saving money & time

Save Money on Gardening – Even at the Last Minute

Patience grows the garlic.

Patience grows the garlic.

Sometimes patience pays, well, maybe it’s actually procrastination.
Call it what you will, there are cases where putting off ordering your seeds, plants, and other gardening supplies can actually save you money.

Some examples:

Johnny’s Select Seeds is currently offering a free shipping discount. Ours came as a post card in the mail yesterday, but if you didn’t receive one, follow this link.

Likewise Burpee’s is offering free shipping, or you can go to their site and get $10 off a $40 purchase. You probably can’t get both though.

Stark Bros. is offering select trees on sale in celebration of Arbor Month. You can find that info here.

This is another one we received by email. If you are concerned about signing up for these and getting too much spam, just set up a separate account for these things.
That’s what we did and it works really well.

So check with your favorite providers of gardening supplies, especially as it gets closer to planting time, and see what bargains you can pick up.

Keep in mind that there are very often end-of-the-season sales as well. You may not find that one specific veggie seed you wanted, but that’s the chance you take.

Also take note that some companies offer discounts and specials all year. The Seeds of the Month Club, one of our favs, is a good way to save all year on seeds plus they often run contests; and Annie Haven at Moo Poo Tea always has free shipping and many times throughout the year offers a free bag with purchase.

Note: None of the suppliers mentioned here compensated us in any way for mentioning and linking their sites. We just want to share the savings with you.


Categories: saving money & time


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Curry – You Can Grow That!

Getting ready.

Getting ready.

It was about 3 years ago that I brought home a curry plant from the local nursery.
My husband giggled “You can’t grow curry.” he said, “Curry is a combination of herbs and spices.”

Of course it turned out he was right; after all, food is his field. Apparently what I had purchased was a delightfully smelling ornamental plant. Drat.

But telling me “You can’t” do anything only makes it a challenge, and I finally figured out that you really can grow curry.
Well, close enough.

It started out with me trying to grow as many of our own herbs and flavorings as possible.
Some, like mints, are simple. Others, like garlic, take a little more work. Still others, like ginger, take more know-how and time.

As the seasons came and went, there was less and less from the store on our herb shelves and more from the garden.

Still that curry thing bothered me.
Until recently that is, when I actually read the list of ingredients from the back of the bottle, given in order of amount:

Coriander- A No brainer. How often do gardeners complain their cilantro has bolted? Yep, those little seeds are coriander. We got this one!

Turmeric- Okay, it is getting a little harder. Turmeric is a root that takes almost as long to grow as ginger, specifically about 8 months. It is a perennial in zones 9-11, but like ginger it can be grown indoors in colder zones like we have. You can sometimes find it fresh at Asian or India food supply stores and in some markets. I couldn’t find it locally, but was able to order some from The price wasn’t too bad, and you can replant some of what you harvest so it is a one time purchase.

Mustard- It doesn’t say on the bottle of store bought curry, but most often it is the mustard seed that is used as a spice. All we need to do is let it bolt and harvest the seed. Now we’re talking!!

Cumin- This relative of parsley is a new herb for our garden this year. It is often confused with the biennial caraway, but cumin is actually an annual plant. It can be planted as soon as the ground can be worked, so here it will be going in the ground this weekend. What you harvest are also the seed heads. We will be posting more on all of these as the season progresses, hopefully with lots of pictures!

Fenugreek- Another new one for us. This should be a fun season! Also easy to grow, prep your seeds first by soaking (we recommend Moo Poo Tea, link above right) or scarify. Soaking is much easier. Fenugreek will be great because both the leaves and seeds are edible.

Paprika- Another easy one. Paprika is simply a dried and powdered pepper from the group Capsicum annuum. These can range from sweet to rather hot. I’ll let him decide which ones he want to use, as we are growing quite a variety of peppers this year.

Cayenne- This seemed a little redundant to me, but I guess they are looking for a cayenne specifically. Yeah, we have that covered as well.

Cardamon- This very expensive herb actually can be grown at home. I have read that you can plant the brown type found in the grocery store, but I don’t know if that is true. Instead I found seeds online; after all, I’ve gone this far I can almost taste victory! It looks like another plant that may need some special attention, but that’s okay by me.

