Growing your own is rewarding and tastes better. But is it cheaper to grow your own vegetables?
Most people grow their own fruit and veg because they enjoy gardening, like to know where their food comes from, want to grow varieties they can’t buy or simply enjoy the better taste.
For me, it’s a mixture of all these. But doesn’t it also save money? After all, you don’t have to buy as much food from the supermarket.
This is a question that is especially important when times are tough. So let’s find out: Is it cheaper to grow your own vegetables?
Price Of Seed Packet Vs Shop-Bought Veggies
Let’s get straight to it. One way to see if growing your own is cheaper is by comparing the price of seed packets and the actual fruit and veg you buy.
Because prices for seed packets vary quite a bit depending on the vegetable, I will be looking at three firm favourites: tomatoes, courgettes and cucumbers.
One tomato variety I love is the Moneymaker. It’s a firm favourite among vegetable gardeners, because it gives a high yield.
A packet of 10 seeds costs £3.49 (prices correct on 19 July 2023). Each seed will grow one plant. Each plant will grow around 200 tomatoes. So potentially, for less than £4 you could get 2,000 tomatoes.
If you buy a pack of six tomatoes in the supermarket, it will cost you £0.85 (prices correct on 19 July 2023). At this price, it would cost you £283.33 to buy 2,000 tomatoes.
So by growing your own you would save £279.84. Of course, it is unlikely that you will grow all 10 plants, as this would take up a lot of space.
But nonetheless, you would save money.
Let’s move on to courgettes. I always grow F1 Defender courgettes, because the plants don’t take up too much space, and they produce a good amount of fruits.
You can get 20 seeds for £3.49 (prices correct on 19 July 2023). One single plant can produce around 5 courgettes per week. Let’s say you can harvest for 10 weeks, that’s 50 courgettes from one plant.
If you were to grow all 20 seeds, which you probably wouldn’t, you would get 1,000 courgettes in a year.
In the supermarket a courgette costs about £0.56 (prices correct on 19 July 2023). To get 1,000 courgettes, you would have to pay £560. Growing your own would therefore save you £556.51.
On to the next veg, the cucumber. I like growing the Marketmore, because it tastes gorgeous and gives a good yield.
You can buy a pack of 25 seeds for £2.49 (prices correct on 19 July 2023). Per plant, you can get about 20 cucumbers. So with 25 seeds you could potentially get 500 cucumbers in a year.
A cucumber costs about £0.79 (prices correct on 19 July 2023) in the supermarket. If you were to buy 500 cucumbers, you would have to fork out £395.
This would be a saving of £392.06 if you grow your own cucumbers.
As you can see, we can answer the question “is it cheaper to grow your own vegetables?” with a resounding yes.
We probably save around £10 a week on our food shop during summer because we don’t have to buy much in the way of fruit and vegetables.
However, this method of calculating the price of growing your own is rather simple. It doesn’t take into account the money you spend on water, compost, equipment and plant food.
Starting From Scratch
When we are wondering, “is it cheaper to grow your own vegetables?”, we need to look at the whole process of growing your own food. And if you are new to it, there are things that you will need to buy.
That’s why we will look into what you need to buy to start growing your own vegetables.
Once you are set up, growing your own can be quite a lot cheaper, because there are many ways you can save money. We will get to these methods in a bit.
Apart from the actual seeds, there are some essentials you will need to grow your own fruit and veg:
- Soil or compost
- Pots or containers
- Plant food
- Gardening equipment
Space is something that isn’t easy to get if you don’t have it. But you don’t need a big garden to grow your own veggies. A patio, balcony or even window boxes are all places where you can grow your own.
If you want to grow more than just a few plants, but don’t have a big garden, then an allotment might be an option for you. But you have to keep in mind that this involves regular costs.
The most important thing to grow vegetables successfully is the soil. It provides your plants with all the nutrients they need.
Depending on what soil you have in your garden, you might need to add nutrients in the form of compost. Some people create raised beds which they fill with compost. That’s what we have done.
While some seeds can be sown directly into the beds, most are started off indoors in small pots. So every vegetable gardener will need a good amount of small and medium-sized pots to start off their veggies.
You can buy these in a garden centre or online. They don’t tend to be too expensive. If you are planning on growing your vegetables in pots, then you will need big containers as well, which can be more expensive.
Watering your plants is important, especially during dry weather. Depending on how many plants you have, you might need several litres a day.
You can increase your yield by feeding your plants with liquid fertiliser. Once they start fruiting, it is recommended to feed them with a potash-rich feed every week.
After the growing season has ended, you need to put nutrients back into your soil so that next season’s veggies have them to grow.
You can do this by digging compost into your soil either in autumn or early spring.
When you are starting to grow your own vegetables, there is some equipment you will need:
- Trowel, spade, garden fork, secateurs, rake
- String, bamboo canes
- Gardening gloves
- Watering can
With time, you will probably get more and more equipment, but these few are essential to start growing your own vegetables.
