Landscaping and Garden | The Grocery Game

How To Grow A Budget Vegetable Garden From A Homestead Expert : The Grocery Game Challenge 2017 #3-4 June 19- July 2

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How to grow a budget vegetable garden from a homestead expert



This year may be the year you decide to finally grow a vegetable garden in your front or back-yard. Gardening can be as inexpensive or costly as you’d like depending on how you approach it. My name is Karen from the blog Lil Suburban Homestead and I hope I can inspire you to get out and dig with our best kept secret vegetable garden tips.

To start your vegetable garden you may feel a bit intimidated, don’t be. To ease your worries I’ll share with you our success and failures over the years. We’ve been through it all which has helped us become homestead experts for our family.

Sometimes failure is only the beginning to your success.


Beginning to vegetable garden is about learning


When we started our vegetable garden let’s just say our first attempt turned into a failure but not without a learning experience. I was disheartened but not discouraged from continuing my quest to grow home-grown, delicious food!  I guess you could say it was in my DNA as when I grew up my parents always had a tiny garden but I always wanted to have a farm!

My husband and I grew our first vegetable garden together in 1989 and at that time we owned about an acre and a quarter which is quite a bit more land than our suburban 1/3 of an acre we own today. Back then we planted corn, watermelon, and tomatoes. This was about what my repertoire was at the time.

To our surprise…

The corn became infested with worms and dried up, the tomatoes never made it we just simply didn’t have a proper irrigation system, and thankfully because melons love hot and dry summers and rich soil we did end up getting a few of them. I remember turning and saying to my husband, “Well maybe we could have a watermelon farm!” as that seemed to be the only thing we were good at and we learned later we could grow pumpkins quite well too.

We seemed to be limited to growing round orbs but then later I had an idea to start growing food closer to the kitchen in the small beds around the house and I slowly started having more luck with growing cilantro, rosemary, and other herbs.

Related: What to do when you have too much basil

We never really did have a vegetable garden of significance back then but we were regulars at what was the local farmers market which was more like a flea market in that day and time. So please do not let initial failures deter you from your gardening attempts.

Definitely persist;  the definition of a gardener according to Google is, “a person who tends and cultivates a garden as a pastime or for a living.”  So from the moment you plant that seed or trim back that peach tree well you are officially a gardener! So welcome to the ranks!

Now let’s get dirty 😉


Vegetable Garden Tips for Beginners


Over the years I’ve learned quite a bit about gardening especially how to keep the costs low by incorporating some of the many tips below. To become a successful gardener all you need to do is start.


Know Your Zone


Knowing your gardening zone is the first and most important step as your interest in gardening grows. I am growing pak choi in the garden but if you are in a colder zone you may not be able to do that right now. We are in zone 8b and we can basically garden all year round. During the winter months we grow mustard greens, collard greens, and Asian greens like bok or pak choi.


Watch For Seed Sales


All vegetable garden and flower seed catalogues have a big clearance season and many of them are in right now eager to sell seeds and starts especially if they did not sell as many right out of the gate early in the season!

I’m not going to steer you to just one but there are several out there to choose from.


If you can find a seed company local to your gardening zone stick with them when you can. Also don’t get too wrapped up into the heirloom vs. hybrid discussion for your vegetable garden.

The best peppers I have grown in our vegetable garden were hybrid peppers from Burpee Seed and the best carrots were from Sow True Seed and they were heirloom.

Start your vegetable garden and find out what you like best!

Related: How to start your FRUGAL garden from seeds


Free Mulch


Many municipalities have places where residents can drop off leaves, wood, debris and they often shred this up. Most places allow residents to pick this mulch up. This is a free source of material to keep the moisture in for your plants. Take advantage of these opportunities when you can. You might also find free newspapers at the local recycling bins which you can use as well.


Make Gardening Friends


Gardening friends are the best!

We love to share seeds, starts, roots, and gardening ideas and strategies. We will go to plant sales together or meet up and talk for hours about who has the best tasting tomatoes this year and wow wasn’t that flame azalea just gorgeous.

