Thursday, 21 March 2013

Miserly March -Thrifty Thursday Tips - Week 3

My name is Sue and I am a 'growaholic'. 
Tips for the first week of Miserly March were all about using your freezer wisely, then we moved on to using your leftovers and wasting nothing.  What comes before these things ..... well in my world it is growing the food that will live in the freezer and become some of those leftovers.
This 'growing thing' crept up on me slowly and pretty slyly, it made it's first appearance many years ago when my boys were small and it was a necessity to put fresh good food on the table.  Then I went out to work and built a career of sorts, there was no time for much gardening and growing of foods so I handend over my cash and bought from markets and shops.  Then suddenly I had an unexpected life change and my green fingers were once again called into action. 
Luckily although I had disguised it well the green was still there, and I have managed for the last four years to grow the majority of our veggies and some of our fruit.  Last year was a disappointment as it was for so many gardeners in this country.  The weather defeated all but the very best of us.  Losing my polytunnel on our move (the wind ripped it to shreds just before the move and then we decided not to re-assemble it here as we will hopefully not be staying too long), scuppered my chances of growing under cover, so I was at the mercy of the elements apart from my draughty, slug infested greenhouse.
So what's this got to do with Thrifty Thursday Tips I hear you asking.
 Well do you honestly expect me to be the sort of grower that throws money at the garden, that has posh wigwams of shiny steel for her beans to grow up, that buys hundreds of little pots to start off her seedlings.  That heats the greenhouse to temperatures warmer than the house.  Now don't get me wrong if that's what you want to do go ahead, you will still save money in the long run, lots of money and your plot will look beautiful as well as productive.  But I started cheap and I continue to do things as cheaply as I possibly can, indeed with each passing year it gets cheaper and cheaper.
The plan above was done on the computer for me by Lovely Hubby taken from my quickly scribbled plan of the Veggie Patch and made all posh.  Thank goodness we noted down the positions of all the trees and fruit bushes in the tyres around the edge of the plot because some naughty little geese have chewed off all the labels from them.  Now we have to rely on this plan.
So at the start of the growing season I get out last years plan and see what worked and what we enjoyed eating, what went where and for how long and generally bring myself up to speed on things.
Then I get out these.
All year we save up all the inners from toilet rolls and kitchen rolls (and so does my lovely Mum), these are kept squashed in bundles ready to be brought into action at planting time.
I cut each toilet roll inner into half and kitchen roll inners into four, and then I plant virtually everything we grow into these first, this way each and every seed gets it's own little pot to send out those delicate first roots into, and that vital little infrastructure is never disturbed as I plant the entire thing undisturbed into the ground when the conditions are right.  The cardboard disappears completely after a few waterings or heavy showers of rain and adds its nutrients to the soil.
You can leave the tubes full sized for peas and any other plant that likes a long root system, but half sized works well for most things.
Sometimes I plant in what comes to hand ...
.... and I waste nothing.  Icrecream tubs and margarine tubs make excellent plant markers.  Just cut them to size and write on them with permanent marker and you have a weatherproof plant label. (But not puppy or goose proof - they just run off with them!!)
The fruits of all the hard work make it all worthwhile, and a stroll around the veggie beds on a Summers morning lets you know what you will be having for tea that night.  I used to plan the meal and then go and pick the veggies to go with it, but after a couple of years I switched this around.  Now I go out and pick what we have the most of, what is the ripest and ready for eating, then I bring it in and plan the meal around it.
This way nothing is wasted and everything is eaten at its very best.
There are some wonderful treats available when you grow your own.
I don't think I fully appreciated just how much money I was saving until I did the workings out for Below the Line last year, it blew my mind.  The post HERE gives all the costings of what I had to eat for the five days of last years challenge, and this is the homegrown food that I used to bulk out my shop purchases, luckily after the year before's challenge I had thought to save myself lots of veggies in the freezer as the challenge is slightly early in the year for most of what I needed to be large enough to harvest.
All the above food came in at less than 5p (4.8p to be exact).  I was queried at the time at how could this possibly be so cheap and this was my answer -
This shows just how cheap it can be to grow and eat your own produce.
My brother said I should add the cost in of the growing, the compost and the fertiliser, as well as the price of the seeds so I sat and had a think.

