The ROI of Growing Your Own Beans

By Published On: August 2nd, 20233.1 min readCategories: Garden

The cost of food is only getting higher, but are you really saving money growing your own beans?

jacobs cattle beans in a bowl

Jacobs Cattle Beans harvested and shelled, July 2023

With the cost of basic food stuffs going through the roof, we made a commitment this year to try and raise all the fresh food we can here at the Acre.

For some foods – fresh eggs, asparagus, artichokes, herbs, etc. – the savings are obvious because those things cost several dollars at the store, but only pennies when raised here in the garden (not to mention that we’re 100% certain everything here is organic and sustainably raised).

Other foods, especially pantry staples like dry beans, canned tomatoes, and canned veggies, the savings are more questionable since these items are still pretty dang cheap at the store, even with the 14% to 20% inflation over the past couple of years. So, we decided to find out.

Our bean choice: Jacob’s Cattle beans

This past weekend we harvested and shelled two raised beds of Jacob’s Cattle bean plants. Cattle beans are an old, speckled heirloom variety and favorite around here. They can be eaten fresh out of the pod and dried for use later on in soups, in chili, red beans and rice, and so on (mmm… good chili on a cold winter’s day is hard to beat).

We also like them because it’s only 75 days from planting-to-harvest for fresh beans, and around 90 days for dry. We can easily get two full harvests between April and October.

beans growing in a field

The Cattle Beans in the field in mid-July

The Yield

We pulled a total of 32 dried cattle bean plants grown from half a packet of seeds planted back on April 29th. The remaining half of that packet was planted in a different bed back on July 19th for a second harvest sometime in early October.

After shelling (and tossing the spent plants in the compost pile for next spring’s garden) we ended up with a total of seven pounds, 12 ounces of dried beans, roughly ¼ pound of beans per plant.

Not a bad haul.

Did we save money?

The real question is, of course, after expenses is it cheaper to raise your own beans or just buy them? Here are our calculations:

Costs

Item Cost Details
Seed Packet $1.08 Packet was $2.16 with tax but there were enough seeds to do 2 plantings, so cost is 1/2.
Soil & Fertilizer $0.00 We make our own compost and garden soil from last year’s plants.
Water $1.92 Water consumption was 20 gallons a week, at 8 cents per, totalling $1.92 over the ~12 weeks to harvest.
Labor, etc. $0.00 Other than turning the water valve and pulling the plants at the end, we didn’t bother with it.
Total Cost $3.00

Taking those input costs and dividing them by 7.75 (7pounds, 12 ounces) to get our price per pound, our cost was a mere 39 cents a pound.

Comparing that to the local supermarket and the organic market across town we get:

  • Homegrown: $0.39
  • Supermarket: $1.49
  • Organic Market: $3.99

That’s roughly a 4X savings over the supermarket’s red beans, and a 10X savings over the bulk version from the fancy market. Assuming ~8 meals from the beans, that’s about $9 savings versus plain old red beans and nearly $25 versus real cattle beans!

A jar of beans on a table

Cattle beans shelled and packed

So, yeah, we saved good money. It’s not a windfall, but it’s enough to buy six-pack or two and have enough left over to get the wife that chocolate bar she likes.

Add in the health benefits of gardening, and the return on investment from growing your own beans is totally worth it.

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About the Author

author avatar
Sage Osterfeld
I’m just a guy with nearly an acre of dirt, a nice little mid-century ranch house and a near-perfect climate. But in my mind I’m a landscaper survivalist craftsman chef naturalist with a barbeque the size of a VW and my own cable TV show. I like to write about the stuff I build, grow and see here at Sage's Acre.

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