Nutmeg, Cinnamon, and Cloves- What? No! All 3 of these, the least of the ingredients, are derived from trees; and ones that I highly doubt grow in our area. When I looked up a substitute for nutmeg, it said cinnamon. When I did a search on a substitute for cinnamon, I found cloves.
It began to look like I really couldn’t grow curry after all.

Until my husband read this post on varieties of basil.
“There’s a Cinnamon Basil?” he asked. “You should grow that!”

“Why would you want cinnamon basil? I responded, “That sounds like an odd combination to me.”

“No, they are great together. When I use curry powder, I always add some basil. I love the way they taste together.”

So there you have it my friends, never say “You can’t grow that” to a gardener.
Unless, of course, you want them to prove you wrong.

We will post updates on the plants throughout the season. When we make the curry powder, we will add that recipe to our recently revived foodie blog page here.
Of course, we will also add some recipes that feature curry.
We’re betting this will taste much better than the store bought stuff.

you can grow that

is a collaborative effort on the part of a number of gardeners around the world. Each month they write a post specifically to help and encourage everyone to grow something. Find more posts by clicking on the logo above.

Categories: herbs, preparedness, saving money & time, you can grow that



1 Really Good Reason to Grow Food This Year

Being prepared.

Being prepared.

If you have been reading here a while, and certainly if you have been growing an edible garden for a few years, you know there are numerous good reasons for people to grow their own food:

1. It tastes better. All of it. Every last veggie tastes better than store bought.

2. You save money. Okay, maybe not at first, but in the long run. Not to mention less Doctor bills, because-

3. It is healthier for you. Fresh produce is higher in nutrients than even organic produce that is older.

4. You are less dependent on others for your food.

5. It is great exercise both physically and mentally.

6. Economic uncertainty.

Now you might be thinking, ‘But GJ, you said ONE reason!’

Of course you are right, and here it is:


Unless you are totally self-sufficient, you are buying something that was grown in California. Maybe it’s nuts, or produce, or an ingredient in something else; but the truth is the vast majority of the food we eat in the US is associated with California farms.

And they are having a horrible year. The extreme drought continues, and here in the northeast we are already seeing the effects.
The price of almonds has skyrocketed, for example; and that is just the beginning.

It gets worse. Even if the drought suddenly lifted, much of this season’s crops are already affected. Not just this season’s either; because so many items end up as ingredients, the prices of other food items will continue to go up even if the drought subsides.

Think about it.
What would you do if suddenly the cost of food tripled?
What if some items you normally enjoy were no longer available?

Now we’re not trying to predict what will happen nor frighten anyone.
For the cost of a few packets of seeds and either some containers or a little part of your yard, you could begin to lay the groundwork, so to speak, for a more secure future food-wise.

Isn’t that one reason alone way more than enough?

Categories: gardening, saving money & time, special posts



How To Get Your Garden Organized

It is wonderful every year to get things just a little more organized and free up some wasted time that is better spent gardening.

Here are a few ideas we have found to help:

The garden notebook keeps growing.

The garden notebook keeps growing.

  • A garden notebook can keep a lot of the information from previous years as well as what is collected throughout the year for the upcoming season. Include a flash-drive for what you find online.
  • Likewise a clipboard can not only keep you planting maps handy, it is an easy way to hold seed packets that are slated to go out to the garden for planting. Just use the clip to keep them safe from spilling or blowing away.
  • A potting table allows for an area to organize your supply of soils, amendments and fertilizers.
Right at our fingertips.

Right at our fingertips.

  • We use a free seed rack from the local farm & garden store to keep seeds organized. This year the stash has been reduced from 3 racks to one, to further simplify garden planning and seed ordering.
Oh... there you are!

Oh… there you are!

One thing that eludes us is keeping track of tools.
It is as if the small ones intentionally hide, and the larger ones are like chameleons blending into their surroundings.

  • Here is a solution we are going to use this upcoming spring: Use duct tape, now also called ‘duck’ tape or paint to brightly color the handles on your tools, making them easier to find. We have in the past used the wonderful idea of adding an old mailbox to your garden area to hold tools.
    We did learn to be careful it is mounted level or pointing towards the ground, otherwise rain water can get in.
    Some lessons are always learned the hard way.

What tips do you have for staying organized?

Categories: gardening, jonesen', saving money & time, techniques


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3 Ways to Save on Energy Fees in 2014

Happy little ones.

Happy little ones.

