Does Vegetable Gardening Save Money?

How to plant a practical vegetable garden that will save you money on your grocery bill and not cost a fortune to build. We’ll discuss that age old question… does a vegetable garden really save money?

vegetable garden produce in a wheelbarrow

But you will only save money with a vegetable garden if it lowers your grocery bill.  

You can’t just say “oh, I grew 500 lbs of tomatoes, and they are $3 a pound, so I grew $1500 worth of tomatoes, therefore I saved $1500.”  Would you have spent that much money on tomatoes over the summer?  If not, you didn’t save $1500.  It’s like when your Kohl’s receipt says you “saved $150”.  Not exactly.

But if you are spending less money on food overall, and don’t spend too much on the garden itself, you can safely say that your garden has been a net financial gain

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???? Plant what you eat!

It’s so easy to get carried away by seed catalog descriptions. There are things like delectable summer squash and heirloom eggplants. But planting things that you don’t like to eat is a mistake. Even the most delectable summer squash won’t be eaten by people who don’t like squash. When I am tempted to plant something weird, I ask myself whether I would ever buy it at the farmers market. If not, I don’t grow it.

What are you buying most of the year? For us it is lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, melon, celery, carrots, onions, garlic, herbs, green beans, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, peas, and corn. Boring, boring, boring. But things that will be used. If you interested in canning, think of extra peppers and tomatoes that can be easily preserved. (It can be helpful to use a canning planner to help you with this!)

Don’t overplant

Do you know how cucumbers you get from one plant? A lot. Like, at least two a day during its peak productivity.  And one tomato plant is the same.  If you are planning on preserving your food, then this is good.  Just make sure you are picking the right varieties and being realistic with yourself.  If you are not interested in preserving food, then one or two tomatoes and cucumbers is plenty.  Vegetable gardening does not save money when half of your produce goes to waste.

Don’t forget that in many regions you can plan another planting for a fall vegetable garden. So you don’t have to plant a ton of one thing all at once!

???? Focus on food that is expensive to buy

Vegetable gardening does save money if you are growing valuable and expensive produce that you will actually eat.

The following fruits and veggies and expensive to buy, so they make good plants to grow at home:

Cheap to buy, don’t waste the space unless you really want to grow these:

  • Lettuce
  • Corn
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
tomato plant in garden

Reducing your garden expenses: in-ground gardens vs. raised beds

This is a VERY unpopular opinion, but I think raised bed gardens are too expensive, and your vegetable garden will never save you money if that’s the route you take.  They might be easier and more fun to work in, since there are no weeds and you don’t need to till or dig.  And that’s fine!   But if you are trying to save money, raised beds will set you back.  There is the cost of setting them up, filling them with soil, and then replacing them when they rot.  Also you will need to top off the soil every year, and unless you have a serious home compost operation, that will require money.

If you have an area that is too big to dig by hand, you can rent a tiller once a year, hire someone to till once a year, and tillers appear on Craigslist a lot. If you don’t have heavy clay soil like me, then you can probably just add mulch and compost over the years and not till at all.

Vegetable gardening does not save money when every year you are spending money on soil. So you will want to start a home compost operation. It’s easy and free.

???? Starting your own plants from seed saves a lot

This is probably the number one way to save money on your vegetable garden expenses! Seed starting can be done very inexpensively using a soil blocker, or simply paper cups with a hole poked into them. And the savings are enormous.

To avoid wasting seeds, you can store them in the freezer for many years.

???? Related: how to start seeds with a soil blocker

woman and children in vegetable garden

So does vegetable gardening save money?

The very irritating answer is: it depends.

Probably not, at first.  Probably yes, over time.

And besides, there’s much more to it than that. A vegetable garden will get you outside in the fresh air, keep you off your phone, and exhaust you so that you sleep like a baby all through the summer.  It will give you something to do with your kids and something to talk about with your husband.  If you can’t afford a nice summer vacation, you will still be busy and happy all summer long.

That might or might not save you money over the course of your life.  But it is definitely worth it

???? Want help laying out your garden to be the most productive and practical for your household? Grab the printable vegetable garden planner here.

Does Vegetable Gardening Save Money?

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12 Comments

  1. Thanks for this post. It made some good points to think about and reflect to my on tiny garden.

    Sonja
    Blue Tea Tile
    blueteatile.com

  2. I try to live frugally. I dry clothes outside when I can and reuse things as much as possible. But if it does cost a bit more to garden, I look at it like this: Can I buy tomatoes from the grocery store? Yes. Can I buy tomatoes freshly picked from the plant less than a minute ago? No

    Doing things yourself also reduces dependency. When the egg crisis hit prices increased drastically. It was in the news and grocery stores started selling eggs by the half dozen. I doubt the people raising their own chickens even noticed.

  3. I live on solid rock. No planting in the ground here. But I also live in a ranching community. Minerals to feed cows come in large plastic ‘lick buckets’. They can be had for the asking. (although I’ve seen them for sale on Craigs list for $25. Yikes!)
    I fill them with compost, manure and shredded cardboard and branches. Not the prettiest things in the world but they make great raised beds.

  4. Very good advice. I don’t plant things I don’t eat, but I can get carried away with buying too much. I want to grow a lot of stuff but I have a small yard. I’m trying the square foot gardening method this year.

  5. So true, I love the way you break down the money savings, and the false advertising of that. My husband always laughs when someone offers him a savings on a newspaper or magazine or….he says you can’t save me money on that because I am not paying for it now! Nothing is lower than zero dollars spent on something! Your site is looking great!

  6. I am so happy you posted about this! When we move into our new house, I want to start a garden but I have NEVER had one before. I am both excited, and scared out of my wits. Any little tip I can find is helpful! Thanks!

    1. Don’t be scared! Even if you fail, it’s only for a few months and you get to start all over again.

    1. Thank you Robin! That means a lot to me since I know you are the frugal gardening queen! ????