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Does growing your own vegetables save money?

Posted by prairiemoon2 zone 6a/MA (My Page) on
Thu, Jun 19, 14 at 5:08

The thread started by Raptor, asking for help as a beginning gardener, has me asking this question. How many gardeners are actually saving money growing their own vegetables? I find myself wondering if anyone has actually kept track of their expenditures and calculated how many vegetables they produce and what it would cost them to buy it. I have not.

Personally, I'm sure I'm not saving money. I don't have ideal conditions. I don't have a lot of land, and the one thing that is most difficult to overcome, lack of full sun, limits the amount of food I can grow. Gardening is an activity that I just happen to love to do, so saving money on produce has not been a factor.

But I like to think that there are people who can save money growing their own food. Well, I have read accounts of individuals with a lot of love of growing and motivation who have done that, but I don't think they are the 'average' gardener.

So, what are your experiences? Are you growing to 'save money'? And do you think you are accomplishing that?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

The last two years if I take into account the stuff I bought to set up the garden since I moved into my current house just a few years ago I may not have saved $. I spent $ on materials for tomato cages, raised beds, containers, seed starting setups.
I've raised a bunch of veggies. And the quality is great, they are fresh picked and I got to choose the varieties I wanted.
Next year I may save money because I will have very few expenses. I'm going to save seeds, so really all I will pay for next year is soil amendments/fertilizer and water.
And it seems to me that the price of grocery store produce is rising.


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

look into permaculture and Hugelculture.
after the initial setup, it costs virtually nothing and is less work too.

Fruit trees are a good bang-for-the-buck
the can provide food for many years.

For me, it has to do with vitamins and minerals which are almost non-existent in grocery veggies and fruits.
what price do you put on that ?

Here is a link that might be useful: permaculture gardenweb


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

Hi
An interesting ?? lol i seriously doubt I've saved money in fact probably cost more particularly tomato lol.
For me the advantage is quality .Amazes me how they can grow such beautiful looking fruit and have the flavor of styrofoam . ?? Since there is only the two of us i try to grow generally expensive or hard to find produce Such as tropical fruits ,citrus herbs. winter crops of tomato, english peas,chard, leaf lettuce . After building raised beds , irrigation systems , buying seedlings feeding the bugs various sprays etc etc lol
Quality ?? yes . Saved money ??no gary


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

I think I am saving money.

We are lucky to have the land and a sunny spot for the garden.

We barter wood from our dead trees for aged cow manure. I use paper pots to raise my seedlings and I save waxed OJ and milk containers to transplant them in.

It's really not about saving money though. What price do you put on vegetables grown without chemicals that taste really good, and being able to run outside and pick something fresh for supper?

Linda


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

It's like a well-insulated house, LED light bulbs, things like that. I did not spend $800 on insulation because it would save me money quickly. It's probably not even a good investment. I did it so I could keep my house at 72 degrees -- and not feel bad about it! If I didn't have the insulation, the thermostat would be set higher. Likewise with the lights. I would prefer to keep my lights on more and I can do it with a clearer conscience if it's not costing me as much.

So, you know, I wouldn't buy and eat 4-5 tomatoes a day, so I'm not really saving money -- but I do enjoy eating them all the same.


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

In some cases yes, in some cases no.

I have been gardening all of my life, so I have all of the tools, cages, ETC. So I save money, if I don't count the labor!

But it is a labor of love!

My biggest expense is amendments and when something breaks and/or when I splurge on something new like some expensive seed or a new gadget.

I save most of my seed.

Sometimes it gets someone out of a bind when they are short on money like another thread here. Linked below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sometimes


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

Money is not the reason I garden. I love plants, look forward to growing plants in spring when winter is too long spending much time researching them. You couldn't drag me to an exercise machine but I will stretch beyond my limit to reach a weed to pull. I have read in several places gardening is the best hobby for health. You have to like it though. Grandma or Mom or someone has to get you started so it is a part of your personality. If I weren't gardening I might do something more expensive with my time.


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

  • Posted by digdirt 6b-7a North AR (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 19, 14 at 15:45

I know for a fact that growing my own fruits and vegetables saves me money because I not only grow them but I preserves and store them. Like wertach I bought all the tools etc. for both gardening and preserving years, if not decades ago - at those prices. Buying the same equipment today would cost me at least 3x as much if not more.

I also aggressively compost for my soil, save most of my own seeds, and can, freeze, and dehydrate like crazy. So very few trips to the grocery store for our house and from what I read and hear the grocery prices now days could put many in the poor house.

But thanks to our gardens and food preservation we can't eat like summer all year round and don't have to worry much about store prices for food.