How much all this will cost will depend on how big your plot is and how many plants you want to grow.
The good news is that most things you only have to buy at the start. And after the initial investment, you will save money by growing your own.
Things To Do To Save Money When Growing Your Own Veg
We have established that the answer to the question “is it cheaper to grow your own vegetables?” is yes. And there are things you can do to make it even cheaper.
In the following we will show you how you can become almost self-sufficient when it comes to growing your own fruit and veg.
Make Your Own Compost
Fruit and vegetable plants need a lot of nutrients to grow. Most of it, they get from the soil they grow in. Compost is a nutrient-rich substance that is ideal for growing vegetables.
You can buy compost, but you can also make your own. All you need is a compost bin. You can buy one or make one out of pallets, if you are good with your hands.
Once you have your compost bin, all you need is a good mix of brown and green organic matter. Our handy guide will tell you how to make compost at home.
It takes a while to make compost, but once the process has started, you can get a regular supply of homemade compost.
This you can use to mulch your beds to add nutrients. To sow your seeds and plant on your seedlings.
Another way of making your own compost is a wormery. You can buy a wormery including worms or make your own. Then all you have to do is buy the worms.
The advantage of a wormery is that you also get free liquid fertiliser. Which brings us neatly to our next point.
Make Your Own Liquid Fertiliser
While your veggies will get nutrient from the soil, most of them are hungry plants. And once they have started to fruit, you can increase your yield by feeding them with liquid fertiliser.
I also like to feed my young plants when they are planted out. So they grow strong and healthy and produce lots of tasty fruits.
Rather than buying liquid feed, you can make your own. There are lots of different ways to make your own liquid fertiliser and none of them will cost you much money, if any at all.
Make Leaf Mulch
We mulch our beds in early spring. Firstly, because it will suppress weeds and secondly, because it will add nutrients to the soil.
You can do that with compost, but leaf mulch also works great. This is made from fallen leaves in autumn. All you need to make your own leaf mulch is some bin bags.
We have a compost bin, a wormery and make leaf mulch. As a result, we don’t need to buy compost very often, which saves us a lot of money.
Install Water Butts
Watering your plants is essential, especially when we have prolonged dry weather. Something that seems to become more and more common.
Using water from your tap can become costly, so you are better off installing some water butts. These are connected to your down pipes on your house or outbuilding and collect rain water.
While it might not be possible to not need any tap water at all, using water butts will at least reduce the amount you need. And because rain water is free, you will save money.
To maximise the amount of free water, I would recommend getting as many water butts as you can. We have four slime line ones.
Save Your Seeds
Growing from seed is the cheapest way to grow your own vegetables. But you can make it even cheaper by saving the seeds of your homegrown vegetables.
One thing you need to be aware though is that you should only save the seeds from non-hybrid varieties. Any variety that is called hybrid or F1 shouldn’t be used to save seeds.
Because their seeds aren’t the same as that of the mother plants, you won’t know what you get.
If you want to save seeds, then grow heritage varieties. These are older varieties that haven’t been altered.
Saving tomato seeds is one of my favourite things to do, because it means I can keep enjoying tasty tomatoes without having to buy new packets of seeds.
Grow Perennial Vegetables and Fruits
Most plants we grow in a vegetable garden are annuals. This means they only grow and produce fruits for one year. Tomotes, cucumbers, courgettes, peas and beans are all annuals, which means you have to sow seeds every year.
But there are some perennial vegetables and fruits that will come back every year. The most commonly known are strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and rhubarb.
- Perpetual spinach
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Globe artichokes
- Perennial Broccoli
While there will be an initial investment to get these plants, once they are growing you can harvest for years to come. This means you can enjoy what they have to offer for free.
Swap Seeds And Plants With Other Gardeners
If you have friends or neighbours that also grow their own veggies, why not swap seeds and plants with them? That way you get new varieties and veggies you haven’t grown before without spending any money.
Maybe you have some spare plants that you don’t want or don’t have space for. This happens to many gardeners, so ask around. You might get a real gem for free.
Of course, you can also sell them to make some money which you can re-invest in your garden. We have quite a few strawberry plants, which send out lots of runners every year.
We just push them into small pots full of compost, where they will root and hey presto, you have new strawberry plants. Some we use to replace older plants, as they won’t produce as many fruits any more.
The rest we sell in front of our house.
Conclusion – Is It Cheaper To Grow Your Own Vegetables?
Let’s conclude: is it cheaper to grow your own vegetables? The answer is yes.
While you might need to spend some money to start, once you are established you can do many things to reduce the costs.
Installing water butts, making your own compost and saving seeds are some of the things that will save you even more money.
So why not give it a go? You won’t regret it. Happy Growing!