One of our favorite ways to save money in our food budget is to grow our garden. There’s just something about having fresh produce right in my own backyard that I adore. I know what went into growing it, what was used to help it grow and somehow, that makes it taste even better. Some plants though produce WAY more than we could ever use before they go bad. That’s where these 5 easy ways to use excess garden crops come into play. They’re all simple to do and some of them make it so that you can enjoy the fruits of your labor all year long.
I do want to state right up front that some of these won’t work for everyone. Maybe you don’t have the storage space or maybe you just don’t know your neighbors very well. I’m more than sure you’ll find at least one way to help you keep your crops fresh and usable over the year. They might require a little bit of work but preserving and doing the other methods will help cut your grocery bill by a pretty decent amount over the year. No one ever said that helping yourself and your family was easy after all.
Barter with others in your community –
Bartering is one of my favorite things to do and trading vegetables with others who also have an excess is a great way for both families to provide what they need. You don’t have to trade vegetable for vegetable either. You can trade for gently used clothes for your kids, few hours of babysitting time so you can have a date night or alone time, fresh eggs, fresh milk or anything else you or the other family might need. The one tip I can give you when you make the offer that you make sure it is a fair one. You won’t get very far if you’re not being fair.
Freeze Them –
Did you know that you can freeze all sorts of different vegetables? My favorite items to freeze are bell peppers, onions, zucchini, squash and tomatoes. Prep them in slices, cubes, julienne, and shreds then freeze in double bagged in gallon or quart freezer bags. If you have one on hand, use a vacuum sealer to remove all of the air from the bag before you freeze. If you don’t have one, but plan to freeze foods often? You may want to consider investing in one. I personally use the Seal-a-Meal Vaccuum Sealer. It’s much cheaper than a FoodSaver and works just as well.
While you’re freezing things, don’t forget that you can actually make freezer meals with them too. Sauces, soups, pastas and even breads can all be frozen fully cooked, thawed and used as an easy meal later on.
Get Canning –
Your Grandma was onto something when she spent a week or longer each year canning the garden. Aside from the fact that just about every single vegetable you can grow is able to be canned, you can also make soups and certain other entire meals to be canned as well. Properly canned foods are shelf stable for years afterwards and don’t lose their tastes. Tomatoes, peppers and onions with a bit of garlic and cilantro make a terrific fresh salsa and are easy to can, chicken noodle soup uses carrots, celery and your garden herbs and can up quite well and homemade pasta sauce can be enriched with extra peppers, onions, zucchini and herbs for great home canned sauces.
One word about canning: Make sure you’re using the proper canning techniques so that you don’t risk making yourself or your family sick. Some vegetables can be canned in a water bath canner while others MUST be canned in a pressure canner.
Dehydrate Them –
Aside from canning, dehydrating fruits, vegetables and even meats is a fantastic way to preserve them. Dehydrators like the Nesco American Harvest Dehydrator that I use are very affordable and pay for themselves in grocery savings many times over. The best part about dehydrating is that while it takes a while, it’s insanely easy to do. Once you foods are dehydrated, store them in an air tight container. You can even add an oxygen absorber if you’re looking to store them long term.
Related: How to Dehydrate Fresh Mushrooms
Donate Them –
My final tip is this: I’m sure there are plenty of families in your community who may not be as blessed as you and your family are. If you have excess garden wealth, consider helping those families out. Food pantries rarely receive donations of fresh foods and would be very grateful to receive your over abundance. If you don’t want to donate to the local pantries, just drive around asking people if they want them. Chances are they won’t turn you down and while it can seem “weird” to drive around yelling “Hey! Want some potatoes?!” I can guarantee that you’ll make at least one persons day by doing so.
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