We love all getting dirty and I have to say some of my gardening friends are just the most “grounded” no pun intended. We belong to a local gardening group, see if your area has one and join in on the fun!  If not maybe you could start one it doesn’t have to be a huge initiative. Invite folks over to have coffee and visit in your garden…it only takes a spark or a root!


Swap Seeds


Not only can you swap vegetable garden and flower seeds with friends but many online gardening groups/forums online have seed swaps and seed swap trains. One in particular is with a group called Homesteading Today that I have been a member of for years. That being said there are many groups out there so find the right group for you!


Listen To Podcasts/Watch YouTube Tutorials


There are some fabulous podcasts out about gardening and some great tutorials for you to listen to and watch. I will post some of mine that I have hosted but go out and get exploring and find some radio hosts or YouTube hosts that just rock your world you will learn a lot from them and you will want to learn more!

You can find many more but here are two of each my Podcasts and YouTube Tutorials to get you started.

Karen Lynn’s Podcasts

Karen Lynn’s YouTube Tutorials


Read Up


There are so many amazing blogs on gardening and truthfully there would be too many for me to point you too. I am partial to Mr. CBB’s blog as I always learn great strategies for practical everyday living.

However there are also tons of gardening books to be found at yard sales, thrift stores, and library sales. Most gardening books always have something new for you to learn and it doesn’t always have to mean that is how you are specifically going to garden but it is great to read up and see what others are doing and what works for them.


Free Planters/Containers


Gardening supplies can be costly so whenever possible we try to save as much money as we can. In our area curbside finds are the norm but I realize that is not true in all areas. However many of our pots that we use were re-purposed from landscaping jobs in our area.

My husband simply asks the contractor on site if he could go around and pick up the pots when they complete the job.Most contractors aren’t going to say no to someone that is helping them pick up after a job. We ended up with an abundance (almost too many) of the inexpensive black pots.

Dumpsters are also a good place to look for these and you may want to contact your local gardening store and ask them if you could have the pots/containers when they are done.

Related: Dumpster Diving Tips and Tricks


Water Savings


One trick to save money on water is to water your vegetable garden manually. Yes it’s more time-consuming but it also gets you up close to your garden and you can look for pests or other problems.

You could also look into water saving hose nozzles most home/hardware retailers sell them quite affordably. One reason we love raised bed gardening is that when we do put the sprinkler on them in the summer it reaches all of our beds making this a more efficient way to use our yard space.


Plant Sales


In our area the local Agriculture department has plant sales for fundraisers and so do some of our local garden clubs. These are where the absolute best plant sales can be found.

Some plants are difficult to grow from seed; lavender being one of them and I have learned as I have aged that sometimes it’s just better to come home from the plant sale and plant my plants directly into some beautiful pots on my front porch or back patio. Every now and then I love instant gratification.

Related: Tips on how to find free plants and save money on gardening


Keep on digging


I hope that I have inspired you to get out and garden this spring and enjoy the process. I know we sure do in fact as soon as I complete this article I’m heading out to plant another batch of radish seeds in my vegetable garden.

I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my good friend Mr. CBB for hosting me on his blog today as I truly have appreciated the opportunity to reach out to all of you.

I wish you all a beautiful week…until next time!

Oh and go get dirty.

Discussion Question: Share some of your successes and fails in the comment section below and what you learned from them.

Post Contribution: Karen Lynn and her husband she calls the Viking live on a 1/3 of an acre in Coastal North Carolina. To learn more about Karen Lynn and the Viking visit their blog at Lil’ Suburban Homestead!


June Grocery Game Challenge


Join in the 2017 Grocery Game Challenge (GGC) fun and post your grocery shop in the comment section of each GGC blog post. Here are The Grocery Game Challenge rules to get you started and where you’ll also find a link for the 2017 GGC schedule. Please feel free to download, save and even print the schedule.

Post your shop and you can be next.

Please Note: We are going on holidays for 3 weeks. I will attempt to get the GGC posts up as scheduled BUT if not just save your shop and double post the next time I post. You will still get your ballots and it will keep you on track as well.

