As we launch into spring, our favorite fresh fruits, veggies and herbs are reappearing on the shelves at much lower prices. Colorful, plant-rich recipes are trending, seasonal cooks are rejoicing and families are re-evaluating their budgets to allow room for plenty of fresh ingredients. With the average American family of four spending roughly $1,062.20 per month on groceries, it may be worthwhile to consider another budget-friendly option: growing your own.
Make it Easy
I recommend a container garden for beginners. It’s easier to manage and cheaper to maintain than a traditional in-ground garden. All you need are pots, soil, a hand rake, seeds, water and compost – none of which costs more than $10 if you shop around. You should also ask friends and family if they have unused gardening equipment or plant trimmings they’re willing to part with. This would make it even more affordable.
Best Bunch for Beginners
Consider growing plants you use regularly and that are also resilient, especially if this is your first go at gardening. Vegetables such as zucchini, carrots, tomatoes, peppers and green onions, and herbs like basil, parsley and thyme are some of the most common starter plants. They’re also more difficult to kill.
Depending on the type of plant, the time it takes to yield your first harvest will vary. Zucchini, for example, may be harvested in as little as 52 days, while peppers may take several months to mature. Don’t be discouraged if you find that your first attempt ends up being more of a trial period. The longer you keep your garden maintained, the better crops you’ll get each year. It’ll require some work and patience, but eating fresh from your own garden is worth the wait.
The Financial Benefits
It’s estimated that, for every $50 spent on seeds, you’ll produce $1,250 worth of crops. Even if you’re not ready to make a full $50 investment, the financial benefit is clear – growing your own produce can save you big money in the long run. You can also sell or trade your crops with friends and neighbors for cash, baked goods or even services like pet sitting. For example, I have friends who trade herbs for a neighbor’s chicken eggs. When you offer fresh, homegrown food, you can get all sorts of items in return.
The advantages stretch even beyond obvious monetary savings. Experts say vegetables fresh from the stalk have higher nutrient contents than their store-bought counterparts.
Gardening takes time, meaning you won’t see your return on investment overnight. Stay motivated and eventually your wallet won’t be the only thing feeling healthier!
Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars & Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little ones, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click http://twitter.com/savinmavens or visit http://communityamerica.com.