Frugal Foodie: How to Level Up with Homebrewing and Gardening

Just because we’re at home doesn’t mean we can’t still be frugal foodies.

Today, we’ll look at how you can jumpstart a garden and start making craft brews at home!

Frugal Foodie at Home

Frugal foodie is back! If you’re new to this series, it’s where we explore ways you can eat well without breaking the budget.

For some though, when you hear frugal. It means cheap. I get it. Maybe, you know, someone who brags about getting the absolute lowest price on everything. Whether it’s good or bad.

While you can save money being frugal, the real focus is getting the best value.

When it comes to food and really life, he don’t want to settle for less just because it’s the cheapest. You want to get the most out of what you have.

With this series, we look at ways that you can make your dollar go further. We’ve talked about getting great deals on food, whether it’s grocery hacks, meal planning, or even going out to eat.

Today, we’re going to look at another way you can enjoy fantastic meals and still keep things affordable.

We’re talking about gardening and home brewing.

What was interesting was how incredibly relaxing these hobbies, where especially last year.

Many of us had more time at home in the usual options weren’t always available.

Family trips, checking out the museums or festivals were all off the table. We had to find ways to keep ourselves busy and have some creative outlets.

For us that included making home brews and being out in the garden.

We had home brewed years ago, but when we had two toddlers at home, it became more of a hassle so we took a hiatus.

Thankfully, we still had the equipment in our basement so when we felt like starting that back up last year, it was fairly simple.

The other hobby gardening is something we’ve been working on year after year, especially with this house. We have our main space Outback, where we grow hot peppers, tomatoes, different green strawberries and more.

2020 was still… you know, 2020, but it was good to have a project to work on.

While I don’t think all of our hobbies have to be productive or optimized, I do feel like there are some great benefits with making and growing your own food.

If you’re really looking to make meals at home, more enjoyable and special, it’s hard to beat something that you grew or made yourself.

Today, we’re going to look at what it takes to get started so the two of you can level up and become frugal foodies.

In this episode, we’ll go over:

  • how you can set up an easy to maintain a garden in or outside your house
  • Explore the fun of home brewing craft beers
  • look at the numbers and see how they come out.

Are you ready? Let’s get started!

Resources to Become a Frugal Foodie

If you’d like to try out your handy with gardening or homebrewing, here are some handy resources to help you get started! 

Gardening

Home Brewing

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What You Need to Know to Get Started with Gardening 

When you’re talking about being a foodie, you can’t ignore how much better dishes are when you have ingredients. 

Whether you enjoy meals at home or out, what makes a meal superb is what goes into it. Fresh ingredients, locally sourced are popular trends, but really what’s more fresh and local than what you grow at home?

Even if you focus on just growing herbs, you can elevate your dishes. 

So why don’t more of us garden? 

I think many of us, which a few years ago including myself, feel like it’s complicated or you have to have some sort of natural ability. 

Gardening doesn’t have to be complicated. 

Once you understand the basics It’s a lot easier to build a garden that fits you and your space

But there are several great reasons why you should try it out. 

  1. Health and mood boosts. Gardening outside can give you some exercise as you tend to your spot and it can help with reducing stress
  2. Encourages healthier habits. 
  3. Gets your kids eating better too. Another bonus to having a garden? You may help your kids develop a habit of healthier eating. One study found that college students who had some garden experience growing up ate more fruits and vegetables in their diet

So if you want to get started, here’s how to make things much easier on you. 

Before you add anything to your garden space, you have to understand a few key things. 

For plants to grow, they need a certain amount of 

  • Sun, 
  • water, 
  • Soil

Depending on what you want to grow, they’ll have different requirements.

If you’ve had plants die on your before, chances are you weren’t able to meet one of those three key ingredients. 

So let’s look at how you can set yourself up for success and ways to keep your expenses in check.

How Much Should We Water Our Plants?

I’m going to start with one of the most common mistakes gardeners make – not correctly watering your plants. 

If you’re using containers with no drainage for your indoor garden, you’re at higher risk for overwatering. If you’re outdoors, you may not be watering enough. 

