Save Money on Your Food Bill: Start a Kitchen Garden

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Posted by Andrea Meyers

seedsMy husband and I have been growing our own vegetables and herbs for about 10 years. I started gardening by growing peppers, tomatoes, and herbs in pots on my apartment balcony and every year we try to have some kind of garden, both indoor and outdoor, no matter where we live or how much space we have. Some years have better yields than others, but we have always had a sense that we save money on produce and get the benefits of eating healthy foods without pesticides. We had never sat down and done the math on how much money we saved on our grocery bills, but we had done some calculations in our heads and felt confident that our efforts in the garden helped our food budget as well as our health.

Last week I got to read someone else's proof that growing your own produce is good for your food budget. Roger Doiron, the founder of Kitchen Gardeners International, published a post called "Economics of Home Gardening" which shared a detailed analysis of what his family had saved on all the produce they grew, and his statistics are amazing. He calculated their cost to run the garden and they weighed everything they harvested and calculated the cost using average prices from regular grocery stores, farmers markets, and Whole Foods. They spent US$282.00 to manage their garden, which included the cost of seeds and and supplies, soil testing, compost, and water. Their total harvest for the year was 833.79 pounds/376.03 kilos of produce. If they had purchased all of that produce rather than growing it themselves, their calculations showed they would have spent US$2,196.50 at average grocery store prices in their area, US$2,431.15 at their farmers market, and US$2,548.93 at Whole Foods.

Doiron's family grows a variety of produce, including tomatoes, potatoes, onions, various greens, beans, squash, herbs, and other things, in about 1600 square feet/148.644 square meters of growing space, which is quite large. In our own yard we had one 36 square feet/3.34450 square meter bed of growing space last year and had plenty of tomatoes, peppers, and herbs to last us for a couple months. This year we'll have 153 square feet/14.21 square meters and plan to grow a larger variety of produce. We're also going to try to extend the season with the cold frames that my husband built. I'm looking forward to getting our garden started this spring and enjoying even more savings in our food budget. We don't grow as much as Doiron does, but we believe every little bit helps, and his chart is proof of the economic benefits of growing our own produce.

This post was written by Andrea

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Yes Andrea, I agree with you on growing veggies at home. I've recently learnt how extremely satisfying the experience can be and my dream is to own a vast vegetable patch when I buy my own home. Do share your experiences on storing excess veggies that grow. I know that onions and potatoes keep for a long time but what about tomatoes and other veggies that spoil more quickly? Like you said, some years can be really good and it would be desirable to be able to enjoy seasonal veggies throughout the year.

Deepika said...
March 12, 2009 at 10:45:00 AM GMT+1  

Hi Deepika. Some vegetables and many herbs can be frozen, such as zucchini, peppers, peas, beans, spinach, corn, carrots. Tomatoes can be cooked into sauce or salsa and then canned. Making pickles, jams, jellies, and chutneys is also a great way to preserve. I've written a few posts on my blog about preserving the harvest, so feel free to check them out.

Andrea Meyers said...
March 12, 2009 at 11:45:00 AM GMT+1  

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