Frugal Living: Go Green and Grow Your Own Food

By ERIN TURNER

These days, you will find me in my little piece of heaven on earth: My greenhouse.

While Old Man Winter plays with us and taunts us with wicked winds and lowering snow levels, I am snug in my 80 degree, wind-free haven! Wearing my flip-flops, of course.

Our farm had reached a point where a greenhouse was necessary. Since we realized the cost savings of growing our own starts versus buying transplants, we had increased the amount of seedlings tenfold.

Two years ago, our house was brimming with flats of seedlings. It’s a messy and time-consuming chore to plant them and keep them watered while still keeping the house looking like a house and not a plant nursery.

It was then that Jon and I realized we had reached the point of no return and needed a greenhouse. Since building it last year, we have been able to start most of our own plants for our market/truck vegetable farm. This saved us huge amounts of money and, over the course of a couple years, we will recoup the money we spent on the greenhouse.

Some of Erin's vegetable starts in her greenhouse.

Veggie starts in Erin’s greenhouse. These will save her lots of money on fresh produce thissummer.

But this last week while I was busy seeding flats and flats of cucumbers, squash, peppers, and eggplants, I began thinking about how much one seed produces.

A single cucumber plant will produce up to a dozen cucumbers in a season, while a tomato plant can give you 10-20 pounds of tomatoes in one season. One potato plant can yield 5-10 lbs of potatoes. And of course, we all know how much a zucchini plant can produce!

If you have always been curious about how to grow your own food, that comes as no surprise.  With more and more food being recalled and more reports of toxic methods of harvesting and processing, people are going back to the basics and discovering the benefits of raising your own healthy food.

Even apartment dwellers have more options as patio gardening is making a splash in the horticultural world. So, everyone has the opportunity to join the movement and grow some of your own food!

The benefits of growing your own food are numerous. Some of the top benefits include food safety, personal satisfaction, mental therapy, better nutrition, and a reduced environmental impact compared to food grown, packaged, and trucked 1500 miles. But one benefit which sometimes gets overlooked is the fact that growing your own food saves money!

By planting three tomato plants in pots on your patio or deck, you can save almost $50 in a summer. You can buy tomato plants for $2.50 each or you can start them from seed for about $1.79 for 25 seeds. Regardless how you get your plants, from a nursery or from seed, the end result will be fresher tomatoes and a savings in your pocket. Since most tomatoes usually are $1.00/lb in the grocery store, you will be on your way to saving a bushel basket of cash!

For some people, the prospect of a garden seems overwhelming and daunting.

We have friends who have never gardened but this year their daughter begged them to have a small garden. They are starting with a simple raised bed made out of a large plastic crate. Their daughter planned out the veggies, including carrots, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.

Quinn and Logan enjoy their watermelons.

Logan and Quinn enjoying some homegrown watermelon they helped grow andharvest.

All of these are easy to grow and will yield a wonderful harvest of food. Plus, it will save their family money this summer since all they have to do is walk out and pick their food instead of hitting the grocery store!

Another benefit? When kids grow their own food, they are excited to eat it! And there is nothing wrong with kids wanting to munch on fresh produce straight from the garden.

It’s the season! So, if you want to grow some of your own food, get out there and get growing. Starting plants from seed is the least expensive but also requires a little more time and effort. For some already-started plants, which are slightly more expensive than seed, head to one of our local nurseries: Benson Farms, Caras Nursery, or Pink Grizzly.

I love this time of year as I watch lots of little seedlings pop up in the greenhouse. The satisfaction of growing these little plants is priceless, as is the knowledge of providing healthy, safe food for my family.

And, as important as those things are, it’s also very rewarding knowing how much money I will be saving by growing my own vegetables this summer!

What kind of fruits or veggies do you grow? Have you found creative ways to grow things in a small space? Please share!

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Erin’s got tons of tips for saving money, couponing, and sticking to a budget in her previous posts: What I Love About Missoula, Frugal Living: Use Your iPhone to Save Money, and Frugal Living: The Art of the Garage Sale. Be sure to check out the Missoula Save it Club.

   Visit the Coupon Queen’s “Save It”archive.

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Erin Eisenman-Turner is proud to be a native Missoulian. Along with her husband and three sons, they raise chickens, pigs, rabbits, and vegetables at Turner Family Farms in the Orchard Homes area. When the farm chores are done, the coupons clipped, and the blog written, you can find Erin exploring Montana, collecting antiques, and trying to maintain a well-run, happy, and organized home for her family.

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