Can you save money by growing your own food? The short answer is yes. The long answer is you need to commit time, effort, cash, and lawn space to growing your own food. The first year of food gardening will be the most expensive thanks to investments in gardening tools, stakes, and some other necessities. The longer you have a food garden, the lower your costs over the long run.
In 2009, I tracked the approximate amount of food that I harvested from our vegetable garden, fruit trees, and fruit vines. Then, I figured out the cost per pound based on how much we had spent on gardening supplies for that year. I never did a final calculation, but at this point in time, I would estimate that our final cost was probably under $.50/lb. for the food we grew ourselves.
$.50/lb. for our homegrown organic produce!
Mother Earth News had an article in their December 2009/January 2010 issue by Rosalind Creasy, author of Edible Landscaping, discussing this same issue. In 2008, Rosalind Creasy planted a 100 square foot garden in her yard growing the following vegetables:
- Two tomato plants
- Bell peppers
- Four zucchinis
- Four basil plants
- 18 lettuce plants
Creasy figured the total value of her 2008 summer trial garden harvest was $746.52 with a net of $683.43 in savings on fresh, organic vegetables.
Rosalind Creasy’s approach is a great way to get started with growing vegetables at home. A family of 4 could grow only easy-to-grow greens, peppers, and tomatoes for the summer, and save on their food bill during the summer. Why not add in a few annual herbs growing in pots?
Our garden is approximately 15 feet by 90 feet for the main set of 12 beds, plus three smaller beds on the other side of the house. We usually have four beds only for plum tomato plants which provide enough tomatoes for us to have spaghetti and meatballs once a week, along with other tomato sauce dishes.
Three to four times a week, we have mixed veggies as a side; I froze these quart bags of vegetables last year. A packet of lettuce mix costing about $1.90 provides us with greens during the entire growing season of seven months with extra seed for the following year.
Time, Effort, and Cash = Savings
Of course, these savings take time and effort – mostly my time and effort, and some cash. We spend at least $50 on seeds for seed starting, plus money for mulch. I try to find free wood chips if possible. We buy some transplants, usually the tomato plants since I don’t have room to start 40 plants. When the deer started invading our garden, we invested some money in a diy fencing system to keep them out which we use every year.
I typically spend an hour each day in the vegetable garden, weeding, pruning, and also picking vegetables. I might spend another hour steaming enough veggies to do five quart bags of mixed veggies. Some of my children are old enough to help with the weeding and food preservation.
Benefits of Homegrown Food
There are benefits to home-grown food that aren’t immediate or clearly quantifiable. For instance, unlike a child featured in Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, my children know the difference between a potato and a tomato. They know what it’s like to lose a tomato crop to the local deer. My kids don’t realize that eating our organically-grown vegetables means fewer pesticides in their bodies, and fewer health problems down the line. No fossil fuels are burned to get my vegetables from the garden to the table, just my own body burning calories and staying active for a healthy life.
Growing our own food gives us the opportunity to share our bounty with our neighbors and create community. So many people stop by and ask questions and share their own gardening stories when I’m working in the garden. If I have too much produce to handle any given day, I can always find a neighbor who will gladly take it and go on and on about how fresh the produce is.
Every year, I do debate how much time and effort I am willing to put into the garden. Every year I find myself unwilling to give up the bounty of our garden and the impact it has on our lives, our children’s lives, and our neighbors. I can’t imagine not gardening.
More Posts to Read
- How to Start Seeds Frugally
- How to Freeze Vegetables
- Inventory Your Canning Supplies
- How We Built Our Beds
- Using Garden Space Efficiently
- Rain Barrel System
- Seed Starting Calendar
- Companion Planting to Maximize Space
- 5 Essential Spring Gardening Tasks
Shared at: Clever Chicks Blog Hop