It’s been a while since my last garden update so I thought I would write up a quick one today even though my garden is in pretty bad shape. It looks like my last garden update was in April of 2022. Every year I think […]
September was an expensive month for us as far as groceries go. All of our stock up trips seemed to happen this September and that caused our grocery total to be higher than usual. We also have been trying to eat healthier which of course […]
Welcome to the end of April when our garden starts to take off. We have been celebrating the emergence of our asparagus and planted many flowers and I am super excited for the summer when all of our plants start taking off. I am still working on getting my large garden beds in but hope to have them done by the end of this week. I put them on hold for a bit trying to get fence quotes but so far I am having a very difficult time getting people to even show up which is super disappointing. I thought I would do a brief overview of what’s happening in the garden right now.
Earlier this month the kids and I went to Lowes and picked up some flowers so they could make new fairy gardens. Our neighbors are moving and they gifted us some large pots which the kids very enthusiastically planted. We add flowers every year to their pots but their old ones have been taken over by the hens and chicks they planted several years ago so it was time for new ones.
This year is the first year my son has really gotten into gardening with me and he took it upon himself to finish planting all of my flowers. He did an excellent job of it in a section of the garden that was pretty bare. He even planted seeds which will hopefully sprout. I am not sure how deep they were planted but I always love to see my kids embracing gardening and taking ownership of part of the yard.
A friendly gnome showed up in the kids’ hideout mysteriously one day and they have taken great delight in moving him about to “surprise” everyone the next day. Everyone is in on the joke and it motivates the kids to go outside for a bit. Their hideout under the Hydrangeas hasn’t quite grown over yet but they have been enjoying it nonetheless.
All of our brassicas are blooming right now. They overwintered well despite the snow and freezing temperatures and I have left them to bloom for the bees. I haven’t seen a lot of bees yet this year but it is still pretty cold at night and we usually don’t see a lot of them until May. I did however find a Bumble Bee nest next to my vegetable patch and I am super excited about that!
I started planting out some of my squash plants super early this year. They were damaged a little bit but I put covers on them and I am hoping they will do ok. I checked them today and they do look pretty good. Luckily the covers are tight enough that the slugs have so far not been able to get in there and eat them which is much better than last year when I lost most of my plants to slugs. I was also successful in getting some pea plants to sprout along one of my fence lines. So hopefully we will have a decent crop for the first part of the summer.
Both our apple and pear trees are beginning to bloom this week. I am hoping since they have been in the ground for about six years now that we will have a decent crop this year. I will need to cover the apples pretty soon to prevent the apple maggots that are so prevalent in our area from getting to our fruit. We had a particularly bad case of it last year and weren’t able to eat many of the apples we grew. Our apple tree is also not doing very well in general so I am not sure if we will eventually replace it or try to fix it more.
Of the hundred or so bulbs we planted last year only the ones in this pot did not get eaten. There are however more than I remember planting so I am not sure if they were split by our squirrels or I just am not remembering correctly. These are very beautiful and I am super happy that they survived. I may try tulips again next year in some of my garden beds since I am going to line the bottoms with hardware cloth to prevent the moles from digging up my vegetables. Tulips are very short lived though in terms of blossoms so I don’t know if I want to dedicate that much garden space to them.
Last weekend I also planted a bunch of marigolds I got from Costco and the rest of the seeds I started indoors in March. I haphazardly placed them in my existing beds which I don’t recommend but if they don’t end up growing very well I will replace them mid-summer with my fall crops. Here I planted Brussels sprouts and maybe cabbage. I also planted zucchini, spaghetti squash, melons and yellow squash in other beds and pots. I am realizing that I just don’t get enough light in the early spring so next year I may have to change my planting plans.
Thank you for reading our quick garden overview for April. Come find us on Instagram at Oscoeyzamph for more up to date garden pictures.
