Is anyone even half interested in my ramblings on gardening? Well. I guess we’ll see.
So, how much money does gardening actually save you?
I’ve been gardening for about seven years now and I still think a lot about this question. It’s interesting because it isn’t nearly as straightforward as it seems.
The simplest way to figure this out would be just to calculate how much the produce from your garden would cost at the grocery store, add all that up, and subtract the costs of seed, soil, etc. But this figure could be pretty misleading because you might not actually eat that much produce if it didn’t happen to be in your front yard.
For instance, we have mint growing in several places in our yard. Because it’s so prolific, we drink tea made from fresh mint all the time. I use at least one good sized sprig everyday. One pack of fresh, organic store bought mint a week could easily add up to $250 a year! But growing my own mint doesn’t save me $250 a year because there’s no way I would spend that much on mint at the store.
We love cooking with all the fresh herbs we grow but we certainly don’t “save” the thousand or so dollars worth of herbs we use every year. I noticed something similar a few summers back when our tomatoes did especially well. We grew several varieties of heirloom tomatoes; red, pink, orange, and tiger striped. Benjamin would come out to “help” me in the garden and he usually spent most of his time picking warm, ripe tomatoes and eating them right there in the yard. This was fine with me but I kept a tally in my head of how many he ate. I figure, to buy that many locally grown, organic, heirloom tomatoes would have cost me at least $300 at the farmer’s market. But that doesn’t mean we saved that much money because we’re in no position to spend that much on snacks for our kids.
Another way to figure this out would be to just look at our grocery bills from before and after gardening. But this can be misleading too because our eating habits changed significantly after beginning our garden. These days, we eat a lot less meat and almost no processed foods. And those are areas that a grocery bill can explode.
As to how much we spend on our garden, things are mostly set up the way we like them now. We spend about $200 a year on seeds, seedlings, fertilizer, and miscellaneous. I don’t like to calculate man hours because I really enjoy being out there. But I spend about 4 hours a week in the garden on average.
I’ll probably wonder about this question for a while. My best guess is that we actually “save” around $150 a month in the winter and upwards of $300 in the summer when our garden produces a pretty large percentage of the food we eat. Of course, there’s plenty of considerations that are harder to measure. Like the nutritional content of the food we’re able to give our kids. The satisfaction of harvesting the literal fruit of your labor. The knowledge our kids gain from being out there with us. And the looks from neighbors when your sunflowers shoot up over 12 feet high.