Hello. One day a few years ago, I was looking for ways to cut my food budget. I read the post of a grandmother who unexpectedly had to support her granddaughter on her very small retirement budget. I've taken on a lot of her ideas. Many of them take time to come to "fruition" but have been helpful in the end, anyway.
When we moved into our house, we had to plant a certain number of trees in our yard, and two of them had to be flowering (one in the front and one on the side). Well, I planted a sweet/tart semi dwarf cherry tree in the front and a full sized pear tree on the side. The cherries are JUST now enough that I could probably preserve them, but I let dh and the kids eat them out of hand this year. They love cherries and it's a great cost savings...not to mention it's great that I know they're grown chemical free! Then in the back yard, on our lot line with our neighbor, I planted five semi dwarf apple trees, which fruit from late July through the beginning of October. THey are all heirloom variety, and three of the five are GREAT keepers, lasting most of the winter in storage in the basement, and one of them is supposed to be great for cider, though I haven't tried that yet (the grandmother used the crabapple tree in her yard for juice for her granddaughter).
I planted blueberry bushes, High bush and low bush, on the edge of my Oak grove. THe highbush we eat out of hand AND freeze, and the lowbush I mostly save for baking, drying and/or freezing. I planted strawberry plants on the edge of my sidewalk from my porch to my driveway. I get easily a pint a day for about two weeks at the beginning of summer. The first week or so we eat them like crazy, then we're a little tired of them, and I freeze several pints. We also belong to a CSA and have available to us huge flats of organic berries (all kinds)that I use to make jam. I have rose bushes that fruit specifically to harvest the hips on a fence in my garden in the front yard (we make jelly). I have a goose berry bush that is just now getting large enough to harvest any kind of berries from. I think next year I'll have enough for preserves.
I climb scarlet runner beans up the two outside posts of my porch. The hummers love them, and so do we! I pick them when they're small and tender, and blanch and freeze them for the winter. I have an herb garden woven into the front garden, and the south wall of my house is FULL of veggies. I climb whatever I can UP, saving a ton of space...specifically peas, beans (wax and green), tomatoes, cukes, melons, and zuchinni. There is also a kind of spinach-like plant that I grow up a pea fence that's tee-pee style for dh, with lettuce and new zealand spinach beneath it. We also have an asparagus patch. My CSA gives us leftovers of whatever they haven't got the space for to plant at home. This year they gave me a patch full of leeks, a couple of hills of potatoes, cabbage, sweet potatoe slips (both types of potatoes I grow in planters on my front porch and dump them to harvest. YUM!).
The CSA cost us $500 plus some work hours, for the season (early April through October), and they grow organic. We get quite a bit of stuff, and my farmer's goal is that we have enough in each share to put up as much from each week as we also eat. This really helps us out in the winter. We grow our own peas. So, we can eat those fresh from the garden and put up enough that we'll basically have them all winter, if we want them. Fresh, organic, picked the day I freeze them! Same goes for the beans, cukes, squash, etc. If we want beans every day of the week we can have them and still have PLENTY to put away for the winter.
The farm also makes available (read: gets/willing to order for us from other farmers)organic free range and humanely slaughtered cows, pigs, chickens, eggs, raw milk (both goat and cow) and cheese. We can buy an entire cow, or a half or quarter. This year we'll be buying a quarter and splitting it with a friend. Same for the pig. The chickens we can choose how we want them butchered, and we can even have the breasts and thighs boned, if we want. And it's less expensive to buy the cow/pig ORGANIC and humanely slaughtered (okay, vegetarians, I know that this is like an oxymoron, but there is a huge difference between how they do it and how the factories do it...) than it is to buy conventional meat at the grocery store.
Yes, we bought a freezer, but it was on clearance, with christmas money, and it's an energy star model. I know that we save more in grocery costs than we spend in electricity to keep the freezer running, because it's always packed, and our grocery bill has gone down MUCH more than we spend in electricity!
Hope some of that helps. As I said, I know that some of that will take a couple of years to be helpful, but boy am I glad I started with the fruits, and that I plant my garden. Too, I'd look around and find the best price you can for a CSA in your area. They tend to have lower prices if you can work some hours on the farm. We were part of another farm in the area that charged a couple of hundred dollars more for a season and didn't require work hours--when our kids were of an age that we didn't think would be conducive to getting much work done while at the farm.
Mama to two awesome kids. Wife to a wonderful, attached, loving husband. I love my job-- I'm a Midwife, Doula and Childbirth Educator, Classes forming now!