So get this, when people lose their jobs or their investment portfolios lose half their value, they actually switch back to quaint little customs — like growing their own personal vegetable garden — to save money.
Yep, garden space is rapidly becoming a hot commodity now that we’re knee deep in a recession and it pays to cut costs anywhere we can.
Vegetable seed sales have increased by 40% in 2009 and urban community garden spaces have seen as much as a 4 fold increase in their waiting lists.
So if you don’t have the acreage (e.g. a backyard) to start a full fledged victory garden, chances are you can start a small indoor “urban garden” or start a small container garden on your deck/patio with a few simple supplies. A few pots, some potting soil, and seeds is really all you need.
Just imagine the potential savings when you don’t have to pay $3.50/lb for a few tomatoes or $5/pack of shriveled basil leaves from your local grocery store.
10 Easy DIY Herbs & Vegetables that can Save You Money
- Basil – I love this stuff and probably use it more than any other spice in my miniature herb garden. Nothing better than fresh basil sprinkled on a homemade marinara sauce, homemade pizza or caprese salad.
- Rosemary – Any devout carnivore will agree that a sprig of rosemary can turn a great steak into an OMG This Is Awesome steak. The flavor is simply out of this world. If you haven’t tried lamb or steak with a rosemary skewer, put it on your To Do List.
- Cilantro – One of the more powerful herbs, but for anyone who loves homemade salsa (tomato or mango) or enjoys authentic Mexican food, cilantro is one of the essentials. Mango salsa is sure to turn heads if you break this out at parties.
- Oregano – No self sufficient Italian cook can survive without a readily available source of fresh oregano. A must have for anyone who regularly makes their own homemade pasta sauces. But beware, there are different species of oregano (e.g. Mexican, Greek, Italian) so make your selection based on the type of foods you cook most often.
- Chives – For that perfect blend of raw onion like taste without the crunch, chives add a level of subtle flavor that most people can’t quite figure out. Goes great with garlic mashed potatoes.
- Mesclun – the base ingredient in most of my salads. It’s extremely easy to use a pair of scissors to snip off a bowl of mesclun, give it a rinse, and in 5 minutes or less, you’ve got a healthy dinner ready to go after you add some goat cheese and walnuts. If you clip off the top 2/3 of the plant, it regrows within a few weeks so it basically does all the work for you after you plant the seeds. This stuff goes for $5-$8/lb in my grocery, so you can imagine I’m saving a bundle by growing my own.
- Red Peppers – bell peppers (green, yellow, or red) are one of my all time favorite salad ingredients, plus they make a great side as a stuffed shell with mushrooms and cheeses. I’ve never tried growing them before (at least on my deck), but it shouldn’t be much of a problem since we had these in the family garden every year when I was a kid. In the off season, red bell peppers cost as much as $5 per pepper at the local grocery, so I (hopefully) won’t have to wait until one of my favorite foods goes on sale. Plus, they’ve got nearly 4 times the amount of Vitamin C as an orange.
- Tomatoes/Cherry Tomatoes – what garden salad is complete without tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes is must have ingredient at my house and I go through at least one container every week. Tomato vines are somewhat finicky, but can be managed fairly well once you learn to train your vines and properly tie them upright. I would estimate I could save $5 week during the summer if I can get a few successful vines to do their thing.
- Scallions/Spring Onions/Green Onions – depending on your geographic location and the stage of growth, these great little onions can have multiple names. I use them as accent flavors in various dishes (like omelets), but I generally clip the green shoots from the top of the onion and discard the rest. When I grow them later this year, I will just clip off the shoots and let the white onion section (e.g. below the soil) mature into small bulbs and use them as roasting onions.
- Hot Peppers – I love spicy food, and even though I manage to touch my eye at least once a year while prepping them, I still keep a few of them around. Whether it’s a big pot of Texas style chili to keep warm at a football tailgate party or just to make some homemade jalapeno poppers, various types of hot peppers are always a big part of my (wannabe) chef’s kitchen.
I’m expecting that I can save several hundred dollars alone on just these 10 herbs, peppers and vegetables (yes I know a tomato is technically classified as a fruit). As someone who eats salad around 3-5 times a week, I spend an extraordinary amount of cash on fresh tomatoes and greens alone. I’ve never officially accounted for the entire amount, but I would bet I drop a minimum of $50 at my local grocery every month. That’s an annual savings of $600!
So what about you?
Got any backyard edibles you routinely harvest every year or will 2009 be the first year you give gardening a try? Do you keep a few herbs on the window sill or have a full scale garden?
Update: I’m spending less than $1 per day on most of my lunches!
First Photo: Roger Doiron @ KitchenGardeners.org, Basil: amandabhslater @ Flickr, Rosemary: KitAy @ Flickr, Cilantro: Henrique Vicente @ Flickr, Oregano: tibbygirl @ Flickr, Chives: lateshoes @ Flickr, Mesclun: randomduck @ Flickr, Red Peppers: quinn.anya @ Flickr, Cherry Tomatoes: bucklava @ Flickr, Scallions: matter = energy @ Flickr, Hot Peppers: AndWat @ Flickr