Have you seen the price of fresh produce? Or even frozen or canned versions? Every time I go to the grocery store, I can see why some people balk at the sticker price of vegetables. You want to feed your family healthy food, but often your grocery budget limits the amount of it you can buy.
Well, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to spend as much as it initially seems.
Here are few ways growing a garden can help your grocery budget and can help you feed your family healthy food.
1. Seeds and Plants are Cheaper Than Stores
Since I’m from Iowa, here are some examples of what Iowa grocery store prices, even in season, are for some common veggies.
At the Store
- Potatoes = $4.50/10 lbs
- Onions = $0.70-$1.00/lb
- Bell Peppers = $0.76 each
- Carrots = $0.98/lb
- Tomatoes = $2.00/lb
- Cucumbers = $2.00/lb
- Green Beans = $1.68/lb
- Herbs = $0.78/bunch
And that’s even when they’re in season!
Guess what? With a little soil, water, and sunshine, you can grow these and many other delicious vegetables and herbs for just pennies compared to what you would spend on them at the store.
Here’s a look at how much it costs to plant each of these vegetables, how much you might get out of it (provided favorable growing conditions like soil and weather), and how much that amount of each would cost at your local grocery store.
Growing them yourself
Potatoes — $38/50 lb bag, which, even using a conservative estimate, could yield 450 pounds of potatoes. That’s 8.4 cents per pound!
Onions = $3.99 for 100 onion sets.
Bell Peppers = $4-$6/ plant
Carrots = $2.99/seed package
Tomatoes = $4-$6/ plant
Cucumbers = $3.99/seed package
Green Beans = $2.99/seed package
2. Lots of Gardening Information is Free
Don’t have a green thumb? That’s okay! The internet is full of tutorials on how to grow almost anything. You can also ask your local extension office for resources specific to your area. They often have Master Gardeners who love to answer your questions and help you get your garden off to a good start.
Your local library likely also has online resources or books you can check out about gardening (or anything else, for that matter).
If you know anyone who already has a successful garden, they can oftentimes be a wealth of knowledge and can share with you the tips and tricks they’ve learned over the years.
3. Very little overhead costs to start
Unlike many hobbies, you don’t need very much equipment to get started gardening. As long as you have some decent soil, seeds, water, and a location that gets at least a couple hours of sun each day (whether in a fixed location in the ground or in some portable pots), you can garden.
Just put some seeds in some soil and watch them grow!
As a side note, using seeds that you found in a random box in your house or basement might seem like a good way to cut your overhead costs even more, but make sure that they have been stored properly. Do a germination test on them if you’re not sure if they’re any good (Google “how to do a seed germination test” if you don’t know how).
4. Preserving: Your New Best Friend
While all this garden produce is fine and dandy during the summer, how can it help you save money on your grocery budget year-round? That’s where preserving comes in! Whether you dry, can, or freeze your vegetables, you can continue eating them all year.
Here are some of my favorite preserving resources:
- Ball Blue Book (They have tested, tried and true recipes for pretty much anything you can grow and freeze or can)
- Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (They have lots of recipes, including some meals you can make ahead with your produce and freeze for busy nights. Double win!)
- Big canning pot and jar rack
- Excalibur dehydrator (or other dehydrators, like this smaller one)
- Freezer ziplock bags (I love freezing fruits and veggies in quarts in 2 cup amounts Because that is approximately how much comes in a can of most fruits and vegetables)
My favorite things to dehydrate are herbs and fruit, but you can also dry lots of veggies and use them in soups and sauces.
For canning, my sister and I typically make multiple batches of salsa, tomato sauce, jams, and pickles every summer/fall. When we grow the fruits and veggies, we can make these things for just pennies compares to buying them at the store.
We also freeze sweet corn (off the cob, although I have heard of people leaving it on), and pre-cut or diced carrots, onions, and peppers, which we can then grab anytime we need those things in a dish.
Having vegetables pre-diced makes it easy to grab them and add some veggies to whatever you’re cooking without having to buy expensive off-season produce or getting a cutting board out every time you want some diced onion or pepper.
5. You can save on vegetables without a garden
If you aren’t able to garden yourself because of space, time, or another reason, check out your local farmers market or see if anyone you know has extra produce they want to get rid of (Hint: in the Midwest, this usually tends to be in the form of zucchinis and cucumbers coming out of people’s ears). What better way to save money on your grocery budget than with free produce?
If you don’t have access to any of these, you can still save money by buying vegetables in the summer when they’re in season and cheaper and preserving them to eat during the winter when imported produce tends to line the shelves.
6. Start small
Growing your own vegetables can save you lots of money in the long run, but it won’t save you money if you buy lots of seeds and plants and don’t take care of them. Likewise, If growing multiple different kinds of vegetables or putting in a large garden seems overwhelming, start with one or two things.
You can still save money on groceries with a small garden by simplifying your grocery list and the meals you make. You don’t have to do everything at once.
Maybe all you have room for is a potted tomato and a few herbs. That’s perfectly fine! Starting small and moving up as you get more comfortable or have more space is much more sustainable in the long run than jumping in all at once. Plus, it keeps you from drowning in tomatoes, zucchini, and cucumbers which go bad and create food waste when not used fast enough.
Find what’s easiest for you to grow in your location or what you know you and your family with eat and stop at your local store and pick up some seeds or plants the next time you’re out.
Be careful. Once you get starting growing your own veggies and taste them straight from the garden, you may just be hooked!
What are your favorite things to grow in your garden? How does your garden help you save money on your grocery budget?