Thursday, August 4, 2011

Guest Post: Gardening to Save Money

Today we have a guest post from my friend, Chrissie. Chrissie and her husband, Aaron blog at Little House on the Suburban Prairie (I love this name) about their adventures in gardening and learning to grow and cook fresh and healthy foods. Be sure to check out their post on making homemade ricotta. Yum! They were kind enough to put together this post with some great ideas for using gardening to help save you money. Thanks Chrissie and Aaron!


There are lot of reasons that we decided to start making an attempt at vegetable gardening this year, not the least of which was saving money. Grocery costs, especially for the good stuff, are going up and up with seemingly no end in sight. We had confidence that we could make at least a small impact on our overall costs if we just put in a little effort at home. And we were right!
We planted a multitude of things this year, and since it was our first real try, we attempted to keep our expectations low, but that didn’t turn out to be necessary. For the purposes of this post, we’ll focus on the produce that we’ve already been able to harvest (at least in part) so that our estimations are at least close to accurate. We did some of our weekly grocery shopping recently, so here are the cost comparisons that we found:

Romaine Lettuce
Buttercrunch Lettuce
Sugar Snap Peas
6 heads/ $3.29
2 heads/ $2.99
1lb/ $2.99
3lbs/ $5.99
2 heads organic & local / $3.00 on sale
1 lb organic & local / $5.99
1 lb organic & local / $9.99
3 doz. + heads / $1.59
3 doz. + heads / $1.59
1.5 lbs / $1.99 (plus vines)
.5 lb / $2.50

As you can probably see, we’ve been growing more lettuce than we know what to do with. And even though lettuce isn’t expensive, there are significant savings there!  Even if we bought all our Romaine Lettuce from Costco, we’d be looking at a 92% savings. And I’ll wager highly that ours tastes a lot better!  We love sugar snap peas, but the cheapest we typically see them for is at Farmer’s Market is $3.99 per pound. As you can see, even at Costco they run for $2.99 a pound. With what we’ve harvested so far and what we have left on the plant, we’re already looking at a probable 56% savings, for home-grown organic food. On top of that, snap pea vines are actually quite tasty as well when stir fried or steamed, so you can get double for your money by growing them at home. And while our garlic came out to costing a little bit more than it would coming from Costco, it was significantly cheaper than its equivalent specimen at our local organic grocery store.
Another tasty budget-saver is home growing herbs. This isn’t a new idea, but it deserves repetition. Fresh herbs add a great quality to many home-cooked meals, but 2/3 an ounce of any given herb will run around $2.50 at the grocery store. Even though most recipes don’t call for even that much, it’s impressively difficult to continue keeping the herbs fresh in the fridge for more than a week or so. We would often end up losing about half a package when it wilts. The great thing is that you can buy a start of most herb plants for about the same cost as the grocery store package.  In not too long, you can go from paying $2.50 for 2/3 an ounce to paying $2.50 for this:

We use a lot of sage, so it was one of our first herb acquisitions. It only took a few weeks for it to start looking like this and we haven’t had to buy sage since!
We recognize that the level of gardening we do isn’t for everyone. But we encourage you all to at least consider looking at the fresh produce that you either consume the most or pay the most for and contemplate whether you could manage to produce it at home. We have faith that you’ll be pleased with your results.
If gardening sounds like something you want to try, a good next step is to consider composting. Composting provides two cost saving benefits – it reduces the amount of soil you need to purchase for your garden and it reduces your garbage bill.
The startup cost for us was minimal, we had to purchase garbage cans from the hardware store for $10 a can. Cans are not necessary, you can do it for less by having a compost pile in your yard, but we wanted to keep things looking orderly in our yard. The ingredients are free – it is essentially the leftover fruit and veggie scraps from our kitchen and yard waste. We also stick old newspapers in there and sawdust that Aaron gets for free from his work. Our compost output comes out to being about 2 cubic yards per year, which would be about $10 if we were to buy it from a store. Our composting will pay for itself after 2 years and start making us money after that.
In terms of reducing our garbage bill, because we compost we can get away with using the smallest garbage can and totally eliminate the need to have a yard waste bin. The garbage can saves us about $20 per billing cycle (quarterly for us) and the yard waste bin saves about $40. Add that up and we’re saving $240 a year on our garbage bill. Not too shabby!
We’d like to thank Coupon Newbie Blog for hosting us today. If you feel inclined to see what we’re up to on the suburban prairie, come visit us at!


  1. Brilliant idea for the compost! I've been wanting to start, but we just don't have the space for a compost pile and I didn't want to just shove it in somewhere. Thanks so much for the suggestion!

  2. I know, Melody. I have been wanting to compost for a while as well, but it seemed so complicated. I'm definitely going to give this a try.

  3. Make sure you drill lots of hole in the garbage cans for drainage and air! We'll be doing some more posts on some of the trials and tribulations we've had with this technique and some tips to help the process along.

  4. wow this is really practical and healthy way of saving, plus the fact that you buy those can, so you are also recycling that. It is a brilliant idea. I have a big back yard at home, looks like I know what to do with it now. :)