Cheap Organic Produce
What to Grow in the Garden to Save at the Supermarket
Saving money on groceries while eating organic may seem oxymoronic, but here's how: by growing your own fruits and vegetables. Choose what to plant based on what you and your family enjoy, taking into account what plants would grow well in the climate and soil in your area. Also consider which fruits or vegetables are expensive to buy at the supermarket or farmers market -- you may be able to grow your own organic versions for much cheaper. Below are suggestions on what cheap organic produce to plant based on ease of growth, versatility, and supermarket price. Urbanites can also check out our cheap gardening tips for city dwellers to find fruits and veggies that thrive in small spaces.
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Heirloom tomatoes.Take a break from ordinary tomatoes and explore the different flavors, colors, and shapes of heirloom tomatoes. Different varieties have varying levels of sweetness and acidity (darker-colored tomatoes are usually more acidic, while lighter-colored tomatoes are sweeter). By growing your own cheap organic produce, you can avoid the premium prices heirlooms command at the farmers market. With their gnarly shapes and fun colors, heirloom tomatoes might even be something the kids will enjoy. (Then again ...)
Berries.Bypass the high prices for berries at the grocery store and grow your own organic strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. Strawberries grow relatively early, so you can enjoy your very first summer crop. These berries thrive in slightly acidic soil, so carefully balance the pH for an optimal harvest. Berries can grow in small spaces, so even urbanites can enjoy cheap organic produce.
Herbs.While dry herbs are a cheap food to buy, fresh herbs are not, so it's a good thing they're one of the best plants for small spaces. Instead of buying an expensive bunch of basil at the supermarket, clip what you need from your own herb garden. Other herbs such as thyme, oregano, and rosemary grow quickly and easily, and growing your own means big, fresh flavor for just pennies -- a huge improvement over pricey packages that contain more than you need for your dish.
Cucumbers.If you think cucumbers don't have much flavor, think again. Instead of paying supermarket prices for ordinary slicing cucumbers, enjoy premium varieties for even less money by planting your own. Kirby, Persian, and seedless English cucumbers command higher prices than ordinary cucumbers but have more flavor and fewer seeds. Add them to your garden and enjoy better-tasting salads -- or even pickles -- at a lower price.
Leafy greens.Dress up your salads while bringing down the price. By growing spinach and other greens such as lettuce or arugula, you can avoid the salad-in-a-bag markup and go organic at the same time. Antioxidant-packed "superfoods" such as kale and spinach need nitrogen-rich soil and some growing room, so they may be best for backyard gardens. Arugula can be grown in a container if you're short on space but seeking some cheap organic produce.
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Beans.Green (or string) beans are one of the most popular home garden plants for good reason. They're easy to grow, produce high yields, and taste delicious in many recipes. String beans can be sprouted indoors, and in warm weather, they can go from seed to sauteed in just 60 days. Green beans grow as vines or bushes, and the more you pick them, the more they grow.
Peppers.Whether sweet or spicy, peppers are versatile and easy to grow in home gardens. Bell peppers can be pricey at supermarkets, but growing just one plant can yield enough for a meal. Hot peppers, such as chilies and jalapenos, also take up very little space but make their presence known in salsas and sauces.
Don't bother growing corn, squash, potatoes, or onions unless you have the space. These crops require a lot of garden area and are relatively cheap and plentiful at farmers markets when in season. To save the most money on groceries, reserve your space for more expensive fruits and vegetables.