The 13 Best Foods to Grow in Your Backyard to Combat Inflation

By Alexandra Caspero on June 1, 2023

As inflation rates continue to rise and strain household budgets, consumers are turning to their backyards as a source of relief. More than a third of Americans grow vegetables, fruits, and other foods, a rate that’s only accelerated since 2020. 

A backyard garden can help to put a significant dent in rising grocery costs. According to the National Gardening Association, the average garden produces $600 annually. Even accounting for the average $70 spent per household on gardening supplies, that’s an average return of $530.

Planting a garden to save money is a wise financial decision, though some plants provide a bigger bang for the buck than others. Especially for urban dwellers where space is a concern, grow crops with the highest dollar value and plan on purchasing less expensive ones. 

13. Tomatoes

Not only are tomatoes relatively easy to grow, but it’s also possible in small container gardens and larger backyard plots. With heirloom tomatoes averaging $3.99/pound, this is one of the most cost-effective plants to grow yourself. 

A bumper crop of tomatoes is always welcome; make fresh homemade salsa or can whole tomatoes for year-round enjoyment.

12. Leaf Lettuce

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Lettuce prices continue to climb, with an average annual inflation rate of 5%. Last year, the USDA reported that romaine and iceberg lettuce prices tripled; the higher costs related to sweltering heat waves. 

11. Summer Squash

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Even black-thumb gardeners can handle summer squash, one of the most forgiving (and prolific) food crops. Three plants of summer squash can produce 25 lbs per square foot.

10. Peppers

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Pepper prices have seen a massive spike recently, with an average 105% increase last year to previous years. Higher prices are reported to be because of labor shortages and low yields. 

Growing them yourself helps to save serious cash, as the average price of a red, yellow, or orange bell pepper is $1.99 each. As peppers grow better in clusters, consider varying your pepper plants with different colored bell peppers along with spicier peppers, like habanero or jalapeno. Then, turn excess peppers into homemade hot sauce or creamy jalapeno salsa. 

9. Cucumbers

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A cucumber yields about 2-3 dozen per square foot, occupying even less space when supported in pots. Because they are so versatile, cucumbers are a high-market food item to enjoy raw in salads or pickled. Considering the average jar of fresh pickles goes for $5-8, making your own is a great way to save money. 

8. Asparagus

White asparagus is considered one of the most expensive vegetables, so it makes sense to grow your own. Whatever color you enjoy– green, purple, or white– growing asparagus is a delicious way to save money. 

Asparagus grows best in cooler Spring weather, and because they grow in single stalks, asparagus is best for backyard over container gardens. Enjoy fresh asparagus with lemon juice and tarragon for a simple side dish, or try roasted asparagus in the oven

7. Pole Beans

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Like asparagus, pole beans are a vegetable that isn’t as common but fun and profitable to grow. Pole beans can grow along fences and in container gardens with adequate support, making them a good choice for all aspiring gardeners. 

6. Swiss Chard

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Swiss chard can be grown in containers but usually performs best in raised beds. Compared to other leafy vegetables, swiss chard is an excellent source of vitamins A (beta-carotene), C, and K. 

If you are new to enjoying swiss chard, try sauteeing the leaves and stems in olive oil with a generous seasoning of fresh minced garlic, salt, and pepper. 

5. Broccoli

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This popular vegetable typically retails for $1-3 a head, and depending on how often you eat it, it can be an inexpensive vegetable to grow yourself. Production varies between 10 and 12 pounds per square foot, with a 10-foot row accommodating roughly ten broccoli plants. 

4. Kale

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Kale doesn’t take up much space in the garden, and with high yields, the return on investment for this vegetable is high. Enjoy kale in salads, kale soups, smoothies, or juices as a nutrient-dense superfood. 

3. Eggplant 

Also known as aubergines, eggplant is a nutrient-dense food with high levels of anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant responsible for their vibrant purple hue. Depending on location and season, eggplant costs $1-4 per pound, making them an excellent at-home garden choice. 

Enjoy eggplant in bolognese, in sandwiches and in eggplant parmigiana.

2. Brussel Sprouts

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Best for raised beds or backyard gardens, Brussels sprouts have a relatively high monetary value. Enjoy roasted, sauteed, shaved raw in salads, or even air-fried. With their versatile appeal, home chefs should add brussels sprouts to their vegetable garden. 

1. Berries

If you’ve been to the grocery store recently, you know how expensive fresh berries have become. But, with 16 ounces of strawberries retailing for $4 (add a few more dollars for organic), growing your berries at home is one of the best gardening choices to reduce food costs. Depending on the type of garden and space, wide varieties of berries can be grown. Consider blueberries, blackberries, gooseberries, strawberries, and raspberries, to name a few. 

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Meet Alex Caspero

Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, New York Times Bestselling Plant-Based Chef and mom of two. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.

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