Self Sufficiency Gardening: Introduce Food Security for Your Family

self sufficiency gardening
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Last Updated on 2 years by Michelle

A self-sufficiency garden will provide your family with fresh, delicious produce that costs a fraction of what you pay at the grocery store.

It’s no secret that the cost of food is going up. Inflation and supply shortages are causing the prices of groceries to increase at an alarming rate.

If you want to take control of your family’s food budget, you need to start growing your food with a self-sufficient garden.

This blog post will discuss the basics of starting a self-sufficiency garden that will feed your family several of your favorite varieties of fresh vegetables for at least six months out of the year.

Even if you think you don’t have the space to grow a garden, read on to find out how you can!

Food Prices are Going Up, and Food Availability is Going Down

It’s no surprise that food prices are going up dramatically from week to week right now.

You may feel overwhelmed at the very thought of growing your food if you don’t already have a garden.

That’s why I’m sharing this quick-start guide with you today.

Growing Herb Seedlings for Self Sufficiency Garden

You CAN grow food for your family.

This quick start guide is for everyone who knows they should be growing food but who may feel they don’t have enough space or that they “don’t have a green thumb.”

How will growing my own food help?

Here, I’ll briefly go into why you should grow food. I wrote another, much more extensive article on the benefits of growing your own food. You can find that post here.

Growing food means that you can choose varieties that you can’t find at the grocery store, and you can harvest these foods at their peak of tenderness and flavor.

The quality of food that you grow yourself is better than what you buy at the grocery store AND it costs less.

This garden will not supply ALL the vegetables your family eats, but it will be able to supply at least $100/month if you choose vegetables that your family eats.

This garden is the beginning of meeting your self-sufficiency goals. You won’t grow everything you eat right off the bat if you are just getting started in self-sufficient gardening, but you will make a noticeable dent in your grocery bill.

Lastly, growing your own food will give you tremendous peace of mind in times of uncertainty.

Knowing that you can confidently grow your own food helps you reduce stress in your life, not to mention that gardening itself is a great stress-relieving exercise itself.

Chances are you know that you should grow your own food, you just don’t know exactly what to do to get started. That’s what we’ll cover next!

Step 1: Set a Budget

To begin your self-sufficiency garden, I tell my clients to start by setting aside an amount of money that is equal to their typical food budget for a week.

You’ll use this money to purchase what you need to start your garden.

Herb garden in my self sufficient garden

You can certainly start with more than that, but a week’s food budget investment is significant enough to start a garden that will grow a noticeable amount of food.

No matter what amount of money you start your garden with, you’ll see the best results by spending using the following guideline:

  • Containers: 40% of the budget
  • Soil: 40% of the budget
  • Seeds: 20% of the budget

Step 2: Choose a Space

You are in great shape if you already have a home garden or raised beds.

If not, that is perfectly ok. You can still grow a sizeable amount of food on your patio, front porch, or back porch.

Lettuce In Greenhouse

For this garden, you want to have at least 25 sq ft.

You could start with less, but just know that your cost savings will be less if you have a smaller space.

I’ve found that an 8ft X 8ft space is a great size to get started.

When choosing a space make sure the space receives at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. This is very important. If you don’t have 6 full hours of sun, you can still grow food, but your choices are very limited.

Step 3: Decide on Your Plant List

Next is the fun part: it’s time to choose the plants you want to grow.

It’s time to get the seed catalogs out and Here are some tried and true tips that will help you decide the best plants to choose for your garden:

Tip #1: Only Grow What Your Family Will Eat

Start with those favorite vegetables that you enjoy eating. Don’t grow anything because you think you’re supposed to grow it or because someone else likes it.

Now is NOT the time to waste money, so be sure your family will eat what you grow.

Tip #2: Choose Fast-Growing Plants

By choosing fast-growing plants when possible, you’ll get more harvests out of the same space.

Fast Growing Kale in Self Sustainable Garden

This is particularly important if you only have a small space to grow in.

The term fast-growing usually means crops that mature in around 45-60 days or less. Popular fast-growing vegetables include:

  • all lettuces
  • kale
  • Asian greens
  • Green onions/scallions
  • green beans
  • peas
  • radishes
  • beets

You can also grow some vegetables that take a bit longer to mature if you have sufficient space. Growing tomatoes takes a bit longer than 60 days, but they are so rewarding.

Everyone who is a fully self-sufficient gardener now had to start somewhere. Usually, they start with small garden spaces and increase the size of their gardens as they feel more comfortable with growing.

There are certain vegetables that we won’t start with at the beginning.

