I picked the first tomato from our garden last week and oh boy, was it delicious. It was a bright red sun gold from a plant that I grew from a seed. And not only that, but it was from a seed that I saved from a sun gold tomato I grew in last year’s garden.
If you told me last year that I would be able to grow tomatoes, keep them alive, save their seeds, plant those seeds and keep the seedlings alive long enough to harvest from those plants the next year, I would have laughed.
But our garden is thriving despite my fear that I’d kill everything. I’m not the best gardener, but I’m learning, and every day when I come home to discover another ripe blueberry, or a group of bees pollinating the zucchini, I am so thankful that nature has a way of thriving despite my presence. I am even thankful for our mint, which is out of control and now trying to escape through the cracks in the raised bed.
The best part of having our garden that thrives is that we get to eat what comes out of it. A ripe tomato straight from the garden is one of my favorite foods. Store-bought tomatoes pale (often literally) in comparison to how sweet and juicy a freshly-picked tomato is. I try very hard not to buy tomatoes when they are out of season because inevitably I am disappointed. Thankfully, salsa is available year-round, so I can get my tomato fix no matter the season.
Another benefit of our garden is that it can save us money. Of course the construction costs of building our garden drive up the per unit cost of those tomatoes and zucchinis, but that comes from a separate budget line item, so when we get to pick something from the garden instead of buy it, it leaves us a little more wiggle room.
Josh and I work hard to keep our household budget on track every month, and one of the ways we do that is by is by sticking to a slim grocery budget. We made some changes to our diet a few years ago that have helped us cut down on our food budget. Now that we have a garden that is producing a steady flow of vegetables, we’re hopeful that we can lower our budget even more (at least for the summer months).
Over the last five years, food has become a main topic of conversation for me, despite the fact that most find it extremely boring. But those conversations have led to opportunities to educate others about the importance of eating a healthy diet that is less harmful to the environment, which I am passionate about. One of those opportunities was our company’s skill share event, where I gave a presentation about how to eat healthy, local food on a tight budget. I got such a positive response that I thought it was worth sharing with you too.
I know the word sustainable is thrown around so much that the actual meaning is often lost, but in this case, it’s used literally. The way we plan our meals, shop and prepare is easily maintainable over time.
So if you have been looking for ways to plan meals for your family that are healthy, low cost and easy, I recommend that you check out my presentation (link in photo caption). It includes our budget breakdown, strategies and tips, where we shop, gadgets we use, meal inspiration resources and a sample menu.
As we harvest more from our garden, I also plan on providing a budget breakdown to see exactly how much money our garden has saved us on groceries. So far, it hasn’t been too much, but we have about 100 tomatoes and tomatillos that we should be able to harvest in the next few weeks. And with a retail value of $3.50 per pound or more at the farmers market, those plants are practically worth their weight in gold!