How much do you save?
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.
‘Golden Delicious’ apples.