I grow (plant, dig and weed) because that's what I enjoy doing - FREE. The compost we make ourselves from scraps, waste and manure (horse and chicken) - FREE. The fertiliser we make ourselves from Comfy, Nettles and worm bed run off - FREE. The water for the plants we use is saved rainwater - FREE. So the costings of the veggies really is just for buying the packets of seeds, which I do in the sale at the end of the Summer usually at 50p a packet. So the costings are based on the price per plant obtained from the seed planted, and, believe it or not, always rounded UP.
It really puts things into perspective when we see just how cheaply we can grow our own foods. And you DO NOT need lots of land, although we currently live on four acres, only a small plot of this is our Veggie Patch, I purposely made it the size of an average largish garden or a normal sized allotment plot so I could see how little land I would be able to get away with for growing food at our next and final house move.  As you can see from the picture the beds could be squished a little closer together or be larger and therefore be even more productive, but there are only two of us (and the chickens) to grow for and I had the space so I went for larger pathways.
So my Thrifty Thursday Tip for this week is to grow your own. 
Whether it be turning your whole garden over to fruit and vegetables, using just a small part of it, planting in amongst the flowers and shrubs or planting in tyres, containers, troughs or pots.  Use your hanging baskets for trailing tomatoes as well as, or instead of flowers.   If you have no outdoor space use those lovely sunny windowsills in the house for herbs and 'cut and come again' lettuces, move them away onto a table top on the hottest of hot days so they don't scorch or get too leggy.  One packet of seeds could see you in herbs or lettuces for a whole year and save you an absolute fortune. 
 Think about it, a nice Parsley plant at the supermarket will set you back anywhere between one pound and three, and for less than that you can buy a packet of seeds which will give you hundreds of plants.  You could get together with a friend or two and each buy a different herb or vegetable and then share the seeds out between you.  So for the price of one packet of seeds you will all have two or three different herbs or veggies.
You save lots of money, you reap the rewards in cheap, nutricious, tasty and fresh foods and you get the satisfaction of feeding your family with something you grew yourself.  Involve the children in growing with you and who knows they may even want to eat more veggies each day.  Happy time spent together in the fresh air and good food as a reward, what could be better.  And it's about time more children learnt that vegetables come from the ground and not out of a plastic bag from the supermarket!!
I'll be back next Thursday with the final Thrifty Thursday Tips and it's all about YOU.
Sue xx


  1. I seem to have stopped with the toilet rolls as over the years, have accumulated lots of individual cell trays. Mind you, they are often a pain to use to get the seedling out so might revert back to tubes. I also used to make newspaper pots by rolling a strip around the rolling pin, that works well - must start again as there would be no pots to keep clean! Just need the soil to warm up so it will be ready for when my seedlings need to go out!

  2. I always enjoy reading your posts, but this one is especially brilliant. I'll never throw away another toilet paper roll!

  3. I love seeing your seedlings all lined up in their loo roll pots. I put all loo roll card & eggboxes into the compost bin.

  4. It's a really satisfying thing to do Sue.
    I have seeds sown, slug busting nematodes at the ready, all I need now is some sun!!!
    Here's to a good growing season.

  5. I will be another toilet roll horder from now on. What a fab idea because I find getting the seeds out of the single cell trays to be a complete nightmare.

  6. Thanks for the tip about the toilet rolls Sue! I have just had so many broccoli plants come up (I'm in Australia) that when I thin them out I will pass some on to a friend, so they won't be a waste but I think it would be better to only use one or two seeds in a toilet roll and then plant them out. Less waste that way :)

  7. I`ve always used toilet roll tubes for my sweet peas and peas to grow in. I like your plant labling idea. I also compost and don`t like using chemicals in my garden. I`ve made a good headstart this year and hope for decent weather throughout the growing season. I also started to grow my own when my kids were little. Envolving them in it has not encouraged them to grow their own, now that they have their own homes. It doesn`t always work out that way. But, I`m looking forward to having a good bash at it myself this year! There is nothing better than tasting home grown veggies at their best, cooked and eaten within minutes of them having been picked from your own garden.

  8. I risk sounding like kenneth williams but you have a beautiful cabbage

    1. Ha ha ha, that did make me laugh and I could only hear it in the great Kenneth's voice, flared nostrils and all!

  9. Sue, like the others, I am now a loo roll saver. They look great, all your little toilet roll soldiers lined up and ready for action!
    Your garden looks so neat and tidy. Wish I had some raised beds like that.
    John did make me laugh, above, but you do!

    S. x

  10. I absolutely love reading your posts they are inspiring and they re-assure me that in some areas of my life I am on the right track! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!!!!

    You have also inpsired me to de-clutter and boy do I need to do that!

    Love n hugs

    Natalie x

  11. Brilliant tips Sue...I like your style :) I also use a lot of loo rolls but hadn't thought of cutting them in half. Eureka!


Sorry ... but due to the ridiculous amount of spam comments arriving daily all comments for this blog have now been turned off.