Save Money on Groceries: Plant a Garden

by Marcy on May 11, 2010 · 4 comments

The following is a guest post written by Jennifer of Our Suburban Homestead and Getting Ahead. Jennifer’s blog is one of the first blogs that I began reading on my quest to live more frugally, and I have learned so much from her! Be sure to check out her sites for practical money saving advice.

Does gardening really save money?  I hear that question all the time and I can absolutely answer – yes it does.  We have been gardening for over 10 years and only once spent more than $100 a year for our garden.  Usually I start my own seeds, but one year I bought all plants and still came in under $100.  That might seem like a lot for starting a garden, but considering we harvest thousands of dollars of produce each year, it really is a money saver.

A garden will cost as much or as little as you want.  There is a lot of paraphernalia that can cost you big bucks.  But honestly, you don’t need that stuff.  You could go out to Costco tomorrow and spend over $100 for one square foot gardening kit that doesn’t include plants or dirt – or you can take that $100 and head to Home Depot and get all the wood, screws, soil and plants you need for several square foot gardening beds.  There are many ways to save money on gardening.  Here are some ideas.

  • Start your plants from seed.  I spent $5 on organic potting mix and started all my seeds in recycled yogurt cups.  If you buy a plant from the store it will cost you more than $5 for one plant.
  • Compost.  Not everyone has room for a compost pile, but if you do, this will save you a lot of money each year in amending your soil.  Soil was our biggest expense our first year when we got started, but now it rarely costs us anything because we make our own compost.
  • Use what you have.  Gardening beds can be made out of almost any material (avoid treated lumber) so if you have any scrap wood around, use it.
  • Check Craigslist or Freecycle for gardening equipment, or even compost and manure.  People that own livestock usually have more than they could ever give away and are happy to share.
  • Save your seeds from year to year.  Each plant varies, but if you grow a particular plant that you love, it isn’t very hard to save your own seeds.
  • Consider the foods you like and their costs in the store.  For instance, if you love cucumbers and raspberries but only have the space to grow one, pick the one that costs the most in the store.  For me that would be raspberries.  Cucumbers drop to $.69 each when in season, while raspberries are always over $3 for 4-6 ounces.  This will save you more money.
  • Consider planting perennial fruits and vegetables such as berries, fruit trees, asparagus and rhubarb.  These are all plants that you will buy one time and they will produce for you year after year.
  • Succession planting is a great way to get more fruits and vegetables from one gardening bed.  There are crops that are perfect for spring, many that need the heat of summer, and lots that will last well into winter.  In my garden I will plant peas in one bed in April and when they finish producing in June, I will plant green beans that thrive in the heat.  I have garlic planted over the winter in one bed and when I harvest that in July I will plant a fall crop of peas.  This way I get multiple crops from one space.

Gardening is one of the best ways I have found to save money on our groceries.  For several months of the year we get almost all of our fresh produce from our own garden.  There is very little that will give you such a great return on your investment.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 rebecca May 11, 2010 at 12:18 PM

Awesome post! We love gardening… not so much for saving money as for living like kings on a pauper’s budget!

2 VT May 12, 2010 at 4:30 PM

If you buy a plant from the store it will cost you more than $5 for one plant.

Er, I don’t know where you live, but $5 for a veggie plant seems excessive. This year, I’ve paid $1.29 to $1.79 a plant.

3 Melissa Pearson May 13, 2010 at 8:44 AM

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have 16 days left of work and just planted my first garden but your post is so helpful and encouraging. My brother n law has a green house so thankfully we got all of our plants for free!!! We have tons of land so we did a huge one and I am not only hoping to cut back on costs but to use my extra to sell locally! Loved the post!

4 Heidi May 17, 2010 at 11:47 PM

Great article, this year I am focusing on growing items that are perennials (come back year after year) and are easy to grow in my zone 3-4 area of Wyoming. After many years of trying unsucessfully trying to grow tomatoes, pepper and other long season crops I am instead focusing on vegetables that I know do ok in our short growing season. For perennials I am growing fruit trees (apples and cherries), blueberries, raspberries and asparagus. For annuals, green beans, sugar snap peas, zucchini, cucumbers and lots of herbs. I focus on growing items that are expensive to purchase at the grocery store and things my family really enjoys eating. I don’t know why I have killed myself trying to grow tomatoes the past 4 years when my family does not even like them!

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