10 Most Cost-effective Garden Vegetables You Can Grow

garden-vegetables

There are a lot of benefits to garden vegetables that you grow yourself, but saving money is not necessarily one of them.

Some vegetables are simply cheaper to buy at the grocery store. I know. I hate saying that, too!

Over the years, saving money is not always the main reason we grow garden vegetables. Am I right?

Sometimes the work needed to keep the soil happy, the beds weed free, with healthy plants discourages us from planting crops that are “dirt cheap” in season at the grocery store.

If you’re growing vegetables to save money, or want to make the most of your garden, here are ten garden vegetables that can put money back in your wallet.

Did you miss this article about the cost of grocery shopping versus home grown food?

The Big 10 Garden Vegetables!

These veggies are easy-to-grow in your vegetable garden big or small. Depending on your growing season, you may even be able to plant two or three times. (See succession planting below)

1. Lettuce

I don’t know about you, but I go through a bunch of lettuce each year. At almost $2 per head, that gets expensive. Here’s the great part: They are pretty easy to grow in any part of your garden. They even do well in flower boxes. A seed packet costs about $2.50 for the heirloom variety (which I highly recommend). If you harvest the outer leaves of the plant, it will easily last for several months. Lettuce is also a great vegetable to succession plant.

2. Bell peppers

Bell peppers are fairly expensive, especially for organic. I’ve seen them as high as $2 each! If you start your little seedlings ($2.50 per packet) in small pots, you’ll be able to transplant them to your garden in a few weeks. Pick the peppers as soon as they get to full size.

3. Garlic

This popular plant has a lot of health benefits. Garlic is used in all kinds of recipes. This is a vegetable that I have on hand at all times. Plant the garlic clove in the soil before winter; six to eight weeks before your first frost date. You’ll have a bumper crop in late spring to early summer.

Find your first, and last frost dates here.

4. Winter Squash … including PUMPKIN!

Winter Squash is getting more and more expensive. Butternut squash (one of my favorites for winter soup!) is $1.69 per pound with the average being at least 2 pounds. Keep in mind that winter squash takes between 75 and 120 days to reach maturity, and sprawl 10 to 20 feet. Think vertically or try the bush or semi-bush cultivars in a small garden. And winter squash will store well in a root cellar.

5. Tomatoes (especially Heirloom)

These babies have multi-colored, scarred skin, and a high price tag. They are about $4.50 per pound or more, depending on where you live. Now, while the price may break the bank, the taste is amazing! Growing heirloom tomatoes can be a bit fussy. I lost all of my seedlings this year, but happily planted a friend’s transplants. One of the biggest problems you’ll face is disease. Now, if you don’t want to face the heirloom issues, try a cherry tomato that grows well in your area. You’ll have a plethora of tomatoes to can or dehydrate.

6. Carrots

While I didn’t have much luck with tomatoes this year, I did have success with carrots! These are a cool-season crop that takes 70 to 80 days to mature. Check your last and first frost dates, plant three weeks before the last expected frost date and two to three months before the first fall frost date. They are a delicious root vegetable that stores well in a root cellar and is usually resistant to diseases and pests. At $2.50 per seed packet, you’ll have more than enough of this vegetable to last you through the winter.

7. Potatoes

Welcome to the most popular vegetable in America! Growing potatoes is fairly easy, and the flavors of a freshly dug potato cannot be rivaled by the $5.00 a bag, grocery-store varieties. Choose a sunny spot with well-drained, loose soil, so the roots and tubers have room to grow. They do need a steady water supply to keep the plants happy. When the tops of the plants die off, the entire crop is ready to harvest. And some potato varieties store well in a root cellar.

8. Sweet potatoes

In my area, organic sweet potatoes run about $4 for a 3-pound bag. It costs about $21 for 1 pack of sweet potato slips (though I have found them cheaper locally, so check your local garden center). Plant them in the spring, and they’ll produce about 3 to 6 sweet potatoes per slip. They prefer a slightly acidic, well-drained, loose soil. If there is a possibility of frost, cover them. Harvest in 100 days. Sweet Potatoes store well in a root cellar.

Did you see David the Good’s article on Growing Sweet Potatoes? Check it out here.

