I’ve been pouring over my new seed catalogs, getting excited about what I will plant (old standbys such as carrots, cucumbers, herbs, several varieties of tomatoes, beans, peas, beets, etc.) and new things I will try (purple carrots or potatoes perhaps? definitely some Gold Nugget squash–which I discovered in the stores this year and fell in love with, maybe some kale…the list goes on and on).
I’ve also been making some mental calculations regarding how much MONEY all of these seeds and things will cost. And how much space they’ll take (I am, for the 3rd year in a row, enlarging my garden space this coming summer, so I’ll have extra space, right? This means I can buy more seeds. At least this is how my reasoning works!)
Last summer’s crops weren’t that great. Especially disappointing were the tomatoes that I babied along from seeds (5 varieties) only to watch die one by one in our late, exceptionally cool and wet summer. A lot of effort. And not much to get excited about. After the crash and burn of most (but not all!) of those tomatoes, I rushed to the store and bought more plants. Big, hearty plants filled with lots of buds. I figured I had to make up for lost time. They didn’t fare much better.
This got me to thinking about how cost-effective growing groceries really is. I mean, there are tons of reasons WHY it’s a great idea (it brings fresh and local to a whole new level to walk out in your backyard and harvest your dinner), but does it actually save money?
I’ve never tracked my costs verses savings, so, I started a little informal research on the subject…and here’s what I found:
One family who calculated their grocery savings said that they discovered one square foot of garden reaps them about $8 worth of food. If this is true, and you planted only 3 4×4 raised beds, your potential harvest would yield $384 worth of groceries.
George Ball (CEO of Burpee) says that for every $100 a family invests in their garden, they can expect to grow $1,000-1,700 worth of vegetables. He says that growing $1 worth of beans, for example, yields $75 worth of vegetables.
The National Gardening Association says that the average American spends about $70 on their garden and grows an average of $600 worth of vegetables. Not quite as impressive as Mr. Ball’s numbers, but who could complain about a return like that?
A family over at Kitchen Gardeners did some serious experimentation to calculate their garden savings. They kept track of their expenses and weighed everything that came out of the garden. They compared the pounds of vegetables harvested to the local grocery store prices and found that they had a 862% return on their gardening investment. (All this on a 1/25th of an acre.)
Hmmmm. These numbers all seem pretty promising, don’t you think? If we have a good summer, I’m thinking I could save 30-40% on my groceries. Even a so-so summer should pay off. This, of course, is all the encouragement I need to order seeds to my heart’s desire!
Not that I really need encouragement. Gardening is good for the soul. But in times like these, it’s also great to think about how good it can also be for the pocketbook. It brings a whole new meaning to cash crop!