Want to Save Money on Groceries? Start a Garden
Eating more is one way to get through a pandemic.
If you’ve noticed your grocery bill going up during the coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home orders while dining out at restaurants is difficult, you’re not alone.
A recent poll found that many people are spending more during the pandemic, with the biggest increase coming from buying groceries.
Millennials and Gen-Xers, the generations most likely to have kids living with them at home, are spending $193 and $195 more, respectively, each month.
Save With A Garden
Starting a garden in your yard can save hundreds of dollars on groceries from the store. Here are a few examples that can add up:
A tomato plant at a home and garden store costs about $4. Compare that to $3 a pound for tomatoes at a high-end grocery store and you’re almost minting money for every tomato you grow.
A parsley plant costs less than $5, while one bunch of parsley at your grocery store can cost the same amount.
Zucchini plants are easy to grow and are very productive after buying a pack of seeds for less than $3. A plant will produce six to 10 pounds of produce.
Other plants that produce a lot of produce for a small price include lettuce, green beans, herbs, berry bushes and okra.
You get the idea. For about the same cost as a pound of produce, you can grow it and much more.
The costs of seeds, plants, supplies and even water should be much less than the fruits and vegetables that can be grown in a garden.
Before planting, choose fruits and vegetables that your family enjoys. Don’t grow zucchini just so you can grow a lot of it if no one likes it a lot. Even if you’re the only person at home who likes summer squash, a plant will produce so much that you’ll be begging neighbors to take it off your hands.
An easy way to start a garden is by growing herbs, either indoors or outdoors. Basil, cilantro and chervil can be started from seed and replanted throughout the year.
Perennial herbs such as rosemary, oregano, thyme, chives, bay laurel and mint are easy to grow from young plants that can be bought at a garden center. Be sure to check the plants for pests before buying or bringing them in from the garden.
Natural light is needed, or grow lights can help herbs grow. Keep soil slightly moist but not soggy.
Grow Something Exotic
For the best bang for your buck, grow an exotic fruit or vegetable that you wish you could afford to buy more often at the store.
A Thai lime tree can be bought on Etsy for $44, providing enough limes for Thai lime marmalade to last years.
Other options include:
- Silver slicer cucumber
- Goji berries
- Pineberry (smaller than strawberries and taste like pineapples)
- Indigo rose tomato
- Malaysian dark red eggplant
- Watermelon radish
- Acai berry
What If Your Space Is Limited?
Not everyone has a yard to work in. If you live in an apartment or just want to start small, though not as small as an herb garden, one option is a smart garden such as Click and Grow.
For around $100, the three-plant starter makes gardening in a small space, even indoors, simple. The unit has an LED light and is self-watering, making people without a green thumb look like pros.
Add seed pods that come with it, add water, plug the unit in, and watch your garden grow. It’s easier than using a coffee machine with pods.
If that’s too much money to grow three basil plants, you may be able to build your own smart garden out of beer cups and some potting soil. Don’t let a little work dissuade you.
What If You Have Plenty Of Space?
If you have a yard, you can opt to start tilling the soil, add fertilizer and start planting seeds. Lucky you.
If you don’t mind some extra work, you can keep out weeds easier and get better yields by building a few raised beds.
Raised beds can be any length, but never wider than four feet so you can reach into the center without stepping into them. The beds allow you to only feed and water the plants you want to grow by creating a physical barrier between your crops and the rest of your landscape.
The soil will be loose and uncompressed in the raised garden beds, giving plants more room to grow easier.
However you start your garden, have fun. You’ll get fresh air and exercise while caring for it, and eventually you’ll have plenty to eat from it. And maybe even better, you’ll save some money in the long run.