Grow your own veg – you'll dig the savings

With food prices soaring, it's time to grab a spade and get planting, says Kate Hughes

Food price inflation is causing civil unrest worldwide and in the UK the cost of putting food on the table has soared. This year basic staples will cost £780 more than they did last year according to grocery comparison site mysupermarket.co.uk, with the cost of bread, butter, eggs and potatoes increasing by as much as 60 per cent in 12 months.

Spurred on by rocketing supermarket bills, we are now turning in droves to cheaper alternatives and many are beating food inflation by growing their own. Not since the 1970s, when The Good Life was first shown, has sustainable living enjoyed such a growth period. And the numbers add up – dropping out and digging in could save as much as £1,400 a year.

Outdoor gardening

"Making a saving all depends on how large your plot is," says Charlotte Corner of the charity Garden Organic. "But even this is subject to how 'time rich' you are as opposed to how 'cash rich'." But you don't need a very large garden to make it pay. Garden Organic believes a plot as small as 4ft x 4ft (1.2m x 1.2m) could supply vegetables all year round for as little as £50.

If you've got a garden or can get your hands on an allotment, you can save a fortune in vegetables. A standard allotment can yield around a ton of vegetables. If you bought the same amount of organic potatoes, onions, carrots and parsnips in a year, it would cost you around £1,700 from Sainsbury's or a minimum of £1,227 from Asda – even more if you have spent £30 a week on organic vegetables delivered in an attractive crate.

What you'll need

You can spend a fortune on trowels, pruning sheers, pitch forks, shovels, a bit of space, compost bins, water butts and compost. If buying new at Homebase for example, you'll pay at least £130 for this list of equipment. But buying second-hand equipment or using old shovels at the back of the garage, can work out much cheaper – and turning soil rather than pumping weights could save the cost of that expensive gym membership fee.

"For seeds in pots, you can just use your fingers and for digging your garden, raid the family garage or shed to see what has been forgotten and you can reclaim," says Guy Barter, head of horticultural advice for the Royal Horticultural Society. "Often older tools are better than today's equivalents – just because of the care and attention that was put into the making of them. Just remember to keep your tools clean and occasionally sharpen them and they will serve you well."

You can choose to either buy packets of seeds to sow yourself, or you can opt for small plants that you put straight into a big pot on a windowsill or directly into the ground, he says.

"To save money on seeds, keep an eye out for seed-swapping events near you," says Corner. "These events have really taken off in the last few years, and even if you don't have seeds to swap, you can still pick some up for a few pence. If this isn't an option, buy seeds through a seed supplier."

"Start composting your green waste and vegetable peelings by throwing them on a heap instead of in the bin and you can save pounds on bags of compost," she adds. "With home composting you will get a rich compost, full of organic matter, great for growing."

What to grow

If you choose to grow onions, potatoes carrots and parsnips organically (with a £300 budget for equipment, water and seeds), you could still save at least £1,400 compared to buying the same amount in Sainsbury's or at least £927 if you usually shop at Asda. These crops require the least effort, and are least likely to fail. Even if you don't consume a ton, root vegetables can be stored.

The cost of bread has gone up by a massive 20 per cent in the major supermarkets, from 54p to as much as 65p for a basic loaf. But if you happen to have a spare 297sq m (3196sq ft) you can grow enough wheat to supply the bread for a family of four every year, that's worth over £100 a year if your family eats two loaves a week.

Indoor gardening

You don't even have to have any outside space to grow your own. Potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes, and herbs can be produced indoors in windowsills and under sinks. "Some vegetables thrive in containers on a windowsill or patio," says Barter. "Salad leaves, herbs, chillies, broad beans and beetroot will all grow indoors. It also means your plants are less likely be attacked by a pest or disease."

"The budget option would be to use old plastic bottles as pots, buckets, bins, or even an old pair of wellies," says Corner. "But if you have a little cash to spare then how about buying some planters, compost and seeds, which could cost as little as £30."

Economies of scale may mean the indoor option will not save as much, but the upside is by growing spuds indoors you won't find yourself furiously digging in the dark and rain in February to source the chips for dinner.

For more information, the RHS Grow Your Own campaign website offers hints and tips on getting started at www.rhs.org.uk/vegetables; The Garden Organic website is at www.gardenorganic.org.uk, or call 024-7630 3517

****

Added eggstras – the benefits of keeping your own chickens

Why stop at growing your own vegetables? The cost of free-range eggs has increased by almost 50 per cent in a year. A dozen free-range eggs have gone up from an average of £1.75 to £2.58.

So why not invest in your own chickens? Hens yield around four eggs a week each. Three chickens should cost around £10 to £15. A bag of feed will be around £5 to £6 and lasts around three weeks.

A coop can be bought new from around £150, although you could pick up a cheaper one second hand. An outside space of at least 30x30cm should be available for each bird.

****

How to get an allotment
By Photini Philippidou

Cultivating an allotment provides numerous social, health, environmental and economic benefits, but getting hold of a plot is becoming increasingly difficult. The National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners (NSALG) says applications have doubled in the last five years. Most councils have a waiting list, and around a third of applicants wait more than a year for a plot. In central London, waiting lists can be as long as 10 years.

The good news is that all local authorities in England and Wales are legally obliged to provide any group of adults (aged 18 and over) with allotments of 250sq m, even if you own a garden, although some boroughs offer half plots of 125sq m.

However, inner-London local authorities are exempt from this statutory obligation, claiming a lack of money and a lack of available land. If you live in central London the NSALG recommends you apply outside of your borough.

If your nearest site is not owned by your local authority, it may be privately owned in which case contact your local allotment association or your council to find out who the owner is, and whether you can rent there. If you feel there is a need for allotments which are not being met, get together with a group of any six residents who are registered on the electoral roll and put your case to the local authority.

If you manage to get a plot from your local authority, it is for life. The authority will need to apply to the Secretary of State to change the land's use so you are technically safeguarded if you stay within the bounds of your tenancy agreement.

Allotments can cost anywhere between £5 and over £100 a year to rent, and this may or may not include your water. But if you are renting from a local authority, it is your landlord's responsibility to at least provide access to a mains water supply, as well as to maintain hedges and gates and paths and hauling ways.

www.allotment.org.uk; www.nsalg.org.uk; www.farmgarden.org.uk

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Development Manager - NW London - £58k + 15% bonus

    £50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

    £13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

    Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

    Day In a Page

    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...