This blog is foremost about gardening; but the less money you spend in other areas, the more you will have to put into the garden.
That’s my logic, and I’m sticking with it. :-)

So there are many simple things you can do to bring your energy bills down by cutting usage.

1. Sunlight is Free

It never ceases to amaze me when I see new homes with windows elaborately covered in drapes, and lights on all over the room.
Nature’s gift of sunlight can help in so many ways.

By opening those drapes you not only cut down on the use of light bulbs, it can lower your need for heat. Cover the windows as the sun goes down to likewise conserve the warmth.
If you use A/C in the summer, do the opposite.

Of course, if you have older windows the drapes may be more effective on saving energy in the long run. Consider adding to that by using bubble wrap, moistened and stuck to the glass, to keep the heat indoors.

A sunny window can also cut down on the light source needed when starting seeds.
See, this is a gardening post after all.

We turn our overhead seed starting lights off when there is good sun coming through the window, then back on when it is not enough.
When we compared our bills from this and full overhead lights only, supplementing with sunlight saved us a fair amount.
And the plants didn’t seem to notice.

We also start our seedlings near a heat source, rather than pay to heat another area.

Send that heat back down.

Send that heat back down.

2. Remember Heat Rises

If you have ceiling fans, set them to blow downward in the winter months. This will draw the heat down from the ceiling and back to where you need it.

Be sure to insulate the flooring for second and third floors and attics.
My grandparents and many of that generation used old newspapers under rugs as insulation on the upper floors. They lived ‘green’ and ‘upcycled’ long before there were terms for it.
Likewise, take advantage of the cooler areas of your home and even the outdoors if you can. We built a Green Closet in our laundry room, saving energy by letting the cold temperatures from outdoors in to keep our cool loving veggies happy all winter.

Timing is everything

Timing is everything.

3. Live Simpler

Things that heat up are the main energy users, but electronics left on also add up fast.

You can simplify energy use for making food by using a toaster oven, microwave and/or crock pot, if they are available to you.
Avoid heating a full oven for just a small amount. Consider making more than one meal, and freezing some that you can just nuke another time. When you do use your oven, take advantage of the heat lost through the vent burner by simmering a dish on it or heating up a kettle for tea or cocoa.

Think about a clothesline if you can have one where you live, or even just a clothes ‘rack’ placed in your bathtub. When you do use a regular dryer, gently shake your washed items before placing inside. By loosening them up a bit, they dry faster and that uses less energy.
Also, wash on cold.
Pretty much all the time.

A real energy saver is to place a timer on your water heater. These wonderful little devices give you the opportunity to decide when you will need hot water the most. They are inexpensive and pay for themselves in a short period of time.
You are most likely bathing at the same time each day already.

You can also save some money by turning your electronics off when not in use. A small investment in a power strip can not only help prevent power surge damage to your electronic devices, it can make it easy for you to cut their power when they will not be in use.

Well, that’s it for now.
With all that saved money I can go ahead and place a seed order.
Or two. :-)

Categories: living green, preparedness, saving money & time


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6 Ways to Save Money Thanksgiving Week

Yes this is primarily a gardening blog, but it is very difficult to grow everything you eat.
For the rest, take advantage of sales.

We looked at this recently, but this week is a good time to be a tad more specific.

Grab the opportunity.

Grab the opportunity.

1. Turkeys for 49 cents per pound? Or better yet, free?

Around the holidays grocery stores will sell some items at or below cost. They figure that if they can get you in the door, you will buy a lot more things than just a turkey, so it is worth it to them.

Back in our restaurant days, Mandolin would roast off a few turkeys and carve them. He used portions of turkey slices to line the inside of soup cups. That was then filled with prepared bread stuffing, wrapped with plastic and frozen.

Whenever someone ordered a turkey dinner from the menu, he would grab a soup cup and microwave it until it was hot.

You can do the same thing using any freezer-to-microwave container. Right now, stuffing mixes are also on sale. Win-win.

Of course be sure to save the bones for making soup stock.

2. Whole cranberries can be grown at home if you live in a cooler region like we do, but even then it takes a few years to get a good crop.
We take advantage of them being on sale this week, and make our own cranberry sauce and can it. It is seriously easy to do, just use 2 parts berries to one part sugar, and one part or less water. Add some fresh lemon or orange zest if you like, and boil until the berries burst.
Water-bath can like you would jelly.