New monthly prize: See the Grocery Game Rules

June 2017 Blog Posts:


Free Money Saving Tools 2017


Click, Save and Print. It’s that easy!

This is the budget that brought us to debt freedom back in 2013 and now I’m offering to all of you for FREE. We still use this budget every month as it helps us to see our overall financial picture.

2014 Free Money Saving ToolsDon’t pay someone for these services, I’ve done the work for you along with some help from other amazing bloggers.

You can download the FREE Canadian Budget Binder Budget Spreadsheet in Excel It’s FREE! We use it to budget and in large part a reason we could pay our mortgage off in 5 years, check it out!

Free Money Saving Downloads are awesome lists that were created to get us on track to work towards reaching our budgeting goals and now we are sharing them with you.

Get organized with a FREE freezer inventory, meal plan, shopping list, price comparison list and much more all for FREE.

CLICK HERE to download all the free lists and even our family budget spreadsheet. So many free resources at your fingertips.


Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide 2017


the ultimate grocery shopping guide cbbEverything you want to know about grocery shopping in Canada is packed into this amazing FREE grocery shopping guide that has taken 5 years to create.

The Ultimate Grocery Shopping guide is ongoing with new informative money-saving posts added every month.

Even if you don’t live in Canada there are some amazing budget saving tips that will help put you on the path to more savings at the supermarket.

Share this guide with your friends and tell them about Canadian Budget Binder especially if they are struggling with their grocery budget.

The time is NOW to get started saving money on groceries so please enjoy the  many money-saving posts in the The Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide.


2017 Grocery Shop Results


Yearly grocery budget for two + 1 Toddler 2017: $3180 or $265/mth

(The above total does not include the stockpile budget of $300/year or $25/month.

Points Overview (add any other sections you need to show us your savings)

  • Total Grocery Budget for this Month: $265
  • Total Grocery Budget with any carry-overs $265
  • Total Gift Cards used to date: $0
  • Total Rewards Points redeemed this week: $0
  • Total Rewards Points used to date: $0
  • PC Points Plus Earned to date: 577,000
  • Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP) to date $0
  • Shoppers Optimum: 950,000

Coupon Apps (add any other apps you use to save money)

  • Zweet to cash out : $18.25
  • Checkout51 to cash out : $24.50


Our Grocery Shop This Week


We had a no-shop week this week and likely for the rest of the month as we are going on holidays.


All totals below already have tax factored into them.

  • Total to spend this month : $265
  • Stockpile budget 2016 : $25.00/month
  • Stockpile budget used this month: $
  • Total coupons used this week: $0
  • Total coupons used to date: $1
  • Total in-store discounts this week: $0
  • Total in-store discounts to date: $579.54
  • Total spent this week: $0
  • Total spent so far this month: $65.43
  • Total over/Under spend this shop: over
  • Total over/Under spend for the month: under
  • Total left to spend for the month: $199.57
  • Total Spent To Date 2017: (does not include stockpile budget) Jan $231.06+Feb $255.16+March ($5 budget increase) $263.60 + April $273.83+ May $257.15 + June $

Weekly Overview (your final thoughts)

This was a no shop week for us as we prepare to leave on holidays for close to a month.

How was your shopping week?



Coupons and Coupon Apps


Here are some great places you can find Canadian Coupons! These are your latest Checkout 51 offers which you can use to help save money. We’re finding less and less coupons in the stores these days. What are your thoughts? Are coupon apps taking over the paper coupons?

If you notice I’m missing a valuable link please message me and I’ll get it added to the savings list below.

Sign up for the Nielsen Canada Home Scan Program and you can earn rewards points fast to redeem for awesome products or gift cards. I did this in the UK and loved it!!

Where can I find Canadian Coupons 2017?

Plus check out these other hidden areas online to get more coupons!!

If any of these links are broken please report them to me.

