Saturday, July 18, 2009

Is Canning Financially Worth It?

I just finished canning some pickled zucchini and figured I would pose the question here, is canning financially worth it? Here are some of the costs:

Main ingredient being canned: For this batch, it's zucchinis from our garden. There was cost for the seeds to plant, but they were minimal ($0.10 packet) and I'll be using the seeds in the future. I was watering them often with rain water, but found out I was over-watering so I just let them be now. They did take yard space, but if I had grass there I would have had to mow it.

Vinegar & Spices: I used about 1/2 bottle of vinegar (2 cups), 1 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of salt and a bunch of spices. The only free spice was dill that I grew from seeds from last year's plants. The other spices were peppercorns, mustard seed, and celery seed. The costs there I will estimate at $1.50

Jars: I picked up a 12 pack of jars for $4 at Menards last week (that is the price after rebate). I used 4 of the jars, so the cost was $1.33 in jars (they can be reused though in the future).

Heat & Water & Equipment: There is the pots, the bowl that they sat in brine for a couple of hours, water, etc. No easy way for me to measure the costs but I consider them minimal.

Time: My active time canning consisted of 1/2 hour total (cutting, preparing brine, canning).

Overall my financial costs this year run about $3 for the 4 jars of pickled zucchini and 1/2 hour of my time. I know the jars can be reused, which if one estimates you can reuse the jar 5 times before they break, the cost comes down to a little under $2 for the 4 jars, not counting my time. If we counted my time like I was at work, the jars would have cost $12 more ($24/hr I get paid).

Overall, for me the cost doesn't matter. I'm not doing it to save money, I'm doing it to have food I know where it came from and can't buy anywhere else (eg: How many stores do you see selling pickled zucchini?). Am I crazy to think that way?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Garden & Food Update

The harvest of food is starting to grow. Yesterday I used a 12"x36" tray to bring everything in due to how much I had to pick. Here's a sampling:

Kohlrabi: Still bringing in about 2/week. I need to plant some more so that we can have some this fall.

Cucumbers: 4 in yesterday, I'll probably be bringing in many more in the days ahead. Most of the plants have been doing an excellent job, I have had a couple have the leaves wilt with no explanation I can find.

Snap Peas: I thought I would be done with these plants by now, but I still brought a large serving size worth in the house yesterday

Basil: It had been coming in small amounts, I just brought in a sandwich container of basil

Cilantro: It is doing well this year, I'm picking it as I am going to use it.

Zucchini: These plants are growing like crazy. I gave them 5 feet of space originally and some are currently 10 feet long with more to grow. I have brought in about 5 18" ones and a bunch of small ones. I over-watered the plant initially and they had blossom rot from it.

Green Beans: They have been slow this year due to me planting them late (and the cooler summer we've been having). I started harvesting yesterday and should continue to have more in the days ahead.

Dill: These have done wonderfully this year, they are about 4 & 1/2 feet tall and have beautiful flower heads.

Tomatoes: We've been having enough cherry tomatoes for salads so far, they have turned out well

Broccoli: I was concerned about planting broccoli this spring due to last year's crop taking all year to form some heads, but they turned out really well this year (again due to the cool weather). I have pulled out half of the plants and am almost done harvesting the rest.

Turnips: I don't believe I've eaten turnips before, but had some on Sunday and they tasted great. My wife enjoyed them so much she wondered why they are not more common in the stores. I planted some more this past weekend so that we can have a nice fall crop.

Lettuce: I believe we're going to have a crop all summer long. I have slowed down on my picking of it as we have been having a hard time eating all that I am bringing in. I planted more this past weekend to take us through the fall.

Grape Leaves: We canned 3 jars worth this past weekend so we can make a favorite appetizer in our house (stuffed grape leaves with rice, meat, and spices. I like mine with lots of lemon juice, my wife likes very little).

Other interesting items going on in the garden:

Asparagus: We received 8 more asparagus plants that someone dug up out of their garden. They planted them this year and did not like how they looked in their yard, so they gave them to us.

Pumpkin: I didn't mean to plant pumpkin this year, but we had 17 pumpkins donated to us last year and I threw some seeds into the compost pile by accident. The largest pumpkin we have so far is about 4 inches across.

Peppers: I picked a jalapeno pepper a couple weeks back since it was so small and I wanted the plant to focus on growing bigger, but we should be having banana peppers coming in this week as well as maybe some more jalapeno. I actually enjoyed putting the lone little pepper into nachos this past week with it cooked a little bit.

Eggplant: This cool summer has been rough on the eggplants. They really like those 90 degree days and we haven't had much of them. This week for example the evenings are supposed to be in the 50's for the most part and during the day in the 70's. The normal low/high is 65/83 which we are very off this year. Maybe those ice caps melting is messing with our weather here.

Overall the garden has been bringing down our food bills this year. We're spending right now about $25-35/week on food, which consists of sugar, flour, milk, cereal, cheese (a big expense for us), butter, snacks, and misc cooking supplies. My wife makes bread for us, we have a fair amount of homemade jam & syrup, homemade spaghetti sauce, canned applesauce & other apple items, etc. As an ending note, I'll leave you with my breakfast experiment from this past Sunday in order to use up some of the vegetables we have:

1 Tbsp Butter
1 Kohlrabi Bulb, tough skin portions removed, sliced into french-fry sized pieces
6" Zucchini cut into 1/4 circle shapes
6 Turnips at 2 to 3" each, sliced and left as circles or 1/2 circles
Fresh Dill (to taste)

Add butter to pan, cook kohlrabi first with some dill, then add turnips 2 minutes later. Once the kohlrabi starts to soften up, add the zucchini to the pan with some additional dill and cover until the zucchini is fully cooked. Serve with toast or eggs.

Monday, July 6, 2009

July Budget

I know we're a few days already into July, but we went on vacation this past weekend and just got back.

$1074 July Mortgage
$200 Food
$210 Car Gas
$216 Utilities
$60 Camping
$11 Cable
$9 Netflix
$48 Home Security System
$40 Maternity Dr. Co-pays
$22 Dentist Bill
$40 Daughter's Health Insurance
$203 Mrs. Student Loans
$20 Mystery Shopping
$15 Mr. Life Insurance
$69 Mr. Student Loans
$1074 August Mortgage
$300 Savings
$200 Chainsaw

This month has a few changes than our normal month. We have $60 for camping ($30 for 2 nights, plus the $30 for incidentials). We purchased a home security system last month and the monthly rate is $48 (and we're signed up for 39 months). I know the price is quite high for a monthly rate, but that's the way that company spreads out the equipment costs. I did a fair amount of calculations and I wouldn't have saved much more DIY. The $22 dentist bill is for my daughter, which should have been covered but our dentist did not know that the state only covers 1 visit/year. We will be changing dentist as that is something they should have known. The $20 for mystery shopping is for 3 different shops I'm doing this month for fun, we should be getting around $60 at the end of the month for previous shops we have done. We're looking at getting ahead in our mortgage payments this month as well. We're going to put some to savings and the chainsaw is so that I can start splitting and preparing wood for the upcoming winter(s).

On the income front, things have been pretty slow. We finally have a second roommate moving in today and have 1 bedroom still available. My day job has pay raise freezes in effect, so I'm not expecting my salary to change.