Grow what you can at home
Growing some of the things that you cook with most often is an easy and enjoyable way of reducing your food bills.
All that a plant really needs to grow is sunlight, water and something to grow in – such as a little peat-free compost. All of these can be achieved with a pot on the windowsill, which opens up gardening to us all. If you can grow a spider plant then you can certainly grow herbs or even a chilli plant. And again, it’s never too late to learn.
If you’re unsure about what to grow, take inspiration from what you most like to eat. Tomatoes, chilli peppers, all sorts of herbs and salad leaves, including spinach, rocket and mini red peppers can be grown indoors on a windowsill at a fraction of the price of shop-bought veg.
We’re fortunate enough to have the space to garden, and we freeze and can vegetables. That way in the winter months we still have a variety of healthy things to cook with that we don’t have to pay for, such as tomato sauce made from our own tomatoes, basil, and green peppers – Shawna Mayer
Growing your own salad
Lettuce and spinach can go limp quite quickly in the fridge, but if you grow your own and snip it as it grows, it will never go off. It’s easy to grow and much cheaper than buying salad bags. Just plant the seeds in whatever space you have (from a windowsill through to a back garden) in April for a crop all the way through to autumn.
Even in winter, land cress can be sown, along with Chinese leaves and lamb’s lettuce. They take a few weeks to come up but you can eat the smaller thinnings of the crop as a snack or to bulk out other salads.
You can even grow shallots in pots on a small windowsill over winter. A Tetra pack (UHT juice/milk) carton with one of the long sides cut off should be enough room for two small shallot bulbs, yielding around eight shallots. And come the spring a lot more can be planted this way.
A packet of seeds, a little peat-free compost, a large yoghurt pot with a hole cut in the bottom and a saucer to stand the pot on are all that you need to ensure a fresh supply of herbs right through the summer.
Sprouting your own small beans and seeds, such as lentils and alfalfa, is a cheap and easy way to add nutrients to your diet. All you really need is a clean glass jar covered with a cheesecloth and an elastic band. Soak your dried beans of choice overnight, drain and rinse. Keep the jar upside down during the day to let the water drain out. Rinse and drain daily until the sprouts start to appear, and then enjoy them in salads, sandwiches or even soups – Helen Lakey
Landshare – fruit and veg without the hard work
If you’d like to grow more produce but find that you can’t manage an allotment or garden, you might be interested in a free scheme called landshare. You can offer your own garden, if you have one, to local people who want to grow their own fruit and veg but don’t have anywhere to do it.
There are sample contracts on the website to help you come to an arrangement with your growers about when they can access your land, and what they can and can’t do on it. Naturally you can make sure you get a share of whatever they grow on your land. Finally, you might also like to include a time clause after which you can review how well the arrangement is working out for you.
We hope that you find this month’s money-saving tips useful. Don’t forget that you can share your own ideas below. For more tips, please see Vegetarian for Life’s guide, Cooking on a Budget.