I was fixing to write another column where I ranted about something. But the reality of life in these times is no one really needs to read a column where I keep harping on just how bad it is. We all know about good and bad economic times based on our individual pocketbooks.

My pocketbook has been very lean lately. So, I have learned to stretch my budget even further. The other day as I took out an entire chicken from the freezer to fix for dinner, I decided to subdivide it into several meals rather than cook the entire thing at once.

I cut off the legs, thighs and wings and kept them to fry for the next day’s dinner. I used the breast meat and as much of the meat that I could filet off the back and used it in my favorite recipe for chicken fajitas.

As I went to the freezer to pull out a bag of frozen green peppers, I had to smile. Those peppers were the ones I had grown in my garden last summer. Green peppers are one of the easiest vegetables to grow, and they store easily through the winter. All I do is rinse them, let them dry off and then freeze them in freezer bags.

Now that spring is here, I am going to encourage everyone with a backyard to plant a garden. Even the Obama White House now has a garden.

Gardening is going to be one of the hippest things to do this year. Now I know for some people who don’t normally garden, the idea of eating something you planted can seem kind of strange. We have become a society of grocery store shoppers. The first year I grew tomatoes in my backyard, I’ll admit I was afraid of them. They were so simple to grow that it was slightly scary. But I got over that fear once I tasted those tomatoes. The taste of a homegrown tomato can rarely be duplicated by anything commercially grown.

I know a lot of people who say that rats keep them from planting things in the backyard. But guess what? There are rats running around the farmer’s fields as well, plus a whole bunch of other animals. And if you believe that the worker in the field goes back to the farmhouse to use the bathroom, well think again.

If you haven’t already set aside a part of your backyard for a garden, consider doing so. I have several areas in my yard for growing my own vegetables. One is a raised bed on the side of my patio. I also have several large containers that I grow things in. One was an old basement sink. I filled the bottom with rocks and then added several bags of top soil mixed with peat moss and manure. I also have several large plastic pots that I use to grow vegetables in.

Consider growing a variety of peppers. The hot peppers; jalapenos, habaneras and cayenne are easy to grow. Try sweet bell peppers, especially ones that turn yellow, red, chocolate and orange.

I have successfully grown Brussels sprouts, corn and string beans. Every year I swear that I’m going to make pickles out of those cucumbers that I grow along the fence I share with my neighbor, but have yet to get around to doing so. I’ve also grown cantaloupes and muskmelons. I’m even going to start my seeds and see if I can get a watermelon to grow this year.

We may be in a rough economy. But if you have one of the basic staples of life growing in the backyard it can be one less worry you have to think about. Plus, if you grow enough, you can sell it to your neighbors and earn a couple of extra dollars.

CONTACT: www.arlenejones.blogspot.com