Gardener Feeds Family with $100 a Month
By Jake Stein, Special to CNN
(CNN) — To housewife Mavis Butterfield of Gig Harbor, Washington, saving money is a game. And she isn’t afraid to roll up her sleeves to win.
No, this thrifty, coupon-clipping mother of two plans on growing 2,000 pounds of fresh food this year right out of her own back yard. Armed with 1.25 acres of planting space, Mavis says spending less on groceries and growing as much food as possible is great way to save those pennies.
She went from spending $9,768 on groceries in 2008 to just under $1,200 in 2011. And now, she feeds her family of four on a mere $100 per month— that’s $25 a person!
“I do live in high-maintenance suburbia, and all my neighbors think I’m crazy for growing my own food when you could just go to the store and buy it.”
In addition to her dozen raised garden beds, raspberry patch and greenhouse chock-full of heirloom tomatoes, strawberries, peppers and basil lives a flock of pet chickens that provide an ample supply of fresh eggs.
But there’s only so much produce a family of four can eat, so what her family doesn’t end up using she either donates to a local food bank or offers to anyone with an open mouth and a hungry stomach.
“I have way too many carrots, so I’m gonna go stand on a street corner in my pilgrim outfit and hand them out for free.”
When Mavis isn’t tending to her garden, she can likely be found clipping coupons before visiting local grocery stores. She generally saves 80% every time she shops, racking up a total of $2,000 in savings in the past year alone.
“I think people would be surprised how easy it is to whittle down your grocery budget in just a few months time.”
And the food items Mavis doesn’t grow or purchase at a discounted rate, she receives through bartering. She recently cleaned up her neighbor’s garden in return for a 25-pound sack of sugar and a Costco-size case of toilet paper.
So what is Mavis doing with the extra cash in hand? She’s planning family vacations that would otherwise be out of her reach.
“I wish more people would pick up a trowel and get a little dirt under their nails,” says Mavis, who encourages others to jump on the back yard garden bandwagon and channel their “inner pilgrim.”
Want to learn more about Mavis Butterfield and her mission to grow 2,000 pounds of food this year? Visit her blog, “One Hundred Dollars a Month”, for simple summer recipes, a virtual tour of her back yard garden as well as tips on how you too can feed your family with only $100 a month.