For 2022 we are really expanding our garden and possibly adding in some chickens later in the year. We are garden zone 8b in the Pacific Northwest located in the Seattle area. Our weather is wet a lot of the year and we have been […]
Hello spring! I am very excited for the garden this year. I have been out in it every day checking things out and seeing what is coming up. One of the beautiful things that has come out of our gardening over the past few years […]
For 2022 we are focusing on our grocery spending and trying to find ways to reduce it despite all of the price increases. In January we completed a pantry cleanout challenge and in February I focused on eating through the odds and ends in our freezer. Unfortunately we had some family issues come up in February that we are still dealing with at the end of March and I was not able to post our February spending. I may go back and post it later when I have time but at this point it might be too late. I did not worry about our grocery spending for the second half of February and the first part of March since I was swamped with taking care of my family member so our low spend goal went a little bit sideways.
Looking back at my January spending post we aimed to keep our groceries at about $800 a month which was reducing our spending down from about $1000 a month. We do not include items such as cleaning supplies, paper products, dog food and coffee in our total since I track these separately. We do not eat out ever and we have quite a few dietary restrictions which can be expensive. I started tracking our coffee separately at the beginning of the year since I was drinking so much of it and wanted a good baseline for it. I only track the beans we buy and when we go out for coffee, not the cream or milk that we put in it since we use those for other things as well. Recently I have reduced my consumption so it will be interesting to see at the end of the year how that plays out.
One expense besides groceries that has been increased lately is for our larger dogs. Luna (bottom) had some skin issues and required a couple of visits to the vet. We also needed to hire a trainer and buy tons of toys to keep their brains stimulated in different ways. For some reason I totally forgot some of the tricks we used for George (top) to keep him occupied during the teenage puppy months so it was super helpful to get some ideas for Luna. They plus our dachshund are now eating through about 40 pounds of dog food every 2.5 to 3 weeks which is insane to me. We switched them to one of the Kirkland brand foods and they seem to be doing ok on it which is great since it cut our dog food bill significantly. Even though we are experienced dog owners we have never owned a herding dog before and Luna has proved to be a challenge in ways our other dogs were not so we felt hiring a trainer to get through the next few months before she turns a year would be helpful and after one visit we are already seeing improvement.
For March my goal was to be at $625 for the whole month since we had inherited some food from a family member and we had stocked up in both January and February. What we actually ended up spending was….
Whoa. We really blew past our budget and then some. I looked back at what we bought and we ended up stocking up on some items that were on super sale that we eat a lot at Costco (gluten free supreme pizza I am talking to you), shelf-stable items our picky eater loves and that frequently go out of stock such as fruit leather, and pantry basics that I realized we were low on like oil, beans, spaghetti sauce and bread. Yup. We ate up most of the bread I bought in January and we had to do another bread run at the Franz Outlet. I also went through our emergency supplies and realized we had no canned vegetables or fruit so I bought enough for about a week. We are heading into spring and our garden will be in full swing in about a month or two so I am not as worried about having cans of veggies and fruit on hand. We have a ton of frozen blueberries, strawberries, peaches, broccoli, potatoes, peas and green beans in our freezer and my kids will not really eat canned food so I am hopeful that if we do have some sort of emergency without power we will be ok with just the few freeze dried cans I bought. If all else fails they can just have the dried fruit we have on hand and skip some of the veggies for a bit. I would much rather go without veggies for a week or two than have to use up a month or two’s supply of canned veggies every year but that’s just me.
At the moment our freezers are full and our pantry shelves have only a few spots where I suspect we will need to stock up either this month or the next so I am feeling pretty good. My goal for April is to keep our grocery spending under $600. It is a pretty tight goal but I would love to eat through some of our freezer again this month to make sure we are rotating through everything in a timely manner. I have some freezer meals we need to eat up, some meals I prepped for lunches and I would love to do an inventory mid-month when we have eaten through some of what we have to plan our spending for May.
I would also love to do a deep clean of our garage fridge which takes emptying most of it out to scrub everything down. I honestly have not really taken an inventory of what is in there since my husband uses parts of it to store things he has made which are never labeled. Maybe this month we can go through it together and clear out what needs to be tossed. We do have a crate of 90 eggs which my mother-in-law dropped off last week that need to be eaten before I can clean it though. I am not really sure what to do with all of those eggs, especially since we had just bought 5 dozen from Costco. I gave a dozen to our oldest daughter and I am toying with the idea of pickling two gigantic mason jars worth of eggs with some of the rest. We do eat a lot of eggs in our family but this is way to much for even us so I will most likely give some away on our local Buy Nothing group.
