Can You Save Money by Growing Your Own Food?
Across the Internet, gardeners are debating the merits of growing their own produce. It’s a given that your food will be fresher and more nutritious, but will it be less expensive than in the store? Most farmers will tell you no.
We tested it out and found that it depends on a number of factors, mostly based on what you grow and what you like to eat, and where you live. Do you have land available? How much work will be required? Will you need inputs? Do you need to start plants in a greenhouse?
Even if you’re in a condo or apartment, you can grow some of what you eat and save.
In short, our experience showed us small gardening in suburban areas that focused on annuals like carrots, lettuce, onions, garlic (i.e. growing a few of each vegetable) were the least economical (you can purchase these at the market for probably less than it costs you to grow);
- Plants which had large yields such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans, melons and potatoes were pretty much break even or made some economic sense (assuming you would eat or can all you produced)
- Fruit or nut trees and perennials such as artichoke or asparagus proved to be the most successful. Growing herbs was very cost effective.
We suggest that you use heirloom varieties and save your own seeds, plus composting to further reduce costs.
“I DON’T HAVE ROOM FOR AN ORCHARD”
Neither did we as all we had was a small courtyard, but still wanted to take a bite out of our grocery bill. Many variety of fruit trees are available in dwarf, semi-dwarf or super dwarf. Aggressive summer pruning will keep the tree small. Most may be grown in a container and the yield is such that you won’t be overwhelmed with produce.
How does this make economic sense? Take our apple tree. We purchased a dwarf Fuji apple which will grow to be about 40% of the normal sized tree. We spent about $32 on the tree and it produces about 45 fruit. Since we can any excess, we will recoup the cost of the tree in two seasons.
Another example is our dwarf peach tree grown in a container on our patio. At about 4 feet, it is already producing fruit. We spent about $40 on the tree and another $10 on the container. Last year, we paid $1.50 per pound for substandard peaches, and had bought 25 pounds. Again, two crops and we’ve recouped our costs, but only because we regularly buy and eat peaches.
We focused on fruit we already buy and can, such as two variety of blueberries ($15 each); two varieties of cherries ($25 each); fig ($25); and grapes for winemaking ($8.50).
The blueberry are already producing and at a cost of $4 a clamshell in the supermarket, we will recoup our expenses the first year.
Most people aren’t going to be able to grow everything they eat without a great deal of expense or innovation. But you can reduce your costs if you focus on high-yield perennials.
We can show you how to get free produce.