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?