For now we will continue to eat through what we have and keep a running list of what we need as we avoid going to the store for as long as possible. We are trying to keep our expenses down in other areas as well and are taking cheap or free day trips over spring break instead of going on vacation. Last weekend we drove up to Deception Pass on Whidbey Island and had a wonderful time exploring Cranberry Lake. We packed lunches and had a great time. This trip cost us only about $20 total and most of that was from the ferry trip home where all passengers are free.
What are your grocery spending goals for April?
In January we attempted to do meal planning for the entire month and complete a pantry cleanout and eat through items in our freezer. Whew. It was a lot to keep track of and I am pretty proud of our progress. I was planning on […]
Whew. Another week of meal planning under our belt. We used up a lot of things this week from our pantry, fridge and freezer. We still have so many leftovers that we won’t really need to cook for the next few days but we are […]
This past year I realized we have fallen down a hole of eating not so healthy foods more often then we should. We totally fell off the bandwagon of both eating well and keeping our grocery costs down. The pandemic has really split our routine into many different parts. We now have to base our budget on whether or not the store has our food in stock, if the kids are home from school for a bit and whether our oldest daughter will be at our house. Since the oldest has moved out this has become less of an issue and she fully embraces scrounging for food whenever she stops by, and “shopping” our pantry but honestly now that she is on her own we don’t really worry about food costs for her any more.
We have also in the last couple of years had to adjust how we eat. We now have a nut allergies, gluten-free, vegetarian, and sensory preferences to account for and honestly we now have so many different foods for everyone that we have to keep on hand that we would be fine for at least a few weeks if we had some sort of emergency situation where we couldn’t go to the store as long as we have the right foods on hand. Our biggest issue is with our kid with food preferences since the rest of us are more flexible and will be ok with alternates. I am always worried the store will be out of one of their preferred foods and we will have to figure out a work around, which is not fun on a bad day. We did run into this over the summer when the correct dried fruit leather was nowhere to be found or beyond overpriced. Luckily fruit was in season so I was able to make some fruit leather on my own and that was an acceptable alternate. Phew…
A few years ago I wrote the below Meal Planning post in my first attempt at meal planning. Let’s just say, attempting to change our eating ways right before starting a new job was not one of my best ideas but it did make me think about how we can do better. Over the past six months or so I have been obsessively been watchin grocery haul, extreme grocery budget, freezer meal making and meal planning videos on YouTube and I have gotten tons of ideas. I especially love the videos where they make meals for a week from the a dollar store since there are so many people living in food deserts where Dollar Tree is the only grocery store around. I will link some of my favorites down below.
I thought we would take a stab at meal planning again this fall in an attempt to keep our costs down and create some organization to the chaos of our lives. As you can see, there are a lot of holes in my meal planner for November/December. The kids helped me with some of it and we instituted chicken nugget night for our selective eater so that with pizza night as well, they had at least two nights of the week that were predictable and dinner was something they liked. Most of the time the grownups eat chicken nuggets as well on Tuesdays but if there are extra leftovers I usually eat those instead since gluten-free chicken nuggets are really expensive and I am not a huge fan of fried food. We did run out of chicken nuggets a few weeks ago and it was predictably a disaster. Fish sticks were not an acceptable alternative and dinner was skipped that night. We now have chicken nuggets back in the freezer so hopefully we will not forget to get more next time we are low.
Our first month was definitely an adjustment and overall it went pretty well. I made a lot of dishes from my childhood such as steamed potatoes, cabbage and Kielbasa, tuna casserole and tater tot casserole (a huge hit with my daughters). There were a couple of nights where something else was made by my husband but we just adjusted and I pushed out the next night of cooking. I am hoping to be better about following the plan in the future though since it threw off our groceries and when we were using up things in the fridge.
We are mostly vegetarian and I am gluten-free so most family meals need to follow along those lines for us. One of the ways we did some light meal prepping was to hard boil about eight eggs and then eat them over the course of a few days for extra protein. We all love lentils so when we make them we usually eat them for dinner the first night and the kids have them for breakfast the next day. I bought some gigantic Spanish Queen olives from Costco last month. I am trying to eat fermented foods or olives every day and a great way for me to do that is to eat an olive with one or two meals a day. I love kimchi as well but we are currently out of it. We should probably make some more!
