While once I bought seed packets just because "oh, THIS looks tasty!" or "how fun this would be!" I now have to be a little more realistic in my planning. There is certainly a lot that looks tasty, or fun, or neat or different, but if I go in all those directions, I'll have nothing to show for it at the end of the day (or season).
Gardening has two purposes, when it comes down to it. First, to give us healthy food, and second, to save money. Of course there is the enjoyment part, the teaching the children, and many other things. But the first two dictate where our goals are going to be.
I've identified things I use often, and things that I either a) spend money on frequently or b) would like to have more often, but the price is too high.
Of course one of those things is tomatoes. I try to freeze peeled, diced tomatoes in quart ziploc bags for use in chili, spaghetti, lasagna, etc through the year. I LOVE having organic, TASTY tomatoes that aren't full of stems. :) Also, since we don't limit this to a certain kind of tomato, most of the 'dices' cook down enough that the kids don't leave them in their bowls when they're done with dinner! I've recently run out of our homegrown stash, and have resorted to gallon cans from Costco. The difference is quite noticeable.
What I haven't done before, but would like to if there are enough tomatoes, is to freeze or can pureé/sauce. I usually buy that in a big can, but the BPA-rich lining in those cans has me wishing for something different.
Another tomato idea that I just ran across is to dehydrate and grind them into powder, to use in lieu of tomato paste. I usually buy organic tomato paste, but again, the can isn't organic. I don't have a good enough dehydrator to make this a reasonable goal, but we'll see what happens.
We use a lot of frozen organic green beans. If I could freeze my own, that would cut down on the grocery bill. Picking them at just the right stage/size will be a challenge, as will actually getting the harvest put away in a timely fashion! Beans can't sit around as easily as tomatoes.
We REALLY like diced green chilis in the little can. And they are horrifically expensive. I portion a can out into ice cube trays for individual servings, but Hubby thinks one can is a good condiment for a can of tuna (or anything else, too). That can bust our budget very quickly, so I don't buy them much (and may or may not resort to hiding them in the pantry if I do...). I'd like to grow a lot of these, roast them in the oven, peel, dice, and freeze. Unlimited diced green chilis?!? What's not to like!
A couple years ago I managed to chop and blanch a lot of carrots for the freezer. They went into soups so wonderfully, and have such a better taste than store-bought. I'd like to do that again.
I wouldn't mind having dried herbs on hand.. but I probably would spend more per year on plants (that die over the winter for lack of tlc) than I would on jars of the herb.
What drives your gardening decisions? Do you like to preserve the harvest some way?