Steadfast FinancesHow I'm Fighting Food Inflation

How I’m Fighting Food Inflation

Filed in Frugal Living , Good Eats , Saving Money 10 comments

Six words… growing my own fruits and veggies!

[6 Day Old Golden Honeymoon Melon Heirloom Seedlings from Baker Creek Seed Company]

I’ve had a small container garden on my back deck for several years now where I’ve grown my own herbs and other high price tag veggies (e.g. tomatoes, salad greens, etc.) to save a few bucks where ever I can. But this year, I’ve officially had to give food inflation the boot when my favorite Roma tomatoes hit the $5 per pound mark at the local grocery store.

So, I’m reluctantly giving small scale balcony gardening the boot, and decided to cultivate a 64 x 32 plot the back yard to make a full fledged, medium sized vegetable garden.

Aside from having what I suspect will be the best farmer’s tan I’ve ever had in my entire adult life, I expect to have a fairly bountiful harvest beginning in mid-July and continuing until cold weather rolls in October.

The late Spring, early Summer garden will contain:

  1. Rocky Top Lettuce Mix – very similar to Mesclun mix, which is the simplest stuff to grow but for whatever reason, one of the most expensive items at my grocery store. This has long been a pet peeve of mine, and why I’ve grown my own salad greens for years.
  2. Four varieties of tomatoes – you might say I’m a tomato nut and you would be correct. Hence the reason for 4 different varieties in the garden: Amish Paste (like Roma), Pantano Romanesco, Brandywine, and Big Boy Hybrids (gift from family member).
  3. Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach – a household staple in our kitchen, and adds some additional nutrition to any salad mix.
  4. Atomic Red Carrots – yes, I said “red” carrots. Blame the Dutch for the 500 year old genetic engineering misconception that all carrots are orange.
  5. Mary Washington Asparagus – this will not be available for harvest this year, but as a perennial, it should grow from now until end of time if well cared for.
  6. Golden Honeymoon Melon – just like a honeydew melon and will be the new breakfast food of champions.
  7. Sugar Baby Watermelons – I’m a southerner; a garden without watermelon is heresy!
  8. Sugar Ann Snow Peas – few things in life are better than sauteed sugar snap peas with some butter and pinch of salt.
  9. Calabrese Green Sprouting Broccoli – what serious salad addict would go without broccoli?
  10. Peaches and Cream Sweet Corn – weird name, but my neighbors say it’s the sweetest corn variety they’ve ever tasted. I’m not a huge corn proponent, but it should yield some decent shade to sunlight sensitive plants.
  11. Red and Yellow Bell Peppers – no way am I paying $5 per red or yellow bell peppers at my local grocery any longer. Especially when I can now buy a pack of heirlooms seeds for $2.50 and grow them for free (essentially) after saving the seeds at harvest time.
  12. Beauregard Sweet Potatoes – sweet potatoes are one of my largest, if not the largest, expense at the grocery store because we eat them a minimum of 3-4 times a week. Baked, mashed, or used in sweet potato salad recipes, they’re a staple in our diet because of their high nutritional value.

Upfront Costs

Naturally, there is quite an upfront cost for supplies since I’m essentially starting from scratch. I dropped $700 on a full size tiller, $300 on fencing supplies (yes I overspent but it looks awesome), around $80 in basic tools, and another $50 or so in seeds and seedlings. (I would also highly recommend buying heirloom seeds from someone like Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company since you can save your seeds, then regrow your crops for generations to come.)

All in all, I’ve spent around $1100 thus far, but most of this can be viewed as capital expenses, but I don’t mind since I’ll be reusing them year after year (or keep them in storage).

Organization & Management

I’m also fairly sure there will be new fruits and veggies added to the garden as word gets out that I’ve restarted an old family tradition. My family is rather quirky about such things, so I’ve left ample room for late stragglers who want to get in a late request for some esoteric veggie like beets or ground cherries. I’m sure my sweet tooth will probably get the best of me, and I’ll cave for a few blueberry plants as well.

