As a homesteader there is nothing more satisfying than looking down at a plate of food you have raised yourself. Don’t you just love when your salad is made of homegrown greens? Or when you’re eating garden fresh salsa made from ingredients you harvested by hand? We take pride in the fact our hard work has helped to bring quality food to our table to feed those we love, and that we’ve saved money in the process since we’ve grown it all ourselves.
Because vegetable gardens save us money, right?
Well, they can. But there is only one way that this is true.
Truth is, a garden only saves you money if you only plant what you’re actually going to eat.
It never fails. Every year I stick something in the garden because it’s “easy to grow” or “we have room” or “it looked cool” and it ends up being just one more thing I have to work around and we never even eat it.
Radishes! Plant radishes! They’re easy to grow! (But…if you don’t like radishes, you’re wasting time and money.)
Plant lettuce! It grows fast! (It does…but if you can’t stand the process of harvesting and washing it and it goes to seed—and then rots—you haven’t saved time or money.)
I plant peas every year. I like to eat them. I really do. But I’m not kidding you, for the amount I actually end up eating, I could stick four seeds in the ground and have plenty—which would save me money, space, and time.A garden only saves you money if you only plant what you're actually going to eat. Click To Tweet
As any hard working homesteader knows, time is money. If you’re spending precious time weeding around plants that you know aren’t going to be enjoyed by anyone you know, you’re also wasting money.
And while there is something to be said for experimental gardening and sticking a seed in the ground to see what happens because you might like what comes up, I’m talking about continuing to grow things that you know you aren’t going to eat. That year after year, for whatever reason, are left in the garden to rot, rather than making their way into your belly.
So what can we do to make sure our garden is on the path to really saving us money?
Plant things you know your family will eat.
Make a list of the vegetables/fruits/herbs your family eats. Don’t plant carrots if no one in your family eats carrots. Don’t plant an entire patch of hot peppers if only one person in your family enjoys them. Don’t plant plum trees if your family isn’t a fan of what they produce.
Plant things you need this year in realistic amounts.
We have so many jars of pickles and pickle relish on our shelves in the basement, we could supply the entire county during the zombie apocalypse. Take stock of what produce you’ve processed (canned, frozen, etc) that hasn’t been eaten yet. Are you short of any items? Are you pleasantly prepared? Are your home processed goodies threatening to start their own country? Take a look at what you’ve already got, and plan for this year’s garden accordingly.
Assess the time you have available for gardening this year.
If you know that you are dealing with special circumstances this year that will prevent you from keeping up on care or harvesting of the garden, take that into consideration when you’re planting. Remember that it’s completely okay to scale back on your homesteading endeavors when necessary. Planting a garden that you already know will be difficult to keep up with this year will definitely affect your pocketbook negatively.
But isn’t it good to have extra produce? Shouldn’t I be planting more?
Community is important, and sharing from our bounty is a great way to help others. You’ve probably got friends, neighbors, and relatives who would be happy to take your extra produce off your hands. But there is a difference between planting and having extra, and consistently planting items that your gardening history has shown aren’t beneficial for the folks living under your roof. Plant items you know you will use, and share (when possible) from that.
As homesteaders we sometimes feel that bigger is better. The bigger our garden is and the more variety we’re producing, the more awesome we are. Right? I’ve heard some homesteaders lament, “but all I plant is….” That’s okay! If that’s what you eat, what more do you need? If your aim as a homesteader is self-sufficiency, it’s important to stick seeds in the ground that you know will provide best for your family and farmyard critters.
Oh hey! If you’re looking for an awesome way to figure out what you can plant where you live and when you can start it, check out this Free Garden Planning Calculator from the fine folks at Seeds for Generations. Input your last average spring frost date and it will give you information on how to get lots of different crops rockin’ at the right time for your area.