So if new at it and it isn't saving you money now, stick with it. 10 years from now when prices are even higher it will be saving you lots of $$$.

Dave


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

In some areas the cost of water is the limiting factor.


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

This comes up every year on blogs, forums, magazines, lifestyle newspaper articles....
The '35 dollar tomato' theme. Often hilarious. Dad takes 5yr old daughter to a bigbox store and daughter wants a garden....

Like any small business plan, (without a plan), one each of 24 products on a shelf will not cover costs.
Not much more effort to start from saved seeds from an exchange and start a compost pile...
And some healthy physical labor.
My neighbors spend i think 2800 now on lawn care and snow removal yearly. Not a blink.
We mow and do it ourselves and did flag a plow down once and got a quick driveway plow for a 20buck...once in eight years.
2800 is alot of garden fun and fruit trees, grapes, berries....
Just priorities, and the 30 meals during the winter just from the various ways i store and harvest tomatoes...so much better than any purchased grocery stock.
The first harvest of salad greens two weeks ago....priceless....


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

I think once you get past initial investments for building the garden and get over the initial new gardener fretting and worrying and buying ever pesticide available, you can start to get more than you put into it. Especially if you manage to avoid wasting what you grow by using it and preserving it (I am trying but so not there yet).


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

i had 4 papaya trees which meant i had a very ripe papaya ever other day or so.
more than i could eat. and they fruited year round,and i ate a lot of them :)
then guavas, then oranges, then lettuce tomato, passionfruit
other things - bits here and there.
basil, onion, peppers, added to pizza, or grilled...
hell, i pick dandelion leaves and eat them while in the garden.
every few calories from the garden, is a few you dont buy in the store,
and is ALWAYS more healthy


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

In some cases it might save you money.
If you grow in a large scale, and can/preserve, then you can definitely save. Also, there are things that you can direct sow and let it grow without spending on equipments ; like lettuce, carrots, ..But if you buy them in 6-packs, you are better off to buy them already grown and packed in the grocery stores. I learned that about growing corn, years ago.Or I don't bother with cabbage. I can buy @ 50 cent per pound and forget the cabbage worms.

The other aspect of home gardening is "HOBBY". That is what it is to me, mostly. I like to be outdoors, get fresh air, exercise and watch my plants grow. I also do get crops and enjoy them. Some years I stop buying tomato products , I also can sauce for winter use.
So really it depends on the scale that one plants various veggies.


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

This is my first year gardening and I am trying to spend as little as possible.

In most cases this has meant spending a lot of time and labor. I couldn't buy soil or build boxes so I had to focus on improving the soil that I have. I removed about 2 tons of rocks from my 40 x 16 foot garden plot(no exaggeration). Started relatively large scale composting with free manure and "donated" leaves and anything else I can scavenge. I use only hand tools some of which were given to me and others I purchased.

I built boxes and trellises out of entirely scavenged or reclaimed wood.

I started all of my own seedlings (except sweet potato slips) under shop lights in my basement.

This was tons of time and energy. I figure i have burned something like 60000 calories since last july when i moved into this house. and to think some people pay for gym memberships.

Even so, I spent ~$200 on seeds, seed potatoes, and slips; ~200 dollars on my grow lights setup; ~150 dollars on a drip irrigation system (I live in a desert); ~$75 on a low tunnel for season extension (not necessary. for fun). plus maybe a hundred dollars on hand tools and some money for fertilizer. I figure I am up to about $750.

Most of these expenses are one time or will only need to be made once every several years. I will always buy seeds but never again on so large a scale (I can save some seeds and I also planted many perennial herbs).

My garden is relatively large for a suburban garden. It should produce more than hundred pounds of potatoes, a hundred pounds of sweet potatoes, 150 pounds of tomatoes (which i will turn into sauce and pressure can), 50 lbs of onions 16 heads of garlic, 50 lbs of carrots, 25 lbs of snap beans plus unlimted salads in the spring and fall, pumpkins for eating and carving, summer squash and cucumbers in the summer, plenty of snap peas in the spring, and a few heads each of cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage.

I sold some of my extra plants. I may not totally break even this year. But by the end of year two there is no question that I will be ahead.

Here is my garden a few days ago (sorry. I used a cheap online panorama tool and there are some blurry spots where it stitched things together). The rows from left to right are salad, potatoes, squash, sweet potatoes (replaced snap peas), onions garlic and carrots, tomatoes, brassicas (empty until the fall crop), and pole beans. the herb boxes and some flowers are in other places.


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

Like others, I already spent some money years ago for the initial setup or I salvaged certain gardening items from going into the trash. A lot of my tools were hand-me-downs from relatives, and I still use them to this day. I don't think I've ever bought a shovel in my life.

