Considering Starting a Garden to Save Money? Here Are 5 Tips to Help!

Starting a home garden can help you save money and get closer to nature. Even a few basic homegrown herbs and vegetables can positively impact your budget and overall health. While there’s no way to go around certain upfront costs, there are steps you can take to maximize savings from your garden after the initial setup. Here are five tips to help you save money on your home garden.

1. Sow Seeds Instead of Seedlings

While seedlings save you time, seeds save you money. You just need to be organized and plan ahead because it takes time for seeds to germinate and grow to a point where you can transplant them. However, you can harvest more plants from a packet of seeds compared to a punnet of seedlings. Although seed packet prices vary, most edible flowers, sprouting seeds, microgreens, herbs, and vegetable varieties go for two to four dollars on average. For some varieties, you can get hundreds of seeds in a packet, enough to last a lifetime or to swap or sell.

2. Choose the Right Spot for Your Garden

Regardless of where you decide to put your garden or the plants you intend to grow, there are two fundamental requirements your chosen spot must fulfill for the best success: light and water. Vegetables, like other plants, rely on the sun to initiate photosynthesis. Vegetables that grow fast generally require at least six to eight hours each day in direct sunlight without obstruction from fences, shrubs, or trees. According to Arbor Day, areas under a tree’s shade can be 20 to 45 degrees cooler. That’s why planting sun-loving vegetables in shady areas won’t yield much.

If your garden receives partial shade, plant herbs, and vegetables that can withstand those conditions. These include thyme, parsley, cilantro, chives, spinach, chard, kale, and lettuce. If your chosen spot gets at least four hours of sunlight a day, consider root vegetables such as beets, radishes, and carrots. If you have a sunny patio, container gardening is a better fit. This approach allows you to place sun-loving herbs and vegetables like rosemary, dill, basil, beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes, where they’ll thrive.

3. Mulch Your Garden

Mulching your garden can work wonders for your budget. It conserves water and prevents weeds from sprouting, so there’s less weeding and no need for herbicides. To protect your established trees and shrubs from the effects of weather, surround them with a layer of two to three inches of brown compost, birch chips, wood shavings, or dried leaves.

4. Attend Plant Swaps

Plant swaps are events where plant enthusiasts come together to trade specimens. Attending these events allows one to swap a plant you don’t want for one you love for free. You can also find free plants by logging on to your town or neighborhood online forum for local gardeners.

5. Pick Plants with Multiple Functions

If you’re working with a small space, make cautious plant selections. Grow plants that serve at least two purposes, which means you’ll need fewer plants. For instance, blooming herbs such as chives, basil, and mint taste great. When they bloom, they attract helpful insects like hoverflies, ladybirds, and bees that feed on pollen and nectar. In turn, these insects provide crucial ecosystem services, such as pollinating food crops and managing pests such as aphids.

You don’t need lean beef to get your recommended daily amounts of 10 key vitamins and nutrients, including B vitamins, riboflavin, selenium, niacin, zinc, magnesium, and iron. You can get your nutrients from your garden! You should also consider planting oilseed rape, cotton, soybeans, and maize, which make up 99% of global crops worldwide. Get started on your vegetable garden today and it won’t be long until you start reaping the benefits.

7 Frugal Reasons Why You Should Vacuum Seal Your Fruits and Vegetables

7 Reasons Why You Should Vacuum Seal Your Fruits and Vegetables

Those who enjoy cooking and grilling are probably already familiar with vacuum sealing. But, have you ever given it a try for yourself? Although I was initially intimidated by learning how to use a new appliance, it’s a lot simpler than you might think. And in addition to the health benefits, it comes with some significant financial ones as well. If you are thinking about investing in one, here are 7 frugal reasons why you should vacuum seal your fruits and vegetables.

7 Frugal Reasons Why You Should Vacuum Seal Your Fruits and Vegetables

1. It keeps your food fresher, longer.

The most obvious financial advantage of vacuum sealers is that they will make your food last longer. Since your produce is less likely to go bad, there is less risk of you wasting money by throwing it away. Fresh items that would normally start to turn within a week can last up to 2-3 weeks with vacuum sealing. And freezing them can extend their shelf life to 2 years or more.

When you look at the time frame of normal freezing vs vacuum sealed freezing, the savings become even more apparent.

  • Normal Freezing / Vacuum Sealed Freezing
    • Ground Meat (4 months / 1 year)
    • Meat (6 months / 2 years)
    • Fish (6 months / 2 years)
    • Fruits and Vegetables (8 months / 2 years+)

The reason for this is that vacuum sealing removes the oxygen from the packaging. Oxygen is a necessary component of bacterial growth. So, less oxygen means slower fungal and bacterial growth. Ziploc bags and containers can prolong the life of your fruits and veggies as well. But, they still allow a fair amount of air to seep into the packaging. Vacuum sealing will better preserve the flavor, texture, and quality of your food.

2. Vacuum sealing can prevent freezer burn and chemical reactions.

In addition to preserving them longer, vacuum sealing can also prevent freezer burn and chemical reactions that ruin the texture and freshness of your frozen food items. Freezer burn occurs when the cold, low-humidity climate of your freezer removes the moisture from your food and oxidizes it, covering the item in ice crystals. Fruits and vegetables are even more susceptible to it since they consist of 90% water, sometimes more.

