Frugal Seed Shopping Tips for Gardening on a Budget

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While gardening can be an expensive hobby, it can also be a frugal necessity for your family. When you make decisions that are smart and budget-friendly, gardening can save you money on food.

The first step to saving money by gardening is to shop smart when it comes to buying seeds. With a little planning, you can make sure you don’t overspend. After all, those seed packets can add up in a hurry if you’re not careful.

As you probably know, you can save money on your garden by growing your vegetables from seed, rather than buying transplants. Buying a packet of seeds for $3 is a smarter buy than purchasing one tomato plant for twice that amount. Seeds can last several seasons when stored correctly, and of course, with a seed packet, you can grow multiple plants instead of just one.

My recommendation, when budget is a consideration, is to try to grow as many plants as you can from seed – this will ensure you are saving as much money as possible as you start your garden.

If you would rather watch than read these tips, you can watch the video below:

Things to Consider When Seed Shopping

When it comes to seed shopping, let me give you a few tips on which seeds to buy and how to stay within your budget.

summer garden

Take Inventory

If you’ve bought seeds for past years’ gardens, make an inventory of the seeds you already have. This way, you will know which seeds you still need to buy (and which you don’t). You can make a simple inventory sheet by hand, create an online spreadsheet, or use the seed inventory sheet we include in the in our printable Garden Planner. 

Make a Plan

Make a plan to research and compare seed prices on each crop you’d like to include in your garden. Not all seeds are priced the same, so make sure you take the time to look at the prices and quantities of seeds included. I use the Seed/Plant Research Sheet in my Complete Garden Planner.

With multiple seed catalogs in hand (or their web sites pulled up), I go crop by crop and list out the options, along with their prices and quantities. It may seem like an extra step, but it’s worth it when you start comparing. Speaking of which…

Price Compare Quantities

Do not overlook the quantity per seed packet. Some seed companies show the quantity in ounces or grams, but usually you can find within that seed catalog how many seeds there are per ounce or gram. It takes a little digging, but it’s worth the effort.

The reason? Not all seed packets are created equal. For example, one year I priced a black pole bean, the Cherokee Trail of Tears. One of my favorite seed companies, White Harvest Seed Company, sold one packet for only $2.75, but the packet contained about 50 seeds. Another favorite, Seed Savers Exchange, sold a packet of 400 seeds for $6.85. Because I needed approximately 150 seeds, the packet from Seed Savers Exchange was a better deal for me. BUT, had I only needed 50 seeds, buying the packet from White Harvest Seed would have been a better buy.

I buy from multiple seed companies each year, but here are my favorites.

The Simple Garden Planner

Shipping Rates Matter

Make sure you take in account the shipping rates for your seeds. Shipping rates vary widely — from free to several dollars minimum. I recommend looking at a seed company’s shipping rates first so you can decide whether you’ll be purchasing enough from each company to make it worth it.

In the past, I’ve avoided shopping from a seed source if they only had one or two varieties that I wanted, and their shipping was high. Instead, I tried to find that same variety elsewhere or I changed which variety I decided to grow.

Consider buying your seeds from each source all at once so you won’t have to pay shipping rates more than once. To save even more, plan for your fall crops at the same time as you plan your summer crops, and make one order.

Larger Seeds

When buying crops that have larger seeds, like beans and peas, make sure you know how many seeds you need. Don’t just assume one packet will be enough. In comparison with a packet of lettuce or carrot seeds — which will likely provide enough for several years — with larger seeds, this won’t often be the case. If you are planting a large area, one seed packet won’t be enough and you’ll find yourself making a second purchase. Not only will this increase your shipping rate, but you run the risk of planting too late or that variety could be sold out. 

zipper cream pea harvest

Don’t Get Carried Away 

It’s easy to get carried away when flipping through the pages of a seed catalog. There are so many beautiful crops you can potentially grow and it’s easy to want more than you have room or capacity to grow. 

Don’t overspend by getting carried away by the seed catalog photos — just buy what your family will consume and be realistic about how much you will eat. That’s why it’s helpful to plan out your garden before you ever place a seed order.

In my online garden planning course, Dream to Garden, purchasing seed is one of the last steps I recommend. I’ve found planning my garden prior to purchasing seed has saved me from multiple impact seed splurges. Ask any veteran gardener and they’ll tell you we all fall victim to this — beware! 🙂

Dependable Seed Varieties

When in doubt, it’s always best to stick with tried and true varieties of seed. Common staple seeds that have proven dependable for gardeners in a wide variety of climates will often be less expensive in the long run, especially when you are a new gardener.

The thing about saving money on gardening is you want to be as successful as possible, and by starting out with dependable varieties, you’re more likely to find success. Once you learn how to grow the staple varieties of your favorite crops, in future years you can venture out into newer and more exciting trials.

If you want more information about these dependable seeds, check out my free download 100+ Easy Vegetable Varieties For Beginner Gardeners

Guidelines for Saving Money On Seed

If you stick to these guidelines, you should have no problem saving money on your next seed order. Remember, gardening from seed is an excellent way to save money and start your garden out right. 

Budget-friendly seed shopping is essential for a cost-effective garden. By choosing the right seeds, planning carefully, taking an inventory, comparing prices, and considering shipping rates, you can save money while still enjoying a productive garden. 

Avoid overspending on seeds you won’t use when flipping through the seed catalog and you will enjoy a thriving garden while saving money! 

Seed Starting Quick Reference Guide

Which seeds should you start indoors? Which should you wait to plant directly in the garden? When? And in what soil temperatures do certain seeds germinate better? Grab this one-page quick reference guide to get your seeds sprouting and your plants growing strong!

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