Saturday, 19 April 2014

Will growing your own food reduce your grocery bills?

Spring is here and the garden is beckoning. But maintaining a garden can be a chore. Could this toil be put to better use?
growing tomatoes in your back gardenHave your ever considered creating a vegetable plot in your garden?  Will growing your own food save you any money?  Could you even make money? What fruit and veg should you grow?  This post seeks to answer these questions and more.

Will I save money by growing my own fruit and veg?
If you put the effort in - yes.

After costs, the typical household could save around £300 a year on their grocery bill by planting an allotment sized plot with a mix of veg.  That works out at £6 a week reduction in your weekly grocery bill.

According to the consumer body "Which?" the average UK household's weekly grocery bill is £77. Therefore a vegetable plot could deliver the typical UK household an 8% reduction on their grocery costs.   For those households that eat lots of vegetables, the savings will be higher.

However, focusing on the potential money saved misses the real point of growing your own food.  As explained below, the main benefits are non-financial.

What are the benefits of growing my own food?
There are many.  Here is just a starter for 10:
  1. Garden fresh, home grown fruit and vegetables taste much better than the supermarket offer.
  2. When you grow your own vegetables you will end up eating more vegetables.
  3. You are in full control of the cultivation. You can cut out pesticides and artificial fertilisers.  You can even aim to grow a completely organic crop.
  4. Tending a vegetable plot is good exercise.
  5. A home vegetable plot is an eco-friendly pursuit, delivering a crop with zero "food miles".
  6. No more overgrown garden, all that digging and hoeing will deliver a tidy looking plot. 
  7. Growing food for the family is a wholesome past-time for children - it is educational and it gets your kids eating more fruit and veg.
  8. There are few things more personally rewarding than growing your own food.
  9. You can grow those unusual varieties that the supermarkets don't sell.
  10. You could even make some money from your hobby.
But veg is already cheap in my local Aldi?
At 65 pence for a 1 Kg bag of carrots at Aldi it hardly seems financially worthwhile growing your own veg. But if you are comparing your home grown carrots with Aldi's offer, you are not comparing like with like. Whilst there is nothing wrong with Aldi carrots, (they are better than most), there is simply no comparison between the supermarket offer and garden fresh, home grown carrots.

I have not done it before - any advice for beginners?
It is very simple to get started.  Buy some packets of vegetable seed and plant them as per the packet instructions.

Lettuce, rocket, beetroot, spinach, runner beans, courgettes, carrots and potatoes are all easy to grow (with a little bit of tendering).

What about the start-up costs?
Seeds will set you back £1 - £2 a packet.

A bag of compost will put you back around £5, but you can also create your own compost for free.

You may also need to invest in slug pellets at around £6 a tin.  Make sure you go with a non-toxic variety. Better still; lay a "beer trap" to keep slugs at bay.

These are the basic start-up costs.  You may need to invest in new garden tools etc as your vegetable plot develops.

Is it possible to make money from growing my own food?
Locally sourced, in-season produce is in big demand thanks to trendy Scandinavian restaurants such a Noma. Make contact with restaurants in your area that have menus based on in-season food.

Set up a stall at your local market.  Charge a premium by selling gourmet vegetables or unusual fruit varieties that are not available in the supermarkets.

Alternatively, find a local buyer online using specialist local produce websites such as BigBarn 

Further Advice on growing food at home
Grow your own food advice is available at the Royal Horticultural Society website.

Fundamentally, you can devote lots of time to growing your own food for limited (financial) award.  Even so, you should give it a go.  Consider it as a wholesome and fulfilling hobby which may save you a little money.

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