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.
Growing in the city definitely has it’s advantages. Every year we lose much of our vegetable garden to various critters. Mostly deer, but rabbits also seem to enjoy our lettuce.
We probably spend most of our gardening time trying to protect and defend to no avail.
I don’t do it but that is just because we live near the beach and the soil isn’t good and I don’t feel like investing the time it would take to properly care for the garden. I’d rather just spend a few extra dollars at the grocery store but that is a decision I can live with.
I’m with Lance on this one. The time and effort to invest into this, for me, would be better spent elsewhere — like building new income streams that will afford me fruit and veg from the store as well as give me extra to invest in other areas.
I have yet to grow my own garden. It’s something I’d like to do in years to come.
Also, I was thinking you could always use your extra produce to give as gifts or even sell for some extra cash.
-Christian L. @ Smart Military Money
Melissa, Growing a home garden is a great way to save money. That is especially true if you normally buy organic produce. I grow an organic garden every year. Last year we harvested almost 750 pounds of produce.
On top of saving us money the produce tastes so much better and is so much better for you. You haven’t really tasted a tomato if it wasn’t picked at the peak of ripeness in your own back yard. And most home grown fruit tastes so much better than the junk at the store that you will never go back to the produce section again after you’ve tasted home grown!!
I couldn’t agree more. One more advantage for those who have young children is the benefit of teaching them from a young age to eat right and letting them experience raw and cooked veggies at their own pace. My youngest daughter would only eat raw veggies as a child. She’s in the medical field now I believe because she saw first hand the benefits of good nutrition and problems associated with poor nutrition.
No garden this summer. Hopefully next year. I’m waiting for my neighbor to get rid of the out of control blackberries in my yard…
Great post. I’ve grown up eating home-grown fruit and veg and have been a lot better off for it; not only have I developed a taste for healthy food, but I’ve also learnt how to grow a few things myself which have no doubt saved me money. I think tomatoes are one of the best things to grow as they taste infinitely better than shop bought ones which are way over-priced anyway!