Grow your own vegetables cheat sheet infographic planting calendar

Grow your own – Planting & Picking calendar

Cheap Food / on a Budget, Sustainability, Thrifty

Growing your own fruit and vegetables can be so rewarding, as we discovered in this previous post – Why grow your own fruit and vegetables.

Different vegetables need to be planted and picked at different times throughout the year. Planting at the correct time ensures that you get the best quality and quantity of veg from the seeds that you use.

Whether you are growing vegetables in a garden, an allotment, a patio or in a window box – this brilliant grow your own ‘cheat sheet’, has lots of useful information to help you get started.

This infographic will help you to know:

  • when to plant each type of vegetable
  • how far apart to plant the seeds
  • which garden pests to look out for
  • how to stop pests from targeting your veg
  • which vegetables grow well when planted together
  • and the best bit… when to pick them!

Grow your own vegetables – cheat sheet:

Grow your own vegetables cheat sheet infographic planting calendar

Here is a downloadable version of the grow your own vegetables cheat sheet.

Feeling inspired? Get muddy fingers, grow tasty veg and enjoy!

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Ground Elder forage foraging uk free food wild thrifty sustainability save money

Foraging in January – Free food in the wild

Free

Foraging for food in the wild is a fantastic way to bulk out your meals for free.

Ground Elder forage foraging uk free food wild thrifty sustainability save money

Ground Elder – great eaten raw in salads

It’s also great exercise, great for connecting with nature and great for boosting your self-esteem as you start to discover the wealth of free food that’s just poking out of the ground or dangling off a tree in your local area… if you only know what to look for!

Here is a short list of the kinds of foods that are ready to find and pick in January, although free food is far more scarce over winter, there is still something to be found for the eager forager.

Each item in the list is a link that will show you a description on Wikipedia, so that you may identify the food correctly before you pick and eat it.

Foraging in January:

Chickweed    Ground Elder    Oyster mushroom   Velvet shank

Be safe when foraging, make sure that you are picking something edible and not something poisonous! It is a good idea to use a guide book or to research online before you go foraging. For example, try looking up each of the above on Wikipedia to find an accurate image and description.

I recommend the following books about foraging for free food – they help you to identify, harvest, prepare and preserve your findings:

My favourite is ‘Food for Free‘, because it is a pocket-sized guide that you can take out foraging.

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grow your own zucchini courgette plant vegetables self-sufficient lifestyle thrifty sustainability

Why grow your own fruit and vegetables?

Cheap Food / on a Budget, Sustainability, Thrifty

thrifty sustainability affordable cheap food grow your own vegetables allotmentGrow your own

If you are looking for ways to save money and to live a more self-sufficient and sustainable lifestyle, why not grow your own food, it’s a great place to start.

Planting, nurturing, growing, picking, preparing and then eating your own food can be an incredibly fulfilling and rewarding experience.

Whether you are growing food in an allotment, community garden project, your home garden or even in your window box, there is a way for everyone to have a go and have a grow!

Saving Money

The price of food shopping is always increasing and growing your own food can help to cut food bills considerably.

As an example: You can buy a packet of courgette seeds for 70p and just one courgette plant can yield 10 courgettes or more! Compare that to a pack of 2 courgettes costing £1.30 in a supermarket and you can see how the savings will soon pile up.

grow your own zucchini courgette plant vegetables self sufficient lifestyle thrifty sustainability

Just one courgette plant can yield 10 courgettes or more!

You can save even more money buy bulk-buying packets of seeds online. Ebay has lots of these and you can often buy a set of 50 varied seed packets for about £10.

If money is tight you can also swap your extra fresh fruit and veg with neighbours for other items that you need.

Rather than buying an expensive gift, freshly picked fruit and veg makes an excellent present for a friend or relative. It’s a really thoughtful gift because you’ve put your time and energy into making it for them. You could make a fresh veg hamper or give a bag of fresh veg with a recipe for a soup that they can make with the vegetables.

Helping the environment

pesticides food production industry sustainability grow your own vegetables

Pesticides can pollute the soil and our rivers

If you grow your own food, you are helping the environment. You dramatically cut your food’s carbon footprint, by cutting down on the energy use, waste and emissions that the food industry production, refrigeration and transportation requires.