For example, I don’t recommend that you grow potatoes if this is your first time being a self-sufficient gardener.

Plants like potatoes take an extended period of time to grow so you won’t be able to harvest anything from them for around 3.5-4 months.

The more harvests you get out of your garden, the more financial benefit you’ll get from it.

So, if you have a small space, choose vegetables that will grow fairly quickly so you get lots of financial rewards.

I DO recommend growing potatoes if you have a larger space.

If you can dedicate around 45-100 square feet of garden bed space to potatoes you should grow them, because they are one of the staple crops that can last for several months when stored properly.

Tip #3: Grow Vegetables That Don't Last Long in the Refrigerator

This is a tip that many people skip over, but it’s a good one.

The thought process here is that you want to grow vegetables that don’t keep a long time in the refrigerator because you will get more financial benefit by growing those.

These are the vegetables you end up spending a ton on in the grocery store.

Kale and Mustard Harvest on Counter

For example, how many of us go to the store and toss a bag of salad lettuce into our carts because we want to start eating healthy food, only to forget about that bag of lettuce until it molds the next week?

If you are constantly buying bags like that lettuce, it’s a smart idea to grow your own.

You will get multiple harvests from the lettuce by cutting the leaves off close to the soil AND they will grow back!

Imagine needing lettuce for a salad and just walking onto your back patio to pick just the lettuce you need. No rotting, no waste, and super-affordable.

Common Vegetables That Fit These Criteria

Popular, fast-growing vegetables that don’t last long in the refrigerator include:

  • lettuce
  • green onions
  • green beans
  • herbs
  • radishes
  • cherry tomatoes
  • summer squash/zucchini

These vegetables are absolutely delicious eaten fresh and are easy to grow in containers or in-ground.

Lettuce Greens in Our Self Sufficient Garden Plan

You’ll notice you don’t see many plants that vine on this list.

Vining plants can take up a lot of space so I didn’t include them on this list, but if you have room and like to grow vining plants like pole beans or winter squash, go for it!

Many pole bean varieties produce pounds and pounds of dry beans, which is a great staple crop to have on-hand in the winter months.

Growing corn isn’t something I recommend for people who are gardening to feed their families UNLESS you have a lot of space.

You definitely can grow corn in containers but just make sure you have enough space between your corn and the other grow bags so that the corn doesn’t shade out all your other containers. You’ll also want to group your corn containers into a square next to each other for the best pollination.

Tip #4: Buy Heirloom or Open-Pollinated Varieties Whenever Possible

You can save seeds to grow your garden next season by buying heirloom or open-pollinated varieties.

When you plant hybrid varieties, the seeds they produce will not grow true to the plant the next time you grow them.

Hybrid varieties are bred to have certain traits, and there is definitely a place for them in your garden. Just know that if you plant hybrids, the seeds you save won’t grow true to the plant.

Varieties That Do Well in a Self-Sufficiency Garden:

  • Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce This is a delicious cut-and-come-again leaf lettuce that does not get bitter as temperatures warm up. The flavor is mild and delicious. Succession plant this lettuce for months and months of continuous harvests.
Leaf Lettuce in Containers on Backporch
  • Buttercrunch Butterhead Lettuce This is head lettuce that makes small heads of Bibb-type lettuce. It can be planted in the cold temperatures of the spring, and also doesn’t bolt easily and get bitter when the weather warms up.
Lettuce Seedlings in Tray
  • Chef’s Choice Mesclun Lettuce If you like your lettuce mix to have a touch of bitterness to it like grocery store mixes, grow this mix. You don’t have to grow all three of these lettuces mentioned here, but by including all three, there should be at least one or two here that will work for you. You should grow all three to see which you like best if you have room!
  • Celebration Swiss Chard This swiss chard is one of many delicious leafy greens, and its and absolutely gorgeous in the garden. You can use it as a salad green, but most people saute it in oil and eat it as a side dish. Swiss chard hearty enough to grow in all 4 seasons in my zone 7B garden. Many people add this into their lettuce mix when temperatures soar in the summer and their lettuce can’t take the summer temperatures.
Baby Swiss Chard Seedling
  • Tokyo Long White Bunching Onions These are a workhorse onion for any self-sufficient garden and especially a garden for a small space. A bunching onion is just an onion that behaves more like a scallion or green onion rather than a big bulbed onion. These work well because they are fast growing compared to a regular onion, and by succession planting, you can have onions just waiting for you in the garden anytime you need them.
Tokyo Long White Bunching Onions
Candy Onions
  • Easter Egg Radish These are perfect for a salad and are so quick to grow. Don’t grow them unless you absolutely love radishes, but if you love radishes, you have to grow these!
  • Baxter’s Bush Cherry Tomatoes These are amazing patio cherry tomatoes. They are the best pick for self-sufficient gardeners because they grow a ton of cherry tomatoes and don’t require much staking for support. If you like tomatoes and you have the space, I would grow several of these tomatoes in your garden. They are the perfect size for a 10-gallon container.
Cherry Tomato in 25 Gallon Fabric Grow Bag
  • Blue Lake Bush Green Beans One of the staple crops that people spend a lot of money on in the grocery store is green beans, and this variety is very prolific with a great flavor. You can pick these green beans whenever you want and they are just delicious. You can pick them when they are smaller and more tender because you are growing your own produce.
Green Beans on the Vine
  • Tonda di Parigi Carrots You probably have never heard of these carrots, but they are perfect for small-space gardening because they don’t grow as long as regular carrots. You can easily grow these in any of the containers mentioned in this post.
  • Chef’s Herb Garden Collection One of the best herb collections you can find. It’s a bit of an investment at $18.00, but it contains 9 herbs: Basil, Chives, Cilantro, Dill, Fennel, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, and Thyme. If you’ve purchased a few fresh herbs at the grocery store, they will easily cost $6-$10 dollars every time you buy them. If you have room in your garden and in your budget, herbs are one of the best investments you can make.
Growing Herb Seedlings for Self Sufficiency Garden

