Want to save $5, $10 – even $25 – a week on your grocery bill? Consider adding fruits and vegetables to your garden! You can grow much of the food you regularly purchase for a fraction of what you pay at the store. (And if you normally only buy organic produce, the savings can be even higher.)
Why pay top dollar for produce that isn’t half as good as what you could grow in your garden?
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One sweet pepper plant can produce dozens of delicious peppers and help cut your grocery bill!
Photo Credit: Sergey Poluyan/fotolia.com
You can spend $2-$3 on one container of cherry tomatoes at the store, or you can buy one tomato plant and enjoy a season-worth of (better) flavor.
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Of course, there are additional benefits to growing your own food. For one, you’ll always have a variety of produce handy, which means fewer last-minute grocery trips. And chances are you’ll be eating better, too. After all, you’ll have a bounty of produce right at your fingertips! Perhaps the biggest advantage of all is you’ve got control of where your food comes from, which means you won’t have to worry about unwanted pesticides and salmonella outbreaks.
The list of fruits and vegetables that the average gardener can grow is practically endless. Here are some of the easiest ones to plant, tend and harvest. (Unless otherwise noted, all need full sun.)
Lettuces and greens (especially gourmet types). You can spend as much as $4 (or more) for a bag or box of mixed spring greens, baby spinach or arugula at the supermarket, but you can grow it at home for a lot less! Growing greens takes up very little space (you can even do it in containers), and it’s easy to do from seed. For the price of one packet (just $1-$2), you can have lots of beautiful salads.
To get the most of your leaf lettuces and spinach, trim off the leaves an inch or two above the ground rather than pulling out the entire plant. The tops will regrow quickly, giving you at least one extra harvest in less time than it takes to replant the crop from seed. While lettuces do best in full sun, they’ll grow nicely in light shade, too – especially if it’s afternoon shade.
Tomatoes. Almost everyone knows homegrown tomatoes just taste better, yet scads of shoppers pay through the nose for pithy, flavorless supermarket varieties. If you insist on flavor but don’t grow your own, you may end up purchasing your produce at a farmers’ market or fruit stand – better than a grocery store, but sometimes still expensive. Buying an entire tomato plant is so much cheaper (not to mention more rewarding)! You can usually buy a few plants for under $5, and you can grow enough tomatoes for delicious BLTs all summer long for a family of four!
Tree fruits. For a one-time investment, you can have a lifetime supply of your favorite fruit! Some fruits, like plums, peaches and apricots, are hard to find in stores at tree-ripened perfection the way they grow in a home garden. Nothing tastes like a perfectly ripe, homegrown peach, right off the tree – still warm from the sun! If you wind up with more harvest than you can handle or give away, freeze it. Cherries and other stone fruits take the cold well, saving you even more money during the winter months. It’s truly a priceless – and delicious – investment.
Fresh herbs. How maddening is it to spend $2-$3 for a shriveled little bundle of herbs in a plastic box at the supermarket when you know that same herb will grow in abundance in your garden with almost no work? Herb starts (or starter plants) sell for anywhere from 50 cents to $5, depending on the type and size. Plant a bed of herbs by your back door or in any sunny spot, and you’ll have a living spice cabinet at your disposal!
Bramble fruits (raspberries, blackberries, etc.). Berries cost a king’s ransom at the supermarket – easily $2 or more for a small box, even when they’re in season. Equally annoying is the fact that berries tend to mildew within hours of arriving home. Stop dealing with the middleman and grow bramble fruits on your own!
Take raspberries, for example. It’s easy to grow them in your back yard. In fact, in most climates, the shrub-like canes spread and multiply. Most need no sprays or fertilizer – just an annual spring pruning. They’ll do best if trained on a fence or support, but the bushes also do fine just spreading in a patch. Bramble fruit plants usually sell for $3-$5 each and multiply rapidly. Start with 10 plants, and in 2-3 years, you should have enough fruit for a family of four.
Asparagus. When in season, this spring treat can cost about $4-$5 for two small bundles at the supermarket. Instead, consider purchasing some starter plants and establishing an asparagus patch. It takes about three years before you can harvest, but like a fruit tree, your asparagus patch will continue to produce delectable harvests for a lifetime – and save you lots of money over the long haul. Twenty plants cost about $15 and are enough to modestly feed a family of four. (Forty plants is an even better idea.)
Of course, there are countless other crops you can grow to help reduce your grocery bills. Even if you’re pressed for gardening space, just one or two plants can save you money – not to mention introduce you to a new rewarding pastime! (How many tasteless store-bought tomatoes can make that claim?)