Your home-grown food will also not have used chemical fertilisers or pesticides which are harmful for local wildlife, such as bees and birds, and the environment. Pesticides used in growing food on a mass-scale can pollute the soil and as rain water drains through the soil and finds its way to streams an rivers, our waterways can become polluted and harm fish and river wildlife also.

Health Benefits

This new hobby can benefit your health also. You will discover a sense of wellbeing and connectedness to nature, as you work in harmony with your environment and enjoy fresh, seasonal, organic fruit and veg. Harvesting and preparing food that you’ve grown yourself, from scratch, can also give your self-esteem a really great boost.

By consuming your produce within a few hours of picking, you enjoy the full, fresh, nutritional benefit of that food. If it is freshly-picked the vitamin content of the food is at its highest. Eating lots of fresh fruit and veg can really help you to absorb all the vitamins and minerals that you need as part of a healthy balanced diet and that helps to strengthen your body’s immune system.

Of course, gardening is also great exercise! All that time out in the fresh air, moving around, getting your heart pumping, using your muscles and even boosting your mood with all that natural light and the feeling of vitality that comes from working up a sweat!

Anyone who has ever tasted a freshly-picked, home-grown, organic, ripe, plump and juicy tomato, bursting with flavour…will tell you that freshly picked food tastes so much better! So start enjoying your food even more by really tasting it. Food that is a joy to eat can make anyone smile.

Community

When we work together and share the results, we build and strengthen a community.

veg gift basket grow your own vegetables self sufficient lifestyle thrifty sustainability

Share your home-grown veg with friends

As you grow your own food, you will find that sometimes you get a glut of a particular fruit or vegetable, as the weather and growing conditions have produced an abundance of growth. This is a fantastic opportunity to share your home-grown food with friends, family, neighbours and fellow food growers!

If you grow on an allotment, perhaps you can leave spare food near the gate with a sign saying – free, please take what you need. If you grow in your garden at home and have a glut, why not take your spare food to a neighbour or friends. You may even find that your friends, neighbours and fellow growers are inspired to do the same.

Talk to fellow food growers, share tips and success stories, share food and left over seeds. Not only might you make someone’s day, but you just might learn something and make a new friend too!

More articles about growing and preserving your own food coming soon.

Similar posts: Grow your own – Planting & Picking Calendar

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christmas chutney yummy tomato apple diy home made gift gifts thrifty sustainability making relish

Make it for Christmas: Tomato & Apple Chutney

Making & DIY, Thrifty

Tomato & Apple Chutney is a great recipe to have a go at in October/early November as the fruits are in season and once the chutney is sealed in the jars, it will have time to mature to be extra-delicious just in time for Christmas.

tomatoes tomato apple chutney chutny pickle pickles home made preserve thrifty sustainability cheap foodGetting into a thrifty mindset, it is a good idea to make and prepare DIY Gifts all year round so that you have a little stockpile of beautifully-made, special presents – ready to give to your loved ones, family and friends. Making your own gifts can also save you a small fortune at Christmas. If you get swept up in the commercialism of Christmas and of gift-giving, it’s easy to believe that the more you spend on a present, the more the recipient will feel loved. The truth is, the more thought and time you put into a present, the more the recipient will KNOW they are loved.

With this gift idea you can put even more thought into the design by personalising and decorating the labels that you stick on each jar.

Making your own gifts can save you a small fortune at Christmas!

You will need:

First off you will need clean, sterilised, glass jars with lids. You can shop around kitchen stores or supermarkets during the sales to find cheap, empty jam and preserve jars, or you can save even more money by recycling your empty jam and chutney jars.

