Preparing to Homestead #4: Planning Your Gardens, Pantry, & Meals

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Another great skill to practice before you homestead is planning. Learning to be frugal and budgeting go hand in hand with planning. Whether we are planning our garden, pantry or meals; these are great skills to obtain having our own homestead. It is vital to have these skills to manage your home!

So for clarity, this post is broken down into three sections. Planning your garden, planning your pantry and planning your meals.

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Section 1: Planning Your Garden:

Let’s begin with the garden. Gardening is such a broad term, on your homestead you will have to plan what kind of garden and methods you will use to garden. If we hone in on vegetable gardening that will supply food for your table, how much would you like to plant? How much will you family consume? Will you square foot garden directly in the soil? Perhaps raised beds? Is space going to be an factor? Knowledge of vertical gardening, container gardening and hydroponic gardening may come in handy. What kind of seeds will you plant? Organic, hybrids adjusted for your growing region or heirloom varieties?

Once you have decided your needs and desires for your first year of gardening, you will then need to decide where you will purchase your seed, the tools you will need and how you will provide nutrients to the soil. Will you buy fertilizer medium to grow in, use liquid fertilizers and/or obtain your own fertilizer. (Rabbit manure, worm castings, etc.)

However time consuming it may seem, it is quite exciting! If you’re new to gardening and do not currently garden, start with just a couple things you will actually use. For example, we had a very busy year and the garden season started late on account of whether, so we planted an entire garden with five different crops. We were able to put up a couple years worth of pickles and had surplus of other produce to enjoy daily and share. It was still a fruitful year. This is wonderful if you have another friend homesteading. They plant an abundance of one crop and we another, then trade and help each other put away enough for two seasons. It works perfect if you have willing parties involved.

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~If you are not at your homestead yet, experiment or grow enough where you are. Container gardening gives plenty of fruit and valuable information on growing and plant pollination.

~If you know the area of which you will be working with start a (7) Seven Step Plan.

  1. Choose a location. Pick a spot with great sunlight, well drained soil, rich and fertile soil. HERE is more information on selecting a site for your location by the extension office.
  2. Calculate How Much Space You Have to Work With and map it out on grid paper. In order to figure out how much you are able to plant, you need to know the space you have to work with. If you are limited to let’s say 200 square feet, depending on your family size; you may choose to eliminate certain vegetables that take a lot of space. Check out these 11 Vegetables You can Grow Vertically. Some plants grow great in containers, buckets and windowsills; freeing up space in your main garden. We have adjusted our garden each year, tweaking little things that make a big difference. For example if we plant greens, we plant wide “market garden” rows and succession plant, replanting a different crop half way through the season for fall harvest. Although we do not do this with our entire garden, we have found it works great to double our yield for leafy greens, beets and carrots. Here is a great article on tight spacing and vertical gardening.
  3. Calculate How Much To Plant Per Person- Once you know your space to work with, calculate how much to plant per person. Are you looking to just have a few vegetables for fresh eating throughout the summer days? Or are you hoping to preserve, can and pickle for the year? HERE is a free calculator. Honestly, this is where experience overrides stats. Seasons vary every where you go around the country. Soil is different in each location. And weather, some locations have extremely short seasons. A late frost after the garden is planted can eliminate the entire the garden or stunt it. For this reason we succession plant certain crops as well. If the season is great and you over planted- awesome. Preserve, share or sell. However, if the weather is average or poor, you at least have “enough” to enjoy and last a bit. So take this into consideration when you plant. Also, depending on your seed- germination rates vary. We love our seed company- they test it and tell us the current seed germination rate (we buy in bulk). One more thought on this matter is- don’t plant it if you don’t eat it. It sounds simple, but so many people plant stuff to have variety and do not eat it. Waste. It is better to plant an entire garden or your favorite (2) vegetables than (50) different varieties of vegetables you don’t know if you like.
  4. Decide What and How Much You Will Plant- Now that you have considered these things decide what you will plant and how much. Lay out your garden on your grid map. HERE is a digital option as well. Here are 7 Gardening Apps too (**Some have a fee- so check them out)
  5. Gather Supplies- Order or purchase your seeds. Gather your supplies. (Varies on your garden.) A garden rake, trowel, hoe, and etc. Check out these 8 Great Garden Tools of 2021.
  6. Prepare Your Soil- Next test and prepare your soil. Does your soil need nutrients? Are you planting a field garden and turning over soil by disc? Properly preparing your soil can be a huge factor in your yield, it’s one of the components that you can control in gardening. HERE is a great post on Soil Preparation.
  7. Plant- You have done the prepping, time for planting! Depending on your garden this may take the most physical labor and be the most time consuming task.
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Happy Homesteading! Happy Harvesting!

