If you are like most Americans, you have probably felt the pain at the grocery store cash register when buying your family’s groceries.
While the increase in the price of gas most often makes the nightly news, the increase in the price of groceries hits consumers’ wallets even more so, especially if you have a family.
If you don’t want to resort to being an extreme couponer buying processed foods for pennies on the dollar, there is another way to save—grow your own garden.
Can’t Grow a Garden Because You Live in the City? Think Again
Gardening is no longer just for those living in the country. There are plenty of options for city dwellers.
Many cities offer community gardens. You sign up for a plot for the summer and agree to care for the garden, remove bug infested plants should they occur, weed your garden regularly and remove your crops before they rot on the vine. You also agree to clear your garden by the end of the season. You may have to pay a nominal fee.
My husband and I are using a community garden for the first time this year; we had to pay $20 which we will get back at the end of the season if we maintain our garden throughout the summer. If you are looking for a community garden in your area, communitygarden.org is a good place to begin your search.
If you don’t have a community garden available or you think it sounds like too much work, you could always try to have a container garden.
I have seen people in our area living in buildings 10 stories high or more; they simply line their containers up on their balconies and grow tomatoes, bell peppers, herbs and other plants. Take a look at the detailed container gardening page on gardenguide.com for more information
Preserving Your Fresh Vegetables
As your crop of vegetables comes in, you can save on your grocery bill immediately.
However, there may come a time when you have too much produce to use before it spoils. Consider preserving it for the upcoming fall and winter season.
Freeze the Extra
Many vegetables lend themselves to freezer storage. Chop extra green peppers into diced pieces and freeze in a freezer bag with the air removed to prevent freezer burn.
They won’t taste as crisp as fresh when you remove them, so they are best used in soups and stews. Shred zucchini to add to muffins or soups in the winter. Herbs can be dried and used in the winter. A small jar of herbs typically costs $3 to $6 at the grocery store depending on the variety you are buying. Each herb you grow and dry to use in the fall and winter is more money you are keeping in your pocket instead of giving to the grocery store.
Can the Extra
Canning is a bit extreme for most people, but if you are adventurous and willing to sacrifice the time, you might consider canning the extra produce.
You can make your own salsa as well as can vegetables. The Ball site, freshpreserving.com, has recipes to preserve your food in any method you choose—freezing, canning and dehydrating. They even have a handy guide that allows you to choose your produce and your preferred method of preserving and then gives you recipe selections.
Other Benefits to Growing Your Own Produce
The money you save growing your own vegetables is the biggest attraction for many people. However, there are other benefits:
It Tastes Better
There is nothing fresher than produce you pick off your own plant and use in your dinner that night. Because your food doesn’t have to travel over days and thousands of miles to get to you, it is fresher, tastes better and likely retains more of its nutrients.
You Know Where Your Food Comes From
Every year we hear of outbreaks from produce that sicken many people and kill those most vulnerable—the very young and the elderly. In recent years, these outbreaks have been caused by cantaloupe and spinach, to name a few. If you are growing your own food, you know where it comes from and how it was grown.
You Are Reducing Your Carbon Footprint
Because you are getting your produce from your own garden, you don’t need to buy produce that has been transported across the globe. This is one small step each of us can take to reduce our carbon footprint.
If you have the time and the inclination, you may want to consider growing some of your own produce this year. The benefits are numerous and go well beyond simply saving money at the grocery store.