Last night we had a bi-partite dinner: Mr. FS ate the remains of black bean and pumpkin soup, while I had roasted vegetables and feta with bread. Mr. FS's dinner consisted of the leftovers of a soup by Rachael Ray and others that I had long been wanting to try. It is so healthy and sounded so good. Readers, we hated it. So if you want to try it, you can search for it on the internet yourself.
The soup was an example of how pantry cooking can save you money: its main ingredients were a can of pumpkin (25 cents!) and a can of black beans (40 cents!). Both came from my overstuffed pantry.
My dinner came from the overstuffed freezer. Mr. FS has mixed success with gardening and we usually have an oversupply of two vegetables and the tragic deaths of many others. For the last two years, our summer oversupply has been of eggplant and peppers midway between mild and hot. Mr. FS--braving the heat of the oven in our oven-like climate--bakes the eggplant and peppers with some onions and--sometimes--canned tomatoes (our tomatoes are long gone by late summer). He freezes this concoction in ziplock bags and we eat it through the winter.
That's what I ate last night. My entire meal took no time to put together and it was delicious, especially since I sprinkled the bread with olive oil.
That meal was an example of how a garden can save you money. What did I mean when I added "Not the Way You Think"? Well, most efforts to deal with the gardening and frugality issue eventually come down to ascertaining the value of the vegetables you produce. Some bloggers painstakingly weigh their produce and assign it a value, based on market prices. Then they have to sadly admit that gardening does not save much money, because all that work, not to mention money for seeds and other stuff, doesn't really pay a decent "hourly wage."
I measure the value in another way. In addition to the frozen concoction, we have lots of greens in the winter. Right now, we have chard and kale. I seldom buy vegetables in the grocery store. I plan my meals around what I have.
The concoction lends itself to many cuisines. Plain, it is a ratatouille; with feta, it becomes Greek; with coconut milk and curry paste it becomes Thai; with soy sauce, sesame oil, etc, it becomes Asian. For the Thai and Asian versions, you can add shrimp or chicken or whatever. You can add sausage and make a pasta sauce. You can make it Indian and serve with dal (NOT cooked in your rice cooker).
As for the greens: eat braised with whatever; eat braised at room temp with lemon (from our tree!); add to soups of all nations; put in stir-fry, and so forth.
Need I say that we don't get tired of our vegetables: how could we?
As for saving money, I have long spent only around $50.00 a week on food. Now that my children are elsewhere, I have to admit the amount is too high. My cupboards are overstuffed, as is my freezer. A while back I decided to limit myself to around $25.00/week for food to force me to use up my oversupply. I'm at around 10 weeks and I still have a lot left.
People marvel at my grocery budget. The "secret" is three-fold: stock up on staples when prices are low; eat what you have; and learn how to cook.
I think, then, that my garden saves money, not because we end up with $XX.XX worth of kale, but because we use the kale and don't buy other produce. The proof is in what we spend, not in what we save.
And, of course, not driving to the store very much saves on gas. More green(s)!
Leaving you, dear Readers, with some famous lines from a famous poem about "that happy garden state":
Meanwhile the mind, from pleasure less,
Withdraws into its happiness :
The mind, that ocean where each kind
Does straight its own resemblance find ;
Yet it creates, transcending these,
Far other worlds, and other seas ;
Annihilating all that's made
To a green thought in a green shade.
For the rest of the poem, check out the wonderful Luminarium.