I’ve been watching the rain the last week or so.. There’s been plenty of opportunity to do so, since the sun hasn’t been around for awhile. Usually, this time of year most people are still OK with the endless gray skies, drizzle and pour, but I am starting to get itchy for gardening again.

The last two or three years, the cold, wet springs have lasted into the middle of June. Cole crops that love cool weather flourished, but those warm weather crops especially tomatoes, were not even ripening until the first week of September. By then, the lack of heat couldn’t bump the tomatoes into the realm of knock you on your butt flavor, but I had hundreds of pounds of them from the 17 plants I started from seed.  Still have frozen sauce that has made great stews, sauces and soups this winter.

Didn’t grow everything I needed to support us without buying food from the grocery stores, but I have made it a point to look for bargain food in more unlikely places.

Here in Portland, Oregon, I’ve found some bargain basement grocery liquidator stores this last year that have easily cut my grocery bill in half or more. Bananas range from .25 to .55 per pound.  I can get the huge plastic containers of organic mixed fancy lettuce  greens for .79!! These are fresh and not wilted, nor are they past the sell by expiration date.  I’ve gotten so many amazing bargains of organic, free range chicken stock and other soups  in the cartons for only .50 each, it’s been such a blessing.   Boxes of crackers, frozen pies and meats – fresh asparagus, turnip greens, green peppers,  at .39 per pound!

These are today prices, not 10 years ago. I used to hesitate to shop at those “funky” stores, but I’ve learned that they can have some excellent food choices.  In today’s economy, it is really important to take advantage of stores of this type.

Just be flexible when you go, because selection may be less than the larger chain stores. Check expiration dates, but please pay attention to the difference between “sell by” and “Use by” dates. Totally different. Products like yogurt can stand to go beyond their expiration dates for quite awhile, if the containers remain unopened.  In the days before expiration dates, people learned to tell what was bad or good by smell or taste… If there was doubt,  food would be cooked longer and at higher temperature.  There isn’t some sort of magical chip that self-destructs the food on a given day. I look at the expiration dates as a suggestion. Use your common sense and you may find that you can re-purpose lots of food in creative ways.  Also,  making sure food is stored at  cool temperatures and making sure it’s put back in the fridge will extend it’s life significantly.

Hope you can find some great healthy buys that will please you, your family and your budget while you wait for gardening season and the rains to slow down.

Filed under: Gardening

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