9. Zucchini, and other summer squash

My grandmother would be proud that zucchini made the list. It was one of her favorite veggies to cook. However, she wouldn’t be excited about the $1.90 per pound sticker price. If your garden area is small, go vertical! At $2.25 to $2.50 per packet, the zucchini plant will yield between three and nine pounds of yummy summer delights. Harvest when they are about 4-inches long.

10. Green beans

At the grocery store, organic green beans cost about $2.50 per pound. A packet of seeds costs $2.50 per packet. You’ll get between three to five pounds of beans PER plant. That’s a lot of beans to freeze, can, and boy are they yummy, dehydrated!

BONUS: Herbs … Basil, Rosemary, Parsley, Mint, Lavender

I didn’t want to leave out some herbs. All of these herbs are easy-to-grow. Each of them costs about $2.50 per plastic tub at the grocery store. Parsley is less at $1.00 per bundle. If you are considering your footprint on the Earth, the plastic containers and twist ties need to be taken into consideration. A seed packet of each will cost about $2.50 per packet. It’s well-worth having your own herb garden. I’d even suggest starting your gardening adventures here!

garden-vegetables

How to boost the abundance of your garden vegetables

Here are a few tricks to help you make the most of your vegetable garden, even if it’s small. It will save you money on food all-year-long.

Only Plant What You’ll Eat

This sounds may sound silly, but there is no point in planting green beans if you don’t like green beans. You’ll have pounds of garden vegetables that will just go to waste.

Also, take into consideration who in your family will eat the different veggies. If you’re the only one who will eat squash, don’t plant ten of them.

If you rarely eat something, it’s better to buy from your local farmer’s market.

Still confused? Here’s a downloadable interactive guide to help you decide what to plant. Print it out and keep it in your garden journal.

Succession Planting

Succession planting is after one crop is harvested, another is planted in the same space. The length of your growing season, climate, and crop selection will determine how you will replant your favorite garden vegetables. In warm climates, you’ll be able to do several plantings of favorite garden vegetables, like tomatoes. In cooler climates, you’ll be able to get a second planting of peas.

If you have a small vegetable garden space, extend your harvest by planting different varieties of the same vegetable. You’ll have a crop early in the Spring, mid-summer, and fall. For instance, salad greens do well if you plant seeds each week, rather than all-at-once. This gives you the ability to harvest the outside leaves, while the other plants keep growing. You’ll have a supply of lettuce all season long!

Use the downloadable sheet (above) to determine how much to plant, for one person, for the most commonly grown vegetables. Don’t forget to include your succession plantings.

Coming Soon! Look for more articles on succession planting right here on this blog!

Which is your favorite garden vegetable? Is it cost-effective to grow it? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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37 Comments
  • Regarding peppers, instead of picking them when they first reach full size, if you let them ripen (turn color to red, orange, yellow, or maybe purple or even brown, depending on the variety), they will be tastier, more nutritious, more attractive, and in my experience, more digestible. Colored peppers cost more in the store than green peppers, so you save even more this way.

  • Louise Lindsay

    Great information.
    I save even more by growing my own sweet potato slips – just place a sweet potato with the bottom half in water & multiple slips will grow- cut them off & plant.

  • gthomson

    Turmeric and ginger are big ones for me, I’ve started popping some in the ground in may places. They get expensive when using in juices daily. And they’re pretty maintenance free to grow them. For veggies, red and yellow bell peppers and asparagus are the ones I grow because I love them, but don’t love the prices they charge for them for the good ones. For fruits, I opted mostly for a couple multigrafts and a lamb hass avocado. The multi-grafts make better use of my space, and it’s only be eating them, so I don’t need a tree full of any one fruit. No fruit on the lamb hass yet, but hopefully next year. Also don’t like paying the store prices on avocados, and they go bad so quick if on the counter.

  • Taylor Young

    Thank you so much Marjory and Heather!!

  • David Lee

    My figs are starting to ripen now. One fig bush is huge so if you are going to plant a fig bush make sure you allow enough room for it to grow. My muscadines will soon start ripening around the end of August.
    The only down side to figs is they have a short shelf life unless you dehydrate them.

  • Jay

    Cost effectiveness is one factor, but several of these plants are also on the “dirty dozen” list of most contaminated crops. Home growing the crops that commercially are most likely to have pesticide residue in them (like strawberries) can also have a large impact on you and your family’s long term health.

