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After checking the prices in the produce aisle, how many times have you plopped some cherry tomatoes or asparagus into your shopping cart with a resigned look ala Mary Richards in the opening credits montage of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

What’s a person to do?  Resist artichokes?  Swear off broccoli and stock up on mac-n-cheese mix from the box?

How about some good old-fashioned “if you can’t beat, ‘em join ‘em” action and start planting your own vegetables and fruits?  Yes, you can save money by growing your own food, whether you have a few container plants on the balcony or a nice sized garden in the back or front yard.

The amount you save depends on how much you plant, your initial and ongoing investment in the garden, and how you use what you harvest.   If you want to save significant amounts of money and you have the space, plant seeds and go big.

Otherwise, even with conservative efforts, by growing your own organic vegetables and fruits you can save on grocery store costs and reap other benefits as well.   You’ll contribute positively to the environment and your health by avoiding produce that’s been treated with pesticides and shipped from afar.  And the initial outlay can be recouped with the amount you save on the gas used going to the grocer.


from Wallace Gardens

The rising cost of groceries is worsened if you end up wasting produce in the fridge each month.  (A 2008 NY TIMES article on food waste in America estimated that about a pound of food is wasted every day for every American – 24 pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables for a family of four for a month.

Canadians spend an average of $7,262 per household on food each year (StatsCan). 25% of all food is wasted at home, so every Canadian household could save around $1,800 a year by garbaging less grub.)

How much better to pick what you need from your own garden right before prep time – you won’t harvest more than you need.  And what you don’t use the same day will be less likely forgotten in the recesses of your veggie compartment, especially if it’s the product of your own sweat and care.

But before you go willy-nillying it off to the plant store, plan first:

  • Start small.  If you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew (in more ways than one), then plant just a few of your favorites.  Even a single tomato plant in a large pot will save you money and time.  No more last-minute trips to the grocery store.  Just walk right outside your door for the sun-ripened tomato to top off your tossed salad or to satisfy that spur of the moment BLT craving.
  • Plant your favorites.  Although it’s great to have an adventurous and open palate (good for you for embracing kale and swiss chard), do plant what you like and what you know you will eat, not just what’s in stock at the nursery or the latest “it” vegetable.


TOMATOES – Ubiquitous, easy to grow, so many varieties to choose from

HERBS – Have you priced little bunches of basil and spearmint lately?  More cost-effective to keep harvesting from your own herb plants than buying several sprigs of cellophane wrapped herbs.

12-year- old Troy’s front yard gro-O raised planter garden

LETTUCE, SPINACH , ARUGULA (leafy greens)-Pick just what you need of the outer leaves from cut-and-come-again lettuce for salads or sandwiches. Many varieties with lots of nutrients.

ARTICHOKES-Beautiful as a landscape plant too

MELONS-The per pound cost of a cantaloupe or honeydew make this a good choice to try.  Note: The vines need space to ramble.

YELLOW SQUASH & ZUCCHINI-After cooking zucchini and yellow squash, think freezing and storing your excess harvest.   With zucchini, having extra is not an uncommon feat.  Remember zucchini bread for freezing or sharing.

FALL & WINTER SQUASH-Spaghetti squash is a great pasta substitute and stores for several months.

BROCCOLI- Tip: Plant a lot of what you would buy regularly and stagger your plantings for continual harvest.

ASPARAGUS-Requires patience (a couple of seasons before first harvest) and a bit more of a learning curve.

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Guest Post: Written by May & Lydia Pulido from Where we explore all that nourishes us. From our daily work and play…the food we grow, prepare, and eat. To art and creativity and music… to what makes us laugh and wonder and say hmmmm…to walking barefoot in cool grass and getting very down to earth.

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