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Cash Crops: Getting the Biggest Bang For Your Buck in the Garden

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Every gardening season there is always a debate on whether growing your own food really saves you money. The fact is that 84% of the price of your food goes to marketing. Gas prices are rising which effects all transported products prices. In turn food prices also get a bump up. Growing your own food is more than just about being frugal. It also allows you to have control of what your family is putting in their bodies by making it easy to grow fresh organic produce.

The truth of the matter is that some vegetables or fruits are cheaper to buy in the store depending on where you live. I for one live in Zone 6 making tropical fruits a little difficult to grow, which is why I buy my bananas and pineapples in the store. However, there are tons of vegetables and fruits that you will reap a ton of savings by growing your own. Here is our list of produce that will give you the biggest bang for your buck.

  

Asparagus – Asparagus is one of the more expensive vegetables, currently going for about 3 dollars a pound at the local super market. While asparagus does take a few years to reach peak harvest you can shave off a little time by buying 2 year crowns instead of 1 year or seeds.  24 mature crowns will produce enough asparagus spears for a family of 4 with enough leftover to freeze. Initial cost for 2 dozen crowns is only $13.95. Plus this edible perennial will continue to produce for up to 25 years, that’s a lot of savings for a 1 time purchase!

Salad Greens- Organic salad greens at the grocery store run 5 dollars a pound. Even non-organic greens can be pricey and then are ruined in a few short days.  The good news is that greens are very easy to grow and with proper planning you can grow them just about all year long. Greens can be grown throughout winter indoors with grow lights or in a cold frame outside. They are easy to start from seed and come in hundreds of varieties including salad mixes. Swiss chard a great flavorful green is very difficult to find in the grocery store and when you do it’s pricey. You will get the biggest return for your investment with this green.

Saffron- This spice is listed as one of the most expensive spices in the world. Saffron is the dried stigmas of the saffron crocus flower (Crocus sativus). Each flower only has about 3 stigmas, it has to be handpicked and for just 1 pound of saffron you would have to sow an entire football field of flowers! All this adds up to one expensive product. The good news is those crocuses are easy for any home gardener to grow. Saffron Crocus is a fall blooming flower and come back year after year.

Berries- Berries are hard to transport which gives them a high price in the grocery store. Berries however are a fairly easy perennial to grow. Raspberries fresh from the garden are juicy and have a perfect balance of tart and sweet. Raspberries can grow very well in pots or in the ground, just remember to cut them back at the end of the growing season since they only produce fruit on new growth. Strawberries are great producers and since they have shallow root systems can be grown in just about any container. Blueberries are a great addition to any garden and as an added bonus there are several evergreen varieties such as Sunshine Blue and Pink Lemonade that keep their leaves all year making them a great landscape bush.

Herbs- Fresh herbs can run 4 dollars a bunch for non-organic. Growing your own will give you a better selection and save you a good deal of money. Most herbs can be grown inside on a sunny windowsill year round making the savings out last a typical growing season. Cilantro, chives, basil, and dill are all very easy to start from seed; while it is easier for beginners to purchase rosemary, oregano, and parsley seedlings.

Tomatoes- No one should have to pay super market prices for lousy tasteless tomatoes. No store bought tomato will match the flavor of a home grown tomatoes ripened on the vine. Tomatoes do require a little work and space but they are big producers. Your local nursery or garden center will have several varieties to choose from and they are easy to start from seed. With hundreds of varieties, include fantastic heirloom; there is a tomato to fit every garden and gardener.

What crops do you grow to help save on your grocery bill?