Thriftiness is a highly admired quality… but have you ever noticed how hard it is to be thrifty in a grocery store? Food prices seem to be continually high and rose again in July for the sixth month in a row. According to the USDA, a moderate-cost meal plan for a family of four is approximately $250 each week – and that only includes meals eaten at home!

So what’s one of the best ways to pinch pennies on your food budget? Start a garden. Even if you live in the heart of the city, you’d be amazed at how much a garden can save money.

“It can scarcely be doubted, that vegetables may be produced in the garden for less than half the cost of their equivalent in other kinds of food for a family. With a good supply of such fresh vegetables in summer, seemingly but little else is needful. They are palatable and nutritious. Especially if meat is short in the cellar, or deer from the butcher, the greater should be the effort to increase this economical substitute. So, likewise, if there is a deficiency of meal and flour. Let a person make a memorandum of every article taken from a good garden, at a fair market price, and the amount at the close of the season will be incredible.” – The Farmer’s Every-Day Book, 1854

As a longtime city gardener, I myself can attest to the truth of the above quote. Here are a couple of examples from my own “garden memorandum”:

1. Raspberries – Averaging over $2.00 per cup, raspberries are quite the cash crop. Although my yield wasn’t phenomenal this year, I was still able to glean around $80 worth of berries from my patch. One year, when the crop was more bountiful, I kept track and calculated that I picked $30 worth of berries – in one day.

2. Tomatoes – A recent visit to the grocery store revealed that vine-ripe tomatoes were $3.19 per pound (the equivalent of 4 small to medium sized tomatoes). My tomato crop hasn’t finished coming in this year, but a couple of years ago I had a yield of around 500 tomatoes. At $3.19 per pound, that’s $400 worth of savings.

In addition to being a savings mechanism, gardening also fosters healthy eating, healthy exercise, and a healthy environment.

It’s a bit late to start one this year, but if you’re continually pinching pennies in your food budget, why not consider rolling up your sleeves and digging into gardening next spring?

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