Welcome to part 7 of my year-long series on how to reduce your grocery bill. If you missed the earlier parts you can find them here:
For this part I want to focus on gardening and how growing your own produce can save you money. When you consider the cost of a package of seeds compared to what you pay for the mature produce at the store a lot can be saved by growing your own. Plus you get the added bonuses of it being healthier and more convenient as it’s already at your house. Before you begin though you want to take a few things into consideration.
#1 Your Space
You need to think about the space that you have available and what type of garden would work best for you. Container? Square foot? Raised bed? Large area? You need to think about your overall space and how much of that you want to be used as a garden. You also need to consider the type and quality of soil.
Our family has done a variety of gardens over the past 8 years depending on where we were living at the time.
The first place we had an opportunity to grow a garden was a huge plot of land with a greenhouse. Looking back we really had little idea what we were doing and it’s too bad we didn’t utilize the space properly.
Some of the produce we planted grew well like corn on the cob while others like cauliflower did not.
The second type of gardening that we did was square foot gardening. We had a tiny little backyard where the ground didn’t get enough sunlight so my husband built us two raised beds.
This year we added more container plants in order to increase our yield. Other options include growing plants indoors either near a sunny window or with special lights.
You also need to find out what local pests may thwart your garden and figure out how you will deal with them ahead of time. There is nothing worse than watching a plant grow and just before you go to harvest an animal comes and eats your produce! Right now our biggest pests are jack rabbits. We had to close up some small holes in our fence as well as add some chicken wire under our gate in order to keep the animals out. We also dry and crush egg shells in order to help keep slugs away.
#2 What to grow
This is an important one! You need to take time to learn about your climate and growing season. There is no point investing in a specific vegetable if your growing season is not long enough to see the plant through to maturity. Knowing the last frost date and the first typical snowfall or changes in your weather (like extreme heat) is important. In this category, you also need to consider which produce you like to eat as well as the quantity. Is the investment and the space used to grow a certain item worth it? One example for us was spinach. We eat a lot of spinach and the amount of space it would take up in the garden wasn’t worth it for us as we could buy a large bag at the store for $2 to $3. Also, consider your time investment. Some plants are very good are taking care of themselves and regenerating each year like raspberries, strawberries, and rhubarb. Planting fruit producing trees and bushes are another category you can consider.
#3 Other Costs
Aside from start-up costs such as containers, or wood or soil and seeds there are some other costs you need to consider. I think the biggest one is water. Summer time is typically the major growing season and it is so because of the warm sunny weather. You do have some options though to reduce your water usage as well as the cost. One option is a rain saving or barrel system. Another is what is sometimes called a rain garden. Another option is a drip line which supplies plants small amounts of water right to the root areas. This option is especially good for very hot climates as it reduces the evaporation that can occur. Another option is to use mulch or grass cuttings as not only a weed preventer but as ground cover to help the soil retain moisture.
Finally, it is important to re-evaluate your garden as you go and at the end of each growing season. What’s working? What’s not? Is it saving you money or increasing your expenses?
Do you grow a garden in order to reduce your grocery budget? What other pieces of advice would you add to anyone who is just starting out?