To recycle your own jars, ensure you wash each jar and lid thoroughly then when you have a good stash, sterilise in bulk, all the jars and lids using sterilising solution. You can buy a pot of sterilising powder for under £2 which will make a few batches of sterilising solution – available from anywhere that sells home-brewing equipment, or here is one from Amazon – VWP Cleanser and sterilser – 100g


Tomato & Apple Chutney Recipe:

(Makes about 6 jars)

Ingredients

  • christmas chutney tomato apple diy home made gift gifts thrifty sustainability making relish450g (1lb) Apples – finely chopped (do not use the core)
  • 450g (1lb) Onions – finely chopped (do not use the peel/skin)
  • 1kg ( 2lb 3oz) Firm, ripe tomatoes – finely chopped
  • 300g (10 ½ oz) Sultanas
  • 450ml (16 fl oz) Vinegar
  • 350g Brown Sugar
  • 1tsp Ground Ginger
  • 1tsp Cinnamon
  • 1tsp Nutmeg
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Method

christmas chutney tomato apple diy home made gift gifts thrifty sustainability making relish make

  1. Put all of the ingredients apart from the sultanas, sugar, salt and pepper into a large, heavy-based saucepan – there is no need to add cooking oil. Bring the ingredients to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer for 30 mins, stirring occasionally until the mixture is thicker
  2. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in the sugar, sultanas, salt and pepper
  3. Put saucepan back on a low heat, increase heat to bring the mixture back to a simmer and simmer for a further 30 mins – 2hrs until the mixture is very thick
  4. Remove saucepan from heat and spoon, whilst still warm, into the sterilised jars. Seal the jars and add your own labels – you can add a square of clingfilm across the top of the chutney before you screw on the lid if you wish to help it to keep longer

Storing the chutney

The chutney will mature and the flavours will deepen if you can leave it sealed in the jar for a month or two before opening and enjoying. You can leave the chutney, sealed in its jar, for a year or two in a cool dark store cupboard – it will still be safe to eat. Once opened, keep refrigerated and the chutney will be fine to eat for a good few months… if it lasts that long!

How to thicken runny chutney

Making chutney is not an exact science and sometimes it can take ages to thicken. The runnyness is due to how much liquid was in the fruit that you used and there is nothing you can do other than wait it out.

As you simmer your mixture, the liquid from the fruit evaporating is what makes the chutney thicker, so keep it simmering and eventually it will thicken.

If you would like to speed up the process, transfer your mixture to a couple of wide-based pans – an increased surface area of the mixture will allow for more evaporation.

christmas chutney yummy tomato apple diy home made gift gifts thrifty sustainability making relishDecorating your jars of yummy chutney

There are lots of ways to make the label that you put on your chutney special…

  • You could personalise each jar by writing the name of the recipient
  • You could draw a picture of the ingredients on the label
  • You could write serving suggestions, such as: Great with Sausages, Cheese and in Christmas Sandwiches!
  • You could add the date that the chutney was made
  • You could add stickers, glitter, whatever… get creative!


If you’re a complete chutney nut, you can, of course, keep the whole batch for yourself and scoff the lot! Enjoy!

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approved food clearance food cheap food breakfast cereals thrifty sustainability shopping cheaper save money

Cheap food – approved clearance food

Cheap Food / on a Budget, Sustainability, Thrifty

approved food clearance food cheap food breakfast cereals thrifty sustainability shopping cheaper save moneyHow can we save up to 70% on the weekly shop & help the environment at the same time? Make use of the cheap food that is available for everyone, if you only know where to buy it.

In the UK we throw away a tremendous (and disgustingly wasteful) amount of food and drink each year – 7.2m tonnes – most of which could have been consumed. When you think of the energy put into making, packaging and selling that food, you can begin to see why stopping that waste is a sound idea for an eco-freindly, sustainable lifestyle.

One way to cut down on the UK’s food waste whilst also saving yourself a lot of money is to buy Approved Clearance Food.

If you look at food packaging there is usually a ‘use by’ date and a ‘best before’ date to advise us when to eat it by. It is not advisable to eat anything after it’s ‘use by’ date, however, you CAN safely eat food that has passed it’s ‘best before’ date. Best Before dates are only there a guide to advise that  after a best before date the colour or texture might not be immaculate.. but the food is still completely safe to eat and what’s more… it’s a fantastic way to buy very cheap food in bulk and make huge savings on your food bill!

approved food clearance food cheap food save money grocery shopping thrifty sustainability

Visit the Approved Foods website now to discover how you can cut your food shopping bill right down by buying approved clearance foods. You could bulk buy and stock up on store cupboard essentials such as tinned foods, dried foods and cleaning products at a fraction of the price!