Usually my main expenditure now is seeds. I save seeds from my garden, but I like to have tons of variety so I purchase more seeds, probably more than I should.

Still, I only spent ~$25 on all of my gardening supplies this year and I have probably recouped my money from all the spring veggies we have already harvested. Still waiting for pepper/beans/corn/tomatoes to all ripen, but once they do, I am absolutely sure we will have eaten enough fresh, organic produce to far surpass what little money I spent earlier in the year.

Here is a link that might be useful: My blog about frugal vegetable gardening


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

(sheepishly) well, it made my panorama super tiny anyway.

I think the point I should have made is that gardening is a skill that shouldn't be lost. I could have paid for soil and compost and plants, I have the money (or i definitely could have made plenty given the time i have spent).

but the whole point for me is to see if i can feasibly grow my own food in my own soil and (eventually) from seeds i have saved.


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

Jonathan
Great photo and you mentioned using 60000 calories. That is another non-financial gain. Awesome.


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

People WANT to believe they save money. It makes them feel good. I get that. By the time I buy all my supplies, give much away, learn by mistake, and eat more than I should...I save a ton of money. haha. The truth is most of us really enjoy the journey and the freshest great quality harvests. That is enough for me.


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

It is possible to save money, but for most, unlikely. Tomatoes are a notable exception, if you are a frugal gardener. But the minute you buy that new $500 rototiller...
-wc2k8


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

"People WANT to believe they save money. It makes them feel good."

lets see...
i buy a papaya i was going to eat anyway.
it has 500 or so seeds in it.''
in 12 months i have several trees producing enough fruit for me to eat one every day if i want to.

normally, i get about 5 to 10% of my diet from papaya.
more, when i have lots of trees !
not to mention the Mulberry guava and other fruit trees
(many more will start to produce in the next year or 2)

i have bought stuff in the past, but now, mostly i make my own compost, and aside from a little rock dust here and there, or a stamp to trade seeds online, but now, i spend almost nothing except my time, but i enjoy that :)


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

"It is possible to save money, but for most, unlikely."

Given today's produce prices, I disagree, as long as one does not put a dollar value on one's time. I don't, because I enjoy gardening.
And with lasagna gardening/raised beds, expensive rototillers are not necessary.

There are all sorts of shiny catalogs with expensive stuff for sale, but you get that with anything you try to do. GW advice helps separate the snake oil from the real deals, and helps suggest ways to succeed without spending a bundle.

In addition, advice about intensive gardening means that almost anyone can be successful growing a significant amount of veggies even if they don't have a lot of room.


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

What to you value a tomato that actually tastes like a tomato at? I can't get one for any price at a store or "farmers" (HA!) market. The same can be said for garlic... I have two choices, tiny tasteless bulbs from china at 25 cents each or "Gourmet / Organic" stuff at 3+ dollars each (and often moldy). I can go on... ripe Jalapeno peppers, any kind of Poblano pepper.. et cetera.

I would say that as for saving money, until now it has been a close run thing (and I'm cheap), but I recently got the hydroponic bug and my wife has started joking about $600 salads...


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

I'm definitely in the save money camp. I grow enough in my 3/4 acre garden to feed myself at least $400 per month of healthy vegetables. The time and labor involved keeps me healthy and active so I offset the labor costs against medical bills and health club memberships. I produce enough seed to sell $1000 to $2000 per year which pretty much pays for my tillers, tractor, seed, fertilizer, etc

This year, I have the following growing:
6 rows of beans
2 rows of english peas
1 1/2 rows of potatoes
1/2 row of cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli
7 rows of corn
1/2 row of okra
1 row of cotton (for seed and fiber)
7 rows of tomatoes (about 320 plants)
14 hills of watermelon
14 hills of cantaloupe
6 hills of cucumber
2 rows of cowpeas
1/4 row of moschata winter squash
1/2 row of sweetpotatoes
1 row of peppers about 8 varieties
4 rows of peanuts

Rows are about 110 feet long.


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

Jonathan, first year gardening, great garden ! I love Utah, awesome quality of life, great place to live ! You're a happy guy !

Although I don't pay for manure and water (a great thank you to my hippy new age neighbors who have retired ponys and free water and let me enjoy the poop and the hose), I don't think I'll save much because up to now what has grown is mostly leaves ;-(

And bermuda grass :-(

But I save a lot : by being happy outside in my garden instead of wasting my hard earned money on useless chinese crap in the mall ;-)


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

Yes, but only because I am canning 80 - 100 quarts of tomatoes yearly, plus another 40 quarts of juice. I spend about $100 per year to get the garden started. Another $50 for canning supplies. Of course I already have cages, tiller, etc bought many years ago.

