Fresh basil and tomatoes on homemade pizza, chopped parsley in my shrimp scampi and rosemary-chicken shish kabobs. Does saving money and using coupons mean I can't enjoy the fresh herbs I used to purchase at the store each week? After all, there aren't often coupons for fresh herbs. When you are getting everything else dirt cheap, it can seem like a fortune to pick up a small pack of herbs. I have a solution for those of you who, like me, can't live without fresh herbs in your food.
Grow Your Own
You don't have to plant a huge garden, just the herbs you use the most. My favorites are basil, parsley, oregano and rosemary. I always have plenty growing in the backyard.
- Seeds or seedlings? Seed packets are definitely the most economic way to go. I purchase mine at Walgreens as filler items. They are less than $1 per pack and you will get several plants from one packet. Although seedlings do cost more to purchase, the herbs will be ready to harvest sooner.
- Egg cartons make great starter trays for planting your seeds. Simply cut the bottom off and punch small holes in each "egg" holding section. Fill with potting soil and plant. Use the top of the egg carton as a drip pan by placing it underneath. Once plants have 2-4 leaves on them, they should be transplanted into larger containers. I like to use the bottom half of large juice bottles as pots. It doesn't cost me anything, since I always have old juice bottles to recycle.
- Another great perk that goes along with growing your own herbs is that you can dry them for future use. It's much more cost effective than buying them at the store. Once your plants go to seed or a little before, cut the stalk and let them hang to dry in a cool, dark place. I like to save the seeds from my basil plants, so I leave a tray underneath them while they hang dry to catch them when they fall. You then just plant the seeds from the previous year! How is that for cheap?
- Plant perennial herbs such as rosemary, oregano, thyme, mint, sage, lavender or chives, and you will receive the benefits for years to come. I swear my oregano plant could survive a nuclear melt down! I have transplanted it several times over the years. I have now moved it to a large pot and it is determined to crawl out of the pot and spread across my lawn!
Check Farmer’s Markets
If you lack a green thumb, there are other ways to save on fresh herbs, and you won't have to lift a shovel. Try purchasing your herbs at local farmer's markets or corner vegetable stands. Since the herbs were grown locally, they are usually cheaper and can often be purchased in larger quantities than in stores.
Use Them Up
Fresh herbs can be used in many different ways, so get creative. I love shish kabobs, but of course, I don't want to pay for the skewers. Yes, I am really that cheap! So, I use my rosemary stalks as skewers! Shrimp and chicken can be marinated in the freshly chopped rosemary and olive oil and then grilled using your own homemade skewers. The rosemary stalks add so much flavor!
Being an extreme couponer isn't just about the amount you saved on the bottom of your receipt, it is a way of life. It means learning and reinventing new ways to save money before you even arrive at the store parking lot. The savings start at home. Growing our own herbs has allowed me to still cook delicious meals that please even my Italian husband. So pile the fresh basil on my pizza any day! Mangia Mangia!
This has been a guest post by Kira from Citrus Springs, FL
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