It’s a fairly common belief that growing your own fruits and vegetables can save you time and money over going to the grocery store to buy produce that isn’t even nearly as fresh. I mean, a packet of seeds will cost you, what, $1.99? While a pound of that same vegetable will cost the same in the store?
It sounds like a no-brainer – buy the seeds to grow your own if you want to save money (I won’t argue with the freshness of veggies straight from the garden over store-bought – I’m here to talk money right now). In some cases, yes, that’s true. But in others – not so much.
There are rumors and myths out there about what’s cheaper to grow and what’s cheaper to buy. Let me clear up the mysteries for you right now.
Fruit Trees = Cheaper to Grow
If you live in a good region and are willing to invest some patience into your money-saving plan, planting a fruit tree as part of your garden isn’t a bad idea. A semi-dwarf tree that grows between about 10 to 15 feet will suffice, and will produce an average of 40 pounds of fruit per year (keep in mind, though, that a free tree usually produces more fruit every other year).
Though a fruit tree takes about 5 years to grow and bear fruit to its fullest capacity, it might be worth the wait. Say you plant an apple tree – with apple prices varying constantly at the grocery store, it’s hard to say exactly how much you’ll save, but it could be up to 10% of your total grocery bill for a family of 4.
And if you refrigerate or even freeze the fruit that you pick, it will last your family way longer. Or, to further extend your fruit supply, you can make jams, jellies and preserves that will last even longer.
Potatoes = Cheaper to Buy
Seriously, how cheap are potatoes at the grocery store? Ridiculously. Considering the time and effort it would take to grow your own crop of potatoes (although it is considered to be fairly easy), your gross savings wouldn’t be enough to counteract the amount of time you put into it.
You’re better off buying potatoes at the grocery store simply because they are so cheap.
Lettuce = Cheaper to Grow
Lettuce is an easy vegetable to plant, it doesn’t take up much space and it grows in abundance. Plus, it’s cheap to buy and grow and takes very little effort to maintain once it’s growing in your garden. And it grows quickly – generally within 2 to 3 weeks after planting, you’ll be able to put fresh garden lettuce on your plates to enjoy.
Store-bought lettuce tends to go bad more quickly, so you end up running back to the grocery store every few days to get “fresh” lettuce. Save yourself the trips, and the extra money, by growing it in your own garden.
Celery = Cheaper to Buy
Celery is tough to grow because it requires a lot of close attention, and averages around a 5 month growing period.
In fact, celery is widely considered to be one of the most expensive vegetables that a farmer could grow due to its demand for costly fertilization, the large amounts of labor required to maintain a proper crop and the equipment necessary for blanching the stalks. Add to this a higher cost for seeds and you have a fairly expensive vegetable to sow.
Celery is still one of the most expensive vegetables even in the grocery store, but that’s only because it is so expensive to farm. You’ll save yourself time and money by just grabbing some at the store.
Herbs = Cheaper to Grow
Growing an herb garden is probably one of the most simple things you could grow, and the beauty of it is that you can do it anywhere, even if you don’t have a yard. A simple window sill herb garden is all that’s necessary.
Fresh herbs are rather expensive to buy in the grocery store, and they’re so easy to grow that there’s really no reason not to. A packet of seeds usually costs less than $1 and you will get several plants out of it. Herbs can also be bought in seedlings, which are slightly more expensive, but will be ready to harvest sooner.
Carrots = Cheaper to Buy
Many growers think carrots would be cheap to grow, which they are, for the most part, but the difficulty comes in keeping flies and bugs away from your carrot crop.
One simple case of carrot fly can and will decimate your entire crop, forcing you to start over again. So unless you’re a farmer by trade, leave the carrot growing to the pros and buy yours from the grocery store to avoid the excess money and hassle.
Vine Veggies = Cheaper to Grow
Not only will vine vegetables add a bit of visual appeal to your garden with the way they wind up and around fences and decorative posts, but they’ll be easy for you to grow and harvest.
For whatever reason, the price of vegetables like tomatoes and bell peppers has skyrocketed in grocery stores. Growing your own doesn’t require any actual “space” in your garden – just some sort of upright for these veggies to grow on, and you’ll save as much as $10 per square foot of vine veggies grown in your own garden over the prices in the stores.
Asparagus = Cheaper to Buy
To start growing your asparagus, you first have to invest an average of $2.60 per crown (expensive for a veggie that’s not even grown yet) to start the growing process. Then it takes at least a year to cultivate, and from there it’s daily maintenance to hand cut them once they are grown.
The growing process, by the way, takes up to another whole year after the crowns have been cultivated. And considering the 2 years that they take to fully grow, the crowns are only ready to be cut for 7 weeks out of the year, usually around early summertime. Then each one is individually harvested by hand.
If you wanted to put forth the time and effort to grow an asparagus crop in your garden, be my guest, but it’s easier and ends up being cheaper to just buy them at the grocery store.
Ann Michaels is a freelance writer who loves to grow her own vegetables. Her garden is an extension of her home, decked out in dog statues (she’s an animal lover, too!), garden gnomes and other garden decor. She says there’s nothing quite like the taste of fresh vegetables.