‘I wish I could grow money’. You can. Growing your own food works. If you are trying to save money or improve your diet from a culinary perspective nothing beats growing your groceries. In this post, I will give you a plan that I personally implement. It saves me substantial after-tax disposable income. This is a summary of knowledge that are hard-learned lessons from experience.
To toot my own horn, it would be hard to find this advice so compact and useful than in this post, so read on. I developed this system myself. It works. Therefore, if you want to save money, and good advice from a frugal economist, here is how.
Perhaps you care about your own money or the planet?
Further, if you care about sustainability and saving the planet then perhaps you can start doing things on a small scale like this and be a test case for sustainable agriculture. You can read Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered by E. F. Schumacher and take inspiration. Or perhaps your motivated by self interest. Adam Smith would be proud either way.
As a bonus, this is especially written for those of use who are lazy and cheap.
- If you can save 500 dollars a month, it is easier than asking your boss for a raise.
In the old days people use to market garden produce like tomatoes and call these ‘mortgage lifters’. Today the system or the matrix has made people soft.
I encourage people to stop worrying about their day jobs and start thinking in terms of entrepreneurship and rugged individualism.
This is from an Austrian school of thought economist (Mises, Schumpeter, Hayek, Robert Murphy) coupled with the American spirit.
How much do you spend on food?
According to the USDA a family spends about $902 a month in 2005 on a moderate food plan. I would say in this year, it is over $1,000 a month.
You can find the data here:
What I find strange is that this is grossly understated. If you work in a professional job and eat out, buy ready meals, coffee and snacks some estimates are north of $2,500 a month.
Perhaps there is a large substitution effect in play, people sacrifice what everyone ate in my parents time, that is organic, local produce with imported heavily sprayed low nutrient produce and package food. This substitution effect is to save cost but the quality has gone down.
That is one of the main reasons for obesity. When I moved back from Europe I put on 20lbs in no time eating the same food. I realized quality matters. Obesity has a cost also.
I cannot imagine what kind of food people are buying and feeding on. I often look at the shopping carts in front of me at the check out line and I can see. I observe, large bags of chips, and inorganic white rice and cheap low-fat milk.
When I do shop, I only shop at organic, local markets and my monthly family budget is less than $500 a month. Before I grew my own food it used to be up to $2000 a month but more realistically $1,200 dollars a month in my personal gilded age. Further, my diet has improved. My daughter is the tallest in her class.
Some people are like a modern day Henry David Thoreau – one of them: Rob Greenfield.
What I buy is dairy, flour and chicken or meat that is on sale for example, a few basics. However, the savings is substantial and you can take pride in providing for your family beyond just pushing paper behind a desk, which we all do.
Excuses not to grow money
If you do not have space, grow vertical gardens and some inside. If you are in an apartment look for in a community garden. I did all those these so yes, it is possible.
- When American settlers came over on wooden ships to this country it seemed as those people were made of iron. They hacked their way out of the wilderness and buried their dead along the way. They survived in harsh and primitive conditions building their lives from scratch. You too can survive.
So no excuses, you can do it with little to no money – all you need is some sweat equity.
Thanks to the garden my family has gourmet, healthy meals every night of the week.
Three Crop rotation System
I do the three crop rotation based on the idea that in the Middle Ages brought prosperity to Europe. An abundance of food allowed people to produce other things that were not connected to survival.
In economic terms, it was an outward shift in the PPC curve.
Here is the plan to grow food with no fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or any amendments you buy at the store. Forget buying things. You need brain power rather than throwing money at the field.
My yard was pure sand. Nothing but weeds.
I live in growing zone 9A so I can grow all year around. If you can not you can modify this.
Tools you need – the capital
For an initial investment of fewer than 150 dollars, you will be set for life. I started only with a shovel so really you do not need more than that.
- A shovel 15 dollars
- Cover crop seed purchased from a professional seed store that sells to farmers. I can give you a company. Total cost with inoculat might be 35 dollars. You can save the seeds after the first season. If you are really cheap you can gather clover seeds from the wild.
- A tarp of some sort or you can use cardboard for free, 20 dollars.
- A couple of light plastic buckets 11 dollars
- A cart with inflatable wheels 60 dollars – much better than a wheelbarrow.