Section 2: Planning Your Pantry

Moving onto the pantry. To be more descriptive, a working pantry. There is a canning pantry or cellar, dry storage pantry and a working pantry. A working pantry has a bit of everything and depending on your size family and pantry generally holds up to 3 months of goods when well stocked. Again, this looks different depending on your family and food preferences.

One of my favorite memories at grandmas house was her pantry. She had oodles of goodies in there. Sweet jams, jellies, delicious pickles and homemade mixes galore. Walking inside was like having your very own mini store! Such beautiful memories of wonderful laid out meals to an overcrowded table filled with laughter and joyous times. Many stopped in, few ever left hungry. (By their own choice of course.)

In the summer we eat fresh and preserve for our canning pantry or cellar. That leaves us to purchase pantry items that accumulate for the winter months, it works best this way for us. Do you. Once we begin purchasing our goods we place a few of an item in the working pantry and the rest in our dry storage or canned goods in the cellar area. Eventually leading to a full canning pantry (seasonal produce preserved), a stocked dry pantry and a bustling working pantry. (If all goes as planned.)

So how does one plan their working pantry? HERE is a basic pdf printable of pantry items from cooknourishBLISS. HERE is my pdf version.

Glancing over the pantry list, your may already see you have these things in your cupboard. Or at least a couple items on the list you use throughout your week. If you do not have a pantry stocked and flowing yet, pick (5) foods or recipes your family eats regularly. Next to the basic staples, begin with these 5 recipes and stock the ingredients you know you will be using.

For example if I look at my meal plan, I know my family likes spaghetti each week. As you see in the photo I write the items that I know I will need. We purchase monthly when the item goes on sale, so I multiply what I need by (5) although there are not (5) weeks in a month, I purchase the extra for the storage. Now if you are on a tight budget, there are ways to do this even simpler. Instead of purchasing those extra items, write out your weekly or monthly shopping list and add your budgeted allowance. Let’s say you can budget $10 towards your pantry. That can easily be applied to rice, beans, peas, canned sauces, pasta, etc. **If it is something I have preserved, I apply that amount to extra pantry items or tuck it into the savings. Here is a quick 5-Step plan to begin your pantry.

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  1. Collect the items you already have and access what you need to purchase using my PDF HERE.
  2. Pick 5 recipes your family enjoys and will be eating in the near future or weekly.
  3. Start to organize. When our family was small, I used mason jars. Now I do store vacuum sealed beans, peas, legumes, nuts, dry soup mixes and homemade muffin mixes in quart jars AND pint jars for all of our seasonings. Bakery buckets come in 3 gallon- great for brown sugars, walnuts, corn meal and etc. Or they come in 5 gallon, which are wonderful for flours, pastas, biscuit mixes, different rice varieties, and surplus storage. Do what works for you, but get organized.
  4. Scan your pantry and budget, then adjust if needed with your meal plan.
  5. Get to the store and make your purchases.

So whether or not you are on the homestead yet, a great skill to learn and use before you even get relocated is to learn to plan your pantry. It can shave off your grocery expenses by stocking up on items on-sale and using the extra income for other items or rolling it over to your savings.

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Section 3: Planning Your Meals

Along with planning your pantry comes planning you meals. We love food! Our household loves to try new food and recipes! However, we stick pretty close to a meal plan too. In order to corporate this we actually meal plan by 6 weeks. This may sound confusing since we like to shop monthly for our staples and household products. Then weekly we purchase our fresh items. BUT it works! With our canned/ preserved, dried and frozen goods we are also able to take “no-buy” months if we have an emergency or dip in the budget, which is great!

This blank menu printable will help you get started:

Fill in your favorite meals and remember- keeping it simple means more flexibility. There are 4 ways to use this once you have stocked your pantry after shopping for theses meals:

  1. You can list you favorite meals and in the order of which you plan to eat them.
  2. List all the meals you plan to shop for, but cross them off in any order once you eat them
  3. Stock your pantry with these meals, but fill in with left overs, breakfast nights, farm food you are growing or have preserved AND stretch the menu as far as possible. (great if you are trying to save or decrease you budget for a month or so.)
  4. Stock your pantry, but continue to shop for your items, only purchasing when they are on sale If your budget allows, this is a great way to penny pinch and see results. We have done this, but shopped for the menu X3 to see larger savings.

Whatever you choose, do what works for you and your household.

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Happy Homemaking! Happy Homesteading!!!

Did you miss the previous posts to this series?

~Preparing to Homestead #3: Budgeting & Being Frugal

~Preparing to Homestead #2: The TOP 5 Skills Needed to Homestead (You Can Learn These While You Wait) With 50+ more as a bonus!

~Preparing to Homestead #1: Things Needed- Even on a One Acre Homestead

~Preparing to Homestead in 10 Steps