"Grow or Make Your Own Food"

August 26, 2008 6:48:15 PM PDT
Getting your grocery bill down might just be a matter of using your own two hands and taking a little more time. Some Valley families are growing or making their own food.Andrea MacDonald's Central Fresno home has plenty of curb appeal, but it's what's in her backyard that's really pecking pennies off her grocery bill. A pair of hens lays 8 to 10 eggs a week and provides pest control in MacDonald's bountiful vegetable garden. MacDonald: "We just started planting things, and we started off with tomatoes, lettuce and green beans and now I keep it going year round." She showed us around, pointing out enormous figs still on the trees and pulling out a large turnip fresh from the ground.

MacDonald invests just a couple hours a week tending her garden for a priceless payout: "You can't get any fresher, than when you go outside, pick it, walk in the house, wash it up and cook it."

Who says money doesn't grow on trees? In this garden, every two ears of corn saves a dollar. Every bundle of fresh herbs saves three dollars. MacDonald says anyone can do it. Even her 5-year-old granddaughter started growing tomatoes: "Even if you have a small space, an apartment or condo, as long as you've got 5 hours of sunlight, that's a good place to start."

Christi Allen whips up her own baby food in her Visalia kitchen. The mother of four young children says she started looking for ways to save when her twins were born: "Feeding twins, when my twins started it became quickly apparent that it was 6-dollars a day to feed the two of them." And now, 4-month-old baby Chloe is on the verge of eating solids too. Allen told us, "Do it yourself and you save a lot of money that way."

Allen sticks to age-appropriate fruits and vegetables. She showed us how she does it with nectarines. She peels then steams them. After pureeing the fruit, she freezes them into ice cube trays: the perfect portion size for a baby. And with each feeding, she sees the savings: "Over a dollar for a 2-pack of baby food. So I got 15 or 20 times the amount of food for the money."

And this way, she figures, she gave her little ones the healthiest possible start: "So I started them off very healthy, however all they eat now is chicken nuggets and tater tots, but ... (shrugs and laughs)"

Here are some additional tips from Allen:

  • Babies eat different types of food at different stages. Look around at your grocery store to see what they make for each stage, or refer to www.wholesomebabyfood.com.
  • Remove all choking dangers like pits and seeds. All fruits and vegetables that can be peeled, should be peeled. All fruits and vegetables should be cooked or steamed, (except avocados and bananas).
  • Everything should be puréed - the younger the baby, the finer the purée.
  • For younger babies, thin with water, breast milk or formula. For older ones, thicken with baby cereal, wheat germ, or oatmeal.
  • Introduce new foods one food at a time, every four days. If there's an allergic reaction, you'll be able to trace the cause.
Fresno Master Gardeners
Garden of the Sun:

The University of California Cooperative Extension in Fresno County, through its Master Gardener Program has developed a one acre ornamental and food production demonstration garden at the Discovery Center, located at 1944 N. Winery Ave., Fresno, CA.

The garden includes an extensive orchard of fruit trees and vines; beds of vegetables, herbs, perennials, cut flowers, an All-American Selections Garden, and a compost demonstration area in a setting designed by landscape designer, Robert Truxell. The Garden of the Sun is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. and most Saturdays. Guided tours are available upon request. To schedule a tour, contact us at mgfresno@ucdavis.edu

UPCOMING EVENT:

Taste of the Harvest at the Garden of the Sun
Date: 06-Sep-2008
Time: 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Location: Garden of the Sun
Address: 1944 N. Winery Fresno, CA 93703
Description: Bring the family for a tasty, educational experience at the Garden of the Sun.
Activities include: Salsa contest, tomato sampling, children's activities, produce sales, recipes and nutritional experience.

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