If I were to answer the question, “Is it cheaper to grow your own food?”, my honest answer would be yes, but usually not at first.
What will you be growing?
Whether or not it would be cheaper depends a lot on what you are growing and what type of garden space you already have available. If you are growing fruits, you can plant a tree and then continue to get fruits every year or every season but you will have to wait for a year or a few years.
On the other hand, if you are growing vegetables, you can get a harvest in just weeks or months but most vegetable plants last for just a season or up to a year or two only, which means you’ll need to start all over again very soon.
Herbs are one of the most cost-effective to grow. You can start harvesting them in weeks and most herb plants last quite a while, they may die during winter and come back by themselves or you can take them inside when it gets too cold as they are small plants.
Where will you be growing it?
With vegetables, it also depends on what type of vegetable garden you’ll be creating. If you are growing your vegetables directly in the ground and have rather good soil, all you’ll need is some good seeds to get started.
If you are going to be growing in raised beds or containers, the starting costs can be quite high. The cost of raised beds depends on the material you’ll be using to construct your beds, and whether you’ll be making them yourself or buying them.
Containers are usually slightly cheaper as you can use food-grade plastic to safely grow vegetables and other edibles. In addition to the cost of the raised beds or containers, you’ll also have to allocate some money to fill them up.
You can’t use normal garden soil in containers as they compact easily so you’ll have to fill them up with potting soil, coco peat, and compost. This will cost a lot the first time but you can reuse your soil by just adding compost each year, and you could make the compost yourself.
How experienced are you?
Suppose you are anything like I was, going headlong into growing vegetables without getting any advice from anyone. In that case, you are going to be spending quite a bit of money during the process of learning.
Even if you are inexperienced, you can make it less likely that you make some of the most common mistakes by getting advice before you start, this can be through free online sources, asking an experienced friend or relative, visiting your local garden center, or investing in a gardening course, if you do have the money to spare.
In addition, even for the more experienced gardener, growing food in a new place can be challenging. It takes some time to get to know if a particular area is too shady, too sunny, or not getting enough sun.
Cheaper than what?
When growing your own food, especially in a smaller to medium-sized garden, there’s really no necessity to use harsh chemical pesticides or herbicides. This means that you can grow completely organic food and be sure that what you are growing is 100% natural.
Even if you buy produce that’s organically certified, depending on where you live and how strict organic regulations are, the products that you buy may not truly be completely organic. On the other hand the higher the quality and better certified the product is the more it is going to cost you. Almost always purchased organic produce is going to be much costlier than organic food you have grown yourself, even if you take into account the starting-up costs involved. Once you already have the basics in place and become more experienced the cost that it takes you to grow your own food is going to go down anyway.
Although buying food from the store may cost you less than growing your own food at first, you can be sure that you are getting fresher and higher quality food that would cost you a lot more if you were to buy food of similar quality.
It’s not just money that you’ll be saving
You need to factor in the value of the other benefits as well from gardening and growing your own food. Gardening can help relieve mental stress and will give you some gentle physical exercise, which are benefits that you’ll not get buying food from the store.
How to start your vegetable garden by spending as little as possible
Here’s what you can do to make sure you start growing food as cheap as possible:
- Grow directly in the ground if you have suitable garden space
- Start small: starting with just a few types of plants will help you learn more about the plants you are growing and in turn better care for them, even if you do happen to encounter any pest or disease problems
- Expand in stages: you can buy supplies in stages while you keep growing so that you can invest the little money that you save back into your garden so that you don’t have to spend a lot at once
- Start with plants that grow well in your area: you are less likely to encounter any problems when growing fruits, vegetables, and herbs that are well adapted to your climate.
- Start your vegetable plants using good quality seeds: vegetable seeds are cheaper than starting from transplants. Investing in seeds of good quality will be well worth it in the long run even if they cost slightly more.
Overall, growing your food at home is likely to be cheaper over the long run even if you may have to spend quite a bit at the start. The quality and freshness of the food you grow are bound to be better than anything that you will be able to buy.