With Spiralling Food Costs Here Are Proven Low Cost Ways To Cut Food Costs & Grow Your Own Food, Even If You Don’t Have A Garden

Food growing needn’t be expensive. It’s quite easy to grow plants of healthy nutritious crops with minimal budget, or even no money at all.

Bunching Carrots
Bunching Carrots

For many years I owned and ran a market garden and learnt hundreds of ways to reduce crop growing costs. It was my job to produce good healthy nutritious crops at as low a cost as possible. In this article I’ll explain how you can garden at very low cost and produce food that is far cheaper than in the supermarkets.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a garden or allotment. There are ways to grow food on a windowsill, in window boxes, in a concrete yard or on a balcony.  And it needn’t cost much.

Before I go into the detail let me start by telling you that you don’t need any fancy equipment, or special skills. Look around you as you walk through a town. You’ll see plants growing up through cracks in the pavement and even on walls. Plants are tough and can survive in the most unlikely of places. So if you give them the opportunity they’ll do better than survive, they’ll thrive.

Put the right seed into soil in a recycled container of some sort and it will do all it can to grow. With your help it’ll do really well and you’ll have plant you can harvest fruit, leaves, roots or whatever from. And in some cases the plant will perennial and grow for years, producing food for you and your family every year.

How to Cut Food Costs – What We’ll Cover

I’ll start by answering some of the most popular online questions, move on to likely costs and savings if you grow your own veg and finish with some wider gardening tips that will help your costs down.

What Should I Grow to Cut Food Costs?

That’s the first question I’m usually asked. the answer is easier than many people think.

Firstly don’t grow anything you don’t like. What’s the point of having a huge crop of rhubarb if you hate rhubarb? (Unless you can swap it for something you really like).

Secondly, don’t grow crops that are relatively low cost to buy. Crops like new potatoes can be really tasty and it feels good when you harvest your first crop. But potatoes take a lot of space and are one of the lower cost foods you can buy.  Especially if you buy larger bags from the farmer, wholesaler or greengrocer, rather than small bags rom the supermarket. I’ve just checked a local farm shop and their potatoes are £8 for 25 kg. The same variety are 99p a kilo in the supermarket (£24.75 for the equivalent of 25kg). Buying in bulk is cheaper per kilo and you can share a bag with friends and family.

Grow crops that are more expensive to buy but cheap to grow. Herbs are an example. If you love coriander with a curry you can grow it for pence on the windowsill but would pay pounds for a pot in the supermarket. And yours wil be fresher and much tastier.

Crops such as tomatoes can also be grown in a large pot or container, take up little space and are low cost to grow. Tomatoes are a healthy food so worth eating, but very expensive in supermarkets. And as fuel costs go up they will become more expensive.

A tomato plant can easily produce 6 lbs of fruit over a season but cost a few pence to grow from seed. And you needn’t buy a whole pack of seed, share a pack with a friend or neighbour.  Better still save seed from year to year. (But I don’t save seed from F1 plants or tomatoes bought in a greengrocer or supermarket. They aren’t reliable enough).

Thirdly, I’d focus on quick growing crops to begin with. Not only will they produce food quicker, they’ll prove you can do it.

Here are some really fast growing crops for windowsills, containers and gardens.

Lettuce, radish (including mooli), mustard and cress, carrots, micro greens, sprouted seeds and baby veg, baby kale, pak choi, and other salad greens.

Click the links on this post and you’ll find more information .. and that is free as well.

Quick Cost Saving Gardening Tip

When growing taller pea varieties or climbing beans of any sort they need support. A lot of people spend on nets and they aren’t cheap in garden centres or even online (I’ve just looked online and prices ranged from £7.99 to £73.50). So here is a low cost alternative that my father and grandfather always used.

They would go to a nearby hedge or woodland and cut (coppice) hazel for either pea sticks or bean poles. In fact one stem would often give both.

This year I’m using Cornus stems instead. These red corns are two years old and over 2 metres high. Pushed in the ground next to a row of peas they’ll support them all season at nil cost. And better still it makes picking easier than nets where that elusive pod is always on the other side of the net.

Alternatives to hazel and cornus are buddleae, currant bushes (not as long), willow, alder etc. Beware the fact that currants, willow and alder are likely to take root! But in a sense that is a bonus, as you are then also producing plants for the garden or that local biodiversity project.

