I am not of the self-sufficient ilk ideologically. I grow my own comestibles for a mixed bag of reasons...and from a lifestyle habit.
But current food prices are hurting enough for me to rethink my outback activities.
Coming into Spring -- albeit 'Sprinter' -- is a great time to `review your outgoings according to the stomach.
So, assuming you want to cut your food bill by spending more energy in soil mode, what is the way forward?
From my POV I offer musings....
- While it may make sense to buy a cheap packet of seeds and grow on your veg -- I don't think that should be your first activity. Why? Because seeds take time to sprout and consolidate. Your initial purchase should be seedlings. There's a shorter turnaround for your dollar spent. By all means, get seeds but employ them as stage two of your eat the garden experience.
- Before you go spending cash on seedlings (or seeds) review your eating habits. What are you eating? And then consider what part of that menu you could grow. But don't fall into the trap of trying to grow the fresh contents of your refrigerator or larder. Check out prices first. There's no financial need to grow spuds, onions or carrots as the prices of those items do stay pretty low. Look to those vegetables that have exploded in price and adopt a strategy towards them.
- When turning toward backyard horticulture do not spend up big on rigs and other inputs. What's the point of 'saving money' by growing your own if you are buying in soil, mulches, garden bed frames and whatnot. All you need is a patch of dirt and access to water. If pot sentenced, any container can be used as a plant receptacle just so long as it has a drainage hole. You may not need to buy 'potting mixes' for container gardening and even if you do, you can blend them with manures and your own backyard soil to make the mix go further.
- After reviewing what you eat, consider what menu changes you could make to cheapen the load. Every veg gardener does this because you always grow more than you usually eat. So if growing zucchinis, make sure you become familiar with a lot of ways to prepare them for the table. Google the name and see what veg recipes are on offer.
- Don't get flummoxed by seed catalogues. Definitely buy your seeds online but check out a range of suppliers if you do and weigh up seed cost and postage charges as you shop. Remember too that you won't need 100s of seeds -- just a few. So keep that in mind as you go through the options: either website direct or through eBay.
- If buying seedlings -- you are sure to get a better price and range by visiting local suburban outdoor markets. It's worth a special trip across town just to garner your seedling supplies.
- Check out YouTube How-to gardening videos if you want to skill up. The range is awesome.
- Generally, if a seedling is available that plant is 'in season'. It may still die on you, but then Nature doesn't offer insurance.
- As you proceed into money-saving mode, be prepared to adjust your reasoning and the contents of your stomach. If you do your homework there are so many plants that are easy to grow and offer a bountiful harvest but do not have a presence on the supermarket shelves. Perennial leafy greens for instance. Tubers. Different squashes. You may need to broaden your culinary horizons -- but consider that to be a financial journey like going cruising in your own backyard.
I agree. What interests me is that after 10 years or more I have changed my diet completely. Chokos are actually appealing now. Tromboncinos when picked green are a great zucchini. I don't like them as a squash. I remember thinking silverbeet was crap. Now I use a lot of it. I'm good with that, annuals get replaced frequently so it doesn't matter if eventually your tastes change.
I'd also mention fruit. Get them in early relatively early because they take a while. We don't just use it as fruit. I cook a lot of Thai which needs lime juice and Keffir lime leaves. Lemon grass also became attractive. That's why I grow ginger and turmeric as well. I used to hate pawpaw. The moment I started using green pawpaw my world changed (thanks Vivian).