Many of us recognize and acknowledge the benefits of growing our own food. Yet factors such as time, money, space, know-how, and limited resources make maintaining a home garden a less than practical option for everyone.
Luckily there are a few really good alternatives that can help supply us and our families with fresh produce throughout this season of harvest.
1. Find a group of like-minded others. Searching for and joining groups of like-minded others is a great way to purchase substancial amounts of fresh produce cheaply. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms and gleaner associations are both excellent ways to get connected. Search these resources to find a group near you:
- LocalHarvest.org – The ultimate resource for finding local farms.
- Your local extension office – Check your local county extension office for gleaner associations in your area.
- BountifulBaskets.org – A growing, volunteer-based weekly buying co-op. Search their site for a group nearest you.
2. Keep your eyes open for roadside stands. Granted these vary based on location and geography, and they tend to populate the roads more heavily when it gets later in the summer, or into early fall, but roadside stands are a great way to enjoy fresh, local produce without having to grow it yourself. Bonus: If you find something really great, take the foods home, and then plan your meals for the next week around them!
3. Farmers markets. Farmer’s markets are a great place for food shopping and networking! Meet the farmers face-to-face, learn what grows in your area, and find a trusted food source. Note: In case you’re interested, here’s my best money-saving farmer’s market tip…go near the end of the advertised market hours. I have had the best luck gleaning the leftovers for a fraction of the price. Farmers are often looking to un-load their remaining stock and they are much more willing to drop the price in order to make a sale.
4. Make friends with an avid gardener. Those who grow a large garden each year always seem to grow a surplus, just in case. If you know someone who gardens faithfully, offer to help in the garden or barter in exchange for produce. Many home gardeners are very happy to have the help and are very likewise willing to share the surplus.
5. Share a garden with someone else. If lack of space is your issue, consider an arrangement where someone else — a friend or family member — who has space for a garden and you share resources and efforts. For example, you could plant a garden in a friend’s backyard and then spend a preset amount of time each week working to cultivate and care for it with your friend. In the end you both would split the harvest.
6. Replace landscape plants with edibles. If your time and space is limited, you could maximize outdoor areas and put in decorative borders full of herbs, rainbow Swiss chard and striking cayenne pepper plants. And instead of the short-lived color of azaleas in the spring, grow blueberries that are decorative year-round. The possibilities are endless and edible landscapes aren’t just pretty – they provide highly-nutritious fruits and veggies that can save you money.
7. Forage. Wild edibles can be found nearly everywhere. Not to far from the “suburban oasis” and chemical lawns, our homes are often times surrounded by groceries – free for the pickin’. From dandelions, wild strawberries, blackberries, and violets, to plantain, clover, and sorrel…I encourage you to learn how to identify the food that grows naturally in your area!
8. “U-Pick” Farms. Making a trip to a “u-pick” farm can be a super fun family activity — and budget-friendly too. For example, there’s an apple orchard near us that allows for the droppings to be sold at an extremely discounted rate. And we often find that strawberries picked by the pint are significantly cheaper than those that are pre-packaged. Click here to search for ”u-pick” farms in your area.
9. Grow a few plants in containers. Growing fruits and vegetables in the ground and keeping a traditional garden may not be an option for several reasons — a lack of backyard space, pets, or homeowner association rules – but growing a few plants in containers or small pots on your porch, patio, or fire escape could provide a workable solution. Be sure to grow the most profitable plants in order to save yourself the most money for your efforts. Read more about growing in small spaces here…
Are you able to grow a garden? If not, what alternatives do you have for acquiring fresh fruits and vegetables?