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thrifty sustainability make Pizza do it yourself DIY pizza toppings save money on takeaway food cheap

Make it: Home made pizza

Cheap Food / on a Budget, Making & DIY

Let’s face it, pizza is the food of the Gods and you’re thinking… no way can I make a pizza that tastes as sublime as my usual take-away favourite. Well, not only can you make your own perfect, divine, exquisitely delicious pizza, but you’ll have the added satisfaction of knowing that you’ve saved yourself a tenner (this recipe only costs £1.50 – £3 per pizza) and you can be as picky as you like with the toppings.

thrifty sustainability make Pizza do it yourself DIY pizza toppings save money on takeaway food cheap

Save at least £10 – every time you make your own pizza from scratch

If you are interested in healthy eating, making your own pizza allows you to have total control over the ingredients, perhaps use whole-wheat organic flour instead of plain white flour, use gluten-free flour if you are a celiac and choose toppings which are in-line with your dietary requirements. If you are vegan, use vegan cheese or just a tomato sauce based topping and forget the cheese. Further topping suggestions below.

If you are interested in thrifty living because you are trying to clear a debt or save money, this could be an excellent opportunity to do just that. Every time you crave a takeaway pizza, take the time to make your own and put the £10 that you save in a ‘pizza savings’ jar and after 10 home-made pizzas you’ll have £100 to put towards paying off debts or to put into a savings account.

Yes it’s more effort to make it yourself.. but yes, it’s so worth it! Give it a try and have fun with it. If you have children, this can be a fun, messy and creative family activity!

If making your own pizza seems daunting, or a bit complicated, just give it a go, stick with it and after a couple of times you’ll get used to it and… you’ll get to love it.

Simple pizza base ingredients

  • 375g Plain white flour
  • 1 tablespoon of caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 7g of dried active baking yeast (you can buy these in a box of 8 x 7g sachets to save further pennies)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 225ml (8fl oz) of warm water

How to make the simple pizza base

1) put all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix until you get a dough
2) knead and stretch the dough for a minute or so
3) spread or roll out the dough into a pizza shape on a large pizza pan or baking sheet (avoid a sticking pizza base later by sprinkling a little flour onto the baking tray first)
4) add your pizza topping (details below)
5) put your pizza in a pre-heated oven at 190 degrees or Gas mark 5 and bake for 20-25 mins

If you want to mix it up a bit when you make your base, you can swap whole-wheat flour for the plain flour, you can add herbs such as oregano to the dough and you can get a real take-away pizza style if you roll your dough out for an extra few centimetres and put chopped up mozzarella around the rim and then pull the dough back over the mozzarella to form a stuffed crust. Yum.

Pizza sauce

If you’re in a hurry, you don’t need to make pizza sauce, you can just squeeze tomato purée onto your pizza base and spread it all over before adding your toppings.

But, if you want something a little tastier, here is a really great recipe:

Pizza sauce ingredients:

  • ½ tin tomatoes (or equivalent finely chopped fresh tomatoes)
  • small onion finely chopped
  • thrifty sustainability make Pizza do it yourself DIY pizza square toppings save money on takeaway food cheap

    Get creative! – who says a pizza has to be round

    2 garlic bulbs finely chopped

  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • tomato purée to thicken

How to make the pizza sauce:

1) Fry the onions and garlic until soft
2) Add the tomatoes, sugar and herbs
3) Heat through and simmer for 10 mins to thicken, or add tomato purée to thicken
4) Spread it all over the pizza base

Pizza Topping ideas…

  • mozzarella and spinach or rocket or fresh basil is delicious and simple
  • chopped onions, mushrooms and peppers with grated cheddar cheese and… yes… tinned anchovies!
  • cheddar, mozzarella and red Leicester cheese
  • tinned pineapple pieces with chopped up ham and cheddar cheese
  • mozzarella and pepperoni
  • slices of cooked sausage with red onion chutney and cheddar cheese
  • goats’ cheese with red onion chutney

Be creative with the toppings, this is your chance to put your own stamp on things.. make a pattern, write your name, make a smiley face, or create your own weird concoctions and flavours. No-one said a pizza had to be round..

Have a think about what other favourite takeaway meals you could make for yourself and save yourself a small fortune!

Enjoy!

Have you got a great pizza topping idea or recipe to share? Let everyone know in the comments section below…

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