How to Save Money Growing (or Raising!) Your Own Food

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Learn how to save money by growing your own food and turn your backyard into a budget-friendly pantry. You know that grocery prices are out of control. Both in the sense that they are super high and that they are, quite literally, out of your control. Growing your own food puts that control back in your hands.

Our primary focus in this article will be on cost-saving techniques. It’s not just about planting seeds or raising chickens. It’s about doing so in a way that keeps your expenses low and maximizes the return on your investment. We need to reduce expenses or increase output and sell the excess. It all comes down to those two things.

grid of watercolors showing people growing their own food.

I’ll show you cheap ways to grow and raise food on your journey to simple living. Becoming self-sufficient can be affordable and fulfilling.

🐓 Key takeaways: Reduce your expenses as much as possible, and sell or trade extras to cover costs.

Key elements of saving money with a garden

There are only two things that matter:

  • Grow what you like or what you can sell.
  • Keep your costs as low as possible.

This means no fancy raised beds, no beautiful copper plant markers, no bags of store-bought compost, no automatic waterers. You can have all these things if you want them. But don’t kid yourself into thinking that your garden will save you money if you do 😉.

large vegetable garden in front row of your house.

But here’s the biggest thing to know: building expensive raised beds and adding store-bought fertilizers will cost a fortune. You won’t even break even. This means you need to give your plants enough space so that they don’t need lots of fertilizer, additional water, etc.

To have a money-saving garden, you need a lot of space. There’s no workaround. Anything else will just be a hobby (and that’s okay.)

Smart Planting Strategies for Higher Yield

Every inch of your garden is valuable, so plan your plantings to make the most of every square foot. This doesn’t mean cramming in as many plants as possible. (Huge mistake!)

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One smart strategy is succession planting. This means planting a new crop immediately after harvesting another. For example, once you finish growing your spring lettuce, plant green beans in the same spot for a quick-growing crop. It keeps your garden productive and your dinner table full.

Even with longer growing plants, stagger your plantings. It avoids the all-at-once harvest, meaning you won’t end up with more tomatoes than you know what to do with. You can plant right through summer for a fall garden.

More ways to reduce vegetable garden expenses

  • Start with Seeds. Buying seeds is generally cheaper than purchasing young plants or seedlings. Plus, you can save seeds from your harvest for next season.
  • Make Your Own Compost. Create a compost pile with kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, and leaves. It’s a free and effective way to enrich your soil.
  • Reuse and Recycle Containers. Use old containers, like yogurt pots or egg cartons, for seed starting instead of buying new ones.
  • DIY Pest Control. Instead of buying expensive chemicals, you can make your own natural pest repellents. Use ingredients like garlic, soap, or neem oil.
  • Water Wisely: Collect rainwater in barrels for watering your garden.
  • Mulch with Materials on Hand. Use grass clippings, straw, or leaves as mulch.
  • Choose High-Yield Vegetables. Plant veggies that produce a high yield for the space they take, like tomatoes, lettuce, or beans.
  • Use Vertical Space. Save space and increase yield by growing cucumbers, peas, and tomatoes upward on trellises or fences.
  • Swap Seeds with Neighbors. To add variety to your garden, trade seeds or seedlings with neighbors or friends instead of buying more.
  • Buy perennials. Invest in perennial vegetables such as asparagus or rhubarb. They come back every year, so you won’t need to buy new plants.

Raising Chickens on a Budget

Keeping chickens can greatly impact your food budget, especially if you want fresh eggs. But let’s get real: it’s not just about tossing some grain and collecting eggs. To do it on a budget, you need a bit of planning.

chickens free ranging in front of cottage.

First, consider space. Chickens don’t need a mansion, but they do need room to roam.

If you can free range your chickens, your feed costs will be minimal. Ours do just fine with free ranging + table scraps.

Choosing the Right Breed for Maximum Egg Production

Not all chickens are created equal when it comes to laying eggs. If eggs are your goal, breeds like the Rhode Island Red, Plymouth Rock, or White Leghorn are your best bet. Plus, they’re hardy and adaptable to different environments. But don’t go by the book; talk to local farmers or chicken enthusiasts. They can give you the lowdown on what breeds work best in your area.

Cost-Effective Chicken Coop Ideas

You don’t need to spend a fortune on a chicken coop. With a bit of creativity, you can build a cozy home for your chickens on the cheap. Look for repurposed materials like wood pallets, old sheds, or even reclaimed furniture. Birds need three things: protection from predators, a place to rest, and boxes for laying eggs. Just make sure it’s well-ventilated and dry. And remember, a happy chicken is a productive chicken!

Raising Meat Sustainably and Economically

If you’re looking to raise animals for meat, the key is to start small and think sustainably. You can raise chickens, rabbits, goats, and even pigs in small spaces. It doesn’t cost much.

Raising chickens for meat economically will require you to choose a chicken breed specifically for meat. They are designed to grow quickly and on less feed, keeping your costs dramatically now.

