As I go through the grocery receipts and analyze the foods I can find quite a few items that can be grown completely in the vegetable garden. I recommend that you do the same and go through your receipts and select the most commonly used items to see if it's something that you could grow at least partially in your garden.
Take spaghetti sauce for instance. A typical marinara uses garlic, onions, tomatoes, and some spices. We use basil and oregano in our sauces mostly. We also enjoy roasted or sauteed red peppers with garlic to add to the sauce. We'll eat a spaghetti style meal just about every week. We change it up a bit and add sausage or a meat to it every now and then but it may also just be pasta and sauce. A ready made sauce will cost you $2 for a jar at a minimum and to feed a larger family you may actually need two jars.
To make a sauce yourself from ingredients bought at the store would cost you about $4-$6. $2-3 for canned tomatoes, $2 for the pepper, and about a $1 for onion, garlic, and herbs or spices. The garlic and spices usually can be used for several meals since you only need a couple cloves per batch of sauce and a few tablespoons of spices. Every one of these vegetable ingredients are easy to grow in the garden. If you buy the organic products (which I try to do) in the stores you'll be paying even higher. Of course growing vegetables organically in your garden will actually cost you less!
If I can grow enough of these vegetables to supply us throughout the year either through freezing or canning we can easily save between $4-$6 per week. It doesn't sound like much right off the bat so let's multiply it out by 52. We come up with 2 numbers $204 and $312. That is just saving money on making spaghetti sauce. The vegetable garden can do so much more.
We use onions and garlic in our dinners very frequently. It's a near disaster when I discover the pantry has given me its last onion! That happened last week and I had to improvise. My intended onion vinaigrette ended up becoming an avocado vinaigrette! It was very good by the way - I'll classify it as a fortunate accident.
Beans are a great vegetable to save for use over the winter. Dried beans can be kept in the pantry and pulled out for use in chili, soups, or other bean dishes. Pretty much anything that you can buy in the stores you can grow at home. All it takes is a little planning and dedication.
Even if you aren't able to grow a garden you can still buy the produce when it's in season locally then preserve it for the winter. Farmer's markets and CSA's are great places to find local produce.
This year I'm targeting a few areas and setting a few vegetable garden production goals. I plan on increasing our food preservation for nearly everything I grow in the garden from herbs to the vegetables.
How much food preservation do you do from your garden?