Not to mention loads of fresh tomatoes to eat that now are sold for a dollar or more a pound at the markets.

You would be amazed at the amount of good casseroles you can make with canned tomatoes besides the usual chili, lasagna, spaghetti, etc.

In the end though it's about the fun and the superior flavor of home grown .


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

I know we do NOT save money ... however, having fresh herbs all year is worth it. And, the SO likes growing and smoking chilis and he likes Armenian cucumbers. Tomatoes, too.

For me, it has to do with vitamins and minerals which are almost non-existent in grocery veggies and fruits. Care to back that up with some links to real chemical analysis?


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

Fusion_power, your garden is the size I grew nearly 40 years ago. It's lots of work, especially if you have a full-time job elsewhere, kids that are involved in school activities, and other normal daily life activities. BUT, it is so definitely worth it, isn't it!! I wish I had pictures of our garden back in those years, but sadly I don't.

The freshness of the produce, the ability to make sauces seasoned the way your family likes from your tomatoes, the cucumbers that you don't have to peel to get the wax off that is put on commercially grown ones, the ability to mix snaps and shellers to your preference in your blackeyes peas (cow peas) - I could make this a really long list - is priceless.

The exercise you get, the satisfaction you receive, and the lessons you can teach to young children as they watch the plants grow is extremely hard to replicate. Then, there is the sunflower house that you can plant for the children's summer play house........ Can you tell I am a dedicated gardener?

May all your gardens be abundantly productive.

Mary


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

" But the minute you buy that new $500 rototiller... "

Yes, I thought the same thing in 1988 when I bought a new rear tine tiller for $300!

I still use it....... It ain't purty but it gets the job done!

I can and freeze enough to feed us all winter.


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

So, if you don't save money, will you stop growing your own produce? If you say yes, then definitely stop. That is not the reason most of us grow our own veggies and herbs. We enjoy making our own food and eating something that we know we helped make.

The process is just so enjoyable that I don't know why anybody even tries to figure out what it costs unless you are a farmer or are growing for profit. Only then does it make sense.


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

RyseRyse,
There are many people on limited or fixed incomes. For them it is important to save money, and might be important to them to figure out whether they would be saving money after the initial startup costs. They might want to know which veggies are easy to grow and have high yields.
It is enjoyable, yes, but to some it may be also an important way to make ends meet.


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

For me, yes it does, but not so much directly pound for pound compared to buying supermarket produce. A few years ago I was thinking about the fact that when I was younger I definitely preferred fruits and veggies to all kinds of junk food, and that had pretty radically changed over the past 25 years or so. After a while I realized that it was because it's just not all that satisfying when you couldn't tell whether you were eating a peach, a zucchini, or a tomato if you were blindfolded, and that's pretty much the way I feel about most of what's available at the market. And that's why I started growing my own vegetables.

So I find that when I grow my own vegetables that actually taste like food, I'm satisfied with a lot less other stuff in my diet, and that's definitely a big savings, not feeling inclined to buy frozen dinners, chips, etc..

Besides which, although I grow expensively (very small space, use real earthboxes and not knock-offs, etc.), the way produce prices are increasing around here is just plain insane and pretty soon it may actually be cheaper pound for pound, too.


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

I agree with allready mentioned benifits of gardening and will add. Is it a savings if i don't require medical treatment caused by DDT on Mexico fruit and produce? Is there no value in the peace of mind knowing I can grow it if need arises? And teaching my children the same? And last but certainly not least. How are savings calculated for people who use food stamps to buy what they are too lazy to grow for themselves?


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

I think this thread got distracted away from the original question that focused on if there is or can be a financial benefit to gardening.

I think the replies all universally agree that there are lots of fringe benefits. ie. my kids will try home grown vegetables, i am no longer vitamin d deficient, etc etc.

But I am wondering what the intent of the OP is... to prove that gardening is expensive... or to discover how it can be profitable.

In case of the former I think we are doomed to confirm his bias: I think most of us here love it. Who else frequents GardenWeb? and so we often spend a little more than we must or than we should because it is a pursuit worth paying for. I don't pay for cable. I pay for fancy seeds. and for low tunnel projects.

In case of the latter, I think we can all give advice to someone who wants their garden to pay real returns in a lower grocery budget for at least part of the year. The link shared earlier to the frugal gardener guy had some good ideas. My first compost pile was 4 pallets tied together and filled with manure, shredded newspaper, sawdust, moldy straw, and grass clippings. All of which are available free in nearly every town in the united states if you know where to look. I suppose I am assuming a person has a patch of ground. But you can even borrow some of that in a pinch. I bet you could get a few seeds from nearly any gardener in your town. I know I'd be happy to share my extra if someone asks.

