Budget-friendly shopping tips

By Sarah Ransom

We all make trips to the grocery store. Some of us visit the farmers market, and some just grow their own food in gardens and greenhouses. Living in rural areas, we have a wider variety of options when it comes to food availability. However, just because it’s available doesn’t mean it’s always affordable for the families needing to feed their members.
There are some easy tips to keep in mind when it comes to grocery shopping and trying to stretch your dollars.

•Meal planning is key. Planning out your meals on a weekly basis is helpful. If you get really motivated, you can plan on a monthly basis. If you know what your food budget is for the month, divide that by the weeks, and you will know what financial resources you have to work with to feed your family. As you make your meal plan, be sure to check the sale papers and prepare your meal around what has the best price option for your family. Many groceries stores and retail chains will match sale prices – so be sure to ask.
Look for coupons. While ten cents may not seem like a big deal on its own, when you add it with a bunch of others you can save several dollars, which means significant savings over the course of a month.

•Check prices. There are several ways you can save on pricing outside of coupons. One way to do this is to check between fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. Choosing canned or frozen fruits and vegetables can help save money during times when fresh foods are not in season. Canned and frozen options have many of the same nutrients and can be found lower costs when foods are not in season. Be sure to check the unit pricing on the foods you are purchasing. Sometimes selecting smaller or larger quantities can be cheaper. Also, do not be afraid to eat the store brand, they are frequently made by the same companies but offered at a much-reduced cost.
Before shopping, be sure to check your pantry, freezer, and fridge before purchasing new foods. Having a few staple items on hand can help stretch the food you are buying. Beans, rice, and potatoes are just a few things that provide a lot of nutrients while staying on a budget.
Lastly, check into your local resources. The Farmers Markets provide matching SNAP dollars, which can allow you to maximize dollars for some fresh foods. Food banks also help offer some staple items to complete your meals with vital nutrients. Being on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t eat good, well-balanced meals.

Winter gardening tips to prepare for Spring

Winter is the best time to plan for the Spring season. Performing maintenance and prepping both your plants and yourself makes for a successful season.

The days are shorter, the wind is cold and plants are dormant. But this is one of the best times to start planning for spring! We should be preparing for another successful season of gardening in winter.

Here are some tips to consider:

• Start by cleaning and sharpening your garden tools so they are ready for spring. Make sure to store your tools indoors to avoid them rusting. Drain garden hoses and store them away to avoid freeze damage. Sharpen hand pruners, loppers, saws, and make sure to oil moving parts.

• Make a note of tools and supplies you will need for the next growing season and get a head start on purchasing them while there are holiday discounts.

• Prepare to prune trees and shrubs during their dormant winter season. Cutting into live tissue during the winter will help prevent the spread of diseases such as fire blight, which is a bacterium that can be spread on pruning tools in warm wet weather.

Removing dead branches in the winter will allow for good wound closure when spring arrives. Make sure you know how to properly prune. Remember, once you cut it off, you can’t glue it back on.

• Scout the landscape for signs of insects and diseases. Look for egg masses on trees and shrubs.

• Plan your vegetable garden for the coming year, keeping in mind the need to rotate crops. Keep a record of your garden plans for each year to see what is growing well and what struggled. Also keep track of varieties of plants you are growing.

• Read seed catalogues to familiarize yourself with new plant varieties and determine which will work for your climate, and site conditions.

•Learn more about gardening by attending Extension…..sponsored workshops or webinars. Yes, you can learn lots sitting at home this winter watching lectures that broadcast live over the internet (webinars) or previously recorded lectures that are archived.

For further information or to find out about different online trainings, contact your local Extension Agent, Rick Thomason at rthomaso@utk.edu or call at (423)-727-8161.

Source: Gardening Prep during the Cold Winter Months from Penn State Extension Service https://extension.psu.edu/gardening-prep-during-the-cold-winter-months