Small-Scale Livestock Farming: Goats, Rabbits, or Pigs?

The animal you choose depends on your space, budget, and what you can handle. Rabbits are a great choice for beginners. They’re small, require less space, and reproduce quickly. Goats are fantastic if you have a bit more room. They can provide milk and meat. Pigs require more space and food, but they’re efficient converters of scraps into meat.

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Feeding Your Livestock Without Breaking the Bank

The secret to feeding your livestock without emptying your wallet is to use what you have. Kitchen scraps and garden waste can supplement their diet. For chickens, things like vegetable peels, leftover rice, or stale bread are treats. For goats, shrub clippings and branches can be a good supplement. Just be sure to research what’s safe for each animal. Also, consider growing some of their feed, like fodder crops for rabbits or goats.

Tips for saving money on raising animals

Remember, the more you can provide from your own resources, the less you have to buy.

  • Free-Ranging Chickens: Let your chickens roam around your yard for natural foraging. It reduces feed costs and gives them a healthier, more natural diet.
  • Kitchen Scraps for Feed Supplement your animals’ diets with kitchen scraps. Chickens, pigs, and goats can eat vegetable peels, fruit scraps, and leftover grains.
  • Grow Your Own Animal Feed. You can save money on livestock feed by planting crops like alfalfa, clover, or certain grains.
  • Barter for Supplies. You can trade with local farmers or neighbors for animal food, supplies, or medical care.
  • Community Grazing. Instead of keeping your own pastures or grazing lands, you can use community ones to save money. (This isn’t an optpion everywhere, but you might be surprised!)
  • Make Your Own Hay. If you have the space, grow and harvest your own hay for winter feed, which can be much cheaper than buying it. Or allow a farmer to use some of your land to grow his hay and take a portion of the hay as payment.
  • Preventative Health Care. To save money, practice good animal health care to prevent expensive diseases.
  • Efficient Water Systems. Use rainwater collection systems for animal water needs, reducing reliance on tap water.
  • Selective Breeding. To improve the quality of your herd or flock, practice selective breeding. This can boost productivity and cut costs.
  • Minimize Waste: Be mindful of feed and water waste. Proper storage and efficient feeding techniques can reduce unnecessary losses.

These strategies help in balancing the care of your animals with maintaining a budget-friendly approach. Remember, every little bit helps in cutting costs while ensuring the well-being of your animals.

You will have extras!

Preserving Your Produce: Canning and Freezing Tips

Canning and freezing are your best friends when it comes to preserving your harvest. Canning might sound old-school, but it’s actually pretty simple once you get the hang of it.

cans of home grown produce in jars.

It’s great for things like tomatoes, jams, and pickles. Freezing is another opttion. Got too many berries? Freeze them. Loads of beans? Blanch and freeze. To keep your produce fresh in the freezer, prepare and package it properly.

Community Sharing: Swapping Produce with Neighbors

Swapping produce with neighbors is like hitting two birds with one stone. You get rid of your surplus and get to try different fruits or veggies in return. Maybe trade your excess tomatoes for computer help. No taxes, either 😉.

Basics of Selling Locally

Here’s something I’ve learned over time. You can easily sell or trade enough to cover your costs. You might not make money, but you can cover feed costs or seed costs quite easily by selling extras.

Selling your excess harvest can put a little extra cash in your pocket. Farmers’ markets, local food co-ops, or even a road side stand can be great venues. I prefer to sell or trade with friends or family.

roadside stand packed with homegrown fruits and veggies.

Tip: In my experience, selling veggies is hard, but selling eggs is easy. 😊

  • Offer Egg Delivery Service: If you have a surplus of eggs, consider starting a small delivery service in your neighborhood.
  • Partner with Local Cafes or Restaurants: Approach local eateries to see if they would be interested in buying your fresh produce or eggs.
  • Sell Plant Starts: If you’re good at starting plants from seeds, sell the seedlings or young plants to other gardeners.
  • Community Boards and Social Media: Post what you have available on local community boards or neighborhood social media groups.

Resources for learning specific skills:

We’ve covered what you need to do to keep costs down…now it’s time to learn it.

  • Gardening Know How: An extensive resource for gardening tips and plant care guides, ideal for beginners and experienced gardeners.
  • Cooperative Extension System: Find your local cooperative extension service for region-specific gardening advice, workshops, and resources.
  • Instructables – Gardening: A community where people share DIY tutorials on gardening projects, including building garden beds and compost bins.

I hope you’re walking away with a sense of excitement and possibility. We’ve talked about doing these things to save money, but of course, the benefits go way beyond that.

Don’t let the numbers stop you if you want to live this lifestyle just because you love it. I grow hundreds of square feet of cut flowers every year, and they’ve never made me a dime. Money isn’t everything ❤️.

How to Save Money Growing (or Raising!) Your Own Food
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