5 Plants to Reduce Your Grocery Bill!
Updated: Jun 1
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Many people, like myself, stumble into gardening as a way to save money on that grocery bill! Especially now with food prices rising, gardening is one of the best things you can do to offset the cost of food! Even if you don’t have a large yard with an established garden, you can still grow in your space. See my post here on how to build a garden affordably.
I chose these 5 foods thinking about how to get the most harvest for the least amount of time and money, focusing on foods that are calorie-dense and staples in most kitchens! I tried to choose the items that most people regularly buy and that are very easy to grow and/or preserve.
1. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are my personal favorite thing to plant in the garden and keep in the pantry! They are cheap to plant and grow, but have a very high production! In the garden, one plant can produce another 5-10 potatoes or more! Because of the high caloric content (and nutrient density), sweet potatoes give you a real bang for your buck!
Sweet potatoes are some of the easiest vegetables to grow in my opinion! You can make it hard, and many people have ways of growing sweet potatoes that they swear by, however, I like to keep it easy.
Here’s the secret to growing these cost-effectively: don’t buy seed potatoes. Just buy a bag of potatoes from the grocery store! You’ll want to buy organic to avoid any chemicals they add to the potatoes to keep them from sprouting and any other additives or modifications that can make gardening difficult.
Here's how to do it:
In the late winter/early spring, take a few store-bought sweet potatoes and set them in a sunny spot. If it’s late spring or early summer, plop the potato in a cup of water, so that half of it is sticking out. This helps the potatoes start to sprout. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can find sweet potatoes in the grocery store that have already sprouted. Check the clearance bins for potatoes that have already sprouted. These are GOLD to gardeners! To grow them, just bury the sprouted potato in the ground, and sprout up. Sweet potatoes like heat, so try and get them in early in the season, so they have plenty of time to grow! These veggies are not cold-tolerant and the leaves will die at the first frost, so be careful. Sweet potatoes can be invasive too, which is great if you’re growing them for high production! Give this plant plenty of space to spread out. They are a vining plant, but not climbing like cucumbers and peas. The vines of sweet potato will spread out and can put down new roots (more potatoes) wherever they land.
In my first year growing this, I put out two sprouted potatoes into one 8x4 raised bed. By the end of the summer, the whole bed was full, the walking paths all around the bed were covered over, and the vines had been attempting to grow into neighboring beds! I dug sweet potatoes for an hour, not only out of bed but out of the walking paths too! I had over 30 pounds of sweet potatoes, which store excellently during the winter!
To store them for later, once you dig them up, put them in a bucket, basket, or bin and let them sit in a warm room in your home for about 2 weeks. Do not wash them off, just brush off any extra dirt. After that time, put them in a cool, dark location (I just put them in my pantry), and they will last for 6 months!
2. Regular potatoes
Just like sweet potatoes, regular potatoes are one of the most cost-effective things you can plant in your garden. They are high calorie, low cost, and very versatile in the kitchen, so a great staple to grow to keep that grocery bill down!
Regular potatoes, like sweet potatoes, are very easy to grow. Once again, like sweet potatoes, I recommend just buying your potatoes from the grocery store, instead of seed potatoes! Keep an eye out, and buy organic if possible. Some potatoes have been treated to prevent them from sprouting in the grocery store, which defeats the whole purpose for growers. Just like sweet potatoes, let these spout and then toss them in the ground! Some people dice their potatoes, 1 sprout on each piece, but I’ve found production is still high if I just plant the whole potato.
To help these sprout, just lay them out in a sunny area. Do not try to force these to sprout by putting them in a cup of water. Regular potatoes are not quite as productive as sweet potatoes, but they are great crops to succession plant! I recommend putting potatoes out once a month if you have the space for it. They only take 2-3 months to grow before they’re ready for harvest, so I like to grow them all summer! We eat them during the summer, but they also store great for the winter.
To store for the winter, after harvest, let them cure for 1-2 weeks in a warm place, and then store them in a dark and cool place. Do not wash the potatoes off after harvest, just brush off any extra dirt. Grow as many potatoes as you can in the summer, and then store them away for winter. I haven’t yet been able to grow enough potatoes to last us through the winter, but that is my goal every year!
Onions are a staple in my house! We probably eat an onion a day in some form or fashion! Onions are cheap to buy, but cheaper to grow! Because so many people eat onions regularly, reduce your grocery bill by growing them yourself!
Onions are a bit cold-tolerant, so I would recommend starting the seeds inside in winter and then transplanting them outside in early spring. Let them grow all summer, and once the stalks begin to fall over, you’re ready for harvest! I like to grow a lot of onions because we eat a lot of onions!
To store these, after harvest, lay them out in a warm, but shady place for about 2 weeks. I just leave them laying on the ground outside in the shade. After this time, the stalks should be fully dried out and there should be a good layer on the outside of the onion that is dried, just like you'd find in the grocery store. Then they are ready for storage. If you have enough onions, braid them together, and hang them in a cool dry place. You can also just store them in a basket or bin.
Garlic is one of my favorites to grow! Nothing is more satisfying than pulling a huge garlic bulb out of the ground! Just like onions, most people use up a lot of garlic cooking at home! It's cheap to buy, but cheaper to grow! One clove of garlic can produce a whole bulb! Meaning, if you buy a bulb at the grocery store, you can then grow one bulb for each clove in the garlic, stretching your money x10! (or however many cloves there are). That's a pretty good deal!
Growing garlic takes a little more forethought, as it needs to be planted in the fall. If garlic is planted from seeds, it takes 2 full years before it’s ready for harvest. I’m impatient and don’t want to use up valuable bed space, so I grow garlic from cloves!
Once again (to save money), buy organic garlic bulbs from the grocery store to plant! One .32-cent garlic bulb can produce a dozen new bulbs in the garden! Break apart your garlic bulb into individual cloves and plant them in the ground in the fall. Let them grow all winter and summer, and in mid-summer, you should have a bed full of garlic! They are ready for harvest after the stems turn brown and begin to dry out.
After harvest, lay these out in a shady warm place outside, and let them dry out. After about two weeks, they are ready for storage. Store them by braiding them together, or just put them in a bin or basket.
If you’re anything like me, I don’t eat fresh tomatoes year-round. Grocery store tomatoes in the winter are sad and not very tasty. However, in the winter, I do like to eat quite a lot of soups, chili, pizza, and pasta! Canned tomatoes in some form are often called for in these recipes! To me, nothing beats opening a home-canned jar of tomatoes in the winter and tasting that summer tomato. Grow your tomatoes in the summer, preserve them, and then eat them all winter long! And don’t be intimidated by preserving tomatoes! See my post here for 3 easy ways to preserve tomatoes!
There are many more plants you can and should grow to save money at the grocery store! The ones I’ve listed above are annuals (meaning they need to be replanted every year), but try out perennials in the vegetable garden (perennials only need to be planted once and they come back year after year). My favorite edible perennials are asparagus, strawberries, and various herbs! These are not calorically dense staples in my diet, but they are VERY cost-effective as they only need to be planted once!
Want to learn more about gardening? Visit my blog to learn more! I have posts on how to build cheap garden beds 2 ways, and how to build a Cheap and Easy Rain Catchment System for the Garden.