Later in the summer, I’m sure I’ll plant some green onions, garlic, and other high potency herbs on the periphery of the garden that will satisfy our endless need for out of the norm flavors (I am a wannabe chef after all), but should also serve as a natural deterrent for the local wildlife. So let’s hope Bambi gets one taste of the rosemary, mint, or garlic, and decides that jumping the 4 to 5 foot fence isn’t worth the extra effort.

So what do you think… am I completely nuts? (And no Green Acres jokes!)

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Posted by CJ   @   17 May 2010 10 comments
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May 17, 2010
7:43 pm
#1 Jenna :

Cool. I just received some seeds I planted this weekend. Tomatoes and sweet basil. I’m excited to see how my gardening skills are before I take the plunge and splurge on building an actual garden like you. Also, I’ve been thinking about getting a couple of chickens. It seems almost trendy these days. What are your thoughts on this?

May 18, 2010
8:05 am
#2 Matt SF :

Thanks Jenna. I think it’s important to start small if you’re new to gardening, then maybe create a pilot scale experiment where you scale up a little larger to see if you have what it takes to maintain a garden like I’ve just created. The important thing is not to overstretch and create more than you can adequately maintain, then get frustrated with your failure, and never try it again. So overall, baby steps are important.

I think the wise thing to do is identify those veggies that you consume the most — for us, it’s salad greens, tomatoes, sweet potatoes — then try to raise as many of those as you can without going overboard on time, effort and expense. So you’re doing pretty smart thing by sticking with just tomatoes and basil… love those Caprese Salads BTW!

Chickens are honestly a bit of a pain. They’re noisy, dirty, and unless you really like fresh eggs, I wouldn’t recommend keeping them around. Of course, if you live in the country, then it’s not a big deal, but if you live in a city or an incorporated township, your neighbors might hate you, unless all of you go in together and do it as a community project (which I’ve seen some communities do).

Check back in over the summer and let us know how you plants are progressing!

May 18, 2010
12:37 pm
#3 Jenna :

It helps that I got the seeds for free (take aways from an event I attended). Plus, we eat tomatoes and put basil on everything (yes, we eat a like of Caprese!). Right now the seeds are growing in egg cart containers. They are starting to sprout, but we had a hot summer so they are looking a little pathetic right now. Hoping I can save them! Thanks for the input on chickens. I actually don’t like eggs, however, my mother and brother make up for that! I just want them as pets, the family can have the eggs!

May 19, 2010
9:42 pm
#4 Matt SF :

I just want them as pets, the family can have the eggs!

Well, not to go all hardcore on your idea, but you know what happens when female chickens stop laying eggs. Right? Might not want to set yourself up for voluntary pet consumption if you’re a kind hearted person.

If you’re plants are looking a little pathetic, just make sure to spritz them will some water everyday, or at the very least, keep the top layer of soil fairly moist and in direct sunlight. Tomatoes will not grow well or produce fruit unless they get 8 hours of direct sunlight a day.

May 20, 2010
11:21 am
#5 Jenna :

Yes, I do know that only hens lay eggs. I also know where I’m living I’m zoned for 3 chickens.

Thanks for the direct sunlight tip, I moved my seedlings under a lamp. Hope that helps…

May 21, 2010
7:33 pm
#6 Matt SF :

No problem on the tip. I didn’t know that until researching it myself a few years ago on a tomato vine that wouldn’t produce fruit. Vine was 6ft tall and produced only 2 tomatoes, so something was very off.

On a different note, I apologize about the delays in replying to your comments. For some reason, the spam filters keep catching your comments and I have to dig through them to find you. So please don’t think I’m ignoring you or being too lazy to respond to your questions.

May 18, 2010
1:00 am

You’re growing several varieties of vegetables I’ve had great success with. I think you’ll be thrilled in a few months when you can taste the results of your hard labor! Good luck!!!

May 18, 2010
7:47 am
#8 Matt SF :

Thanks Fern. I’ll need it!

May 24, 2010
1:54 pm
#9 Jenna :

Matt – Don’t worry about it. I won’t take it personally.

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