Thursday, March 31, 2011

Say Howdy to Your Inner Farmer - GROW YOUR OWN! Week 3 of 10 Easy Ways to Living Affordably Organic

Today we start Week 3 of the 10-week series of 10 Easy Ways to Living Affordably Organic, which promises to bring out your inner farmer. Howdy! This week we'll focus in easy ways to GROW (and make!) your own food. 

I have a confession to make: 

I love getting dirty.  (Ah, c'mon... Not like that.)

It brings me joy to put my hands in fresh soil, anticipating what sort of food I might be able to grow. I know that not everyone feels this way and the prospect of growing your own food can be daunting.

Here’s the good news: 

It’s easy. It’s fun. (And it’s really not all that dirty.

The secret?  You don’t need a big plot of land, or even land at all.  

Container gardening is a great option for those with limited space, budget and time.  It's uncomplicated and very rewarding. The general rule is that any vegetable that grows in the ground can be grown in a container. (Although some items, like corn, may not be the best choice since you’ll have to source out dwarf varieties.) This topic is particularly apropos since now is the time in many areas of the U.S. to start seeds and/or get plants started.

I’m mindful to grow items that can be expensive at the store, especially if buying organically. Big, robust heirloom tomatoes can run up to $6./PER POUND. (gulp.)  Red bell peppers can also get pricey. You can easily grow your own and save lots of cash.

I typically plant a dozen or so pots every year. About eight on my back deck and four on my front porch...  My container farm usually includes (but is not limited to) tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, basil, strawberries, mint, lemon thyme, rosemary and squash.  (Cucumber, carrots and beans also grow beautifully in containers, as do potatoes and eggplant.) I include herbs in my window boxes too, in order to really maximize my space. (And I should also add that I have a kid's wagon full of mint in my front flower bed - the neighborhood kids love it. Our street has the mintiest breath in town!) 

To start container gardening you’ll need:

Pots with good drainage – As I mentioned in a previous post, I mostly use these fun Ikea step stools (yes, upside down stools!) because they’re deep and the perfect size for my space. I drilled four holes in the bottom before planting… You can use any kind of pot as long as it’s big enough for your crop.

Soil – Use good, organic soil to give your plants a good start. I use a mix of compost, manure and organic gardening soil.

Direct sun – Find a spot for your containers so they get are least 6 hours of sun a day.

Fertilizer – You need to feed your farm.  I use a combo of compost and Miracle-Gro’s organic liquid and get great results.

Water – Give your garden a regular drink but don’t overwater.

Start today and you'll have luscious tomatoes in just a few months! It's so lovely to simply step outside your door and harvest your own organic produce...  And save money to boot! 

Next up:  Making your own food…  Last week we ditched the processed foods.  This week I’ll include more recipes for healthy substitutes from food that you can grow on your own.  

Organically yours,


A 4-week harvest of front porch-grown basil!

My kale seeds started sprouting...

What are your favorite veggies, herbs, etc. to grow in pots? Share here...    

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Black Bean Salsa - AVOID PROCESSED FOODS - Week 2 of 10 Easy Ways to Living Affordably Organic

Today we end Week 2 of 10 Easy Ways to Living Affordably Organic...  We avoided processed and ready-made foods and saved a bundle.  Feels good, right? (Your body and your wallet thank you.)

O.k., show of hands:  Who loves salsa?

Me, me, me! 

This items falls squarely in the camp of "why is this stuff so darned expensive in the store" and is yet another great example of food that you should make yourself.  Store-bought salsas often contain preservatives, sugar (why?!?!?) and mystery ingredients that you don't need or want.

The recipe listed below is wonderfully simple, healthy, flavorful and is so colorful and lovely that your friends will swear it came out of one of those fancy jars.  (You don't have to tell them your secret.)

Next up:  Week 3!  GROW YOUR OWN, MAKE YOUR OWN.  (Do you see a trend?)   

See you soon! Enjoy the salsa!

Organically yours, 


Black Bean Salsa

One 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed
2 cups of  corn (if not in season, substitute one 15 oz. can, drained) 
1 medium tomato, diced (if not in season substitute one 15 ox. can, drained)
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 c. finely diced onion (red is best, but yellow or white is good too)
Juice of 2 limes (approx. 1/2 c. lime juice - fresh is best, but you can use bottled if good quality)
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 t. salt
1/2 t. cumin
Pinch of cayenne
**optional - 1 fresh, green serano or jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced, seeds and all

Combine all veggies in large bowl. 
Mix all other ingredients in small bowl then add to veggie mix. 
Set aside for at least one hour to allow flavors to blend. (Overnight is best.)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hummus - AVOID PROCESSED FOOD - Week 2 of 10 Easy Ways to Living Affordably Organic

Wow, times flies!  We've almost completed Week 2 of my 10-week series of 10 Easy Ways to Living Affordably Organic...

