seeds inside, so I look forward to saving some of them to plant next year. I only had two plants and will probably be able to pick enough peppers for at least one more jar, possibly two. I get excited thinking about how much I will save next year by planting more pepper plants, enough for at least 12 jars.

I chose to pickle these peppers, but you could can almost any fruit or veggie to preserve it to use later, so keep that in mind as well. Tomatoes are a great example of something you could can to use in recipes later on. The directions for canning are a little different from pickling and I think it’s slightly more work to can veggies, but if you have a bountiful harvest, I think the effort is worth it.

If you aren’t into peppers, here are some other veggies that pickle- cucumbers, zucchini, cabbage and carrots. I have heard you can pickle pretty much anything, provided you like the pickled flavor!

Saving on Veggies? Grow a Garden!

My first garden!

Since this blog is about cutting one’s grocery bill by 50% or more, I had to bring up the idea of gardening to save on fruits and veggies.

I recall buying a four pack of tomatoes about a month and a half ago. Not only did we only eat one tomato before they went bad, but we also paid $5 for the pack! I was so upset thinking of the waste there. I decided to grow some tomato plants as a way of saving money on tomatoes AND having fresh tomatoes right off the vine when we wanted them.

Of course, when I went seed shopping I didn’t just stop at tomatoes. I ended up buying seeds for all the following: zucchini, basil, rosemary, strawberries, corn, green beans, cilantro, green onions, and peppers! I got my seeds at WalMart back in the spring for $1 a pack, which was a great deal, considering that each packet had 15-30 seeds in it. Imagine if I planted each seed and if every bush yielded 30-40 veggies! I would have way more vegetables than I could handle!

My father gave me the idea of planting the garden right outside of our kitchen, in front of our front patio. His idea was worth it’s weight in gold because it’s so easy to care for the garden since we pass it multiple times each day. I can’t tell you how often I’ve been walking by and decided to stop and water my plants because one might have looked a little droopy or pull a weed here or there. Out of sight, out of mind, right? If the garden had been in the back yard, it definitely wouldn’t have gotten the attention that it has.

I planted most seeds in April, so we’re now starting to get small zucchinnis, green beans, and green tomatoes. It’s been so exciting! My children (4 and 2) absolutely love the garden and help me tend it. We also planted zinnias in the front for added beauty. Even my husband, who initially was a little perplexed by my desire for a garden, has told me how much he enjoys seeing it everyday. He mentioned how he read that growing a garden was one of the longevity tips for living a long life in a book he had read.

What I love about this is the value. We have spent so little on the garden. We paid for the seeds, three bags of black cow compost (this stuff is amazing and only about $5 a bag), and a botttle of miracle grow concentrate. Beyond that, we use what we have. It’s neat to think of all the vegetables we will be getting for that amount that we spent (compared to buying them in the store) AND they are fresher! We picked two strawberries yesterday and they were unbelieveably sweet and soft. Nothing I have ever bought in the store can compare. A few weeks ago we used fresh basil in my husband’s spaghetti. It was so neat to pick it, roll it, cut it, and throw it in the pot. As a bonus, it smells great!

I did this post to inspire others to consider a garden. You can even plant in pots- you don’t have to have a lot of land. Also, you could just start by planting the vegetable that you buy most. If you eat a lot of tomatoes, maybe just do one or two tomato plants.

Below are some photos of the garden. I plan to update as it gets bigger and better! I will let you know when we finally harvest something!

March 2011- The spot we chose for our garden. Former home of three dead azalea bushes!

My son, staring at the task ahead.
April 2011- Veggies are coming in.

Zinnias in front of the corn and beans. They help attract useful pollinating insects like bees and butterflies.
Strawberries coming in.
A huge pot of basil and zucchinni plant blossoming.
Green tomatoes- too bad I don’t like them fried!
Banana peppers in a flower bed in the front of my house for color.
These jalapenos will taste great on tacos!
Flowering green beans- they were so pretty. Now here come the beans!

I hope that I have inspired someone to grow their own garden!