It's not difficult to go over budget when you're out grocery shopping. With increasing prices on just about everything, including food, grocery bills continue to go up and up. However, there is one easy way to save money on groceries: grow your own.
Many fruits and vegetables are easy to grow, depending on what region you are in. Growing your own groceries is better for you because there's less time between harvest and consumption, offering you the most nutrients. There's also the added benefit of knowing your food is organic and pesticide-free.
The truth is, while you can easily save money by growing certain foods in home gardens, some plants can actually cost you more money in the long run to grow on your own.
If your main gardening goal is to save money, think about starting with these fruits and vegetables.
There are many different types of salad greens available, including arugula, kale, spinach, romaine, iceberg, and Swiss chard. At the grocery store, salad greens are way overpriced, costing consumers anywhere between $2-$10 depending on the time of year, even if the plants are not organic, pre-washed, or chopped. Not to mention, salad mix bags usually only provide enough greens for a two-person salad.
For a lot of people, the convenience of picking up a salad bag might be worth a few extra bucks, but if you want to cut back on your grocery spending, growing your own salad greens is a lot easier than you might think. Plus, a bag of seeds will only cost you $1-$2 and provide enough greens for you to eat a salad every day for almost two months.
To grow your own salad greens, start by throwing down a few seeds once a week. Your soil should be at least 6 inches deep in a garden bed that can easily drain. You'll only need your bed to have about six hours of sunlight per day. If you pick the leaves from the outside of the plant, your greens will continue to grow and grow.
Just like greens, growing your own herbs is easy to do right from your kitchen. Herbs such as basil, parsley, chives, thyme, and rosemary are often expensive to buy at the grocery store, costing $2-$3 just for a few sprigs. For the same price, you can buy a four-pack of fresh herbs at your local garden center, which will provide you with herbs time and time again.
To grow your herbs, simply plant them in a pot, or outside in your garden, in an area that will get about four to six hours of sunlight each day. Once you notice your herbs beginning to flower, clip the buds off right away because your herbs will not taste as good if the plants flower.
TIP: If your plants produce more herbs than you can use at once, you can freeze them.
Tomatoes are one of the easiest plants to grow yourself, and they taste much better fresh out of the garden compared with what you can find in a grocery store. A pint of cherry tomatoes can cost you anywhere from $2-$5 at the store, but for the same price, you can buy a tomato plant that can provide you with 20 times as many tomatoes. Considering many people buy more than one plant, that's a lot of tomatoes.
When planting tomatoes, it's important to select a spot that gets a minimum of six hours a day of full sunlight.
TIP: You can turn tomatoes into homemade sauce, paste, or juice, and then you can freeze them for later consumption.
Bell peppers are expensive at grocery stores, sometimes costing more than $1 just for one pepper. Luckily, if you're willing to give growing your own groceries a shot, $1 can also buy you one starter plant at your local nursery.
To grow your own bell peppers, start them off in a small pot early in the year, around 8-10 weeks before the last spring frost, and then transplant them outdoors once it's warmer out, at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit. You'll want to harvest them as soon as they reach a good size so that there's room for more to grow. However, the longer they are on the plant, the sweeter they become and the greater their vitamin C content will be.
If you live in a house that you own and plan to spend a long time living there, planting a fruit tree is a great investment. Not only will it save you money on your grocery bill, but fruit trees also enhance your landscape.
If this is something you are seriously considering, take note of where you live and what fruits will easily flourish in your backyard. For many regions, this includes peaches, pears, apples, plums, and cherries, while other places are better for citrus trees. You'll also have to research which trees require cross-pollination and which will do fine on their own so you know how much space you have for a tree or multiple trees.
While having fruit trees in your own backyard will save you a load of money over the years on fresh fruit, as well as jams, pies, and more, it's important to remember that dwarf and semi-dwarf trees can take three to four years before they're mature, and full-grown trees can take up to eight years.