Today I’m including an easy recipe for a ready made food that can get costly.  Hummus.  It’s very simple stuff, really.  Hummus is made from garbanzo beans (also called chick peas), garlic, tahini and only a few more ingredients, yet in the store you’ll easily pay $4. (and more if organic!)... for just 8 oz.!  My recipe makes four times that amount for about the same price.  Hummus makes a quick, healthy, high-protein snack, wonderful as a dip with carrots or pita, or use as a spread on your favorite sandwich.


2 – 8 oz. cans garbanzo beans, drained
¼ cup tahini (sesame paste)
1 – 12 oz. jar artichoke hearts (marinated, drained)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1-2 cloves of fresh garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon cumin
salt and pepper to taste

-Add beans, tahini, artichoke hearts, garlic, cumin and lemon juice to food processor and blend. 
-While blending, slowly add olive oil. 
-Blend to desired consistency (Use more oil if needed.  Tip: For super smooth consistency transfer to blender and continue blending until silky smooth.)
-Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Keep in sealed container in fridge for up to a week, freeze for up to 3-4 months. Yields approx. 32 oz.

Tomorrow I'll be featuring more recipes for making healthy substitutes to processed foods. (Hint: Have you started your basil seeds yet?  Pesto season is right around the corner and WAY too expensive at the store... Do you know that some companies add POTATO as a filler to their pesto? Yup. And they're charging you big for it.)

Organically yours,


Have you joined me on Facebook yet?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

AVOID PROCESSED FOOD : Watch your wallet *and* waistline! : 10 Easy Ways to Living Affordably Organic

Today marks the start of Week 2 of a 10-week series: 10 Easy Ways to Living Affordably Organic

In Week 1 we learned that a big key to living Affordably Organic is to KNOW YOUR FOOD.  Week 2 covers another great way to save money and eat healthy:


Ready-made and processed foods are almost always higher in:

- Cost
- Sugar
- Fat
- Mystery ingredients
- Amount of ingredients

Check out your typical, name brand “energy” bar, which costs about $1.50 when sold individually:


Did you count the ingredients?


30 INGREDIENTS.  (And I can’t even pronounce some of that stuff…)

Here’s more info:
Calories = 210
Sugar = 9 grams (that’s a little over TWO teaspoons of sugar)
Fat = 10 g


It’s basically a really expensive, chewy slab of sugar, that’s got a little bit of protein and fiber thrown in.

The good news is that you have options.  Lots of tasty, wholesome, easy-to-make options.  Instead of reaching for the processed stuff, make healthier versions at home.  Sure, making substitutes may take a little more of your time but it will also take big stress off your wallet and waistline.  This goes for spreads, dips and sauces (like hummus and pesto); salsa; granola; breads; and yes, energy bars.

Try my popular recipe for healthy, SEVEN-ingredient energy bars below. (My kiddos call them Super Bars because it makes them feel like super heros!  This is the snack that was featured recently on The Patch, and that I brought to the Georgia Organics Annual Conference a couple weeks ago.  People went bananas.) 

This no-brainer bar cost about 75% less than your average store-bought energy bar. That's a huge savings....  It only takes 10 minutes to assemble and an hour to bake.  Easy peasy.

Check back this week for more easy recipes for making healthy substitutes to processed foods.  (Breads and pesto and artichoke hummus - oh my!)

Organically yours,


P.s. Join Affordably Organic on Facebook!

(What are YOUR favorite subs for processed foods?  I want to hear about it...)


1 cup nuts, chopped (use almonds, walnuts or a mix of whatever suits your fancy… You can also use banana chips for a nut-free option.)
1 cup organic oats, quick-cooking
¼  cup sesame seeds
1 cup organic dried berries
1 t. cinnamon
¾ - 1 cup organic sweetener - honey or maple syrup
1 t. vanilla (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 275 degrees.  
Lightly grease or spray 9x13" baking pan.  
Combine all dry ingredients in large bowl, stir together.  
Add sweetener and mix thoroughly. (Use your hands.)  
Using wet spatula or hands, press mixture firmly and evenly into pan. 
Bake for one hour.
Allow to fully cool before cutting.

Easy-to-make Super Bar ingredients:

I prefer using organic oats but use Quaker in a pinch...

Yummy, healthy, portable (great on-the-go snack food) and easy on the wallet!

Monday, March 21, 2011

BUY SMART : Part 3 of KNOW YOUR FOOD : 10 Easy Ways to Living Affordably Organic

We’re nearing the end of Week 1 of my 10-week series on 10 Easy Ways to Live Affordably Organic.  (Did you visit your farmers market this week?)  

Quick re-cap... KNOWING your food means understanding:

WHEN to buy your food – Seasonally!

WHERE to buy your food – Locally!

Now… WHAT should you buy?  Does ALL your produce need to be organic?

(drum roll…)

Nope.  Absolutely not.

What?!?! It's true!

Some conventionally grown produce that has little or NO pesticide residue, otherwise known as the The Clean Dozen.  Typically this food may have thicker skin (avocados, sweet corn) or needs much less chemical pest management than other fruits and veggies.

