How much do you save?


NZ Gardener - - Contents - PHO­TOS: SAN­DRA SIMP­SON

Three food grow­ers do the sums

There are lots of rea­sons to grow your own food, one of which is to save money. Mei Leng Wong speaks to three gar­den­ers who can show they’re def­i­nitely in the black (or is that green?).

After we pur­chased our home, I gave my­self the chal­lenge of be­ing as self-suf­fi­cient as pos­si­ble in veges and fruit from our 850 square me­tre sec­tion. I made a five-year plan, bud­get­ing to spend $150 a year to set up the gar­den.

We have now just passed the five-year mark, and when I add it all up, I reckon I’ve saved a to­tal of $13,000 for fruits and veg­eta­bles I didn’t have to buy – and that’s just a con­ser­va­tive es­ti­mate. If you take out the set up costs that’s still sav­ings of about $2000 a year, ev­ery year, for a long time to come.

There are also sav­ings I hadn’t an­tic­i­pated, like rub­bish – we just make less of it as we com­post and re­cy­cle, so we spend less on coun­cil bags. I’ve never bought baby food for my 18-month-old son Micah. He eats what we eat and gets his snacks, like cherry toma­toes, out of the gar­den.

In to­tal, I have spent about $2800 on the gar­den over the past five years, in­clud­ing the big­gest chunk of over­spend­ing to build the 10 raised beds at a cost of $1500 for macro­carpa sleep­ers and soil. The rest of it mainly went on fruit trees, seeds and grow­ing medium. We live near the beach so I can col­lect sea­weed to make my own fer­tiliser, though I have bought sheep pel­lets too.

Struc­turally, we’re there now. It is not about one huge job, but just do­ing a lit­tle bit con­sis­tently.

We are grow­ing most of what we eat though we still buy bananas (though hope­fully not for long as I've just bought some trees), mush­rooms and a few things like pota­toes and car­rots which I never seem to grow enough of. In the gar­den, we grow all the usual things and some of the more un­usual too, in­clud­ing ginger and turmeric. We’ve got our first pineapple fruit grow­ing, which is ex­cit­ing, and things you don’t al­ways get at the su­per­mar­ket or which are al­ways ex­pen­sive, like tamar­il­los, guavas and pomegranates. We also have peaches, three kinds of ap­ple, three kinds of plums, nashis and pears, as well as dif­fer­ent citrus in­clud­ing dwarf nectarines. There are over 50 fruit­ing trees, bushes and vines here now.

Our gro­cery bill now is about $100 a week, for cos­met­ics, clean­ing prod­ucts, the oc­ca­sional wine, dairy prod­ucts, chicken and fish, oil, and

“I gave my­self the chal­lenge of be­ing as self-suf­fi­cient as pos­si­ble in veges and fruit from our 850sqm within five years.”

dry goods like oats, flour and seeds. We only go gro­cery shop­ping ev­ery three weeks, which also takes a job off the to-do list. Our gro­cery bill has stayed the same since Year Three.

It helps that my hus­band Jar­rod hunts, so we have been get­ting deer, goats and a few ducks in the last few years. He is a per­sonal trainer and my back­ground is in en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­icy. I have worked in pub­lic health pol­icy and chronic dis­ease for the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion.

While we didn’t set up our gar­den purely from a fi­nan­cial per­spec­tive, it has worked out well that way. It also meant go­ing to one in­come while I was on ma­ter­nity leave, and now work­ing part-time, wasn’t the big deal it can be for many fam­i­lies.

I sus­pect we will al­ways need to top up, but we’ve only got 850sqm. It’s not huge. I think we’ve done well.

Mel Atkins in her Tau­ranga gar­den.

Cherry guava.

‘Golden De­li­cious’ apples.

‘Freck­les’ dahlia.

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