Growing your own – does it really save you money?

Gardener with vegetables

Around a quarter of us are growing our own food, according to our latest survey. And our primary motivation, it seems, is money – or rather, the lack of it. But does growing your own actually save much money?

Six in ten respondents said that a rise in food prices meant they were trying to be more economical by growing their own, with two in ten saying they had less disposable income to spend on food. The rest (33%) are trying to eat more healthily.

I’ve got a part share in an allotment, and for a few short and blissful weeks this summer I am enjoying being self sufficient in soft fruit, potatoes, Swiss chard, courgettes and runner beans. So are all of my friends and neighbours – thanks to gluts of the above crops.

But I haven’t really noticed that my purse is any fuller as a result, and I still seem to be shopping as much as I did before. So can growing our own really save us money?

Our grow your own test

According to the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners, a 250sq m plot of fruit and veg is “worth” £1,362 a year – the figure would be considerably less just for veg (soft fruit gives the best return, as it’s always expensive to buy).

However, most of us don’t have an allotment and have limited room for growing, so is harvesting veg from a small space really going to save anyone any money?

Steve Mercer, Which? Gardening’s veg guru, recently ran a 1m x 2m trial vegetable plot over the course of a year for Which? Gardening magazine. While he crammed in an impressive array of crops, he says that the harvests only really supplemented one or two family meals a week in the growing season.

Steve points out that the real savings come from growing veg that’s expensive in the shops. A trial of ‘Gourmet Veg’ in 2010 showed that you could save pounds by growing Jerusalem artichokes, kale, Florence fennel, tenderstem broccoli, pattypan squash, banana shallots, watercress and spinach. But arguably these veg, while tasty, are probably best considered ‘treats’ – they’re not family staples.

Have you saved money?

I must say, I’m feeling pretty smug every time I see tiny punnets of raspberries on sale at extortionate prices at the moment. But if I worked out what I’ve spent on fruit bushes, plants, horticultural fleece, cloches, netting, tools, preserving pans, cellophane discs, Tupperware containers and extra ingredients for the recipes I’m making with the produce I’ve harvested, I’ll be surprised if I’ve saved any money. I could even be down on the deal.

Not that I’m complaining. I grow my own for the pleasure of growing, eating and sharing organic food – not to save money. Which is probably just as well.

Do you grow your own, and if so, why? Do you think you have saved money?

Comments
Member

Food is worth growing as when you harvest it, it is fresher than when bought from a shop and tastes better. Herbs such as parsley are worth growing as if you have several parsley plants you can pick a little from each and it doesn’t harm the plants and has a much better flavour than parsley from a supermarket, even better than the parsley plants sold in such places for a £1 or more.

Member

piruk,
I agree and would add that it’s not hard to gain sufficiently to provide a free pastime or hobby.
As for saving money well you might save a little but the real pleasure is the achievement of producing something probably better than you’d buy at what is all in all a pretty low price, if not completely free.

Member

Mother nature provides all the things you are buying, for free!
Why do you buy fruit bushes?
Visit any local area and you will find them growing naturally – a foot long stalk of blackberry/raspberry, strip off the bottom 6 inches of leaves and branches, push into the ground six inches deep, hey presto, you’ll have blackberry/raspberry bushes coming out of your ears.
For other produce, the best seeds are obtained from your local market fruit and veg stall. Why pay seed prices when with a little effort you can get them for free?

Every year, my tomato seeds (for example) come from the old damaged tomatoes that my regular fruit and veg market stall are throwing away. 1 tomato produces enough seeds for around 30 plants. Wash the seeds, dry them overnight, plant out in large covered tubs, months later they are growing flowers and fruit.
Plants/flowers come from cuttings from other people’s gardens. I have yet to have someone refuse to let me take a cutting or two when I ask. This way I can see what they look like rather than trust a photograph, I can also smell them, so the scent if I like it, plays a part.
Potato peelings can be grown (providing they are not supermarket potatoes that do not root because chemicals are used in growing them abroad) with the aid of a little bit of rooting powder.
You’d be amazed the amount of times that people have told me they didn’t realise that the seeds they eat in fruit and veg can be grown!

As for your buying of horticultural fleeces, cloches, preserving pans, cellophane discs, etc, none of this is really neccessary.
Think back to how food was grown in years gone by – how ever did they manage without cellophane discs? (you have old cds knocking about, tie them to string?)
Horticultural fleeces? You have grass cuttings/leaves? Use them, they not only protect your plants from frost, they also feed the soil.
I’ll now have to go and search engine “preserving pans” – I suspect you use them for making jams/jellies? If so, ask your neighbours for any old pans they are replacing and use them?

I’m far from a gardening expert, I save a bundle by not falling for the marketing world’s bumph. I too started growing (or trying to grow) various fruit and vegetables, mainly because I prefer the non chemical taste of growing my own.
I generate no carbon emissions when digging potatoes up and carrying them into my kitchen. Any food waste goes on the compost heap (protected by an old carpet to help it breakdown) I have fresh seasonal food, which tastes as it should and it increases my CHOICE, which as always, saves my family money.

Member
Simone says:
14 March 2018

I want to do this now do I need a green house?

Member

Not for growing most vegetables that people eat in this country Simone , even tomatoes can be grown outside there are special varieties that will grow outside.

Member

My experience of growing my own is that it only really pays off if you are regimented about harvesting thigs – my mange touts are now on the verge of becomming monster peas and I have a forest of purlpe kale that looks beautiful but is somewhat less than delicious. In my garden I also have a loac of lovely flower leeks, self-seeded from the leeks I failed to harvest 3 years ago!
I’m really only at the beginning of my grow-my-own career. In previous years I loved the taste of the potatos and sweetcorn I grew, but I found that lack of space meant I planted only a small proportion of the seeds in each packet that I bought and that of course wasn’t the most economical way to do it. I wasn’t in the country to plants seeds this spring so I bought some seed trays of different crops. I think that has turned out not to be a bad plan in terms of economy – I have eaten more in mange tout than I spent on the seed trays.
Mostly I would grow for taste and fun. Cost is not the reason for doing it for me.

Member
Sandra Manning says:
28 July 2011

I spent money on unnecessary equipment until I remembered that my grandparents produced lovely fresh vegetables, fruit and flowers without these aids and recommend using imagination and readily available sources (as suggested by ‘frugal ways’) to cut costs – which goes for containers too – e.g. a large plastic barrel or even a large plastic bag, with suitable holes supplied for drainage, may not look pretty, until rhubarb, potatoes or trailing plants appear. Grow produce in quantities that will be eaten; a few good sized beetroot go a long way and many crops, such as courgettes, runner beans and spinach can be eaten raw whilst young, which also has the advantage of encouraging yield. Some Local Authorities provide excellent recycled soil improvers if needed and there are inexpensive sources for finding out about companion crops and rotation, too.

Member
jez jensen says:
28 July 2011

dis is a well stoopid idea. If u got loadsa money to excavate some waste bit to grow sweetcorn, den yeah, fair enough, but it just aint cost effective unless your growing for the whole of bermondsey man! Anyway my mate fat dez tried it n the cats kept doin dere business dere!

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