I am confident that in most places in North America you can start and grow a productive vegetable garden that will give you hundreds of dollars of vegetables for less than 50 bucks a year. It will be lots of work. Just because most of us GardenWebbers aren't doing that doesn't constitute evidence to the contrary.

Finally, in response to the OP, there are lots of blogs floating around the web where they show their expenses and their savings to demonstrate that they are better off. Daphne's Dandelions and several of her affiliate blogs come immediately to mind. there is another called a hundred dollars a month or some such.


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

Jonathan,
You are right. IF Tomato cost $2 per pond in store and you spend $300 to harvest 50 lbs of tomatoes, you are not saving any money.
BUT:On the other hand:
What is financial benefit and what does one do with it?
Say you make good money and turn around and spend it to get joy and satisfaction : buy a nice car, wear nice clothes, etc. There is something in economics called "utility". That is what you get when you spend; It can be a young boys pocket money spent on ice ream or bubble gum. I am not talking about the basic needs here.

One can spend his money to go to a nice restaurant and wine and dine and one can spend it on garden supplies and enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables and get equal satisfaction that money can buy.

That is how I look at it to justify doing what I do. Otherwise I would feel foolish.


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

i think if you WANT to save $ you can
its pretty easy to buy an heirloom tomato at the store for $2 and plant the seeds. most people have a shovel, or some such.

Obviously, if thats not imoprtant, and you do it for the exersice and enjoyment and nutrition which is better homegrown, then, it really doesnt matter much for many people.

to me, its a bit of both.
i can certianly afford to buy food, but i love my "ripe" fresh fruit.
guava, papaya, other fruits.
also peppers and TOMS
all taste better.
store bought produce is often grown ijn nutrient deficient soils

if you havbe ever eaten a papaya , ripe from a tree, its night and day to the ones you buy at the store, that has to be picked GREEN to be shipped from Mexico or Hawaii.

the difference in taste and nutrients are night and day
a papaya at the store is $2 to $3 a pound
$6 for an average fruit. i eat in 2 days just for snacks.


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

Not really. I'm a small-time container gardener. I grow for flavor and freshness. I'm OK with that. :)


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

I can say for sure that I probably don't save money initially because I bought the grow bags, the promix, bark fines, etc, the seeds, cages, poles, whatever. I don't garden to sell my veggies, and although I do make sauce, I mostly grow tomatoes, cukes and herbs for the sheer pleasure of it. I guess growing from seed instead of buying plants saves money, but I admit, the grow lights, and equipment had a cost, but over time it's worth it. Bottom line, we all garden for our own reasons and gardening is a journey, wherever it takes us. There is nothing quite like watching something grow and bloom, except having kids, lol! And watching them grow and bloom, too! And you are outside getting the best therapy in the world. And, you get to exchange ideas on forums like this, which is priceless!
Sharon


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

Out of six children, I am the only gardener. I like to grow fruits and vegetables that taste better homegrown like tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, cukes....Stuff that takes up too much room, is dirt cheap in the Fall, or is bothered by pests, I can buy those at the grocery store.

I must admit that I simplified my gardening as I got older. These days, I only plant what we can reasonably consume. The first couple of years I gardened, I canned over two hundred jars of pickles, relishes, tomatoes...some of it got used but some got tossed a few years later.

I don't see it as a money saving venture because I can certainly afford to buy whatever I need in the stores...I garden because I like doing it and it is rewarding to eat flavourful, fresh food.


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RE: Does growing your own vegetables save money?

I can grow my own tomatoes for less than $3 per pound for a nice heirloom at the local market. However I go without before spending that much for a tomato. I grow them because it's a passion.

I can't compete with a 106 oz can of tomato puree from Costco for $2.79. I don't know how they do it. If you figure two pounds of tomatoes reduces to one pound for puree it works out to about 20 cents per pound. I buy the puree and then make marinara sauce from it cheaper than I can grow it or buy prepared sauce.

Lettuce is a little different. We used to spend six bucks a week for lettuce, 3 bags times $2 each. A setup for lettuce costs me about $20 for an 18 inch container, potting soil, cage and shade cap. If it lasts five years that's four bucks a year for one setup. It takes about five weeks to grow out an 18 inch rosette and then a week or so downtime. That works out to about eight harvests per year. One eighteen inch head easily matches a bag of lettuce so I am saving about sixteen bucks a year less four for a total of twelve dollars in savings per container. And the lettuce tastes better.

Zeuspaul


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