Does growing vegetables save you money?

by Elizabeth Beavis
What do you think, does growing vegetables save you money?

It can, but not necessarily. Of course its possible to overspend and try to grow inappropriate plants that fail. I read a very negative article a while ago (and lucky for you I can’t find it again, so you don’t have to suffer through it too), it was written by a person who had spent a ridiculous amount of money buying pots and potting mix and trying to grow tomatoes on an apartment balcony. They worked out how much it cost and how few tomatoes they harvested and concluded that there was no point growing anything. I found it very frustrating because they had really just set themselves up to fail and it wasn’t fair to conclude that gardening is not worthwhile.

Start small and don’t spend a lot to get started
If you are completely new to gardening, don’t jump in and buy six raised beds, soil, seedlings and an irrigation system. Just get a pot, possibly from your local dump shop, and some potting mix, and some herbs for a few dollars from your local market and see how that goes for you. Save water from your shower or washing up to water the pot, it will cost you hardly anything.  Then you can expand gradually as you find out what you can grow, and how much time and resources you have to spare on gardening.

When you want to expand, try to source free or cheap supplies. Look for options to collect manure and organic matter to improve your soil. Large containers from the dump shop can be used instead of expensive raised beds. Join in seed swaps and start to save your own. Gardening does not have to cost you a huge amount if you are willing to be creative.

Choose your crops carefully
There are essentially three options for deciding what to focus on growing. This concept is explained brilliantly in the book One Magic Square, which is about just marking out one square metre (about a yard) and focusing on growing certain groups of vegetables, so that you don’t get overwhelmed by doing too much at once.
  • Staple crops that you usually buy in bulk – if you have space, you might consider trying to grow potatoes, carrots and onions (or whatever you buy most) so that you don’t have to buy them anymore
  • Vegetables that you use that are usually expensive – things like herbs, eggplant, chokos, turnips and peas, that are usually relatively expensive, will save you money if you grow them instead (if you would have normally bought them)
  • Vegetables that produce the most food – vegetables that just keep cropping, such as zucchini, tomatoes, beans and kale, will continue to produce for long periods (compared to single crops like carrots or corn) and could save more money for the space they take up
The main thing is to choose vegetables that will grow easily in your climate (don’t make life hard for yourself) and make sure that they are foods that you and your family eat or will learn to eat, so that you cut down what you have to buy. If you get used to eating in season from what is growing in the garden, rather than buying what you want when you want it, you will save. Join a gardening group or forum and find out what will grow well where you are. For example, I have had little success growing potatoes, but sweet potatoes do better. Likewise, I find spring onions grow better than bulb onions.

Money isn’t everything
Even the best gardeners will have a bad year and not produce as much as they would have liked. Fortunately, most gardeners have other reasons for growing, apart from just saving money. For me, being prepared, knowing how to grow the food that we need and supplement as much of our diet as possible, is more important that saving money every year (although generally, the garden doesn’t cost us much at all, apart from my time). The other benefit of gardening is stress-relief and I know many gardeners just really enjoy spending time in their gardens, whether or not they produce a massive harvest.

I couldn't find that negative article, but I found a positive one instead
What do you think?  Does growing vegetables save you money?

1 comment

  • Hannah Green

    I live in the country (in Oregon, USA) and I have a big garden. Between the cost of seeds and the slug killer, I never save money growing my own vegetables. A lot of stuff gets eaten by slugs, voles, mice, rabbits, birds etc. I do it because I love to garden and when I actually get something to grow, it is thrilling. You can only save money if you grow only the things that thrive and aren’t appealing to wildlife, but those items are few and can be hard to use in great quantities (like oregano and mint). If you want to save money, buy vegetables and fruit in season at your local grocery store.

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