Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Does Gardening Save You Money on Groceries?

This is a vexed question.  It's harder to figure out then you might think.

Here's the breakdown by food type, all listed in pounds.
tomatoes = 105
potatoes = 12
strawberries = 11
carrots = 6.7
purple beans = 4.9
chives = .4
basil = 3.4
cucumbers = 1.6
Lettuce = .9
peas = .4
leeks = .4
shallots = .17

Fresh organic tomatoes cost 2.99 a pound, meaning we grew $313.95 worth of tomatoes.
(Except we froze them.  Canned tomatoes, the closest equivalent, cost $1.58 for 16 fluid ounces, so we saved $165.90)

Potatoes:  .77 a pound means we grew $9.24.

Strawberries: At 5.99 a pound, we would have had to spend $65.89.
(But we wouldn't normally spend money for fresh strawberries.  We savored every wonderful bite, but we didn't eat them instead of store-bought strawberries.)

Carrots: Fresh at .98 a pound, we grew $6.57.  Frozen were actually more expensive ($1.58/lb.) so we would have saved $10.38.

Fresh beans: At 2.99/lb., we grew $14.65 worth.

Leeks: While we only grew .9 lbs., leeks cost 3.49 a pound, so we grew $3.14.

So best-case scenario, our total would be $417.25, plus a little more for the stuff I didn't calculate like peas and lettuce.

If you are thinking a part-time job would have been more lucrative, I'm thinking you would be right.  Especially when you consider that we spent $192.24!   (Remember, we rabbit-proofed the entire backyard, an expense we won't have again.)

Because we were in Croatia last summer, we don't really have a really good way to compare grocery costs.  When you consider the rising cost of food in the last two or three years, it gets even more complicated...  But the numbers for groceries (which are embarrassingly high!) don't suggest that we saved much.

However, here are the plusses:

  • We ate healthier.
  • We are still eating frozen tomatoes, basil, and chives, plus and strawberry jam from our garden.
  • We had fun gardening together.
  • We learned a lot.
  • Once we get some decent tomato cages and learn to save seeds, our garden expenses will be practically nil.  (So 2016 should be great!)
So yes, I'm ordering seeds from Seed Savers this year.  Each year gets more productive!  And there are far more expensive and less tasty hobbies to have.

I am reminded of my conclusion from an earlier post:

My conclusion about gardening is that it is worth it if:
1.  You enjoy it, and therefore are not counting your labor as an expense.
2.  You are at least on a five-year plan.  There is a lot of trial and error that you only benefit from if you apply what you learned to the next year.
3.  You can taste the difference between home-grown and store-bought, or you value knowing exactly what has and hasn't gone into the production of your food.

If you are just doing it to be cheap, I'd skip it.

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