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These people are growing their own fruit and vegetables to cut the cost of living and ditch grocery stores

Jim Perkins grows fruit and vegetables on the spare land of his duplex.

Jim Perkins

  • It costs one grower $45 a year to rent space in a community garden close to his house.
  • One producer can harvest radishes in just four weeks and tomatoes in 10 to 12 weeks.  
  • They used to shop at stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s but now do so only in the winter.

The cost of living crisis has prompted some people to cut food bills by growing their own fruit and vegetables.

Insider spoke to three people trying to tackle soaring food costs by growing their own produce and reducing their reliance on supermarkets in the process. 

‘It was a no-brainer to start growing food’ 

Steven DeGracia from Manhattan in New York City is a self-taught herbalist who has been growing his own food for almost a year.

“I enjoyed growing house plants with great success and once food shortages started and inflation it was a no-brainer to start growing food as well,” he said. “I wanted to rely less on supermarkets and know their produce isn’t really very fresh.” 

Courgettes and tomatoes grown by Jim PerkinsJim Perkins has been grows a variety of tomatoes, courgettes and watermelons as well as other fruit and vegetables.

Jim Perkins

DeGracia, 41, said the initial start up was a bit costly but he’s since saved money. His space for growing takes up 2.5 square feet and it just an hour to set up. It costs him just $4 a month in electricity since he uses LED lights.

“All the nutrients cost me about $70 but will last about two years,” he said. “You could not use additive nutrients and really only spend $12 a year on a dry nutrient base and use it alone.” 

‘The kids will always go for the apples and cucumber’

Andrew James from Lancaster in northern England started producing food during lockdown and documenting his progress on YouTube. After two months he got an allotment, or plot of land in a community garden, five minutes walk away from his home where he cultivates courgettes, aubergines, and peppers.

The goal was to also reduce his reliance on supermarkets and save money so he started growing things his family could eat. “There’s a treat cupboard as well, but the kids will always go for the apples and cucumber.”

Photograph of a courgette growingSteven DeGracia spent only an hour setting up an area to grow food.

Steven DeGracia

James, 37, saves about £40 ($48.70) a week by growing his own food. He still buys some produce in the winter but is able to eat most of the produce grown in spring and summer.

The chef can grow 10 kilograms of potatoes and up to 3 kilograms of tomatoes and they last his family for about two months. He spends an hour after work maintaining the allotment, which James says has helped his mental health.

It costs £37 ($45) a year for the allotment plot and water. “It’s basically the same amount of a week’s worth of fruit and vegetables for a year’s growth.”

Photograph of an allotment siteAndrew James saves close to £40 ($48.70) a week by growing food for his family.

Andrew James

‘A homegrown tomato is a little slice of heaven’

Jim Perkins from Los Angeles was inspired to make his urban lifestyle more sustainable after seeing the film “An Inconvenient Truth”. The 64-year-old has been growing produce most of his life but more consistently in recent years.

Perkins used to shop at Ralph’s, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. For him, making the switch was about embracing “permaculture”.

He also prefers the taste: “A homegrown tomato is a little slice of heaven, tasting so juicy and flavorful. Store-stocked tomatoes taste like cardboard.”

Photograph of tomatoes growing.Jim Perkins says his tomatoes are ready to eat about three months after being planted.

Jim Perkins

It can take a substantial amount of patience to wait to eat the fruits of your labor, though. “It’s an ongoing commitment of time,” Perkins said.

“Initially it took me less than an afternoon to prepare the soil and sow the seed. Radishes can go from seed to harvest in 4 to 6 weeks, tomatoes in about 10 to 12 weeks. Most plants produce a yield within 90 to 100 days of seeding.”

He grows seven varieties of heirloom tomatoes, green beans, a Japanese variety of squash, lettuce, cucumbers and watermelon among other fruits and vegetables.

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