Growing Food Without a Garden

It’s not necessary to have a garden to grow food. We can grow Microgreens, sprouted seeds and even baby plants indoors. On a window sill, under grow lights or even without light food can be produced.

Here’s one example. Mung beans, grown in a recycled ice cream container with minimal light.

Is It Cheaper To Grow Your Own Veg?

In almost every case yes. Provided you don’t overspend on equipment. For hundreds of years gardeners just planted in the soil. Today there is a trend in using (expensive) raised beds. Raised beds have benefits but do cost more. First you have to build the beds and then you have to fill them with soil or compost. Both these items can be very expensive. There are ways to decrease costs, such as pallet collars to make the beds. But there is still a cost and plants are quite happy growing in the soil.

Watch out for the cost of plants also. Seed is cheaper than buying plants from a garden centre or supermarket. I’ve seen cabbage plants that cost as much as the supermarket would change for the cabbage they will produce. that does nt make sense to me if you are trying to produce low cost food.

What Is The Cheapest Food To Plant & Grow To Cut Food Costs?

The cheapest food to grow is where someone gives you the seed or plants and you put them in a patch of soil you already have access to. You might need to add a little fertiliser but costs will be very low.

Look also at the price of the seed. Many packets cost £1-2 and contain hundreds of seeds. Thats good value by any measure. Just sow a little to a time and keep what you don’t use for later. Most seeds last for years .. the exception being parsnips. Look at the chart on this linked page to see how long seeds keep.

What Is The Easiest Food Crop To Grow To Cut Food Costs?

I really like salad crops for ease of growing. Things like lettuce, tomatoes, rocket, etc.

But even easier are perennial plants such as perennial kale, strawberries, raspberries and rhubarb. clumps of rhubarb go on producing food for years and don’t take up much space. It’s easy to grow because all it needs is manure adding once a year to mulch it and plenty of water.

Cutting Food Cost By Growing Your Own Fruit and Veg

The following are every rough and ready costs based on my own experience and recent figures published by Which. Prices of seed, plants and purchase price e in supermarkets will vary considerably. the aims however er is to give some approximate figures on which to start declining what to grow.

Gardening Cost Reduction Tips

Cut Costs

Wherever you can cut costs do so. It’s amazing what you can get for free.

For example I posted on Freecycle for a greenhouse and was offered one at nil cost if I would dismantle and remove it. That saved my hundreds of pounds.

There was of course the problem of getting it home. Mine all fitted in my car so wasn’t too bad. But if you need a van why not exchange a few hours of your time in exchange to someone lending you a van or helping you move the greenhouse?

Seed trays can also be picked up at nil cost. Recycled grape and tomato trays make excellent seed trays. If you are understandably unable to buy grapes then ask around and see what you can pick up from friends, family or food banks.

A where is Sharonnd remember, seeds are a lot cheaper than buying plants.

There are loads more low cost gardening tips on my Low Cost Gardening page .

Where Can I Get Free Gardening Advice?

This website and the related Facebook group gives free advice every day of the year. Just join the Facebook group and keep reading the advice!

4 thoughts on “Cut Food Costs: How to Grow Food Cheaply

  1. Dr ALAN YATES says:

    The cost of vegetables will go up a lot more due to the weather .
    We have an allotment and the soil is so wet and with the temperatures falling we haven’t planted anything at all as yet so it’s going to be a very late planting season to start .
    So that means the cost of vegetables in shops will go up as well .

    1. Stefan Drew says:

      It’s a dire situation Alan. One I don’t think many people have yet grasped. It might not just be expensive veg .. it might be empty shelves.

  2. Hi. I have a no dig allotment. I have weed suppressant fabric on walk ways and areas not used. I use one level of pallet collars to delineate a growing area and cut the fabric out of the bottom then fill with compost and manure. I haven’t lined the bottom with cardboard so do get some weeds but hardly any to speak of.

    My question is can I remove the collars now the bed is established? Could I just use a thin layer of stones to maintain the integrity of the edge? I find the slugs love to live between the collars and the fabric

    1. Stefan Drew says:

      As you say slugs love to hide in raised bed. They tuck down beside the wooden sides and are protected from predators. So taking the collars away is a good idea.

      It’s hard to say if you need to replace the wood without knowing how high the beds actually are. I see a lot of collars used where the soil level isn’t raised at all. I wouldn’t raise them unless you need to.

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