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Friday, March 11, 2011

Rising Food Prices - What to grow to save money..??

Two days ago, newspaper headlines blared 'Food Costs Rising by 7%' and 'The Cost of Food is Rising Worldwide!' Scary, eh? Food is already pretty darn expensive - especially healthy food like fruits and veggies - and organic is even more pricey! So, what can one do to cut costs on the weekly grocery bill? Plant a garden, of course! Yet, which crops offer the biggest payoff in terms of largest yields in the least amount of space. Or perhaps, they're just so quick growing that you can pump out harvest after harvest..? 

Here are my ideas, but please feel free to add your own thoughts - I'd love to hear them!

Salad Greens:

We eat a LOT of salad.. daily, in fact. But, a small plastic package costs about $4 from the grocery store and only really makes enough salad for 2 to 3 servings. If we buy 5 of those packages a week, that's $20 a week on salad alone! Yet, most salad greens are very quick growing and offer a large harvest.. plus, seeds are so inexpensive and you can grow a HUGE amount of salad from a single seed packet. Your best bet is to practice succession planting with your salad greens - plant a little more seed every 2 weeks or so for a continual harvest. Plus, if you use simple season extenders, you can eat salad (in zones 4 and above) 12 months of the year! 

Another bonus is that many greens can take a bit of shading so you can sow early and mid summer crops under A-frame trellises and pole bean teepees to get the most out of your garden space. 

My top salad picks which offer the best bang for your buck are: Leaf lettuce, mesclun mix, arugula, tatsoi and spinach. We also love our Asian mixes that contain mustards, arugula and mizuna, which are very quick growing and produce for a long time in the garden. 

Pole Beans:

I do love snap beans - almost obsessively - and when it comes to super-producers, it's hard to top pole beans. They offer 2 to 3 times the harvest of bush beans (in the same amount of space) and produce over a long period of time - usually up to 8 weeks (versus 3 weeks for bush types)! Plus, they are grown vertically up trellises, teepees or on fences and therefore don't use up too much valuable garden space. 

For winter meals, you can also blanch and freeze or can your bean harvest. 

My top picks are Emerite, Fortex, French Gold and Purple Podded Pole. I also hear great things about Lazy Housewife, so I may have to give that heirloom bean a try too! Not this year though, I have NO more space!

Carrots:

In a single square foot of garden space, you can grow 16 carrots. That's pretty impressive and in our 3 x 5 foot cold frames, we can grow about 240 carrots, which feed us all winter long. Plus, most carrots are ready in just 60 to 75 days.

We love Napoli, Purple Haze and Atomic Red. The photo is Atomic Red, which turns even more red when lightly cooked. 

What other veggies are good choices for a money saving grocery garden?

Happy Gardening!

 

6 comments:

  1. I think if I could only grow one crop in a limited space I would consider a beet as it not only quickly provides greens but a fine root that can be stored for extended periods of time. Kale, and carrots would be my next crops. Of course, if I was not limited by space nothing beats a potato for providing calories and nutrition.:)

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  2. Hi, I am a first time visitor and a very beginner gardener and I am planting veggies for the first time this year. Raising cost is part of the reason; prices are unreal. But also because this way it i easy to control what I eat. I have been reading your pasts posts and you really make veggie gardening so less intimidating than it sounds to us beginners. Thank you for that. :)

    Angie
    Linen & Verbena

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  3. I would also choose the beet to plant in limited space. As Mr.H has mentioned they are great for greens, storage, cooked and I discovered last summer how delicious beets are raw grated into a salad or sandwich!

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  4. I can't tell people enough about how I grow a whole lotta onions and with the price of them at the store,I save a lot of money. Trick is though to start them from seed. Those little bulbs(sets) they sell never reach any size much and probably discourages more growers than not.Store onions right now are getting mushy inside, but not mine. Grow a keeper onion.Candy hybrid for storage and maybe a spanish to eat thru fall and winter since they don't keep as long.My onions are sooo juicy, and store onions are soooo dry.'Nuff said! You start seeds now though for early transplant!

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  5. Great post. I rarely buy salad greens anymore, but haven't quite mastered gardening in the wet and windy winters here. Maybe I'll have to break down and build a full cold frame. My hoop covers may not work well enough to be anything but season extenders.

    As for your favorite carrots, we've tried just about all of them since my son loves carrots. Purple Haze was ok, but I won't buy it again, but Atomic Red was ineddible. Maybe I needed to pick them smaller or cook them, but yuck! All colored carrots paled to your standard orange. Shame, those were fun to see.

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  6. Thanks for the great comments everyone!! So true about beets (Thanks Mr. H and Laura!) and onions.. our onions that I have stored from last autumn are still as good as the day we picked them - good point Pete!

    Sinfonian - too bad about your carrot experiences!! I find that sometimes mid-summer carrots aren't nearly as sweet as the autumn/winter crops. That could be part of the problem.. as well, carrots harvested too young may have high levels of terpenoids, which can make them bitter tasting..

    Angie - thanks for checking out the blog! Good luck with your foray into veggie gardening - ask questions anytime!! Start small and grow a handful of your favourite crops.. you can always go bigger as you gain experience. Also, practice succession planting - keep that soil covered with crops! :)

    Niki

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Please feel free to leave comments. I welcome your tips, questions, thoughts and ideas (and suggestions for new veggies to grow!)