  • Jan Meadows

    Re storing veggies. If you don’t have a root cellar, squash stores well for many months in a crate that is well perforated for good air circulation, under a bed. Tomatoes do well there to and green ones ripen gradually. Just don,t forget they are there and need to be checked approximately every 5 to 7 days. Happy growing and storing!😄

    • Wow! I didn’t know they stored so well. I haven’t had success storing the softer summer veggies. Thank you for sharing your experience, Jan!

  • Ann

    Excellent list, though I always have trouble getting bell peppers to grow well. I think it may be an issue of not having found the right variety yet for my area and soil type.

    • Farmer Phyl

      Very good article. For a very good tasting summer and winter squash try Trombocino. This is especially good for small gardens as it is very easy to grow vertically on a sturdy trellis or arbor. Pick when the fruits are still green and small and it tastes better than most zucchini. Leave some on the vine to maturity and they taste and look like an elongated butternut. The neck is very long and skinny, all the seeds are in the bulb. I’ve never had any trouble with heirloom tomatoes and disease–none ever. Maybe it’s just luck or maybe the varieties I grow. Choose varieties that have 6-10 ounce fruits and they will have almost no problem with splitting or catfacing. My favorite varieties are Azoychka, Sioux, Black Sea Man, Orange King (be sure to get the determinate variety). They are all disease resistant, and fairly early–60-70 days to maturity. To reduce insect damage, keep a very clean garden and always clean up at the end of the summer so insects don’t winter over. Carrots can also be succession planted late in summer and left in the ground all winter under 4″-5″ of mulch. They will grow all winter up to about zone 5.

    • Farmer Phyl

      Try Chinese Red Giant or Etuida (orange). I’ve had very good luck with those. I’m in zone 5

    • Ann, you may have to grow in a greenhouse if you’re in zone 4. And yes, the “right plant for the right place” will do wonders for your harvest!

  • A

    If you are going to plant mint, make sure you do it in a confined pot. Mint grows very easily, but will take over your herb garden or even your lawn if you’re not constantly pulling it up.

    • A…yes! Mint can be invasive in some areas. I even had one jump out of a pot once…silly mint! Yet here in the southwest, it prefers being in a pot.

  • Stephanie

    Thank you for sharing this article. I just wish I could pin it to Pinterest (my Pin icon/button isn’t working on our Mac).

  • Bwebwentekaai Bob Kabuati

    Greetings from the republic of Kiribati

    The 10 vegetables piece is such a valuable piece to share commendations. Thank you so kindly very worth reading!

    Tell me what if all those ten vegetables are possible best plant in the tropical garden of sandy soil. The “especially Heirloom” is a species yet to discover, Have no idea if we have it here. What is the possibility of getting these type of veges directly from you?

    Will be starting planting those vegetables in my home garden.

    Enjoy always your articles.

    • Bob, hi!
      I’m in Hawaii. Sweet potato you can grow year round (and the leaves are edible too), and most of the others, except potatoes and garlic (they don’t work in the tropics, generally), can be planted during your cool season (for us, late November-May).
      Best is to find an old gardener, someone who has been planting, close to you, for decades, because they are likely to save seeds, and ask them to share, or just ask for information. Most gardeners are happy to share. And you know what will survive in your area, if they are already successful growing them. You can also find many heirloom seeds from Baker Creek company online (rareseeds.com), and many Asian vegetables do well.
      Try Asian long beans, also known as asparagus beans or yard-long beans. Regular green beans prefer cooler weather.
      Herbs are easy and many can be grown year round. Try basil, rosemary, garlic/Chinese chives, mint, marjoram, Mexican oregano, parsley, sage, thyme, scallions/green onions (save the bottoms from a bunch you buy, and plant them).
      Other vegetables that work well are Asian greens–mizuna, komatsuna, bok choy, kai choy (mustard), tatsoi, ung choy/water convulvulus/water morning glory (Ipomoea aquatica), gailan (Chinese kale), New Zealand spinach/warrigal greens, Okinawan (Gynura crepioides) or perpetual/longevity/cholesterol spinach (Gynura procumbens) (can only be grown from cuttings), katuk (Sauropus androgynus), plus kale, collards, beets, and Swiss chard. Most of those take the heat and humidity well and will grow year-round. Organic greens are very expensive or impossible to get here. But they are easy and fast to grow, so I grow them a lot.
      Tomatoes and peppers will not set fruit if nighttime temperatures are high, so we usually only grow them in the cooler months too, although you can get some cherry tomato varieties that will pump out fruits year-round. They do better than larger varieties.
      Since your soil is sandy, adding organic matter to it will help to retain water. If you can get some wood chips (ground up branches and leaves) or leaf litter (old broken up fallen leaves) to add, all the better. Anything you can use as mulch will help retain moisture, if you are in a dry area. Otherwise, you need to watch for slugs and snails and may need to do without mulch if they are a problem.
      (David the Good has great videos on youtube. His former garden in Florida had sandy soil, and he’s in the tropics now…)
      Good luck with your gardening. Experiment, and you’ll find what works.
      Aloha,
      Alina
      Alina Niemi
      Author of Low Water Veggie Gardening: How to Create a Drought-Resistant, Sustainable Vegetable Garden, Conserve Water, and Grow Your Own Food;
      The New Scoop (A Vegan Ice Cream cookbook); The Hawaii Doodle Book; My Attitude of Gratitude Daily Journal; and the Let’s Count Series of books for kids, including Let’s Count Trucks!
      http://alinaspencil.com