How can you figure out what’s enough for your vegetables, herbs, and fruits? Check the soil. Using either your finger or shovel gently push aside some soil to see how deep the water has gotten. 

Keep your outside garden adequately watered without having your bills through the roof  with  these strategies. 

  1. Focus on the roots. If you’re using a soaker hose or a drip irrigation system, place near the plants’ base. 
  2.  Water in the morning. Higher chance of getting soaked by the roots rather than evaporated and give time to dry, which helps prevent fungal diseases
  3. Use mulch. You can certainly pick some up at the story, but if you don’t mind waiting, you can get some free mulch by calling your local tree company and see about getting on their list. We’ve gotten two batches of mulch. Using the prices I saw online, we saved almost $1,000 between the two batches. 
  4. Reclaim rainwater. We have a rain barrel system that allows us to collect 50 gallons of water. Reusing that water not only saves money, but it’s also environmentally friendly. 

Solar Power Gardening

Second key ingredient for garden success is the proper amount of sun. 

Full SunSun/Shade 
Tomatoes, Okra, Melons,
Sweet potatoes, Hot Peppers, Green Beans, Cucumbers, Zucchini, Pumpkins
Basil, Lavender, Stevia
Spinach, Chard, Leaf Lettuce, Peas, Radishes, Kale, Arugula,
Green Onion, Bush Beans
Cilantro, Parsley, Lemon Balm

Soil: It’s Not Just Dirt

One thing you quickly find out when it comes to growing your garden is how much soil matters. 

Soil is much more than dirt. In general, all soil is a mix of silt, sand, and clay. When you hear people talking about their soil being clay, sand, and silt, they’re giving you information about the soil texture and the particles.

We have lots of sandy dirt toward the far side. When it rains the water washes parts of it away, exposing rocks and stones. Basically, it’s like a rocky beach.

Closer to the house we’re practically at the opposite end – hard clay. Some areas have moss while others are bare spots.

Not sure what you have? Start with your hands and eyes. Get some of the soil and see how it feels. You can do a few do it yourself tests to get an idea of what you’re dealing with.

You can also do a soil test with a home kit.  You can purchase one at your local hardware or garden store. They can give you a ballpark figure about the macro-nutrients Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K).

If you want a more detailed analysis, you get your soil tested by your state’s cooperative extension. If you have to pay, it’s usually a small amount (in North Carolina it’s $4 during their busy season which is between December 1 and March 31).

When a clear idea of what your soil lacks or has an overabundance of, you can amend it to address those needs. 

Using Compost to Feed Your Garden

Whether you have an outdoor space or your garden is strictly inside, you can improve it by composting. 

Composting is pretty straightforward for us. We have a pail underneath the kitchen sink where we put our kitchen scraps and any veggies or fruits that have gone bad.

Every day or so we head outside to add our scraps to our compost piles in the backyard. We use a geobin and a tumblr  tucked away behind some trees. 

They each hold about 200 gallons (around 12 lbs per gallon) so if we had to buy the equivalent amount of compost from the store, we’d have to pay $720 (basing on a 40lb bag being $24) to cover one bin.

Once it’s broken down you can then use that in your garden. So yeah, doing so good for the earth also means we get to save quite a bit of money!

Easy Plants to Grow in Your Food Garden

Now that you understand the essentials that you need, and your own space, it’s time for the fun part – choosing what to grow., 

I wasn’t joking about being bad with gardening. I used to be a person who kept a cactus because it was the only plant I felt I could keep alive.

Fast forward a few years and now I’m hunting through seed catalog picking out what we’re going to grow. It didn’t happen overnight, but it wasn’t as hard as I had thought.

A big part of what helped me was building confidence and practicing gardening skills with easy to grow plants.

Easy Herbs, Vegetables, and Fruits to Include in your Garden

Here are some of my favorite easy to grow plants: 

  • Rosemary
  • Mint
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Carrots*
  • Sweet Potatoes*
  • Green Beans
  • Spinach
  • Peppers
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Onions

Should We Use Seeds or Seedlings?

If this is your first garden, I say grab both.

You can grab seeds for root vegetables. Tomatoes can be less stressful starting with seedlings while growing your herbs from seeds isn’t much of a big deal.

