We are all looking to save money these days, and there are several ways you can save money with gardening! Growing food seems like a sure fire way to reduce your grocery budget. The more food you grow, the less you have to buy at the store, right? Makes perfect sense!
Gardening can absolutely save you money! Having a few tips and tricks up your sleeve will get you on the fast path to dollars in your pocket instead of down the drain.
Only Grow What You Will Actually Eat
The easiest way for gardening to save you money, is to grow the things that you buy on a regular basis. Do you buy a bagged salad mix, berries, and cucumbers every week? Establishing greens in your garden will allow you to cut and come again week after week throughout the growing season. Berries will also produce throughout the entire growing season if you have plants that mature throughout the different months. Cucumbers produce massive quantities before and after the weather gets too hot.
Organic greens can cost anywhere from $3-$6 for a bag or container. If you bought 1 bag every week for 4 weeks and then replaced that with fresh greens from your garden, you’re now saving $12-$24 dollars. Berries are even more expensive. A small container of berries can cost upwards of $3-$5 for a single container. If your kids are anything like mine, a small container of berries disappears after one snack session. If you purchase 2 packages of berries every week for 4 weeks and replace it with homegrown produce, you’re now saving $24-$40. Cucumbers are the same story. A cucumber cost $1, so two cucumbers every week for 4 weeks equates to $8 in savings.
This is just three small examples that can total anywhere from $42-$72 of savings over a 4 week time period. Imagine the compounding effect of growing several things that you actually eat on a regular basis and the amount of money gardening will save then!
Trial and Error
I highly encourage you to use your garden as a place of experimentation and trial and error. However, if you have never cooked with or eaten an eggplant before, don’t grow 10 eggplant plants. I have always found someone to give extra produce away to. But, you don’t want to run the risk of growing something that no one in your house wants to eat. That is the quickest way to waste your time and money in the garden.
Grow Higher Dollar Value Items
As you can see from my example above, the savings can add up pretty fast. They add up even faster for those items that cost more at the grocery store. Paying attention to the prices of goods at the grocery store will help you decipher what is worth the time and money to grow yourself. This will put you on the fast path to actually saving money while gardening!
There are a few other factors I consider alongside the price that determine if I am growing an item myself. First is how much space is it taking up in my garden. Second is how easy or difficult it is to grow that item. For example, I do not grow carrots in my garden. Carrots take up a pretty substantial amount of room. One seed equals one carrot and my family eats a lot of carrots. Additionally, they are hard for me to grow. My soil is very clay heavy and the carrots always grow short, fat, and severely misshapen. Weeding is also challenging between the tiny carrot seedlings. Lastly, I can buy a fairly large bag of organic carrots at the store for under $2.
Time is money and the space you have available in your garden is also precious. Choosing which crops to grow based on which will bring you the most value, will help you save the most money in the long run.
Sell Excess Produce
Every garden season is different, but one thing stays the same. For me, I always have something that takes off and grows substantially more than I planned for. While I love preserving my harvest by canning and freezing things, I also love selling my extra items for a little more help with the grocery budget. Last year, after 6 batches of pickles, I finally decided I should start selling the cucumbers that were coming in faster than we could eat. With a little roadside stand, I sold my extra cucumbers and brought in another $10-$15 per week.
Once again, I know that $10 doesn’t seem like much but if you have 5 crops that are growing in abundance and can be sold, now we’re talking an extra $50 for your grocery budget in a week. Every bit counts!
Grow Items You Can’t Buy Locally
Another way to earn a little extra money back and help your garden pay for itself, is to grow varieties that you can’t find at the local grocery store. Everyone has seen the big beautiful red tomatoes on the grocery store shelves, but have they seen the dark purple or bright yellow ones? Maybe there is a certain type of pepper that you don’t see in the store, or a special type of kale. While these things tend to be more of a fun addition to my garden, it can also yield more success when selling to the community.
Eating produce that is in season is the best option for many reasons. First, when produce is in season, it is the freshest. Fresh produce is more nutrient dense. Second, when produce is in season, it grows in abundance, and therefore, it tends to go on sale at the stores. If there is a crop that you cannot grow because of space limitations, skill limitations, or you just don’t want to, buy it when it is in season and on sale! Lastly, our bodies were actually designed to eat seasonally.
Before globalization, people only ate the food that was grown locally. Our ancestors didn’t have imported goods from different countries. They didn’t have melons in the winter in northern climates because they didn’t grow there. The natural cycle of growing food is supportive to our bodies nutritional needs in the different times of year. Things like potatoes, carrots, and winter squash, that can be stored to last through the winter, are made to be heartier for the colder months. Things like melons and berries are designed to help replenish nutrients and hydration in the spring and summer when the temperatures are warmer. Check out this article that goes into more depth on the value of eating seasonally.
As an additional bonus, eating seasonally allows you to support your local farmers and food producers. Visiting a local farmer’s market is a wonderful way to support your local economy and directly support those who are growing food in your area.
While this may seem a bit far off, I would go out on a limb and say that growing your own produce in the garden can potentially save you money on health care down the road. Hear me out. Produce sold in grocery stores is grown all over the world and shipped into your local store. In order for produce to last long enough and not go rotten before getting to the store, it has to be picked before it is at peak ripeness. Additionally, many companies will spray chemicals on produce to make it look better and stay “fresher” longer. Produce picked at peak ripeness contains infinitely more nutritional benefit than produce picked too early.
I’m not saying your garden is going to cure a disease or make you live forever. Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and this is not medical advice. All I’m saying is that eating more nutrient dense food is better for your body, I think we can all agree on that. Putting the healthiest food into your body will give you better health overall and could, in fact, prevent you from getting diseases.
Upfront Costs of Gardening
As with everything, there is of course a cost to start gardening. If you want raised beds you have to buy the materials, build them, and fill them with growing medium. If you want to grow in pots, you have to buy them. You can absolutely plant seeds in your flower beds or even in your yard in an area where you dig out some grass. However, you may have to also fence the area to protect it from other creatures that want to consume your produce just as much as you do.
All this to say, yes, there are start up costs. But once that bed is built, you can use it for years to come. Yes, you will have maintenance costs, but they tend to be pretty minimal once you get started. Yes, growing your own food will have challenges, success, and failures. But, it is so worth it. Your taste buds will thank you. Your body will thank you. And most importantly, your wallet will thank you when you are hardly spending any money on produce throughout your growing season.
I hope this helps give you some ideas on how gardening can actually save you money. Being intentional about what you grow and how you grow it, will absolutely save you money!
If this all sounds exciting and makes you want to get started growing your own food, check out my other resources on gardening. If you are new to growing food, start here. This includes info on what to grow at certain times of the year. I also have a great post about starting seeds indoors.
If you’re not quite ready to grow your own garden, check out my post about homesteading without a homestead property. I share several tips on gaining valuable skills before you actually are ready to apply them at a larger scale.
I hope you enjoyed this peek into Life at Metzger Acres.