Thrifty Friday: Tenant Farming & Garden Minestrone

OK, disclaimer, I’m not ACTUALLY a tenant farmer. I do, however, happen to be a town dwelling gardener with no piece of dirt to call my own. Thankfully, my gracious in-laws have soil to spare and offered to do a joint garden with me if I’d lend my limited experience to the cause. (Note: I think I’ve mentioned some of my previous gardens here, so you’ll know that I am by NO means an expert, and I DID warn them…) The vegetables are now happily established–we are working to ensure that the weeds are less so. I’ve also got several container vegetables at home, which I will expect to produce a little later in the season.

What has this to do with thrift? It turns out, if you’re willing to provide the labor, in the long term it’s cheaper to plant from seed and preserve what grows. Start up cost doesn’t have to be much of anything if you’re wiling to compost and build up the soil. Gardening primarily takes time, secondarily takes work… but of course, God brings the increase. I also like gardening myself because I believe it’s important to cultivate self-sufficiency skill sets. I don’t intend to move off grid any time soon, but I can definitely cut our grocery budget in the coming months.

Now, I won’t be getting any of these raw ingredients for another couple of weeks, but this is a thrifty recipe that I made recently and will be able to reduce costs to just about zilch quite soon… I cannot take any credit for the recipe, as the only “tweaking” I did was substitute yellow summer squash for zucchini, which really isn’t a substitution at all.

The fabulously easy recipe for Vegetarian Minestrone can be found on myrecipes, here. But here’s the cost break down in the context of gardening…

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil ($0.06)
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion (“free” from the garden, or cheap from the Farmer’s Market, or $0.08)
  • 3 cups water (freeish)
  • 2 cups diced zucchini (“free” from the garden, “free” from gardeners inundated with the stuff… seriously, ask around)
  • 1 cup diced carrot (“free” from the garden, or cheap from the Farmer’s Market, or >$0.15)
  • 1 cup drained canned cannellini beans or other white beans (I always use dry beans, which comes to $0.28)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt ($0.002)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano (another garden possibility, but otherwise $0.04)
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper ($0.01)
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained (“free” from the garden, or another one that gardeners tend to give away)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (potentially garden “free,” otherwise $0.02)
  • 1/4 cup uncooked ditalini (very short tubular macaroni) or elbow macaroni ($0.25)
  • 4 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese ($0.08)

In garden season, your grand total could be as low as $0.74. If you’re not gardening, there is still NO reason that you ought to buy your tomatoes and zucchini in the heart of summer, and in that case your total would be more like $1.61… ladies and gentlemen, that’s $0.27/serving. Does anyone else love garden season? Get out there and get some dirt under your finger nails!

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