Containers to Use

Container gardening is a great choice for anyone with a patio or space that receives sun but doesn’t have or want to have an in-ground garden. People with small spaces will have great success with container gardening.

Container Garden for Self Sufficient Garden

I have used many grow bags over the years, and I go in-depth about container gardening in this post.

I specifically recommend these grow bags for your self-sufficiency garden when you are just starting out:

Gardzen 10 pack of 10 Gallon Grow Bags This is the best size grow bag to get your self-sufficient garden started for many reasons:

  • They don’t dry out as quickly as smaller pots,
  • they are small enough to pick up and move if you need to move them into the sun or into a warmer spot, and
  • they are big enough to grow a tomato plant or other large garden vegetables.

Once you have saved enough money from your garden to reinvest back into it, you can add some 25 gallon grow bags to grow full-size tomatoes.

25 Gallon Grow Pots

Amazing Creations Vertical Planter I recommend this vertical planter for lettuce, green onions, and other small plants. They allow you to grow 5 levels of production in a single level’s footprint.

Step 4: Choose Your Soil

If you are filling containers, buy the best soil you can afford. An inexpensive way to fill your containers is to use peat moss, compost or leaf mulch, vermiculite, and perlite.

You can buy a bale of peat moss for around $15 dollars, and it can be the basis of your healthy soil. You can then add compost or leaf mulch, along with vermiculite and perlite for a nutrient-dense soil mix with lots of organic matter with great drainage. By mixing your own, it will be fairly easy to cut out the extra costs in your garden.

Soil Mixes I Recommend:

If you don’t have time to mix your own and have enough money in your budget to purchase soil, I have one recommendation for a bagged mix that I have used, and that worked well for me.

I don’t have any other recommendations for pre-mixed soils because they are just so expensive, and it’s much more cost-effective for you to mix your own soil. However, all this might be a tad overwhelming so maybe you’d rather buy some soil to start with.

Step 5: Putting it all together

At this point, you have your containers, your space, the seeds for the plants you want to grow, and your soil.

You are on your way to food self-sufficiency!

Beginning in late winter/early spring, you can plant lettuce, peas, onions and start harvesting around a month later. If you succession plant your crops every few weeks, you’ll harvest food until your first frost in the fall.

By growing heirloom varieties, you can save seeds for your future gardens. This way, you don’t have to purchase seeds every year. You can decide how you want to spend that saved money in the future. You might decide to put it toward new containers, or you might decide to buy seeds for new varieties you haven’t grown before.

As you get more comfortable with having a backyard garden and you start saving money from it, you can add more garden bed space if you have room for it. With a bit of planning, you can grow more and more of your own food each season.


A self-sufficiency garden is a great way to provide your family with fresh, healthy food during times of increased supply shortages and inflation. By growing your own vegetables, you can save money while enjoying better taste than anything from the grocery store. With a little bit of planning, you can grow more and more of your own food each season. Get started today and enjoy the benefits of a self-sufficient garden!

Are you inspired to start your own garden? Let me know what you’re planning to grow in the comments below. Happy Gardening!



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