Back in 2009, after deeply rooting myself into the sustainable living lifestyle, I was curious about how much I actually produced from my chickens and garden---and how much I saved over the year. It sure would be nice to put a value on the time I spent working out in the yard. Curious about how much I saved versus how much I spent, I decided to keep track and find out.
Even though I wasn't really keeping birds for egg production ( I had only six bantam hens and one female duck), and even though my garden space was only around 600 square feet (with flowers as well as produce, herbs and nine second year fruit trees), I still wanted to come out ahead!
It was a productive year; I eventually lost track of my findings and called it done when the summer garden fizzled out. However, what I did record was encouraging, to say the least.
Our calculations were based on weight of the produce, and the count of our eggs. We based prices of what we collected on the going rate at the grocery store and local farmer's market for organic produce prices and free range egg costs. There were also items that we canned (relishes, pickles, beans, jams and syrups), but I forgot to weigh or set value to them! I also didn't know how to figure out my savings on fresh herbs, so a lot was left off of the list below.
Plus, things got complicated when I had to start off balancing the cost of building some new raised beds and bringing in compost to fill them. It was all still new, so there were a lot of upfront costs in getting started that year. There was also the cost of feed for the birds, and the purchase of additional plants after I had germination issues with some seeds. Even though this was only my third year on this property---and only my second year planting anything other then a few pots on my deck---I was bound and determined to break even, at the least! We spent a lot every year on fresh produce, and I wanted to be able to show how much I saved immediately.
Even with all of that, by the end of August, which is where I ended my record keeping, I had fared well.
Here's a breakdown of how much I saved:
- 180 Chicken Eggs (15 Dz) -Value $37.50
- 6 Duck Eggs (6+ Dz)- Value $24.00
- 18 Lbs Eggplant- Value $46.50
- 87 Lbs Tomatoes- Value $260.00
- 11 Lbs Cabbage- Value $10.50
- 24 Lbs Strawberries- Value $52.00
- 21 Lbs Bell Peppers- Value $94.00
- 2 Lbs Chili Peppers- Value $12.00
- 23 Lbs Cantaloupe- Value $92.00
- 49 Lbs Watermelon- Value $31.00
- 27 Lbs Zucchini- Value $26.50
- 34 Lbs Yellow Summer Squash- Value $34.00
- 22 Lbs Green Beans- Value $17.50
- 2 Lbs Dried Black Beans- Value $3.50
- 14 Lbs Cucumbers- Value $20.50
Total savings on groceries was $771.50 that summer.
Total spent on fertilizer, plants, seed and feed (and several fruit trees and fruit canes that didn't produce that year): $373
Even as impressive as all this was to me, I found this article: Grow $700 of Food in 100 Square Feet even more astonishing! I don't know if I'll ever be able to claim such a wonderful surplus of produce and eggs from our yard, but then again, I didn't do very good record keeping, so who knows how I truly did?
Since this little project a few years ago, I probably do even better now. I've learned how to save seeds, trade plants, and keep a large compost pile going. My hauls have gotten bigger, too, and I've also brought my costs down. I'm pleased with how my garden and my flock have grown over the years. Maybe this year I will try to keep track again and compare how much I saved then with how much I save now.
Since this is the time of year to plan your garden for the new season, perhaps you, too, can get a journal or start a spread sheet to keep track of your harvests. I sure would love to know how much your garden and chickens produce for you---please share in the comments!