  • Candee Silveria

    Love the Interactive Planting Guide, thank you! I have a small planting space in high desert, zone 7a. I am narrowing down the variety of veggies I plant based on our likes, but don’t seem to plant enough. Just bought two inexpensive white finish metal arches to use for my winter squashes next year. They have a wide enough span to grow stuff underneath, if I orient them to the most sun exposure. Right now the butternuts are taking over my world, even though I tried to leave some foot space between stuff! Just hope our summer lasts long enough for them to mature nicely this year.
    I planted over 50 self-supporting shelling peas, and they’re doing fine, but they won’t be enough! Am planting more this week after I dig up two squash plants that are not producing. No sense wasting water and space there.
    Thank you for your articles, I love reading and learning from them.

  • Mary

    You have lavender on the list of easy to grow herbs. While I can grow rosemary the size of a small tree, I’ve yet to be successful with lavender. I’ve tried planting in small pots, large pots, in ground planting, and every time they die! I’m discouraged about that. I live in the extremely hot, humid Mississippi delta. Could this be the reason? Should I give up?

    • Don’t give up, Mary! Lavender is a tricky one. They are very picky with their watering and do not like to be over-watered. A well drained soil is perfect for lavender. Given the heat of your area, you might want to move the pot around to ensure that the lavender isn’t getting too much sun. Hope this helps and good luck. 🙂

  • Anne Studley

    My favorites are beans and winter squash. I’m starting beds for strawberries and asparagus this year and think that the asparagus will be especially cost effective. Also very cost effective are leeks. I bought a seed packet for $.99 and made a small dent in it to plant out 40 leek seedlings yesterday – they’re quite expensive at the grocery store! They also store pretty well.

  • Debbie

    I have nine of the ten planted this year. I don’t like sweet potatoes well enough to plant a lot of them, and they usually go on sale in the fall for something like 59 cents a pound. More flavorful than regular lettuce, and with greater savings over the grocery store, are mixed baby salad greens, sometimes known as mesclun or spring mix. I can pick a leaf or two off each plant to make a salad, and the rest of the plant keeps growing. They are low growing and don’t mind some shade, so they make a good ground cover around the other vegetables.

  • Donna

    What about southern peas? Mine have done well even though I’ve neglected them due to ailing pug. However, since I don’t grocery shop and my husband pays no attention to prices when he shops I have no idea if they’re expensive or dirt cheap

  • ROBERTO FERRARI

    MUCHAS GRACIAS POR TUS SUGERENCIAS, TENGO UN PEQUEÑO FONDO DE 4 X 10 METROS. SIEMPRE PENSE EN MI HUERTA, YA QUE CONOZCO TODA LA BASURA DE SUPERMERCADO, MUY CONTAMINADA CON AGROTOXICOS EN ARGENTINA. PARA QUE PENSAR EN CARNES , NO ME INTERESAN YA SOLO ALGO DE PESCADO, CERO LACTEOS DE VACUNOS. BUENO, NO LO HAGOMAS LARGO. TENGO BUENA TIERRA, SOLO QUE IMAGINO DEBO REMOVERLA, VERE CON QUE HERRAMIENTAS SOLO TENGO UNA PALA. , NO SE SI DEBO HACER ALGO COMO SURCOS , YA VERE, SEGUN INSTRUCCIONES. SALUDOS. ROBERTO FERRARI.

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