Here’s the list:

The CLEAN Dozen
Avocadoes (less than 10% tested positive)
Sweet corn
Sweet peas

Other fruits and veggies are VERY high in pesticides so steer clear and ONLY buy organically. Check it out:

Top fruits to buy organic:

1. Cranberries
2. Nectarines
3. Peaches (96.7% of samples tested positive for pesticides...  Yikes.)
4. Strawberries
5. Pears
6. Apples
7. Cherries
8. Cantaloupe
9. Tomatoes
10. Grapes – especially imported (Watch out for any "imported organics" since other countries' organic standards do not meet the United States Department of Agriculture organic standards.)

Top veggies to buy organic:

1. Green Beans
2. Sweet Bell Peppers (Especially costly at stores. They’re great example of food that’s better to grow yourself! Very easy to grow in pots on your back deck or porch!)
3. Celery
4. Cucumber
5. Potatoes
6. Peas
7. Lettuce & Spinach
8. Broccoli
9. Carrots

Save yourself some cash by buying safe, conventionally grown food (like bananas) instead of buying organic.  Why pay .80/lb for organic bananas when you can buy for .49/lb conventionally? Same with avocados…  A conventionally grown avocado will run you $1.-1.49/each and the organic ones are nearly twice that. Buy smart.

Join me on Wednesday for Week 2 of 10 Easy Ways to Living Affordably Organic!

The topic?  AVOID "READY MADE" and PROCESSED FOODS.  (Just say NO.  Really.)

Organically yours,


 We grow some of our tomatoes in pots on the back deck. 
(Those fun lime green planters: upside down step stools from Ikea!)

A pic of last year's Roma tomatoes...  One of our faves...

Get your children in on the tomato-growing action!  They love to get dirty!

Many sources were used for post including The Daily Green

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Get Local - Part 2 of KNOW YOUR FOOD

Welcome back to KNOW YOUR FOOD, the first part in a 10-week series in 10 Easy Ways to Living Affordably Organic...

So, we know that the first step to knowing your food is understanding WHEN to buy your food – seasonally. 

The second part of the equation is knowing WHERE to buy your organic food. 

Two words:

This goes hand-in-hand with buying seasonally since all of your local organic produce will be seasonal.

The best and easiest way to eat locally is to source out your in-season fruits and veggie from your local farmer.  (He/she can be found at your local farmer’s market.) The food is fresher, tastes great and is better for you.  The best and freshest organic food is what’s grown closest to you.

There are a couple super useful online resources that can help you find the best local food: 

Local Harvest - Use this website to find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.

Atlanta Magazine’s Market Watch – This is a good example of a regional guide to the best sources of fresh produce and locally produced foods.  Try a search for “local foods”  or “farmers market in (INSERT YOUR CITY)” to find similar results.

Next up in KNOW YOUR FOOD: 

WHAT to buy?  Does ALL your produce need to be organic?  NOPESurprised?  More details in my next post.

Where's your favorite local place to buy organics?  I want to hear about it!

Organically yours,


One of our favorites things to do: Visit our Farmers Market.  :)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

There's a Reason to Buy in Season (#1: KNOW YOUR FOOD)

Welcome to the first installment in a 10-week series:

10 Easy Ways to Live Affordably Organic!  

Every Wednesday I’ll post a tip, then later in the week we'll delve a little deeper on how these tips work, providing real-world experience and successes. Good?  Let's get Affordably Organic.

First up: 


What does that mean??

It means you need to know:

- WHEN to buy

- WHERE to buy

- WHAT to buy organic  (…or NOT. Yup, some items are safe to conventionally, which mean non-organically.)

Let's start with WHEN to buy your food....

Buy seasonally. This means to buy your food when it's at the peak of it's natural season.

Strawberries in December?  Not in my state.  
Apples in May?  Nope.  
Tomatoes in January?  Not on your life. (shudder)

OUT of season fruits and vegetables are expensive.  Out of season food will cost two to three times more than if you buy it IN season.  (Curb that February cucumber craving!)  

My children used to beg me for blueberries in the dead of winter…. when they cost at least $6.00 for a teeny, little, measly pint.  (Youch.)  The berries came from somewhere far, far away where it was warm enough to grow blueberries (or grown in a hot house) and they pretty much tasted like mush.  

Expensive + not at all tasty = bad combo.  (Blech.)

So, I explained to my kiddos that blueberries are best only during certain months of the year. Somehow knowing that that blueberries aren't readily available make them an extra special treat. (Truly "forbidden fruit"!) Now they look forward to blueberry season and, more importantly, know when it is.  (A great lesson for kids:  Teach them your state's harvest calendar then take a tour through your grocery and let them tell you what's good to buy.)  In-season blueberries are easy to find, taste great and are affordable. Win, win, win. (Winning!  O.k., enough of the pop culture references…)

Use this handy interactive Peak Season map from Epicurious to find out what’s available during any given season in your area.  This easy-to-use tool also gives ingredient descriptions plus fun recipes.  

Next up in KNOW YOUR FOOD:  

WHERE should you buy your food?

Organically yours,


Blueberry picking with the kiddos in July in Georgia...  
I can hardly wait 4 months to do it again!