With food prices soaring in most grocery stores, many people are trying their hand at gardening to help offset rising costs. But with the time, space, and effort it takes to grow your own food and to do it well - you may wonder if it is worth the trouble.
The idea of gardening to better feed ourselves is not a new concept - as many did just that during World War II. The hope was that “Victory Gardens” would help the average family to feed themselves while allowing more of our agriculturally-grown produce to be sent to troops in need overseas. The effort was considered a success, with an estimated 40% of all produce in the US being grown in home gardens at the time.
While circumstances today may differ, the rise in urban gardening and backyard farming shows that people are learning from the past and taking their food needs into their own hands during these times of increased uncertainty. But can a few tomato plants and windowbox herbs really save you that much on grocery bills? Probably not.
If you are looking to really beat inflation and make the most of your garden space, here are a few high-value, high-nutrition crops you should aim to grow:
Kale is an excellent contender for the home garden for a few reasons. It grows quickly and can be harvested throughout the entire growing season and well into the colder fall weather. It is high in nutritional value and versatile in the kitchen. It can be preserved by dehydrating and ground into a powder for a nutrition-packed addition to soups and smoothies. Choose a perennial variety, if you are in a growing zone with mild winters, and you will not have to replant it every spring.
Beans grow quickly and produce multiple harvests throughout the season. They are relatively easy to grow and many varieties take very little space (try pole beans along a trellis for vertical growing with a small garden footprint). They also pack a high nutritional punch that makes them a great vegetable to grow at home. If you find yourself with more than you know what to do with, they can be preserved by canning or pickling and used throughout the winter. At the end of the growing season, leave some bean pods on the vine and allow them to fully mature and dry - you can then use the beans inside as seeds to produce more plants next season.
Cabbage may not be the priciest vegetable at the grocery store - but it is easy to grow yourself and a little goes a long way. It also stores very well and can be preserved in ways that will maximize its nutritional value. Use your homegrown cabbage to make fermented sauerkraut or kimchi, high in probiotics, fiber, and vitamins and excellent for your gut health and immune system!
If you have more space at your disposal, squash and pumpkin are excellent crops to grow at home. Be sure your garden gets lots of sun before trying your hand at growing them - as they need at least 6 hours of full sun per day for a high yield. These vegetables are highly nutritious and high in healthy carbohydrates, which make them a great staple in the kitchen. If stored properly after harvest, they will keep all through the winter and can provide essential vitamins and minerals to keep your body healthy during the colder part of the year.
Easy and quick to grow, spinach is a nutrient powerhouse that typically costs a pretty penny at the grocery store. You can grow it in the ground or in containers, which is a good option for any sized garden. You can sow seeds directly outdoors and enjoy a harvest a mere 4 to 6 weeks later - which means it is also an excellent option for succession planting to have a continuous crop all season long. It also grows well in cooler weather and can be harvested well into the late summer and early fall.
Lettuce prices have been some of the most unpredictable over the last several months, on top of shortages and recalls that have made this kitchen staple more difficult to come by. While it may not be the most nutrient-dense food, it is high in vitamin A and makes a great base for a wide range of dishes. It is easy to grow and harvest, making it a great contender for the home garden. If you harvest the leaves from the bottom and leave the roots in the ground, you can continue to harvest from the same plant throughout the summer and into early fall.
The crops above are a great starting point if you want to produce high-value, high-nutrition food in a limited space. If you are lucky enough to have a larger plot of land, fruit trees can also be an excellent option that will provide abundant harvests and save you plenty of money in the long run.
Pear Trees, Plum Trees, and Mulberry Trees are among the best options as they produce abundant harvests, and their fruit can be used or preserved in various ways (by dehydrating, freeze drying, or made into jams or compotes, to name a few options). They are also not as prone to disease as other fruit trees.
If you do not have enough space for a tree, consider perennial berry bushes along the perimeter of your property. Blueberries and raspberries are high in antioxidants and many different vitamins. They also tend to be among the priciest of fruits at the grocery store, whether fresh or frozen - so having your own continuous supply at home is definitely worth the effort!
If you are looking to grow your own food for the purpose of saving money at the grocery store, choosing your crop options wisely is a must. If you are working with a small space, invest in solutions to maximize your space and use it as wisely as possible.
You may also want to consider kitchen solutions that allow you to preserve your harvests, like a food dehydrator or canning equipment. While these items may be an investment upfront, the money they can save you in the long run is significant and you can rest assured that your preserved produce will be much healthier than anything you can buy in-store.
Learning how to garden and make the most of your home-grown goods is a valuable skill that requires little more than investing your time. There are a ton of resources available online, and the trend is constantly growing. Follow us on social media for more informative and inspirational content geared to all who love to grow.