One way I have been trying to eat healthier is to eat vegetable soup a few times a week. Usually I put in greens from the garden, carrots, tomatoes, beans and whatever else I need to use up in the fridge. In September and November I made a bunch of veggie broth and put it in the freezer along with blanched greens from the garden. I have been using that to make soup every couple of weeks. I did however make a batch from the turkey broth we made from Thanksgiving which made the soup seem really rich to me after months of straight vegetable soup. Usually I serve it for dinner and freeze half the batch into portions for later. When I heat it up I add in an egg or leftover meat for protein. Both my daughter and I love soup so usually when I make it she will eat some as well.
Another item we have been eating a lot of are pancakes with a hard boiled egg on the side. They are easy to make, keep for a couple of days and I got an excellent deal on some gluten-free pancake mix at Grocery Outlet so we have tons of it, like literally I probably have 10 of 15 boxes left at this point. Since these are confetti pancakes we usually serve them with jam and then make Nutella sandwiches with them for lunch the next day for the kids. My selective eater loves Nutella sandwiches (who doesn’t?) so on that day usually their lunch comes back pretty empty which is a major win for us. This is a great way to cook once and have meals for a couple of days. I usually make half the box at a time and honestly I am not above snagging one later on for snack time with a hard boiled egg. You could totally make the whole box and freeze some for later in the week as well if you are short on time.
One of my favorite YouTube recipes I have found is this Oatmeal Bake from Acre Homestead on Scratchpantry.com. I absolutely love it because it contains almost a dozen eggs and it is great to make and freeze half of it for later. It is super healthy, full of protein and in a first, keeps me full until lunchtime. Usually with oatmeal I get super hungry an hour or so after I eat it but with the eggs and fruit in there this one keeps me going until lunch which is fabulous. Only two of us like to eat this for breakfast so usually I slice and freeze half to thaw out the second week. That way I am only making two a month which really saves on time. We are also currently without a microwave so I have found a great way to heat it up is to mostly thaw it, slice it and then cook the slices in butter for a crunch edge. It is delicious!
We love roasted vegetables in our house and can eat an embarrassingly large amount of them for dinner. Our favorite is roasted cauliflower and honestly when my oldest is home we can eat a whole Costco bag in one meal. It is that delicious! We have been trying roasted broccoli since the bag is much larger and cheaper. So far we love the broccoli as well. We have made it several times and there are usually no leftovers either. Roasted veggies are something that are quick to put together and you can make ahead. They freeze well if you are putting them into containers and can be heated up on the stove or in the microwave. They also add some fabulous flavor to soups if you need to use some up.
All in all our meal planning is going better than I expected. We are going to keep it up for January along with an attempt at eating through our pantry. We did go to the store for a major grocery haul today which I was not planning on but we were low on a few key items and with the new Covid variant spreading like wildfire I wanted to get groceries now and then not go for as long as possible. I am pretty sure we can make it to the end of January with a couple of exceptions like eggs, seaweed (we forgot it) and salad greens.
How do you incorporate meal planning in your house?
My favorite YouTube channels:
I love how Becky tries to eat everything from her garden and she has some fabulous freezer meal recipes.
Christine does a great job of showing how to make cheap and healthy meals on a super restrictive budget. She is also a fan of bargain grocery shopping like me and I love sharing the thrill of a good deal when she finds them.
Lisa is a fabulous person trying to spread the word of how to buy groceries if you have a limited budget. She has my same love of beans and is an excellent cook. Lisa is probably my favorite because she is so kind and I love how much she tries to help people find ways to get around food insecurity.
Jamerrill is a mom of a large family who has a no frills way of showing how she feeds her family. Honestly when Jamerrill first showed up in my feed I was skeptical because so many large families try to capitalize on their kids but Jamerrill’s respect for her kids’ privacy and honest videos when things go wrong are so refreshing that I fell in love with her.
The last few weeks have been rough on everyone’s gardens in the Seattle area. There has been no rain and we had a massive heat wave a bit ago with temperatures well over 100 degrees which is super unusual for this area. I watered like […]