3. Sweet potatoes, not yams, are also on sale in our area. We grow our own, but if you don’t you can get them at a good price now. These need to be pressure canned or can be frozen after cooking.

Both homegrown and purchased.

Both homegrown and purchased.

4. Winter Squash is in season now, and also on sale at our local markets. Again, if you don’t grow your own now is a good time to stock up. We love squash soup, and simply cook off a few butternuts, remove the flesh and freeze it in portions. It is our version of a soup mix. You can also dehydrate it and grind into a powder, or pressure can. Squash also lasts a long time in cold holding.

5. The sides. Pre-canned items like green beans and pumpkin also go on sale this time of year. We prefer our own homegrown, but if you don’t have that opportunity go ahead and stock up. Check the expiration dates and be sure to use them in time. Most canned foods have a long shelf life.

6. Non-food items, like aluminum foil, are often on sale during the holidays. Check out stores for the best price.

Just remember to never go to the store hungry, stick to your list made using the store flyer, and keep those blinders on- they are betting you will buy things that aren’t on sale, and they use many marketing ploys to make that happen.

Stay strong, save money.

Categories: saving money & time


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6 Ways to Help Stock the Larder Shelves

Between Mandolin and I, we have been temporarily unemployed, underemployed and self-employed.
We have learned to stretch a dollar till it yells “Uncle!”, okay not literally.

But even living paycheck to paycheck, and especially then, we found ways to stock up the shelves and always have food on hand.
Enough in fact that both of my daughters have said that if ever anything catastrophic happens, like a Zombie Apocalypse, they are moving back in with us.

Some of the home canned and dehydrated foods from the garden.

Some of the home canned and dehydrated foods from the garden.

Of course growing as much of your own food, and learning how to preserve it, is key.
I’m guessing by the fact that you are reading this you are already doing that, or getting ready to.
Good for you!

But what else can you do to fill those shelves up when money is tight and food costs are soaring?

Here are some ideas:

1. BOGO: At first you need to start small. If you find a buy one get one sale on a non-perishable item, put one away. If you have to, hide it so it does not get used. Do take note of the expiration date.

2. Buy ingredients. Instead of buying bread, buy flour and yeast. Learn to make it by hand or eventually get a bread machine. Trust me, they pay for themselves in pizza alone.
Don’t hand out money for pancake mix, when making it yourself is simple. Likewise other mixes. There are tons of recipes online to do just that.

We make up a bunch of bread mixes, label what we need to add, and place them on the shelf. It’s faster to make bread than to go to the store and buy it, and a whole lot better tasting, too.

Likewise we have our own cake mix on the shelf. As the holidays approach, cookie mixes will be added.

Here’s some of what we do.

Significant savings.

Significant savings.

3. Buy in bulk. It may be a while before you can do this, but it saves money in the long run. Mandolin LOVES Jasmin-scented rice. At the local market, it’s very pricey. Instead we get it in 25 pound bags from an area Asian food supply store.

4. Use coupons, but don’t get trapped. Never buy something just because you have a coupon, unless you are getting it for free. Also don’t buy a name brand with a coupon if the store brand is less expensive.

You can be more creative with your coupons than you might realize. For example, your store may be selling an item as Buy 2, get one free with coupon. The coupon is for the free one, not the other two. So if you have two 50 cents off coupons, you can use them as well. If your store doubles the coupons, you now have 3 items for $2 less than it normally costs for 2. Pretty good, right?

Purchased with savings at the forefront.

Purchased with savings at the forefront.

5. Buy seasonally. Items go on sale at different times of year, due to holidays, growing times, etc. This is a good time to grab the chance to stock up. Keep in mind you can put up fresh produce, even meat, that you get from the market when it is on sale.

6. Make the most of what you buy. If you need a fresh orange or lemon, don’t toss out the skin. Grate it, let it sit overnight to dry, and now you have lemon or orange zest. Have you seen how much that is in the stores?

Instead of buying boneless chicken, buy the whole thing and cut it up yourself, using the carcass to make soup. You can preserve that as well.

Go to the market early if you can, and check out any older produce they may have on sale. If they have tomatoes and peppers, for example, bring them home and make soup or sauce.

When it comes to food, like many things, time really is money.
But with just a few simple tricks, you can save on both.