  • Healthy Essentials Printable Coupons (Johnson and Johnson)
  • Danone Coupons Get up to $25 in coupons
  • Clorox Coupons Sign up to print coupons in the Clorox family which include Greenworks, Glad etc.
  • Kraft Canada Sign up and receive recipes and coupons by email
  • Printable Smart Source Coupons
  • Walmart Canada Printable Coupons
  • Proctor and Gamble PandG Sign up for printable coupons
  • Hidden Coupon Portals You Should know about – I found this over at Save a Loonie and you’ll want to sign up for notifications and check out the site so you get notified every time a hidden coupon is available from, Brandsaver, Smart Source etc.


Grocery Game Challenge 2017 FAQ’s


  • Grocery Game Challenge RULES: Read the rules first and if you have any questions email me or comment on this post with your question and someone will answer you as soon as possible. The rules have been updated to reflect changes for the 2017 challenge year.
  • Do I have to be Canadian to post my Grocery Shop?: No, you don’t have to be Canadian to post your shops. We have fans who post their grocery shop who live all over the world.
  • What is the monthly prize and who can claim it?- The monthly prize is a $10-$20-$50 PC Loblaws Gift Card and for our out of country friends it’s $CDN via PayPal.  Please see GGC rules.
  • When does the Grocery Game close each month?: The Grocery Game Challenge closes at midnight of the last Sunday of the last post for the month but you will still get a ballot when you post your shops even if they are late but I encourage you to stay on schedule. If you choose to post monthly or bi-weekly you will only get 1 ballot for that shop. It’s a proven fact the minute we stop doing something scheduled that we end up forgetting to do it altogether. Don’t let that be you! You can post your shops all month-long.
  • Does your Grocery Budget include health and beauty and laundry products?: No, our Grocery Budget includes such items as shampoo, conditioner, laundry soap, fabric softener, dish soap etc. As of 2014-2015 we no longer include such items in our grocery budget so we can see actual food numbers at the end of the year in order to plan accordingly our budget.
  • Do you stockpile food? We don’t mind stockpiling items that won’t be affected by expiry dates or have long expiry dates but not so much food any longer as we found we weren’t eating it fast enough. Stockpiling is still great and just one way to help cut your budget to save money if you do find items that you can buy in bulk at a sale price.
  • Canadian Coupons:Where can I find Canadian Coupons?: Here are your latest  Checkout 51 offers that you can use to help you save money in the Grocery Game Challenge. There are many great Canadian Couponing websites online that share weekly coupon match-ups so you can plan your grocery list.
  • Best Coupon Apps: Coupons are slowly fading with mobile coupon apps being the big rave these days. Just recently the popular coupon site that mailed coupons to households has gotten involved with the addition of a new mobile app joining forces with the many other coupon apps available. If you find an app that I don’t talk about please let me know as they are always being added and I’d like to review them.
  • What is the Best Flyer App- We use Flipp on our Iphone so if you wan to have all your flyers in one spot download Flipp from the Apple Store or get it on Google Play.
  • What is an FPC?: An FPC is a free product coupon which means you can get a free product as described on the coupon.
  • What is GGC?– The Grocery Game Challenge of course!
  • How Do I Know what stores accept coupons?:  If you are not sure it’s always best to call the store and ask.
  • How Do I Grocery Shop?: I can tell you about grocery shopping and what we do in terms of shopping to save money and how it works for us. There are no wrong or right answers, just smart choices.

Nobody is perfect, heck we struggle with this part of our budget like many people do. This is why The Grocery Game Challenge is one of the most popular hang out spots for people who want to save money on groceries.

If you’ve just joined The Grocery Game Challenge 2017 get ready to look at your grocery budget by learning;

  • Where you are spending money
  • How much money you are spending
  • How much money you are saving every month

If you want to learn everything I know about grocery shopping in Canada check out my Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide! It’s FREE!

If you know a topic that should be discussed send me an email. If I use your topic I will put your name in a draw for a prize at the end of the year.

You’ve made a wise decision to take control of your grocery budget now show me your shops and let’s get saving!

Welcome to The Grocery Game Challenge 2017!


Are You New To Canadian Budget Binder?

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