I keep my front yard my front yard, grass and flowers and OK a few herbs and OK a few fruit trees. But from the front people have no idea what I do in the back.
In the backyard, I divide my yard into three sections for growing. I also leave a section for green grass so we can play. My whole property is 1/3 an acre. But perhaps I use less than a 1/4 of it for growing for my family. I have to measure this. In any given season it might be .1 acres because I use the three field rotation system.
Do not spend money, rather grow soil
In two of my fields, I grow cover crops to sequester nitrogen from the atmosphere. For pennies I plant in fallow fields cow peas in the summer and Austrian peas in the winter. I also grow clovers and alfalfa, and Crotalaria juncea (if I want to get exotic). These cover crops in fallow field with two seasons of rest, will supply all the nitrogen you need for your growing season.
I have inoculated all three garden plots additionally with Azospirillum Brasilense bacteria which does not need a symbiotic relationship with legumes.
The cover crops should crowding out the weeds. If you want to prep the field before you can remove the grass by hand or tarp it for a month and then remove it. I have done both. Tarpping can be replaced with covering it with hay, but that has a cost. Many times after fall pumpkin sales people will give you bales of hay if you ask. Rotting hay is even better.
That is your fertilizer. Those are your herbicides. Some people flame the weeds I do not. I tarp and plant.
I inoculate the field with mycorrhizal fungi, by planting a sock full of rice under a tree and then cultivating the fungi in a bucket. You want to build this up.
So far, not a lot of work, just brains. The good news is I do not need to mow most of my lawn, I just let it grow.
Once you have your plots under production, the first year might not be a high yield, I recommend adding free amendments.
I use homemade compost
- My compost is made with:
- Food compost
- If you want to add more you can add the following
- Leaves the neighbors bag up for the county to take away.
- Seaweed I collect
- Grass cuttings
- If I am outside I pee there. It is basically the same as expensive fertilizer.
- Horse manure which you can get free in any town.
- Basically, everything goes there. Compost everything.
I do not turn it, I do not work it or use any bins, just a pile by the forest. Nature will decompose everything.
If I see bugs I squash them and leave them on the plants as a deterrent. I rotate the crops and mix them so they do not develop infestations. This will throw off mixed signals to the insects. It is called a chaos garden. If you need to you can spray plants with neem oil solution.
Seeds – I buy wholesale or ebay, or from the food I purchase. Eventually I save the seeds or let things permaculture over.
What if you are super lazy?
If you want a white glove approach to garden, just tarp the grass, a month later throw alfalfa pellets from the feed store down and do nothing else. Then plant seeds. This is the cheapest all purpose fertilizer. A 50lbs bag will cost $14 and provide everything you need for a small food plot. It has triacontanol a grow hormone and will also act as a mulch.
You do not have to do anything else. No composting, no cover cropping, no work. Your ROI will still be green.
Whatever you feel good about. Some people cram it in and others space.
When I am motivated I build a hugelkulture mound. It takes no additional soil and gives you nice drainage and organic matter.
I also use free woodchip from tree companies. You can check out the Back to Eden method. These are optional.
What to grow to save money
I recommend starting with herbs as this is the high-value point. Find out what people grow professionally in your area as they have an economic interest in growing. Herbs are your vitamins, even if your other consumption is starches, herbs help your diet.
Next, choose things that are almost invasive in your area that are food. For example, in Florida people grow everglade tomatoes, Seminole pumpkins, sweet potatoes, dioscorea alata and mulberry. You can not help to have these grow. If living in a post apocalyptic world they would still be growing on their own. You almost can not stop them from growing here. They are made for this soil and climate. Find the equivalents in your area. Write to me if you need hints.
If you have mycorrhizal fungi in your field and grow cover crops and add compost your garden will blow you away with the food that grows. You will make the desert bloom.
Write me if you have questions how to save money by growing food
You can give your food to your friends and enemies and build up social credit or karma depending on your perspective.
Even if you only save 500 dollars a month, think of what you can do with 500 dollars every month. Enroll your kids in chess camp or buy books or go to Europe. I am pretty lazy mind you, and if I can do it so can you. You will have fresh food every day.
Write me if you have questions or comment below. I want you to be on the road to prosperity.