Categories: preparedness, saving money & time


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How to Make Flavored Extracts

Earlier in the summer a friend of mine was telling me how she makes her own vanilla extract every year. It came up when I mentioned I was making Raspberry Infused Vodka.

Vanilla bean

Vanilla bean

“It started when I was given a kit. It was just a glass bottle with vanilla beans in it. It said to fill the bottle with vodka, and let it sit for three weeks. Then strain.”

So I looked in our baking cabinet to see what extracts I had. Okay, so Rum won’t work.
But mint will, and raspberry definitely will. In fact, I still have some raspberries in the freezer.

I also picked some lemon balm to make a nice lemon extract.

Mint, raspberry and lemon.

Mint, raspberry and lemon.

Simply chop the herbs to get the oils out, add to a jar and add vodka.
For berries you can just wash and put them in the jar.
Let them sit in a dark place. After about 3 weeks, check to see how strong the flavor is; extracts should be pretty intense.

We found the berries flavored the fastest. The lemon is taking its time, so I’m going to add some lemon grass to the jar.

When you like the flavor, strain and store either in an amber jar or in a dark place.

Now I can’t wait until the almond tree starts producing.
Mmmm…. That should make some outstanding Irish Cream Liquor.

Categories: other, saving money & time



Seeds on Sale

renee's garden seeds

As the summer comes to a close, many seed companies begin placing their remaining inventory on sale. This is a good opportunity to stock up and save.

We don’t know of any seed that will not still be viable for at least two years, and have heard of some sprouting even after almost 20 years.

The legumes are said to lose their viability faster than other seeds. If this is so it is probably because they are self pollinating. We have not experienced this first hand, we generally use all our bean and pea seeds within two years. Even still, all you would need to do is plant a little more.

You can check the website of your favorite seed suppliers and see if they are offering reduced prices yet. If you get on their email list they will likely notify you.

These seeds are from Renee’s Garden, via their website, and were all 40% off. Since they have a low shipping fee, it was a pretty good deal. And what a nice way to head into the off season, with a handful of plans ready to go.

Oh and one more way to save on seeds, all year- you can join the Seeds of the Month Club via or buy into their leftover seeds mailing for a one time fee. Check them out, its a wonderful way to stay garden happy even as the snow flies.

Categories: all about seeds, saving money & time


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How to Make & Use Flavored Vinegars

Making your own flavored vinegars not only saves money, but it gives you the control over the flavor combinations and uses.

chive blossom vinegar

Pretty much anything edible can be used, but the most common additions are herbs and fruits. Chive blossom vinegar, pictured here, gives a wonderful light taste to a white vinegar.

Here’s what to do:
1. Use clean, food safe jars.
2. Use clean, fresh, unbruised herbs and fruit. You can also use fruit peels and edible flowers.
3. Heat the vinegar if you like, or just add to the jar and place in the sun. Our general rule is if it can mold, like fruits, we heat it first.
4. Let cool, or remove from sunlight when it is warm. Refrigerate fruit vinegars, place herb infusions in a cool, dark place.
5. The longer it sits, the stronger the flavor gets. Generally give them a few weeks.
6. Strain and keep in a cool place. You can also water bath can if you are making a big batch.

orange vinegar

Use as you would any vinegar. This picture is of a vinegar with fresh orange peels, it can be used in cooking or as a cleanser.

Mandolin and I were discussing other ways to enjoy them earlier this morning.
“The chive vinegar would be good for poached eggs” he said.
“How about jalapeno vinegar for poached eggs?” asked I.
“Ooh, yeah, that would be good too. That would be really good in lentil soup,” he continued, “It would help bind all the flavors together.”

I love it when he talks cooking like that.

“How are you going to use the fruit vinegars,” he asked, “other than on salads?”
“I think I’ll make a simple syrup and use them as a glaze. Maybe a raspberry glaze on a pear dish.”
“That sounds really good” he said, and smiled.

Maybe we both like talking about cooking.

Categories: Recipes, saving money & time


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Everything here is original (unless otherwise noted) and has legal copyright 2014 by Gardening Jones (tm), and cannot be re-posted or reproduced without permission. Any re-posting of information, photographs, and/or recipes is considered theft and subject to prosecution.

As gardeners, we love to share, so just let us know what your intentions are and we can work together. Please feel free to link any post you see. They say they call that Link Love.

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