I know this may sound a little far out for some of you, but believe me when I tell you that I have absolutely no gardening skills what-so-ever. Even as I write this, I realize that there is a plant in my living room that has not been watered in over a month. So I am obviously not the gardening type, but I am extremely envious of those that have the patience and experience to grow their own food, herbs, and beautiful flowers. I however, stick to the basics. I grow herbs. My favorite ones to grow and use are basil, cilantro, and mint. The other key to growing your herbs is to USE THEM! They are such a good fresh ingredient that can make your bland cooking have that WOW factor. The other upside is that it can cut your grocery bill down by anywhere from $2.00 to $10.00 per week depending on which herbs you buy and when you buy them. I normally would buy at least an herb a week and during the warmer months when I am growing my herbs outside, I save on average $75.00. Seeing how I pay $2.00 for each plant at the local grocery or hardware store (Publix sells potted herbs for $2.00 each but the packaged herbs are closer to $3.00- go figure), I can use them all summer long and never have to budget in my herbs when making meals. You may not think that $75.00 is a lot of money, but for me that's equivalent to the following:
1. 2 tanks of gas for my car
2. At least 2 dinners out of the house that I don't have to cook or clean up
3. ½ of my infants daycare for a week
4. A monthly water bill
5. A week's worth of groceries after diapers and formula
I think you get the picture, that $75 saved can have unlimited possibilities and put you closer to a life free of debt
Basil can be tossed into almost any pasta dish, it's great with chicken, and chopped in pizza is such a winning combination. The local farmers market in Bluffton has its famous pasta guy that comes weekly, he sells frozen pizza dough for $2.00 and it is the best around. Combined with your grown herbs, some olive oil, and mozzarella and you have such a great, and extremely cheap meal that kids just adore! You can even be a little health conscious and buy his whole wheat version and use the part skim shredded mozzarella. My husband has perfected the art of grilling pizzas on the outdoor gas grill, and when we do this, it's a dinner not to be missed!
Cilantro has so many uses, some of my favorites are in tacos, my favorite guacamole dip, black bean salads, salsas, and really good with lime and seafood. I found this to be the easiest herb to grow, and I just love the smell. Obviously mint smells wonderful too, and if you are a Mojito lover, mint is for you. Mint can be used to spice up any iced tea (another cheap and easy drink to have in the house or serve at parties, boiled with a little mint puts this over the top). I just found this recipe recently that calls for a sauce of plain yogurt, minced cucumber, and fresh mint. It's a form of Tzatziki sauce, and used with cous cous or pita bread, it is really good and a really healthy side dish or snack.