Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

5 Frugal Living Ideas You'd Never Think Of


5
Grow Your Own Food

You can stop ordering takeout and use grocery coupons, but you'll still need to visit the supermarket to keep your family fed. You want to buy healthy food, but the produce section is often the most expensive part of the store. One way to save cash is to grow vegetables in your own yard.

This isn't a fool-proof plan, however. The problems with growing vegetables include:

  • Initial costs. Your first year, you'll probably lose money due to buying tools and supplies.
  • Labor intensity. Plan on a day or two to plant (depending on the size of your garden) and several hours each week for maintenance.
  • No guarantees. Bad weather, plant disease, insects and other factors could keep you from getting a useful return out of your gardening efforts.
  • Abundance of seasonal foods. You'll have more tomatoes and cucumbers than you could possibly eat in August, and none the rest of the year unless you learn to can or pickle your veggies.

To mitigate these problems, focus on growing expensive foods, like tomatoes. Composting also reduces costs: A double or triple layer of newspaper will block weeds most of the growing season and decompose into the soil by next spring. Cover the newspaper with a thin layer of wood mulch to weigh it down. Make sure you use regular newsprint (no glossy ads or magazines), and ensure that your newspaper uses soy-based inks.

One-hundred square feet of garden will roughly double an initial investment of $50 in a given year (not counting startup or labor costs) [source: Kirby]. You can increase the profit by planting a larger area, but this increases the amount of time you'll spend on the garden.


More to Explore