Many of us want to grow our own food because we enjoy eating homegrown and we want to reduce our food budget. But we also don’t have a lot of time or energy for keeping up with a large garden, plus the harvesting, canning, and preserving. This is a simple list of the best foods to grow to save money when you don’t have a lot of time.
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Baskets bursting with fresh garden abundance. Nourishing meals made with home-grown foods. Pantries stocked with canned home goodness. Watching the sun set from the front porch, sipping a glass of iced mint tea, picked fresh from the herb bed.
The reality is, of course, all of this takes time, sweat, and a whole lot of work. Blisters, bug bites, and sunburns can just as easily be a part of this reality. Bean beetles, slugs, rabbit, deer, and other pests often enjoy more of the garden abundance than we do. Despite our never-ending efforts, the weeds overrun the garden. And there are often as many disappointments as rewards to gardening.
Gardening in Less Time and The Best Foods to Grow to Save Money
How do we accomplish the goals of growing more of our food, saving money, and eating healthy on a budget?
There are a lot of reasons for wanting to grow more of our food. For me, it is about enjoying healthy food grown without chemicals, being more self-sufficient, saving money, and the wonderful sense of satisfaction that comes with enjoying home-grown meals and a well-stocked pantry.
But how do we balance our desire for home-grown food with the limitations on our time and energy? This is the challenge, isn’t it? I struggle to find the time and energy for growing more of our food and saving money, while trying to avoid homestead burn out. (I share my strategies for avoiding homestead burnout here.)
Gardening to Save Money on Food
Through trial and error, research and reading, this is my list of recommended foods to consider if gardening to save money is your goal, even when you don’t have a lot of time. Of course, everyone’s priorities are different, and you may have some foods you simply can’t do without, and others you don’t want to bother with. Choose those that work best for you.
This is a list of low-maintenance, easy to grow foods that will save you money at the grocery store.
- Winter Squash
- Culinary Herbs
I might also add tomatoes to the list, since they can be quite expensive in the winter months. If you choose a determinate variety of tomato, they will ripen all at once, making for a shorter harvest time, and you can process them in one large batch.
I freeze bags of sliced tomatoes to use in soups, stews, and other recipes. Freezing is quick and easy. Of course, canning tomatoes – whole, sliced, or as sauces is a way to preserve and store long-term.
Lettuce is easy to grow, takes up little space, and matures quickly. Lettuce grows well from direct-seeding, allowing you to avoid the time of starting seeds and transplanting. Lettuce can easily be grown in containers, and keeping them in shade during the hottest part of the summer will help you enjoy your lettuce all season long.
My favorite variety for hardiness and long-lasting production is the Prizeleaf Lettuce variety. Gorgeous bright green leaves with ruffled edges in deep bronze, it has a crisp texture with a sweet taste. Slow to bolt, offering a longer harvest time.
Chard is my favorite for saving time and money. Heirloom organic Swiss chard seeds are inexpensive and the chard provides me with fresh greens from spring right into the fall.
Varieties of chard, including rainbow and Swiss, are incredibly easy to grow, and chard is both cold and heat resistance. The seeds can be directly sowed, and with good mulching, require little care. Of all the greens, chard seems to be the least susceptible to pests.
Chard can be used in a variety of ways, both raw and cooked, and can be frozen in freezer bags without blanching, saving you both time and money.
Uses for chard include – add to salads for color and taste, fresh or frozen added to smoothies, chopped leaves fresh (or frozen) can be tossed into soups and stews, stir-fried, steamed, and much more.
Garlic is an incredibly low-maintenance crop to grow, and a small space can yield enough garlic to last you throughout the year. Garlic is typically planted in the fall and grown over the winter, which makes good use of garden space.
Once planted and mulched, garlic requires little care. The most time-consuming part is the harvest and curing stages. But it is well worth the effort to enjoy the flavor and health benefits of garlic year-round.
There are a lot of choices when it comes to garlic, and they differ greatly in flavor and bulb size. I prefer the Music Variety of Hardneck Garlic. The bulbs are large and the flavor crisp, but not over-bearing.
Winter squash are a favorite among gardeners because they’re easy to grow, don’t require weeding once established, and most importantly, they store well through the winter to provide a valued vegetable for eating all winter and spring.
The runners need a lot of room to spread, but you can also use vertical garden space with trellis and fencing.
My favorite winter squash is the butternut squash because it is so easy to grow, highly resistant to pests, stores extremely well in your cupboard or pantry, and is so very versatile in the ways you can enjoy it.
Tomato butternut soup is a great way to combine end of summer tomatoes with your winter squash.
Culinary herbs add flavor and nutrition, and a small amount goes a long way. But fresh culinary herbs can be quite expensive to purchase. Growing your own in containers or garden beds is a wonderful way to enjoy the flavor of fresh herbs without spending a lot.
Many culinary herbs offer medicinal benefits. You can learn more about the best herbs to grow in Starting a Medicinal Herb Garden – 5 Herbs to Grow in Containers and Gardens.
There are many more foods I could add to this list, but this is simply a way to get you started thinking about the best foods to grow to save money when you don’t have a lot of time.
In addition to growing food you love and saving money, it’s important to consider what grows best where you live and take into consideration your soil, space, sun exposure, and the pests you may encounter in your garden.
And of course everyone has favorites – sometimes the extra effort is worth the pleasure of growing food you love.
Wishing you all the best in your gardens