However, tightly wrapping your food with plastic wrap and aluminum foil and removing the oxygen from the packaging can prevent this. Not only will it keep the moisture in your food, but it also keeps bacteria out that can cause food to spoil faster. While other containers can protect your food, vacuum sealing it will preserve your food 3-5 times longer and ensure it doesn’t taste strange or develop a mushy texture.

3. It allows you to save your leftovers longer.

Coming from a big family, I have gotten used to making large portions. But now that it’s just my husband and me, we always have leftovers. And though I enjoy them, I can’t eat the same meal for days on end. This usually leaves us with a lot of uneaten food which pains me to waste.

So, another benefit of vacuum sealing is that you can store your favorite dishes in the freezer and enjoy them again later on, without all the prep work. This has been a great solution and a huge money saver when we don’t want to cook or spend money on delivery services.

4. You can buy in bulk.

Another frugal reason to vacuum seal fruits and vegetables is that it will allow you to buy in bulk. Most budgeters already know and practice this tip. But, it’s a bit more complicated with fresh produce. If you don’t use them right away, they will probably end up in the garbage.

I think about this every time I go to Costco. And, I hesitate to buy fresh produce for this very reason. But thanks to a vacuum sealer, you can divide them into smaller portions and save them for later.

5. It makes organization easier.

My mom has frozen her leftovers for years. But, I cannot fully describe how much I hate digging through the freezer and having to try and guess what is stored in each container. Not only is it time-consuming, but the oddly shaped packages take up more space than necessary.

Vacuum sealing will make organization much faster and allow you to fit more in your freezer. Since the bags for the vacuum sealer are approximately the same size, it’s much easier to stack and store each package.

6. The vacuum-sealed bags are more durable.

In addition to preserving your food longer, the vacuum-sealed bags themselves are more durable than your standard freezer bags. Therefore, there is less chance that they will tear. This also eliminates the need to pre-wrap your items and double-bag them before freezing. And of course, it’s more cost-effective to store your food this way since it reduces the chances of losing items to freezer burn.

7. The initial investment will pay for itself.

Many people choose to stick with other methods because the initial investment is substantial. If you look online, you will find dozens of models that cost hundreds of dollars. However, it is an investment that will pay for itself in time. When you do the math, you can see that it will easily save you more in the long run by preserving your food and preventing waste. What you save in unused produce will cover the cost of the appliance.

If you decide to purchase a vacuum sealer, you want to make sure that you invest in a quality product. Buying the most economic option may save you a few bucks up front, but it could cost you more in repairs and replacements later on. So, it’s wise to do your research and read consumer reviews before you buy anything. Not only will this help you find something that is built to last, but it may also help you find a better deal on specific brands and models.

Have you used vacuum sealers to preserve your food? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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Cheap Ways to Improve Your Health

Everyone is always looking for ways to improve their health. However, if you’ve ever looked into it, you’ve likely discovered that some solutions for doing so can cost a lot of money. You don’t necessarily have to fork over a mountain of cash to improve or maintain your health, though. Look at these useful ways to get healthier without going broke.

Go to the Doctor Regularly

Did you know that each year around 100,000 people die from medical conditions that could have been prevented? There’s a reason why it’s suggested that you go and see your doctor at least once a year for an annual checkup. Physicians can often uncover conditions early and treat them before they become life-threatening. Sure, it might seem like a hassle, and who wants to deal with the stress and anxiety that goes along with walking into a doctor’s office? However, it could prevent serious illness or even death. It’s definitely worth making those regular appointments.

See Your Dentist Every Six Months

Tooth decay is a major health problem among adults. About 96% have some form of it by the time they reach the age of 65. However, that number would likely be reduced significantly if people went and visited a dentist every six months as recommended by professionals. This is generally covered by health insurance as well, as long as there are no additional services needed. If you have coverage, there’s no excuse. Make an appointment now and continue with them regularly to stay out of that high percentage dealing with tooth problems.

Visit an Orthodontist

Usually going to see an orthodontist is considered more of an elective or cosmetic decision. In some instances, there is a medical reason why you may need braces or other orthodontic care. Adult orthodontic patients come in at a ratio of one out of three, so it’s never too late to go and get treatment. It could be to help with jaw issues, biting problems, grinding of the teeth, the way your teeth have grown, or you can’t properly clean them, which results in a hygiene issue. This is one of the options that cost a little more money, but if your dentist recommends it, it’s a good idea to go and get a consultation.

Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables

You’ve probably heard this since you were a little kid. You need to consume plenty of fruits and vegetables to stay healthy. That’s because it’s true! There’s plenty of research that proves people who get more fruit and vegetables daily are overall healthier and feel better. While it may seem like an unnecessary expense, especially if you don’t like fruits and vegetables, it’s an investment in your health that’s worth paying the money for.

Make Sure to Sleep

Getting enough sleep is just as essential as getting the right nutrition and the proper medical care. Your body is a plethora of moving pieces, and it burns through a ton of energy throughout the day. The only way to keep yourself healthy and your body charged is by giving it enough rest. Recommendations vary and this is one situation where you really have to do some experimenting and figure out what’s best for you. On average, adults should get between six and eight hours a night, while others require a bit more or a bit less.

As long as you follow these guidelines, you will make vast improvements to your health. The benefit of these solutions is that most won’t cost you much money, and some are even free! If you could take simple action to improve the way you feel without paying a penny, wouldn’t you do it? Take action today, and you’ll soon realize what you were missing out on.