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Fabulous Produce you can grow for pennies!


When it comes to grocery shopping, few things shove your budget over the edge like fresh produce.  Even with disciplined shopping, items like salad fixings and fresh fruit can add $50/week (or more) to a family’s budget.  With warm weather here to stay (hear that, warm weather? You’re here to stay, right?), it’s the perfect time to think about trying some easy-to-grow vegetables for this summer. Not only are the latest generation of seeds easy to grow, they’re also going to slash your food budget by hundreds of dollars by summer’s end.   Photo: www.sunset.com


What plants top the “hard to kill” list? You’re going to love this.


(1) Herbs: Start with basil, and add some oregano if you’d like. These types of herbs are easily grown, smell divine, and are fabulous when used fresh. Important side note: when fresh basil is hand-chopped and generously sprinkled over an overly-cooked chicken dish (read: charred), it looks much more gourmet. Just sayin’.


(2) Tomatoes:  Personally, I only eat these things when they’re pureed, boiled down, spiced up and thrown on top of a bowl of pasta.  However, my husband loves them chopped up with olive oil and fresh basil, and I love the brag-worthiness of putting a dish down in front of him and saying “Oh, it was nothing, I just got it from the garden!”.  I’m hearing fabulous feedback from people who have tried the tomato plants that hang upside down near their windows. If you’re at all unsure about your gardening skills, try one of those tomato gizmos and let me know what you think.


(3) Lettuce: Have you seen the price of lettuce lately? Lordy. On the flip side, have you ever tried lettuce grown in your own garden?  It’s fabulous!  We’re talking easy gourmet varieties that work beautifully in any climate – check with neighbors (or store personnel) to see what they recommend.


(4) Bell Peppers: These tasty little colorful guys cost me an arm and a leg at the supermarket. There’s nothing like growing a row or two from Berries photo: www.themedifastplan.cominexpensive seeds right at your own home. It’s incredibly inexpensive, and I’ve found that all of the ones I don’t use immediately freeze superbly in a Ziploc bag year round.  The only thing better than eating a garden-fresh bell-pepper stir fry in July is eating a home-grown bell pepper stir-fry next January!


(5) Berries: My favorite fruit of all time. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries – throw them in a bowl, cover them with a tasteful smidge of whipped cream, and I’m so in my happy place.  Sure, you can find the occasional sale on these beauties, but imagine the thrill of putting a couple of inexpensive berry bushes in your own garden and enjoying them year after year! These lovely fruits also fall into the “freezes beautifully” category.  What’s not to love? You can find them in most (if not all) of the garden departments at your local home improvement warehouses, as well as at your big box warehouse stores.


Final Note: As the economy struggles ever-valiantly to regain its footing, our local food banks have never been in so much need.  Hard working families are finding it’s the difference between having a decent meal on the table, and going without.  With that in mind, think about planting one extra row and donating the proceeds to your local food pantry, like the Chester County Food Bank in Downingtown (www.chestercountyfoodbank.org).


If you think it feels great to feed your own family with produce fresh from your own garden, imagine how great it would feel to help others in need as well, for just pennies.


Frugal On!


Kristen Hagopian is a Syndicated Radio Talk Show Host & Columnist, Consumer Reporter and Author of “Brilliant Frugal Living”.  She lives in Chester County with her husband and two kids.  “The Kristen Hagopian Show” airs on Philly’s News/Talk 1180 WFYL on Saturdays and Sundays.  You can find her online at www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

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Herb photo: sunset.com
Berries photo: www.themedifastplan.com