Whether or not you can ease the bill at the grocery store by growing your own produce depends first on how you shop and what you eat. If you like to loiter around the outer edge of the store where all the produce and fresh items are located, read on.
The bill can get steep depending on the current market — but gardening can help!
Getting Started with Cost-effective Gardening
In real estate, you make your money on the buy. In other words, keeping initial costs down is how to show a profit at the end of the venture. Saving money with a vegetable garden is the same.
If you don’t have an established garden plot, preparing an area can quickly spiral out of control. Purchasing pre-made kits for raised garden beds or new rototillers will erase any near-term financial benefits of gardening.
Instead, keep it simple, especially if you’re new. Make raised beds from recycled materials like old untreated wooden fenceposts or used bricks. A small plot in the yard can be prepped by hand, using a spade, in a few evenings after work. Keep initial costs down, and you’ll see a quicker ROI.
Healthy soil is the difference between slow and fast growth, sparse or fruitful, diseased or healthy. Experienced gardeners know their success is tied directly to the quality and health of their soil.
If you buy bagged soil, choose high-quality organic soil. Work in some compost. Stay away from chemicals. Keep your soil armored with a covering of natural mulch.
Transplants or Seeds?
The internet is full of people claiming a packet of seeds can grow $600 of tomatoes! Many of these claims can be misleading clickbait.
Don’t be ashamed to buy transplants. They’re more expensive per plant than seeds but will immensely increase your likelihood of success.
Remember, it doesn’t matter how much cheaper the seeds are if your seedlings don’t make it.
Other Quick Pointers for Cost-effective Gardening
- Water in the morning, not in the evening.
- Read up on how to harvest each plant. There are right and less-right ways to do it.
- Keep notes about what worked.
- Learn succession planting.
Foods Cheaper to Grow than Buy
No “Best vegetables to grow to save money” list will be right for everyone. If you don’t like eating lettuce, you won’t save any money planting it. To work for you, it has to be adjusted to your likes. Here are a few ideas to get you started brainstorming.
Always a favorite of gardeners for good reason. They’re used in a variety of dishes, which means they are more likely to make a dent in your food bill.
The big round slicers are impressive, but most recipes and sauces are better made with paste tomatoes, like Roma or San Marzano. They cook down easier and have more “meat” and less juice.
Fresh herbs purchased at the store can put a dent in your wallet, but if you cook with fresh herbs, growing your own is a money-saver! Harvest any excess and dry it for use all winter. Money-saving herbs include rosemary, thyme, mint, basil, oregano, sage, chives, and parsley. Buy transplants.
For a gardener with limited space, like an apartment balcony, growing herbs is the best chance to save a few bucks.
We’re talking about zucchini, patty pans, yellow squashes, and the like. They’re prolific producers and make robust plants that will boost your gardening confidence.
If you’ve got the space, many pounds of food can be grown. Here’s one where the packet of seeds will do just fine. Squashes like to be direct seeded. If you like winter squash, you can really save a few bucks. Use the summer to read up on how to store them.
Lettuce and Other Salad Fixings
Growing lettuces, spinach, radishes, and cucumbers can be money in the bank if you love a good salad. Lettuces will bolt in warm weather, so try two crops, one in spring and another in fall. Succession planting can extend your harvest.
What About Potatoes?
Potatoes are a satisfying crop to grow but take some storage space. If you’re happy with Russets, growing taters won’t be a grocery bill reducer. If you typically toss down money for new potatoes, baby reds, or other gourmet spuds, growing them could make good financial sense.
Boiling It Down: TLDR
- Spend money on improving your soil each year – maybe not as much on gadgets.
- Combine seeds and transplants as your experience dictates to maximize success.
- Learn succession planting.
- Plan to store your harvest before the harvest.
- Grow what you eat, not what some Top 10 Best list tells you to.
- Minimize startup costs.