Most people laugh when I tell them I actually save money on food during the summer months because of my garden. I didn’t start gardening to save money initially, nor do I continue it solely for that reason, but it’s been a plausible by-product, so it’s become part of the fun!
If I only bought internationally sourced, non-organic produce, or spent a lot of money building fancy garden beds, I might be able to poke holes in this theory, but when comparing to farmers’ market prices (and quality!) for locally, sustainably grown produce, and my goal is to produce ALL my own produce for at least a month in the summer, it can add up to a significant savings, including the time and money it takes to shop.
A friend and like-minded gal inspired me with her recent post on Facebook indicating that January was a self-imposed “spending freeze” month, and furthermore, that through thrifty “thrifting” throughout the past year, her goal was to purchase ZERO clothing in 2015 for her family of four! So I decided to interview her about how she alters her behaviour throughout the year and what her motivations are.
Meet Sandra. Small business owner by trade, mom/cook/gardener/thrifter/DIY junkie by choice. Our husbands happen to be cousins and spend all their time together either hunting wild game, or hunting zombies on their Xboxes late at night through the ether.
We put in our butcher order together from the “hubby hunt”, share a cow from a local farm once a year, she renders her own lard from the fat, and taught me how to make my own stock from the bones. She’s taught me lots of other stuff too, but I need to get on with this interview, so I guess she’ll be a returning guest!
Me: What was your motivation to begin gardening? And what motivates you to continue with it today?
Sandra: Growing up, I spent my summers with my grandparents, and my grandfather had a garden. I didn’t realize it then, but probably 80% of the produce we ate came from the garden. We snacked on raspberries and peas and baby carrots. Digging potatoes for that night’s dinner was like digging for buried treasure. My husband’s parents and grandparents grew their own food, so it seemed logical to both of us that if you own your own land, you grow some food on it. My motivation is part nostalgia and part common sense (My parents didn’t garden or do anything remotely traditional or homestead-y, so I guess it skipped a generation).
NB: My rhubarb came from your Grandpa’s garden!
Me: Do you think you actually save any money by gardening?
Sandra: On tomatoes, kale and rhubarb, absolutely. On everything else, probably not. We’ve probably spent more on building garden beds and enhancing the soil than we’ve saved on lettuce and green beans. My garden is very small, so I can’t grow enough variety or volume or feed our family exclusively.
Me: In an age of lack of delayed gratification, “buy it now” buttons and over-consuming, what motivated you the most to implement a family “spending freeze”?
Sandra: Financial necessity. My income varies, so there are some lean months. Sometimes the budget needs a little tweaking. Priorities need tweaking too.
Me: What’s the single thing you do regularly that gives you the most gratification from either saving money, the environment or just doing right by your family?
Sandra: Cooking at home, from scratch, with whole foods, and eating dinner as a family. It’s a good thing that I enjoy cooking, and my family likes my cooking (stewed rabbit and one overcooked beef roast notwithstanding). Groceries are one area of the budget where we are not overly frugal. Since we don’t get out much, it’s important that the food be high quality, satisfying, and a little bit indulgent. Leftovers are turned into future dinners or lunches for my husband. Food waste annoys me. Restaurant meals destroy the budget. We simply can not afford to eat out as a family all the time and expect to stay out of debt. And to be honest, when you eat well at home, even expensive restaurant food is less appealing. The rare times that we do eat out, it’s at a specialty or ethnic restaurant, or for a special occasion, so the meal doubles as a social or cultural experience. Another benefit of cooking and eating at home is that my kids recognize and appreciate so many foods from farm to plate – what they look like and what they taste like – and will take that knowledge with them through life.
NB: Our children helped hunt that rabbit on their first trip with aforementioned hubbies, so we didn’t care what it tasted like, and the roast beef was fine!