It’s time to plant a rainbow!

Save money on groceries by growing your own rainbow of fruits and vegetables this summer.

One of the responses I hear most when I ask people about barriers to eating more fruits and vegetables is that they are too expensive. Let’s face it, food in general is expensive. Michigan State University Extension has many great ideas for reducing the cost of fruits and vegetables, one of which is planting your own garden. Now that we are nearing summer months, it’s the perfect time to get a garden started. Growing your own vegetables can be as simple as planting a few porch containers with tomatoes and herbs, or you can build a raised bed in your back yard. You could also consider renting a plot at your local community garden. Most plots are fairly inexpensive and typically fees go towards paying for the water usage.

Whatever method of gardening you choose, you have to decide what you’re going to plant. MSU Extension recommends planting a rainbow of vegetables. The different colors of the vegetables we eat indicate different phytochemicals contained in the vegetable, and phytochemicals help repair our bodies and fight diseases. By eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day you are ensuring that you receive a variety of the different beneficial phytochemicals. So when you are planning your garden think about the colors of each vegetable and try to plant something of each color. For example: Green spinach, red tomatoes, orange carrots, yellow peppers, white radishes and blue/purple cabbage. Think outside the box as well – some vegetables that are typically a certain color, like orange carrots actually come in a variety of colors, like red. Some other examples are blue potatoes, yellow tomatoes, purple beans and black radishes. Most places that sell seeds will have multiple varieties, including some of the unusual colored options. Don’t forget about herbs as well. Herbs like rosemary, basil and thyme add great flavor to dishes and are flavorful substitutes for added salt. MSU Extension also offers many tips and articles on vegetable gardening, and most areas of the state have Master Gardeners available to help you with questions.

There may be some initial costs to growing your own rainbow of vegetables, but in the long run it will save you money at the grocery store. Once you have your garden vessel and soil, you can re-use it from year to year. Seeds are pretty inexpensive and usually one pack will go a long way. Any abundance of vegetables can be frozen or canned for use over the winter when fresh produce is more expensive.

Another advantage of planting your own garden is that gardening is good physical activity. Get out there while the weather is nice, and get your rainbow garden of nutrition going!