You also want to consider your budget. Seedlings are usually pricier, so you may want to pick and choose carefully.

Grow Your Garden

Hopefully you can see that it can be whether it’s indoors or outdoors, having a garden can be a fantastic hobby that doesn’t have to break your budget

With fresh ingredients you can prepare an exquisite yet affordable meal, the definition of being a frugal foodie!

Homebrewing: What You Need to Know to Get Started

Like many people who have had thoughts of making their own beer, the initial motivation for us was fueled by local brewery tours. 

Raleigh has some fantastic spots and we enjoyed hanging out on a weekend trying a new place. 

It was funny because at one point during the tour, the guide would usually mention how it got started with homebrewing. 

That intrigued us. 

After checking online with some sites and speaking with friends, we decided to give it a try.

The good news is that beer really just needs 4 main ingredients – water, grain, hops, and yeast. 

While we thought you’d need a ton of equipment to get started, that’s not the case. Of course, if you’re super into this and want to do huge batches, your equipment list may be a lot, but for most, it’s fairly affordable. 

Getting a Homebrewing Starter Kit

We grabbed a kit for a one gallon brew from Brooklyn Brewshop

The one gallon set up is a great option for those that don’t know if they’d like to homebrew on a regular basis, having a small kit can let you test the waters. It’s also handy if space is limited at your home. 

Having enjoyed that we then decided to get into making 5 gallon batches. We decided to look around and price shop for beginner’s kits.

Since we don’t always agree on drinking the same beer, we wanted a set up that would allow us to brew two batches at a time.

The time added would be minimal and looking at costs, it basically came down to grabbing an extra bucket. 

Thankfully there’s a local brew supply shop right here in Raleigh, American Brewmaster.   

Using Recipe Kits to Explore the World of Beer Together

I’m proud of the different styles we’ve tried out so far. We each have our personal favorites and we have a few enjoy together like red ales, 

While we have created our own recipes, specifically when we were looking at meads and gluten free beers with our friends, we mainly use kits. 

If you’re  starting off with homebrewing, using a recipe kit makes the learning process a lot easier.

Recipe kits are prepackaged with pretty much all the ingredients you need to make a batch of beer, including malt (perhaps in extract form), hops, and yeast.

The correct amounts are included so you can simply follow the recipe included and be set.

We use a great local brew shop in the area, American Brewmaster, to grab most of our supplies and I’ve used Brooklyn Brew shop for my one gallon batches.

Are You Actually Saving Money Making Homebrews?

Recipe KitCostBottles Brewed (12oz)Cost Per Bottle/6pk
Honey IPA$159$1.67/$10.02
Dry Stout$34.5050$0.69/$4.14
American Amber Ale$33.5050$0.67/$4.02
Chocolate Maple Porter$1510$1.50/$9.00

I think you see two things right here:

  • The 5 gallon brews are very cost effective, with the prices being much better than what we find at the stores.
  • Using the recipe kits from Brooklyn Brew Shop is not the way to save money.

For around $40, you get the equipment you need and usually a recipe kit mix. 

While I believe that you can save money by brewing your own beer, I don’t think you should have it as a hobby if that’s your sole reason for doing it.

It does take time to brew and bottle your beer, which some people may find annoying. However it’s been a fun activity for us to share in as a couple and with friends.

Frugal Foodie: Can You Really Save Money?

Let’s run the numbers. 

The best part is not that you’re saving money, but you’re enjoying a hobby that enriches your life and makes meals at home more fun. 

Key Takeaways

Before we wrap I want to share some key takeaways from preparing this episode. 

  • Start small. Indoor herb garden or a small lot outside can be fun without a lot of hassle. 
  • Not all hobbies have to be money makers or savers. While you can save money, it doesn’t have to be your main reason. 
  • Community makes it better. While we are home more, these hobbies are a fantastic way to connect with others. 

There’s so much we can chat about with gardening or homebrewing, so if you’re into either or you want to get started, come join in our Facebook group  Thriving Families. 

We’re there to support one another with our family and financial goals. I’d love to share any tips I can and I know there are others too. 

We hope to see you there!

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Music Credit

Our theme song is from Staircases. Additional music by various artists from Audiio.

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